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193: Leaders with Heart are Self-aware

susan schmitt self aware human resources leader
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In this episode, Heather sits down with Susan J. Schmitt Winchester, the CHO of Applied Materials. On paper, Susan has an impressive corporate success story. With over 30 years of upward trajectory, her succession of increasingly powerful roles reflects her growing influence. Her presence and career trajectory have been remarkable. But, she claims that the people who know her best know that she spent her days and years in deep fear. She now teaches executives and professionals how to succeed by discovering greater self-acceptance, fulfillment, and joy at work and in life.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Leadership requires continuous improvement
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover
  • Even the most successful people deal with internal problems
  • You are responsible and in control of how you respond
  • Getting rid of fear-based responses is life-changing
  • Recognizing your triggers allows you to control how you respond to them
You have to find the truth; that's the only way we can get better. – Susan Schmitt #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Susan Schmitt Winchester leads Human Resources for Applied Materials and its more than 20,000 global employees. She has more than 30 years of experience in HR, providing executive leadership for the function, most recently at Rockwell Automation and Kellogg Company. Her innovative mindset and commitment to excellence define her leadership style. She continually looks to meet today’s global business challenges with creative HR strategies that engage people, enable exceptional performance and support a dynamic, inclusive corporate culture. Her passion for creating value for organizations is evident, whether she is strategizing future workforce imperatives or clarifying talent assessment and development models to enable all individuals to contribute their best work.

While at Rockwell for 11 years, Susan set global strategies designed to strengthen leadership, build organizational capacity, and power the company’s business priorities. External organizations consistently recognized this work and significantly contributed to Rockwell Automation’s prestigious Catalyst Award in 2017 for the company’s innovative approach to building a culture of inclusion, being named one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” for nine years. In addition, under her HR leadership, Rockwell’s inclusive practices earned a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s annual Corporate Equality Index for LGBT Equality and the distinction of “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.”

Susan is a fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources — the highest professional honor for individuals in HR. She has lived, studied, and worked in the United States, France, and England. Additionally, she earned her master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Illinois State University and her bachelor’s from Albion College in Michigan. She also attended the University of Grenoble, France. Contributing her expertise to developing future talent, she is a Leadership Advisory Board member for the Dean of Engineering at the University of Michigan. She serves as the Vice Chair in the College of Engineering, and is a member of the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Advisory Council for the College of Engineering.

Childhood Adverse Experience

There’s research that shows that two-thirds of adults experience some negative effects in their adulthood. It’s called the adverse childhood experience, and it includes ten pretty severe things that occur. So that means two-thirds of people in the corporate world come into the workplace with these wounds that they aren’t even really aware of. Furthermore, people aren’t aware of how much it affects their daily lives. It shows up in our daily interactions with people and how we respond to triggers and conflicts. So that’s why I now focus on helping people understand that it doesn’t have to be that way.

susan schmitt human resources self aware

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