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Mara Swan, EVP & Chief Strategy & Talent Officer, ManpowerGroup

 “Women are over mentored and under sponsored.”
                                           “Learnability is essential in today’s work environment.”                                                            – Mara Swan

Mara Swan, Executive Vice President, and Chief Strategy and Talent Officer, ManpowerGroup and GOGO Industries, Inc. board member was MWi’s guest speaker at our November meeting. In a casual, fireside chat format, Mara shared her personal leadership and board journey.

What advice would you give women who want to develop their leadership skills?

Observe. What do leaders do well, what do they do not do well? Think of yourself as a leader and have established leadership philosophies. Michelle shared one of her leadership philosophies is to have her staff leave with more skills than when they joined her team.  Leadership takes tenacity and courage.

Ask for feedback. At the beginning of her career, Mara believed leadership was telling people what to do, as that is what she observed. Her manager shared Mara was seen as bossy. She took the feedback and changed her approach to making fewer statements and asking more questions when communicating.

What is the most important quality of a successful leader today?
Mara believes learnability is essential in today’s work environment. Learnability is the desire and ability to learn new skills at a fast pace and apply the new skills. Curiosity and agility are key. Do not wait for the company to offer training. Seek out learning opportunities.

What can organizations and individuals do to increase the pipeline of women in leadership?
Concentrate on conscious inclusion, not unconscious bias, consciously including everyone. Focus on women. There are not enough women in the pipeline with P&L responsibility. Women need to schedule career conversations with their managers

What advice would you give women interested in serving on a board?

Develop a global perspective. Attain a deeper understanding of economic issues in the world. Understand how decision making varies by country. Start planning for board service when you are young. Boards want young people; younger people understand technology. Write yourself a board bio and see how you measure up to those on boards. Why do you want to be on a board? Is this how you want to use your gifts? Work on preparing for a board interview.

How did you secure your board positions?Mara secured both her board positions through LinkedIn. She advised others to highlight broad skills and ensure references are high level.

What advice would you share when presented with a board opportunity?Be true to yourself do not try to fit the role. Share why you want to be on the board; what you can bring to the board. What is the board culture?

What are your thoughts on the importance of mentors and sponsors?
Mentoring is great and keeps you in the know. Women are over mentored and under sponsored! A sponsor is someone who puts their political capital on the line. Set a goal to work for a manager who is promoting others and promoted themselves. Men are much better at identifying sponsors













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