Former Avon Products CEO Andrea Jung presents on leading in a global world. (Photo courtesy of ATD)
We’re done with the second day of ATD’s 2015 conference, and so far it’s permitted leaders to be self-centered.
That’s a good thing.
Between the keynote, a panel and a handful of attendees I’ve met since touching down in sunny Orlando, Florida, everything has related back to the idea that leaders need to remember to develop themselves and examine their own work.
On Sunday, I went to a session that put us into four-person discussion groups. As we introduced ourselves, I realized I wasn’t just the only American in the group, but the only one who spoke English as a first language. My group members were from Tokyo, Singapore and Mexico City — a fact that I didn’t know would set the tone for Monday, which kicked off with a keynote by Andrea Jung, former CEO of Avon Products and global leader extraordinaire.
Jung worked for Avon for 20 years, spending 13 of them as CEO. She left to apply what she had learned about human resources, leadership and global business to lead Grameen America, a microfinancial organization that provides loans to women in poverty so they can start businesses. As she said, making the right decision relies on paying attention to your compass — your heart — and not the clock in your head.
While at Avon, which has more than 6 million sales representatives around the world, Jung learned that “you cannot reinvent your organization without reinventing yourself first,” she said.
One way she did this was by “firing” herself on Friday night and returning on Monday like a new leader stepping into the corner office, ready to scrutinize the decisions she had made with humility and clarity.
Jung: Balance is possible, but not on the same day ??. Don't look back, make those tough decisions. #ATD2015
— Kellye Whitney (@kellyewhit) May 18, 2015
This thought would carry on to a panel called “Learning from the Leaders Behind the Leaders,” which included executive coaching gurus Bill Treasurer, Elaine Biech, Marshall Goldsmith, Jim Kouzes and Kevin Eikenberry.
“The first person you have to lead is yourself,” Kouzes said, reiterating Jung’s sentiment.
One of the most practical pieces of advice was Goldsmith’s idea to score yourself every week based on how you perform in different, important aspects of your life. He warned that few people are pleased with the scores they give themselves, as it’s easy to talk the talk but hard to live the life that balances it all, from humility and confidence to home and work.
As Jung — who was a single mother while a CEO — said, you can have balance but not in the same day, and leaders have to be OK with that. One time, she had to decide between attending a 10-CEO meeting on tax issues at the White House and being at her daughter’s most important day of school. She chose the latter, as then-President George W. Bush wouldn’t remember that she wasn’t at the meeting, but her daughter would always know that Mom hadn’t been there for her.
That brings me to the final lesson of the day, which came in a personal connection I made with another attendee. Leadership development isn’t just global like at Avon but also insanely close to home — in my case, literally. I met a junior from Wheaton College, a small evangelical school just down the street from where I live back in Chicago suburbia. She’s about to take on a service leadership role and wanted to get more ideas for how to succeed.
So, my ATD experience started by meeting people from the other side of the globe, and closed Monday with meeting a young leader who goes to school 10 minutes from my house. They are all looking to improve themselves as well as others.
As Jung said, “Progress in leadership development is our only hope. Only people can drive change."