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“Mrs. Strategy” Knows How to Walk Her Talk

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By Susan Saldibar

It’s rare to see a strong leader, especially in this industry, bring in another strong leader to challenge them and make them an even stronger leader.

Here’s someone who did that; Faith Ott, founder and CEO of Sage Age Strategies, a Senior Housing Forum partner.

Steve Moran asked her about doing this in a taped interview that he did at an Abe’s Garden board meeting in Nashville a few weeks ago. Actually, he sort of “sprung it” on her (watch the video clip, you can decide). Here’s what he said: “I know you’re very strategic and yet I know that recently you brought someone in to help you with strategy. And paid good money to do it. So, I’m gonna put it all on you -- why did you bring in someone to help with strategy when you are . . . ‘Mrs. Strategy’”?

"I don't have all the answers."

Her answer, in its unabashed honesty, should make anyone in a power position think.  

“I want to be the best I can be. I don’t have all the answers.” Refreshing words from someone as respected as Faith Ott. She went on to say, “It’s really hard sometimes to take a hard look at your own organization; to take a hard look at yourself and how you do what you do.”

Oh, she admitted to some skepticism; the worry of having one of those “the emperor has no clothes” moments. But this is a conversation more senior management should be having. Namely, how do you make yourself and your team better? And are you prepared to go outside your four walls to do it?

“It’s going to make us a stronger organization.”

Faith talked about Denise B. Scott, the third party professional she brought in, and how positive the experience has been. Taking a page out of Faith’s playbook, Denise talked to everyone in the organization. She looked at some of the challenges of bringing departments, such as the creative team and consulting group together.

What Faith really appreciated was the added insight she got from Denise as to how to help her clients. “I was able to look at things through Denise’s eyes and it gave me another perspective to bring to my clients,” she said.

So, by all accounts, they’ve learned a lot from the process. Faith remains confident that it will “make us a stronger organization”.

That all sounds great, but Steve remained a little skeptical that other CEOs would have the guts to do something like this. He wondered if the act of bringing in someone might be seen as an admission that “I’m not sure I’m good enough”.

Without skipping a beat, Faith replied “I think its saying 'I’m not so full of myself that I think I have all the answers.'”

If only all of our politicians felt that way.

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