"Pay attention to what you do, not what you say," is advice well modeled by Faye Richardson-Green, an avid leader in her organization and community.
Director, Global Learning and Development, Steelcase Inc.
Faye Richardson-Green has more than 25 years of leadership experience at Steelcase Inc., a global work effectiveness company headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she has been with the learning and development group—Steelcase University—since April 2003. Richardson-Green attended the Executive Institute on Women and Leadership at Stanford University and has broad-based community leadership experience in the Greater Grand Rapids area.
You began your professional career as a banker. When did you first become interested in workplace learning and development, and how did you break into the field?
I was taking finance classes at a local college to increase my capabilities as a banker when I noticed an advertisement for rape crisis volunteers, with a specified date and time for training. I had been volunteering since I was a young teenager, so I decided to attend. The training was delivered through a thorough 60-hour crisis-intervention event, and I was intrigued by the training process.
After successfully completing the training and becoming a rape crisis team member, I completed a train-the-trainer event, which included an additional 25 hours of preparing volunteers for all kinds of crises to support a 24-hour crisis line.
Later I became a volunteer trainer-of-trainers and volunteer training consultant to a local domestic crisis center. Soon I was involved in training activities for a number of not-for-profit human services organizations.
Training remained my avocation from 1976 until 2003, when my vocation and avocation intersected, and I joined the learning team at Steelcase University.
What are some of the greatest career lessons you learned from attending Stanford University's Executive Institute on Women and Leadership?
Women have been providing leadership since our earliest economic and social systems were developed. There's a reason that women in the past were often referred to as the "power behind the throne."
Consequently, no organization runs effectively without women. Women do not have to behave like men to be effective leaders; rather, effective leadership requires a mix of the feminine as well as the masculine traits that we all carry.
How have your volunteer community leadership experiences shaped you personally and professionally?
Personally, they provided courage and confidence in the public arena—fear is mostly an internal battle; showed the value of exercising a voice for others—the power of "one"; and shaped my leadership and interaction style—beliefs matter, and equity matters.
Professionally, they broadened my network; provided recognition and influence; and increased my opportunities.
How have you seen the learning and development profession evolve during the past several decades?
There's been an increase in informal deployment methods as lines are blurring between life, work, and learning. Teachers are becoming known as facilitators, and leaders are becoming more integral to the learning process as facilitators and coaches.
Play is re-emerging as a significant factor in the learning process. Technology tools are becoming commonplace.
What are your go-to sources for professional inspiration and development?
I go to my co-workers, as well as some learning professionals outside of Steelcase whom I have met through the years. These are people who still are excited by the learning process.
I also look to people who get "geeked" about learning and exploring new ideas and practices.
How would you advise a young learning professional who is seeking to develop her leadership capabilities?
Develop a personal code of ethics and stick to it. People pay attention to what you do, not what you say.
Identify role models you respect and seek at least one as a coach or mentor. Participate in a leadership development program that includes a method to receive feedback. Cultivate good listening skills. Be generous with saying "thank you" and crediting your team for good work. When things go wrong (and they will), seek solutions, not scapegoats. Build your professional networks.