The Business of Learning

Learning with the Experts: Betsy Myers Offers Leadership Lessons (Part 2)

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In our second installment of Raytheon Professional ServicesLearning with the Experts series, we catch up with Betsy Myers, founding director of Bentley’s Center for Women and Business. Betsy served as a senior advisor for both the Obama and Clinton administrations and leads workshops around the world on the changing nature of leadership. She is the author of Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You.

Read our first installment with Betsy Myers here.

RPS Q: Who are some of the best leaders you have seen in your career and what were some of their common qualities or traits?

Over the years, there are many leaders I have come to admire from Hugh Beaton, my fifth grade teacher, to Des Lizotte, my mentor in the life insurance and financial services business, to Warren Bennis, David Gergen, Gloria Larson, and President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama.

Take President Clinton. I had the privilege to work for President Clinton in the White House as his senior advisor for women. It was a highlight of my career to work with him on the issues that I care deeply about such as domestic violence, breast cancer, women in business and reproductive choice. His leadership traits inspired his team. He exuded energy and passion for his work. I asked him once, “Mr. President, how do you handle the negative press?” He answered, “Betsy, I love my job on the worst of days!” What captured me most about his leadership was how no one was invisible to him. He always found time to thank his team and acknowledge our accomplishments. Great leaders create a feeling in their employees of being valued, heard, appreciated and part of something bigger than ourselves.

The common trait is that these leaders created a feeling in me. They believed in me, valued me, heard me, and made me feel part of the team. That’s what good leaders do.

RPS Q: How have your positions with the Clinton administration, on the Obama campaign and at Harvard and Bentley prepared you to help others become leaders?

When I joined Bentley as the founding director of the Center for Women and Business, I established our vision as creating a world where women no longer make up a small fraction of corporate leadership. The way to support rising leaders is to engage current senior business leaders and thought leaders in developing action steps and best practices that support, retain and advance women in the business world. My previous work in Clinton’s White House, on the Obama campaign and at Harvard has shown me that engaging men is especially critical to the mission of advancing women leaders. The good news is that the vast majority of CEOs no longer ask “why” they should include and advance women in their organizations, they ask “how.” Supporting women leaders is consistent with supporting men leaders because it is ultimately about creating a workplace where employees can thrive.

RPS Q: In looking at the future development needs of our corporate leaders, what changes or advances do you see as the most critical especially as we look to train the next generation of leaders?

Corporate overwork needs to be addressed. Take the LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. study on Women in the Workplace. It shows that workplace cultures need to evolve and support the modern worker. More than two-thirds of American employees surveyed in a Gallup poll report being disengaged from their work. In an ever more competitive global economy, that’s nothing short of a ticking time bomb. There are a variety of reasons for this disturbing revelation, but the corporate culture of overwork tops the list. Harvard Business School Professor Robin Ely has conducted research that shows Americans continue to live in a culture of overwork. The glorification of “busy” affects everyone, reflected in the fact that the number of hours worked has increased by 9% in the last 30 years. More than ever, people believe it takes long hours to succeed, and the definition of the ideal worker, who is always available and who always makes work a priority, prevails. This leads to crash and burn, and increasing stress for the everyday worker. Companies will need to consider how to provide a supportive workplace, and I think a huge first step would be replacing the yardsticks that have traditionally defined advancement — such as long hours, frequent relocation and unyielding adherence to policy for its own sake — with one major metric: productivity. Does the employee meet or surpass the goals she or he agreed to? In the process, corporate leaders have to recognize that people’s lives change and that those companies that respond to and care about their people will create environments where both men and women thrive and leaders can be developed.

 RPS Q: What one piece of advance would you give learning professionals, today, to help manage the uncertain times ahead?

A single piece of advice I would offer young professionals in the workplace is to bloom where you are planted. You often see people plotting their next job opportunity before they have established themselves in the current situation. Senior members of organizations are always looking for talent and especially young people who are dedicated to excellence, willing to go above and beyond expectations, honest and trustworthy. I tell young professionals to ask themselves: How can I best support my boss today and make his/her life easier? What can I do today to support the organization’s goal? What are the important relationships that I need to develop and nurture to succeed? This awareness will enable you to focus on the important aspects and relationships of your current job while contributing in ways that will create your next opportunity.

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Betsy Myers is Founding Director of Bentley’s Center for Women and Business. A dynamic speaker, Betsy leads workshops around the world on the changing nature of leadership. She is deeply committed to the Center’s mission to enable all women to realize their leadership potential and to assist companies to harness the full potential presented by talented women. Betsy is the author of Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You.

As a senior adviser to Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign, Betsy served first as Chief Operating Officer and then as Chair of Women for Obama. During the campaign, Betsy travelled extensively, speaking to undecided voters and leading the campaign’s outreach to women.

Betsy previously spent several years at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, ending as the Executive Director of its Center for Public Leadership.

During the Clinton Administration, Betsy spent several years at the U.S. Small Business Administration in posts that included Director of the Office of Women’s Business Ownership. She then moved to the White House as President Clinton’s senior advisor on women’s issues and Director of the Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach. She currently lives in Boston with her husband and young daughter.

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