Linking Indy Women kicked off 2015 with an energetic group of women gathered at the Speak Easy, eager to hear from an amazing woman and someone I personally have strong admiration for – Kim Graham Lee. This is what she shared with the group.
Love your roots.
Kim Graham Lee is not an Indiana native. But, boy, are we glad to have her. She hails from Wisconsin with childhood roots in the South. She loves that history. From an early age, she learned the value of expanding her horizons. She made the decision to attend a public school instead of an all-girls Catholic high school, which she claims to be one of the biggest life-guiding decisions she made at a young age.
Fast-forward, she happened upon Walker Information, where she would make an incredibly successful, research and data-driven, 20-year career that would continue to serve her well in everything else she did. She went on to ride the ups and downs of the dot com bubble, worked as the only woman in an executive role, learned from two startups that didn’t make it, and raised two children. Whew.
But from all that, she learned that she’s passionate about growing organizations and people. There’s a very unique stage in a company’s life when it needs to think about securing its place in the fabric of a community.
“I love taking organizations to that next level. … I like to grow things”
– Kim Graham Lee
Your life, your values.
Her story doesn’t stop there. She took on a CEO role at Indianapolis-based Vontoo, followed by a number of leadership positions, giving her 7 years of experiences that taught her something different at every step of the way.
“I don’t believe there’s such a thing as work-life balance. I believe that life is a blend, you just need to figure out what that blend is.”
This is true. I’m a firm believer in this approach as well. It’s much more realistic and it’ll keep us sane. But, there’s a line that we, as women, cross far too often. We often fall into the trap of taking care of others more and before ourselves. Kim said it best:
“Self care is not selfish.”
It’s thinking about what you need. Kim has learned, and hopes to pass on the message, that it’s ok to take a breather. It’s ok to prioritize taking care of yourself.
“There’s only one life to live.”
This message took on a particularly dark meaning in her life when she learned about how far bullying had gone with her son, then in high school. And, he wasn’t alone. She took it upon herself to find out to what extent bullying was touching the lives of other kids in that school. She uncovered a lot. And, made a huge impact on young lives.
Service continues to be a big part of Kim’s life, as she volunteers at St. Mary’s Child Center, a pre-school for at-risk 3- to 5-year-olds.
For Kim, rising up also means passing on – passing on her learnings as a woman leader so others can become leaders, too. We have challenges to overcome; but we, as women, still have a lot of work to do to encourage a balance of power across genders in the workplace.
“Be true to yourself.”
Rising up also means being easier on ourselves. This resonates with me – and probably many of you.
“There’s a huge difference between excellence and perfection.”
We all need to strive for excellence, not perfection. And, learn how to differentiate between the two, because it’s easy to inherently think of them as one and the same.
Finally, talk about your successes. How is anyone going to give you credit if they don’t know what to give credit for? I’m about to make a generalizing comment (fair warning): Men do this better than women. Push yourself to do this better, and you’ll rise up.
Today, Kim is channeling her experience and her passion to teach others to become leaders in the home, community and the workplace with her own startup, trueU.
“If you help others become leaders in those other spaces, they will bring it in to the workplace.”
Kim is an inspirational woman who has been through her fair share of challenges in life. She’s prevailed every time and lives to not only tell the tale, but teach others from it. That’s her mission and her calling. That’s what trueU is about.
I encourage you to check it out. At the very least, always remember – in Kim’s words – to “be yourself” and let others be themselves. This is her recipe for success.