Over the last three years, Medtronic Tempe Campus hosted a wide variety of executive leadership on a more regular cadence. Within his first 90 days, CEO Omar Ishrak visited our site being told “you have to go see what they’re doing.”
Since then, almost every month, executives from all over the world spend anywhere between 8-48 hours at our location. We were fortunate this past October to have the Vice President of Global Supply Chain, Ms. Sheri, take time out of her busy site visit, to share some of her personal advice for success. Although, there were many points she made, I’m going to summarize her advice in three segments.
Turning Strengths to Value
Ms. Sheri started by stating how she finds it odd when organization’s focus on people’s weaknesses. It’s not the weaknesses we need to make better but rather the strengths that we need to tap into.
As she was speaking, I was reminded of a quote one of my former managers had shared.
“I’ll never make a slam dunk in basketball. Being 5’5, it physically won’t happen. So I can’t keep trying to slam dunk.” And this quote helped emphasize the point that was being made.
What Ms. Sheri did say was how we need to understand and embrace our strengths. Then, take a step back to see which opportunities are there that we can take on with strengths as our ammunition. And finally, be more diligent in asking how these business opportunities can bring us value.
Mentors versus Sponsors
“Do you have a sponsor?”
“Yes, I have my mentor.”
Common misconception is that our mentors are our sponsors. Although a sponsor could potentially be your mentor, mentors are not always your sponsors. Simply put:
“Mentors talk to you; Sponsors talk about you.”
Mentors are important for career development in the present and the future. It is someone either inside or outside your organization to serve basically as a sound board. They are one or two levels above you or was your predecessor in your current role. Although managers can provide guidance, they sometimes stress bias towards telling you advice in their best interest for their own objectives.
Sponsors however can have no direct contact with you. They could be in a senior leadership position who remembers an excellent tactical decision you made in a crisis. When a new opportunity surfaces, they stand up and state your name, being fit for the role. What they’re doing for you is advocating your talent.
Strive for Life Balance
My final note could possibly be rated as the most important. Ms. Sheri stood at the front of the room and practically laughed.
“Who are we kidding when we teach work-life balance? We pick up our kids after work, eat dinner, and then open our laptop or smart device to check up on things. We need to strive for life balance.” I love this concept most because I always stress to my friends and family how I try to be the same person at work or at home. Since I’ve worked hard over the years to understand my values, the top ones are ranked so important, it is difficult to differentiate. By demonstrating the same key characteristics wherever I am that illustrate my core values, it helps me be healthy and focused in any setting.
Ms. Sheri demonstrated her journey towards achieving life-balance during the question and answer session. When I asked her what major setbacks shaped her to become the leader she is today, her answer was in regards to a major turning point in her personal life. During her answer, she re-emphasized how we’re human and it’s not always easy to just hang our personal issues at the door when we walk into the office.
The next time you are assessing your strengths to drive business value, keep the aspects of your life balanced. What I learned from the session with the VP was that even those at the very top need to go for their daily run.