Welcome to our new series in which we introduce you to some of our top female leaders.

One of the areas in which most women struggle is self-promotion.  We are a bunch of quiet achievers. While it’s lovely that we don’t want to boast about our successes, it also makes it hard for up and coming leaders to find a role model.

This series will introduce you to some well-known and less well-known women who have proven themselves to be exceptional leaders.  We hope they inspire you towards the same level of success.

Today we introduce you to Karen Marie Simmons. For twenty years she has been managing teams, developing systems, and transforming businesses in a variety of ways. She is gifted with a keen and analytical brain which helps her spot opportunities that others miss.

Let me introduce you to Karen.

  1. What are some of the highlights in your careers?

My key highlights revolve around the area of trust and respect.  It still gives me a thrill now to know that I was trusted at the age of 21 to go over to New York to open up a new office! I was also trusted with my first company car.

At 25 I was given responsibility for a $40m revenue business and was able to successfully transform its operations.

I always think back to those times and think, how did I have the energy and resilience!!

  1. What have been some of your key challenges?

Without having a degree or any fancy letters after my name, I had to battle my way to the top based on my results and performance alone. Being taken seriously was a challenge I was only able to overcome through proving my value to the business and tangible results.  Looking back, this is probably what made me work so hard to reach my goals.

  1. What or who made a difference in your career?

My mother was unexpectedly widowed at the age of 34 with three kids to bring up alone.  She taught me to be independent and to work for what I wanted. She taught me to always be grateful for the fact I have ‘choice’ in my life.

I was fortunate to have had a great work leader and mentor in the 1980s who believed and trusted in me.  She taught me about respect and self-respect by giving me way too much responsibility for someone at a young age (and with no degree!)  She believed in me and constantly reminded me to ensure I remained true and honest to who I am.  Never try to be someone you are not. It’s a short term game that never works.

  1. How did you overcome any barriers?

There are no barriers, only opportunities.  I have never seen a barrier.  They simply don’t exist; they are someone else’s reality.

  1. What are some key learnings about working with men and overcoming any unconscious biases?

I find working with men way easier than working with women! Men are open books; easy to read and straight down the line. I find that keeping my communication honest, humorous and straight wins the day. Complex emotional arguments are fruitless and serve no one well.  Keep it real.

Be respectful and always keep egos intact.

  1. How do you manage work-life balance?

I don’t do it well all the time, but in general I protect my mornings – 1 hour of ‘me’ time plus another 1hr of husband time before work.  I don’t mind working late but I’m not good at compromising my mornings.  it’s a trade-off.

  1. Any advice for future female leaders?

Don’t be afraid to be who you are, not what you think others expect you to be! You’re a woman; be one. It’s not possible to wear a ‘persona’ at work for the long term. People respond to ‘realness.’ Trying too hard just comes across as disingenuous. Be congruent in your actions and your words.

Food for thought.

You can find Karen at http://karenmariesimmons.com.au/

Phone 1300 719 665 or +61 424 447 616

www.soniamcdonald.com.au

sonia@soniamcdonald.com.au

 

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