Honoring the 2013 Athena, Pathfinders

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Yesterday, the Salt Lake Chamber honored named Dr. Linda Leckman of Intermountain Healthcare as the 2013 ATHENA Award recipient. The award was presented at the 37th Annual American Express Women & Business Conference and Wells Fargo ATHENA Award Luncheon, presented by the Salt Lake Chamber Women’s Business Center.

The ATHENA International Award, sponsored by Wells Fargo, is a prestigious national award presented annually to an active member of the Salt Lake Chamber who demonstrates excellence, creativity and initiative in business, provides valuable service by devoting time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community, and assists women in reaching their full leadership potential.

Dr. Leckman serves as vice president of Intermountain Healthcare and CEO of Intermountain Medical Group, which is comprised of 185 clinics, more than 1,000 physicians, and over 5,200 employees. Under her leadership, Intermountain Medical Group implemented innovative compensation and process improvement plans, established clinical quality improvement initiatives, developed strategic plans for growth, and laid the foundation for a model of physician integration with hospitals and health plans that many systems around the country now strive to emulate.

A prominent voice in her industry, Leckman has taken the opportunity to share her expertise as a way to improve health care at a national and local level, for both institutions and individuals.  Throughout 2009, Dr. Leckman contributed to the Washington Post’s blog Health Care Rx, where she provided her perspective regarding the federal government’s efforts to bring meaningful change into effect. For the past decade, Dr. Leckman has also been the host of Healing for Life, a weekly spot on KSL NewsRadio that airs throughout the state. In more than 550 radio spots, she has offered suggestions for improving health, insights into ground-breaking health care treatments and scientific developments, and new services offered at Intermountain Healthcare.

Pathfinders
In addition to the ATHENA Award, four women were honored with Pathfinder awards. The Pathfinder Awards are presented annually to community leaders who create new paths that promote the development and recognition of women in business. 2013 recipients include:

 - Jennifer Danielson, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah
- Jennifer Godfrey, Salt Lake CAP Head Start
- Mary Kay Griffin, CBIZ MHM
- Susan Mayo, Wells Fargo

The Pathfinder Awards are presented annually during the American Express Women & Business Conference during the Wells Fargo ATHENA Award Luncheon to a select number of worthy community leaders who have a history of support for women and women’s issues and who have worked to further the development and recognition of women. This award has been a traditional part of the conference for many years.

Gail Miller was honored with the ATHENA Award in 2012. Other recent recipients include Beverley Taylor Sorenson (2011), Senator Pat Jones (2008), Governor Olene Walker (2004) and Patricia Richards of Wells Fargo (2000) who was the first woman to chair the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors.

Past ATHENA Recipients

2012 Gail Miller, Larry H. Miller Group of Companies
2011 Beverley Taylor Sorenson, Sorenson Foundation
2010 Cynthia Bioteau, Salt Lake Community College
2009 Chris Redgrave, Bonneville Salt Lake Radio Group
2008 Patricia Jones, Dan Jones & Associates
2007 Margo Provost, Log Haven
2006 Marilyn Tang, Certified Handling Systems
2005 Pamela Atkinson, Community Advocate
2004 Gov. Olene Walker, Utah State Governor
2003 Becky Berkey Potts, AT&T Wireless
2002 Susan Glasmann, Questar Gas Company
2001 Lori Giovannoni, Lori Giovannoni and Associates
2000 Patricia Richards, First Security Bank
1999 Lorraine Miller, Cactus & Tropicals
1998 Deborah Bayle, American Red Cross Greater Salt Lake Area Chapter
1997 Carol Carter, IC Products
1996 Ramona Rudert, Predictable Building Systems
1995 Joan Lewis, Nesco Service, Inc.
1993 June Morris, Morris Air
1992 Rhoda Ramsey, Ramsey Group N.
1991 Patricia Freston, Ph.D., Questar Corporation
1990 Jacqueline Nicholes, Quality Press
1988 Carol Browning, CLU
1987 Patricia Shoemaker Glessner, KSL TV
1986 Isabelle Jensen, Questar Corporation
1985 Carol Fay, Internal Revenue Services
1984 Phyllis Steorts, Westin Hotel Utah

2013 ATHENA: Dr. Linda Leckman

Monday, November 4th, 2013

The Salt Lake Chamber Women’s Business Center will honor four women as Pathfinders at the 37th Annual American Express Women & Business Conference and Wells Fargo ATHENA Award Luncheon coming up on Tuesday, Nov. 12. This is one in a series of posts highlighting our ATHENA & Pathfinder honorees.

Be sure to follow the event on Twitter with the hashtag #AthenaSLC.

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Dr. Linda Leckman
Intermountain Healthcare 

What is your role in your organization?

I am Vice President of Intermountain Healthcare and the Chief Executive Officer for Intermountain Medical Group, a position I’ve held since 1996. In my role, I have responsibility for Intermountain’s 185+ clinics that include:  primary and specialty care clinics; InstaCare, KidsCare and WorkMed clinics; community/school-based clinics; and hospital-based services (e.g., neonatology, critical care, etc.). The Medical Group is comprised of 5,116 employees, including 1,056 physicians and 265 advanced practice clinicians (i.e., nurse practitioners, physician assistants, etc.).

What is the mission of your organization?

Intermountain Healthcare is an organization driven by a mission of excellence in the provision of healthcare services to communities in the Intermountain region. Our mission includes a commitment to provide care to those who live in communities within this region who have a medical need, regardless of ability to pay. This same mission impacts what we do within the Medical Group as well.

What is the key to the professional success you have achieved?

Being willing to take risks. When I decided to go to medical school many years ago, very few women were choosing that career path. When I then decided to undertake a residency in general surgery, I was the first woman to complete a general surgery residency at the University of Utah. For many years I had a very satisfying private practice in general surgery. Then I saw an opportunity to move into an administrative position where I might have more impact on how health care is delivered and I moved to my current position, in spite of having no training to do this job.

Who is your greatest professional influence? Why?

There is no single person whom I would identify as having the greatest influence on me. I have benefitted from the wisdom and examples of many people. Actually, I try to learn something from most people with whom I interact.

How did you get into the field you work in?

In high school, I volunteered as a candy striper in a large hospital in Oklahoma City, Okla.  At that time volunteers functioned more as nurses’ assistants and were able to participate in a limited way in patient care.  In addition, two internists at the hospital were willing to answer my questions about the illnesses I was seeing.  The appeal of medicine derived from helping and being engaged with people and learning the science of medicine.  I went into college as a pre-med major, took a detour into a history major and ended up in medical school, responding to the appeal I outlined.

Moving from a personally and professionally rewarding career as a general surgeon to my current role as CEO of Intermountain Healthcare’s Intermountain Medical Group was a giant leap for me.  I was a private independent practitioner and had practiced in Intermountain hospitals.  I had experienced the corporate focus on clinical quality and their non-profit mission.  I saw the opportunity to impact on a much larger scale the care delivered to people in our state-by helping physicians practice evidence based medicine, supporting physicians to be successful in their practices and lives, and developing clinic experiences that focus on patients.  I was not trained for my current administrative role when I moved to this job, so I have also had the opportunity to continue to learn.  The current changing health care environment continues to give me that opportunity.

What does it mean for you to be named an Athena Award recipient?

I greatly appreciate the recognition.  I also realize that there are many remarkable women leaders in Salt Lake City-some are previous honorees and others will be recognized in the future for their work and many contributions to our community.  All of us as leaders acknowledge the reality that our work is really the work of many people and the teams with whom we work.

If you could sit down and talk to yourself at age 18, what advice would you give?

Live with integrity publicly and privately.
Don’t be complacent. Look for opportunities to learn and contribute to others.
Eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer chocolate chip cookies.
Above all, be kind.

2013 Pathfinder: Susan Mayo

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

The Salt Lake Chamber Women’s Business Center will honor four women as Pathfinders at the 37th Annual American Express Women & Business Conference and Wells Fargo ATHENA Award Luncheon coming up on Tuesday, Nov. 12. This is one in a series of posts highlighting our ATHENA & Pathfinder honorees.

Be sure to follow the event on Twitter with the hashtag #AthenaSLC.

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Susan Mayo
Wells Fargo 

What is your role in your organization?

I am a Senior Vice President for Wells Fargo, leading the Private Bank and Wealth Management businesses in Utah.

What is the mission of your organization?

Wells Fargo is committed to building relationships with our clients, our communities and each other. We pride ourselves on serving each of these relationships well and we strive to discover and satisfy all of our clients’ financial needs. Our aim is to help them, and their future generations, succeed financially.

What is the key to your professional success you have achieved?

Within our team at the firm – we refer to what shows up in each of us every day as our “winning formula.” For me, I believe it is the passion I bring to whatever I am engaged in which has grown into compassionate leadership over the years. My entire life I have been involved in and on teams which made me aware early on of the importance of inclusiveness, getting to know your teammates personally, investing and developing others and then supporting their success. A positive attitude has helped as well along the way. Teamwork is a core value at Wells Fargo because the input from experts in various fields collectively provides the very best solutions and plans for our clients.

Who is your greatest professional influence? Why?

I have been fortunate to have had outstanding leaders and mentors on my journey. Early in my career, Kris Garrett stands out as an influential leader. She took the risk of hiring me into my first leadership role in The Private Bank, and she continually provided me experiences to learn, grow and lead across lines of business. She also nominated/enrolled me in opportunities that involved me in global impact on the leadership and future of our organization. As I reflect on these experiences, I am grateful she pushed me to grow as a leader, critical thinker and contributor; I want to create these types of opportunities for others. Fortunately, I continue to learn from my many coaches at Wells Fargo, especially from a very talented colleague Nancy Amick.

There are also very helpful influences outside work: encouraging friends, two encouraging sisters and two people that inspire me every day: my two children, whose efforts and successes always amaze and teach me.

How did you get into the field you work in?

Interviews from my college campus – I entered the financial industry in a branch manager training program and was placed in Miami, FL. The firm I joined was financially supportive of continuing one’s education so I earned my MBA during this time as well. After the branch manager training program, my efforts turned to commercial lending for a few years. Then in 1995, I joined the Wealth Management business because it focuses on helping individuals and their families grow and protect their assets while achieving their financial goals, which is an area of the firm I have enjoyed very much.

What does it mean for you to be named a Pathfinder?

It’s truly an honor to be selected and be a part of this tradition that recognizes and supports those who support women in developing their skills and achieving their goals. Being a Pathfinder brings men and women together in the spirit of celebrating helping others as a way of life. What means the most to me though is receiving this nomination from the women I work with at Wells Fargo. That is something I will never forget.

If you could sit down and talk to yourself at age 18, what advice would you give?

I have an 18 year old son and 15 year old daughter so it’s a very relevant question.

• Write down your goals and dreams and then pursue them.
• Education is critical, and learning is a lifelong habit to embrace and share.
• Spread goodness everywhere you go.
• Be grateful for each day. “Positive Attitude with Gratitude,” my friend, Carol Magie, says.
• Always keep your word and your commitments in life; both to yourself and to others.
• Work hard to keep all the good people you meet involved in your life.
• Fun, Family, Friends, Faith, Fitness and Financial – keep the six F’s in balance.

2013 ATHENA overcame obstacles to succeed

Monday, October 28th, 2013

The Salt Lake Chamber’s 2013 ATHENA honoree, Dr. Linda Leckman of Intermountain Healthcare, was featured last night on the Person 2 Person segment of 2News.

Dr. Leckman sat down for a wide ranging discussion with 2News Anchor Shauna Lake. Find out how she overcame obstacles to achieve professional success and to contribute to our community, the importance of having confidence in your abilities and the advice she would give her 18-year-old self.

You can click here or on the image above to watch the full interview.

You can REGISTER HERE for the Salt Lake Chamber for the 37th Annual American Express Women & Business Conference and Wells Fargo ATHENA Awards Luncheon. The one-day conference is filled with informative breakout sessions and inspirational speakers, while celebrating and recognizing the accomplishments and contributions of significant women helping make a difference in our local community.

2013 Pathfinder: Mary Kay Griffin

Monday, October 28th, 2013

The Salt Lake Chamber Women’s Business Center will honor four women as Pathfinders at the 37th Annual American Express Women & Business Conference and Wells Fargo ATHENA Award Luncheon coming up on Tuesday, Nov. 12. This is one in a series of posts highlighting our ATHENA & Pathfinder honorees.

Be sure to follow the event on Twitter with the hashtag #AthenaSLC.

*   *   *

Mary Kay Griffin
CBIZ MHM, LLC 

What is your role in your organization?

I am a Managing Director at CBIZ MHM, LLC. My major role in the organization is the responsibility to provide quality accounting, tax and advisory services to our clients. In that regard, I also train and supervise the staff assigned to the client engagements. In addition, along with the other Managing Directors I participate in the management of our local office and related business development and administrative duties.

I also serve as a member of the National Executive Board for CBIZ Women’s Advantage (CWA). CWA celebrates the uniqueness of women business professionals, helping their development through focused leadership, mentoring, networking, professional development programs and community outreach. I chair the CWA Business Development Committee which focuses on business development and networking opportunities for CBIZ women to embody the CWA mission of “CBIZ Women Helping Women Succeed in Business.”

What is the mission of your organization?

Our mission is to help our clients grow and prosper by providing them with the highest quality, professional business and individual services. We will consistently strive to provide superior client service and we will endeavor to build long lasting client relationships.

Guided by our core values of competence, integrity, respect and value, we believe that every client deserves exceptional, timely and proactive service from our knowledgeable professionals.

What is the key to the professional success you have achieved?

The keys to success are being passionate about your profession, building strong relationships with clients and colleagues as well as participating in the community. It is also important to have a great support system to balance a career with your family life. I was fortunate that the firm I worked for allowed me to have a flexible work schedule when my three children were younger. I also have a wonderful family who support me and the demands of my career.

Who is your greatest professional influence? Why?

Chuck Foote, CPA, was my greatest professional influence. I was hired by Chuck as a staff accountant in Salt Lake City after working for several years in the Bay Area. I was the first woman CPA hired by the firm in Salt Lake City. Chuck mentored and coached me as I progressed in my career. He taught me how to provide exceptional client service which gave me opportunities to keep learning. I was able improve my analytical and technical skills in a variety of industries. He also empowered me to build my leadership skills allowing me the time to serve on boards and committees for the CPA profession and community organizations. In 1986, Chuck asked me, along with EJ Passey, to be a founding partner in local CPA firm Foote, Passey, Griffin and Co (FPG). In 1999, under Chuck’s leadership, FPG was acquired by CBIZ MHM, LLC, a top national accounting firm. I credit a great deal of my professional success to the guidance and support I received from Chuck Foote.

How did you get into the field you work in?

I started at the University of Utah as a math major. After three years of math classes, I decided I would like to explore another major and signed up to take a few accounting classes. I graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and was hired by one of the Big 8 public accounting firms in San Francisco, Calif. When my family returned to Salt Lake City, I continued my career in public accounting, a career I continue to this day. I believe my perseverance to remain in public accounting has served me well.

What does it mean for you to be named a Pathfinder?

I have always had a great desire to help women reach their full leadership potential. Each of us needs a mentor in business, in community service, and in responding to adversity. Being named a Pathfinder will strengthen my efforts to assist women through my own organization’s CBIZ Women’s Advantage program and also to support other women in the CPA profession and the community.

I am so honored to be selected to receive the Salt Lake Chamber’s Pathfinder Award at the 37th Annual Women & Business Conference this year.

If you could sit down and talk to yourself at age 18, what advice would you give?

Pursue the best education you can, become active in your community and professional organizations, build relationships at work and at home, continue to learn all you can and be willing to adapt to change. Above all, work hard and have fun doing it!

2013 Pathfinder: Jennifer Godfrey

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

The Salt Lake Chamber Women’s Business Center will honor four women as Pathfinders at the 37th Annual American Express Women & Business Conference and Wells Fargo ATHENA Award Luncheon coming up on Tuesday, Nov. 12. This is one in a series of posts highlighting our ATHENA & Pathfinder honorees.

Be sure to follow the event on Twitter with the hashtag #AthenaSLC.

*   *   *

Jennifer Godfrey
Salt Lake CAP Head Start

What is your role in your organization?

I am the Health & Family Partnership Manager for Salt Lake CAP Head Start/Early Head Start.

What is the mission of your organization?

The mission of Head Start is to provide health, education and promote self-sufficiency for children and families facing adversity.

What is the key to the professional success you have achieved?

Truly being passionate about what I do. Every day I have the opportunity to impact the lives of young children and their families. It is truly an honor and privilege to work with the families at Head Start. I am also empowered by my team and the influence they have on program outcomes.

Who is your greatest professional influence? Why?

Dr. Tom Metcalf took me under his wing as I transitioned into my role of Health Manager at Salt Lake CAP Head Start/Early Head Start. Dr. Metcalf would check in on me a couple of times a month to remind me that it wasn’t necessarily the knowledge that I had in the field, but my passion and commitment that was going to make a difference. I will never forget our talks and am touched that he had chosen to mentor me during my early years

How did you get into the field you work in?

I graduated from the University of Utah with a B.S. in Family and Human Development. Shortly after graduation, a peer of mine told me about Head Start and that they were hiring for teachers. I applied and was hired as a Lead Teacher. I taught preschool for four years, while pursuing my Master’s degree in counseling. After completing my Master’s, I knew that I had to find a program that I believed in the mission in order for me to feel like I was making an impact. It was during this time that Head Start opened a position for a Mental Health Counselor. I knew then that this is where I was supposed to be. Opportunities continued to unfold, hence where I am today within the agency. I have been fortunate to grow with the agency and in turn the agency has grown me.

What does it mean for you to be named a Pathfinder?

It is truly an honor to be named a Pathfinder. Building and implementing the Central Kitchen for Head Start at the time just seemed like the right thing to do. I knew that I was making a difference for the children at Head Start every day, but I didn’t realize or factor in what it meant to the community. However, the vision of Central Kitchen at Head Start was started by a number of visionary individuals, all of whom are Pathfinders in their own right.

If you could sit down and talk to yourself at age 18, what advice would you give?

Take the time to enjoy the small simple things in life. Live to be in the moment, rather than search for the next one.

2013 Pathfinder: Jennifer Danielson

Monday, October 21st, 2013

The Salt Lake Chamber Women’s Business Center will honor four women as Pathfinders at the 37th Annual American Express Women & Business Conference and Wells Fargo ATHENA Award Luncheon coming up on Tuesday, Nov. 12. This is one in a series of posts highlighting our ATHENA & Pathfinder honorees.

Be sure to follow the event on Twitter with the hashtag #AthenaSLC.

*   *   *
Jennifer Danielson
Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah

What is your role in your organization?

My role in our organization focuses on three main things:
1) to ensure that our team members have the tools, resources and training that they need to perform at their highest level,
2) to plan for the future and help position the company to meet the needs of our members not only today but in the future as well, and
3) to help shape that future.

What is the mission of your organization?

Serve as a catalyst to transform health care, creating a person-focused and economically sustainable system.

What is the key to the professional success you have achieved?

Listen. Learn. Execute.

Who is your greatest professional influence? Why?

My parents. As educators they taught me the importance of life-long learning and that success cannot be achieved without consistent hard work.

How did you get into the field you work in?

My interest in health care began as an undergraduate. I saw the development and implementation of health care policy as an intern in the U.S. Surgeon General’s office. After law school I worked on Medicare issues in Utah Attorney General’s office. Finally, I was hired by my current employer as a staff attorney and have been involved in health care policy for the last 15 years.

What does it mean for you to be named a Pathfinder?

As the first female plan president in Utah, I have been surrounded by a few wonderful female mentors that have expanded my horizons. I hope to fill that role for others.

If you could sit down and talk to yourself at age 18, what advice would you give?

Trust your instincts. (PS: Date the cowboys, not the frat boys.)

Chamber names 2013 ATHENA, four as Pathfinders

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

The Salt Lake Chamber just announced the it will honor Dr. Linda Leckman of Intermountain Healthcare as the 2013 ATHENA Award recipient. The award will officially be presented Nov. 12, 2013 at the 37th Annual American Express Women & Business Conference and Wells Fargo ATHENA Award Luncheon, presented by the Salt Lake Chamber Women’s Business Center.

“Many of the traits that make Linda a great doctor have played a role in her success as an executive,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “She is not only a highly skilled and accomplished physician, she is a great listener, an approachable leader and a mentor to the doctors she works with, as well. Those are qualities that are the hallmark of our ATHENA.”

Dr. Leckman serves as vice president of Intermountain Healthcare and CEO of Intermountain Medical Group, which is comprised of 185 clinics, more than 1,000 physicians, and over 5,200 employees. Under her leadership, Intermountain Medical Group implemented innovative compensation and process improvement plans, established clinical quality improvement initiatives, developed strategic plans for growth, and laid the foundation for a model of physician integration with hospitals and health plans that many systems around the country now strive to emulate.

A prominent voice in her industry, Leckman has taken the opportunity to share her expertise as a way to improve health care at a national and local level, for both institutions and individuals.  Throughout 2009, Dr. Leckman contributed to the Washington Post’s blog Health Care Rx, where she provided her perspective regarding the federal government’s efforts to bring meaningful change into effect. For the past decade, Dr. Leckman has also been the host of Healing for Life, a weekly spot on KSL NewsRadio that airs throughout the state. In more than 550 radio spots, she has offered suggestions for improving health, insights into ground-breaking health care treatments and scientific developments, and new services offered at Intermountain Healthcare.

Pathfinders
In addition to the ATHENA Award, four women will receive Pathfinder awards. The Pathfinder Awards are presented annually to community leaders who create new paths that promote the development and recognition of women in business. 2013 recipients include:

  • Jennifer Danielson, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah
  • Jennifer Godfrey, Salt Lake CAP Head Start
  • Mary Kay Griffin, CBIZ MHM
  • Susan Mayo, Wells Fargo

Gail Miller was honored with the ATHENA Award in 2012. Other recent recipients include Beverley Taylor Sorenson (2011) Senator Pat Jones (2008), Governor Olene Walker (2004) and Patricia Richards of Wells Fargo (2000) who was the first woman to chair the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors.

You can register for the Women & Business Conference and ATHENA Award Luncheon at http://www.slchamber.com/womenandbusiness. The event will be held at the Little America Hotel at 500 South Main Street in Salt Lake City, Utah. The conference runs from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and the ATHENA Awards Luncheon runs from noon to 1:30 p.m.

The Evolution of Leadership: An Athena Panel

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Five former Athena Award recipients discussed the meaning of leadership at the closing panel discussion at the 36th Annual American Express Women & Business Conference last Thursday.

Chamber Executive Vice President Natalie Gochnour described the panel as women who have “evolved into leadership ambassadors in our community.”

The panel included Deborah Bayle of the United Way of Salt Lake, Chris Redgrave of Zions Bank, Carol Carter of IC Products, Becky Potts of  Frontier Communications Corporation, and Senator Pat Jones of Dan Jones & Associates.

The Athenas say a leader is someone who can communicate a vision, recognize the appropriate goals to get there and then know how to bring that vision to fruition with everyone’s help.

“A sign of good leadership is the ability to get someone through the difficult times and come out the other side still whole,” says Bayle

When the women talked about the people who taught them the most about leadership, Sen. Jones described her inspiration, Judy Ann Buffmeyer, as being able to “tell someone to go to hell in a way that they would look forward to the trip.” She says that came from Buffmeyer being polite and diplomatic in her dealings.

Carter says another trait of a leader is the ability to recognize future leaders and help them develop their skills and their voice.

“People rely on you more than you even think,” Potts says, “Help mentor and get people to the next location.”

A hot topic was whether leadership was more of a female or male-dominated role and if gender made a difference. The women generally agreed that leadership differed by the individual person, independent of gender. Even though male leaders tend to be more predominant in our society, there was excitement among the panel about an emerging pattern of more women stepping up to the plate.

“Women who come forward with that voice [that doesn't agree with the majority] are often the ones who spearhead change,” Carter says.

Redgrave focused on choosing self-discovery over self-advocacy. She says it’s all about finding your voice and developing it, not just speaking out whenever you think it’s helpful.

Each of the women noted that we should be focusing on being our best self, recognizing where our own strengths lie and remembering where you started, where your foundation lies.

“If you go into a situation thinking you’re the best, you can be the best,” Potts says, when the topic turned towards the possible glass ceiling on the leadership ladder for women. “People will make that ceiling a crutch, but we can’t do that.”

Another thing is that the best decisions can be made when leaders are willing to step outside of what everyone else is saying—finding that voice and believing in their abilities to make a change can make the difference in being a leader. From there, you can start making those tough decisions and directing people to get there in the right way.

The panelists say leadership is defined by questioning the status quo, daring to have your voice heard, having a vision and seeing it through to the very end.

We’d like to know more about the leaders who have influenced your life. Please share your influencers in our comments section below.

Lessons from 2012 ATHENA Gail Miller

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

 

Editor’s Note: This is the acceptance speech that 2012 ATHENA award recipient Gail Miller presented at the 36th Annual American Express Women & Business Conference and Wells Fargo ATHENA Award Luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 15.

I am honored and flattered to be chosen to be the recipient of the prestigious ATHENA award.

Thank you very much for this opportunity to represent wonderful women in our communities.

Thank you to Lane Beattie and the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and to Wells Fargo for this lovely award.

Thank you to everyone who had a part in the selection process and for your confidence in me to represent the great women in the state of Utah. We really do have exceptional women here.

I’d like to tell you a little story about how I came to be a businesswoman—something I never planned on.

Thirty-three years ago on May 1, the Larry H. Miller Company opened its doors for business in Murray, Utah, with our first auto dealership.

Larry had just turned 35 years old. We had been married for 14 years. Eight and a half of those years had been spent living in Colorado away from our families. We had five children, ages 12, 10, seven, six and one-and-a-half.

Our story really starts with two young people in junior high school who met when they were twelve years old, started dating when they were 14 and married at 21.

We were both very independent and strong-willed by nature, but we were a good team and complimented each other’s strengths. Like many hopeful young couples we felt ready to conquer the world and were eager to give it our best effort.

After trying several jobs, six or seven, in the first five years of our marriage and not finding anything that really gave Larry a sense of accomplishment, we sold our home in Salt Lake, packed up our belongings, put the kids in the car and moved to Colorado not knowing exactly what the future held for us.

We actually encountered a lot of disappointments, a period of adjustment living so far away from our families and friends, and a lot of personal growth in the eight and a half years we lived there.

Larry was able to get a wonderful job working for Chuck Stevinson. Our family expanded from two children to five, and we were reactivated in our church. After struggling through the first year, we thought we had found our way and that we were set for life.

And then one day, after Larry had advanced up the ladder from parts manager to general manager to operations manager over five stores, Mr. Stevinson came to him and asked him to mentor some of his sons so they could learn the car business.

It was at that point he could see that the future for him would be very different than he had assumed it would be. He agreed to mentor Chuck’s sons, but also knew he had to find another way to support his family.

It was at that time he was able to make a deal with Hugh Gardner to buy a dealership in Murray, Utah, and we moved our family back home in August of 1979.

Larry set up the business as a partnership between us, with both of us owning 100 percent. He kept me in the loop on everything. I learned about all the different aspects of our business by listening to him talk about what was going on each day. He used me for a sounding board and valued my opinion. He “downloaded” business experiences to me daily and together we looked at property for expansion, dealership to buy and other adventures to pursue in the business world. When we bought the Utah Jazz, we discussed it until we came to the conclusion together that it was the right thing to do. Through the years, we were truly partners in everything we did.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that I had received a pretty good education with regard to how business works. I had gained a lot of institutional knowledge over the years.

All of this and more is what prepared me to become a businesswoman. Only I never actually expected to become one. I liked being a wife ad a mother and having a supporting role in everything Larry did. He was good at being the face of our company and I was good at being in the background.

About a year and a half before he had his heart attack, he called our family together and handed us notebooks, telling us that we would want to take notes. We met together every week for a year and a half so he could formally transfer knowledge to our children about what they would need to know when the time came so the transition from him to the boys would be as seamless as possible after he was gone.

And then Larry’s health failed and after several painful months, he passed away.

Greg, our son, had been named CEO but because I am the owner, I became responsible for a $3.5 billion company.

I am a businesswoman today not because I chose to be one, but because I chose to continue the legacy that Larry and I started 33 years ago. I made a conscious decision that I would be the bridge from Larry to those who come after him until they were on firm ground. My institutional knowledge has come in handy. I have been involved from the beginning and even though our sons have been very good students as they were taught by Larry and have taken over the day-to-day operations of our company, I am still the foundation.

As long as I am able and have anything to say about the Larry H. Miller group of companies, I will continue to promote the values we were built on. I will continue our commitment to make the communities where we do business, better places to live and to work and to play.

I have found that business is fun. It’s exhilarating and fun at the same time. It’s also challenging, but many important life lessons are learned through business.

I would like to recap some of the ones that I find are most important to me.

1.   It’s okay to rely on a higher power. It’s not just okay; I believe that it’s necessary in today’s world.

2.   Don’t ever forget your roots—they are your values. It’s okay to have a big business but it’s not okay to act like you are better than everyone else.

3.   Treat your employees and your customers with respect—always. You are no better than anyone else.

4.   Give back—or to say it another way—pay it forward. No one makes it in this life alone.

5.   Be a student—learn something new everyday. The world is full of wonderful adventures and each one will add richness to your life. You can learn something from every interaction you have if you try.

6.   Teach everything good that you know to anyone who wants to listen. We must be teachers to perpetuate the knowledge we gain and help others to be successful. We are in this together and we need each other. Success begets success.

7.   By learning, teaching and applying correct principles, we become leaders. People are looking for good leaders. We need to cultivate good leadership.

8.   There are opportunities all around us to advance, grow and share our strengths. Never shun that opportunity.

9.   Share what you have with others, whether it’s your knowledge, your expertise, your service or your assets. We are all in this together.

10.   I believe our people are our most valuable asset. I have learned from all of you and stand in awe of the accomplishments of all the women in business in our state. You are smart, you are loyal, you are role models and you create good everywhere you go. Together we are laying the foundation for the paths our daughters will be able to take. Whether it’s in the business world, in the home, in the schools, in government or any other walk of life we choose, our daughters need to understand there is room for them in this big, beautiful world and we will help show them the way.

If I could leave you with one piece of advice it would be to remember this:

“The quality of your life will be in direct proportion to the quality of the decisions you make.”

In closing, I would like to especially acknowledge the women in my life. There have been many Athena-type women who have enriched me, taught me, mentored me and encouraged me from school teachers to church leaders, to women in business to college presidents. Thank you!

I am especially blessed with the women in my personal life. I was blessed to have had a wonderfully grounded, practical mother who taught me correct principles and let me govern myself. I have a kind and compassionate daughter who helps me to grow everyday. And I have beautiful, specially chosen daughters-in-law who complete our family and who I love as my own. I have exceptionally beautiful granddaughters. And now I also have some beautiful, welcoming new daughters from my new marriage that have accepted me as their new mother.

May you always make good decisions and experience the joy of success wherever you look for it.

May we all work together in inspire women everywhere to achieve their full potential and create balance in leadership here and around the world.

Thank you again, for this wonderful honor. I will always treasure it.