A Seat at the Table
Three Keys to Transformational Leadership
At work Donna Blackman, EMBA ’10, manages a team of 60 finance professionals. At home she manages two children.
Navigating the dual roles requires skill, but Blackman does not claim to have a secret recipe for work-life balance. “You cannot have it all,” she said. “Not all the time.”
She felt her limitations during her Executive MBA program at Smith, when she added the third role of business student to the mix. Feelings of “mother guilt” crept to the surface as Blackman spread herself thin, but she persevered.
Along the way, she learned to rely on at least three guiding principles: Go all in, put people first and actively listen.
“I decided that if I was sacrificing this time away from my family, I needed to give it all that I have,” she said. “Every reading assignment, I read it. I read it all. Every homework assignment, I did it. Every group project, I made sure we had team meetings.”
Part of her motivation, as a mother, was to set an example for her children. “It was good for me to show my children that, when you have a goal, you should move forward and achieve it,” she said.
Blackman also benefited from strong support networks. She understood the importance of numbers as a certified public accountant, but she learned quickly that putting people first makes the biggest difference.
“The human aspect really matters in business,” she said. “Surround yourself with the right people and the right resources to help you do the things that you need to do.”
Being surrounded by people means exposure to diverse viewpoints, which requires active listening to maximize the benefit.
“If you are the person who speaks first all the time, you may lose out on some great ideas that someone else had,” Blackman said. “Sometimes you have to be quiet and listen.”
Although her Smith graduation represented a milestone, Blackman has kept her focus on the larger goal of becoming a transformational leader. This drive is what led her to BET Networks, where she has served as Senior Vice President, Finance and Controller since 2013.
“I want to have a seat at the table,” she said. “I want to be the person who is helping to shape the direction of the organization.”
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