Leadership in Italy – Amazing Things Happen When You Rise Off the Sticky Floor!

I recently had the pleasure of joining dear friends in a wonderful part of the world: Tuscany, in Central Italy. We enjoyed several days of sightseeing and biking across the countryside, as well as eating incredible food and tasting fine wines from a number of different regions.

A particularly memorable experience was a visit to the town of Pienza, where our guide, Pietro, took us up the mountain to a cheese-making farm operated by a delightful family. When we arrived, the owner, a woman named Hilda, welcomed us to what she referred to as her “dream come true.”

As we sat down for a tasting of her delicious cheeses, I asked Hilda to talk about how she made this magnificent enterprise happen. She shared that her dream had been to own a cheese-making farm that would eventually support her and her family. Yet she knew nothing about making cheese. In fact, when she first conceived her dream, she had been in the same job for 10 years and was living a very comfortable life.

What this woman created was no easy task, and it took great leadership and determination. After listening to her story, I realized that Hilda also possessed the right mindset to rise above the Sticky Floor – the self-limiting assumptions, beliefs and behaviors that can hold us back from realizing our goals and dreams. How did Hilda leave her Sticky Floor behind? And more importantly, how can you rise off your Sticky Floor to become a great leader?

Be Authentic. Hilda came from a small town in Switzerland where everyone cautioned her about the risks of breaking away and taking on such a huge endeavor. But Hilda had self-awareness; she was connected to her beliefs, values, and intentions, and they inspired her to take action. In Shambaugh’s Women’s Leadership Program, we reinforce the importance of “knowing and being thyself.” Now, let me ask you…who do you want to be and how can you manifest that in your life and work? Having self-awareness, as Hilda does, is critical for great leadership. It channels your behaviors in the right direction and ensures that you take the right steps toward those big-picture goals.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone. Hilda left the comforts of her home and job in Switzerland to launch a business in an industry she had no knowledge of, nor experience in. She took out a small loan, bought a piece of land, and she and her husband began to build and to work. With intense curiosity, passion, and determination, she immersed herself in classes, read books on cheese making, and asked for input from those around her. She shared with me that she made mistakes along the way, but those mistakes were the vehicle through which she learned the business, gained confidence, and became an expert in her profession.

Some of our greatest breakthroughs come when we take risks. I’ve found that it’s easier to take risks when we are passionate about and truly committed to something. And, ironically, it doesn’t matter if we succeed or fail, because it’s not the outcome that provides the developmental experience, but the journey itself and what we learn along the way.

Build Strategic Relationships.
Hilda realized that she could not accomplish this dream alone, and she believed that there was something to learn from everyone she met on her journey. As I share in my presentations, no one is an island, and it does take a village to accomplish great things. She created a community by drawing young people to the farm and allowing them to camp on her land in exchange for working in the business – a true win-win for all. She cultivated a supportive network by reaching out to local cheese farmers and asking them to mentor her. And she held monthly gatherings to bring the local townspeople together to share good food and wine.

Hilda’s laser focus was essential in order for strategic networking to become a priority in her busy life. The old cliché, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there” is really true!

To build strategic relationships: 

  • Get clear about what you want
  • Be intentional and have a goal
  • Identify people who can help you and be clear about how they can support you in achieving your goals
  • Don’t let your inner voice talk you out of connecting with others
  • Be curious and find the value that others have to offer
  • Practice the Law of Reciprocity – actively seek ways to give back to others
  • Be open to learning from others – consider creating your own “board of directors,” people whom you respect and trust that can stretch your thinking, and provide helpful advice and honest feedback

Be an Entrepreneur! Believe in You!
Belief in yourself is the foundation of the Sticky Floors and being an entrepreneur. It starts with one single thought. It calls for being creative. It means having the courage to take the first step and then the next and the next. Hilda believed in herself and in her dream. She embraced change and came to understand that her flexibility and adaptability (two key traits of entrepreneurs) lead to gifts that create so many more opportunities and choices in life.

All of these characteristics have allowed Hilda to realize her dream. Not only does her operation support her family, it has grown to become an international enterprise. Today, Hilda is a respected leader in Tuscany and within her profession around the world.

When you choose to rise off your Sticky Floors, the sky truly is the limit. And if you need proof of that…I just picked up a pound of cheese from my local grocery market in Northern Virginia, and yes, it was Hilda’s! Magnifico! 

If you are ready to accelerate or begin your leadership journey, our Women in Leadership program or SHAMBAUGH’s results focused coaching services can help you get started. Visit www.shambaughleadership.com or contact me at rshambaugh@shambaughleadership.com.

Share this post?

Rebecca Shambaugh

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *