Step into Success… Here Are The Highlights

A panel of America’s top business leaders weighed in on what it takes to #StepIntoSuccess at the recent 14th Annual Fall Empowerment Event.

Molly Fletcher, dubbed the female Jerry Maguire, moderated the panel of leaders and had some wisdom to share as well! “When you ask for the business you get advice, when you ask for advice you get the business.”

Fletcher queried the top business leaders on the panel; Catherine Jefferson, Chief People Officer, The Krystal Company; Bea Perez, Senior Vice President and Chief Communications, Public Affairs, Sustainability and Marketing Assets Officer, The Coca Cola Company; Sujata Gosalia, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, Cox Communications; Barri Rafferty, President and Chief Executive Officer, Ketchum; and Larry Quinlan, Chief Information Officer, Deloitte.

The panelists agree, stepping into success requires intentional action. It’s not falling into success. It’s making a conscious decision to step into it. Gosalia says you must have, “the confidence to ask for what you want. Ask yourself, “What would Bob do?” She admits this can be scary. She says, “feel the fear and the discomfort which means it’s a growth opportunity, do it anyway.” Quinlan emphasized the importance of confidence too, “Understand how [others] react. You have to have the confidence to be yourself. Some are going to appreciate you. Others will not.”

All the panelists concede that success is virtually impossible without risk. Jefferson says, “ask for what you want,” but make sure you, “back it up – deliver.” Both Perez and Jefferson say they took lateral positions and even at times a demotion before moving into their top jobs. They both say the lower positions gave them the opportunity to learn skills needed for optimal performance.

The leaders credit their failures as ultimate contributors to their success. Perez spoke candidly about launching Coke Zero, spending millions of dollars on a campaign and, “no one knew what it was.” She recalls breaking from her usually strict bedtime and staying up worried she would be fired. When, then CEO Muhtar Kent called her in, she was shocked to learn that he was promoting her. From this, Perez learned, “mistakes are not always fatal.” She says we shouldn’t fear them. There’s no shame in being wrong. “It’s better to be trusted than to be right,” adds Rafferty, if you know you made a poor decision, just own up to it.

The panelists emphasized the importance of finding trusted mentors who believe in you. Rafferty says, “a mentor talks to you, but a sponsor talks about you… seek out both.” She also says, “Feedback is a gift. [Don’t get] defensive. That’s what will help you get to the next level.” Larry Quinlan says, “it’s all about people.” People build connections. People drive industries. People make decisions.

All the panelists have made some sacrifices to hold these top jobs. Quinlan recalls getting a speeding ticket on his way to his daughter’s recital. He missed the entire performance. When she asked how she did, he said, “fantastic!” Jefferson has an agreement with her daughter who is an athlete. She only attends home games.

Each panelist says she has a community that buoys her up in times of celebration and challenge. Jefferson says her community recharges her. “Having that core of friends,” gives her the chance to feed off others. Corporate careers require so much energy that these leaders say it’s essential to recharge regularly. Gosalia says, “I have to find my alone time. You have to protect what does that for you, to make this kind of life sustainable.” Perez says what helps her most is simply, “Sleep. I go to bed and get up and walk/exercise the same time every day.” For Rafferty, “I need air. To walk, yoga. Make time for friends and family.” And finally, she encourages professional women to take the time they need for themselves, “I’ve never left a vacation day on the table. Ever. My advice to you is to take every one [of those days]. Go plan a vacation.”

Special thanks to PINK’s sponsors: Atlanta Area BMW Centers, Cox Enterprises,

The Coca-Cola Company and SunTrust. We could not share this wisdom without you. Also, thanks to our supporting sponsors Deloitte, Southern Company, Southwest Airlines, Beaty Facial Plastic Surgery, Rigby & Peller and Ketchum.

Special thanks to Erik Hendrick of Lotus Salon for helping our panelists look so polished, to Martha Jo Katz, Annette Tirabasso, our photographer Larry Krupa, Stephanie Smith from The Home Depot, Susan Stottlemeyer, Lenora Kopkin, Alicia Michels, Mavi Arocha-Rowe, Jessica Wise, Victoria Washington, Karen Varela, Jenn Bins and her team at Ketchum, Vanessa Lowry our designer, DJ Getit for his photography onsite and Gina Christman at Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles.

Special thanks to those who provided vendor booths; BMW, Rigby & Peller, Beaty Facial Plastic Surgery, Patti Thomas and W by Worth, Nectar smoothies and Jewels with a Purpose. And, to those who provided wonderful raffle items, which included BMW’s Extended Test, Lotus Color and Cut, plus a stay at Canyon Ranch… all valued at approximately $10,000!

As a courtesy, our moderator Molly Fletcher, is offering PINK event attendees a discount to her upcoming Negotiation Workshop in Atlanta on November 28. Details at Enter the code PINK for your discount – it expires in seven days.

By Victoria Washington

“Between saying and doing, many a pair of shoes is worn out.” Iris Murdoch



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