Women in leadership take risks
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Lessons in Female Leadership

By Geneviève Fortier


Note: This is the second in a guest blogger series: “Lessons in Female Leadership” about perspectives in moving women from competence to confidence in business leadership roles.


I have an instinctive desire to win. Not winning at any price, but continuously pushing the envelope. I got my confidence from my mom. She taught me that nothing is impossible; we are only limited by our own choices.

I believe in, and choose, hard work. I also believe in continually evolving and renewing myself and what I think. No one owns the truth, so I always challenge my own thinking.

So, when I took my first SuccessFinder assessment, I was blown away by how accurate it was. And I was also empowered by it.

I come from the Human Resources field with a BA and MA in industrial relations, which is all about leading side-by-side with other business leaders. SuccessFinder reminded me that I can be effective outside my area of expertise. It showed me my capacity to transform organizations, and perhaps even to transform society. It reminded me not to limit myself.

I’m passionate about transforming how we embrace, engage and empower current and future business leaders. So, I started to embrace the notion that I can be a force of transformation and I am building from it.


Women in Leadership: History Need Not Be Repeated

Sadly, I couldn’t agree more with the recent SuccessFinder “Mission Imposter” research results showing that even at the CEO level, women are as competent, but clearly not as confident as their male peers.

Let’s try to understand the root causes behind it: historically, men have been encouraged to compete and they’ve landed in —and held onto— the most powerful positions. Women have been encouraged to conform and accept more limited options for education and careers. Generations of women have been raised that way.

That said, I am very confident to see the next generation change this. Momentum is behind them. For example, 58% of today’s college graduates are women. As this new generation of women enters the workplace and the generation of men currently leading organizations retires, we should see a different mix of board and c-suite leaders as well as a better balance between men and women at the top of the business hierarchy.

As you could imagine, I am not willing to wait that long to open up this opportunity for women to take their place. There is plenty we can do in the interim to understand, work with —and even change— the framework and elements that are not conducive to hiring and promoting women.

One of the first keys is for women in business to better understand the game and to compete in it. Whether interacting at a board, executive team or chamber of commerce level, you have to acknowledge who is at table, understand the rules and play by those rules. It is like a chess game!

Second, I also believe we can accelerate the consciousness of women to think differently about the impact they can have. To help them see their potential to change those frameworks, assume their ambition and begin to better shape their own opportunities through increased self-confidence, risk-taking and influence.


Leaders building leaders

A year ago, I recommended to pilot a new leadership program for woman, L’effet A , at McKesson Canada, where I am the Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Public Affairs. I proposed this program to help us up-level the impact of the high performing and high potential women in our organization.

With recommendations from across the business, we built a cohort of McKesson women ranging in age from 28- 40 for a three-part leadership development program. The first part with L’Effet A, and the last two components through a customized McKesson program.

When I took these exceptional women under my wing, I said, ‘I know this is unusual, but the first 200 days are about you, the last 100 days are about the next generation and how you give back and become mentors to young women and help them to accelerate their paths. This is a gift.’

While L’Effet A focuses on increasing trust-building, risk-taking and influence, the Women in Leadership program at McKesson Canada focuses on career pathing, personal brand, personal board and mentorship.

It uses SuccessFinder assessments as the foundation to build: a five-year career plan, personal brand and a personal advisory board. And it teaches participants how to develop the next generation of women leaders. 

While this program is still a work in progress, we are seeing great returns for the individuals, their departments and our business.

For example:

  • All 11 women in the program have been identified as promotable. Three have been either promoted laterally or have seen their role expanded and two of those redesigned their jobs as part of the process.
  • Their managers, in talking about these women, report that they are each very clear in their ambition for themselves and their ideas in their roles. Everyone is now talking about getting more women into the program.
  • This is also creating healthy, transformative pressure on organizations where these women work. The leaders who accompany them on this journey are evolving with them.
  • Individually, they are growing in confidence. They each realize how ambitious they are and want to deliver on that. They want to take risks and increase their influence.


Re-scoping Business to be Leadership-Worthy

Building individual confidence is only part of the equation to ensure transformational change and more inclusive leadership.

I have a house full of millennials: three children—22, 20, and 15 years old. They are brilliant, articulate and can challenge you on anything. When you talk to them about the workplace and the price you have to pay to reap the rewards, they aren’t all interested in it. I explained to them that you don’t fall into this day one, you start with what you are prepared to give and as your passion for contributing to something larger emerges, you simply adjust and give more.

I believe that when you find what you are passionate about, it is fun. It is a growth process, like a tree as your career takes root and expands your perspective.

Each business also needs to evolve and change the way it delivers the work experience to the next generation of women and men, so they’ll be more interested in engaging. At McKesson Canada, we are working to reconnect customer and employee experiences. We’re starting by listening.

When asked what they think tomorrow’s organization should look like, our millennial employees say it should:

  • be economically, socially and environmentally sustainable
  • be more agile and offer new ways to share roles and responsibilities
  • value its collaborators and provides a meaningful sense of contribution offer a healthy, funny and collaborative work environment
  • be flexible and re-invent the traditional workday

They want to do it differently.

Through our talent management programs, we are changing the way we engage, develop, promote and get the next generation to grow with us. In turn, this will help our businesses grow.

For individuals and businesses alike, let’s start taking risks. That is the name of the game and where the fun begins!

It’s time to play to win.


Note: to learn more about how McKesson leverages SuccessFinder for its Talent Management initiatives, check out the case study, here

About the Author: Geneviève Fortier is Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Public Affairs at McKesson Canada. She is Chair of the Board for the Montreal University Hospital Center and the Ste-Justine University Hospital Center, and serves on the board of directors for Sanimax, where she chairs the Governance, HR and Environment Committee. An award winning executive, Ms. Fortier is also one of the inspiring leaders with the L’Effet A organization, dedicated to help women develop and maximize their talents and career ambitions.