Three Sisters, my Wife, and a Nun….

In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, Mark Nordick, senior vice president, customer success at Blue Yonder, writes about the most impactful woman in his life and the lessons he’s learned and applied to his life and career.

I was born in Omaha, Nebraska and spent the first 14 years of my life there.  I have three sisters and grew up with a caring mother and father.  We lived in the countryside until I was 9 or 10 years old.  The closest neighbor with a boy my age was 2-3 miles away, so I spent a lot of time with my sisters – especially my two older sisters. 

My oldest sister (Erica) was born with fire in her belly.  She is as tough (and can be as stubborn) as anyone I know, but she also has a heart of gold.  Erica taught me how to fight, how to drink (responsibly!), and how to stick up for myself and others.  She also taught me that doing the right thing sometimes means letting others make mistakes and supporting them instead of criticizing them.   

My second oldest sister (Becky) taught me patience.  Becky is the silent but perceptive one. She would lean back, listen, and then engage once she understood the landscape.  She does not judge or gossip but listens and seeks to understand all sides. 

My younger sister (Kelly) is four years younger than me and eight years younger than Erica.   She is the artistic sibling. She has painted my niece’s room in the Little Mermaid theme and been commissioned to do portraits and other drawings. Kelly has taught me how to be creative.

My mother was originally going to be a Catholic nun until my father stole her heart and subsequently stole HER away from the convent to get married.  My mother had the right balance between being a disciplinarian and having a loving heart.  She raised my sisters and me, taught at my school, and ran the household.  Throughout my life, my mother was there to listen, advise, coach, and sometimes provide the tough love that I did not want, but needed.  Unfortunately, my mother passed away from cancer, but before she passed, she gave me advice that I’ve applied personally and professionally. She said, “It is ok to have a heart.”  That was probably 20 years ago, and I still find myself replaying that sentence in my head today.

My wife (Tess) has worked in startups and Fortune 500 companies.  When we first got married, she was an executive at a company in Dallas reporting to the CEO and driving growth and customer success via their call centers, sales teams, and operations teams. We were both on the road, working demanding jobs, and sometimes passing in the airport. After a year or so, Tess decided to explore other avenues and try some new things. She learned how non-profits work and helped raise more than $20 million to fund shelters and programs for domestic violence intervention and prevention in Dallas. She went back to school to earn her PhD in Psychology and somewhere along the way, she turned a hobby into a career writing curriculum and leading children’s ministry. She’s been ministering to kids and families at our church for four or five years, now. Do I expect her to stay at our church?  Only as long as she wants to. She loves to learn and help organizations (and people) improve. I wouldn’t be surprised if she spreads her wings again to try new ventures or lead transformations back in the corporate world.  What I have learned from my wife is courage.  Tess has the courage to go out and try new things, pivot, and try new things again.  Every time she succeeds and every time she grows personally and professionally.

The women in my life have been examples, mentors and challengers. They’ve shaped (and sometimes challenged) my perspective and helped me define “my brand.”  The lessons I learned from my three sisters, caring mother, and talented wife are important lessons for the business world:

  1. Do the right thing. Many times, driving the best business outcomes just means doing the right thing.  Doing the right thing drives positive culture, higher levels of trust and customer loyalty in business. 
  2. Listen.  Understanding the problem from all angles is a vital part of critical thinking and effective negotiating. The key is to seek input from others and listen more than you talk.  You have two ears and one mouth; they should be used proportionately.  Sometimes, that is easier said than done and it requires practice.
  3. Creative.  Google “Diversity and Creativity” and you will find research that sites group diversity and inclusion as critical factors that lead to more ideas, broader sets of solutions and more mutually beneficial compromises.
  4. Heart. A positive culture in the workplace is driven by leadership. Psychological safety or people caring about people is a critical ingredient to high performing teams and delivering outstanding results.  Care about customers and they will return the favor by buying what you sell.  Care about employees and they will work together to deliver more for the customer and the organization.
  5. Courage. It takes courage to change. One of my old bosses used to say that in order to grow you have to “be comfortable being uncomfortable.” My wife has this kind of courage. She’s comfortable being uncomfortable for the sake of growth. She continues to show me that change requires you to push yourself and to try new things. It requires you to have the hard conversations and go for great. Leaders must have the courage and commitment to cultivate an environment in which all employees feel valued, respected and empowered to contribute and take risks in order to advance the organization.

This week, as International Women’s Day commences, we recognize the importance of women on the world’s stage.  Personally, and professionally, I have been blessed by women who have invested in me. The lessons I’ve learned from them have made me a better leader, husband, brother, and person. 

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