Benita Fitzgerald Mosley – President & CEO of Women In Cable Telecommunications
Showing Her Medal: As the nation’s attention turns to Beijing and the world’s most prestigious sporting event, PINK talks to a businesswoman who experienced the Olympics up close – and brought home the gold.
By Taylor Mallory
“Athletic experience gives you the ability to work within a team and yet still shine as an individual,” says Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, an Olympic gold medalist in track. “People have to share information and collaborate with one another. When you play nice in the sand – just like in the boardroom – everybody benefits.” That’s just one of the many lessons about business – and life – that she learned from her athletic experience. In 1984, Mosley brought home the gold in the 100-meter hurdles at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Today she’s president and CEO of Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT), an organization focused on developing women leaders in the industry. During her seven years as its leader, WICT has grown from 4,000 to 7,500 members.
Mosley, who lives in Virginia with her husband, Ron, and their two children (Isaiah, 9, and Maya, 4), reflects on her Olympic experience – and how it made her a better businesswoman.
PINK: What skills or lessons did you learn from your athletic career that made you a better professional woman?
Benita Fitzgerald Mosley: I’m a relatively laid-back manager, not very intense on a day-to-day basis. But I know how to turn it on when necessary. I was recently talking to someone about [tennis stars] Venus and Serena Williams and how they’re not always “on” in all their tournaments. But when it’s Wimbledon, those women are on fire. Some people are like tigers and can win every weekend. But most of us can’t peak every weekend. Most of us can’t peak for every meeting or conference call. I’m able to understand and prioritize what things need my focus and energy. And then there’s the self-confidence you get from sports. I only ran for 12.84 seconds in the Olympics. There’s not a lot of room for error. So I learned to galvanize my focus and ability when it counts. And I learned a lot about leadership.
PINK: Like what?
B.F.M.: When it comes to motivating your team, people like metrics. They like to know when they’ve achieved something great and be rewarded for it. We implemented a bonus structure based mostly on team performance – for meeting our revenue and membership goals. So everyone knows that if we hit our goals, everybody gets covered. One way to motivate is to let them know what success looks like. Success for us is 7,500 members. So we had a champagne toast when we hit 7,000. It’s important to celebrate the small wins along the way and reward them for the big ones.
PINK: You spent a number of years working in the sports industry. Talk about that experience.
B.F.M.: I went to school to be an engineer and worked for a while in the industry, but it never really floated my boat. Olympians have tight networks. So when I got a call from a guy at Special Olympics International wanting me to run a quarter of the country for him, I decided it would be a fun move – and it was. I realized you could have a sports career and not train six hours a day. Later I was recruited to work for the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) to run an Olympic training center in San Diego – a job with a $3 million budget, 45 to 50 staff members and a 150-acre facility – and eventually to be director of all four Olympic training centers across the country, which put me over a $15 million budget.
PINK: Why did you leave?
B.F.M.: There was a big scandal in Salt Lake City [prior to the 2002 Winter Olympics] where the committee had bribed some officials to get the Olympics held in their state. Though it had nothing to do with my facility, the USOC got some backlash. They hired a new CEO who came in and cut a lot of positions, many in my training center, making it very difficult to remain as successful as we were at that time. It wasn’t fun anymore. I was president of the Women’s Sports Foundation and was on their board. The executive director and I had been friends for years, so she gave my name to a headhunter trying to find someone to run WICT. I had no cable television experience, but I had management experience and knew I could do it.
PINK: What is the biggest career mistake you’ve ever made?
B.F.M.: When I was at USOC, fundraising was down, and the organization needed an overhaul, so this guy was brought in to fix it. He cut a third of my staff, so we couldn’t accommodate as many athletes. In my attempt to be candid, I started telling the truth about what was going on to the athletes and coaches. They got all up in arms. The CEO called me into my office and asked why I had told them that. It took that happening for me to really learn the politics and protocol involved. Though I didn’t need to tell them lies, I had to follow the party line.
PINK: How do you balance your professional life with your personal one?
B.F.M.: I set really strong boundaries. I work on the weekends less than five times a year so I can keep them for my family. I take vacations with them and schedule around their school calendars as far out as I can so I can make their piano recitals or whatever they’re doing. When we’re at home in the evening, I’m 100 percent theirs. And I try to get a workout in three to five times a week. Sometimes it’s at 6:30 in the morning, but I try to take care of myself – and really good care of them. As a family unit, we spend a lot of time together. If that were missing from my life, I’d be a pretty sad woman.
PINK: How do you define “success”?
B.F.M.: Success for me is balance. I mean having close friends, a wonderful family and a good job with great colleagues – and being motivated and excited about my work. I feel like I have all that. My parents always instilled in us to have good grades, extracurricular activities and a social life. In one year I graduated from college, won a gold medal and got married. All of those things were equally important goals for me. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice any one for the other.
PINK: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
B.F.M.: A couple years ago, I was on a panel at a conference. One woman advised, “Don’t ever take a job you’re qualified for.” That’s an ongoing theme in my life. I didn’t have any sports marketing background when I started doing that except signing personal endorsement contracts with Adidas. I didn’t have any management experience or experience in the industry. But you take what you do know and don’t shy away from opportunity because you’re not 100 percent there yet. Men don’t do that. Women shouldn’t either.
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