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Women Of The C-Suite: Kate Eberle Walker of ‘PresenceLearning’ On The Five Things You Need To Succeed As A Senior Executive

Stay true to yourself. People will have a lot of advice for you, but no one else leads exactly like you do, and no one else has been responsible for exactly your company, at this moment in time. When my kids were born I remember reading a bunch of parenting advice books and thinking that none of them exactly applied perfectly to me and my children. I did get some good ideas as a launching point for me to craft my own parenting style. Leading a company is much the same. Listen to the advice of those who have done it before, and apply some of their good ideas to your company’s current circumstances, but always stay authentic to your own way of doing things.

  1. Self care is not an indulgence, it’s a basic nutritional requirement. In my first year as a CEO, I was so overwhelmed by the magnitude of people and things needing my attention that I felt like it was irresponsible for me to take time in the mornings to go to the gym. I would still wake up at 5am, but instead of going for my workout, I would convince myself every morning that the time would be better spent opening up my laptop and responding to emails. After a while, I stopped exercising completely. I ate meals at my desk. I stopped watching TV for enjoyment; if it wasn’t a business-related documentary, I didn’t have time for it. By the end of my first run as a CEO, I had gained weight and lost my edge. I was fortunate to have a break between jobs after we sold our company. With that extra time, I started running again. I doubled down and used my workout time to listen to books and podcasts for personal fulfillment. I realized that in fewer hours, I could accomplish more, with the energy and lighter mindset I gained from feeling healthy again. When I started my second CEO role, I knew better. I was absolutely militant about preserving my morning workout time. Instead of falling back into the habit of asking my assistant to bring me an afternoon espresso to fuel my uninterrupted work, I asked her instead to protect a half hour every afternoon for me to go for a walk and get myself a coffee. These moments away from work make your work better and your mind stronger.
  2. Personal and professional are not mutually exclusive. Often in a work setting, people feel the need to maintain a formal distance to be professional, especially when interacting between genders. But you have to get to know people, and be real about who you are, to have a well-functioning workplace. Everyone has something outside of work that is of central importance to them, whether it be a spouse/partner, their children, their pets, or something they love to do. If you don’t make an effort to know what that is, and to ask them about it, why would they care about doing their best work for you? Even as our company grows, I make a point of scheduling a 1:1 meeting with every new hire, and handwriting a personal note to every employee during the holiday season, to maintain that connection and to make an effort to truly know everyone and understand what’s important to them.
  3. Let others speak first. Once you say what you think, others will hesitate to disagree with the CEO. On my first day as a CEO, I threw out a crazy idea in a meeting — “what if we did…” I didn’t really mean it; I just wanted to start a discussion. But nobody said anything. I looked at the quiet group sitting around the conference room table, and saw someone writing in her notebook. “What are you writing?” I asked. “I’m writing down what you just said to do,” she responded matter of factly. “I didn’t say to do it!” I exclaimed in horror. “I just asked what if we did?” It might have been the worst idea in the world, but I realized that no one was going to tell me that. As a leader, honest opinions are the most valuable contribution you get from your team. Make sure they know that you genuinely want them to disagree with you, and poke holes in your thinking. Try to hold back and let others talk first, so you don’t pre-dispose them to your way of thinking before they have a chance to think for themselves, and maybe come up with a better idea. And if no one is offering an opinion, invite one. Always ask “what do you think?” before telling them what you think.
  4. Stay true to yourself. People will have a lot of advice for you, but no one else leads exactly like you do, and no one else has been responsible for exactly your company, at this moment in time. When my kids were born I remember reading a bunch of parenting advice books and thinking that none of them exactly applied perfectly to me and my children. I did get some good ideas as a launching point for me to craft my own parenting style. Leading a company is much the same. Listen to the advice of those who have done it before, and apply some of their good ideas to your company’s current circumstances, but always stay authentic to your own way of doing things.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.