Leadership Series: The Other Path

06-18-2012 9:43 AM

Today’s post is from Michelle Norman. Michelle is Mary Kay’s Vice President of Human Resources. Michelle oversees the HR needs for many of Mary Kay’s international markets and Organization Effectiveness globally.

Michelle Norman, Mary Kay’s Vice President of Human Resources

When I was asked to write a post for this blog, at first I struggled with what topic could I write about?  What leadership topic am I really passionate about?  There are so many important elements to leadership that it seemed very difficult to pick one topic.  Then it hit me.  I am most passionate about leaders needing to take risk.  I don’t mean crazy, unplanned, uneducated risk.  I mean strategic, intelligent risks.  Even when we take those, we sometimes fail and that is ok.

Leaders must take risks. It is that simple.  If leaders don’t take risks, no one will take them.  Risk taking requires people to be brave and step out into unfamiliar territory.  It requires a person to be alright with change.  It requires a person to be alright with failure.  These things are not easy for anyone, but I would challenge you to think about what life would be like without some risk.  It seems pretty boring.

Life seemed pretty calm to me – not quite boring – in the summer of 2010. We were going through some changes in the United Kingdom and we needed someone to take on a short term role as the General Manager there.  After asking a few people to take on the opportunity who were unable to do it at that time, I found myself in the position of raising my hand. 

Within four weeks of raising that hand, I was moving my family (husband and two children) to a foreign country, leaving my home and dog in Dallas, and starting a brand new job that I had never done before.   From the beginning, I knew that I would only be there for 12 months.  I knew that I could do anything for 12 months, so that made it seem less daunting.

Was there risk?  Yes.

Was there challenge?  Yes.

Was there change? Yes.

Was there some failure?  Absolutely!

It was the most intense, stressful year of my adult life, but I learned more during that year about myself (personally and professionally), my husband (he can actually organize my children’s lives and keep it all going), my children (they are strong and resilient even when faced with adversity) and human nature. 

I also learned more about this great business and our amazing sales force than I ever imagined possible.  It was an incredible year of growth for me and my family.  For me, that is the most important thing.

I know I look at risk differently now.  If I had not taken a risk in July 2010, my life would not be as full today.  My life, professionally and personally, is much better now than it was before I left Dallas.

Life can be full of risks and challenges, but there are usually two paths. You can typically choose the calm, easy path or the more challenging, maybe risky path.  I’m not suggesting that you pick up your family and move to another country, but I am suggesting that you take a risk. You can start small. Find something every week that is challenging and could create a risk for you. Taking a risk says that you are a believer. It means that you believe in others. It means that you believe in the good of the world. And, most importantly, it means that you believe in yourself.