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Censia CEO Joanna Riley: ‘When Someone Tells You No, What Do You Ask Next?’

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In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, Censia CEO Riley dips an oar into her experiences as an elite rower to discuss how imperative it is for corporate leaders to master the hard-won habit of learning from failure.

All over America boats and oars are being taken out of winter storage for the start of a new season of crew. In a recent episode of Corporate Competitor Podcast, we caught up with one of the sports highly accomplished alums, Joanna Riley, to share with us what her sport taught her about winning.

“Probably failure,” replied the former Junior National Team and University of Virginia rower. “You fail a lot more than you succeed, right? You hear no a lot more than you hear yes. And sometimes those are discouraging, but I learned to probe them, and when somebody tells me ‘no,’ my next question is to ask them why?

“Knowing why offers the only way for me to take a lesson from failure, ask what can I do to be better and figure out how to morph it into a pathway to be successful.”

Taking lessons from failure has served Riley very well in life in and outside of rowing. Today, she is the CEO and co-founder of Censia, a platform built to transform the way companies hire talent. Joanna was named one of the 100 highest ranking women in technology and she is an active member of the entrepreneurship community as both an early stage investor and Chapter Chair of YPO San Francisco Bay. She is part of the Presidents Program at Harvard Business School where she is receiving her MBA.

In the podcast, Riley shows herself to be a remarkably innovative thinker on the topic of human potential and, more to the point, harnessing the potential she believes fails to emerge only when we are too busy looking for it in the wrong places. Leaders wishing to understand cutting-edge talent acquisition and development will enjoy her insights on such topics as:

3:00   A leader’s greatest asset.

7:00   The importance of storytelling in business.

9:00   Why the best people often are the least traditionally credentialed candidates.

11:30  The limitations of AI in today’s talent acquisition platforms.

18:00  The qualities every successful entrepreneur exhibits.

24:00  How to view failure as a badge of honor.

“Einstein once said, ‘Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid,’” observed Riley. “He was talking about the difference between success and failure as learning what you are great at. I didn’t know I was a good athlete until I found rowing. The same applies to recruitment.”

Check out the full Corporate Competitor Podcast interview archive and subscribe to new episodes.


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