Co-hosts Jan Rutherford and Jim Vaselopulos interview Colleen Abdoulah, former Chair and CEO of WOW! Colleen, who was the only female CEO at a top-ten cable operating company, is widely respected for her passionate focus on customer experience and company culture. In this episode, Colleen motivates young professionals to lead passionately with purpose, by first learning the history, then seeking and engaging existing organizations. Colleen maintains that everyone has gifts and passions, and when directed meaningfully, these strengths will help guide leaders to success. She encourages leaders to reflect each day by asking, “How did I show up? Was I an influence for positive or negative?” She discourages passive-aggressive behaviors, and promotes accountability and learning to confront differences with courtesy.
Listen in to learn the value of individual accountability, the best use of the inherent gifts all people have, and why methods matter along the way to your goals.
[5:33] Colleen gained awareness as a teenager that women across the world have had to fight for rights. In her 20’s, she was pulled to work for social justice and compassion towards the marginalized, especially women and children, and she continues those efforts today.
[8:01] Colleen’s advice to young professionals looking to help a cause is first to get some context, find out the history and background, and do their homework. She says some young women today don’t even know what a suffragette was.
[11:46] Colleen recalls being counseled that if we make a difference in one life, then what we’re doing matters.
[15:16] Ask yourself, “where can I contribute and be fed in the process?” Finding an enriching purpose makes the difference between a passion and an obligation.
[17:15] When looking for a mentor, find people in your communities who have similar values to you, get their attention, share who you are. Your mentor’s role is to listen, probe, draw out, and help guide and instruct you, not to advise you what to do.
[20:38] There’s diversity of lifestyle and ethnicity, but also diversity of mind. Many organizations make the mistake of finding people who think alike, because it’s easier. Getting diversity right comes down to one basic thing — do I value it?
[25:54] Regardless of our background, we all work with the basis that we’re human beings who want to know, “Do I belong? Do I have something to contribute? And “A”m I valued and respected?”
[31:03] How you love, how you interact, how you navigate through your career and your exchanges with others, differentiates you as a person.
How to contact Colleen:
“How did I show up today? What kind of wake did I leave among the people I interacted with?”
“We all inherently have gifts, but when we mismanage a gift, it can become a liability.”
“Leadership is bringing out the best in yourself and in others.”
“You can never become too great at listening. You have to keep practicing it.”
“Finding an enriching purpose makes the difference between a passion and an obligation.”
“Email is like a candy store for the passive-aggressive”
Colleen Abdoulah, who was the only female CEO at a top-ten cable operating company, is widely respected for her passionate focus on customer experience and company culture. Currently the Chair of the Board at WOW!, Colleen guided Internet, cable and phone as CEO for 12 years. In those years, WOW! quadrupled the customer base, with revenues of over $1.2B, and earned multiple awards from J.D. Power and Associates, Consumer Reports, and PC Magazine Reader’s’ Choice. WOW! was named in the National Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in 2012 and 2013. Before joining WOW!, Colleen worked at TCI as Assistant COO and EVP of Cable Operations. She serves on the boards of the American Cable Association and C-SPAN, and is a past Vice President of the Executive Board of Women in Cable and Telecommunications, and past Chairperson for the WICT Foundation. She is past Chair of the Board for the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center, serves on the boards for The Women’s College of the University of Denver, the Colorado Chapter of the International Women’s Forum, and World Pulse.
Colleen is a keynote speaker on customer experience and company culture, and gender-balanced management and leadership, delivering her messages and stories with humor. Colleen has a degree in Public Relations and Marketing from Mount Royal College in Calgary, and an MBA from the University of Denver.