Kirstine Stewart’s Life Lessons Know No Industry Boundaries

"The time is now for new styles of leadership, and women are best suited to set the pace." Kirstine Stewart in Our Turn

Anticipation

October 20, 2015 was the release date for “Our Turn” by Kirstine Stewart.  I waited patiently for my local book store to call to let me know my copy had arrived. Twitter was abuzz with details and positive comments about this hot new book on women and leadership. When the call came, I hurried to the book store.  The owner was as happy to put the book in my hands as I was to receive it.

I selected this book to review after reading Kirstine Stewart’s bio on the Advancing Women website. She had been a keynote speaker at AWCWest2015. I knew her book would be at more corporate and executive level than my daily life, but, I was equally sure she had something to say of importance for all women.

I wondered

….does working your way from Girl Friday to the head of Twitter’s North American Media Partnerships transfer to the world of women working in the businesses and companies that research, develop, support, supply and promote the agricultural industry?

…..would her strategies and wisdom apply to women involved in the business of on-farm production? I wanted to find out what the former head of the CBC might offer those who manage businesses from office windows overlooking animals or on a screen in a tractor cab or at a board room table shaped like the tailgate of truck.

As women engaged in agriculture, our ladders of success are unique.  Stewart’s words for her daughter speak to the value of that uniqueness. “What I tell her about ambition, as I would tell any woman, is that success is not just about climbing.  Leading comes from learning, in all its forms, and personal happiness will only be yours when you choose your own ladder.” (p12)  No matter where you are on your ladder, Stewart’s book guides your next steps!

The Details:

202 pages (very manageable)
$29.95 (most reasonable)
9 Chapters, Multiple subsections (all with captivating titles)
Index (11 pages – love this feature)
Numerous dog-eared pages (New copy does not come with this feature, must read & mark important pages)

Reading Response #1 – Dust Jacket Success

Kirstine Stewart’s photo greets me as I open the cover of my shiny new book. The front flap accomplishes its’ purpose.  I am intrigued by the statement “Simply put: the time is now for new styles of leadership, and women are best suited to set the pace.”

Reading Response #2 – Did I Make the Right Choice?

Stewart’s writing is current, honest and impressive.  It’s high profile, corporate and speaks to her experiences at Paragon Entertainment, Alliance Atlantis, CBC/Radio-Canada and Twitter Canada.  I can’t help but wonder how her words will apply to me and my readers. Page 3 has already given me a positive indicator.  Stewart gives importance to working at a bookshop, library and an agricultural museum (Milton??) by including them as early points along her career pathway. She tells how she responded to an ad, in a newspaper, for her first job as a Girl Friday.  The experiences, as she worked her way through university, gave her the skills and confidence to see the job opportunity, take a chance and then apply herself beyond measure.  The successful results of this attitude resonate in all work worlds.

Reading Response #3 – “Young lady, stop ruining your book”

Reading, reading, reading….. I’m turning the corners of pages to mark content I want to reread or quotes I want to include. My high school English teacher would cringe watching me happily ruin the appearance of this book.  Almost every page is provoking my thinking and inspiring me.  No questions now on book choice.

Reading Response #4 – Quotes & Notes

Stewart’s main message is that women have the talents, skills and attitudes that are best suited for the work world of today. She provides practical strategies along with experiences, observations and visionary statements.

I challenge myself to select four quotes to share.  It’s difficult to narrow down all of those dog-eared pages.

Personal Development – “If you never fail it means you are never trying anything new.  Success means you’ve made more right decisions than wrong ones, but you can’t let failure define you.” (p61)

“The idea of balance doesn’t reflect how the world works, or how we truly spend our time.  It’s not about achieving balance, it’s about flow.” (p130)

Family – “Life’s great hat trick-love, kids and career”…”What has to change is the question.  It’s not “How do you do it all,” but “How will we do it all.”  ….”The work-life juggle isn’t a woman’s issue, it’s a family issue-no matter the makeup of that family.  No player scores a hat trick alone; it has to be a team effort. (p102,115,117)

Leadership – “To me, that’s how we need to lead today: being there at the top to clearly express the aims, set goals and expectations, ensure people have what they need to work and then get out of the way so they can get the job done.” (p95)

“The more you act like a leader, the more you learn to be one.  And the more you will be seen as one.  Like strengthening a muscle, it just takes practice.” (p99)

Workplace – “What matters to modern employees is to feel that they’re making a meaningful contribution, that they have purpose and a stake in the work they do, and a certain amount of autonomy in how it gets done.” (p151)  The meeting table isn’t a place to go it alone, but a place where you anchor yourself as part of a team. (p77)

Reading Response #5 – “Dig in your heels & stand tall”

Book finished. Mind full. Wondering.

If you tweet @kirstinestewart late on a Friday night, will she respond?

She does, not once but twice.  She even makes a joke.

I look for a specific quote and find it on page 172. “But today, when it’s not about power but about building connections with employees and the customers you serve, it’s the smartest way to operate.”

Kirstine Stewart is that smart operator.  She talks the talk, walks the walk.

(And “yes”, it was the Ag Museum in Milton!)

-Joan C.

What is the Advancing Women Conference?

advancing-women-east

Earlier this spring I attended the Advancing Women in Ag Conference in Calgary on behalf of my employer and along with three of my colleagues.  I was a skeptic. The thought of attending a women-in-agriculture conference was not on the top of my things-to-do list, but I was strongly urged by my boss to attend.

“It will be a great networking opportunity,” he reminded me.

So I went. The speaker line up was intriguing, I had to admit. Where else can you hear Kristine Stewart, the head of Twitter Canada speak one day and Debbie Travis speak the other? Both interesting women with a great story to tell.  And it really is all about telling stories. Everyone has a story to tell and sharing those stories helps everyone. It reminds you that no matter what you are going through, someone else can relate. That is one thing I took away from this conference. Each speaker had great advice or was a source of inspiration for the approximately 600 female agricultural professionals in the room. There are themes from the conference I still think about; chase your dream, just ask – give people the option to say yes, never say no out of fear and my ultimate favourite, from Debbie Travis: Dream it, Do it, Live it! Debbie Travis was by far the highlight speaker for me, and I just may have found my next vacation destination at her new Tuscan retreat in Italy!

The conference presented topics for discussion that are typically overlooked when talking about careers in agriculture. Susan Blair tackled one such topic head on, which was also an important one for me. A Saskatchewan-raised farm girl who is now the Executive Director, Animal Health for Boehringer Ingelheim, spoke about the tough choices she had to make to leave the farm and take a job in corporate agriculture. She reminded the attendees that it’s alright to make those tough decisions and to do what needs to be done. Those jobs are very important to the agriculture industry and people with hands on experience are needed to fill them.

The two days turned out to be an important experience for me. While I was there, I was in the middle of a major life-altering decision, and it made many of the messages from the event resound with me and even help me have confidence in the decision I was making. Check out the #AWCWest2015 thread on Twitter for updates from the conference. I was also able to catch up with colleagues, acquaintances, some old friends and do a fair bit of networking. I hate to admit it but my boss was right…but please don’t tell him I said that!  Look for me at AWC East in October. I’ll be there and I am looking forward to doing it all again!

– Cheryl H.