TZL 1539 (web)

May 27, 2024, Issue 1539 WWW.ZWEIGGROUP.COM


Days to collect fees

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How the military’s mission command principles can improve leadership and management in AEC firms. Mission command principles

FIRM INDEX AE Engineering, Inc...................................8 Balfour Beatty ...............................................6 Croy.................................................................... 10 Michaud Cooley Erickson....................8 Ware Malcomb..........................................10 WSB LLC ...........................................................8 MORE ARTICLES n MATT VERDERAMO: Before you burn out, get some rest Page 3 n MARK ZWEIG: People can do more (if they want to) Page 5 n LEISBEL LAM: From disgruntled client to raving fan Page 7 n RENNEE RICHARDSON: Women who lead Page 9 According to Zweig Group’s 2024 Fee & Billing Report , it takes firms an average of 50 days from the date of invoicing to collect fees. If a job is finished soon after the regular billing period ends, a firm that bills on a monthly basis could be stuck sitting on that bill for several weeks before it’s time to send it out. Because of this, firms that bill continuously have an advantage when it comes to decreasing their average collection period.

A long time ago, in places far, far away, I was a sailor in the U.S. Navy. I stay connected to the service through social media, and this quote from Admiral Lisa Franchetti, chief of naval operations, surfaced in my feed: “We will use the principles of mission command to empower leaders at all levels to operate in uncertain, complex, and rapidly changing environments, ready to take initiative and bold action with confidence.” Readers of The Zweig Letter operate in uncertain, complex, and changing environments. Who doesn’t want to take initiative and bold action with confidence? I wasn’t familiar with “mission command” or its principles, though. What are they? Is there something we can learn from the military to do our own jobs better? I dove in. According to Joint Publication 3-0, mission command is “the conduct of military operations through decentralized execution based upon mission- type orders.” Check. “Mission command is a philosophy centered on the art of command. The art of command is the creative and skillful use of authority, instincts, intuition, and experience in decision-making and leadership to enhance operational effectiveness. The art of command is supported by the science of control, the systems and procedures that improve a commander’s understanding and support the execution of missions. Effective joint commanders leverage both art and science; it is not one or the other,” according to the second edition of the “Insights and Best Practices Focus Paper” on mission command. The “art of command” supported by the “science of control.” I can get my arms around this. Leadership and management. Relationships and dashboards. Doing the right things and doing things right. Mission command has seven associated principles:

Tom Godin

1. Competence 2. Mutual trust 3. Shared understanding

See TOM GODIN, page 2



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TOM GODIN, from page 1

4. Commander’s intent 5. Mission orders 6. Disciplined initiative 7. Risk acceptance.

Our firms are businesses – not sports teams, families, or military units. Concepts and frameworks that work in those domains don’t always work in ours. (My attempt at running a triangle offense in an engineering firm did not go well.) But mission command principles apply well to AEC firms. Let’s take a look: ■ Competence and trust. Both are bedrock characteristics of healthy, effective teams. C-suites, studios, project teams, any team. There is abundant literature about trust in the business context. The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni is a personal favorite. Lencioni writes about the presence and importance of vulnerability-based trust, not behavior- based trust, inside leadership teams. Vulnerability-based trust is when team members feel safe enough to be open about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears, and behaviors. It’s about being comfortable showing vulnerability without fear of judgment, ridicule, or negative repercussions. Vulnerability-based trust is a necessary condition for robust, healthy communication; the type of communication that supports new ideas and innovation, problem solving, and conflict resolution. ■ Shared understanding, commander’s intent, and mission orders. Leaders and their teams need to have a common, fact-based understanding of what is happening inside and outside. They need to understand their firm’s mission, vision, values, and strategy. They need to have access to the same information and a common lens through which the information is processed. In a business context, “commander’s intent” translates to providing clear, concise, and actionable objectives and expectations to the people or groups who need those things. Mission orders are clear but provide flexibility. “You know our intention and our expectations. Now go do that inside this box bounded by company policy, strategy (and your team’s role in it), and budget. How you play inside the box is up to you.”

■ Initiative and risk. In business, taking calculated risks is essential for growth and innovation. Leaders must encourage and support prudent risk-taking. They must provide frameworks that their teams can use to evaluate risk and reward. They must tolerate the mistakes and poor outcomes that occur – infrequently, one hopes – from even good process. And they need to put in place mechanisms to learn (and adapt) from both successes and failures. Evaluating your readiness to empower your teams begins with asking and answering these four questions. If you answer “no,” then you need to stop and work to get to “yes.” 1. Is my leadership team working productively together on a solid foundation of vulnerability-based trust? 2. Do we have good information and is it widely shared? 3. Have we made our intentions, our objectives, and our expectations clear? 4. Have we torpedoed any chance of success by refusing to accept the risk that comes with our teams operating with disciplined initiative? I hid in this article three clues to the branch of the Navy I served in. Email me when you’ve got the answer. And please get in touch with me if you want to talk about how the art of command and the science of control are in play in your own firm, about your readiness to give mission orders, or if you have a sea story to share. Tom Godin is a consultant at Zweig Group and director of the firm’s strategy group. He can be contacted at tgodin@ or 703.213.9689.

THE PRINCIPALS ACADEMY Zweig Group’s flagship training program encompasses all aspects of managing a professional AEC service firm. Elevate your ability to lead and grow your firm with this program designed to inspire and inform existing and emerging AEC firm leaders in key areas of firm management. Join us June 27-28 in Kansas City, Missouri. Click here to learn more!

© Copyright 2024. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Before you burn out, get some rest

C onstantly feeling like you’re not good enough or don’t have enough is a hard way to live. First, professionally, our work is hard. So, you feel like you’re not good enough at your job. Then, in your personal life, social media is making you believe you’re not happy enough, or you don’t have enough money, or you don’t go on enough vacations. Three simple but impactful strategies to shift your mindset from needing more to getting rest.

Matt Verderamo, MS

Living with this feeling of lack – of not being good enough or not having enough – is a recipe for burnout. But the good news is I’ve been caught in this trap before and learned that breaking out of it is actually pretty simple. You see, most of it comes down to anxiety and feeling like you need to do more. More work, more money, more skills, more stuff! But if you can break through the anxiety, and start giving your mind, body, and spirit some rest, you can change your whole perspective. So, today, I want to talk about the mindset shift from more to rest, and three simple but impactful ways you can practice it so you avoid burnout, and become healthier emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Let’s jump in.

REST IS A SIMPLE CONCEPT. Rest means turning off your mind to the external anxieties that are always cropping up, and in its simplest form, rest is being totally immersed in the present moment. Once we realize that this present moment is enough (there’s that word again), we can shift from needing more, to getting rest. In my journey, I’ve found three strategies particularly helpful in shifting from needing more to getting rest: 1. Whatever you’re doing, be in the moment. Earlier this month, I came down with a 24-hour stomach bug. Every few hours, I was filled with anxiety because I had work to do and felt like I was falling behind. Instead of letting that thought




– but for some reason I still don’t feel successful.” He responded right away that it’s because I was measuring forward instead of measuring backward. What does this mean? I was looking ahead to where I wanted to be – the ideal version of myself that I thought was somewhere out in the future – rather than looking back to where I came from. Of course I wasn’t feeling successful! I was constantly measuring against an ideal instead of against real progress that I had already made. If you want to shift from more to rest, make sure you are measuring your progress backward so you can actually feel the progress you’ve made, instead of forward where you’ll never be good enough. THE SPARKNOTES. Burnout is hard. Anxiety grabs us and makes everything in our life hard, and before we know it, life is even harder and we’re not healthy emotionally, physically, or psychologically – which makes us worse people, friends, spouses, employees, bosses, and the rest. If you want to avoid burnout, focus on being in the present moment, planning rest, and measuring backward. I hope this gives you some ideas on how to break out of your burnout cycle and start loving life. Go get started right away and let me know if I can help. Good luck, friends. You got this. Matt Verderamo, MS is a consultant at Well Built Construction Consulting. Connect with him on LinkedIn .

MATT VERDERAMO, from page 3

win, I kept reminding myself to be in this moment. I couldn’t do anything about the work, so what was the point of getting anxious about it? I would get to it when I got to it, but worrying certainly wasn’t going to help get it done. So, as I reminded myself to just be, I was reminding my body to get some much-needed rest. It worked exceedingly well for me mentally and physically – and spoiler alert – I ended up getting caught up on my work anyway. The anxiety wasn’t necessary! All I needed to do was be in the moment. You can practice this at any time – let the anxiety be your indicator that it’s time to settle into the present moment. 2. Plan rest. Every week, I take Saturday as a full, guilt-free rest day. I don’t let myself do work or worry about work. I just enjoy breakfast with my wife, walking with my dog, and watching the Premier League. Until two years ago, I always had a work plan but never had a rest plan. So, make sure you are planning rest into your week in the same way you are planning work, because it makes a huge difference toward burnout and being the best version of you. 3. Measure backward. I went to my mentor two years ago and said, “I keep reaching traditional milestones of success – promotions, winning sales, getting married

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Employees who decide to disengage and shift out completely do so at their own peril. People can do more (if they want to)

L ast week, my article in The Zweig Letter focused on those people who regularly fully disconnect from work at 5 p.m. on Friday and don’t look at anything or check in until the following Monday morning. The same applies to those who do this every night. I want engagement. I want commitment. I want to see interest in the job and the business. Those who fully disengage are not doing themselves any favors if they want to get ahead.

Mark Zweig

I knew this article would draw ire from someone and sure enough, a woman on LinkedIn posted this in response: “What a privileged take. Especially given that all of the likes and supportive comments on this post are largely men in leadership positions. I’d be curious to know how much support you all have behind the scenes in order to commit this much of yourselves to work outside of family needs.” “Privileged take?” Because I was and still am fully- engaged and don’t completely disconnect? No. Sorry. I have commitment. I have intensity. I have determination to keep being better and doing things better and to make any business I am part of more successful. I don’t expect big rewards by doing the least amount I have to every day. Is that

privilege, or just a different orientation that makes me more responsive to current and potential clients and customers, fellow workers, business partners, suppliers and subconsultants, readers, and students, and more productive in a highly competitive world? And as far as “support behind the scenes,” I do have that from my wife – wife number three. She owned and ran businesses herself and came from a family that did the same. Was that always the case for me? Absolutely not. My first wife of nearly 20 years had a complete meltdown from alcohol and drugs and mental illness. I was a single parent filling both roles for my two oldest daughters for years. I still stayed

See MARK ZWEIG , page 6



ON THE MOVE BALFOUR BEATTY’S US OPERATIONS HIRES KELLIE AJJAN AS SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES Balfour Beatty has announced the hiring of Kellie Ajjan as the company’s new senior vice president of human resources for its Buildings, Civils and Investments operations in the U.S. In her new executive role, Ajjan oversees the development and execution of the company’s people strategy and practice, including compensation and benefits, recruiting, training, talent development and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. She will also work in close coordination with senior leadership, including human resources and operations functions across Balfour Beatty’s global business, with an emphasis on aligning policies and initiatives such as compliance, ethics and employee engagement within the company’s three business lines. In addition, Ajjan will retain direct responsibility for the HR-related action plans and deliverables outlined in Balfour Beatty Communities’ compliance monitorship to ensure this important work continues to move forward without interruption.

“We are excited to appoint Kellie to a new human resources role that serves all our business lines,” said Eric Stenman, Balfour Beatty US president. “Her experience in leading strategic human resource operations as well as being a trusted business partner within our business makes her a great fit for this position as she builds upon Balfour Beatty’s strong human resources structure and policies that supports the connection between field and office employees and elevates our recruiting, talent management and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. We look forward to her leadership and passion for developing our teammates as we strive to be an employer of choice and committed project partner in our communities.” Prior to her new role, Ajjan served as senior vice president of Balfour Beatty’s Investments business for nearly 10 years where she was responsible for human capital strategy, including employee and labor relations, organizational development, talent and performance management, staffing and success planning. She was also overseeing the Benefits team for all three U.S.

businesses. Ajjan will continue to oversee these operations in addition to her new responsibilities in this newly appointed role. Ajjan worked for Sunoco, Inc. and AMETEK serving in various human resource management roles before joining Balfour Beatty. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Villanova University, where she was a scholar athlete, and has obtained a master’s in business administration from Pennsylvania State University. Ajjan is also a board member of Quest Therapeutic Services in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Balfour Beatty is an industry-leading provider of general contracting, at-risk construction management and design- build services for public and private sector clients across the United States. Performing heavy civil and vertical construction, the company is part of Balfour Beatty plc, a leading international infrastructure group that provides innovative and efficient infrastructure that underpins our daily lives, supports communities and enables economic growth.

We don’t mind if a client or customer has a problem we don’t respond to. We have AI doing our writing for us (I saw several student papers this semester clearly written by ChatGPT). What we are willing to ask our people to do is reducing, and what we expect from them is less and less. At the same time, it takes more than ever to have a decent standard of living when starter homes in many places cost $600,000 or more, a decent new car costs $50,000, and it costs $750 a week to put your kid in daycare. How can one expect to afford that or better with minimal effort and commitment? So my message is clear. Shift out completely if you want. Don’t participate in the phone, text, and email banter with your managers and fellow workers at night and on weekends. Don’t respond to the client who has a question or just wants to talk. But do so at your own peril. You are missing out. You know you aren’t always parenting or doing something essential every night and weekend. You know taking five minutes to check your email on your phone isn’t impossible. You are making the choice to take yourself out of the game. Meanwhile, for every business I am part of – and for every class I teach – I am going to keep looking for those people who will do more. Unapologetically. Because I hate squandering opportunity. And I hate failure even more. And I know if I am responsible for those people, I will take my responsibility seriously and reward those who are fully engaged. Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

MARK ZWEIG, from page 5

connected and involved with my business, and was also a decent parent, as my girls will attest. Oh yeah – one more thing. I started my business (this business nearly 36 years ago) with $1,000 when I was unemployed and had an 11-month-old and a spouse who did not work outside of the home. It wasn’t like I had a big nest egg sitting there and could do it at my leisure. I didn’t golf. I didn’t go on weekend vacations with my buddies. We had rent to pay and utility bills and needed to eat. Survival and the desire to transcend our current circumstances motivated me to do more than most people were willing to do. My point is this. Is it wrong to try to build a team of other highly motivated people who don’t shut down like factory workers punching a time clock at the end of every day, and instead show interest and enthusiasm for the business we are trying to build together? Should we be rewarding those who won’t do that the same as those who do? How does that make any sense when we are trying to build something, and if we are successful, they will be the beneficiaries of that success? There is no doubt that we live in an era of declining expectations – expectations for excellence and commitment. We want four-day workweeks. We want to be able to work from home. We want every evening and weekend completely free from work. Work is just a means to be able to do other things versus something pleasurable and rewarding in itself.

© Copyright 2024. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




O rganizations are not immune to making design errors that could damage their reputation for a short period, or permanently if no service recovery culture is in place. Since designing our first service manager strategy, we embedded service recovery as one of the key drivers to achieve our vision. Having a service recovery mindset in your projects is essential in order to keep your organization’s sustained competitive advantage. From disgruntled client to raving fan

Leisbel Lam, PE, LC, MBA

Through my experience, I have discovered that service recovery should not be treated any differently than when we are trying to solve a complex problem. As engineers and architects, we have an advantage when it comes to this because our work requires solving multilayered problems every day. A year ago, we received an email from a disgruntled client regarding building users’ complaints with temperature levels in a handful of rooms in a recently remodeled lab space. As engineers, we do not typically receive such complaints, but when we do, we can get nervous because we failed to identify an error. However, when we understand perfection doesn’t exist and we keep service recovery top of mind as part of our service delivery, we can face these calls with a game plan. In this article, I will walk you through a series of

steps we follow called “Reframing” to look at tough problems from a new perspective, so we do not fall in the default trap of jumping into quick – usually ineffective – solutions. The four steps include: 1. Frame storming. On this step, we start with a blank whiteboard, setting aside preconceptions and opening our minds to explore issues as well as their nuances. This step helps the team to identify assumptions and blind spots, lessening the risk of pursuing inadequate or biased solutions. It is also beneficial to invite outside perspectives to be part of this process to look at the issue with a cool head. In this example, we came up with a long list of ideas and potential scenarios of what could be the causes for the complaints.

See LEISBEL LAM , page 8



TRANSACTIONS WSB, MINNEAPOLIS-BASED DESIGN AND CONSULTING FIRM, ANNOUNCES ACQUISITION OF AE WSB LLC, one of the nation’s fastest growing infrastructure engineering and consulting firms, today announced the acquisition of AE Engineering, Inc., a high-growth transportation infrastructure engineering firm based in Jacksonville, Florida. The strategic addition of AE will solidify WSB’s presence and service offerings in the southeastern United States. WSB is a portfolio company of GHK Capital Partners LP, a leading middle-market private equity firm based in Greenwich, Connecticut. “WSB is moving forward in building a

national brand,” said Bret Weiss, WSB’s president and chief executive officer. “The Southeast is an important market for transportation infrastructure engineering given the significant population growth and infrastructure investment present in the region. AE has an outstanding reputation, and their leaders match our culture with their approach and entrepreneurial spirit. We are eager to build on the success of AE by introducing expanded services to complement their already successful program.” The acquisition of AE brings 13 offices and more than 170 employees into WSB across the Southeast. Combined, WSB now operates 49 offices with more than 1,250 employees nationwide to

serve its clients across the government, commercial and energy markets. “WSB is a strong and growing firm that is an excellent match for AE and our clients,” said Rod Myrick, AE’s president. “We’ve always tried to represent the best in the industry and to be a trusted asset to our clients and partners. AE is joining a firm with that same commitment. We are eager to build on the strengths and success of WSB by introducing expanded services to complement our existing operation in Florida and throughout the Southeast.” WSB and AE will work together to develop a single go-to market approach as WSB in the coming months.

feedback we got from this conversation was around the frustration of the room’s end-users and their high sense of urgency to resolve the issue. 4. Envisioning. With the information gathered from the previous steps, we then transitioned from framing the problem to imagining and coming up with solutions. For problems like this one where we have a clear desire vision, we use a backcasting approach, which focuses on reverse engineering the path to success from the future desired outcome to the present moment. The goal of this strategy is clearly identifying a list of the long-term, near future, and immediate actions. In this example, the goal was to get the rooms to operate at the appropriate temperature. Then, we listed everything that needed to take place to make this vision a reality and categorized them per the level of priority as the backcasting strategy requires. It took the team three weeks to design a non-invasive solution and a few more weeks for the solution to be implemented. As we were conducting Step 3, everybody in the room was appreciative of us having a structure in place to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel. By the time we were sitting in the room, we had a narrow focus on what we though the root cause was which gave the stakeholder peace of mind. Having a service recovery mindset in your projects is essential in order to keep your organization’s sustained competitive advantage. From my experience on our service management culture, when we enter the recovery phase our team must tune into their soft skills and be equipped with a simple methodology that allows them to navigate the process in a consistent manner. “Turning up the soft” is our trigger phrase to focus on the intangibles of service recovery, including attentiveness, proactive communication, responsiveness, flexibility, and empathy. I would guarantee if you invested in your team to juggle these soft areas effectively, you would turn your clients into raving fans. Leisbel Lam, PE, LC, MBA is a principal at Michaud Cooley Erickson. Connect with him on LinkedIn .

LEISBEL LAM, from page 7

2. Peeling. On this step, we dive deep to identify the root cause of the problem from the information gathered on the previous step. This is also the stage where the team investigates issues thoroughly, peeling back the layers to understand underlying drivers and systemic contributors. In this example, we identified that rooms with a significant amount of large equipment were designed based on the initial design development equipment list which was not updated during the construction document phase. Finding this key piece of information allowed us to focus on this as the main potential issue. It also highlighted a gap in our quality assurance process. “From my experience on our service management culture, when we enter the recovery phase our team must tune into their soft skills and be equipped with a simple methodology that allows them to navigate the process in a consistent manner.” 3. Empathizing. On this step, we put ourselves in other people’s shoes to understand how they perceive the problem. An effective way to tackle this is to create a list of stakeholders who are directly and indirectly affected by the issue. Then, compartmentalize them by departments and level of influence and interest in the issue. Finally, create an empathy strategy guided with questions like these: What do they think, how are they acting, what are they saying, and what are they feeling? In this example, we scheduled an on-site meeting with the critical stakeholders with the goal of telling them what we discovered in Step 2 and gathering the information needed to draft and execute a strategy. The common

© Copyright 2024. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Women who lead

C roy’s Aimee Turner, PE, PTOE hosted a panel discussion featuring the women leading some of Metro Atlanta’s Community Improvement Districts, or CIDs, to discuss their journeys and advice for those women looking to advance their careers. The women heading Atlanta’s Community Improvement Districts serve as incredible examples of bold leadership – but how do they lead with the greatest impact?

Turner said, “Our team at Croy is honored to partner with CIDs in their mission to cultivate safe, well- connected, multi-modal transportation systems. Through our collaboration, we’ve assisted with advancing their vision by delivering innovative solutions and infrastructure projects tailored to meet the unique needs of their communities.” The panelists giving us a glimpse into how they make this mission possible include:

While these women head up important infrastructure projects within their districts with grace and ease, making one’s way to a leadership position is never simple. Below the surface are demonstrations of pure grit and persistence that got them where they needed to be. Each of these women have played roles in making the transportation, placemaking, and quality of life improvements around Metro Atlanta’s communities a reality. They would not be where they are if not for prioritizing relationship-building, thinking innovatively, and caring for their community. SHAKING HANDS, LEARNING NAMES. The initiation of each woman’s leadership journey goes all the way back to some of the first hands they ever shook, and they have kept shaking them ever since. Take Kim Menefee’s story as an example. After graduating

Renee Richardson

■ Ann Hanlon, Executive Director, Perimeter CIDs

■ Kim Menefee, Executive Director, Cumberland CID ■ Kristin Winzeler, Deputy Executive Director, True North 400

Tracy Styf, Executive Director, Town Center Community






will also continue to work to expand the firm’s civil engineering practice firmwide. In addition, Jansen has been named a member of the firm’s executive team. “Tom’s impact and leadership contributions have been substantial in the past eight years since joining Ware Malcomb,” said Ken Wink, CEO, Ware Malcomb. “He has strengthened and connected our Northwest region and driven the continued success of our civil

engineering practice. We congratulate Tom and join him in celebrating this well- deserved promotion.” Jansen has held multiple leadership roles during his time at Ware Malcomb and was regional principal for the Northwest region prior to his most recent promotion. He brings more than 25 years of design expertise and is a registered Professional Engineer in 45 states.





TO PRESIDENT, NORTHWEST REGION Ware Malcomb, an award-winning international design firm, announced Tom Jansen, P.E., has been promoted to regional vice president for the firm’s Northwest Region. In this role, he is responsible for leading the firm’s services in the Pleasanton, San Francisco, and Seattle offices. He REGIONAL VICE

to completely re-evaluate one’s potential path. Essentially, having the courage to take a different direction got these women to where they are now, honing their leadership abilities along the way. Ann Hanlon only confirms this sentiment, saying, “It’s funny that I arrived here because this is not what I thought I would be doing at all, but I’m proud that it happened.” CARING FOR YOUR COMMUNITY. Another commonality shared by these women in leadership is their inherent desire to head each project with a sense of duty to their community. Styf put this in perspective when speaking about Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield, which provides access to trails, bike paths, and greenspace. “We knew we had to find a way for people to access all the great natural resources and amenities in our backyard in a meaningful way. We also wanted to think ahead about how residents and visitors could walk to lunch or take an afternoon run – and that was before walkability was cool!” Underneath Styf’s lightheartedness is a deep understanding of what is important in her community that fosters bright ideas for the present and long-lasting impacts. This certainly presents its challenges, though. When asked how CIDs balance business wants with community needs, Hanlon responded, “It’s how you come together and give something up in order to accomplish a greater goal.” As she demonstrates, leadership is not defined by the daily tasks of a job, but instead how one enacts a plan to create something great for everyone within their reach. Community care is what allows these women to usher our neighborhoods toward shorter commutes, cleaner streets, and better views. Winzeler summarizes this perfectly: “I genuinely like making the world a better place, and I’m sure a lot of you feel that way too.” FORGING THE PATH TO LEADERSHIP. Hearing the thoughts and stories of these women highlight just a few of the ways to lead in your role, company, or community. While every story is different, they have all launched their success through dedicating efforts to building meaningful relationships, having the courage to switch directions or think big when it is best for their community, and constantly tending to their districts with intention. With all of that said, Hanlon leaves us with a sentimental note for women with a desire to lead, saying, “Not only are we trying to lead with other women, but we’re also trying to create stronger women.” And strong women – and communities – they are creating indeed. Renee Richardson serves as a proposal and marketing specialist at Croy. She can be reached at rrichardson@croyeng. com .


from the University of Georgia with a journalism degree, Menefee moved to Cobb County and quickly found a way to get involved in her community through a leadership program. Through networking and relationship building, Menefee landed a job at WellStar. In her words, this position provided the opportunity “to be able to expand my career, my learning, and my responsibility.” She credits this role for her success, acknowledging that, “Those are the types of skills and people I got to know who really prepared me to be able to take on a leadership role with the [Cumberland] CID.” Her story only proves that to lead, you need the right people to show you the way. The sooner you build your foundation of relationships, the better. Actively maintaining these relationships not only keeps your leadership abilities sharp, but it benefits others too. Kristin Winzeler noted that part of her love for her role comes from the relationship she has with the other women working in CIDs. She said, “We all work well together. We’re a community and we get along, and it makes going to work a lot of fun.” A solid network is just the start. You also need to see the value in maintaining that network, whether that is within your field or outside of it. HAVING THE COURAGE TO CHANGE. While all the women may work in the same field now, their career histories could not be more different. Their backgrounds span from advanced history degrees to computer programming, yet somehow, they all ended up in the same place. Accomplishing this career feat was no simple task, but they all share similar sentiments. Their flexibility and willingness to approach the unknown led them to where they are now. Tracy Styf’s story is a prime example of this. She shared, “I was going to get my Ph.D. in neuropsychology at Vanderbilt. I walked in and the dean said, ‘Do you want to go to school for six more years?’ And I said ‘no,’ so I transitioned quickly into organizational development.” Her journey may have taken a different path, but it led her to find what her passion was and where she wanted to make a difference. She is still putting her degree to use though, adding, “I use [my degree] every day because what I – and each of us – do in our role is think strategically and work relationally.” The women’s diverse backgrounds and upbringings demonstrate that becoming a leader does not happen on a narrow path. Rather, it is about having the necessary courage

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