Tell me about where you grew up and how that has shaped who you are today.
I was born in Washington, D.C., and am the second-oldest of four children. I was supposed to be named Elizabeth but was too small to have such a long name. My father was attending the Maryland Institute of Art and studying the Mona Lisa. He decided Lisa was an appropriate name for me and my small size. I’m glad he didn’t name me Mona! I do find it fitting that I was named after a painting that is hung on a wall and inspires so many people to think, write, and visit, and in my life, writings on walls has defined my life and work. To teach people and meet them where they are, where they will hear you and giving your best.
Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in, and what you’re committed to in your work and life?
My mom taught me about leadership through writing on my wall. As a child, I was a handful. She used to say, “Lisa, you’re like the girl with the curl in the center of her forehead. When she is good, she is very, very good. And when she is bad, she is horrid.” One day while I was at school, my mom painted on my wall, “Pretty is as pretty does.” And that was her way of communicating to me that beauty comes from within and that you have to be authentic, sincere, genuine, and most importantly, humble.
But what that taught me, in addition to her expectation of me that then became my expectation of myself, was that in order to teach people, you have to meet them where they are. Where they’ll hear you, understand you, and make it their own. I saw that message every day. She painted it next to my mirror. As I got ready for school, I saw that message every day, and I made that my own—what that looked like for me. My mom taught me about leadership at a young age. She taught me how to communicate in a way people will hear me. As a result, things that are important to me, I paint on the wall.
What would you say most motivates you to do what you do? What are you most excited or passionate about?
I value passion, determination, and courage. It takes passion for me to paint on walls, determination to work in service to others, and courage to continue to take on new challenges. I like to build things. I love to build homes for my family to live in, and I love to build organizations, and teams, I don’t maintain the status quo, and once I get something built to a place where it can self-sustain, then it’s time for me to take on that next challenge—not only for my own learning and growth but also so that I can give other leaders an opportunity in the places that I’ve left.
What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your work?
I am passionate about global talent development, coaching, teaching, and developing the next generation of leaders. For me, it is about challenging myself and continuing to push myself to do the things that I know I don’t have the 100 percent knowledge and expertise to do. Throughout my career, I have worked for a Fortune 50 company where I had to integrate a learning and development function when they were used to being siloed. It has been challenging. I have had to focus on training 260,000 employees at the same time, which is overwhelming. And I have had to push myself to have comfort with ambiguity. And, to continue to learn and grow. I expect my team to be servant leaders; serving those beside us and above us and our customers. I want to create an environment where it’s okay to fail if failure means learning. And what you put into life and work is what you’ll get out of it. Just as every learner has a story, and you need to meet them where they are, I want to be a steward of my next drawing on the wall: “In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”
What are you most proud of accomplishing?
Several years ago I had the opportunity to build an Academy for the Department for Veterans Affairs (VA). It was full of white walls to communicate important messages. One of the writings we wrote on the wall was, “The Battle Stops Here! We are a team of trusted business advisors forging innovative solutions to serve those who served us. In keeping with that mission, I expanded the intern school by launching an intern program for wounded warriors to re-skill and re-tool them and to provide our heroes with career opportunities in the federal workforce. It’s a three-year holistic program that most importantly gives them hope—and it was my honor to give them hope in thanks for their service and sacrifice.