“Don’t follow the path. Go where there is no path and begin the trail. When you start a new trail equipped with courage, strength, and conviction, the only thing that can stop you is you!” —Ruby Bridges
In her new book, Take Six, Veta T. Richardson shares the six habits she has used to propel her from a shy young woman to the decade-long CEO of the Association of Corporate Counsel, the prestigious global bar association for in-house counsel.
In her book, Richardson offers a clear and actionable blueprint of how to achieve the kind of professional success that is personally meaningful and adds value to the people and organizations you touch. The book is replete with stories and lessons that bring the habits and their impact to life; and Richardson offers her insights to a broad audience: those about to enter the workforce, mid-level professionals seeking to reach the next rung in their career, and emerging leaders.
Richardson digs deep in showing why these six habits are “essential” for those who want to be strategic and effective in creating opportunities that move their career forward without losing touch of their most deeply held values. These essential six habits are:
- Take Stock — the practice of assessing where you are against where you want to go, identifying the gaps, and taking steps to close them.
- Take Risks — the practice of stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new.
- Take Credit — the practice of clearly communicating the value that you bring to the table and acknowledging the contributions of others.
- Take a Hand — the two-fold practice of asking others for guidance and assistance and paying it forward by doing the same for others.
- Take Command — the practice of leading in a manner authentic to who you are and doing so with authority and confidence.
- Take a Stand — the practice of using your voice to express your values — in spite of the risks — to correct what needs fixing.
Some of the career-changing habits Richardson recommends may, at first blush, appear simple and easy to implement, but they are neither. By sharing stories from her own experience and those of her mentees, friends, and colleagues, Richardson illustrates how much time and effort it takes to utilize these practices well. For example, she candidly shares how she morphed from being a shy and insecure networker who “stumbled” in conversations into a “serial” connector and confident conversationalist.
You can read a transcript of the interview with Veta T. Richardson here.
“Today, you can drop me into a room filled with strangers anywhere in the world… but it didn’t happen on its own,” she states. “It was the result of a careful analysis of where my networking skills were compared with where they needed to be, followed by equally careful planning of the steps and actions required to close the gap, combined with consistent practice to perfect the skill.”
To practice taking a stand, Richardson advises using your voice to speak out at work when you personally experience or witness “any form of microaggression, belittling, bullying, bias, or discrimination.” She shares the story of when, years ago, the company she worked for sent her an invitation from the CEO’s office to a minstrel show put on by a theater group for the holidays. She details how she not only declined the invitation but made it clear why she was deeply offended. Soon after that, she accepted another invitation from the office of the CEO to a black-tie fundraiser.
Richardson’s action brought to light an issue that needed to be acknowledged and corrected. Voicing her objection in a professional yet unequivocal manner was bold and — and, as she notes — an exercise in practicing another one of her six habits, that of taking risks. “When you Take a Stand rather than let others demean your values, beliefs, or heritage, you are being authentic… and that builds trust,” Richardson explains.
The risk Richardson took in that example was significant. As she acknowledges, however, there are varying levels of risk in applying each of the habits. Her advice: get in the habit of taking small risks to strengthen your risk-taking muscle. Why? Because, as Richardson rightly asserts, “success lies at the intersection of risk and opportunity.”
At its core, Richardson’s Take Six is about exercising personal leadership in a manner that nurtures your innate and learned skills, safeguards your values, and adds measurably to the success and well-being of the people and organizations that you touch.