I would like to share my thoughts with you.

Success Secrets Of The World’s Most Powerful Women

on July 19, 2014

To move forward, we must first stop and take stock of what is working. Every year I help edit the FORBES list of the world’s 100 most powerful women, and ever year the No. 1 question I get is: What do the most successful women in the world have in common? So let’s start there.

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First, they want it. They’ve built their success through sheer will and determination. Yes, they have the skills, and yes, they put the time in. But they also have the desire to do something great.

Let me tell you about a normal little girl who grew up in Indiana named Beth Brooke. When she was 13, she was diagnosed with a degenerative hip disease and was told by doctors she may never walk again. Before going into surgery she made a promise to herself: that she would walk again—no, she would run—and she hoped to become one of the best young athletes the world had seen.

Not only did she walk, she went on to play several varsity sports at her high school, earned multiple MVP awards and graduated as the class valedictorian. In college, she played Division I basketball.

Beth brought that same determination, that feeling of being the underdog and of constantly striving, to her career. And today she is a global vice chair of Ernst & Young, one of the biggest accounting firms in the world. She made up her mind, and she didn’t quit.

It’s so important to really want it—whatever that means for you: a new client, a promotion, a revenue goal—but it’s equally, if not more, important to stand up and go after it. That takes courage.

The women who really go for it are some of the most courageous people I’ve ever met. Whatever fear they might have of hearing “no”—whatever fear they might have of hearing “yes,” which can bring a whole host of intimidating expectations—they barrel through it. You see, it’s not that they’re fearless. No one is. It’s that they face their fears. Everyday.

Last year, a woman named Beth Mooney was appointed the first-ever female CEO of a top bank in the United States. One might imagine she went to the finest elite schools, had snaked her way through the most prestigious investment banks. But no, she studied history at a state school in Texas and began her career as a secretary at a local bank, making just $10,000 a year.

While working at the bank, she realized she had bigger aspirations—she wanted something more. In 1979, she decided to take downtown Dallas “by storm,” knocking on the door of every big bank in the city and asking for a spot in their management training programs. At the Republic Bank of Dallas, she refused to leave the manager’s office until he offered her a job. So she waited. For three hours. And finally he said okay, he’d give her a chance if she earned an MBA by night.

That was a turning point in her career, one of many, powered by a courageous call to action—to champion herself and what she knew she was capable of. Later, she had the courage to move into roles she’d never done before that scared her. She had the courage to pick up and move across the country for a new challenge. She had the courage to stick with it for three decades, while continually pushing herself forward.

If you’re not a little bit scared everyday, you’re not learning. And when you’re not learning, you’re done.

Therein lies another common facet of the super-successful: endless, insatiable curiosity. That feeling you had as a child when anthills were undiscovered civilizations, when you could spend hours in the backyard exploring, and when each book you read was a window into the wider world that awaited you.

Today, the lightning pace of change means we have to be ever-curious, always ready to learn and adapt to the new environment around us.

Anne Sweeney, the co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group, described herself as “driven by curiosity” because “it gets people excited” and “leads to new ideas, new jobs, new industries.” She believes, “The smartest thing you can ever do is to constantly ask questions.”

Here’s a question for you: How many people in this room have ever had a Frappuccino from Starbucks? You know, the cold, creamy drink with whipped cream on top. Raise your hands. 

The woman who made the Frappuccino a $2-billon worldwide sensation for Starbucks—her name is Michelle Gass, and she’s a president of the company today—was introduced to the drink as a two-flavor side item with no marketing or growth plan. But she never sidelined it. Instead, she said, “Let’s think of how big this can be.”

Michelle spent countless days in Starbucks stores talking to customers, asking questions and testing ideas. She visited other local coffee shops and also ice cream parlors to discover how they attracted and excited customers. She learned that ­people saw the drink as an escapist afternoon treat. She decided to add a domed lid, whipped cream, syrup, green straws and new flavors like caramel, which is now the most popular. When she got pushback from others in the company, she stood her ground.

Today the Frappuccino is one of the company’s best sellers due in large part to Michelle’s willingness to ask questions, consider the possibilities and uncover the product’s true potential. “To create something sustainable, you have to be close to the details,” she told me. You have to gather the facts and data, but then you have to see inside them.


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