Courage — To be brave enough to be bold, to be first, to be told no, to do it anyway, to advocate for others, and admit when you are wrong and when change is needed.
How does a successful, strong, and powerful woman navigate work, employee relationships, love, and life in a world that still feels uncomfortable with strong women? In this interview series, called “Power Women” we are talking to accomplished women leaders who share their stories and experiences navigating work, love and life as a powerful woman.
As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Becca Powers.
Becca Powers is an award-winning hi-tech sales executive and motivational speaker. With over 20 years of experience, her career boasts Fortune 500 giants such as Dell and Cisco. From growing up with musician parents who flirted with addiction, to dropping out of college and becoming a single parent of two by the age of 28, Becca’s guts-and-grit journey to success reaches beyond business. As a motivational speaker, she empowers women to prioritize themselves for a more fulfilling, joyful life. Learn more at www.beccapowers.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I had a unique childhood. I was born to musician parents who played in a touring cover band back in Indianapolis, where I was born. My brother and I were raised amongst bongo’s, guitars, pianos, and live jam sessions. My parents were hippies. I always find it easiest to illustrate my childhood by siting the cliches from the 70’s: “peace, love, happiness” and sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll”. Although my parents might not have been on the extreme side of the sex and drugs, they flirted with addiction. Growing up in that environment taught me two things: First, the importance of creative self-expression and owning your natural-born talents. Second, that I have the inner strength to overcome adversity over and beyond what I think.
Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?
This part of my career path, becoming an author and an executive life coach, took root with me crying on the bathroom floor. Let me explain. I was working a regional sales manager for a Fortune 100 best companies to work for, when after 3 years, I hit my rock bottom. After 3 years of 12-hour days away from home, a toxic work environment, and me prioritizing my career above myself and motherhood my body began to respond to all the stress and anxiety I had been ignoring — or better said, aware of but powering through anyways. My body was fatigued, my thoughts were constantly scattered, and my most important relationships — as mother and wife -were disconnected. They were so because I was disconnected from myself. My bathroom floor moment — as I like to call it — was the last day that I allowed myself to be the victim of my circumstances.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Absolutely, this allows me to talk about my rise from the bathroom floor to CEO of my life. As I sat on my bathroom floor crying in exhaustion and praying in desperation for another way, a memory replayed through my mind. The words “you are the CEO of your life” spoken to me 3 years earlier by my former VP of sales at Dell when I resigned from my position as regional sales manager itched into my mind as if it were a neon sign. These words empowered me. They gave me a sense of self-confidence and self-worth that I had seemingly been missing. When I stood up from the bathroom floor, I was no longer the same woman that was sitting on the floor crying. I was an unstoppable force. There were three things I did to reclaim the helm of Becca Enterprises: I rose into my personal power, I reignited my passion, and I relished in the prosperity I deserved. This become the part framework to my book Harness Your Inner CEO where I now teach others to do the same. My transformation into the woman I am today is one of things I am most proud of.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
I call them, The 3 S’s to Leadership
- Solution-Oriented — It’s very easy to get caught up in the details when things go wrong. One of the things that makes me successful as a leader is that I want and ask for transparency with the business details. I want to be able to pivot and create winning solutions as fast as possible. My preference is to review the details of how and/or why the problem happened after we solve the problem so we can learn from it and possibly prevent it from happening again. I don’t lead with a fear-based — you did something wrong — mentality. I create an environment that is safe to communicate all things: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
- Situational Leadership — This model is taught by Ken Blanchard. I did get certified in this course. Although, I don’t practice his whole framework all the time, I do embrace the overall concept in my leadership style. Most of our encounters as leaders are just that, situational. The more I approach my teammates, my clients, and situations from that perspective I find that it’s much easier to be flexible, strategic, and open to change which is important business. The less rigid you are, the more your people and profits will grow.
- Stakeholder Mindset — It takes a team to be successful. Whether it’s someone on my team of on the client’s team — we are all stakeholders in the project and experience. The more I look at the joint business efforts as everyone who is engaged are stakeholders the more, we are ablet to move the business forward in a way that feels good to everyone. When it comes to my teammates, they believe I am invested in the future and I am. When your team believes that they are a priority, they produce the most wonderful results that they are proud of. A stakeholder mindset reminds me that everyone has role to play in results.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. The premise of this series assumes that our society still feels uncomfortable with strong women. Why do you think this is so?
The unknown factor. It’s instinct to fear the unknown. In our lifetime, for both men and women, we have lived in patriarchal times. This is not where I go into a feminist rant. More so, it’s to draw upon what is factual. We have lived in world dominated by male leaders and corporations led by male leaders. To a certain extent we — as in the global we — know what to expect — the good and the bad. Women and men lead quite different. While the elephant in the room may be the power struggle over male vs. female, I believe it’s fear that holds back women the most. To see the rise in strong powerful women, it’s just straight out terrifying for those that aren’t open to it. For many women who have lost their voices within their family, organization, and community these strong and powerful women blaze a trail of hope for a more compassionate and inclusive future that is safe for women to express their talent and to lead. Those opposed fear what this new world order would look like, how it might change their lives, and the power and influence they might lose. With the rise of women CEO’s and in executive leadership roles we are starting to see what that change might look like. As it yields more and more positive outcomes, we will see the organic growth of women in leadership roles that are confident to stand in their power.
Without saying any names, can you share a story from your own experience that illustrates this idea?
It was one of my most painful leadership experiences within the span of my 20-year career. It was in 2014, my director at the time who was male, asked me to be Becca Lite. As I stared back in confusion, I could tell that the request was serious. I felt myself go completely submissive. When I asked for clarification, I got asked to turn my efforts down by about 50%. Puzzled yet compliant, I agreed to try. This decision to” dim my light to be lite” as I like to say, shattered my self-confidence and self-worth. Weakening my strength, contributions, and courage to be the powerful leader I set out to be. As I mentioned above, I stayed in this toxic work environment for 3 years before I rose back into my power and reclaimed my career and my life.
As I have become open about sharing my story, I find more women in middle management stepping forward to claim they have been asked to tone it done, to just watch and listen, or some other submissive type of ask. They have internalized this request as if something is wrong with them. I want to make a message clear for any woman that is experiencing this in the workforce; someone is intimidated by your strength, power, and knowledge. There is nothing wrong with you other than your ability to tolerate the intolerable. Break up with this pattern and you will change your life.
The more women take a stand to prioritize their well-being, worth, and wellness — the more we will see women rise into leadership and stand in their strength and power regardless of their role.
What should a powerful woman do in a context where she feels that people are uneasy around her?
One of my favorite quotes about perception is from Dr. Wayne Dyer and goes like this “what other people think of me is none of my business.” That said, when a woman is standing in her power others will be uncomfortable. Let them remain uncomfortable. The more a woman stands the more her supporters will slowly rise to stand behind her, soon she will have an army.
There is another element to this. This power must me authentic, genuine, and full of integrity. If a woman feels others are questioning her, it’s time to check-in with herself with some questions:
- Am I being authentic, or do I have an agenda?
- Am I being genuine in nature or am I putting on a persona?
- Am I acting out of integrity or am I trying to gain something?
If you are coming from a place of hiding, gaining, or self-seeking regardless — of being man or woman — people will question you and become uneasy. It’s always good to check-in with yourself first.
What do we need to do as a society to change the unease around powerful women?
Keeping going and growing. Change takes time. Big change, as is having a society that it at ease around powerful women is going to a longer take time. This is not something that is going to change overnight, it’s going to change over time. It has taken decades to get where we are and make take decades more until society is ready for ease. In the meantime, every woman who stands in their power, everyone who takes on a leadership role, every woman who takes lead in a community is doing the work it will take to create the change. The key is to keep going and keep growing.
In my own experience, I have observed that often women have to endure ridiculous or uncomfortable situations to achieve success that men don’t have to endure. Do you have a story like this from your own experience? Can you share it with us?
I have been in sales for my entire career and have had to prove myself ten times more than some of my male peers. Here’s an example: I have had to be number 1 on my team repeatedly to gain the respect and the promotions I deserved. Whereas my male counterparts could hit number 1on the team once or twice and be considered a rockstar then immediately promoted. When I hit my first and second time as number one on the team, I was considered lucky. When I then interviewed for promotions, I was told I wasn’t ready and needed to show a little but more consistency. There was a clear difference on the efforts I needed to put forth. It wasn’t luck. I worked my butt off to become best of breed in my craft.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women leaders that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
I mentioned it a little bit above. It’s harder for women leaders to get the respect they deserve when it’s deserved. It often takes a few more cycles for women to achieve their promotions, pay increases and accolades than it does their male counterparts.
Let’s now shift our discussion to a slightly different direction. This is a question that nearly everyone with a job has to contend with. Was it difficult to fit your personal and family life into your business and career? For the benefit of our readers, can you articulate precisely what the struggle was?
This is a topic I am extremely passionate about it. Yes, this was one of my main struggles that I write about overcoming in the book I just wrote, Harness Your Inner CEO. It was so for 2 reasons. The first, I found that work fulfilled the approval and validation I felt I needed. Therefore, I had a “do whatever it takes” attitude that often put my career above everything. The second, is passion. I am a highly passionate person and I express a lot of who I am through my work which is one my best traits, but I can over do it and burn out especially when I feel that all my hard work is making a positive impact in the world. I feel that tug-of-war ended between the two when I was able to lean into what I call “The Power of AND.” When I finally understood that I was a “business badass” and a “great mom” that I didn’t have choose between the two, I found myself having more freedom and flexibility to do both well. Nothing needed to be sacrificed for the other.
What was a tipping point that helped you achieve a greater balance or greater equilibrium between your work life and personal life? What did you do to reach this equilibrium?
The tipping point for me came in the form of clarity shortly after my “bathroom floor moment.” I realized that I kept putting on metaphysical hats and dividing myself up into sections. Example: mom hat, work hat, wife hat, friend hat, sister hat and so forth. The more hats I thought about the more stressed I became. I was only one person and can only wear one hat at a time — and there are so many hats! When I changed my metaphor to a diamond vs. hats it allowed me to be a multi-faceted women — as one diamond with many facets. I realized that each facet made more whole and more beautiful. The more I cleaned and polished each facet, the more I shined. The more I shined, the more I attracted people, situations, and jobs that matched my multi-facet energy and accepted me as a badass businesswoman, a mom, an author, a coach, etc. We need to be OK with who we are for others to be OK with who we are.
I work in the beauty tech industry, so I am very interested to hear your philosophy or perspective about beauty. In your role as a powerful woman and leader, how much of an emphasis do you place on your appearance? Do you see beauty as something that is superficial, or is it something that has inherent value for a leader in a public context? Can you explain what you mean?
Beauty plays a part in it because it’s important to society. Beauty does not equal vanity though. There is a difference. Beauty emerges from inside out and radiates through a woman’s being. A woman who loves herself for example may not prefer to wear make up but still dresses herself as if she loves and cares for herself. She will maintain her appearance out of self-love and self-honor. I choose to wear makeup and style my hair because I enjoy it. I have met plenty of powerful women who choose not to wear makeup, but they still present themselves with power and grace because their beauty is coming from within. Vanity on the other hand comes from a much shallower place and also shines through transparently and puts out an off-putting energy. I do believe that beauty is an inherit value in a women leader when it comes from a place of her worthiness and thus she becomes a role model for other women when she is not overtaken by vanity.
How is this similar or different for men?
I do believe our male leaders have any easier time developing devout followers when they stand in their confidence than women do. Males are much more connected to their ego which is not a bad thing unless the ego take over. I say this because they are much more at ease when it comes to accepting their gifts and talents. When a man is genuinely leading with compassion and conviction their beauty shines through — it feels safe to follow. Some of my best mentors have been men. I think men get labelled egotistical and not all are — which leaves them with their stereotype. Nonetheless, I don’t believe they have to deal with the societal pressure of outward beauty the same way women do.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Powerful Woman?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Courage — To be brave enough to be bold, to be first, to be told no, to do it anyway, to advocate for others, and admit when you are wrong and when change is needed
- Confidence — To belief in yourself unwaveringly and unapologetically
- Capacity — To have the space to take on big tasks, have other people rely on you, and for you to rely on yourself without sacrificing yourself in the process.
- Community — To create a community that stands behind you through thick and thin — there is no way this gets done alone.
- Clarity — To have vision and focus on where you are going and what needs to be accomplished to get there so that others can follow your lead
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
The first person that comes to mind is Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank. I love her energy and I find her hysterical. She is a breath of fresh air with some of her viewpoints on woman and success. I feel like she’s “real” and doesn’t try to package things up in a way that feels fake. Add in her personal story of taking herself from nearly nothing to a real-estate queen and now investor in multiple businesses — I just think she’s incredible. To laugh over lunch while she pours her years of wisdom over me with her words would be amazing. It would be an awesome experience to drink that all in — pun intended!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.