Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?
Hillary: I am an introvert. This can sometimes be mistaken for being unapproachable. Whenever I begin working with a new group of people, I let them know this up front. I tell them that I have an open door and that I want everyone to feel they can speak freely with me.
Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Hillary: I got here by learning to pick myself up and brush myself off and by paying attention to the lessons along the way. I also made a point to say yes to a variety of experiences-different geographies, target customers, scales – to cross-train and learn. I have always been results-oriented and a business driver. Early in my career, I thought that competence and talent were all that mattered. I have learned that those things are the price of entry. The real magic is in connection with others. More recently I worked for someone who did not share my core values. I found myself in a crisis of conscience- how did I misread this person, how do I effectively push back, how do I preserve my own ethics and succeed in the role? I learned the importance of thoroughly vetting all opportunities and leaders and that you have to be willing to stand up for what you believe in, no matter what the cost.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Vulnerability- being willing to let others see and know you as you are, flaws and all.
Self-awareness – Understand your impact on others and adjust as necessary. This is something I continuously work on- and sometimes I fail! It’s important to be able to meet people where they are for a connection. Also, it is important to be clear about your own strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with people who complement you.
Honesty- The one thing we all have no matter what is our integrity. Tell the truth, even if it doesn’t serve your immediate interests. It will always serve you in the end.
Work ethic- be willing to do the work-whatever it is. I worked for a start-up for a couple of years where I did everything from unpack boxes to fundraising and everything in between. I learned that you just have to get it done and that there are situations when you have to roll up your sleeves and make things happen. It takes determination, grit and humility.
In my experience you take your skills to the next level by just doing it. As an introvert, I do not enjoy public speaking. I had to break through my fear and I found that by just putting one foot in front of the other and just doing what I feared helped me break through my own insecurities.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
Hillary: By far and away, I think the most important thing for leaders, particularly entrepreneurs, is to neutralize your blind spots. I have watched several entrepreneurs with spectacular business plans fail because they felt they were invincible and all-knowing. They didn’t ask for help when they needed it, they couldn’t see the thing everyone else saw, and they waited too long to correct. Know yourself, and rely on others to balance you, fill the void, and keep you honest. Everyone needs someone who will tell them when they are wrong.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Hillary: Two things come to mind: an HR executive once said to me “sometimes you just have to let gravity happen” and I have found that to be very true in life and something that I think about a lot when things don’t happen on my timeline. What is meant for you will present itself in due time. Recently a mentor advised me to “speak from the heart” – she couldn’t have been more right.
Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?
Hillary: Active mentorship. Everyone needs someone to take an interest in them, make the call, be a thought partner, be an advocate. We are all busy and it is easy to forget. Make it a priority.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Hillary: Reading opened up the world for me from a very young age. I had a very distinct awareness that I was a different kind of kid. The public library was a refuge for me: it made me realize that there was a big beautiful world outside of Arcadia, California and taught me to question things and stay open to possibility.
As an adult I love to bake. It is a creative outlet for me as well as an opportunity to give joy to others. I find it incredibly satisfying.
Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Hillary: I have learned to let things go. Holding grudges has negative impact on your well-being.