Joni Madison talks to Duke students about being a woman leader in business
“What I Wish Someone Had Told Me” was the title of McKinney Chief Operating Officer Joni Madison’s presentation on February 21, 2013. Those attending were Duke University students of Dr. Martha Reeve’s class, Women at Work. And everyone in the room that day was affected by the experience.
“Dr. Reeves asked me to talk about how I view leadership and power, to discuss my career track and what has helped me be successful, and to talk about what I learned from my mistakes along the way,” explained Joni. So she told the students her story, starting in her 20s and ending with the fact she just turned 50, unabashedly sharing each decade’s strengths and weaknesses (and what she learned from both) to show the students how she got where she is today.
The presentation ended with Joni sharing what she’s learned from men in business: single focusing versus multitasking. In general (there are always exceptions), men put their energy into being focused on a big idea, the strategy; and in general, women put their energy into juggling many balls well with the litany of to-dos required to make a big idea a reality. “Men are more single-focused and tend to simply trust that all the details will just get done. Much to women’s frustration, they don’t worry about the small stuff,” she said. But she sees a change happening: “The world is just now evolving to include more women leaders. They’re getting increasingly comfortable with being single-focused, pushing back all the noise of the granular details.”
An email from a student confirmed that Joni’s willingness to share her made a difference: “As I try to find my way in the world, I have learned very quickly to appreciate what those who have already found their way have to say; thank you for taking the time to talk to our class on Thursday. I truly appreciated it.”