Holiday Musings

Musings in the Holiday Season

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." I recently attended The Boston Club corporate breakfast where Maureen Miskovic, EVP and Chief Risk Officer of State Street Corporation spoke about today's economic reality in the context of historic discontinuities and with an eye to opportunities in the future. Using the opening of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, she talked about the peril and the promise inherent in the times we face. I found her literary reference perfectly to the point:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way."

At Leading Women, we're staying focused on the promise of what we and our members have before us and on finding ways to support our members who are in transition. Keep your eyes open for upcoming FREE services for members in transition.

A Team of Rivals. Much has been made of Obama's selections for his cabinet and advisory teams. I'm reveling in the diversity (which has only increased since I wrote this blog entry). At the same time, I'm delighted in the example of leadership he's setting by advocating for robust debate. Vigorous dialogue has been cited as success factors by Jim Collins in Good to Great, Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan in Execution and numerous other successful executives and leadership researchers. Bringing this style of leadership firmly to the fore will benefit women - who generally favor this more collaborative approach to leadership over a command and control model.

Eyes on the Prize. On Saturday, I had the amazing experience of watching two bucks fight over a doe in the woods right outside my bedroom window. Listening to the clack of their antlers was a sensation and watching the escalation of effort was intriguing to me it was to the doe. Eventually she wandered off. I found it ironic that the bucks (having lost sight of their goal) kept fighting. The message to leaders in this: keep your eyes on the prize, when conflict escalates, bring the focus back to the customer, when adversity threatens, don't develop tunnel vision (see FedEx below).

Conscious Consumption and Giving. In RI, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts' Buy Local RI initiative made official an impulse that had been growing in me. Once during the height of the oil prices I realized that to fill my gas tank would be the equivalent working for a portion of time for the oil company. Boy, did that make me want to buy less oil - and that impulse caused me to be more conscious of how I was spending my money.

As the economy worsened, I found myself focused on finding ways to support local businesses before, during and after the holiday season. Instead of donations to the local food bank, for example, I went to my locally owned market and bought food to donate. When possible, I bought gifts from local stores. I focused my charitable donations on organizations that support girls and women. Instead of adding material to the land fills, I've continued to find ways to donate and recycle. Lastly, after this year of incredibly tight races (is MN decided yet??), I've made political contributions to candidates whose values resonate with mine.

Following the FedEx Lead. A standing ovation to FedEx CEO, Frederick Smith, for creatively addressing the economic challenges. Instead of laying people off and feeding the vicious downward economic spiral, he is taking a 20% pay cut. Other senior FedEx executives will get a 7.5%-10% reduction. FedEx's remaining U.S. salaried exempt personnel will draw a reduction of 5%. These moves are accompanied by a hiring freeze and other measures. At a time when CEO compensation is over 300 times what core workers make, this is a strategy that should be followed by every other company. I commend Smith's leadership - for FedEx and for business in general.

As we move into this year of remarkable challenges and historic change, may you stay focused on what's before you and the spring of hope.

I wish you all good things in the New Year.

Lead On!


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