Saturday, June 11, 2011

Winning Your Way: Julie Coffman on Business Leadership

Julie Coffman, Partner and Chair of the Global Women's Leadership Council at Bain & Company, and a Stanford MBA, wowed the crowd this afternoon. Julie has fantastic energy and a rich and informed perspective on business leadership. She's part of a senior leadership at Bain focusing on how to bring more women into the leadership ranks. Julie, who is articulate about the business case for gender diversity, says her work inside the firm also helps her connect with clients, many of whom are pursuing the same goal.

Julie chose as the theme of her talk today "Thoughts on becoming the most effective and accomplished leader you can be." Here are some of her top tips:

1. Define winning your way. "At a certain point, I realized that I was self-imposing how other partners, who may or may not have been similar to me, defined success. I had to get comfortable with what makes me happy."

2. Grow where you're planted. "If you spend too much time worrying about the future, you're not going to maximize the opportunity right in front of you."

3. Follow your passion. "You have to be in a profession that gives you energy." Julie observed that knowing if you're analytical, introverted, outgoing, etc. helps you play to your strengths and "have that job where you just can't wait for the next day." "If you're in a job that reflects someone else's definition of winning, that's going to be exhausting longer term."

Julie touched on Bain's strategy for achieving outstanding results for clients by attracting and retaining the best talent. That strategy includes: strategic recruiting and talent management; recognition of "multiple paths to partner"; sponsorship and coaching, and "creating training and dialogue to align culture with our aspirations."

Julie's been on a six-month sabbatical until recently, one of the benefits of having served at Bain for more than twenty years. She spent part of her sabbatical traveling with her husband and three kids. Julie calls her role as a mom "The most important thing I ever did." The portrait she presents of a successful woman business leader staying true to herself, achieving career success, and cultivating the future of business leadership invigorated our crowd of MBA women. Watch this space for a forthcoming video interview with Julie.

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