Growing up in southern California as the daughter of a professional lifeguard, EY’s Kris Pederson learned how to swim against a strong current, a skill that also helped her gain confidence to keep her head above water and swim upstream in her career.
On the podcast, Kris explained that she worked her way up, “but when I had a leader or mentor step in and take interest in me, it made such a difference.” Topping her list of life-changing mentors is Peggy Vaughan, a senior partner who Pederson met when she was still a junior consultant. Vaughan, at the time, also was the only woman on the board of a major global company. Pederson was doing work on value creation that Vaughan thought could change the profession, so she took Pederson under her wing.
“She would arrange reasons for me to present to the board, not because what I had to say was Earth-shattering, but because she saw I had potential and she wanted to make me visible to all the senior partners,” explained Pederson. “It was a pivotal turning point for me.”
Pederson climbed the corporate ladder and has since arrived at Ernst & Young. Now in the position to pay forward Vaughan’s empathy and encouragement by mentoring the next generation of talent, she never hesitates to do so. Or perhaps the better way to characterize this is that Pederson always says “yes” to her own opportunities and wants to teach others how to do the same.
“I definitely am a yes person,” admitted Pederson. “I see the world through rose-colored glasses. And if you don’t say yes, then nothing comes your way. I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ll sometimes say, “Yes … but …” so I can control the situation a little bit better.” Saying yes has helped Pederson become the leader of the EY America Center for Board Matters, an advisory director for the NFL’s Alumni Association, a director for public, private and association boards, and a recipient of Consulting Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
In the podcast, Pederson suggests that the leadership traits of “gratitude, empathy and understanding” are critical for identifying and developing future leaders. These are the traits she applies in her own leadership as well as those she and her teams emphasized with consulting clients over the years. Leaders looking to develop their people management skills will enjoy Pederson’s insights including:
• How to build effective coaching and mentoring into your daily routine
• The best ways to get the biggest motivational bang for your buck
• Encouraging “reverse mentoring” to enable the “younger guns” to hone their mentoring
skills helping the “old guard.”
The next time a junior staffer helps you out in a substantial way, reward him or her by including them in a presentation or meeting where their work will help you be successful. “When you [do things] like that, whether it’s taking them to a conference or out to a business lunch or whatever, it’s golden,” Pederson said.