BeALifter Leadership Series: Sharing Leadership Lessons with Bruce Waller…
Jim Rohn once said, “Your success in the next 5 years will be determined by the books you read and the people you meet.”
This is a testimony to my personal leadership growth over the past 20 years. I continue to learn each day by connecting with some of the most talented people in business. In this series, I want to introduce you to leaders that will share challenges, successes, and perspective to help you grow on your journey as a business leader or in your personal life. So let’s get started…
Today, we are going to hear from Peggy Smith, SCRP, SGMS-T , Worldwide ERC® President and CEO. I met Peggy about 10 years ago when attending a national relocation conference in Dallas before her current leadership role. She is making impact for so many in the relocation industry with her leadership approach which includes being authentic, caring, interested, visionary, and strategic. She is someone that is making a difference in the talent management mobility space all over the world and you will learn some of the reasons why as you read her responses below…
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and Danville, KY.
2. How did you get started in business/career?
I had moved to Los Angeles, CA and was working for RR Donnelley, the communications and print company. I actually started off bagging mail! RR Donnelley gave me a great business foundation, because I was exposed to so many different areas. I worked my way up through magazine bindery operations to data processing. Then I became a production planner for pre-press, press, and bindery; moved into customer service; and transitioned to sales, offering software packaged solutions for all OEM products distributed in the APAC region.
3. Do you remember a challenge or life lesson that you had to overcome early in your career which made you a better leader?
I was working for someone whom I really enjoyed as my boss, and we also became great friends. Along the way, there was a situation that came up: I requested the opportunity to go to part-time so that I could go back to school to get my MBA – and around that same period, another employee requested part-time after having a baby. She was permitted to transition to part-time, but I was not. I’m sure there were strong business reasons for this outcome, but I was hurt, and eventually, I left the company. However, I wanted to understand it – and once I got over the bad feelings that lingered, I was able to put this in perspective. I learned that it’s important to enjoy your coworkers and direct reports, but it’s also important to know the difference between friendship and management, for both employees and managers. And there’s one more thing I learned from this experience: your best friendships are the ones that grow with you. My former boss and I both learned that we could keep the connection that we valued so highly; today, she is still one of my closest friends.
4. What was that moment when you knew that you had found your lane, your purpose?
From Donnelley, I went to Microsoft, a company that as we all know drives for results – it was a dynamic environment, full of opportunity. Eventually, I landed in a mobility-related position, and got my first sense of the possibilities in our industry. Then I was offered a double promotion – but it meant I’d be making a decision to go back into sales. The chance to move up two levels was not a common event at Microsoft, and might have been an easy choice for some, but I couldn’t ignore the hold that mobility had on me. I loved what I was doing, and wanted to know more and do more. That’s when I decided to go all in – in 2004, I studied and sat for my CRP® designation, started volunteering on committees and task forces, was fortunate to be recruited for the Board of Directors, and in time, had the honor of serving as President and Chairman.
5. What is your most favorite achievement in your current role?
I like seeing what Oprah calls a “full circle moment.” When I came to Worldwide ERC® as a newly minted CEO, I didn’t fully understand what it would take to transition from my Microsoft management mindset to lead a membership association staff. I made mistakes; I didn’t understand how very deeply culture can be rooted, and how much it can impact even seemingly simple transitions and how people communicate with each other. I tore a lot of muscle! Now that I’ve gained more understanding, and found my stride – while I won’t say my journey is complete – I am watching our team flourish, and that’s a pleasure to see.
6. Is there any one person that inspired or mentored you along the way?
Aside from my husband Greg, I would name two people – Bill Graebel, CEO of Graebel Companies, and my former Worldwide ERC® colleague, Anita Brienza. Bill has been a great mentor to me and is my “go to” for guidance in business; in organizational strategy; in seeing the big picture. Anita has been a trusted advisor to me in the “people zone:” she helps me understand some of my blind spots when it comes to relationship-building, and provides communications coaching for the best approach and outcome to a situation. As leaders, we sometimes lose the people we might have sought out and confided in along the way because we are moving into different opportunities, yet we often need a good sounding board more than ever as we take on more responsibility. No matter where we are in our careers, we all need mentors and guides who help us become the best versions of ourselves.
7. Do you have a saying or mantra that you live by?
I often say that every day I get up on this side of Mother Earth, the rest is easy! It is a privilege to have good work and good health – I don’t take that lightly. I have been told that I always seem happy and cheerful. I do feel that way – I love what I’m doing, I work with some of the finest minds in our industry, I have a great family, and I believe that the work we are doing in the talent management space is making the world a better place for businesses and employees.
8. What book are you reading or audio to help grow your leadership right now?
When I first answered this question, I jokingly said “Dr. Seuss,” but the truth is – and I think this is the reality for many of us – no one book or presentation grows our leadership… they all do. We are all exposed to so much amazing information, and it is so easily accessible, we can be trained and coached by some of the masters in a way that wasn’t possible just a few short years ago.
9. Can you share any of your daily disciplines that help you stay focused as a leader?
Two things come to mind. First, I am accomplished at “triage”- I’m able to quickly assess what needs my immediate attention, be it an email or a request, and what can wait for a less urgent time. And I am an avid reader of news – all types of news. This is largely a personal preference and interest, but it’s also important when managing a global organization to have a well-rounded understanding of what’s happening in different parts of the world.
10. What advice would you give others to help them on their leadership journey?
Find your own voice; find people who model that voice, and take into consideration what they tell you; then incorporate it if it’s a fit for your career and personal brand. Being a lifelong learner is key, no matter your role. I still learn every day from the people around me, and I value those who spend time with me to make me a better person.
Thank you for inspiring us and sharing your wisdom, Peggy. We can all appreciate knowing the difference between friends and managers in the workplace, as well as those “full circle moments” which might include mistakes and “torn muscle” that make us better leaders. We all need mentors and guides to help us become better leaders, to see the “big picture” and help us with blind spots and the “people zone” too. Lastly, finding your voice, and incorporating it into your personal brand, as well as being a lifelong learner is key no matter your role! So true! Thanks again for sharing and being “a lifter” in my life too, Peggy! YOU make a difference…
If you would like to find out more about WorldwideERC, visit their website at http://www.worldwideerc.org/
Bruce Waller, CRP, PHR, SHRM-CP is the Vice President of Armstrong Relocation and Companies in Dallas, Texas. You can visit his BLOG “A Relocation Minute Update” with Bruce Waller at https://brucewaller.com/ for more information on employee relocation resources, call 972-389-5673, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @brucewaller on Twitter too!