How to Beat Rejection by Turning a “NO” Into a Queendom

I was in Charlotte this week and met with a friend, Daniel Stanton; you may know him as Mr. Supply Chain and author of the book “Supply Chain for Dummies”. He was joined by his wonderful family including his wife Ruth and their three beautiful girls.

As we chatted at a local craft brewery called OMB, the topic of women in supply chain emerged and consumed our evening dialogue. We noticed a disturbing trend in the supply chain industry…women are getting cheated. There’s less mentoring, educational assistance, and leadership training for women in industry and it plain sucks!

We knew of internal programs offered by various employers but struggled to find an organization that embodies an inclusive mission of leadership for women in supply chain.

Daniel mentioned an organization and immediately my eyes widened with astonishment…

To protect the guilty, I’ll refer to the organization as Org B. You see, this leadership organization rejected me in the worst way…

Again reiterating the value of being inclusive versus exclusive, I shared the story with Daniel and his wife, a story that I’m sharing with you now.

What’s amazing is this story is similar to many talented supply chain folks who find themselves with a title that may not accurately depict what they do. More importantly, I didn’t know how to unlock and unleash the potential I knew was inside me. I felt stuck.

During my own career, I have been tucked in a supply chain organization with a ton of potential, doing a rock-star job, but felt like I didn’t have a mentor, didn’t know the next step or best step in my career path, and wanted to continue my formal education, but had no idea where to start because I am a first generation college student and was a single mom at the time…

There were no female supply chain leaders in my company to seek mentorship from or to set a precedence. Supply chain is in a renaissance right now, and I meet folks all the time who are in a mis-titled role, wearing many hats, and propping up senior leaders in a supply chain hierarchy who are far-removed from the activities that keep the organization afloat and growing.

I also meet potential superstars, like my friend Travis Goetz, who aren’t given space to spread their wings due to fear that things may fall apart if they are promoted. Does any of this sound familiar? Have you ever felt tucked away under the hat of your boss, like the rat in the movie Ratatouille (sorry, my kids have made me watch this movie a thousand times), who was doing all the cooking while the puppet-chef was getting all the praise?

While attending Rutgers University, I met a woman who was actively engaged in Org B. She mentioned several times during our interactions that I should join Org B and I’d be a perfect fit. So, I followed the application process, vague supply chain title in hand, and was declined admission into the Org B club. I was told that based on review of my request, my title was not senior enough to join the organization. (This happened a little over 2 years ago).

I was shocked, disheartened, and beaten-down…

I knew I was a supply chain Rockstar and at the end of the day, I couldn’t understand why they didn’t see my worth.

That evening I pondered the rejection over a glass of Chardonnay and came to the realization that if someone doesn’t see your potential, it comes down to one of three things: you aren’t communicating your value, the timing isn’t right, and/or it has absolutely nothing to do with you. This was one of several pivotal moments in my career that propelled me to begin my journey in professional branding.

It wasn’t enough that I had the knowledge, skills, and experience…it wasn’t enough that I knew I was a Rockstar. I became obsessed with making sure the world knew it too.

After sharing this story with Daniel and his wife, he pointed out the irony of the Org B’s decision. Fast forward to today, my brand SupplyChainQueen is recognized as a leading influencer in the supply chain industry. Today, I am an IBMFuturist and a North American Director of Strategic Services for a supply chain technology company.

Org B missed a huge opportunity to embrace a fellow supply chain gal with a warm hug, not a cold NO.

I asked both of them, if this happened to me, how many others are out there…tons of talented ladies with potential who are looking for a network?

Daniel’s wife Ruth shared a story of another young phenomenal woman who was also not allowed to ‘join the Org B club’. Since that conversation, I’ve learned there are many more talented women in supply chain denied entry into this organization. These women are full of untapped potential, they’re looking for mentors, guidance, and they’re excited and driven to take on the world.

In the past few months, I’ve received emails on Instagram and LinkedIn from talented women in supply chain who want to learn and grow, but do not know where to turn. ‘LexieStrong’ (on Instagram) is a single mom venturing back to school to finish her undergraduate degree. She wanted know what supply chain classes will add the most value in her professional development and her ability to provide for her two young boys.

I received an email from Dyci Manns Sfegola. She is passionate about supply chain, eager to learn, and wants to unlock her potential. She asked her manager (who is male) about organizations that mentor female emerging supply chain leaders, a network and resource hub, all the things that Ruth and I discussed. His reply…that organization doesn’t exist.

Though her boss’ opinion is not entirely untrue, I would amend Dyci’s boss’ answer; here’s what I imagine needs to happen…

I understand the premise of an all-female organization giving back, reaching-back to help women in supply chain, but how can you truly transform the minds and hearts of people operating in a silo, particularly in a field comprised largely of the opposite gender? You’re missing a critical mass, a critical input for global change in supply chain.

Ruth and I both know men who have helped us during our careers, who encourage the advancement of women in supply chain and transforming gender bias in the workplace (shout out to Alexis Rotenberg and Michael Massetti). And Daniel, who has three daughters, and was sitting across the table from two queens who were riled up (the queen of Charlotte real estate and the queen of supply chain), passionate about helping women reach their full potential…and nodding in authentic agreement, he said yes, “men should be invited to the party”.

I’d urge Org B that instead of looking at someone’s title and surmising that they are not worthy of your organization, why not put a process in place that allows for an adequate candidate review?

To Org B…I get it, there’s a saying among various experts and published authors that goes, “You don’t get on Oprah until you’re ready for Oprah.” Being in the supply chain spotlight (if there’s such a thing) I have been exposed to some rude and just plain weird folks who would not fit the culture of Org B. I understand that there needs to be a standard. If I may make a suggestion though, perhaps there’s a path somewhere between “NO!” and “YES!”…

Why not ask them to present their passion and knowledge…let them tell their story…let them offer up their professional life for readiness review. Then, once you’ve given them a chance to prove their readiness, if they’re not quite ready, be leaderlike…if they’re not ready for Oprah, offer a few tips or give documented recommendations of ways to grow into the “YES!”.

To everyone in the Supply Chain Queendom, they told me I wasn’t good enough. I simply chose not to believe them. However, it doesn’t stop there.

Expecting things to change without putting in any effort is like waiting for a ship at an airport.

The unique solution is “focused over-delivery”, not just on the job, but in your own life. Nine to five is to survive, and five to twelve is to thrive. If you don’t have the motivation when you get home from work to focus on your own goals and development, you’re not tired, you’re uninspired. Your response to rejection? Go so far beyond the minimum requirements that people can’t ignore you.

I want to be part of the solution, part of building the type of inclusive access to resources, networking, and development.

Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

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