Paradigm Shifters is a series of interviews with a select group of women and men from eclectic walks of life. It will highlight unspoken, real-life insights on how they have been able to turn weakness into strength. A naked soul point of view of how their breakdowns were really a preparation for breakthroughs. They are your quintessential paradigm shifters; internal shifts converted into genuine change.
Everything I have ever done has been focused on this underlying theme of shifting the paradigm because, "What we think determines what we feel and what we feel determines what we do." Hence, why Empowered by You takes lingerie, which has traditionally been seen merely as a tool of seduction and redirected that energy as a tool of empowerment.
I hope from these stories you will look at your own situations, struggles and accomplishments through a different lens. At the very least you will be more equipped with real life tools to change your own paradigm. At the end of the day, we are our own Alchemist turning the silver we were born with into the gold we are destined to become.
Lizanne Kindler, Talbots, CEO
Best advice you've received?
It was from my parents. They remind me how best to use the hand you are dealt. They also instilled in me to not let anyone define you, you define yourself. They would tell me all the time "we don't care what you do, you're amazing just use your talent" and this gave me the confidence to be who I am. I've used that advice in my career and it has helped to open many doors for me which has encouraged me to want to do the same for others. If I can help someone "open the door" to an opportunity, it gives them the likelihood of a prospect and the rest is up to them.
Growing up both your parents were deaf. How did growing up in that circumstance mold or enhance your life?
My parents were my backbone growing up and I don't think of their impairment as a disadvantage. They enjoy life to the fullest and never let a handicap constraint get in their way. They always want to reach out, travel, meet people. They're so curious about people, about situations and extremely passionate about living life and having fun. It doesn't matter what your circumstance is. Life is amazing and you make it the best it can be regardless of the hand you're dealt. My parents taught me to not be afraid and if you are, don't let that fear constrain you. If you fail, accept it and move on. Sometimes things don't work out the way you want them to but you're still a good person and capable of many things. My upbringing taught me so much about life. There were certain things my parents couldn't do, like pick up the phone to buy plane tickets or fix their tax return, so I became the forefront of their communication. This helped shape my enjoyment of life and desire to connect with people. I learned very early that communicating with people is powerful, and that has been very prevalent in my career.
How does that lead into your leadership skills? What kind of leadership format do you impose with your colleagues?
Trust is the word that comes to mind for me. Having a deep appreciation that human beings are different and bring different things to the table is incredibly important. This is hard to do because you don't always know what someone is capable of so it's important to gain that trust and respect. Each person has their own individual strengths and it's important to understand their leadership qualities. Once this is established, I instill my trust in them to grow as an individual and succeed in their career. I enjoy sitting with people and emphasizing their strengths, telling them to "feel" their talent being used. The magic is when you pull the talent out and bring people together.
Dress for success? Elaborate?
Talbots has always been a community based brand and connecting with people is at the forefront of what we do and I feel very fortunate to be a part of that. When I returned to Talbots, one of my goals was to find new ways to give back to the community and enrich the lives of others. Dress for Success was a natural fit for Talbots to achieve this goal by helping less fortunate women get back into the workforce with a new suit and renewed confidence. In addition, the collaboration with DFS resonated with our female customers, who genuinely cared about the DFS client and wanted to do their part to help them succeed in life both personally and professionally. I've been to many of the Dress for Success events and I am amazed by the strength of the women who have been through the program. They are driven to establish a better life for themselves and their families, and I am honored to be a part of their success.
Breakdown to breakthrough?
My experience at Talbots defines both the breakdown moment and the breakthrough moment.
When I was with Talbots the first time, my vision for the brand was not in alignment with the direction leadership was taking and I became increasingly frustrated and disillusioned. I remember a conversation with my husband about the inevitable downturn of the company and it made me sad because I believed in the brand and I felt helpless. So with the support of my family, I made the difficult decision to leave and took the role of EVP of Product Development at Kohl's in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ironically, Sycamore Partners then reached out asking me to come back to Talbots as President. As you can imagine, I had so many mixed emotions, as I truly loved the Talbots brand, and wanted it to succeed, but I also struggled with uprooting my family once again. Falling back on the advice my parents gave me as a child, and how to best use the hand you're dealt, I made the decision to leave Kohl's and return to Talbots. If I hadn't gone through that challenging first experience, I would not have been as successful as I am right now. I came back to Talbots with a clear head and vision of success for the brand, and I can honestly say that I love my job and couldn't be happier.
I've never thought of it as my "legacy" but what I would like people to think of when they think of me is my immense passion for everything I do in life, with my family and in my job. I bring passion to everything I do, and have a very optimistic view. I always tell my children do everything and anything with your whole heart.
If your life were a book, what would be the title of 2015 and 2016?
For 2015, I would say "The Power of Focus," if I'm doing a serious title. If you want a more amusing title I would title it "Häagen-Dazs and Heels for the CEO." I have this passion for Häagen-Dazs ice cream, which is well known around the office, it just really fuels me! For 2016, it's obviously not fully written but I think a lot about maximizing opportunities. I live by minimizing risks and maximizing opportunities. 2016 is less about minimizing the risks, rather more concentrated on taking full advantage of the opportunities. So I guess it would be "Maximizing Opportunities."
You know a leader when you meet one. She is humble yet real. She is determined yet gentle. She is invigorating yet with ease. Lizanne is a natural born leader and it shows more in her actions than I could ever put in words. She is proof that destiny ultimately takes its course.