For our first installment of our new TLC Women’s Initiative Leadership Interviews, Rania Sadrack and Tara Bleakley joined a Go to Meeting call with Dana Bledsoe, Healthcare Executive with Bledsoe Consulting, to discuss questions focused on diversity, mentorship and leadership. Below are the questions Rania and Tara asked as well as Dana’s thoughtful insights.
What does diversity mean to you?
Dana: A simple but important question. To state it simply, this is an opportunity for a broader based perspective, that provides the benefit of a more enriched dialogue and thus a richer context for consideration. Diversity can exist, or not, in various places and in many contexts. Is there diversity in the workplace? In decision-making? In leadership? Or on a project?
How do you work to foster an environment that is welcoming, inclusive, and diverse?
Dana: Again, I think you are asking important questions, and the heart of this question is about the organization’s culture which is set by the leaders at the top. The leader’s aspirations are reinforced through organizational processes and how the culture is nurtured, and it begins at the front door… how do you recruit? Are recruiting processes and metrics of success founded on inclusion and/or diversity outcomes? Is the experience of joining your organization welcoming? For instance, the interview and on-boarding processes? Do you seek candidates that embrace the organization’s values and/or diversity?
A specific action of how I led a welcoming and inclusive culture was by attending each new associate orientation session and gave a personal welcome address. If I wasn’t available another senior executive would attend. I would also talk specifically about our value of safety, and the role they, as new associates, played beginning now. I would explain how their new eyes/views can provide the organization with diversity of perspective. Being new to the organization they see things differently. I encouraged them to share any concerns they might see with area leadership and to offer their new ideas. In closing, I would share my personal cell phone number and instruct them to call me if they identified safety concerns that were not being addressed. I wanted them to know how important this was to me.
What opportunities have you had working and collaborating in diverse, multicultural, and inclusive settings?
Dana: Yes, there is a role for all to play in creating the environments that embrace these values. The environment can be as big or small as you chose your role to be in creating the environment/culture you want. Throughout my career, I have had opportunities to impact the environment within organizations I have worked. Yet interestingly, I have found some of the best diversity comes through volunteer work, community organizations or national collaborative opportunities because you often have a broader array of diversity, such as industry, region, or country. One of the many important things I think COVID-19 has taught us is the importance of understanding diversity of region/country and to appreciation that often there is not a one size fits all solution or point of view ~ nor should there be. Back to inclusiveness, it goes back to the leadership. For example, I personally have participated in organizations that I did not experience as welcoming, inclusive, or open to different perspectives and I found these situations to not be a good use of my time. As a leader you have countless demands on your time and thus, have to select investing in those most rewarding and impactful. It is incredibility important to be aligned with the organizations you work with, and for, so you are most effective and fulfilled.
I personally struggle with making that call of walking away with an organization that may not align because it feels like I am personally giving up. How do you realign that feeling?
Dana: I absolutely understand, however, I would refrain from swimming upstream for too long. Perhaps reframe the situation, are you having the impact you would like? Could you be doing something that is more fulfilling or more impactful? Is this situation the best use of your time and/or talents? What drives me is making an impact, and so this weighs heavily on my decision-making. What do you value?
Also, to be clear, there is a difference between having a disagreement with a boss or colleague verses a mismatch with an organization’s culture or values verses just plain hard work. I personally have had experiences where I was mismatched with cultural values and it was incredibly frustrating and unsatisfying. I love to work and love my profession. I want to be making an impact and to be effective.
As a female leader, what are some barriers you’ve faced in your career?
Dana: For me, I am not sure the barriers I have faced have been about being about a woman verses just barriers in life and in your career. There are certainly national discussions about barriers specific to women, and I don’t dismiss or discount the reality of those experiences. Personally, mine were more specific to being a young executive, being able to be accepted and respected by a more senior leadership team. The biggest positive was to have mentors who helped me be more thoughtful and objective about how to successfully address the barriers I was encountering. Keeping in mind you can only control one person’s actions – yours; it is important to have someone you trust to help provide perspective and broaden your thinking when in these tough situations.
Who inspired you and why?
Dana: I have been incredibly blessed to have a tapestry of seasoned mentors throughout my lifetime. The definition of a mentor to me is someone who helps you during a season of time, and then you move into a new time or place. Today, I am so fortunate to still be connected to each of my mentors and am ever so grateful to every one of them.
What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
Dana: Understand what defines success for YOU and celebrate along the way! Be intentional about your aspirations and goals – this will give you a sense of direction and greater level of confidence. Take calculated risks. Your biggest successes and lessons come from taking risk, learn from your failures or in the words of John Maxwell “Fail Forward”. Dust yourself off and move on. And just one tactical thing, I think is so important to keep your resume current. It is not an irrelevant task it will serve many purposes over the course of your career, and it is much easier to routinely refresh verses than start over when you need it. Often you have forgotten so many of your wonderful achievements.
How do you help a team through adversities?
Dana: I think energy and enthusiasm are always important traits, and they are really important in the midst of adversities, like a hurricanes or pandemics. Trust, transparency and communication combined with a strong organizational culture go a long way when leading through adversities. Communication is so important, people need to feel informed. They want to understand “the why” when organizations makes tough decisions. When people trust the leaders, they can tolerate hard decisions much better.
With the recent Covid-19 pandemic, in your opinion what does a post Covid-19 look like?
Dana: I believe society has changed in permanent ways that are unknown at this time. It is a significant unknown for all. Then as individuals, how do we take care of ourselves with all this uncertainty? This is super important for everyone. The loss of businesses that won’t be able to re-open and significant unemployment leading to some people unable to return to their positions creates strain. A question for all, is are we intentional about being prepared and forward thinking if impacted? If impacted, what does the next step look like? How do you take control and keep a positive mindset? Because “in adversity, there is opportunity” which is a wonderful quote by Albert Einstein, a good reminder today.
I believe we will find great opportunities post COVID-19, and yet we will likely lose some things along the way. Masks will be with us for quite some time. Social distancing will be with us. I think we have some inconvenience until we get a vaccine. How long for discovery and approval, 12-18-24 months? Then how long for distribution and administration? There are so many variables. We don’t know, what we don’t know. We are learning as we go. Yet, we are resilient and innovative, and we will thrive again!
Finally, I have a quote I’d like to share that seems appropriate based on our dialog, “Dream big, take the action you need and have the space to do what you can achieve”.
If you would like to hear more, feel free to reach out to Dana via email at Danabledsoe1@gmail.com or by phone at 850.490.2818.