In the frame of IE Women’s Week, we had the opportunity to learn and share experiences with five female role models across different industries. In the “Evolution of Success” Panel we discussed journeys one may take to find true purpose and the keys to unlock leadership.
Authors: Inés Agular & Andrea Beleván
The panel, moderated by Amelie de Marsily (IE Centre for Wellness), was conformed by María Valenzuela, Head of Global Content Strategy and Partnerships at Huawei; Carmela Gómez, COO New Digital Business at BBVA; Marta Anadón, General Manager Spain at Uber Eats; Evan Lai, General Manager Southern Europe at Foreo and Marta Williams, CEO & Founder of Williams & Associates.
We learn through experience, therefore the panel started with a reflection regarding the meaning of success and how it has transformed overtime. For Carmela Gómez, success is something that is inside of us, it implies feeling we are strong and knowing we can cope with our goals. In her opinion, something that has changed in the definition of success is the shift from hard to soft skills: “What matters now is being able to connect and engage, take risks, explore, and be creative”.
For Evan Lai, success means having no regrets, both professionally and personally. But is that possible? Yes, if we understand that having no regrets is a personal choice: “Before making a decision, ask yourself: Will I regret doing this? But most importantly, will I regret it if I don’t?” Evan Lai encourages us to start everyday with an intention, without fearing steering the direction if required.
When discussing success, it is inevitable to wonder if someone who has seemingly got it is really following their true and right purpose. Marta Williams explained that in life we must face critical turning points, opportunities to question ourselves, which she describes as “getting off a train and jumping into another one that goes the opposite way”. This brave behaviour of following what feels right is what allowed her to live her own life purpose, making the world better one person at a time through coaching.
The success of realising your life purpose results in happiness and, as Marta Williams shared, it comes to life when you do things for others rather than for yourself. Building on this, Marta Anadón encourages us to always reflect on the impact of our actions, both on ourselves and on society. This will allow us to ensure the strength of our teams and to foster diversity, a key component for success. How to keep perspective along the road? For Marta Anadón, the answer is hunger for learning: “Every night I ask myself: What are the two things I have learned today? The day you stop learning, it is time to change paths”.
In the road for success, there is an inevitable but necessary factor for growth: failure. Our speakers shared with us some of their bigger learnings. Carmela Gómez discovered that what seems like a failure can actually become a big opportunity: after realising a few months into her first job that it was not for her, she decided to quit and do an MBA, which ended up changing the direction of her life. She also learned that sometimes mistakes are not in what we do, but in what we are not brave enough to do.
For Evan Lei, failing in her driving license test was a lesson of humbleness: “I learned that being open and accepting the possibility of failure is an advantage”. In this line, failures can also be long term lessons we do not realize instantly. Evan quit her job in Apple to join a promising start up that did not work in the end. In the process, she learned to face every day with a VUCA mindset, which is now a key skill in her leadership.
Marta Williams has even shared with us her formula for mistakes management: E + R = O (Event + response = outcome). “Events are out of our control, but how we respond to failure is 100% up to us. We have the power of managing our thoughts and behaviors”, she claimed. To do so, we need to take full responsibility and give up on complaining and blaming others, even if it is the easy road.
Marta Anadón suggests we avoid going through life like a bulldozer, careless: “Sometimes you are so focused on achieving your goal, you don’t pay attention to what you can destroy in the process, which is often people”. And without the people who helped us, we would bever be where we are, and we will never get anywhere. To avoid this, it is essential to manage work-life balance and be open minded, adaptable and willing to embrace failure.
The panel ended with a quick round on the ultimate leadership tips. First, learn to be focused on one thing at a time and keep your team engaged through smiles, safety, and accountability. Second, get to know yourself intentionally: every mistake is an opportunity for growth if we respond correctly. Third, as women, acknowledge and take pride in your success! Finally, believe in those who believe in you and, most importantly, help others around you gain ownership of their own successes.
We encourage all to keep learning, gaining perspective, failing, and most importantly, enjoying the bumpy road success is.
Authors: Inés Agular & Andrea Beleván
Andrea Beleván is a Peruvian Corporate Communications & Marketing Master’s student at IE Business School. Before joining IE, Andrea worked in the Animal Health and Nutrition industry, where she led initiatives promoting gender equality in the sector and was awarded by her excellence in performance in the Marketing and Communication team. She completed a BA in Corporate Communications, graduating with a thesis on the ethnographic study of digital communities as a setting for the development of social marketing strategies.