Human Resources Management Articles on a variety of HR topics, Diversity and inclusion, leadership and more, offered by the Red Shoe Movement

Beyond networking: Building Alliances

Most everyone knows the power of building and maintaining a network for your career. Today we focus on going beyond networking to build alliances. The most effective way to grow professionally.

The meaning of going beyond networking

For starters, and as a matter of course, for me networking is never about going out there to collect business cards. It should be seamlessly integrated into your daily life and not be a separate activity that you do when you need a job. Going on a conference spree so that you can meet as many people in as short a period of time as possible is never the way to go. Not only it’s unlikely to produce the results you seek, but it can become frustrating as few leads will turn out to be true leads.

People can tell when you’re under pressure or desperate to get a job. It is the worst position to be in whenever you need something. So, when I suggest that you think beyond networking, I mean that you 1) Turn networking into a lifestyle 2) Start building alliances rather than collecting business cards.

Networking for shy professionals
Going beyond networking

Develop a real interest in the people. It’s the first step to build alliances. Photo Credit: Annie Spratt. Unsplash.

Beyond Networking = Long Term

To identify current or potential allies and conscientiously develop a relationship with them you must have a long-term mindset. A mentality that sees every person as someone who will be in your life for a very long time and who is worth investing in. And just as you would invest in a friend by learning about their life, their goals, their likes and dislikes, their skills, knowledge, experience and by spending time with them, you should invest time in your allies. This has been true throughout my life and career and the only reason why I’ve been able to flourish in my space. Not only Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nobody builds Rome alone.

What is an ally?

Before we go any further, let’s agree on our definition of an ally. In the context of this post, an ally is someone who can help you excel in your career and fulfill your goals. Someone who has your back and your best interests in mind.

Building mutual alliances quote

Always try to build two-way relationships.

Develop mutually beneficial alliances

Because one of the Red Shoe Movement’s methodology pillars is Mutual Mentoring, I encourage you to develop mutually beneficial alliances. In other words, identify people who can support your career growth and whose career you can support. This win-win situation is much more natural than a one-way street relationship where you expect someone to support you without reciprocating. It potentiates each party by helping both of you flourish in the organization. It’s also a contagious phenomenon. Once your colleagues see the results you get from your partnership, they’ll want to emulate you. This in turn is likely to attract more allies to you while it reinforces your leadership brand.

Who could be potential allies?

Anyone in your ecosystem is an ally candidate. Here’s a list to make it perfectly clear:

  • Colleagues who are part of your team
  • Bosses
  • Administrative & support staff
  • Members of various executive committees
  • Members of Business Resource Groups
  • Senior Management
  • Your friends & family
  • Vendors
  • Customers & corporate clients
  • Members of Professional Associations to which you belong or that your company supports
  • Members of Trade Associations

As you see, there’s no shortage of potential allies with whom to develop a strong, mutually beneficial alliance. Going beyond networking means, however, that you shouldn’t just know their names but that you get to know them well. Because time is a limited resource, you it behooves you to be selective and strategic.

Networking for people who hate networking

A rising tide lifts all boats

Photo Credit: Lexie Jenney. Unsplash

How do you build an alliance?

First you must comb through your network to identify who’s already in it and with whom you may want to deepen the current relationship. Second, you must look at the above list of potential allies and decide where there may be opportunities to connect with certain individuals with whom to establish new relationships. Once these two first steps are taken care of, you can get down to the business of building an alliance.

1Be relentlessly generous

This is a basic principle for going beyond networking. If you want to build a strong foundation for your relationships, begin by thinking of ways in which you can help the other person. What can you offer them that might be beneficial? Time? Resources? Information? A helping hand in a project for which they have a tight deadline? Connections? By keeping a generous mindset, you’ll show your potential allies that you honestly care about them and their goals. This leads to trust and likely, to a desire to reciprocate. But keep in mind that to build a true alliance, generosity can’t be a one-time occurrence and it can’t be something you do with an agenda. Be relentlessly generous and your alliance will build over time.

2Include your allies in key decisions

It’s easier to get people’s support when they feel they are part of a decision you’re making. Or when you consult them about a project so that you can make the right decision. So if you know you’ll need your allies to stand by your side, it’s a good idea to fill them in ahead of time. Blindsiding anyone makes it harder for them to support you even if they would have, had you told them about your plans.

3Offer recognition whenever you get a chance

One of the best ways to nurture your allies is by recognizing them publicly whenever appropriate. Many people take their allies for granted, making it look like everything they accomplished they’ve done on their own. How about the boss who provided air cover at every turn? Or the assistant who worked until the wee hours of the morning and weekends to get the reports ready for the presentation? Or the spouse who took over picking up the kids in school for a month so that the person could focus on the project? Nobody, nobody does everything on their own. Remember this and always offer credit when credit is due. It’s one of the most valuable and inexpensive ways to maintain strong ties to your allies.

4Don’t overdo it

As with any relationship respect your allies’ time and goodwill. Just as you wouldn’t ask of your best friend to pick up your dry cleaning every time you’re out of town, avoid abusing your allies. Don’t ask for support when you could do things on your own or when you could have someone else do something. For instance, if one of your allies is an executive who helps you get high level visibility, don’t ask them to be your reference every time you’re trying to get a stretch assignment. Measure how much you ask of each ally and always try to do for them more than they do for you, so they are always willing to do whatever it is you ask.

To have a robust and fulfilling career requires you to go way beyond networking. It entails an investment in the people who will invest in you. It won’t happen overnight but once it happens, wow. Will your career take off in the most amazing ways!

Supporting each other is key in going beyond networking

Supporting each other is key in going beyond networking. Photo Credit: Hans M. Unsplash.

And as usual, if you’re looking to learn more about skills like building allies, come join our community!

 

How to overcome anxiety inside and outside of work

We live at a time when anxiety is one of the most common disorders. Today I invite you to identify some triggers and explore how to overcome anxiety to live a fuller life.

The feeling of anxiety goes beyond a diagnosis. Here some questions to detect if you feel anxious.

  • Do you feel nervous?
  • Are you always in a hurry or running against the clock?
  • Do you constantly have more things to do than you can?
  • Do you feel the need to do more and more?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions you have probably felt anxious in recent times.

Ferris wheel, a great way to slow down.

Find ways to slow down. Photo Credit: Johannes Daleng. Unsplash.

Anxiety crisis

Sometimes anxiety can end up in a crisis. You may cry, or binge eat, or feel overwhelmed. There are even those who experience panic attacks. We live in an era when time seems to have accelerated, and we seem to speed behind it. We could say that we live WITHOUT time. Everything is NOW, everything has to be IMMEDIATE.

Let’s do an exercise: Pay attention to commercials. How many of them highlight the value of speed, the famous “you can have it now” for a service, for a medication or for a meal? How many ads underscore that by using this or that product, you can continue to do anything without stopping?

None of those ads will tell you: “if your head hurts, rest for a bit,” or “if you’re exhausted, go to sleep.” No. They will tell you what to do if you have a headache so you can go on for a while longer without interruption.

How to overcome anxiety caused by our current work style?

Most people who work in an organization tend to live against the clock. That is, having to deliver projects always faster than is possible. We have the perception that there are more and more demands placed upon us and that whatever we do, it will never be enough. In fact, this is partly true because work is inexhaustible. That “more” that we constantly hear is what causes us anxiety.

New policies being developed in leading companies

Pioneer companies, however, are using research that suggests that working 24/7 and being always “on” is counterproductive to encourage leisure time. Many are forcing their associates to take vacations in order to disconnect and recharge batteries because they know that without these regular breaks you can’t think, produce, endure. Without these recovery intervals, anxiety takes hold.

What to do when we feel anxious?

Candle and book

If you want to overcome anxiety, take time to do what you enjoy like reading a book, or enjoying the smell of a candle. Photo Credit: Ellieelien. Unsplash.

If you’re wondering how to overcome anxiety, there are several ideas you can explore. Hopefully they will trigger others.

1Stop. Check where you are at. Breathe.

We could define the feeling of anxiety as “not having time”, that is, living in a hurry. It is necessary, however, to have time to do something for and for you. And when I say “have time” I don’t mean simply having chronological hours. If the day had one more hour, you would likely do more of the same. You would work harder and you would continue to hurry because you would still not have enough time for all your activities. That’s why I emphasize the lack of time is not just about not having extra chronological time. You need to create human time.

2Humanize time

The only being with time is the human being. Animals do not “have time,” they exist. Time becomes humanized when you find things to do that bring you satisfaction, when you do something you want, that you like, that you love. Have you done something like this in recent times? Or is it an exception for you to take time every so often to do something that is pleasing to you and that has nothing to do with your work?

3Get Bored

Boredom has bad press. But we have seen how important it is for kids and teenagers to get bored. It enables them to find their own resources, develop, discover or invent them. If we are constantly entertaining kids with activities or gadgets, if we never let them get bored, they are likely to become adults who won’t know what to do when they are not working. This is also true for you. Getting bored gives you the opportunity to discover new aspects about yourself and unleashes your creativity. Have you allowed yourself to get bored lately? Or do you spend all your time working or filling up your calendar with various activities?

4Explore slow movements

Human activities require time: cooking, painting, dancing, or practicing a sport. Going to the movies, strolling, sleeping. Building relationships. None of these activities can be done without time. Many have an almost meditative effect. Perhaps some of this is what the slow movements are trying to bring back. Films that last the entire length of a transcontinental trip, filmed with a camera attached to the fuselage of an airplane, invite you to sit and watch for hours as the landscape slowly changes. It is not always possible to live like this, but it is important to make time for yourself.

How to overcome anxiety tip explore slow movements

Watching birds fly can be a great way to slow down time. Photo Credit: Husen Siraaj. Unsplash.

How to overcome anxiety generated by changes at work?

Joining a new company, changing sectors or starting a supervisory role requires certain amount of time to fit, to understand the organization’s culture, to feel that you belong, to develop relationships. And frequently, you don’t control that timing as you depend on others to do their jobs. It is common for people to want to skip these stages. You may feel bad because you started your new job a month ago and you think you should’ve already overcome this or that milestone. Or assume you should have already adapted to the new role or culture. Stop! Respect the process and respect your times.

How to help reduce anxiety in your organization?

Bring cooking courses to your company

If you have a chance to bring ideas to your organization, try this: Cooking classes! Photo Credit: Kloe Arledge. Unsplash.

If you have a chance to offer new ideas in your company you could create a list of activities and interests of your teammates, department or division. This would lead to hiring experts to carry them out and perhaps to establish a series of rotating courses. Here are some options

Painting, sculpting, drawing

Getting involved in any of the art disciplines during working hours can release stress and expand creativity in an unconscious way.

Cooking

Organizations are expressing an increasing interest in fostering good health. What better way to promote your company’s support for healthy eating habits than to offer cooking classes? People can prepare their lunch to eat at work or cook dinner to take home. (Thus alleviating the time it takes to prepare dinner once employees get home.) It is also an excellent opportunity to learn about other cultures and strengthen ties between people from diverse backgrounds.

Literary or film clubs

This type of course leads employees to take time to watch a movie or read a book together or on their own and then meet to have a meaningful conversation.

Knitting & weaving

Knitting and weaving groups have shown excellent results to establish and strengthen connections in different communities. It is also an activity that has an almost meditative rhythm that forces you to slow down.

As you can see, there are many alternatives to foster spaces to create time for yourself. Paradoxically, this time that may seem unproductive at first is critical for your health. It helps reduce the anxiety caused by the feeling of lack of time and it promotes your well-being at work and in your personal life. So take time to make time.

To overcome anxiety take time to make time

How to overcome anxiety: Mainly, take time to make time for yourself. Photo Credit: Roxanne Desgagnes. Unsplash.

What does done look like in your life & career

When it comes to getting the desired results, author Brené Brown suggests this question: “What does done look like?” to get everyone on the same page. Once people on a team are clear about what is expected of them, they can get to work.

Brown details how to use this technique in several of her books. The question is intended to drive honest conversations about when a task or a project will be considered complete. As part of the process of answering “What does done look like,” the leader makes sure whoever is carrying out the task has ownership, all the information, tools and resources needed. I believe we could use this question and the same kind of approach across many areas of our lives, not only to complete a project.

What does done look like when it refers to your goals

We live in an era of intensified competition. When success is often measured by your next great achievement. There’s little time spent celebrating who you are and where you are right now and a lot in working for the future. Granted, I’m an avid supporter of ambition. It clearly keeps the world moving and the human race progressing. Yet, there’s something to be said about the cost of not taking stock. Smelling the roses. Feeling good about yourself. Feeling enough. So why not ask, “What does done look like in terms of my goals? When will I feel I’ve reached them? What markers can I put in place to realize I’ve “arrived” at that destination I’ve set for myself?” And once you do, enjoy it for a while.

I’m not talking about becoming complacent. I’m talking about taking a solid break when you achieved your goal to savor the new place you carved for yourself. Who you are after achieving them. How much more confident you feel. How much more you could now do for others by sharing what it took to reach this particular stage in your life and career.

Take time to celebrate your achievements

Take time to celebrate your achievements

When is enough enough when you can’t get what you want

Conversely, there comes a time in almost everyone’s life and career when you have to cut your losses. Those occasions when after working for a long time towards a specific goal you realize you’ll never reach it. Whether it is a specific title, or client you were after, or discovering the formula to cure a disease or filing a patent. Whatever it is in your case, you arrive at the realization that it won’t happen. At least, not in the way you initially planned. When is it time to recalculate? To stop investing time, energy, money, hope in an idea that you can’t turn into reality? When is the right time to call it quits and move on?

As important as it is to have objectives that get us out of bed every morning, it is to keep a realistic outlook that enables us to recalibrate when things don’t go as expected. Persistence and grit are remarkable traits to have. They are what keep you going when the going gets tough, and they should also be put to use when you have the courage to stop going. When you sit with yourself, evaluate the situation and face a negative outcome you weren’t expecting. This is the perfect moment to talk to someone you trust who knows what you were trying to accomplish and can objectively advice you on whether it’s time to change the goal or the path to get it.

Keep a realistic outlook to recalibrate goals

Keep a realistic outlook to recalibrate goals

When are you done with your job

I work with female talent in large organizations for a living so I’m the last person who would advice you to quit without trying your best to figure out a way to stay in your company. Many women face difficulties with their organization’s culture and with lack of growth opportunities. My approach is to help them identify the problem and then the potential solutions. Yet, when you’ve tried everything, and serious problems continue to interfere with your career growth, or affect your health, there comes a time to question when enough is enough. What is that limit that pushes you to make a decision to leave?

What does that moment when you are done with your job look like? How do you know when you’ve tried everything? Who could help you figure out if you are seeing the 360 of the situation? If you actually did try all possible solutions?

It’s not smart to wait until you get sick, depressed or develop a serious case of insomnia before you make this type of decision. Once you reach a point when you dread going to work, you don’t feel appreciated, or you feel a lack of purpose, you’ve gone too far. So keep an eye out for telling signs that things are not going well at work. Reach out to trusted colleagues. Have a courageous conversation with your boss about how you feel and ask questions. “Am I missing anything? Is there anything I could/should be doing differently?” Stay curious and open to the insights people share and see if they resonate with you.

It’s important to figure out what may not be working before you jump to a different job to ensure you don’t end up in a similar situation.

Leveraging your personal traits in your job
When will you be done being busy

When will you be done being busy

What does done look like when it comes to being busy

Brené Brown talks a lot about the pernicious effects in our society of equating being productive and being busy with being successful.  It’s so much a part of our daily conversations:

“How are you?”

“Oh, busy, busy. And you?”

“Yes, super busy too.”

Sometimes it can feel like if you are not busy you are a loser.  But aren’t most of us trying to succeed so we have more time to enjoy life? So, when are you hoping to do that? When do we stop being busy to put our feet up? To take a vacation? To watch a movie with our loved ones? When are we finally done with all that busyness? When will you feel you’ve done enough, worked enough, checked enough boxes before you go home? Go to bed? Turn the phone off?

Integrating your work and personal lives

I know this post offers more questions than answers. And that is exactly my purpose. To get us all to slow down and think a little about issues that affect the quality of our lives. Taking the time to answer these questions can truly help you craft a much more fulfilling career and life.

Not being busy inspirational quote

Don’t let our culture’s push for busyness distract you from your real purpose.

Unleash your creativity: Saying Yes to Change

You know how for the last few years there’s been a whole conversation about how women should learn to say no? Well, today I’d like to invite you to unleash your creativity by learning when NOT to say no! Come with me!

Between February 4 and 6 2014 there was a transportation strike in London during which some Tube (subway) stations were closed. If you are a commuter, you can empathize with the pain our friends across the pond must have felt. For two days, the Underground stopped and people had to figure out a different route to get to work.

As we all know commuters are masters of efficiency. For years they’ve studied to the millisecond the best routes, shortcuts and timesaving schemes until they arrived to the “perfect” one. So, having their routine suddenly interfered with created more than a bit of anger.

When the dispute was over, most people went back to their old routine. But a substantial minority did not. In what turned out to be an unplanned, yet, a great social experiment, about 5 % of commuters discovered a new, more effective (or maybe more pleasurable) way to get to and from work every day. Why do I tell you this story? Because it reveals that sometimes, to unleash your creativity, you need a major, unexpected disruption.

Necessity is the mother of invention inspirational quote

You don’t need to wait for a disruption to practice your creativity. You can set your own disruptions deliberately.

Rejecting change may get in the way of unleashing your creativity

The reality is that most of us resist disruptions even when they pretty small. They entail changes in our plans, routines or expectations. The train is late; your client cancels and appointment; it rains the day of your annual picnic; your favorite coffee house is closed when you’re craving a shot of espresso, and a million other circumstances that face us daily.  Suddenly, we become children ready to throw a tantrum and it’s all you can do to hold the fumes building inside and not give into the tantrum completely.

But what would happen if at the moment the disruption takes place, right when you hear that the flight is cancelled for instance, you said, “Wow, the news sucks but let me think for a second about how to do something unusual with this circumstances.”

It’s not easy to change direction when things don’t go as you expect. Sometimes, the emotional toll is hard to deal with. But the saying “necessity is the mother of invention” is true. Many great innovations were born of mistakes, of disruptions and /or extreme situations where people were forced outside of their comfort zone. That’s what pumps your brain to come up with new solutions. That’s why disruptions can seriously help unleash your creativity and we’d all be better off embracing them.

Being more creative is about embracing change. Pictures taken at a recent Red Shoe Movement Signature Event.

A few weeks ago, I had a trip planned to Europe. The night before my trip the friend I was visiting had an emergency and asked me to cancel the trip. I immediately agreed that this was the right decision and called the airline to cancel the flight. It took me a bit longer to align my emotions with the new circumstances. We had put a lot of energy and expectations into planning this trip and the fact that I knew cancelling was the right thing to do, it was still not enough to get me out of the funk.

So I gave myself 24 hours to process the change of plans and then I bought a ticket to Seattle. Look, my bags were packed, my calendar cleared, my mind prepared for a week off. A friend of mine had just landed a new job there and I had never been to town so I said, why not. 48 hours later I was on top of the Space Needle, having a fabulous time.

Not only did I visit with my friend and enjoyed some quality time with her, I also did some serious sight seeing. But most importantly, the change of scenery enabled me to pivot from a big disappointment quickly, and make new plans rather than wallow on what should’ve or could’ve been. My conversations during the trip informed new projects I had been thinking about and the trip in general lifted the cloud that came over me as a result of the unexpected change of plans. It allowed my creative juices to flow again.

Asking questions like this one can also help unleash your creativity

Unleash your creativity on demand

There’s a story about Keith Jarrett the famous, talented jazz musician, who is always extremely meticulous about his instrument when he performs. One time in 1975, he accepted to play a concert in Cologne, Germany, despite the fact that the Opera House got him the wrong piano, one only intended for rehearsals. That concert was recorded and surprisingly, it has become the best-selling solo album in jazz history, and the all-time best-selling piano album. What Keith Jarrett did when faced with such a disastrous situation was magic. He turned lemons into lemonade. How ready and open are you to do the same? How creatively do you react to adverse situations?

No doubt that the more you practice, the better you become at turning the unexpected disruptions into sources of creative solutions. The problem is that you never know when or what will go wrong so it’s hard to practice with random life occurrences. But what if instead you set your own disruptions? If you’re looking for a great way to unleash your creativity on demand, here are 5 ideas to consider.

Few things accelerate your creativity as saying yes to change. Try it! Photo insert credit: Pnina Yuhjtman.

Here are 5 disruptions to unleash your creativity:

1Assign the role of contrarian to someone in your group. It’s natural for a group of people who work together to try to arrive to agreements, and that’s fine. In the end, we need to push towards one common goal or project. But that one common project could be much more creative if you consider as many different points of view as possible before settling for the best idea. If you make sure one person has the role to come up with what’s wrong with what everyone agrees on, it will force the group to continue improving on the idea.

2Interrupt yourself strategically. Rather than working on a project from beginning to end without taking a break, stop. Set up an alarm at a random number of minutes and no matter where you are at stop, get up, take a walk, make yourself a cup of coffee or make a phone call. (Or rather than ignoring it, follow your smart watch instructions to get up and walk 250 steps every hour!) Interrupting your thinking flow makes you come back to the project with new eyes.  Now you may think you get interrupted a million times by beeping sounds from your electronic devices anyway. Not the same thing. Those interruptions are counter productive as they don’t allow enough time to dive into a project. The idea is to dive in deep and then stop. So silence your devices and just set up your alarm. You can do this with anything: while writing a blog, creating a presentation, developing a product, etc.

3Change roles. Try to rotate roles even for a day. Ask your boss for the opportunity to spend a day, a week or a month in someone else’s shoes. It could be in a different function, or location. Talk about a real change of perspective.

4 Shake up your flex-policy. A great way to unleash your creativity could come from reversing the days you work from home and from the office. Or, if you have never taken advantage of this policy, it may be time to try it. This simple change will likely throw your routine off and it will force you to come up with creative solutions for everyday problems.

5Pick a different route or way to get to work. Create your own transportation disruption and either chose a different route to get to work or a new mode of transport. Do you usually take the train? Use your bike. Do you normally drive? Ask a colleague for a lift.

Lateral thinking is a great strategy to foster your creativity!
Inspirational quote

Test your comfort zone often…

Even small disruptions like going to the bathroom on a different floor can elicit new conversations with people you don’t usually see. And who knows where those conversations may lead?

If you really want to unleash your creativity, it’s important to embrace change and say yes to those things that make you uncomfortable. They may prove to be the spark you need to take things to the next level.

Consider joining our Step Up Plus program to learn more about some key skills!

 

 

An example of how to leverage your personal traits in your job

Katie Beirne Fallon went from working for President Obama to heading Corporate Affairs at Hilton Hotels. How did she do it? What traits did she bring with her? Here’s an example of how to leverage your personal traits in your job. Read on!

Katie Beirne Fallon is the Executive Vice President and Global Head of Corporate Affairs for Hilton. She has a peculiar background: She was Senior Advisor and Director of Legislative Affairs for President Obama. She was the President’s Chief Liaison with Congress. Before serving the Obama White House, Katie was the Staff Director of the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center in the U.S. Congress. She also worked for Senator Chuck Schumer. How, I wondered, did she transitioned to her current role at Hilton? What were her personal traits that she carried from job to job?

Katie Fallon in red, is a perfect example of how to leverage your personal traits in your job. Here with Hilton's top executives at a 100th birthday celebration media event.

Katie Fallon in red, is a perfect example of how to leverage your personal traits in your job. Here with Hilton’s top executives at a 100th birthday celebration media event.

Mariela Dabbah— Which of your personal traits have helped you the most to navigate the major crises you confronted in your career in corporate affairs?

Katie Fallon— My old boss likes to say I’m very balanced.

MD— You mean, President Obama?

KF— Yes. (Laughter.) From growing up in a large family (I’m one of eight kids) and from having a growing family myself, I have the ability to ask what’s really important and to allow that perspective to keep me calm and build my patience. I allow it to give me clarity of vision on how to approach a problem without the anxiety of worrying about what would happen if I fail.

MD— Even when you are in the middle of the crisis you are able to tap into that peaceful place?

KF— Yes, and again, I credit the household I grew up in. (Laughter) Because I needed to be the mediator of the family, the person who injected a joke when things got tense… I took that with me. I think that’s one of the main reasons I entered politics. Because I liked negotiating among strong wills and different personalities.

MD— What number child are you?

KF— Second oldest. And my sister and I were born the same year, so we are only 11 months apart.

MD— Given that you are 6’1”, do you think your height has something to do with your ability to see things from above the fray? To always keep a perspective?

KF— I never thought about it that way. When I was a teenager I had a tough time being so tall. I was 5’8” at 13. I slouched and wore flats… But now I own it. In reflecting back, I recall many moments when being the tallest one in the group or on a team, people naturally turned to me to come up with a plan of action or to respond to their questions. So I think it helped me develop my leadership skills.

Katie Fallon learned to negotiate various points of view at home. She's one of 8 kids.

Katie Fallon learned to negotiate various points of view at home. She’s one of 8 kids.

MD— Your last job was working at the White House for President Obama. What skills did you develop there that have prepared you to lead corporate affairs at Hilton?

KF— When Hilton’s CEO, Chris Nassetta, offered me to leave public service to come to work for Hilton, he used an analogy that the hospitality industry —and Hilton in particular —replicates the structure of a political campaign. You have all these properties all over the world that function as local campaigns and the general managers of the properties are like campaign managers.  “Imagine the potential you could have if you could get all our Hilton hotels to advocate for the same thing. To implement the same changes. To drive social impact. To run global campaigns around corporate responsibility. It could be even more impactful than what you’re doing in politics,” he said. That’s what won me over.  I have to say the changes we have done in two and a half years have been larger than what I’ve made in a dozen years in politics.

I don’t think I’d be able to have this impact, however, if I hadn’t had the prior experience. Particularly because there was so much friction and tension in the legislative and advocacy world in the last decade that I had to learn how to navigate very different, polarizing perspectives to get things done. And in a different context, at Hilton we have a variety of stakeholders all aligned to different goals: Owners, suppliers, franchisees, different countries with different regulations… So to navigate all these various perspectives in service of our vision I use a lot of what I learned.

From NASA to CEO of Girl Scouts, don't miss another inspiring industry-changer!

MD— So what specific traits did you bring from politics?

KF— Putting myself in other people’s shoes so I understand their position, which is a skill I built in my time in politics. Going back to my family, I grew up in a very mixed household, with several very conservative members. I’m one of the few who had more progressive views. Having deep respect for my parents and my siblings’ different perspectives allowed for a civil discourse that ended in us understanding each other.

In the hospitality business we only succeed as a company if we treat each guest as the individual human being they are. That’s going to be our secret sauce in the future too. When you think about that as a massive scale, at Hilton we can catalyze not only our workforce, but also the 166 millions guests from last year alone. Each one of them can make those human connections when they travel.

Respecting each individual as a human being has always been at the core of Katie Fallon's attitude in her personal and professional life.

Respecting each individual as a human being has always been at the core of Katie Fallon’s attitude in her personal and professional life.

Discover your blind spots with this exercise, an alternative to the Johari Window!

MD— Do you think you developed a very thick skin by working in politics and that you apply that in your current job?

KF— Yes. Absolutely. In politics you wake up every morning expecting a crisis. And you had to steel yourself to be able to respond and be confident that your instincts will be sharp. And you are bound to get it wrong. If everyday you deal with a different issue you are bound to make mistakes. I came into politics as a perfectionists and it was hard to adjust to that reality. But you have to bounce right back. Because you have to put your game face back on the next day.

I had the benefit of having bosses who reinforced that in me because nobody understands better the challenges of being publicly scrutinized than elected politicians, so I had bosses who helped me develop that perspective. And over time I became easier on myself.

In my Hilton job, we have different things happening every day and sometimes I get it right and sometimes I get it wrong. Thankfully, I have a team of people around me who are not afraid to question me and I’m not afraid to take their feedback.

An example of how to leverage your personal traits in your job, Katie Fallon went from the White House to Hilton Hotels.

An example of how to leverage your personal traits in your job, Katie Fallon went from the White House to Hilton.

MD— Do you feel that in the last couple of years since you’ve been in this company you’ve seen a clear trajectory for women to the C-Suite and strategies in place for that to happen?

KF— Yes. I’m part of the executive committee that sets our goals every year in terms of women recruiting and women in leadership roles. We co-create the goals with our board which is 44% women. The executive committee is responsible for making sure their functions are tracking those goals. We have a deliberate focus to hold each other accountable to the goals we agreed to. To use myself as an example I may be one of the few women who gave birth while being on an executive committee.  I serve in several boards and in one of them they told me they think I’m the only board member who gave birth while serving on a public company board. The fact that they instituted a parental leave policy on the board because of me speaks volumes. When I told Chris (Hilton’s CEO) that I was pregnant he cried. I was worried about the conversation as we were heading into our 100thbirthday celebration, but he was emotionally happy for me. And you can tell from the way the team looks after me when we travel, and pass my baby around on the plane…

MD— So you could truly say, they walk the walk.

KF— They do. They walk the walk. But it’s more than that. I couldn’t do it without them. They are my family.