Leadership Lessons 2: Featuring Shawn Patterson, vice president- AXON Communications

With over 13 years of progressive experience at AXON, 8 years as vice president, operations (clinical trial services), Shawn has demonstrated expertise in strategic communications and education. Enhanced by results-focused operational management and leadership skills, Shawn has been a key contributor to the growth and expansion of AXON. Shawn excels at aligning key initiatives with overall business and organizational objectives through detailed analysis, budget management and cross-team collaboration.

What is the biggest lesson/skill you learned that has helped you progress in your career?

“Listen to understand. Fill your tank daily. Let go of the past.”

  • Listen to understand
    • “Early in my career, I realized I was listening to respond instead of listening to understand. When we listen to understand we are fully present and mindful vs. thinking about the great response we are going to provide.”
    • Don’t focus on being the smartest person in the room by having the smartest response. 
    • Tips for listening to understand: 
      • When speaking with others, if you feel your eyes wander, let that be your cue to bring your attention back to the person.
      • Reframe what you have heard and take a breath before responding 
  • Fill your own tank daily
    • “If I can’t learn something every day and can’t laugh everyday then I know I need to make a change.”
    • You can’t change others or expect them to fill your tank. Be aware of what fills your tank and seek out ways to do this for yourself
  • Stay in the present
    • "My goal for 2020 is to focus on the joy of today and not let my mental real estate be tied up worrying about the past or future. That drains my energy for today and does not serve me or others well.”
    • Let go of the past- don’t live in what might be because you bring this into everything you are doing today and that does not help you make progress into the future.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your professional journey and how did you work through it?

“Recognizing there is no such thing as balance and staying true to myself.”

  • Many women struggle with balancing family and career feeling that they must do it ‘all’ at home and at work. Reality is there is no such thing as balance. We need to be ok with not doing it all, not comparing ourselves to others and release the guilt. This is an important life lesson and 
  • Know your worth and be confident. “You are not validated by your boss or 1000 likes on Instagram.” 
  • Stay true to you. Don’t focus on conforming to an ideal of what a leader is or what others are doing to be successful. What makes you successful is embracing who you are, keep your humanity, emotions and all, be confident, ensure your tank is full and own your choices. If you are depleted then you will deplete others.

What advice do you have for women looking to advance their careers?

  • Do your due diligence. Understand what you are asking for and be clear in what you are asking for. Often people think they know what they are asking for but it is only half-baked and they either expect or let others decide the other half.
  • Be realistic. Know what you are great at and what you are not. 
  • Taking ownership. If you messed up, don’t look to blame others. Own your piece- good and bad.
  • Don’t filter. Say what needs to be said--with care and kindness.

What value can HBA Toronto bring to business professionals in healthcare?

  • There are so many areas where people are working hard to move the needle but cannot seem to. However, as a group, there is a much greater possibility of accomplishing something.
  • HBA provides that opportunity- it is where like-minded people come together, share their knowledge, inspire and motivate one another
  • Regardless of where you are in your career- early or established, there is a desire to learn and evolve. The HBA provides a platform to come together, share and benefit from others' experiences.
  • It would be great to explore for example, how at 50-plus do we reinvent ourselves and what resources are out there? Is it different for men and women? 

What is your one big takeaway from the HBA event you attended?

  • “I walked away from that with so many ideas and just feeling that is so much more I want to do and can do. It was energizing and motivating to hear the stories of the other women on the panel. They are established but nowhere near done—they are still making so much impact and forging new paths.”
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