An Insider’s Guide to Achieving Success – Not Having it Handed to You
This week, I had the privilege of speaking with Judy Speas, Bayer Crop Science’s VP of Product Development, and to say she moved me with her words would be an understatement. Have you ever wondered how someone becomes a senior leader at a major company – I know that I have. I believed that having the right degree, networking skills, pre-established connections and finding a shiny copper penny on the street would help shoot me straight to the top. After speaking with Judy, I realize how trivial all of that sounds, and that the road to success is filled with far more opportunities to work hard than hand-me-downs.
To give some background, Judy recently won Triangle Business Journal’s 2017 Women in Business Award. The Women in Business Awards program recognizes Triangle women who have proven to be dynamic and outstanding leaders with established track records of significant accomplishments in business and/or community service.
From research assistant to senior leader, I think Judy has a story that everyone could learn from. Judy has been with the company through various mergers and acquisitions, and it started with her role as a research assistant over 20 years ago. Judy held her first people leadership position in 2011, leading a team of individuals with a technical background different from her own. Despite such obstacles, she persevered, learned the environment, and relied on her team members by empowering and enabling them to achieve their own success. Most recently, Judy excelled in a management support role in Germany, a country she visited, but did not speak the language. That form of determination and drive is not one that is flippantly handed down; it is one that is earned.
When I spoke to Judy, I recognized that her main belief was to challenge, but also encourage her team daily. She told me that in order for herself and her team to grow, she must build trusting relationships in her work environment. She listens to her peers, learns their strengths and identifies opportunities for them to succeed. Judy recognizes her goals, and those of her peers, and maps out the road to achieve these goals as a team.
If you finished reading this and are feeling motivated to step back and evaluate your leadership style and how you work with others – you aren’t alone! I did some thinking after my interview with Judy, and learned that the people at the top got there because they worked hard and embraced opportunities to grow. There is an old saying that goes, “hard work beats natural talent, when natural talent doesn’t want to work hard.” For Judy, myself and the rest of us at Bayer, I think it is important that we remember this. While this short story may be coming to a close, I have a strong feeling Judy’s leadership tale is hardly over.