27 May Katie Mehnert On Life As A Marathon
Posts in this series
- Katie Mehnert On Life As A Marathon
- Kahina Van Dyke On Culture As A Garden Maze
- Natalia Shuman On Passion, Energy And Curiosity
- Consensus As Power: Global Women Embracing Success
In the past few months on Move Ahead Global we have covered topics like how to hold difficult conversations, building trust, and getting alignment in global teams. Today, you’re in for something a little different. Just a few weeks ago I met LinkedIn writer, Katie Mehnert and knew immediately she would be great to talk to and explore what it is really like to be a female global leader today. Katie is an organizational development leader with 17 years of helping people and companies get curious, connect, share, grow and perform better. She recently “pre-retired” as Director at British Petroleum (NYSE: BP), joining the Safety and Operational Risk organization after the Deepwater Horizon incident. Prior to BP, she led large scale change programs at Royal Dutch Shell and also consulted with Global 100, Fortune 500 and venture startups. She has a passion for education, women’s progression and personal wellness. She is a member of the United Way Women’s Initiative, board member to Young Women’s College Preparatory College, Houston’s first STEM high school, and executive member of Women’s Energy Network. In this interview you will learn what skills you need to develop as a global leader, the power of being involved in a project that’s truly meaningful, how to leverage the power of inclusion, and tips on integrating work and home.
What are the most common topics you notice global executives seeking support on?
Executives are looking for support to lead and manage change across the enterprise and outside of the company with key partners, investors and communities. They also want the skills they need to be “global”. It’s about working across borders, cultures, and geographies. It’s not enough to be technically competent. Today’s leader has to be socially aware outside of his/her enterprise.
What top three tips would you give to your peers looking to support their global teams?
- Develop a learning mindset that has nothing to do with a computer and everything to do with getting “real” in the field. It’s no longer good enough to just learn in a silo or read slides. The tools, techniques and approaches are always moving. You have to have the ability to learn new things all the time. That means getting out of your office and seeing it first-hand.
- Invest in change leadership and risk-management skill sets. If your company doesn’t have a change framework, build one. We live in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambitious world. Global leaders need to be able to lead change. That starts with understanding what it is and how it’s done right in order for change to stick.
- Cross pollinate and develop your people. Mix it up! Diversity, inclusion, cross-functional and cross-businesses can all benefit from being exposed to different mindsets, environments, and challenges. In oil and gas years ago it would be have been silly to take engineers from one part of our business and put them in another. That’s all changed now. When you bring people from one environment into another to look at a problem, they often bring a new solutions to the table.
It is said that developing game-changing models that make the world a better place can help engage and retain skilled and committed employees. Is there anything you are particularly proud to have been part of?
If you want to retain skilled and committed people you need to connect employees to the value of work and to the societies where you operate and live. The most recent example I have comes from my time coaching the BP executive team to address safety critical competency and capability. As a native to the US Gulf Coast, it was important to me to help BP learn from what happened and shape industry changes after the oil spill. I got to work with and learn from amazingly talented people from seasoned company leaders to a US astronaut and military executives. Years earlier at Royal Dutch Shell, we did a lot to improve our road safety record. We engaged the Shell Group across cultures and different businesses to become a world-class leader and further took on road safety as our top social investment. In a company so large, vast and complex, it made me proud to say I was a part of that journey…we all were.
What are the key cultural challenges you face working internationally?
The biggest challenge is going beyond diversity and truly embracing and making inclusion an imperative. Diversity and inclusion take on different meanings in different places. It’s about discovering how you make inclusion work best across the team. That takes time, trust and a relentless focus to bring in ideas and perspectives different to yours. But if done right, it’s how you can make great things happen, build successful teams and win in the market.
A recent Harvard Business School survey found that prospering in the senior ranks is a matter of ‘carefully combining work and home’. What is your experience?
Like you align your car tires, you have to align your work and life. At first I was a globetrotting leader living out of a suitcase on 777s and helicopters. Then I became a wife and mom. And my life changed, but I adapted. Yes, you have to make choices but I do believe you can have what you want. You just can’t have it all at once. And the key to successful balance is building a village of support around you, being up front about your needs and leaning into them for help. Good managers delegate. A leader strategically outsources “the stuff” that frees up your time to do meaningful work and make memories with those who matter.
What do you do to relax?
I love to read, write, relax at the spa, and run. Running gives me time to reflect on how blessed I am to be living in such remarkable times. I savour time in the great outdoors and use it to practice “breathing”.
What metaphor best describes your work as a global leader?
(I’m smiling.) This is why I have a blog called Pace: Life’s a Marathon. It’s about looking longer term but also meeting short term needs. It’s about change and sometimes that means changing course, slowing down, speeding up or stopping all together. You’re going to have people ahead of you, people with you, people behind you and people on the couch who want nothing to do with you. You define and align the course. Some miles are going to be easy, others not so much. Anything worth doing is hard, but the finish line is worth it. For additional information about Katie and to ‘Lace up and Pace’ with her go to her website.
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