You don’t need to solve every problem — It may seem easier to simply provide the solutions to the team to execute. If leaders do this, they are not leading. One of the keys to our success, is have a strong management team who lead the key areas of our business. During our meetings, we review our progress towards key strategic objectives as well as business issues. I have learned that my role is not to provide answers or solutions, it is to surface the best solutions from the team
I had the pleasure to interview Rosina Racioppi, Ph.D.. Rosina is president and chief executive officer at WOMEN Unlimited Inc. in New York City. Racioppi works with Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies such as Raytheon, Prudential and Adobe to develop their high-potential female employees. She has more than 25 years of experience in human resource management and is a former member of the Forbes New York Business Council. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, a master’s degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. Racioppi wrote her dissertation, “Women’s Mentoring Wisdom,” on how women use and fail to use mentoring at the midcareer level. She is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management, the American Society of Training and Development, and the New Jersey Human Resources Planning Group.
Thank you for joining us Rosina! Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
Shortly after I purchased WOMEN Unlimited, the economy took a downturn which presented some additional challenges. It was important we focused on maintaining our relationships with our corporate partners (our customers) and our team. The decisions made and actions taken ensured that we made it through the economic downturn, retained all our customers and team members.
This experience taught me several lessons — the first was, don’t panic. Decisions made in reaction to events may have negative impact. It is crucial to take a long-term view. During this time, it is important to communicate with your team your vision. This helps them understand where the organization is going, as well as how they can contribute. The second lesson was to look for opportunity. In each challenge, there are areas of opportunity. We took advantage of this time to shore up internal operations. Finally, it is critical not to do it alone. I reached out to my network who were a great resource.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
- Staying focused on the business (setting direction/strategy) vs in the business (working on transactional areas).
- Strengthen key relationships with customers and staff
- Create a personal board of directors to help me “see around the corner”
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
- It’s lonely — so make certain you have a good network. Early on, I joined an organization (Women’s President Organization). We were a group of very diverse women, from diverse industries. It provided a strong resource to explore various business ideas. We created a safe environment to discuss challenges and explore options.
- Build a strong team with diverse talents and perspective — Often the skill or talent that helped grow a business is not what is needed to run the business. I love working with customers to understand their needs and develop a strong relationship. In order to lead the business effectively, it was important that I step out of that role. It is very challenging to let go of doing something that brought me such personal reward (as well as financial success). That made it more important to identify someone to take on that role — and I am fortunate to have key team members who excel!
- You don’t need to solve every problem — It may seem easier to simply provide the solutions to the team to execute. If leaders do this, they are not leading. One of the keys to our success, is have a strong management team who lead the key areas of our business. During our meetings, we review our progress towards key strategic objections as well as business issues. I have learned that my role is not to provide answers or solutions, it is to surface the best solutions from the team
- Delegation is not abdication. I like to spend time in our programs, talking with the team members, as well as our customers. This helps me see how well things are working, identify potential areas of concern.
- Enjoy — I have always enjoyed working! Yes, I work hard AND I really like what I do. I am fortunate to have a strong team who help me and our company grow. We are blessed with corporate partners who value the resources we provide and partner with us to create parity in their organizations.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
It is important to be holistic and not focus solely on work (or personal life). I like to take a view of creating harmony — sometimes it means that work takes priority. Other times, it may be personal matters. I believe burn out occurs when you try to choose between the two.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Jean Otte, founder of WOMEN Unlimited, was a good friend and mentor. I met Jean when she was launching the business in 1994. We became professional friends at first as I sponsored women in programs and volunteered as a mentor. Our friendship grew overtime and Jean asked me to join WOMEN Unlimited three years later. In the beginning, Jean and I ran the Northeast Programs together. At the end of each day, Jean would ask me to reflect on what I felt went well and what changes I would make. This simple process of assessing and course correcting allowed us to have great conversations. When I purchased the business, we hired a coach to work with us (Jean continued on our Advisory Board). Working with an executive coach, allowed us to have important conversations that supported changing roles. Because we had strong relationships and mutual respect, we were able to have open honest conversations that helped us navigate this change effectively.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
We are exploring ways to expand our business. We are always talking with our customers (as well as other organizations) to identify potential opportunities that fit into our areas of expertise.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
We have two daughters who are just starting their careers. I hope my legacy for them, as well as other women, is that you can chart your own course.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
We still hear from women that they want their work to speak for itself. This mindset keeps women focused on the work and not on understanding how to navigate companies for their success.
I want women to — Learn the Game (of Business) and Play The Game with excellence!
How can our readers follow you on social media?