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ALL Award Honoree talks about taking risks, learning from failure, communicating, and preparing for leadership

FordBeth1447Beth Ford, EVP, Chief Supply Chain and Operations Officer, Land O’Lakes, one of the two 2015 recipients of the AWESOME Legendary Leadership (ALL) Award, spoke at the AWESOME Symposium about her leadership philosophy and lessons. Debbie Lentz, SVP, Supply Chain Toys”R”Us, also a 2015 honoree, participated in the up-close conversation and her comments will be posted next week.

Excerpts from Beth Ford’s conversation at the Symposium

On taking risks:

    “People define risk differently. I can say it was a risk when I moved to a different city. It was a risk when I moved to multiple industries. I didn’t really ever see it as a ‘risky thing.’ I thought ‘wow, I get to learn something new.’ Using the word ‘risk’ makes it seem as though there’s something to fear. The great thing about risk is that you also have great opportunity for big success.”

On failure:

    “Every one of those experiences where I felt more stretched, where the stakes were highest, I learned so much. Even when I had what would be considered a failure, I was so grateful for the experience. Those first major failures can be heart-wrenching and difficult – and you feel like you let your team down and let the business down – and that doesn’t feel good. But the beauty of that moment is to put it behind you and learn that you can move on.”

On the idea that women give power away:

    “I don’t know if it’s giving away. Maybe it’s not recognizing the power and influence you can have. This field – supply chain – is the most influential area of business today. It shapes the future of business and that is the way it’s viewed in most organizations now. So the opportunity is there if you recognize it.”

On communicating:

    “I realize that at a senior level, what I say — even if it’s just in passing — is meaningful and I have to take that as a responsibility. It gets more outsized based on your role and it’s important to reflect on that and it’s important to be very crisp and positive and clear and strategic in what you’re communicating.”

How to move ahead in your career:

    “My recommendation is to ask. ‘How do I get this job? I want to position myself.’ Be ready, because the answer might be, ‘We don’t think you’re ready yet.’ And if someone says that, it’s a gift. When you’re told that, you get to say to them, ‘Why?’ If they can tell you what the gap is, fill the gap. Position yourself well.”
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