Athena In Action October 4, 2018

Participation is Required, Own Your Journey

By Danna Lewis Former Chief Operating Officer

I stumbled upon this quote recently while looking at my intense schedule and wondering how to fit ‘it’ all in. You cannot fail without your consent. You cannot succeed without your consent.

I’ve been reflecting on this quote as it pertains to my personal and professional life, and how the two integrate and intertwine. I’m (still relatively) new to Athena Alliance and I’m swimming in the daily intensity and demands of a startup COO. That means seemingly endless meetings, events and networking, projects, an inbox that multiplies by the minute–and of course my personal obligations. Sometimes it all flows and sometimes these elements collide to resemble more of a rollercoaster ride than a smooth-flowing schedule of activities and events folding into each other.

Happening in parallel: my own executive development journey. As a leading member of the Athena team, I’m grateful to have the incredible opportunity to become more board savvy, increase and improve my leadership presence, and work towards my own journey to the boardroom—with Athena Alliance backing me every step of the way. Not only am I deeply enthusiastic about the possibilities this holds, but it’s been a process I’ve enjoyed. So far.

That is, until I realized it had been at least two months since I looked at my board bio.

That is, until I realized I had missed that meeting with a journey advisor.

That is, until I didn’t take the time to send our writer edits on my resume.

Sometimes I forget: I’m in charge.

I know better. After 25+ years in the business world, along with the importance of integrating a healthy work-life space, success doesn’t happen by accident. You have to set yourself up for it. Just like board seats don’t happen by accident, you have to set yourself up to be ready in advance of the opportunity.  Whether it’s the last mile to the boardroom or the journey to higher ranks of advancement, it takes directed effort.

I realized that I was putting it off. Weekly. In the competition of everyday priorities, my board “homework” lost the fight, every time. There was always a tomorrow. Always a proclamation of “I’ll get to it later.”

Then, I realized the crazy in my procrastination. There I was, with a huge gift in front of me in the form of the Athena Alliance executive development program—and I wasn’t holding up my part of the deal. Guilty as charged. As an Athena member, your journey is a shared responsibility. On Athena’s end of it, there’s an ocean of resources at members’ disposal from your Personal Chief of Staff to the resource library to the expert executive coaches all there in my corner, ready to guide, coach, and connect me.

And on my end, I had homework to do. Each part of the journey requires personal input. That meant allowing time to think about my career wins. Quantifying them. Reflecting on where I’ve been and where I stand today. It also meant being willing to let go of some things that, even though they were accomplishments, didn’t necessarily feed or support where I would like the journey to take me.

Athena Alliance brings extraordinary women together. Many join through individual membership. And, often, it’s because their employer is sponsoring their membership. In those cases, that means the employer is investing heavily in its female executive leaders. They want to see these remarkable women hit the next level of their career. They’re not just checking a box, they’re championing the success of their female leaders.

When I was the Brand & Marketing Director for Bar Method, it wasn’t just a perk that I could attend the company’s top-rated exercise classes during the day, it was part of my job and part of creating a successful company for me to participate in every way. I realized the same is in play here, participating in the executive development coaching not only contributes to my personal success journey, it also contributes to me creating successful services for Athena members.

I can see the same holding true for any of our members. Participating in Athena’s executive development program will absolutely contribute to you at a very personal level but it will also contribute directly to your company and all of the stakeholders of your company. You leading at your highest levels of impact is a win for you and every stakeholder in your company and the company of which you land a board role.

How I’m making it happen.

I’ve done some shuffling on my end, and I’m sharing it here in hopes it inspires other members to act. Beyond making the commitment to myself (it’s the start), the most powerful thing I’ve found is letting others you work with know that this is a priority.

I’ve also let my administrative team know. I lean on them to help carve out time in my day to make this a reality; to guard my inbox and my calendar so that I can make it happen. They know, now, that when I have a meeting on the calendar to meet with a coach, discuss a challenge, or do my ‘homework’—well, it’s a priority. I’ve found it powerful to let others in my life know about my goals and to help them keep me accountable. Is there another Athena member that could perhaps be your accountability buddy? Athena’s Personal Chiefs of Staff may also offer an opportunity for you to have a chain of accountability.

We’re an organization of extraordinary women. We comprise some of the top leaders in our industries. We have so much to offer and so much experience to share with each other, with our companies, with the boards of today, and with future board opportunities—but we’re not superwomen (though, we’re awfully close!)

I encourage you to let influencers in your life know what targets are on your horizon and the importance of this journey to you. And let them know that you’d like their support in making it happen. I suspect that you’ll find momentum in that support system.

Now, that’s something worth working towards.