With a career that’s spanned 30+ years and taken her around the globe, to say that Carol Borghesi has learned a lesson or two along the way, about both work and life, is an understatement.
Navigating changing standards, shifting expectations and different cultures, Carol did the only things she knew how to do: challenged convention, took on change without fear, and made it work. In doing so she found great professional success and, unexpectedly, found her way home to herself.
We can’t wait to welcome Carol to the stage as our second guest speaker of the 2018/2019 Women of Whistler season for her presentation on The Personal is Professional.
To give you a taste of what’s to come, we chatted with Carol to get some insight into her experience, and what to expect from of her talk on Tuesday, November 27.
In your bio it says that you’ve moved through moments of “getting it right and getting it spectacularly wrong.” Which do you think have been more powerful?
That’s a toss up. I was and continue to be motivated by positive outcomes. Yet I wasn’t always as open to learning as I was in my younger years. It was later in my career when I had to learn the hard way, thanks to the curse of knowledge. The curse of knowledge is the limiting assumption that you’re usually right when you’re a so-called expert - even if its only in your mind. I made mistakes - some willfully as I thought being right was more important than having people with me. Being knocked back really taught me the most vital lessons in humility and leadership, but it took me longer than I would like to admit to change my approach.
Did you have a lightbulb moment in your career where you realized you could be yourself AND successful? Or did this come over time?
I did! When I worked for BC Tel Mobility in the late 80s, I attended a fundraising event which featured a speech by one of the sponsoring companies. He was the first funny, irreverent and extremely good business event speaker I’d seen. I was hooked from then on in: why not be myself instead of a version of professional that struck me as woefully out-of-date. I used my sense of humour and irreverence for hierarchy and bureaucracy to call out the need for innovation and fresh thinking. This came after exposure to the changing leadership theory of that decade. The old command and control model was beginning to fall out of favour. So timing was on my side. In any event, feedback was that I was down to earth. That translated to being approachable, even as I was promoted to increasingly more senior jobs. In turn, I benefited from access to employee feedback. And that made all the difference in our success.
Do you still have moments where you struggle to find balance between personal and professional?
Yes. It's progress not perfection - a mindset that took me many years to embrace. I think we are under pressure to be successful in the very narrow sense of the word: financially. We are convinced we need more and better so we work more and harder. I am seduced by it myself because that’s what I did. Very driven, very focused and very tightly wound. And I lapse into that persona every now and again. When it does, my ego takes over and I'm less connected to others.
It is insidious: individualism means we are all leaders when that’s just not the case. Everyone is a follower in some area or another in their lives. Yet we don’t honour that role in popular culture, let alone business literature. Collectivism, social connectivity, and concern and care for community is as much a part of a successful life as our own personal growth.
What do you think men can learn from your talk?
The same messages as women. I have masculine characteristics which I value as much as my feminine characteristics. I believe everyone does to some degree - human characteristics are a continuum not separate categories. I know this from working with men and women. I know what expectations and the pressure to fit in can do to people’s behaviour at work. No one is immune to going along to get along. Be aware of why you have the views you have and make room for others ways and means; redraw competition as a collective effort and be human. That is to say fallible; vulnerable and available to others.
Why do you think this is an important topic for business women and men in Whistler to hear?
I am concerned for people that are working extremely hard under challenging circumstances. We can lose ourselves in the race to succeed. Becoming someone else is a real and present danger. I think having this discussion about the value of being authentic reminds us to really live.
Make sure you grab your tickets before they sell out! Register here.