Our best stories are recreated in the intersection between something we care about and something that matters in the world. How often do we associate adventure with “good followship” or achievement with “staying put” when appealing offers are made for another job? This is the power of stories. We learn new ways to see and to engage in our work.
Sophie Lavaud is an amateur mountain climber. She is one of ten women in the world who climbed two 8,000 meter peaks in one season. For Sophie, the adventure started as a bet with a friend to climb Mont Blanc at 4810 meters. “I’m just a normal woman,” Sophie said. “I did it as a follower.” She continued, “Everyone talks about leadership, but we need to learn how to follow too.” Her lessons came from fellow team members and nature itself: “You are not deciding, the elements decide what is next.”
While Sophie spoke, I imagined the wind, the rocks, the soil, and the cold glacier. Born in France and living in Geneva, Sophie prepares for her next climb. She will walk on the Everest with film videographer Francois Damilana to capture “the roof of the world.” When she returns, in her role as a motivational speaker, she will continue to teach us how to move through a wide range of emotions in seemingly impossible moments. This is the generative nature of her work: teaching us how to navigate uncertainty.
Betty-Ann Heggie focuses her current work on mentoring women to find the inner resources to grow and advance in business. Early in her career at Potash Corporation, a worldwide supplier of fertilizer, Betty-Ann was tested to perform work she had never done. She was traveling to a business meeting when she called her office to ‘check in.’ At a public pay phone in the Minneapolis airport, her assistant told her to sit down. Betty-Ann learned that all of senior management had been fired, except one. Common thought dictated that her level of management would be the next to go. During this stressful time, Betty-Ann remembered the words of her mentor who told her, “Times are tough right now, there will be many changes.” Her mentor also told her that he had experienced many cycles in business and that, “Things will turn around again.”
Instead of jumping to another company that offered an attractive job, Betty-Ann stayed and focused on the promises they had made to customers. Former employees were gone, but the work wasn’t. Hearing the words of her mentor made all the difference: “Hang in there, this company needs you.”
Betty-Ann began in a small town in Saskatchewen, Canada. She is the mother of two daughters, and during her 26 years with Potash Corporation, she grew to become their Senior Vice President of Corporate Relations. In 2006, she was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women and was subsequently inducted into their Hall of Fame. Then Betty-Ann found the way to combine what she cares about with something that matters in the world by establishing a mentoring program to support the development of mentors worldwide—to bring forward the best in all of us.
We met Sophie and Betty-Ann at the 16th Global W.I.N. Conference in Prague where founder Kristin Engvig invited participants to bring “a more feminine, global, and sustainable vision to work, communities, and life.” This blog is dedicated to all the women and men who find ways to share their expertise and experience with others.
All culture begins with learning.