Claudia San Pedro, President of SONIC Drive-In, was a recent guest of colleague Donna Miller on her weekly “Let’s Share the Journey” call. As a first generation immigrant, Claudia shared her inspiring story and the lessons she learned along the way. It’s always gratifying to hear women who’ve already made it to the top reinforce many of the key messages taught through EWF’s leadership programs. Here are some of my key takeaways from her message.

1. You need mentors, coaches and sponsors to help you on your journey.  You need people who will “tell you the truth”.  Everyone needs constructive criticism to grow and develop.

2. Embrace critical feedback.  It is only when you learn to reframe this feedback and set aside your “feelings” with humility and the right attitude that you will grow.  Claudia stressed that in her own career it was often easy to get stuck in her “feelings” and not take the constructive action needed to move forward.  It requires commitment to self-learning.

3. Admit your mistakes.  It is hard for leaders to admit mistakes.  However, there is no growth without mistakes along the way.  How you model courage as a leader to admit your mistakes and ask for forgiveness is crucial.  Asking for forgiveness also means extending forgiveness to the mistakes of others.

4. Understand how your words and actions reflect what you expect.  Are your actions consistent with your words and do you clearly articulate your expectations?

5. Say YES to opportunities.  You must learn to embrace being uncomfortable.  You can’t wait until you have all the knowledge and all of the answers to take on an opportunity.  Do it anyway and have faith in yourself to figure it out.  If you’ve done your job in developing mentors, coaches and sponsors, they will be there to help you figure it out and provide guidance and perspective.  She encouraged women to step out there and ask for opportunities to grow.  Don’t just sit and wait for it to happen.  If the thought of the opportunity makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably exactly what you should be taking on in order to grow.

6. Avoid sweeping generalizations.  It’s basic human nature to do this.  Whether it’s politics, religion, or the workplace, we often tend to “categorize” certain people or groups and make broad generalizations about them.  Prior to her corporate career, Claudia served in state politics being the first woman and the first Hispanic to serve as the director for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance.  She shared that the only way to truly make progress is mutual respect and being able to open your ears to listen.  Her comment was “If we expect respect, we must give respect.”  She recounted many instances of vigorous debate across the aisle and willingness to find a common ground in the middle.  She also found that many of the sweeping generalizations she assumed of people and groups were not always true.  She specifically cited assumptions about millennials and shared that she was guilty of some of those generalizations as well.  She decided to reframe those assumptions and spoke of their positive characteristics of creativity and openness to change.  Her new mindset is to harness and embrace the positive aspects of the millennial generation.  She encouraged the audience to do the same about any group of people and warned of the dangers of sweeping generalizations.

7. Understand how you add value.  She stressed an attitude of lifelong learning and the necessity to be able to articulate your value to an organization.  In our EWF programs we refer to this as “speaking the language of business” and understanding how your work ties to the goals and initiatives of the company.  Claudia stressed the need to stay true to your core values and at the same time be able to articulate the value you deliver in helping your organization meet its goals.

Claudia received a great response from the audience.  She was open, authentic, and down to earth.  She was not afraid to expose her own “key lessons” along her journey.

Donna Miller is the co-Founder and CEO of Purse Power, an organization that is working to reward companies that promote women’s equality and help businesses and consumers find and buy from these companies.  A portion of their revenue goes to reduce domestic violence.  Donna leads weekly “Share the Journey” calls to connect women across the country and hear from outstanding speakers like Claudia.