The one thing everyone agreed on was if Alice was ambitious, you would never know it.
Yet Alice’s division was looking for a potential new Risk leader, one who could inspire people to be committed, to vigorously and enthusiastically pursue new opportunities in unchartered waters while maintaining firm guidelines around compliance and risk appetite.
Almost as a second thought they asked me to work with her and see if by any chance I thought she had the capability—or even the desire—to be a candidate.
When I heard about Alice I was struck by one anomaly. This mild-mannered, petite, middle-aged woman was a high-ranking black belt in taekwondo. She spent her holidays in global tournaments and won many of them. On weekends she taught at her own dojang (school).
When she spoke about her discipline, with its values of ethics, respect and confidence (which as it happened aligned well with the stated values of her company), and her students’ progress, her eyes shone.
How could Alice show such conviction, determination and leadership in one area and not another? Was it just she wasn’t interested?
The truth was in her past. Alice came from a conservative Asian family who felt girls should not put themselves forward. Her father recruited her from a very early age to help teach at his highly successful dojang. So she compartmentalised her life, doing well at school but never, as she said, “putting her head above the parapet” or self-nominating for positions of authority and status.
I finally convinced Alice to take the plunge and begin to explore how she might take the emotional risk of breaking down the wall towards putting herself in positions of public scrutiny at work, as she did in tournaments.
We spoke about developing her team as she did her students. Her boss, a woman with a passion for continuous learning and self-improvement, jumped at this opening and began passing on opportunities to Alice to speak, to take on projects which would showcase her skills more broadly.
A new woman emerged on the corporate stage to the delight of her colleagues - and when Alice did get the new position she took on the mantle of responsibility and decision-making with the same strength applied with grace and consideration for others she demonstrated on the mat.
What do you need to challenge in yourself or others to bring out audacious?
Dr Alicia Fortinberry is a writer, speaker and the best-selling co-author of such titles as Creating Optimism and Raising an Optimistic Child.