Women in Leadership: Striving for Excellence, Not Perfection
Karen Wood is the senior vice president of sales operations for One Call. She has more than 20 years of leadership experience in sales, claims and underwriting – which has shaped her into the successful woman she is today. Through valuable mentors, the desire to be a role model for her daughter and the drive to empower women to aim for success, Karen has learned how to refocus her efforts to strive for excellence – not perfectionism.
Why do you think some women feel the need to be perfect and how do we support one another in knowing it’s okay to make mistakes?
I think many women possess a desire to be perfect because we believe we have something to prove – to ourselves, society, our families, and to our coworkers.
This stems from a history of women and men being held to different standards and the disparate conditioning that exists, both in and out of the workplace. The path to overcoming that is in consistently supporting one another by sharing our stories to bring greater awareness to the issue and to learn from each other.
Is there a key to finding balance between the desire to be perfect and having high standards?
Everyone is unique. Not only are we different physically, but also in our thinking and processing. Consequently, the path to this kind of balance is different from person to person. To achieve this kind of balance takes hard work, intention and focus. I have found this focus through my yoga practice. It has taught me to appreciate that success is not attained by achieving anyone else’s vision of perfection for me but instead by committing myself to a practice of discipline that exercise repeatedly enables me to attain goals I never dreamed possible.
How do you find yourself overcoming your fear of making a mistake?
Years ago, my greatest fear was making a mistake – it took someone very close to me to challenge me to think differently about mistakes. They shared how they believed their greatest learning opportunities came from mistakes they had made. This really shifted something for me.
If we are truly able to treat mistakes as opportunities and lessons, instead of ridiculing ourselves for making them, we can create the possibility of living as our best selves.
I never want to stop learning or growing and taking risks are opportunities that life offers us to grow. Many times, the outcome we fear is unfounded or overblown. We must have confidence in ourselves to rise to the challenge.
What the best lesson we can learn from making a mistake?
The best lesson you can learn from a mistake is learning how to own it – without apology – and find solutions in order to not repeat the same mistake again. Take responsibility, learn from it, understand where things went wrong and commit to not repeating it. Then, move on. Replace apologies with positive words like “thank you for being patient” and “I appreciate your support.” Spend time reflecting on it only to fully absorb the lesson. Then let it go.
How do you motivate other women to strive for excellence, not perfection?
I am a proud co-chair of One Call’s Women’s Charter group. Through this group, I am able to have a platform to teach and learn.
It is so important for women to support, learn and to celebrate one another. For me, the greatest reward has been to witness someone I’ve mentored blossom in their career. Sharing my own life experiences with others may shorten their learning curve and perhaps help them to avoid making the same mistakes. It may even help instill the confidence they need to take a risk and go big.
What advice do you have for women who are looking to climb the ladder?
Be honest with yourself – know your strengths and understand your areas of opportunity.
Look to see if how you view yourself matches with how others see you. If not, ask yourself: “why not?”, “am I being my authentic self?” Be in a constant state of inquiry.
Surround yourself with people who are great at what they do and from whom you can learn.
Finally, challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Don’t play it safe – GO FOR IT!