Learn it, then share it:
Last week’s 12th annual MPW Summit drew over 500 women leaders from business, government, sports, philanthropy, education, fashion, broadcasting, and the arts. Hosted by Fortune’s most powerful chair– Pattie Sellers, editor-at-large–the summit’s theme : “Building a Legacy.”
On stage, we heard from Warren Buffett, Indra Nooyi, Ursula Burns, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: on politics, the changing global economy, and impact of social media. Then offstage, at Deloitte’s “Inspiration Café,” we chatted with dozens of trailblazing women—all with extraordinary stories to tell–which we chronicled with a team of gifted artists.
Each year , I have the privilege of asking the world’s top women CEOs and corporate newsmakers to share what they’ve learned, and what they value most. Often, it’s an appreciation for someone else—a mentor, a sponsor, an advocate. A few enlightening responses below:
Tory Burch: Chairman, Tory Burch
She’s accomplished so much in such a short time, it scares me. A trendsetting fashion designer and mother of three, Tory launched her business operation in her Upper East side apartment in 2004 and quickly grew it into dozens of free-standing boutiques. As it turns out—Tory’s mentor is her older brother, now co-president of the company. His advice to her? “Always look for the good in a person.” Her advice to young businesspeople? “Have tenacity and a point-of view.”
Laurie Ann Goldman: CEO, Spanx, Inc.
Laurie Ann says she’s always learning lessons, but she senses much of her success is due to DNA. She describes her mother as “an ADD artist” and her Dad “a logical mathematician.” Laurie believes she is “80% Dad, and 80% Mom.” She has learned to use her intuition and her intellect. “The combination is important,” she says. At present, Laurie is mentoring 100 young people in her company.
Tara Fela-Durotoye: Mentee and Managing Director, House of Tara, International.
Tara was the only Nigerian participant selected in this year’s FORTUNE/State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership Program. She told us she was “offended” when she first heard her assigned mentor was an oil company. Then she realized “business principles are business principles.” She saw that Exxon fosters “a strong culture of safety,” and she could apply that kind of commitment to her own beauty products company. She then established her own core values and corporate identity—and created a well-defined “superior customer service.”
Susan Walvius: Co-founder and CEO of SHEEX, Inc. and former Women’s Head Basketball Coach, University of South Carolina
Susan and co-founder Michelle Marciniak both praise their team of supportive mentors and sponsors (Phoebe Wood, recently retired Vice Chairman and CFO of Brown-Forman Corp., Cindy Dipientrantonio ,COO, Jones Apparel Group, and the aforementioned Sellers) but it appears their true business model has organically emerged from the arena they are both familiar with: competitive sports. Susan points out the metaphorical connections between coaching and business– practically straight from her play book:
1) Focus on the fundamentals.
2) Enjoy the wins, evaluate the losses– but always work on improvement.
3) Be willing to take risks.
4) Know the difference between playing with pain and genuine injury.
Theresa Alfaro Daytner: CEO/President, Daytner Construction Group
Theresa was named one of Fortune Magazine’s 10 most powerful women entrepreneurs this year. Her company oversees multimillion-dollar building projects in Maryland, Virginia and Washington. She told us her mentor was her father—who “instilled a lack of fear” in her – which, she says, enables her to “think outside the box.”
Tyra Banks, Chairwoman and CEO, Bankable Enterprises
Tyra attributes her success to her mother, Carolyn–a former medical photographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Her Mom always encouraged her to “think about the end — at the beginning.” And when times got tough—Mom said “I didn’t raise a quitter.” The self-described “mogul in the making” says she is learning how to handle pressure of the new “spend more, make less economy.” This year, she chose not to cut staff, and cut the bottled water bill instead.
Sharon Allen: Chairman of the Board, Deloitte, LLP
Sharon told us she would not have her current position if it hadn’t been for her sponsor—her former CEO. “A sponsor,” she explains, “is someone who is in a position to be your advocate, and create an opportunity for you.” Bill Parrett had been a mentor initially, then a sponsor. “I would never had been elected chairman otherwise.”
Some solid advice from Sharon (after 38 years with the company) that got my attention: “Make sure you show your stuff. Make it clear what your talents are and what you do for the company.” She revealed that she learned that lesson the hard way years ago. She was due for a promotion—but someone else got the job. When she went to her boss, she asked why, and told him what she had accomplished. The boss said–“I didn’t know you did all that.” That was her teachable moment. When we asked — “how you promote yourself without being a braggart?” — she said “work it into conversations–the organization needs to know what you’re doing.”