Learn to ask for help, listen to answers: speaker

TORONTO — The biggest barrier to women settling into leadership roles may be the women themselves.

Sophie Perreault of Farm Credit Canada detailed her leadership journey in a presentation at the Advancing Women in Agriculture conference here this month.

“Embrace our imperfections and know we are good enough,” the executive vice-president and chief operating officer said in an interview.

If she could start her career over again, she said, she would accept help from others, accept she is not perfect and take more risks.

“I felt for people to take me seriously, I had to know all the answers,” said Perreault.

That created a prickly leadership style in which she was telling people what to do and how to do it.

“I wish I could have reached out more and not be worried about asking for help so I could relax and not feel that everything was on my shoulders and rely on my team,” she said.

It had a negative impact on co-workers and on her, Perreault conceded.

She said there’s a way to be strong and listen to people at the same time.

“Being bold doesn’t mean you’re so directed, you leave wounded bodies behind you,” she said.

Ask for feedback, help others reach their potential and eliminate barriers to unlock workers’ full potential, Perreault said.

“It takes boldness to be comfortable with not being perfect,” she said, noting how that will help others accept and be open about their own weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Amy Cronin, president of Cronin Family Farms in Bluevale, Ont., doubted her ability and her qualifications when asked to join Ontario Pork.

“Sometimes you’ve got to do hard things to get outside of your comfort zone and be able to grow,” she said.

For Cronin, joining that organization served as a springboard to numerous provincial and federal committees.

“As a woman in agriculture, I think I made a difference,” she said.

In presentations to delegates, both she and Elysia Vandenhurk of Three Farmers Products of Sask-atoon noted the importance of listening, developing good relationships and working as a team in farm businesses.

“Focus on teams and bringing up those around you,” Cronin said, citing the 95 employees her hog farm employs.

Vandenhurk said women should not fear asking too many questions.

“There are no stupid questions, ever,” she said.

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