The timing for talking about women in leadership could not be more perfect. We have just voted in vice president elect Kamala Harris, the first woman and first woman of color to be in that office. She spoke to little girls in her acceptance speech about being the first woman in this position, but certainly not the last. My guest is perfect for today. Let me introduce Susan Collins, who know her life purpose has been the career success of women. She is the retired CEO and founder of leading women and is globally known for her TED talk on the career advice you didn't get that has over 4 million views. She is also the author of two acclaimed books, no ceilings, no walls, and make the most of mentoring. When not helping create careers that soar. She's into yoga, traveling, riding her horse and living an endless summer lifestyle between Rhode Island and Puerto Rico. One superpower she has, and I can confirm this out of the box thinking. I've had the privilege and pleasure of knowing and partnering with Susan for about 15 years and been a yoga partner for many years. She continues to expand inspire me. So welcome, Susan.
Susan Colantuono 1:46
Thank you, Wendy. The inspiration definitely goes both ways. And is it only 15 years?
Wendy Hanson 1:55
It's probably goes back a long way when he goes back a long
Susan Colantuono 2:03
ranch. A good way through many adventures. Yes. As successful.
Wendy Hanson 2:11
So perfect to talk to you today. We had planned this weeks ago, a month ago. And here we are. So from your vantage point. How will Camilla Harris as vice president elect impact women in leadership? What What do you think is gonna happen because this is a biggie.
Susan Colantuono 2:29
This is a biggie, I, when I think about the impact that Kamala Harris can have on women in leadership, I'm looking multi generational. So my Twitter feed was absolutely full of mothers talking about the impact of their daughters watching her give the speech in advance of and then introducing Joe Biden President Elect. And so there's the saying, if you can see it, you can be it. And having her at the top of the US government, following Hillary Clinton's historic run delivers incredible role modeling for girls, to women. And the other impact that I think it will have, isn't necessarily on women in leadership. But I think it's very important to talk about which is that she brings to the office of vice president lived experience as a woman, as a woman with Caribbean roots. As a woman who went to a historically black college. As a woman of Indian heritage, these lived experiences have never been so close to power, and I think it will have a great impact on policy and some of those policies that I expect to see coming forth will have an impact on the abilities of women to create careers going forward. So on childcare, for example, on elder care, etc. Yeah,
Wendy Hanson 4:11
yeah. It, it just is so empowering to every generation to see this really happen. Yes, I do think watching it from that lens, which I know you will be doing is going to be a really exciting adventure to see her journey and see the impact that it has.
Susan Colantuono 4:31
Wendy Hanson 4:33
Now you've done. You've done so much research on, you know, women in leadership. And that's really been your whole life's career focusing on that for the last 20 years. What has gotten in our way, what do you think is the single biggest barrier to women becoming leaders because we keep talking about you know, we don't have enough women with a seat at the table. They're certainly not enough women in C suite and all this what what do you think that is what's what What's your research tell you?
Susan Colantuono 5:02
So my research tells me that when it comes to getting more women into positions of leadership, there are two great challenges. One is managers perceptions about women, and their potential for leadership. So I'll come back to that in a minute. And the other is women's own readiness for upward mobility. And in the context of both of those, there's a there's a finding that I call the missing 33%. And how it ties to both of those is that a lot of managers don't perceive women as having the business strategic and financial acumen that they need in order to be credible candidates for moving up. We can talk about why I call that the missing 33%. But that has to do with the perceptions that women aren't business savvy, that we don't have financial acumen we can't speak the language of the numbers of business, and that we aren't very good at strategy. So that's the perception piece managers perceptions about us are that we lack the missing 33% business, strategic and financial acumen. And for many women, we actually do lack those things. So for those of us who lack business, strategic and financial acumen, it's really hard to be seen as critical candidates for advancement. And sometimes we have business strategic and financial acumen, but we don't showcase it is so. So it's one big connected challenge that my research has unveiled as to why there are so few women at the top.
Wendy Hanson 6:59
And so when you speak of that you're you're speaking about why women are not being elevated in organizations as well as being hired in organizations?
Susan Colantuono 7:10
Well, the Yes, at senior levels Exactly, yes. Because oftentimes, women don't showcase their business strategic and financial acumen in their profiles on LinkedIn, in their resumes in cover letters. And so we're at a disadvantage when we're compared with men who do that. Now at lower levels, women do quite well cut entry levels in most industries and into middle management. But in more senior levels, it's a huge challenge. Yeah,
Wendy Hanson 7:47
we we probably have some young women listening to this podcast, I hope we're gonna be inspired. Can you give a little background to, you know, business, strategic, and financial acumen just a little on each one so that people can get wrap their head around it? And
Susan Colantuono 8:04
this is what we're talking about? a great question. Okay. So business acumen has to do with understanding the entire business that you work in, not just your function, not just your business unit. So not just what it means to be a programmer in it. And not just what it means to be an HR professional, not just what it means to be an engineer in operations, not just what it means to work in the Consumer Products Division, but understanding the entire organization and how all pieces fit together. And being able to understand how you contribute to the business outcomes that matter to the organization. So how your KPIs roll up to the metrics in your division or in your function, or in your business unit. So that's business acumen. financial acumen is deeply connected to business acumen in the metrics piece. So financial acumen means being able to in from the the numbers that are reported in quarterly earnings calls, annual statements, your CEOs have quarterly updates internally, to being able to transfer translate those numbers into the story of what's happening in your business. And being able to, at a junior level, understand how that story is driving activities that are going on in your business. So are you downsizing? are you investing in new products? And what's the connection between those kinds of change activities and the financial story? So that's a bit about financial acumen, understanding the numbers and the story, they tell? Strategic acumen varies quite a bit depending on your level. If you're a more junior employee, it means understanding the broad strategy of the business, and how it's impacting what you're doing every day. And how what you're doing has changed over time. In the middle, it means understanding how strategy is set, it means having your fingers on the pulse of what's happening outside the organization, so that you can make strong strategic recommendations. And then if you're at the top of the organization, obviously, it means you're actually setting strategy for your business unit four, your function for the organization as a whole. And in order to be able to do that you have to understand financial targets. So getting back to financial acumen, you have to understand what's happening in the external environment. So what great opportunities you can capitalize on what threats there are, and being able to understand and or initiate the right changes inside the organization to drive this strategy forward. Oh, that's great. That's really helpful for people. Yeah, to get their head around this.
Wendy Hanson 11:11
It reminds me so much, especially the strategic Aquaman, the concept we talked about a lot in coaching at BetterManager, is you need to get off the dance floor and in the, on the balcony, because on the balcony is where you're looking at strategy. And our times your team members are on the dance floor, and they don't quite get it and you have to bring them up to the balcony to be able to talk about this is the bigger impact or this is what we're shooting for. Because I've worked with so many leaders who don't take the time to explain the why behind the strategy. And then people can't really participate in a big enough way. That's exactly right.
Susan Colantuono 11:52
So a little bit of self disclosure here, one of my husband's used to say, people, people who know what will always work for people who know why. So your point about the why hugely important, and the why is that bigger, strategic perspective? And the Why is the interaction between the financials and the story and the impact on strategy? Yeah. You had a great example, when we talked earlier about the ability to showcase that financial technical data driven, I would love you to share that with the people who are listening.
Wendy Hanson 12:37
Yes, I, you know, as we were planning this podcast, you know, I began thinking about how fortunate I had been to talk to many wonderful women leaders, and I was like, who, who stands out. And I, the one that popped in my mind was Katie Sullivan, I was fortunate to be able to be her coach when she was at Yelp. A couple of years ago, she was SVP and general manager and in charge of local revenue. And I thought, this woman really had all those three, you know, strategic, financial and business Aquaman. And we did a 360. And Katie, now, by the way, is chief Revenue Officer for a company called real real authentic luxury consignments. And she's the powerhouse she's a real powerhouse. He lives in California. Well, I I remember these wonderful things that when I did her 360 what her peers and managers were saying about her, and I pulled it out, because I said, You know, I remember being so taken by what they said about a data driven leader and decision maker with the ability to weave in empathy and common sense. Wow, wow. And, and then, just like you were talking about, Katie is a true role model. She thinks past her role, and she should at this level, and cares about the business and the people of the organization. So when you're in that balcony position, you don't only look at what you're doing if you're you know, Chief revenue officer, just the examples you gave you have to look at everything what's happening in engineering, how is everybody being impacted?
Susan Colantuono 14:24
Right Katie to me,
Wendy Hanson 14:26
shout out to Katie Sullivan, because I learned a lot coaching her and, and she's a great model, I think for people of you know how, how you really can show and demonstrate these kinds of skills and be empathetic and caring. I remember stories about her. Well, just a minute I have to get off the phone, Wendy because I've got to go put an engagement card on somebody's desk that I originally got engaged, like, level of kindness and connect that she had also with the business strategy.
Susan Colantuono 15:00
So tell me again, you're very lucky to have known her I wish I knew her. Tell me again, the it was data
Wendy Hanson 15:10
at the thinking ribbon leader, and vision maker. Yep, with the ability to weave in empathy, and sense.
Susan Colantuono 15:18
Okay, so I want to talk about those three things, because they, they connect to my definition of leadership, which explains the concept of the missing 33%. So my definition of leadership is that it's using the greatness in you to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes by engaging the greatness in others. And extraordinary outcomes is where the business strategic and financial acumen fit in. So in terms of the feedback that Katie got, she was described as data driven. So that connects directly to achieving and sustaining extraordinary outcomes. And, and, and being a good decision maker. Anyone can make decisions, they're only good if they drive the business forward. So you have to have data and business and strategic and financial documents. So that's the that one third, which is missing 33% not because we don't have it up, even though some of us don't, but because we're perceived as not having it. So that's the missing 33%. She also bet feedback about being empathetic. So that's the ability to engage the greatness and others. And she also got feedback about having common sense, which is personal greatness. It's a personal attribute, aside from those that relate to engaging others, so right, there's just a perfect little nugget of leadership feedback. Yeah. And I didn't want to let it slip by.
Wendy Hanson 16:48
Good. Good. Thank you. Yes. And I love your definition of leadership, say it once more.
Susan Colantuono 16:54
Leadership is using the greatness in you to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes by engaging the greatness in others. That's beautiful. Yes. The other thought I had about Katie's story is you don't have to be she was an SVP, when she got that feedback. You don't have to be at that level to begin to demonstrate business strategic and financial acumen. One of my favorite encounters with was with a young scientist working at Amgen, who had to do a presentation on research that she was doing. And she came to a course of mine, and was really excited about the idea of the missing 33% and wanted to hone her skills. So in preparation for her presentation, she went to the finance department, and said, Can you help me describe the impact of this project, in terms of the finances of the business? So they did. And she made her presentation. And she said her colleagues really loved the scientific part. But the manager, her manager, and the other executives who were in the room commended her on her knowledge of the business, if she's a scientist and individual contributor, so she was demonstrating leadership in that way in that moment.
Wendy Hanson 18:17
Yeah, we do a lot of coaching with women and men who have to give presentations to the C suite. And it's not about what you want to tell them. It's what they want to hear, and what vehicle they want to hear it in. And that's often what happens is, we get caught in our head like, this is the story I want to tell. But what's the story that people need to hear? So that's a great example of that.
Susan Colantuono 18:43
Yeah, yeah. And sometimes it's not just what's the story I want to tell, but I want to show them how hard I've been working, and they really don't care. So another another favorite quote, by no one cares, the storm shoe encounter, they only care Did you bring in the ship?
Wendy Hanson 19:03
Wow, I think you have the makings for a T shirt company here with all these mottos on a shirt that people can remember. So there are so many women out there that may be listening to say, wow, I do have some room to grow in these areas. And, and, and I want to be recognized, and I'm wondering why I keep getting passed over. So how can women build the skills that you're talking about and build these opportunities to become, you know, really recognized leaders in companies? What are some of the things that you would suggest?
Susan Colantuono 19:40
I would suggest that in order to build business, strategic and financial acumen, you first think about capitalizing on your relationship with your manager. Secondarily, think about developing mentors inside and outside of the company. Thirdly, utilizing coaches So you can speak to that. There, there are some other things, but those are the primary three, when it comes to working with your manager, encourage him or her to talk about the metrics that they're measured on, and what they have to report up the organization. So you can begin to build connections between what you do every day, and your key performance indicators, KPIs, and what's going on at higher levels. Oh, there's the fourth thing I wanted to talk about. Reaching out to mentors and asking is someone who's good at business acumen, someone who seems to really understand how the business works, someone who has a reputation for being good at strategy, someone who has financial acumen and can talk with you about the balance sheet, the the statement of income, yeah, but the cash flow statement, etc. So finding mentors, your manager might be able to do some of that, but maybe not all of it. And those mentors can be inside or outside of the company, especially if you work in a publicly traded company. Let me say one more thing. And then I want to ask you about coaches, what you would say about that. Another way that you can do this is by studying yourself reading the quarterly earnings, reports of your company if you're publicly traded, and analyzing them for what they're talking about in terms of cash in terms of growth initiatives, in terms of margin, and, excuse me, return, etc. So those are three things that make a difference in building that business, strategic and financial acumen and coaching. I mean, the you're the expert on coaching, let's talk about how that can help.
Wendy Hanson 22:04
Well, I do think, Wow, we've at BetterManager, we've coached, I think we're coming on to about 3000 people so and having a thought partner as well, no matter how, if you're a new manager, a middle manager, or an executive, to we, I, I always believe that we often learn from saying things out loud, you know, and that's what happens a lot with coaching is that you are asked some questions, and you're, and you have a partner and and in our company, you really have to have a lot of business experience in order to be a coach. So you're adding some value to the conversation. But you're saying something, and you're saying, Oh, I never put those dots together like that. And you do that yourself, which is such a gift to be able to have somebody to have those conversations with. So I think coaching has, you know, over the years, having coached many, many senior leaders and how they utilize coaching is not like the other person, there's an equal and equal opportunity for both the coach and the end the senior leader to be able to be side by side looking at a problem together, being up in the balcony and saying, What do you see what's a different perspective? And that's good, that's so much over the years. And I think that's what all of our coaches that work with folks see that happening. And that's the feedback we get.
Susan Colantuono 23:28
That's excellent. There are a lot of organizations that don't require substantial business experience of their coaches. And so the kind of coaching that BetterManager offers, is able to bring that business strategic and financial acumen to that person that upper that 10,000 feet or from the balcony perspective. I love that. Yeah. It reminds me in a strange way about a different approach to mentorship. The person who teaches you anything doesn't always have to be above you. So Anne Mulcahy, when she became CEO of Xerox, she readily admitted that financial acumen was not her strong suit. And yet she would have to do reports to the quarterly earnings statements. She would have to speak to bankers, etc. So she got mentoring from someone below her in her own finance department. And I think that's pretty cool. Yeah,
Wendy Hanson 24:36
we cannot be all things. No.
Susan Colantuono 24:40
Nor do we want to, we want to
Wendy Hanson 24:43
know we need to, you know, I'm a great believer and we are all of our coaching team is about, you know, finding your strengths and playing to your strengths. instead of always trying to, you know, the old school way of we got to fix your weaknesses. So, find a partner. You know, I've used that Example many times with people that have problems with empathy, you know, I had a somebody that I coached years ago who, just when people would come into her office crying, you know, she just didn't get it, you know, and she had somebody on her team, who she would bring in and say, How am I to respond? What are the best thing for me to do here? Because she truly just didn't get it. She couldn't play that instrument of empathy. Yeah, so we find who are our right partners, so that we can play to our strengths. And And if it is, in these areas of business acumen and finance and strategy, find those. And it sounds like back to the mentoring. We can all have mentors in different areas, here, here. Yeah, because they're not all going to be one size fits all, either. So Oh, I have my financial mentor. And people often confuse coaching with mentoring, because I'll talk to some people in companies and, and they'll kind of think it's the same thing. But it's, you know, a mentor has walked the path you want to walk, you know, a coach is going to ask you, and a mentor will do this too, at times harder questions and things like that, and get you to think things through. But yeah, we need all of those, we need all those. Yep, life is big and complicated we have to have. So if if managers out there see promise in some of the women that are on their teams, and they're, and they're trying to think, you know, my responsibility, and the biggest responsibility of a manager is to grow their people, you know, to make sure that people are productive, and that we meet the goals of the organization, but to grow their people, what can managers do on the opposite side of the coin, to help women to help them grow?
Susan Colantuono 26:48
That's a great question. Sometimes, because there's so much written about what women need to succeed, and that that conventional wisdom, so much stresses, helping to build confidence that managers think that, Oh, I see a woman with a promise, and I'm going to focus on helping her build confidence, which is okay. But when, when we're talking about performance in business, confidence, the foundation of confidence is business, strategic and financial acumen. So for managers to have conversations with with women who show promise, about the business overall, about how they use data, in order to make decisions about how strategy cascades down to them, and turns into key performance indicators at lower levels. So that's one way that the conversations that managers can have, and that works, no matter what level you're at. Another thing that managers can do is to create great shadowing opportunities. So one of the stories I tell is about CEO of a healthcare system, who when he was just an individual contributor, he caught the eye of a CEO at the hospital he was working at, and the CEO invited him to executive team and board meetings. But he didn't just say, Come on shadow me before the meetings, he would sit down and go over the agenda of the meeting with this Junior employee, and say, Why are these topics on the agenda? What do you think the outcome should be? What do you expect to hear? Then they would both go to the executive team meeting and the employees thing was George, he would sit in the room and observe. And then after the meeting, he would debrief and say, who in the room had the power? How did they make credible arguments? What was the decision on each of the topics? Why is that the right decision for the business going forward. And again, that's something you can do at any every level, any manager can do that with any employee that shows promise. And the third thing that I think managers can do is realize if they are men, that it's natural and comfortable for them to informally support the careers of other men who are junior to them. It's it's as natural as breathing air I have a son I have seen it his entire life. And that it's a stretch into discomfort sometimes to to have informal conversations with women who report to them and put yourself out there just keep it businesslike and keep the topic career and business oriented. And, and get it done.
Wendy Hanson 29:55
And know that you're making a really big difference. Yes, yes. We're gonna close we need to You know, talk about diversity these days, we need all kinds of diversity. And we need to be reaching out for that, and, and making sure that, you know, that we were where we're trying to find different opinions where we're giving people an opportunity to speak. I love the story of getting somebody prepared for looking at a meeting. Here's what what do you think you're going to look for? And then when you see, yeah, how how valuable that is. And you couldn't get that anywhere else.
Unknown Speaker 30:30
Susan Colantuono 30:31
how could you? I never had anything like that in my career. You said something that I wanted to come back to. It's it's slipped away. If it comes back. I'll interject it. Okay. You were talking. Wait, you were talking about managers? Oh, yes. So we were we've kind of time set this conversation because we're talking about Cabela's election. And so the other thing that's happening and why it's so important for managers to be tuned in to diversity at this point in time is because COVID has created what's been called, she says, session, a recession of women where women are disproportionately disproportionately leaving the workforce. So it's even more important now for managers to attend to the diversity that you just spoke about. Yeah. Yes,
Wendy Hanson 31:33
I heard that on the news the other day, you know, that's heartbreaking. It is heartbreaking, and how do they get back in again, and, you know, they're going, you know, to have to homeschool children and not have to, but, you know, the opportunity to but there goes this like gap in their career. Yep. And so, certainly, the pandemic is causing a lot of changes. And, and, you know, it comes to like, when you're trying now to get back into the workforce. You know, your research shows that 26% of senior executives, what do they look for when hiring for the C suite? Like if I'm coming back in, and I'm looking for a job, and I'm an external candidate? And we've talked a lot about internal people. Well, how do I get back in there? And what can I do? If I if I don't have the opportunity? Like how do I demonstrate that I have business acumen, financial acumen and strategic acumen, so that I do get that opportunity?
Susan Colantuono 32:31
Okay, so big question. Yes, big question. huge, big, wonderful, juicy question. When looking at candidates for senior positions, my research found that 26% of what executives look for, have to do with the part of leadership that is engaging the greatness in others. So interpersonal and team skills. And we women tend to do really well in those areas and speaking about plating your strengths, that's to our advantage. 24% has to do with personal greatness, and we pretty much even out with men on those issues. But 50% has to do with business, strategic and financial acumen. And managers always expect men to do better in those categories than women. It's persisted since I started this research back in 2000. So in interviews, whether inside or the case that we're talking about outside, you have you have a wonderful opportunity, right live to demonstrate your interpersonal skills, your ability to listen, your ability to answer the question that's been asked to stick to the topic being discussed, and to give short and succinct answers. So right there, you have the ability to demonstrate, you don't have the ability to demonstrate you're in the moment, business decision making or you're in the moment strategy. So you have to come to the interview prepared to speak about your accomplishments using the language of numbers. For instead of saying, Oh ay ay ay, ay, ay, coalesced, the most diverse team that had ever been brought together to tackle a problem which showcases your interpersonal and team skills, you might want to say the team that I lead came from all across the organization, and what we were able to accomplish was an increase in 35% profit margin by reducing waste 15% or whatever the numbers are. So being able to To draw the connection between your leadership, and financial and other numeric impact on the business, so some impacts are not financial directly. So you might want to talk about customer satisfaction increases, or employee retention. Now all of that does ultimately cascade to financial documents. But as long as you can present your impact on the business, in that interview, you have much better chance of being selected than if you only showcase your interpersonal and team skills. That's great.
Wendy Hanson 35:36
Yeah, that's, um, for folks that are listening out there now as hopefully these women that are out of the workforce currently, but next year, we'll be going back, listen to this now and, and be able to get back there and, and rise to those positions. And I'm, I, I kind of lean towards positivity a lot. So I'm hoping that people are going to open up, like, really think about this, and, and as people are bringing on women back, they're going to say, Ah, you know, this is an opportunity for us. You know, we may have been a little tunnel vision before, but we're going to open up who we're looking at and why we're looking at them and provide opportunities, and it's almost the opportunity to just let people show up and be there be their true self,
Susan Colantuono 36:22
you know, yes, yeah. Yeah,
Wendy Hanson 36:24
great. Well, I'm sure we would, I could sit here and talk for hours like we used to you. Given we have a time sensitive thing here. Is there anything quickly that I should have asked you? And I didn't ask you? Who can we save that for our next podcast? Yeah, let's save that for the next podcast. That is a surprise. Yeah, people want to learn more about, you know what you're up to these days and connect with you what's the best way for them to do that, Susan. And we'll also put this in the show notes, so that people will be able to find it.
Susan Colantuono 37:00
So these days, you can find me on a social network. That's called a career that soars. So you can go to a career that soars all one word.com. And this is a global network of women who are career oriented, and who are focused on leadership and career development, but don't have resources inside their organization. So if that's you, we'd love to have you join us. And we represent women at all levels, all continents, and as diverse as we can get.
Wendy Hanson 37:35
Oh, that's great. That's great. A career that source or a
Susan Colantuono 37:38
career that soars?
Wendy Hanson 37:40
Yes, so that people can reach out to you. So thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today. And we're at the perfect time for women leaders. So I'm so glad that you and I had a chance to talk and, and, and and get people really thinking about what is it that I what is it that I want to showcase in myself and where do I need to grow and develop and hopefully managers listen to what they can do to help this in their organizations?
Susan Colantuono 38:08
I hope so, Wendy, it will make a huge difference in the world. It will, it will.
Wendy Hanson 38:13
And we're behind Kamala Harris and the role model that she will be yes, you're here. Yes. So thank you all. Have your Wednesday and keep making things happen in the world?
Susan Colantuono 38:26
Yes, and be at BetterManager BetterManager.
For more information, show notes and any downloads for today's podcast, please visit [email protected] slash podcast. Be sure to join us again and help us continue to build better managers with another insightful interview.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai