With an extensive career in leadership development, human resources and as an entrepreneur, Carol Anderson has developed an amazing capacity to bring positive change to individuals, groups, and corporations.
Through her diverse experience in corporate America, Carol takes her expertise to new levels as a high achiever. Accelerating businesses, she demonstrates a process that adds value and change perception in the dynamics of HR and Leadership.
Read below as Carol and I conversed about her success, stepping stones, strengths and what has impacted her career for success.
EB: Success is measured differently for everyone. What would you say has been the key ingredients for your success?
CA: My husband believes in me and he thinks I can do more than I am doing, encouraging me to stretch. Every job, challenge, or opportunity he says, “yes you can,” when I may be doubting myself. He has been my reason for success.
I also had a favorite boss who let me fail. He would sit there and say, “well, what happened?” He never judged what I was doing, instead asking if there was something I should learn from that. He gave me incredible experiences, throwing me out there telling me I could do it and I did not need him.
Between these two people I would never be the person I am today, helping me build my confidence allowing me to succeed.
EB: How do you add value to your clients and business?
CA: I would like to think I offer opportunities for my clients to think differently. I ask questions that cause them to think about something from a different perspective in a way they may not have thought about otherwise. I credit both my good and bad experiences with knowing the right questions to ask, because I have seen so much of it happening.
What do you think is going to happen?
What do you expect to happen?
What do you want to happen?
These questions get the dialog going. I don’t give them answers, I facilitate figuring out the problems first and they answer the questions developing ownership. Evaluation is an important part of the process as well.
EB: What has been of value to you in your career?
CA:I had a great mentor and favorite boss I worked with for 20 years, off and on, who saw in me something I did not see in myself and took me under his wing. He appreciated my writing along with a professor in my Master’s program who was very positive towards my writing skills. Because of his interest in my professional growth and taking a chance on me, I went back to school to study human resource development. This proved to be valuable because we worked together in a company that grew quickly, but six years later they were bankrupt.
My background in cultural and organization development assisted me while I watched what I read in the textbooks playing out before me. I would listen to the dialog the board of directors were having while I also worked with the CEO gaining knowledge of where he was going. I put all this information together when things imploded and it hit me that I had to do something with what I had learned. I decided to write a book, Repurposing HR, about breaking down organizational silos and using a process to generate and foster collective thinking, whereby, HR can shift the paradigm from developing programs, policies, and processes to improving the performance and productivity of the workforce. My next book will be for the leaders of companies and my goals is to create an online community for communication.
EB: You focus on leadership development. What makes a great leader and what are your own characteristics that allow you to be a thought leader?
CA: It depends on the circumstances, what’s going on, and the person. I don’t believe there are set characteristics we need to be a great leader. If you are talking to your people, compassion is important; whereas, talking to your peers that goes out the window. I do think it is important for anyone in a leadership position to feel, which can be a hard thing for people in this role. A great leader will want somebody to succeed and give them the opportunity to feel empowered. I read a book, Leadership BS, which talks about how people succeed in today’s “power and politics environment” and can we do what we want to do to not just survive, but excel.
I feel passionate about where our country is, where businesses are going, the concept of accountability and consequences. In my career, I have been placed in positions where repeatedly I am shown there needs to be better systems in place for the survival of the business. This has all lead me to where I am now. My leadership skills began in the military and I can add this experience to my corporate knowledge bringing credibility to what I have to offer to my clients.
EB: What was the turning point in your life that has been instrumental in your success?
CA: Around 1992 a friend of mine asked me to join the board of a professional organization. This was a turning point in my life because I had been a corporate person stuck in an office I did not know much about what was going on, I only saw my little piece of the world and did not see the rest of the organization. I sat there and went, “wow.” From that point on I require members of my team to get out and get into a board position somewhere or get involved with a not-for-profit business. This enables them to see the world is different than what they are in right now.
EB: Passion is important when working towards success. What are your greatest passions and how have they impacted your leadership abilities?
CA: I must laugh at this statement because the boss I worked for 20 years would always say, “would you get rid of that passionate shit.” He was from structure and I was passionate about what I did. My passion is to help people who are in this unique opportunity to recognize they can do more than what they are doing today and significantly influence the success of the business.
Originally, my life’s goal was to be a musician. For several reasons my life went into a different direction. I used to draw and create, when I started my professional career; and I have come full circle back to the creative arts. Jewelry making has become my personal passion while I still engage in the corporate world. What jewelry making has shown me is that everyone has different needs, interests and wants; which equates to the fact that I cannot please everyone. I have learned that when I speak before a group of people if I can touch just two or three of them, that is a good outcome and it satisfies that part of me feeling successful in reaching my goals of making a positive difference.
My passion for connecting people has impacted my leadership abilities. The groups I lead know and care about each other, not always liking each other but the respect is always there. I make sure everybody knows the value of what everyone else is bringing to the table and how they need to be involved.
EB: If you were to imagine stepping stones, what have yours looked like up to today and what do you see for your future?
CA: Through my stepping stones I learned I am better at helping people figure out what to do, than doing it myself and that when I am creative I am at my best.
Being a woman officer in the Marines gave me a sense of credibility but when I left and had to interview for a civilian position, it was hard because they would look at my marine experience and felt I would not be a good fit. I finally found a role in retail, an amazing stepping stone because it was my first opportunity to interact with and watch what could be. Everybody from the CEO to the HR Director collaborated and it worked like clock-work. Then I went to banking and everything flew out the window. That is when I started developing my own curiosity of organizational personalities.
I went from a woman dominated business (retail) to a male-dominated business (banking) trying to use compliance to influence compliance. Then I built an amazing team at LandAmerica, my last corporate job before starting my own business. Lastly, starting the jewelry making has brought back a piece of me that was lost when I stepped into the corporate world.
EB: We all have strengths and weaknesses. Please share the strengths that have propelled you to the level of success you have today. How have your weaknesses become strengths?
CA: My strengths are taking a bunch of chaos and making sense of it. I can synthesize in my mind, take that chaos and say, “here is what I think it is.” I hate conflict. In some ways, it is a weakness, in other ways it is a strength because I found ways to get around it. I want to make sure people understand what I am telling them, finding ways to get my message across.
EB: Do you have any advice to pass along based on your experience up to this point in your professional career?
CA: Do not overlay your perception over what somebody is thinking or doing, but to pay attention to what they really are thinking or doing. I once heard a comment, “assume positive things.” This really stuck with me. Do not try to keep yourself vulnerable to what others are putting on you. Take everything that happens to you and look at what you can learn from it. There is always a lesson there and if you miss the lesson you have lost the opportunity to turn that into a positive.
Talking to those people who would be my audience is encouraging them to look beyond their own paradigms, and I challenge them. They might be fine, but they also might learn something bigger and/or greater. Many of those in my audience are either afraid to rock the boat or are naïve and think the boat does not need to be rocked.
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