Pearls of Wisdom from Experience

Women Leading Change – The “Four Pearls of Wisdom”

“Women Leading Change” was a theme for a  Simmons Leadership Conference, where keynote speaker,  Ms. Carla Harris, Vice Chairman of Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley, ran a lively session talking about her work experience. She identified key areas women need to focus on to lead change in an organization. She called them the “Four Pearls of Wisdom.”

Pearl 1 – Perception is the co-pilot to reality

It’s essential to know what the organization you work for values, and even more important to know how other’s see you. But before you figure out how people see you, the challenge is to first identify how you see yourself. To start, pick three adjectives that best describe your talents. Are you analytical, quantitative, strategic, motivational, inspirational, productive, organized? Once you’re clear about who you are, it’s important to demonstrate those traits so others see you the same way. It’s also necessary to know what the leaders in your organization define as key traits. Be aware, though, that these may change as new leaders come in, so it’s important to know, at any given time, what’s expected and rewarded. Knowing this information will help you stay relevant and vital to your organization.

Pearl 2 – There are two types of currency in the workplace…

Performance and Relationships. Performance can usually be measured, which is why it is often the main focus of annual reviews. Raises, bonuses, and promotions are based in large part on how well you did your job. No doubt most business organizations expect you to deliver as promised, but if you go the extra mile, there may be additional rewards. Giving a little extra goes a long way. It’s a way to get you noticed, and being seen positively by others is a good way to maintain your current level or move up the corporate ladder.

The second currency in the workplace is relationships. The relationships you have with people, both in and beyond your immediate team, are very important. A past coworker who’s taken on bigger responsibilities may consider you for a position in his/her new organization. Or that special project team you volunteered for might open doors in areas of the company you never considered. Developing a network of people who know your talents will serve you well, especially during times of organizational changes, when decision-makers are looking to either rebuild or cut staff.

Pearl 3:  A leader in the 21st century must be comfortable taking risks

Many businesses, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations and government agencies experience change at one time or another. These often require employees to take risks by doing something new. For example, you might be asked to help implement a new IT system, or be forced to expand your department’s responsibilities, while cutting staff. The challenges can be scary, but Ms. Harris points out that Fear has no place in your success equation – personally or professionally. She defines fear as False Evidence of things Appearing Real.

Most professionals know that with risk comes change, and change is not always met with enthusiasm. It’s important, however, to look at the “new” opportunity within the change – to take a step back and consider three critical questions:

  1. Will the change give you a new experience?
  2. Will it provide you exposure to new people?
  3. Will you have new branches added to your tree of opportunity?

Answering yes to one or all of these questions will positively affect the change, showing you that the risk is worth taking.

Pearl 4: Authenticity

This element has been a core leadership criteria related to trust for many years. Carla Harris emphasizes, “If you bring your authentic self to the table, people will trust you.” This can be  difficult to practice, because  there’s a behavior element that requires you to be comfortable and confident in your own skin. Some people have a hard time saying what they really mean. But in order to be heard, you can’t be afraid to bring your true self to any group discussion, or in your written and verbal communications.

If you heed the four pearls, you will have a greater chance of staying relevant in the workplace. This way when it’s time to retire, you will be the one who chooses the date rather than the other way around.

You can read more about Carla Harris at her website: