In the latest episode of the Transform IT Show, those “Powerful Yes’s and No’s” made all the difference to our guest, Susan Cramm. Susan is a former CIO, former CFO of a large restaurant chain and is now a respected coach and author. She shared with us some contrarian views of what it means to be an effective IT leader…and so much of it seemed to come down to your ability to know yourself.
She shared with us that you must understand your passions and your gifts and honor them. But that you also needed to invest in relationships and in really understanding those around you. We talked about an article that she wrote where she said that sometimes the advice to put together a great team and then to let them do their job was actually dead wrong. That in many cases, the leader needs to take those toughest assignments themselves and to use them as an opportunity to develop their team. She explained that the problem is that sometimes as leaders we start out by reflecting what we think we should be or do, rather than reflecting who we are. And that lack of self-awareness is where things go sideways.
We also talked about another article that she wrote where she took issue with Sheryl Sandberg and her book "Lean In." Her big issue wasn’t that the advice was wrong, per se, but that it just showed one possible way to handle the situation. In Susan’s essays, sometimes you just need to be prepared to "lean out” instead. She challenged that if your values aren’t in line with your company’s corporate values, then perhaps you should step away and create a culture of your own that’s in line with your own values.
It really all comes down to knowing who you are and what you want out of life. And to know that, you need to take the time to think deeply about what you want to achieve. It is only with that knowledge that you can put all of the pieces together. For her, that came down to what she called those “Powerful Yes’s and Powerful No’s”. They were those moments that she was ready to step up and volunteer for a position that didn’t exist…and those times when she walked away from an opportunity that just wasn’t right at that time. She explained that by having a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity, you can have the confidence to make those decisions because you will believe that “if not here, then somewhere else.”
She wrapped up our time together by reminding us that we really only have two assets: our time and our ability to influence others. And that in order to influence others (which is the essence of leadership), that we needed to invest in relationships and always be focused on making those relationships work as much for the other person as it does for you.
Susan offered us some great insights and some thought provoking contrarian advice. Through her fascinating career spanning everything from hands-on coding, to consulting to heading IT and to being a CFO, she has developed a unique perspective that most of us will never have the opportunity to experience. So it was a great pleasure to be able to have Susan share that perspective with us.
You can watch the replay of our latest episode - Stepping In and Leading Out to be an Exceptional Leader.