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VOL. 129 | NO. 25 | Thursday, February 6, 2014

Harris Brings Motivation to Medtronic Employees

By Don Wade

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It makes perfect sense for a guest speaker at Medtronic Inc. to deliver a motivational speech titled “Adopting a Global Mindset.”

Carla Harris, vice chairman of global wealth management, managing director and senior client adviser at Morgan Stanley, gave the speech Tuesday, Feb. 4, to Medtronic employees.

Best-selling author Carla Harris spoke to Memphis Medtronic employees this week about adopting a global mindset.

(Courtesy of Medtronic)

But she also was recently appointed by President Barack Obama as chairwoman of the National Women’s Business Council. And she’s a best-selling author. In her speech, she drew from her book, “Expect to Win: Show Up With Your Best Self.”

She covered a lot of ground in 30 or so minutes, but what came clear is that everyone in business is responsible for his or her career and the perception that others in business have of them – whether that’s your boss in a five-person office or the CEO of a major international corporation on the other side of the world whose business you are trying to win.

“Perception is the co-pilot to reality,” Harris told the audience.

Harris said she learned this firsthand when she was still relatively new to Wall Street, relying strictly on her brains and worth ethic to advance her career. She was shocked, she said, when a senior manager told her one day he wasn’t sure she was “tough enough for this business.”

His perception of her didn’t mesh with her perception of herself. But it got her to thinking, maybe others shared that perception. And what could be worse, she asked, than for a woman on Wall Street to be viewed as not tough enough?

So she gave herself a 90-day plan, dedicating herself to “walk tough, eat tough, drink tough.”

What she discovered, she said, is that it is indeed possible to train your colleagues and supervisors and clients to think of you in a different way. But first, you need to know what descriptions you want them using when you’re out of the room, because it’s when you’re out of the room that others are deciding on what you will be paid, if you’re worthy of promotion, if you’re ready for more challenging assignments, if you’re the one to give the contract.

For example, someone in marketing would want the bosses saying that he is “creative.” Someone in finance would want the decision-makers to describe her as “analytical.” And someone in sales would want to be known as “relationship-oriented.”

All that said, the last thing you should do is try to be someone you’re not, Harris said, adding, “Nobody can be you the way you can be you. It is your distinct competitive advantage.”

So, in her case, she learned over time to share more of herself in business, to also be Carla Harris the gospel singer, the golfer, the prayer warrior, the speaker, the football fan, the writer … and so on.

Her keys to maximizing success: Understand the importance of perception, be willing to take risks – especially when in a business that is driven by competitive innovation – and present who you are in an authentic way.

“When you bring the real you to the table,” Harris said, “people will trust you.”

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