Being a woman and a leader in this industry used to be a lot more challenging than it is now. We’ve come a long way thanks to increased awareness, focus on diversity and inclusion in corporate America. Credit also goes to a lot of strong women who paved the way with tremendous leadership, grit and determination.
But it wasn’t simply that the workplace needed to adjust us. We had to adapt, too. That was a hard lesson for me – one I’m still learning.
My name is Arlynn Flecker. I am the Director of Client Services at Nationwide Credit Corporation. I started my career in the ARM industry over 15 years and worked my way up from a receptionist to a director. And I can also tell you that becoming a leader was the most gut-wrenching experience of my life.
I advanced in my career because I was a “don’t mess with me” kind of woman. I worked harder than anyone and I earned my promotion.
Then, once I got into management, I was told I needed to take courses on communicating. Communicating? Suddenly, the professional attitude that helped me advance that far was being called into question. Yes, you are fierce, they said, but now we need you to be sweet. Yes, you are passionate, but can you be more approachable?
At times we’re coached to tone it down in order to be heard and taken seriously. Other times, we’re viewed as weak or we’re not heard if we don’t assert ourselves and stand our ground. And frankly, I didn’t know how to bring that fierce tenacity into balance with a softer, more approachable manner. I did not know how to coach and mentor the young women of today. How did I do it? Honestly, I am still working on it. I work every day to be a better person. I work every day to be a better leader and a better mentor.
I’m thankful to have had a great mentor along the way. She taught me the ins and outs of how to be a successful woman both professionally and personally.
All in all, as I reflect on my journey, here’s what I would say are the key lessons I’ve learned:
Stay true to who you are as a person, but recognize that we all have room to grow and evolve. Solicit coaching advice from trusted mentors and colleagues. Often times they can point out potential blind spots you have in your communication style and recommend tips on how to improve.
Trust yourself and speak up. I believe there is more harm that can be done by keeping quiet, than offering your opinion. You wouldn’t have a seat at the table if your opinion wasn’t valued on some level.
Mentor someone else.
Remember that you do not always know someone’s story. The things that drive you may hinder someone else. What they need to succeed is not always the same as what you need.