Q&A: Wendy McManus Discusses New Leadership Program Pt. 1
ORLANDO, FL - Industry veteran Wendy McManus has been in a constant state of learning all of her life. With a successful 30-year marketing career and 17 of those in the produce industry, including time leading the retail marketing team at the National Mango Board—she has both an eye for industry dynamics and the demands of a leadership role. As summer heats up, so are Wendy’s plans for her new company, Connect 2 Potential, and the program Lean Into Leadership—a group coaching and leadership development program for women in the fresh produce industry. The next class will start on August 14 and wrap up on October 30th. With the date just weeks away, I thought I’d bend Wendy’s ear and ask her a few questions about how she views leadership and in all its forms in Part 1 on this two-part series.
Jordan Okumura: When it comes to leadership, how do you personally define the concept?
Wendy McManus: I look at leadership in three buckets or “games,” if you will:
The Inner Game is about personal leadership, your self-awareness, and self-management. This is the fundamental, life-long work of being an effective human being. Your inner game will determine how you show up to the other two games.
The Outer Game is about engaging and working with others to achieve the organization’s goals. The Outer Game is complex and ever-changing because you’re dealing with human beings who bring their own strengths, challenges, and emotions. The Outer Game determines how successful the team will be in the next game, the Game Plan.
Finally, the Game Plan is focused on the realm of strategy and execution. What does the organization actually do to meet its goals? What are the action steps? What problems will need to be solved to reach the vision?
In my experience working with leaders, the Game Plan gets most of the attention. I see high-level leaders who seem to not even realize that the Inner Game and the Outer Game are happening, and that they are the foundation for a successful Game Plan. That’s why most of my focus is on the Inner and Outer Games.
JO: How much of leadership would you say is inherent and how much is a learned skillset?
WM: I absolutely believe that leadership skills can be learned. The term “born leader” is often applied to outgoing, naturally-driven individuals. I’m here to tell you that I was one of those “born leaders” and I had a whole lot to learn about leadership! I’ve also seen that people with all sorts of personalities and communication styles can become effective leaders. When any individual learns to manage themselves and get really clear about how they want to show up for their team, they can lead with impact. Even “born leaders” must set aside their ego and their need to be right so they can learn more effective ways of being a leader.
JO: How is this program tailored specifically to fresh produce industry professionals, and women at that?
WM: This is an interesting question because I believe leadership skills are universal. The Inner Game, Outer Game, and Game Plan are relevant to any industry. I don’t actually teach any specific skills for the produce industry in the Lean into Leadership program. However, the produce industry is what ties us all together. We have a shared experience, and it’s a very unique experience, of being women, working in this male-dominated, high-stress industry.
I think the primary benefit of having a group of women in produce going through this journey together is the bonding experience. It’s beyond just networking. The individuals in the group really get to know each other on a deep, personal level. We all know that produce is a relationship-driven business. The relationships that are formed in Lean into Leadership are far stronger and more meaningful than what can be built by seeing someone a couple of times a year at a trade show.
I’m considering offering a program that’s for men only or mixed with men and women. So far, women have shown more interest in doing this work with me. I would love to hear from some of your male readers if these concepts pique their curiosity.