Ligia-McLean- Turn an obstacle into an advantage

On this episode, our host Siebe Van Der Zee speaks with Aerospace professional Ligia McLean. Ligia shares valuable lessons she learned that have helped her advance her career.

About Ligia McLean

Ligia has been in the Aerospace industry since 1982. She has led strategy and international partnerships for Boeing and McDonnell Douglas and now heads her own Aerospace consultancy.

She has a Masters in International Management from the Thunderbird Graduate School (ASU) and a Bachelors degree in Business Management.

Ligia shares with us 10 lessons that she has learned that have helped her succeed in business and in life.

Episode  Notes 

Lesson 1: Relationship building is the most effective skill that will help in your career 5m 56s

Lesson 2: Know your Audience 7m 19s

Lesson 3: Prioritise giving back 12m 42s

Lesson 4: Complete your efforts; Deliver Results 19m 50s

Lesson 5: Be resilient 22m 34s

Lesson 6: There are things that you may not be good at on your first try… 25m 44s

Lesson 7: Celebrate successes and learn from disappointments 27m 41s

Lesson 8: Focus on your strengths and get help on your weaknesses 33m 02s

Lesson 9: Keep things in perspective 37m 26s

Lesson 10: Turn an obstacle into an advantage 41m 37s

Ligia McLean – 10 Lessons-50 Years

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to our podcast, 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn where we dispense wisdom, not just information, not mere facts to an international audience of rising leaders around the globe. In other words, we will be talking to interesting people about their interesting experiences. My name is Siebe Van Der Zee and I’m your host. I’m originally from the Netherlands currently living in the state of Arizona in the United States of America. In other words, a Dutchman in the desert. My company is involved in executive search and performance coaching and Oh yeah. In my career, I’ve had the opportunity to live in four countries on three continents.

This podcast is sponsored by the Professional Development Forum PDF. And they help up and coming professionals around the world, accelerate their performance. I hope you will enjoy this program.

Our guest today is Ligia McLean. Ligia has demonstrated throughout her career, 30 plus years with a major aerospace and defense corporation, the Boeing company, that there are lessons that can be applied to both the corporate arena, as well as life in general.

Ligia has a very impressive background. She has developed and executed over 300 projects with multiple international companies that yielded more than $3 billion in revenues. She has also managed the diverse functional team for various R and D projects. Ligia has done business in over 15 countries and she has built industry relationships ranging from fortune 500 companies to startup companies in the life sciences industry.

I’m happy to say Ligia most concentrated country of activity has been the Netherlands, my native country. Now, now at this stage of her career Ligia has taken on the challenge of continuing and sharing her expertise as part of a global advisory and business development consultancy. Welcome Ligia thank you for joining us. 

Ligia McLean: [00:02:08] I’m honored to be part of this podcast effort to share lessons in my career. You said 50 years, I wasn’t formally working then, but I, I can see what I was 50 years ago. And what I am today is quite different. And to add to that what I will become in the future and will probably be different as well.

So I mentioned this as a key lesson here, that what you may start out with your career may not be what you end up doing the rest of your life.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:02:37] Absolutely. And I agree less than 50 years, but I think the substance of your experience, perhaps, you know, more than 50 years, because it’s quite an amazing journey that you have gone through so far and you’re not done yet.

Ligia McLean: [00:02:53] That’s right. That’s right. I took your words of key wisdom seems so profound and deep. And I thought, well, what is it? What is wisdom? And I thought, well, I’ll look it up and trying new things, reflecting on the process and you have the ability to gain wisdom by doing so. My goal is to learn as much as I can. Analyze my experiences and put that knowledge to the test.

So, for me starting my own consulting firm is my opportunity to put my knowledge to the test after so many years working in the corporate world. So hopefully I get a chance to use that knowledge in my new consultancy activity.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:03:30] Well, it sounds, yeah, it sounds very interesting Ligia. I know you sent me your list of 10 lessons, and I look forward to going through that with you, but I’m also thinking about the fact that in your life and your experience you have dealt of course, with an industry that I would say is male dominated defense industry aerospace, and obviously a 30 plus year career as a female. What, what has been the key lesson or key lessons, if I can ask that you have learned in that respect?

Ligia McLean: [00:04:07] Well, you’re right in the aerospace industry there are only about 10% females. We’re trying to make efforts to change that, but it’s a slow process. For example, a lot of women don’t think about becoming the only female or the minimum amount of females in aerospace and defense. In fact, that was not my goal originally. I just wanted a job. So, when I realized, Hey, wait a minute. This big company. May be able to pay for my schooling. And I knew I wanted, the only thing I knew was I wanted to be an international arena. They offered me a payment, a portion of payment for my schooling and I finished my master’s degree in international management. Which provided me the opportunity to take on leadership roles within the company and that has given me some great opportunities.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:04:58] Well, and that’s an interesting element that they offered you education opportunities, but they would not have done that if they didn’t want you to be on board, right?  It works both ways. It was good for you. It was good for them.

Ligia McLean: [00:05:14] That’s true. They did force us to make a commitment that if they paid for our schooling, you had to stay for at least two years. And after two years of using the schooling that you were trained in, you, you really get involved. You, you make a commitment to the company as well.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:05:29] Absolutely. Well, that’s, that’s good to hear.

And I have the feeling when we get into the 10 lessons that element again, as a. As a female worker, executive leader, that experience will, will come through as well. But that’s an interesting way, how you got connected to your company.

The first lesson that I see Ligia is relationship building was and still is the most effective skill that has helped me in my career. Yeah. What do you mean by that?

Ligia McLean: [00:06:04] I’ll tell you it is a skill, a necessary skill. It creates team spirit. I did not start out thinking that I had to build relationships. I was very task oriented and schedule oriented.

I wanted to prove myself. The job is important. But I didn’t realize how amazing and how much more approachable you become when you take time to genuinely get to know someone. It creates that loyalty and a bond within your group and within your customer base. I can now reach out to customers and industry leaders that I’ve known for over 25 years, and they still want to work together with me. So, I don’t want to lessen the capability of your work requirements, but it sure makes your work requirements much easier. When you have relationships established.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:06:52] Now building relationships yes, is important, critically important. But when you do that, like you did in at least 15 countries, there is that cross-cultural element. That is part of it. Right. Because people communicate sometimes slightly differently or very differently in other countries and other cultures.

Ligia McLean: [00:07:15] Yeah, it’s true. They do. And, and you don’t want to stereotype, but you have to say each culture is different. And I noticed that even when I was growing up, I was growing up in a, in a foreign environment, a European environment.

My father used to tell me. Don’t smile so much. You’re giving the wrong intentions. You know, the old fashioned that you’re smiling too much. You’re, you’re leading people on. Well, in some countries, that’s very true. If a woman was smiling and laughing too much, you may be perceived as not being taken seriously.

And whereas in another culture, such as in the Southern part of Europe I dealt with the Italians. If you didn’t smile, if you didn’t laugh, they thought something was wrong with you. And so that you were not happy with them. So, there wasn’t a caution that, especially being female, I had to be careful like with the Germans, they were very serious. They spoke to you. They didn’t want to have laughter. It was more of a serious time discussing business was business, and you learn that fairly quickly. So, you respond to the person you’re dealing with. And I think that’s in any culture, even in the U S you’ll see a variety of diversity of people, how to deal with those people. You have to become sensitive to that.

And being female is, is very difficult as well. I’ll tell a funny story. If I, when I first started my career, I was dealing with a lot of military and, and I mentioned defense side. You had mentioned that. One of the things that I noticed was, after my schooling, I was put in a role of leadership.

So, I had these team of training engineers, and we had to develop this training system to help military pilots and how to learn, how to fly the Apache helicopter. And they came up with a beautiful conceptual design, the suite of devices from what we call part task trainers, small devices to this large simulator.

And they said, this concept is perfect. And I had to brief the general. So, when I went to the general, I had to put this chart together and I said, all right, I want to take a positive approach. Tell this general who was very serious, that I had the best concept for him. And I had to come up with a name for this briefing bunch of charts I put together.

And I told the young engineers, I have the name, it’ll be called the total integrated training systems. And the engineers thought, Oh, perfect. It talks about all the devices together. And so I’m taking this briefing to the general. Very serious man. And he just didn’t take too quickly to females in the workplace at the time about 25, 30 years ago.

And he wanted to see how serious I was. And I put the first chart down with my title and he looked at me, shook his head. He said, I think I’m going to stop you right there. I said, wait a minute. I didn’t even start. I didn’t even start, you didn’t even get to, let me tell you what my briefing is about. He calmly said, you know, you’re dealing with the military and we deal in acronyms, take a look at your title.

And I thought what? I looked at my charts and I said, total, T, integrated, I, training… and I thought, Oh my goodness, I was mortified. I blushed profusely. And., He didn’t laugh. He didn’t go on. And fortunately, he was kind enough to tell me before I went in front of a larger group of military personnel. But the lesson of this story is to ensure, you know, who your audience is and who you’re dealing with in same cultural vein.

Know your audience, where are they coming from? Put yourself in their shoes. And that was a lesson for me that I used throughout my career. Always check your acronyms too.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:11:04] That stuck with you and perhaps with him as well.

Ligia McLean: [00:11:08] Yeah.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:11:08] Amazing. So yeah, thinking in terms of acronyms, that’s a, that’s a new skillset, but in the military, indeed, it would make sense. I hadn’t thought about that when you mentioned that I can see. You know, somewhat uncomfortable. I mean, clearly it was a serious presentation, but nevertheless.

Ligia McLean: [00:11:28] You’re right. And if I were to have presented that in a large group, being a female presenting that I would have been the laughingstock. The rest of my, my career would have been brought back to that perfect, perfect title. So

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:11:42] I have too much respect for you to even think about that, but yeah, no, I can understand. Yeah.

Ligia McLean: [00:11:50] Yeah. And that’s a situation where if you asked me, what did you do to stand out as a female or what wouldn’t you do? Well, I did not want to focus on being female. I wanted to sell that I knew my job. But the problem is if I wasn’t prepared for the audience, I was actually bringing that wrong focus to me as a female. So yeah, you do need to consider, yes, you are the female. How, how will they take to you?

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:12:16] Very important of course you go by who you are and the performance that you generate, and it shouldn’t have any other issues related to that, but still, that was sort of a different society that we were dealing with and it’s still evolving, but wow what a lesson there?

The second lesson on your list, prioritize giving back through mentoring, supporting others, charitable work, et cetera. It sounds really nice.

Ligia McLean: [00:12:43] You know, and it’s funny, as a young person, when I started, I didn’t have time. I was so dedicated to getting a lot of things done and I thought, you know, I don’t have time for this, but I noticed that by helping some others, people kept insisting, Oh, you need to participate in something. I thought, all right, I’ll do this. And, and I noticed that by helping others grow and, and share my experiences as I was moving through my career, I actually felt like I was opening up opportunities for myself as well.

And you don’t even expect to be rewarded the things you do. You find that you’re building relationships. And I found that a real benefit for me to help and mentor others. And then I also, you know, as we said, you can’t ignore the fact that we’re all going through this COVID coronavirus situation and we’ve been trapped in the house and maybe going out minimally.

But in the meantime, a lot of people have taken on reading. My husband, I took on the challenge of reading the Bible. And it’s a great historical treasure trove as well as some good life guidance. And I found how I could apply some of those guidelines as a leader and business leader. Let me explain it was a passage that stressed your attitudes and those that we should develop.

And. Love was number one. And I thought, well, that’s a little strong for the workplace, but giving back, helping others, mentoring, supporting all that, it’s showing some kind of charitable empathy, love. That’s the love I see in the business world. And then a joy have a passion for what you do, whatever it is.

And I know that sometimes you don’t feel like doing everything. You’ll find that. I don’t like writing the proposals, but once I get it done, what is, what a sense of accomplishment, but you have to have a passion and know that it benefits you. When you do that and you do it because you like to do that, you sort of joy and people want to be around you.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:14:32] And I, I think you’re, you’re so right. And I think so many people have experienced that if they help others, if they are empathetic, it makes you feel good. And that’s not the purpose. That’s not the reason, but it’s almost like an automatic. And once you have experienced that, indeed you learn the lessons and then it feels good to do that again and again and again, and of course we have to let’s say accept the fact that not every person is empathetic or willing to be empathetic. You know, that’s the way it is. There are a lot of people who are in it, it seems like for themselves and that’s how they go to life. But yeah, I understand and again, from the things you have done, that must be very satisfying.

Ligia McLean: [00:15:15] Yeah, it is. And I know as a leader, as you get into the leadership roles, you know that people are watching you, even when you don’t realize it. You have to think about that. Your whole way of living is being monitored and it shows, it shows that what you do outside and if you’re a calm person, you develop a sense of patience, peace, and it’s gotta be something within you that you got to grow. And final note as a manager at my company, I did look for people that had some volunteer experience. It gave them the opportunity to take on leadership roles, the teamwork project management skills.

So, not only are you getting a benefit for helping and, you know, you’re helping somebody, you’re also getting something to put on your resume or CV to show you’ve had opportunities to, to take on these kinds of roles.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:16:08] That’s a very, very good point Ligia. And of course, you do that work. To help others and, and et cetera to make sure others can benefit from that but like you said, in a career situation, it does reflect well on you or on that person to be aware of what he or she has done to help others. I agree. It’s a relevant item on a resume on a person’s ready.

Ligia McLean: [00:16:31] Oh, Oh yeah. Oh yeah. And you just don’t think about it that way, but it does put you if everything else is equal between a candidate and you have that volunteer experience. It shows a little bit more so keep that in mind. I think it’s something of value added.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:16:45] Very good point. I see lesson number three, keep your word, say it and do it follow up if you say you will do something. Yes. Critically important. And I’m sure you have had some interesting experiences.

Ligia McLean: [00:16:58] Yes. Yeah, absolutely. That was with all the projects over the, my Twenty-five years in the international arena, we had to deal with a variety of people. And the key was you had variety of personalities, right? A variety of leadership in their companies. We, we need to be very cautious in how we said things and follow up.

Well, if they didn’t hear from us, we found out that they’d started creating their own thoughts. And we would end up with some problems saying, well, we thought you said this. So, we noticed, and even to this day, I had a team that I was able to train to say, if you’re going to say something, make sure you mean it and make sure you follow through.

We under promised and over delivered this, improved our relationships and trust with the people we were dealing with, the suppliers, the potential suppliers, the companies, a lot of my negotiations with the customer, we would say, please, this is what we need to make this project proceed and they needed to give us these what we called credits, and it was a value.

And so, we said, if you agree to this credit, you can be sure that we will provide you more. Well, everybody’s a little skeptical at first, but we proved ourselves. And after the time of the project, usually six months to a year, they found out we did a lot more. So what do you think the next time I had to go negotiate? It was a heck of a lot easier to get that value from the customer because they saw that what we asked for we really deserved, and that really is a value.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:18:31] Yeah, the challenge is when the other side to the other person or other company doesn’t behave that way.

Ligia McLean: [00:18:39] Yeah.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:18:40] Yeah. You can do the right thing, but if they don’t do the right thing themselves, you have to make certain adjustments.

Ligia McLean: [00:18:49] Yeah, absolutely. We would get some people who were not moving forward sometimes. And we would give them a couple of days, send them an email or vice versa. If they sent us a mean email, we would within two days, make sure that we communicated back. And if they didn’t hear from us or we didn’t hear from them, we would find another way to respond to them, call them up all their colleague and say we haven’t heard from him.

So, there was a matter of persistence that had to take place on both sides. We made sure as a team. If someone didn’t respond that we would follow through and see what the issue was, and you’ll find within the, that persistence. You really do get some forward momentum. So, we have a lot of results on it.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:19:34] I liked that it kind of segues into the next point, complete your effort, deliver results.

Ligia McLean: [00:19:41] Yeah. Yeah. We found that a lot of times it was fun to just go visit the companies and meet these people and you started getting the rapport with the businesses, but when you come back and you say, okay, now we have to start this.

You started it, you major your first context, you created the initial concept, but then it was kind of tough. You had to keep everybody like, keep everybody on the same page. It’s an expression in the U S we use herding cats. It’s difficult sometimes to keep them all together, all the moving parts. And we needed to make sure that we completed it so that both the customer and the industries would see the results, how you proceed.

Well, we had to break down the problems in the tasks into small bits and then created phased approaches. And we would say, all right, we’re going to start with this. If we can go from here and everybody’s happy, then we’ll call it a go. If not, it’s a no go. And that would force them to move forward with us.

How do you proceed? We needed to make sure everybody was clear on the steps that we were taking, and We didn’t want to just create busy-ness. We want to make sure the tasks were clear and that’s a big communication effort as well. Sometimes we see someone wouldn’t make a decision and I said, listen, you can’t wait till it’s perfect make a decision, use your intuition, your imagination, brainstorm with your clients, and you’ll find a way to move forward. If it’s not the right approach, you just end up doing something different later, you can course correct if necessary.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:21:16] Yes. Yeah. But, but to deliver results and, and to complete the effort I think is extremely important. And I see that sometimes in a job search process where the person has gone through an interview went well. I was invited back for a second interview went well. And guess what they want to set you up with the president of the company, maybe for a final interview. Sounds all good hopes go up, expectations, rise, and then they hire the other person.

And right. That’s tough. But if you think about keeping the focus on that job, and you cannot guarantee that in a job search, but you have to go all the way through the end. And if it doesn’t work out be prepared for plan B or plan C instead of, oh my gosh, you got knocked off your feet because something didn’t work, you have to make sure you end up scoring a goal or whatever sort of situation that may be.

But that’s, I think it’s very important as well.

Ligia McLean: [00:22:20] Yeah, absolutely. That’s part of the next guideline I say is be resilient and persistent. You’re going to find its solution eventually. So, you’re going to run into difficulties, job searches in the job you want may not be right in front of you. You’ll find difficulties as you move through your career and life.

But it’s those who don’t take things personal as a negative. I can imagine you’ve gone through all these interviews and you think you’re going to get it. You can become pretty negative, but you have to kind of force yourself to keep moving forward and find the positive things that didn’t occur. The fact that you got that far it’s pretty positive. So, you gotta look at the good things that made you get there and ask what went wrong.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:23:05] Well, and I also think because it’s human behavior, it’s okay to be upset if it doesn’t work and you expected it, you, you, it sounded all good. Now it doesn’t happen. So, to be resilient and persistent is important to overcome that.

And that’s, that’s such an interesting lesson, of course, that I think we all understand, but until we are dealing with that ourselves, you know, that’s, that’s when it gets real tough,

Ligia McLean: [00:23:34] I would think you need that time to recover. Yeah. I would be a little hurt as well. If I was so close. But take that time, you know, we’ll reflect a little bit, and then I would say go back and choose the items. Find five things. That you knew you were good at to build yourself up again. You need to talk to yourself and go at it again.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:23:57] It is tough. Of course, especially when, again, in a job search when you’re really looking forward to that opportunity and you want to work with the people in that organization and they don’t hire you and basically, it’s cold is ice. They don’t let you know exactly why they decided to go with someone else. And their full focus is on the person they do want to hire. So, you’re left behind and that is tough, but guess what? You need that job. So, or you need a job, but a job to make sure that you can obviously pay your bills, et cetera. So, the resilience is, is extremely important.

Ligia McLean: [00:24:35] It is.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:24:35] Many times it comes down to the individual. It could be a team, but it comes down to the individual.

Ligia McLean: [00:24:41] It does come down to the individual. I would think that from my perspective, if that happened to me and it has happened where I would think that I was the perfect candidate, how come they took somebody else that didn’t have that experience.

But I had to console myself saying, I guess it wasn’t meant for me. And by saying that it made me ease my concerns and I didn’t get bitter. It’s so easy to get better with people saying you’re the one that made the mistake not hiring. I hope you, you know, and you come up with all kinds of terrible things.

But the idea is if you don’t get bitter in yourself and say that just might not have been the right job for me if they were that cold and they didn’t want to share why they didn’t want you. Then maybe you don’t want to work with them. I mean, there’s a gap in communication.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:25:27] This leads into your next lesson learned, right?

Lesson number six. There are things you may not be good at on the first try, but you can improve at almost anything through purposeful practice. And that’s in that same vein as far as resilience. Yes. Like you just said you learn and next time you can do better.

Ligia McLean: [00:25:49] Absolutely. You don’t get better without practice.

Sometimes you need to take that calculated risk, but you know, there are things that I know speaking in front of large groups, I would not want to take on that role, but the fact that I needed to take that practice and do that, take that risk, get out there and practice before I think being open-minded and curious alert to new possibilities take that change as an opportunity to do something new and approach it differently. I see that it’s a benefit.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:26:21] It’s interesting, you mentioned that speaking to a large audience, I’ve seen you do that multiple times and it never dawned on me that that was ever an issue for you.

The times I’ve seen, you were extremely comfortable, sense of humor relaxed, but is that a lesson that you learned over time that perhaps years ago you thought I don’t really want to do that?

Ligia McLean: [00:26:50] Oh yeah. It was on my list of things not to do. Every time. I say, I don’t want to do something it seems like that’s what always comes back to me. I first said, okay, I know I want international, but I want don’t want anything technical. I don’t want to stand up and brief larger audiences and sure enough I’m into all the technical things and I’m speaking to a lot of different audiences and it’s something that you can continue perfecting. Keeping people engaged. So yeah. That’s, that has been good practice,

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:27:19] practice, practice, practice. Yeah, it’s very interesting. Lesson number seven celebrate successes and learn from disappointments.

Ligia McLean: [00:27:28] Yeah, we had what we call yearly meetings because of the projects that I was working on with the Dutch, mostly the biggest amount of projects that we worked on.

We would have these yearly meetings and the intent was. To show our progress and celebrate the successes with the team. That was our one opportunity to get everybody together. We were upbeat. We were proactive. We shared our successes. Each person got up in front of the customer and said, this is what the project was.

This is where we’re going. This is what we plan to do in the future. That became one of the best relationships building again by celebrating our successes amongst us, as well as the customer. And sometimes we would bring some industries to share how happy they were. It motivated all of us to keep on doing more and the customer, they were thrilled.

They had asked for these meetings, thinking that this was their opportunity to beat us up and say, we want more. We want more. But when they saw what successes and the team working together, we had maybe 10, 15 people from our own team, various sites come in and speak about what their projects were. It was an all-day meeting very long, so we had to keep everybody engaged. It created this winning atmosphere. And I can say each ministry of economic affairs commissioner representative that came from the Netherlands. They were so proud of what was done. They went back and shared with other industries and we had never had a slow opportunity to just say, no, we don’t have, have any more projects.

We always had more projects because the industry saw that we. Were successful. And that really created new challenges for us. And we were happy to use them.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:29:15] You were successful, but you also had to be very creative, right? As far as industries that you were working with and things changed from time to time, I guess when you deal with governments, that can change. So, it’s great. Obviously, you have that track record of success, but it’s fair to say it was not an easy process. It was quite complicated.

Ligia McLean: [00:29:40] We did learn from our disappointments. We would start something thinking we had the best idea and then find out that the company, maybe we didn’t do our due diligence as well. The company was too much of a startup and it didn’t go very far big dreams on the, on the front end. But we learned, we learned from those lessons that not everything we started was going to be success in what could we learn from that? So, we realized that maybe if it’s a small company that we needed to manage those expectations as well, and a little more due diligence was necessary. What are their financials? And so, we were doing a lot more that research upfront before we engaged with some companies, our strength was in, that’s what I focused on, was small to medium enterprises. You always want to help the underdog. But yeah, there are some risks with that. So, you do learn and you are a little cautious not to be burned to more than once.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:30:39] True. You know, I’m, thinking while you’re talking about and again, a little bit related to jobs and careers and exit interview. And when I think of working with clients, whether you were successful or perhaps not successful it is so helpful to have that conversation with the client about their thoughts, their experience, their views, and of course, in a career situation as well. If, you are leaving a job for the organization to really find out what was your experience. And even though you’re leaving us assuming on good terms, what are some of the lessons you want to share with us from your experience and. I think that is sort of undervalued because it could be done a lot more, but at the same time it is part of what you’re saying, you know, celebrating successes and learning from disappointments and from successes.

Ligia McLean: [00:31:41] Absolutely. In fact, we did that when I left, I retired and from Boeing. And so, I had two young people that I knew that one was with me for five years. So, she had really a good handle on what was being done. And then I just hired somebody within the last four months before I left. And I thought I’ll put these lessons learned and what not to repeat.

And, and there was a requirement put in some training in what I knew about the existing projects. We put a large documentation together and what my lessons learned work on certain projects. And that was you’re right. It’s like an exit interview for your team, how they can do better.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:32:18] Yeah. And it’s, it’s like I said, I think it’s sometimes undervalued. It could be applied more and more frequently and with the right questions and not just what are you going to do next? No. What was your experience here? And based on that experience, what can you share? Yeah, it’s a very, very important. The next lesson, lesson number eight. It always strikes me, especially in our coaching practice. Everyone has areas of strength and weakness, focus on your strengths, and get help with those areas of weakness. Yes. Any specific experience in, in your career, any lessons learned specifically related to that?

Ligia McLean: [00:32:58] Focus on your strengths that’s true. I think that one of the areas that I try to do when I first started within the international arena, I was the only person dealing with the Netherlands.

And I had one other person who is at a different site, helping with the NATO countries. But I’ll tell you, I tried to do it all. I tried to say, Oh, I can do this. I will try. And I was, I was working 60, 70 hours and I thought I don’t have a life. It was too much. And my whole focus was just the job, just the D and I couldn’t relax.

I realized later that no one can do everything, and I was making some mistakes. It was taking me too long for putting presentations together, the financials, because we had responsibility for that. In putting all the Excel spreadsheets, I could do it, but it took forever for me to make those what they call pivot tables and everything else everybody knows how to do it. I realized that one person can’t do everything and. I developed a specialty. My specialty in was to create the initial concept, the big picture and get a team to take it from there. Find their specialty, everybody has a specialty. Everybody has a capability and a skill that you need to find.  I don’t know what this person can do, but I bet if you keep looking, you’ll find out that they have some key tasked capability that you could use. And I noticed that I would hire some young person and took them maybe 10 minutes, what took me two hours and it’s better than what I did. So, I said, you know what, it’s good for me to know how to do it, but I didn’t have to specialize in it. And we saved time. We came, it became efficient.

I noticed that I was good at facilitating a team. I could get these senior engineers PhDs in subjects. I noticed that they all had something to contribute, but nobody would speak. And I thought, well, okay, well I don’t know what you guys are capable of, but I would facilitate the meetings. And when I prompted them, all of a sudden, they came alive.

It’s like, they were robotics. I pressed a button, and they would speak. So, it was wonderful to see that I had a skill that. They didn’t and they came to me to bring the project together, combining those talents and skills, we really were able to capitalize on the strengths that we all had, and the projects came together.

Most of our projects were technical engineering projects. That benefited everybody, even ourselves. Boeing gained a lot of capability from the project. Some of the week we did internationally, and our engineers were thrilled. I hope to stay in touch with them. Eventually. I’ll continue contacting them. They engage with them in the future as well.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:35:44] It’s so interesting. I was thinking Jack Welch in the United States, well-known management guru, general electric, but he’s still as a consultant. He’s still active. He talked about The four E’s in terms of management, but one of the E’s is every person has an edge. Something that makes that individual different from the next individual. And. That’s kind of what you’re relating to, right? That, that, and you have to, perhaps as a manager, discovered it from the people on your team and we’re all different and yet we have similarities, but every person has an edge. And when you discover that and you made that very clear as well, that person will probably light up and say, that’s exactly what is interesting. That’s exactly what I like. And that’s what I would like to do. And it is very much worth it in a, in a management situation to discover that edge. It’s, definitely something of great value to assess that.

Ligia McLean: [00:36:47] Absolutely. Absolutely. I was thrilled to see how people can come together and there wasn’t any conflict. They all knew each one had a specialty, and it went well. Relationship building as well is key.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:37:01] Lesson number nine, keep things in perspective. Keep your feet on the ground. I guess in the Netherlands, we have a saying of course in Dutch, but I’ll say it in English just act normal because you are crazy enough.  And you know, the Dutch, it’s not meant to be offensive it’s just, as you say it much more politely, keep things in perspective.

Ligia McLean: [00:37:28] I have to write that one down. I like that. Oh, it’s true. Sometimes bad things happen. Things happen. It’s part of life. It’s part of business. You just, you have to embrace the fact that it’s going to happen. Something will go wrong but take it as an opportunity to learn something.

Then you move on. Don’t dwell on the mistake but fix it. I noticed that with women, we tend, it I’ve gotten better at it, but I noticed a lot of my, my teammates are females, and they would make a mistake and I thought, oh my goodness, they would apologize and apologize and apologize. I said, all right, you made a mistake you apologized now fix it, correct that mistake, and learn from it and move on. You can’t stay there. You have to accept what you can change. And. If you cannot change it, you just cannot change it. It’s similar to what I read somewhere that if a hurricane’s coming, you can’t change that it’s headed your way. What are you going to do? You can’t change it, but you can mitigate the risk. You can prepare for it. So, to me, I think there’s some of the cannot change something, just be prepared for it.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:38:35] I like it a lot. And it’s kind of made me think of that example you started with today where you gave a presentation about a new program. Very sophisticated. However, using the acronyms, maybe not so nice, but it didn’t keep you from obviously making the adjustments and moving on and it has become, I don’t want to say a joke in a negative way, but it’s something that you can put into in a right. In the right perspective.

Ligia McLean: [00:39:04] Absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s true. It was another, again, another briefing that might say something about PowerPoint presentations don’t get carried away with those because I was in the Netherlands. The first time I traveled overseas, I was so concerned that everything had to be so perfect. And I had discharged, I was going to explain to the commissioner telling him what we’re going to do for his country, all this industrial product that we were going to bring in capabilities.

I started out my briefing. I had a lot of charts back then. You could see the charts and. I was professional very serious. And going through this 10 minute into the briefing, the commissioner looks at me. He says, you can stop. Now. He said, I’m not interested anymore. And I looked at him and I thought, oh my goodness, I’ve done something wrong. I thought it was me. And I thought, I’m just in my boss. This was the first trip with my boss, and I wanted to make sure he was going to engage. Because obviously I did something wrong and he was going to take over and I said, I’m sorry, what did I do? And the commissioner said, I just want to know one thing, I’m going to ask you a question. I said, okay. He said, did you bring me any work today? I looked at him and I thought, well, no, no, plain, and simple. I was clear, direct. And so, he said, okay, we sat down no more briefings and we just talked, we had a comfortable conversation. I had to look at things from a different perspective. He was tired of listening to briefs all day, probably and, and he said, I don’t need to hear stories I just wanna talk. And that was a way we built our relationship. I put things in perspective. I didn’t get negative. I wasn’t bitter for too long. I got over that pretty quick because I knew we had a deal with the customer and realized from that day we’ve become good friends over the 25 or so years or more. Understanding how to communicate with the right audience, put things in perspective,


Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:41:01] Interesting. A great, great experience again. Lesson number 10 turn an obstacle into an advantage. You have already sort of addressed that in, in the different Items, but what, what specifically do you have in mind with this one?

Ligia McLean: [00:41:21] You’re right. Being a female in a very male dominated field of defense aerospace, it actually reinforced the fact that being different and standing out could be an advantage. I did not realize that I was the only female in most of the meetings until one of my new colleagues overseas she said, you know, and I have a picture here let’s see if we can see it. I was at this, celebration of a major contract. Let’s see it, am I showing it?

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:41:49] I can see a group of men. It looks like on a staircase. I see a nice suit and perhaps some uniforms. From what I can tell they’re all male.

Ligia McLean: [00:42:02] Yes. There was about 150 people there, the military, senior military, and captains of industry. And there you see at the top of the row one female. 

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:42:14] I do. I see you right there at the top.

Ligia McLean: [00:42:18] That was me. And I thought, oh my goodness, I didn’t realize that in this, the female colleague of mine, she said, Oh my goodness, you’re the only female. Didn’t that make you uncomfortable? And she thought it was an obstacle. I did not realize that I didn’t pay attention to, I didn’t focus on being female. I was focusing on getting that contract through. Making sure the customer, the end users, the captains of industry, where we’re pleased with the results and it wasn’t an obstacle. So how do you turn that into an advantage?

Well, don’t focus on it for one. They didn’t treat me any differently, negatively, or that I was incapable. They knew that it was my efforts that brought as a team brought that into the country. So, I would say to this day, these people still have confidence in me because I didn’t say, Oh, you have to do this for me because I’m female.

I didn’t use that as leverage. I said, this is because we know we can work together. And I didn’t, I don’t know. It wasn’t something that I cowered to saying, Oh, I’m the lesser person because I’m the female. I think subconsciously females sometimes do that. Saying deferring to a man because, Oh, they’re more of you than me. It’s not necessary. And, and I, I didn’t focus on it. I think I may have become a little intimidated when, when the colleague told me that not realizing at the time that I was the only female.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:43:46] Very powerful. And that picture that you showed is truly very, very powerful. And the fact that you were working at your company, obviously you’re a female, et cetera, but I can understand that there have been certain challenges, observations, opinions, but by, by ignoring that and keeping your focus that has apparently not been a big issue, you have encountered experienced situations. It has never stopped you.

Ligia McLean: [00:44:16] No, no it hasn’t. I have seen with some of my younger colleagues, maybe starting out in their careers, that it was a bit of a challenge probably because they knew that the men were looking at them. And there’s a way to curtail that saying, it’s not, you have to do a little harder to prove yourself. And I think the women had that opportunity once they proved themselves the men no longer look at them as a female object to be ogled. They realize that, Hey, they mean business.

And I think one of the things we talked about once was, well, you want to be included with the men in the after-hour drinking. Yes and no. I would say for the women to proceed with caution, because that might not be the venue you want to be in. You start drinking things, loosen up, then you become male-female again and you lose sight of your business goals.

It could lessen your, your position. Not necessarily, maybe after a while you build a rapport. But I think one of my colleagues came up with an excellent solution to be part of a team they’ve created a monthly luncheon. In our culture we don’t drink at lunch, so it’s much safer. Nobody gets too loose and their discussions, they would have something we’d call rumor control discussions, and they would share what they heard, and then they would bring it over to me and say, well, we heard this, what is the truth? And I would be able to say, Oh, well, that’s not the case. Don’t, don’t run off with this. And everybody would have their meetings, male, and female out of the younger group and open discussion. It wasn’t oh yeah. I want to go on a date with you or that kind of scenario. It was open discussion lunch in business, and it was one of my colleagues that came up with that idea. She goes, well, I’d like to have a, be part of the team, be part of the camaraderie with the guys.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:46:14] I like it. It’s interesting concept. And again, leads you so many lessons learned so many great experiences.

I know we could probably talk for hours about these things, but I’m curious again, in your experience, are there any lessons that you have perhaps unlearned that you decided I used to do it this way, but I want to do it a different way now, has that happened to you?

Ligia McLean: [00:46:40] Yeah, I think when I first started out, I had my management degree, international management, knowing that by getting the degrees, I would get some increase in pay.

And then I thought I was approached by my mentor. And he said, I think you need to take this next position. And it requires that you take over 30 people and they’re all retired military. And I said, oh no, no. I said, no, I, I can’t manage the retired military guys and I have no experience and I kept saying, no. I realized, I unlearned saying, no, I missed opportunities. My mentor. Encouraged me. That’s something that I think every woman needs is a mentor. Someone who’s honest with you and helps you with your career.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:47:25] Men as well, by the way, men as well.

Ligia McLean: [00:47:28] Yes. I think that’s true. You need somebody, who’s totally honest with you and say you can’t keep saying no, you’re the best candidate we want you, you say no, we will never ask you again.

And you’ll miss your opportunities. And I learned unlearned that. It was too easy for me to say, no, I didn’t want to take on another challenge at the time. I said, I just want the money and the money won’t come anymore. He said, you need to take on the responsibility and take on the challenge. And since then, yeah, I learned to do that. Don’t get too comfortable in where you’re at.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:48:04] Wow. Wow. Every time we talk, I learned something, and I really appreciate that. You were willing to be part of this podcast and I thank you very much for that. Ligia it was wonderful.

Ligia McLean: [00:48:16] Thank you for the opportunity. Again, it gives me an opportunity to rethink some of the things I’ve done and what I can do for others and hopefully this will be an opportunity for others to gain some knowledge as well in their careers. Thank you.

Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:48:29] Absolutely.

 You’ve been listening to the international podcast, 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn produced by Robert Hossary and sponsored by the Professional Development Forum. PDF provides webinars, social media discussions, podcasts, and parties.

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