Jill Perovich, director of client experience at Heritage Wealth Advisors, a Mercer Island-based affiliate of Ameriprise Financial Services Inc., has 21 years of experience in management, process analysis and workflow modeling. As director of client services, she works with Heritage’s advisors and client-services representatives to ensure the goals and priorities of clients connect with firm’s financial planning process.
Prior to joining Heritage, Perovich worked as a client account specialist for insurance brokerage LTC Solutions Inc. in Redmond and prior to that as a consultant at Arcadia Financial in Redmond. In her spare time, she also is a yoga instructor.
Perovich graduated from Seattle University with a degree in political science. As part of the latest Daring Woman interview, Perovich offers some insights about the challenges faced by women striving to achieve leadership roles and ways to overcome them, her views on mentors and networking, and she also shares some advice for the upcoming generation of female leaders.
What are the most important characteristics of a good leader and what leadership traits are overrated?
A good leader is passionate, empowering, transparent and trustworthy. Leaders need to be passionate about the vision they are asking others to execute. Effective leaders empower their team to find solutions, collaborate and lead up. Leaders need to be transparent and clear about the expectations of what is needed from the organization and the individual to drive success. A great leader is trustworthy. It does not matter how skilled, passionate or communicative you are, as your team needs to believe in you and the vision you have painted.
The leadership trait most overrated is the egocentric idea the leader is the smartest person in the room. A true leader works with people who may be smarter and more and talented than themselves, knowing their most important role is to mobilize and inspire those around them to deliver great things.
As a woman, what is the most significant barrier to becoming a leader?
Ourselves. This may not be an absolute truth in all circumstances, but for many of us it is. We create barriers in our mind telling ourselves we are not good enough before we open the door, look at what’s possible and step inside.
We have manufactured idealizations of wanting to be perfect in all things. Thus, perpetuating the feeling of I am not enough, and therefore am not deserving. Whether it is in my career working in a primarily male dominated industry, or teaching yoga to a class full of students, I constantly need to deconstruct the negative thoughts that creep in and interfere with my confidence to lead.
No man or woman in a leadership position has done so emblazoned with the badge of perfection. There was no certification process that told them they are now qualified to lead. True leaders have blazed the trail because they had passion and conviction about something important to them. They dared to take a risk and expose themselves as they are in order to promote a change bigger than themselves.
How can women achieve more prominent roles in their organizations?
Women can achieve more prominent roles if they begin by aligning their passions and skillsets with an organization that has a pathway to support both. When you do work that capitalizes on your strength and passion, you highlight the value you can bring to the company.
It is important we advocate for ourselves with respectful transparency. Share with your leaders what you believe is working and not working, not only for the company, but for yourself. Speaking up does not mean dumping a pile of complaints on the lap of leadership. Instead, you must marry each challenge with a proposed solution.
Lastly, in addition to aligning our roles with our passion and skillset, we also need to be open minded to teaming up with people who bring to the table different strengths than our own. Being self-aware of what you are good at, but also acknowledging someone on your team who might be even stronger, creates a culture of nonthreatening collaboration. It says: together we will combine all our best talents, so we all can win.
What key lessons did you learn from a woman who has inspired, mentored or sponsored you?
A few key lessons I learned came from two great ladies. One was my mother and one was from a mentor I worked with several years ago.
My mother always said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” My mom lived that motto every day of her life in work and adventure. She learned to snow ski and water ski in her 30’s and continued skiing until she was in her 70’s. She and my dad traveled the world and created many memories for our family. She lived life to the fullest every single day.
My professional career was shaped by a woman who joined the company I’d been instrumental in helping to build. This woman came highly regarded. She was sharply dressed and carried herself with grace and complete professionalism. She was successful, and my initial response was to feel threatened. In a short time, I learned a great deal working with her. I realized as individuals we each can have our own unique talent and learn from one another. Her light does not dim my light. Instead, our unique gifts help each other to grow to become better.
As women wanting to do great things, it is critical to not let ourselves feel threatened by other women who may be better at something than we are. Learn from them.
What advice do you have for the next generation of female leaders?
The best advice I received and can share with others is to lead from the place you’ve come from. Own your successes and failures, your skills and shortcomings and bring those forward as you lead others.
When I first received my yoga teacher certification, I did not want to formally teach in a studio. I was scared and insecure. I believed that because I did not have the quintessential yoga figure you see in magazines, people would not want to take my class.
And then I remembered, if I can lead from the place I’ve come from, I can help others find strength when they feel weak, find courage despite the fear, break down the barriers they have built and, above all, quiet the voice that tells them they can’t.
The second piece of advice is to always find time to own your day. There are demands placed on us all day long from our team, our managers, our customers and our family. Most of our day is spent responding from a reactionary position. If you take time, preferably first thing in the morning, to do something for yourself, whether it be exercising, meditating, reading or writing, you have created intentional time to own your day. We all deserve time for ourselves. We cannot serve from an empty cup.
How important is networking and how do you expand your contacts?
I don’t make a concentrated effort to network. I have only built my community of relationships through authentic connections from past working relationships or the yoga community.
What would you do differently in your career?
If I were to do anything differently in my professional career, I would have spent more time early on identifying my unique skillsets and talents and worked within a career that utilized them better from the beginning. This would have given me the confidence to step out of the shadow of other people a lot sooner to further refine and develop what I’m good at.
I also would have spent less time worrying about making other people happy with my decisions. The worst decisions I have made, whether it be to stay in one place for too long or take a position that wasn’t the right fit, was based around making someone else happy. I now know if I am disappointing someone, it is because of an expectation they created in which I have little to no control over.
It has taken me far too long, but I have finally realized we cannot be true to ourselves and maximize our potential if we are trying to fit someone else’s mold.
Where will we find you on a Saturday afternoon?
On a Saturday afternoon you will either find me on my yoga mat, out for a run or at the dog park with my dogs, Moose and Milo. My weekends are designed to have fun, relax and restore.
What would be the title of your autobiography?
“Why not me? Overcoming the obstacles I created.”
We’d love to hear from more women across all industries who are challenging the status quo. Does it sound like you? If it does, click here and fill out our questionnaire.
Daring Women Q&A responses have been edited and condensed.