The Q&A—on Career Advancement
With CORT’s Lisa Woodworth
“I think the biggest myth women have about how to advance in their careers is to keep their head down, work hard, play nice, get along and don’t make waves.”
Q: What was your dream job as a child, and why? (If it relates to what you do now, please include that.)
As a child, I wanted to travel, experience new places and see what was over the next horizon. I loved where I grew up in the Catskill Mountains of New York and I love going home to visit. I still feel connected and at peace when I go home. But as a child and teenager, I wanted to spread my wings and experience other places.
In my career, I’ve been blessed with opportunities to travel for work, and meet interesting people along the way. I’ve moved a few times over the years, and have made some incredible friends. Now I’m excited about staying put in one place and just traveling for work.
Q: You have advanced in your career from being a Field Sales Manager to a Senior Vice President. What are some of the most important things you did that helped you advance?
Honesty, ethics and integrity. Being genuine. That sounds funny, but my word has always been my bond.
When I was in sales, my focus was on the long term – building relationships that would last and not just getting the next big sale. That has done me well over the years. My clients and my company always knew they could count on me to be straight with them and not just say what I think others want to hear.
Being genuine, candid and true to yourself is important to me. I can look in the mirror and be proud of what I’ve done, what I believe in, and that I made a difference. I don’t think I could work for anyone that didn’t respect that.
I would also say that collaborating with others across the ‘silos’ of Marketing, Sales, IT and Operations has helped. Having been in sales and now in marketing, I get what sales needs and what they are up against. I believe, to be successful, we need to work together on the common goals and not in silos. We need to be integrated in our approach to all we do, working smarter, not harder in the common goals we have.
Q: What is one of the biggest myths women have about how to advance in their careers? (And what is the truth?)
I think the biggest myth women have about how to advance in their careers is to keep their head down, work hard, play nice, get along and don’t make waves.
The truth is: those who advance in their careers are the ones who speak up, fight for what they believe in, have passion about what they do and are not afraid to put themselves out there and take the risk to be heard, and perhaps be wrong.
Q: You’re known as a creative problem solver. How has that contributed to your success? (Please include an example if possible.) And, what tips would you share with other women who want to improve their problem-solving skills?
To be a creative problem solver, I believe it’s important to truly understand the problem, not just what you think the problem is, but to truly understand what is behind it. You need to understand if it is a one-time issue, or something that is a part of the fabric of how business has always been done.
This means getting to the heart of the problem. This means talking to those that are in the thick of it, on the front line that know what’s really going on. Interviewing them and listening to them. Giving them a safe place to talk where you have their back and will protect them so they can be brutally honest, sharing the good, the bad and the ugly of what’s really happening. This also means you need to be open to hearing what’s really going on, even if it hurts.
I believe it is also important to see the big picture and the effect the problem has on the business. This will help you see the value of fixing the problem and the amount of effort and resources to put behind fixing it.
And lastly, it’s important to be open, to push for change when it’s necessary and know when it’s not. Change in an organization entrenched in how things have always been done is difficult and can be exhausting. If you’re not careful, you can get burned out and frustrated when change doesn’t occur or takes too long.
I’ve been fortunate in my career. I’ve had managers who have been open to these tough discussions and willing to support new, creative ideas. It’s important that you pursue these conversations with the goal of improving business growth, our customers’ experience, and our employees’ experience. With this lens on any problem, those around you will help you find creative solutions that will work.
Q: If you were just starting out today, what would you want to know that you didn’t know in the beginning?
I would want to know that my opinion matters and that I make a difference.
I’m not sure what happens from when we go from being little girls that can do anything, to young women who become unsure of ourselves and our worth. Whether it’s something in society that does this, or something we do to ourselves.
But I would want to know that people care about what I think and that my opinion matters. That what I say and do makes a difference, and I am a positive force.
Lisa Woodworth is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for CORT, a Berkshire Hathaway Company and the nation’s leading provider of transition services, including furniture rental for the home, office and special events. Lisa leads the marketing department in driving awareness and creating a preference for CORT, while also maximizing CORT’s partnerships with great organizations such Move for Hunger and the Folds of Honor Foundation.