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Shan Cooper - Leadership Journey 5/5

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I'm curious how you got the position over all the guys. What was it that you said or what confidence did you portray that got you the job, but not one of those guys? Okay, let me back up a little bit to tell you a couple of things that happened. So when I was in the HR role at corporate, I actually... Actually I was the Chief Diversity Officer for Lockheed Martin, first one they ever had and I reported to Bob Stevens. You remember, we talk about Bob earlier. Bob, when I first started working for him, was the COO. When I went to Bob to say, "Bob, I'm ready to go to a new job as I have no more to give in this diversity role." He was the CEO. So sponsors matter, right? And so where Bob... Now Bob was tough. He's among one of the toughest people I've ever worked for because he was analytical, he was sharp on his feet. I mean, he just got it, right? You'd be talking about A, B, and C, he's already, you know, X, Y, and Z, right? And so it taught me a different way of kind of thinking, right, and how to think about business or what have you. And so when I worked for him, we developed a personal relationship, that's important, remember, but he became my sponsor, but the day I went in to him to say, "I can't give you anything else in this job." I mean a new job. He was not happy with me. And so what he said to me was, "What do you think? What do you want to do?" And I said, "I want that corner. How do I get to that corner office?" And I was pointed at Chief Human Resources Officers Office. And he said to me, "I would never put you in that job." And I was like, "What?" No, seriously, I was pretty... We don't cry in the workplace, ladies You know that. But I was pretty teed off for like something, you know, I work myself to death, you know, Lockheed is on every list now, we've got representation everywhere. I mean, we have four divisions at that time, three of the four division lead by women, unheard of in our industry. I mean, we had really, really worked this hard, right? And so I had to ask why. And I always wants to ask for feedback. Tell me why you would put in the job? He said, "Well, I would say two things, Shan, one, you've never negotiated a contract and you can't sit in that office having not done that because we have so many unions in this company, two, I don't know what you know about executive compensation because in that role, you report to the board. And I even know you're strong in that area. And so I said to him. I said, "Well, I think you should at least give me an opportunity to do this." He said back. He said, "Okay, I'll think about it. So I'm sitting here, thinking, wait a minute, I just moved from Atlanta a few years ago. You know, so I've got all these things running in my head, right? So then like two weeks later I got a call from the Head of HR and say, "Shan, you're going to Marietta, Georgia." I think, "Why am I going to Marietta?" He said, "Because you're going to be the HR lead there in Marietta and you're going to negotiate the contract that's coming up next year. So I said, "Okay, fine." He said, "Oh, one more thing. Bob wants you to get strong in the executive compensation area." He sits on the board of X, Y, Z company, that CEO has agreed to allow their HR person to coach and mentor and teach you executive comp, so once a month you'll be flying out to X, Y, Z to meet with this person. Real investment, right? But I had to first who've performed, right, for Bob to be willing to do that because he put his own personal reputation on the line for me. So next thing I got to get to this negotiation. So I get down the Marietta, and awesome team. Awesome team, now I changed the union manager relationship while I was there, but I can't take any credit for it. The team really did the hard heavy lifting. I just work the relationship, the union president and it's been changed since then. And so from that, the GM who was there at the time, diagnosed with cancer. He doesn't mind me telling this. Diagnosed with cancer. The board and Bob decided, "Well, while he's out for cancer, Shan, you're going to run the facility." Okay, cool. Fine. Nobody felt threatened at that point, right? Because I know it was temporarily, I knew Lee was coming back and so then the guys felt threatened at that point so they were helpful. They're all, "Oh, Shan, let me show you this, let me show you that." So I've a little bit of chance to kind of learn a little bit about the job when Lee was out. And so when Lee came back, he said, "Look, I'm not going to take that from. You keep that and you keep that. You know, you still have HR, but keep these things." So we had three plans. Keep this right here. So I learned a job that way. And I was a nervous wreck the whole time I'll tell you. And when Lee got ready to retire and that's when I got the call. They say, "Hey, Shan, we want you to compete for the job." So I'd been there in HR, different function, negotiate a contract, did all these things that they wanted me to do, then I got promoted to a bigger VP HR role, still not the operations role yet. And so I went back to Maryland, but that was the connecting point that got me back to be the GM role, right? But again, initially my life was threatening because I'm just HR, right? Nobody's threatened, but I took that time to really learn as much as I could. So going in, I'm nervous, I didn't sleep at night before at all because it's the big job, right? You're in Washington, you're in front of a Congress members all of a sudden, it was a big job, but I was determined though to learn it. And until I learned it, I faked it. You fake it until you make it, right? And so I go into meetings, the only one, I've got to meet with my generals, I've got to meet with whatever blah, blah, blah, I got to meet with the congressional leaders, whatever, and I do my homework before I went and I was prepared for every meeting, probably more prepared than anybody but I took it on and just showed as much courage and confidence as I could in the moment. Great question. Thank you. Sorry about the long answer, but you need to have the connecting points. Did I answer your question? Good. Thank you. Anybody else? Yes, ma'am. Please stand. So you make this sound... Okay. Okay, so you make this sound really easy for like a young single girl. Mm-hm. But where do the husband and daughter fit in with all the moves and promotions? Yes. So my husband is just an angel. Before we got married... Now listen to me, young ladies, who aren't married yet, right? Before we got married, we sat down with a marriage counselor and decided whose career was going to lead. My husband is an attorney, a very successful attorney. He's 11 years old than I am. So we decided my career with Lee. And so what that meant was when I called home and said, "Honey, I've just gotten a promotion, we're going to X, Y, Z." There was no discussion, there was no question. It was okay, we're going. But we talked about that before we got married. My daughter is actually my stepdaughter. I just don't call my daughter because I pay for her, right? She went to law school, all these days, right? And she's not a practicing lawyer. They started paying for this woman. But she's been in my life. My husband and I were friends long before we got... Sorry, dated. she's been in my life at Middle School, right? And so as friends, what have you. And so what I have done over the years because people ask me this all the time. And by the way, I do my own laundry, okay. People ask me a question. One lady asked me. I'm like, "Why is she asking that? Would you do your own laundry? Would you do your own laundry? I do my own laundry. So anyway, so this is the deal. So I was in the Lockheed Martin even now, I travel a lot, right? And particularly, Lockheed Martin job, I had Lockheed Martin, Georgia. So that meant anywhere in Georgia. I needed to kind of be there and whatever. So this is our arrangement. So we look at the quarterly calendar, he look at all the events that I had coming up and said, "What do you want to attend?" And he probably picked like one. I need not have to say, "Well, honey, here's what I need you to be." Right? And he'd come along. Get the tuxedo and whatever. And so we made those nice date nights. And I can tell you, in Atlanta you can be out every night of the week if you allow those people who take up your life. I choose not to do that. But there were kids and it had to be in. We make a date night for us. The other thing is I would tell my team, I don't work on Saturdays. And that wasn't always completely true because typically I have a 6:30 AM hair appointment, which I need to be there right now, and that's when I'm on the dryer, I'm getting emails, caught up. I'm going to... And I'm saying, "Do not respond back to me, right?" Don't feel... Because I don't want you to read and be with your families, don't bother me. I need to just clean up my inbox. Even my boss knew, I don't work. Shan doesn't work on Saturdays, right? If there is an emergency, you have to call my personal cell phone. Everybody has my personal cell phone number. I just give it out because I'm not walking around with my work phone with me on the weekend. I'm just not going to do it. And I never have. And it's because I want to separate, you know, my life and my work. You have to do. You need to do that for your own mental health, ladies. Earlier when I was younger, I thought I could be superwoman and be all things to all people at all times. No. No. That's not real, right? And so I compartmentalize my life. And so on Saturdays, I don't work. Sundays, everybody knows that Sunday night here's around 7 O'clock, Sunday mornings church. Sunday about 7 O'clock I'm usually online. And people know only Shan get her attention on the Sunday night, I emailed her. And you had to put though. Action, you know, review required or whatever it was I'm going to skim, right? And even when I go on vacation, I don't get the vacation like everybody else. But I'll tell my team, "Look, I'm going to give you one hour a day, you know, usually you see the early in the morning where I am in the world." You know, early in the morning I'll be in the afternoons, right? I mean, one hour, and if you need we look at something you've got a mark it, because if you don't mark it, I'm not looking at it until I get back. I'm just scanning. It needs to be in big letters. Urgent Action Required or something like. So I know to read that email and give you response. And so I think it's important. Everybody's, you know, boundaries will be different. And so you have to define that and so I'm going to put my life right now where I'm like, okay, you know, the granddaughter is really important to me so I'm not doing any work on the weekends right now. So maybe one day, I will. But that's why the team is so important. Having a good team around you that really makes things happen is really, really important. But it is so important that you have boundaries around your life, and I don't care if it's taken a spa day with the girls are doing something, but have time for you. Have time for you. And I probably learned a little bit of that early on in my career because I had a breast cancer scare and so I learned. You know what, life is too short. Life is too short. And what's meant for me is going to be for me, right? I don't have to kill you by to get there, I don't have to lie to get there, you know, it's going to be for me, and I'll have it. And so start now, compartmentalize your life, what's important, making those in there important stay at the forefront. It's easy to work 24/7. It's easy because the work never goes away. When I'm out right now, nobody's doing my emails, nobody's taking my meetings, right? It's all there waiting for me. And I just decide I can't get it all the day, all during in a day, and I will do what I can, but having that personal self-time is so important. And so what I do, I tell my team too, "Don't call me while you're on vacation." I don't email my team as when they're on vacation. And I tell them, I say, "Don't call me, don't bother me. Go on vacation with your friends or your family because if you don't do that, you put me in jeopardy because that means that nobody in the office is learning to do what you do and I'm going to depend on you. And if you win the lottery, I'm stuck. And I don't want to be stuck, right? So compartment... So that's how we do it. We talk about the laws of family, now I'll tell you from other my parents, from other family members. I do all I can to be with them. I missed my niece's graduation from nursing, I had to miss that from nursing school, and I said to her. I said, "Look, I'm going to miss this, sweetie, but I tell you what, you plan what you want from aunty. And he wanted to trip the two of us, we're going to trip whatever, we're going to do that, right? But when I'm with them, I'm in the moment too. I'm not at the dinner table with my phones and... No, I'm not that important. So I am in the moment and that way I don't feel any guilt, right? But I have to be, but I don't feel guilt because when I'm with you, I am all with you. You are the center of my universe in that time, but you'll figure that out too when you become the CEO of Southwest. Remember that? Yay! Another question. Yes, ma'am. Please, stand up. Let us see you. Okay, now I'm trying to kill the vibe or anything, but what was your biggest failure and how did you overcome it? Yeah, so I haven't always gotten every job that I've wanted, right? And so you always find that in your career it's not going to be perfect, right? So when I was in the HR role, I really thought I was going to be other the queen of HR would have you, right? And I thought I did everything right to get me there, clearly didn't, right? But there was something better, right? And so in an operations role, you have accountability for really big decisions. I mean, in Lockheed Martin and they were decisions that had lots of zeros behind them, right? And so I tell people, you want to always have all the information that you need to make a decision. I've used the Colin Powell rule. If I've got 70%, I'm going, right? So I made a decision once and was not aligned with where the company wanted me to go, right? But it was good. I felt, I believe for the customer, right? And so in Lockheed Martin, even in WestRock today we're very focused on the customer, right? And so it was not a good decision on the surface. And you take the blows as they come, right? Got a lot of feedback, took the learning and just move on, right? You're going to make mistakes. None of us are perfect. We're human. And so probably would not have wanted to make so many zeros on it, but I did, but I could justify. Here's why I did it, here's what I was thinking when I made the call in to do this, whatever, probably should've done this over here. I got it, right? Took the feedback, took my... And it was a brutal beating, let me tell you, you know, but you take that. And you take without the tears, right? Right? Yes, you did this. Yes. We don't cry in the workplace. Yes, yes. And I tell them, we don't cry in the workplace because men don't know what do with us when we cry, right? They don't know what to do with us. So we don't cry in the workplace. But no, that's going to happen. And it'll be okay. It'll work itself out. Oh, I can't. I'm sorry, I can't hear you. I'm sorry. So there's obviously a stigma in corporate with women, some are too soft, some are too hard, so how do you walk that line of not being too tough but not being too weak at the same time? That's a great question. I actually asked my team that. But anyway, you know, I think my style is probably unique and different, and that I really believe in. I wouldn't put my team to do the job that I wouldn't do myself. So when I talk, and I do, and I work what kind of different way. I like being connected to people, right? Now I've work for people who just want to be in their office and not interact, not engage, and that's okay. That's a style, right? My style is very, very different. And so my friend, my team will tell you I never raised my voice when things go wrong. I focus on the problem initially. And oftentimes, you can ask. People feel so bad when they screw up. You know what I'm saying, when they mess up that you even didn't have to beat them up. Now look people also tell you, my team will also tell you though... They tease me, "Shan, we know you're mad, through you're always smiling, but we know you're mad." I said, "How do you know I'm mad?" They said because you always say to us and how did we get here. You know, how did we get there. So they figured me out pretty quickly, but I just believe that, you know, beating up and screaming at people you don't get any more out of than just sitting there and having a conversation. And so I talked to my people a lot. When I work in Lockheed Martin, I was on the floor. I actually putting my calendars four hours, four hours a week that I would be on the floor, walking somewhere in the plant because people need to see you too in your leadership role. My union relationship for the first time in the history of Lockheed Martin, nobody ever thought. Hey, I'm going to go after the union hall. I'm going to go, meet with the union president there, right? Change the whole dynamic of the relationship. And so I try to treat people like people. Now can I make the tough decision? Absolutely. But I don't have to be ugly to do that. I don't have to be out of character to do that. And so even when I got my... Started leading the operations there, you know, I dressed like this when I go to work every day. And I'm like, okay, I'm going to fight lines, so probably depends on pants. So I have to go buy some pants. And I like my dresses, buy some pants, what have you... But on the flight line... Okay, I'm in the flight line, I'm going to need a brush, I'm going to need some lipstick, you know, so it changed the whole dynamic of, you know, how they work, right, having a woman in place, you know. Even when our customers come in. My customers are from all over the world, our allies from all over the world, right? So people, you know, generals and military leaders and world leaders coming in from places like Saudi would have you. I was very mindful of the cultural norms in that regard, but they were going to deal with me, the woman. I was not going to show up and do my job. They were always... Everybody was always gracious when they came in country, they probably hated it, but I knew I had a protocol officer who would teach me to dos and don'ts, what colors I could wear and if I could've extend my hand first or not, and so you just learn those things that, you know, as you go along. But I don't change who I am to leave. And I'm a very personable person. I like people for people, probably a lot of my upbringing, right? But I find that most women... Are really good in leadership roles without having to change and adjust. I've run into a few, I will tell you that I wouldn't work with, or work for ever. Because they feel the need to change to become more manly, you know. And that's never going to be me. I can be just as strong, probably stronger than any man with a skirt on. Toe to toe. And never get, you know, get crazy, and so I never raise my voice to work. I don't use profanity. As a matter fact, the guy's actually, you know, would say, "Oh, excuse me, Shan. I'm sorry. Did I say? I'm so sorry. Okay, you're forgiven. Go ahead. You know, but no, it's just, I think it's just the confidence that you have to have and just knowing that you know yourself. And you won't know everything, but you all know have learning agility, you can learn anything, you can do it and so that was... That's how I answer that question, but that's a great question. You have to think about that for yourself. Yeah. Very Good.

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Duration: 19 minutes and 22 seconds
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Language: English
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Posted by: southwire on May 29, 2018

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