Cathy Burzik, a seasoned senior executive in the healthcare industry, has successfully led major medical device, diagnostic, diagnostic imaging and life sciences businesses.Cathy Burzik, CFB Interests (as told to MedExecWomen co-founder Maria Shepherd)
One key to being a successful women leader in MedTech: “Play nice, but play to win.”
Cathy Burzik, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award from AdvaMed in 2019, shared this advice during a recent MedExecWomen conference fireside chat with co-founder Maria Shepherd.
Burzik explained how you can apply this to your own career path and leadership style, along with many other powerful lessons she’s learned throughout her career.
1. Build connections early in your career
If you’re just starting your career or have taken a detour and are finding your new path, build and grow your network of trusted professionals as early as possible.
Find sponsors. Attend industry events. Get to know people. Develop and nurture relationships at work. Join industry peer groups and follow up with members one-on-one.
Need work advice to navigate a particular situation? Assessing what you should learn to advance your career? If you’ve grown your network and invested in those relationships, they will help you along the way. However, remember, you own your career path. You need to take personal accountability for your career.
Those early-career mentors will see your growth potential and likely become your biggest advocates, and may even challenge you into new areas of growth beyond your comfort zone to propel you to your next career phase.
And when you reach the executive level, you will have a trusted group of peers providing advice as you navigate an entirely new set of executive-related challenges.
2. Establish your voice
Women often have a difficult time being heard in the workplace. Studies show that women are interrupted two times more often than men when speaking. If you’ve directly experienced this or witnessed it done to others, it’s discouraging.
To counteract, lean into your voice by indicating, when interrupted, that you are not finished and will get to that individual’s point when you’re done.
If you’ve witnessed other women being interrupted, take a similar approach and say, “I was really interested in what she had to say, I’d like to hear that,” to bring the woman that was interrupted back into the conversation. Make your voice heard and be an ally to your colleagues.
Have the courage to raise your hand during a meeting and make your thoughts and ideas known. If you’re early in your career, establishing your voice early shows confidence and perseverance. If you sit back — especially if you disagree — and raise the point after the meeting, the point often becomes irrelevant since decisions are likely to have already been made.
Raising your hand, while challenging at first, becomes easier with practice.
3. Assume noble intent of your colleagues
Assume your colleagues have noble intent — the foundation of any effective professional working relationship. This indicates respect to your colleagues and an open mind, which fosters dialogue, understanding and productivity.
By acting with noble intent, you can prevent yourself from traveling through wrong inferences, establish yourself as a leader in positive communication and cultivate an atmosphere of respect and understanding in your organization.
Those small steps are essential to preparing yourself for success as a leader.
4. Practice three-dimensional leadership
Whether you’re building your personal brand of leadership or incorporating lessons learned, that personal brand element never goes out of style. It defines how we are perceived in our industry and our organization.
Your leadership style and the quality of work are essential components to your overall image, but so is your ability to be vulnerable.
One way of being vulnerable with your colleagues is to share interests and passions you have outside of the office. You like to hike, have a dog, or enjoy ballroom dancing? Share what is comfortable to develop more meaningful connections with your colleagues.
Come across as approachable and three-dimensional versus flat and only focused on the business at hand. That comfort can translate into meetings where your colleagues feel secure being open with you not only about successes at the organization, but also about areas for improvement and enable them to enter into difficult conversations so you can navigate obstacles together.
Do not be the executive that people are afraid of in the elevator. Be the executive that employees want to talk with, both in personal and work-related discussions. In return, you’ll have fostered a leadership style that is open, honest and comfortable.
5. Turn failures into successes
Failure is an inevitable part of every career, but it’s how you reflect, manage and learn from failures that contribute to your effectiveness as a leader.
For example, did you lead a new project that went way over budget? Identify where things went wrong, own your mistakes and propose a new process so that issues and risks are identified and mitigated early in the future.
Mistakes in business — challenging to manage in real time — often lead to better decision-making and successes later. So lean into those failures and utilize them for better decision-making.
And let us never forget to “Play nice, but play to win!”
Cathy Burzik is CEO of CFB Interests, and, among others, is a member of the board of directors of Becton-Dickinson and the board of directors of Haemonetics.
Maria Shepherd is co-founder of MedExecWomen and president of Medi-Vantage, helping medtech, diagnostics, drug delivery and digital health companies with strategy research, done by subject matter and medical device experts.
The opinions expressed in this blog post are the author’s only and do not necessarily reflect those of MedicalDesignandOutsourcing.com or its employees.