When I first met Anne, I knew I was dealing with a professional. Her eye contact and handshake were polished, her direct approach to a variety of topics sounded simple when she discussed them. The truth of the matter is, Anne Perschel is a doctor of psychology and it’s not everyday you get to have lunch or coffee with a doctor.
With a doctorate in psychology and a master’s degree in organization behavior, as well as being a Master Executive Coach and guest lecturer with Mass School of Professional Psychology Coach Certification Program, she holds certifications you don’t often come across in our industry. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to meet this woman. As an international marketing consultant, I like studying and understanding human behavior. I’m always looking for reasons why people react in one way versus another. It’s not just human behavior that drives action, but it’s also cultural, gender based and emotionally driven… but that’s another article.
Anne leaves an impression on everyone she meets, I can attest to that. It’s one of the reasons that she’s our Women in Tech feature this week. Now I’ll stand back, let you follow her on Twitter, read more about her on Linkedin and find out more abut her leadership qualities.
1. What are some of your “rules” for effective leaders?
- Find and communicate your mission.
It’s your compelling purpose, your “why”, your cause. It will inform: What you aim to achieve by way of your leadership and why that’s important.
- Identify the changes you need to lead to achieve the mission
- Set clear expectations
- Identify and communicate the values by which you and others will operate
- Be bold on behalf of your mission
- Treat others well
- Admit and apologize for mistakes
- Course correct as needed
2. Are you doing what you love and getting better at it? How? What skills allowed you to start?
Yes. I’m doing what I love.
I started with a set of beliefs about people, about who we are collectively, as human beings. Evolution is the operative word. We have evolved over many centuries, and we will continue to evolve. We get smarter, more creative, more skilled, more resilient, and we grow morally as well.
It’s important to be conscious and deliberate about human evolution. My early experiences working in a large corporation demonstrated that organizations could be conscious as well, because they are designed, led and evolved by people. For profit organizations have tremendous resources, and they can choose to use these resources to evolve some aspect of how we live, who we are, and what we do. Facebook has made it possible for people around the world to connect and has served as a conduit to facilitate large-scale global actions. That’s powerful. FB is facilitating a moral evolution. People around the world are expressing their desire for freedom. They’re taking action, and these actions are leading to change.
Once I was clear that I wanted to help facilitate conscious evolution, I knew the skills and knowledge I needed to hone. If evolution is the name of the game, leaders can be the catalysts.
I hope I’m getting better at helping leaders develop a vision of the best possible leader and self they can become, and this best leader-self, of course, evolves over time. Leaders have enormous resources at their disposal and they can affect the lives of all the people and communities they touch. Here’s an example of a one leader who has made a conscious choice to help a culture evolve.
Jay (not his real name) is CEO of a company that employs over 50,000 people worldwide, including India. He made a conscious choice that the caste system would not operate in his company. Employees from a lower caste could and would be empowered to lead employees from a higher caste. He’s disrupting the social norms because he believes it’s morally right to respect the dignity and talents of all people regardless of birthrights. He’s throwing a stone into the still waters of the caste system, and it will cause ripples, hopefully in a positive way.
3. How do you empower your team?
This goes back to my rules for effective leaders. Empowerment happens when you:
- Communicate the context, which includes why we’re doing what we’re doing (purpose) and what we are going to achieve together (mission and vision)
- Set clear expectations and values
- Talk and walk the values
- Give people the freedom to contribute to their maximum potential.
4. What will you do today that will matter one year from now?
I’m growing conscious leaders who will do things that matter a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, and beyond.
5. Delegating is not an easy task… what do you delegate? Is it something you need to go back over, just in case?
Like all of us, I have areas of strength and areas that are more challenging for me. I’m right handed. If I had to, I could write a note with my left hand, but it would take longer, require more concentration and energy, and the end product would be of poor quality. It would also take energy away from what I do well and more easily. That’s wasteful. At work, and in life, details are my left hand. It could be planning the details of a project, adding a column of numbers, putting the right dates and times in my calendar. To the extent that I can, I outsource these tasks. I don’t go back and review their work, “just in case” because the person doing the job is better at it than I am. I do; however, audit and I have a general sense of how things should go, how the numbers should add up, so if something isn’t right, I typically know it. Then I hand the assignment back to be done correctly and so the person can learn.
6. How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?
Creative thinking is about playing with ideas. First, the constraints come off. The rules of engagement are:
We are here to imagine what’s possible.
Reality checks come later.
If you’re stuck, or need to be more creative, change your environment. Get out from behind your desk. Leave the conference room setting.
Take a walk or a run. Go to the gym. Work from the local coffee shop. Pick up a newspaper or a magazine. Let your mind run free and explore. This is especially helpful when people get “stuck” trying to solve a problem. Stuck is an important place, if you are aware you’re there, and make changes, shift your perspective and get unstuck.
Creativity and innovation happen when we bring together two ideas from disparate fields of thought or experiences. The film about Allen Turing is a great example. Turing applies crossword puzzle thinking to crack the Nazi code. No one else was doing that. Turin took two ideas that didn’t belong together and created an innovative approach that ultimately succeeded. Velcro is another example. It’s a design that occurs in, and was copied from, nature. Those little burs that get stuck in your dog’s hair are the genius behind Velcro. Without one man’s observations from nature, which didn’t happen behind a desk, the adults in charge would still be assigned to tying children’s shoes.
7. Where do the great ideas come from in your organization?
Everywhere. Anywhere. Anyone. Given the right conditions.
8. You have two equally qualified candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?
I hire the person who most resonates with the mission, vision and values.
I also look to hire the person who’s the Yang to a Yin that’s already in place but not so different that integrating them into the culture is a big problem.
9. Your number one advice to someone in a new leadership position?
Find and work with a confidante. It may be a mentor, a coach, a best fro-league (friend/colleague). Leading can be lonely and you’re constantly under the spotlight. You need to let your hair down with someone, to be vulnerable, to think out loud without worrying how your words will be interpreted.
10. If you could have lunch with 3 great women in history, alive or dead, who would they be and what would you eat?
I’d choose to take a walk along the beach with these 3 women.
Amy Pohler and Tina Fey (my rule – duos count as one)
11. Are you doing what you love, would you do things differently to get there?
Absolutely doing what I love.
I rarely look back with an eye to changing what was. Why? It’s been, and continues to be, a wonderful (full of wonder) adventure. It doesn’t feel like that at each moment and at every step along the way, but in total, I feel very fortunate to live the life I live, to have met the people whose paths have crossed my own, to have learned what life has taught me, to have seen the sights my eyes have gazed upon, and more. Even the trials – they’ve have left me stronger and hopefully, wiser. If I had taken one different step, the entire course of my life might have been different. Had I not biked to that beach, on that day when I met that man, who is now my husband then ???? Maybe better, maybe worse, maybe equally as wonderful, but as I said, the life I’m living is one of good fortune. No regrets and I don’t wish I had done anything different to get to this place where I’m doing what I love.
12. Your favorite story about a success or a failure you have learned from. Could be a stalker, could be a failed client… we want to know about your process.
I learn a lot from failures, although a wise client suggested we ditch the word failure and see them as an opportunity to make adjustments. I recently did a poor sales call with a prospective client. It turns out they talk to consultants a lot to gather intelligence and never contract for services, so it was a low risk learning situation, although I didn’t know that at the time. I learned to keep things simple, but I think the process is more important than the specific lesson.
Step 1. Stay with it.
Not winning or succeeding feels bad, but to learn I have to sit with it, for a while. Underneath the initial thoughts and feelings are deeper and more informative thoughts and feelings from which I learn something new.
Step 2. Step back and let go of the weapon I’m using to beat myself up.
When I’m deep into self-critique, I’m not seeing the bigger picture, what I missed, the other possible roads or steps I could have taken, or what I might do differently. I’m an extrovert, so talking to others also helps me gain perspective.
- Dust myself off, get up, get back in the game and try out the new lessons learned. Life is a giant experiment. Play. Have Fun. Learn.
13. You are well known in your niche, how are you helping other women (if you are) and giving it forward.
Over the past several years I’ve been a mentor to three professional women. I coach high potential women. I also lead workshops, for conferences and corporate clients and I’ve published two research reports on women’s leadership.
I’m an active member of The Boston Club, an organization of senior women and business owners in Massachusetts, focused on advancing more women to leadership roles. I’m working on a report about the status of women on boards. Our goal is to make a case that influences key players, at prevalent Boston companies and institutions, to strive for and achieve gender-balanced executive teams and boards. We have a lot of universities and medical centers in this state. They play a powerful role in the state’s economy, and in the health and education of our citizens. Women are still not well represented at the leadership levels and on boards of these institutions. We’re working to change that.
I also co-founded 3Plus International a global organization with a mission to support the advancement of women in business by way of mentoring, coaching and other development programs.
It’s also important that men get on board and I work as a strategic advisor to men at the executive level who seek more gender balance in their organizations.
14. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I know, or knew, how to write software code. Most people would also not guess that I loved it. It’s so different from my work leading leaders and working with human psychology, where the answers are not black and white. With code, you know when your answer is wrong, and you know when you’ve finally got it right. I found it compelling. I’d stay at the terminal eating Reese’s cups and granola bars, instead of dinner, until I got the right answer and loved every minute of it.
15. How can we as women make the world a better place?
We need to support the right women and enough of them, to reach a tipping point. Then we support them in changing the rules of the game. It is no fault of men or women that the current rules were set in an era when men were the captains of industry. But this also means that the rules are based on a partial view of what could be and should be. Women need to do whatever we can to support the right women for the right roles to change the rules for the betterment of all.