Make Your Own Rules

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Screen Shot 2016-09-09 at 3.43.02 PM.pngFountainBlue’s September 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Make Your Own Rules. Below are notes from the conversation. 

We were fortunate to have such feisty, rule-breaking execs on our panel, representing a wide range of companies, experience and roles. They had much in common:

  • They are confident and clear on who they are and what they want to do.
  • They communicate directly and clearly to advocate for rule-changes.
  • They enlist support and advocates to make the case, highlighting the logical benefits and tangible results.
  • They challenge the status quo and question why things are done, while focusing on the best way things could be done.

Below is a compilation of their advice and recommendations.

Be Strategic

  • There are rules which are necessary, so accept them as such.
  • With that said, make a stand against social norms which limit what people think and how people perform. This benefits nobody.
  • Know yourself first – what you’re good at, what you’d like to do, what challenges you, what your limits are, etc. Then see the rules of the world framed from your perspective.
  • Know what to ask for in order to make small steps toward a bigger change.
  • Accept that sometimes you can’t change the people, the culture, the circumstances, and make the best of it or find a way to elegantly leave.
  • Set the expectations beforehand about what your values are, what you would put up with, what you stand for.

Be Collaborative

  • Know the motivations of those around you, especially if they are tied to rules that you think should be changed. Know also why others think a rule should be changed so that you can collectively advocate for that change.
  • Enlist the support of peers, mentors, champions and sponsors.
  • With that said, take ownership of your own career, your own battles.
  • Invite diversity, creativity and inclusion in the workforce.

Be Proactive

  • Take the initiative and define success criteria for a change you’d like to foster. Lobby with stakeholders to make that change stick. Adopt a culture, product, company that would be receptive to that sort of change.
  • Sometimes choosing to stay on the same path is like ‘playing with the pigs’, with the danger that you could get dirty. So stop choosing that same-old path and make the proactive choices which would set you up for success. 
  • Ask for specific feedback. Don’t let someone just say you need more scope or more visibility or more strategic vision or more networking ability. Have them define specific, achievable objectives.
  • Be plan-ful when you’re trying to redefine rules. Know why you want to do it, why other stakeholders also want it done, how it would be done, who would stand in the way and why, etc.,

Be Persistent 

  • Rule-breakers don’t always win. And rule-breaking is not always fun. In fact it’s sometimes painful. Accept that’s the case and be selective about which rules to change, which battles to fight.
  • Mindfulness, meditation and yoga may help people get centered and see some of the unconscious biases, the accepted assumptions which are limiting our realities. Question the unconscious biases and assumptions and perspectives we all have as they limiting what we as people, teams, companies and industries can do.
  • Embrace periodic refreshes in your life and career. Learning new things, adopting new projects will help build a larger perspective and more visibility and impact. Plus it’s more enjoyable.
  • Drivers, pioneers, integrators and guardians see the world from different lenses. Yet each plays a role in the changing of rules, and each must be brought into the larger game so that rules can be changed and those changes stick.

Our illustrious rule-breaking panelists are stand-out real-world examples of leaders who stand up and question and redefine the rules we live by, stretching the envelop of possibilities for each of us. We are in their debt.  


Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at PayPal and our panelists!

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Executive Coach, Tech Adviser and Leadership Consultant
  • Panelist Deepa Bajaj, Senior Director, Business Intelligence & Data Management, Finance Technology, PayPal and Head of Affiliations for Unity, Women@PayPal
  • Panelist Mary Emerton, Senior Director of Fulfillment Operations, Nutanix
  • Panelist Tonie Hansen, Senior Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, NVIDIA
  • Panelist Kaaren Hanson, VP Design, Medallia
  • Panelist Nithya A. Ruff, Director, SanDisk Open Source Strategy, CTO Office, WIN Board Member, SanDisk
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