What if your business partner wants to break up?

By Jeff Haden

Setting up a business partnership is a little like starting a romantic relationship, although admittedly the benefits package and perks are a lot different.

In the beginning stages it’s easy to only focus on the positives, but a solid partnership agreement also takes into account a number of scenarios, especially the potential for negative outcomes. If the worst does happen, your partnership agreement should protect both you and your partner.

Make sure your partnership agreement covers what will happen if:

One of you wants out. Exit clauses are standard in partnership agreements. For example, if you want out, your partner may be obligated to purchase your ownership share.

That’s the easy part. The tricky part is determining the value of the business when that happens. Business valuation is part science, part art, and different approaches often result in very different results. Whether you agree to use liquidation value, book value, or the income, asset, or market approaches, stipulate in your partnership agreement how the business will be valued and whether a third party will conduct the valuation. Then the breakup will be a lot cleaner and less emotional.

One of you passes away. Say your partner dies. Typically his or her ownership stake passes to the spouse or children. You automatically get new partners — new partners you may not want. A buy-sell agreement can allow you to purchase your deceased partner’s share, but what if you don’t have the money or can’t get financing?

There’s an easy solution: Stipulate that each partner will carry life insurance sufficient to cover the purchase of the other partner’s share. Each partner designates the other partner as beneficiary. Then, if your partner passes away, you always have the funds to complete the buy-sell agreement. Just make sure you add additional coverage as the value of your business grows.

One of you wants to change the agreement. Paul Allen claimed Bill Gates asked him to change their ownership split of Microsoft several times. Perspectives change as a business evolves, and partnership agreements can be amended as often as you like — as long as all partners agree.

Sometimes one of you might not agree to proposed changes, so stipulate how fundamental disagreements will be resolved: Mediation, arbitration, triggering a buy-sell clause, etc. Knowing how a problem will eventually be resolved if you aren’t able to agree often makes it easier to work through differences.

You can no longer get along. No matter how well you work together now, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and changing priorities can damage the best relationships. When that happens, falling back on the terms of your partnership agreement can help both of you stay objective.

For example, your partnership agreement may stipulate you are responsible for 60% of the work since your partner provided a greater share of initial capital. If he feels you aren’t doing your share, the more clearly you defined what “the work” means in your agreement, the easier it is to determine whether you are in fact pulling your weight. Whenever possible, use hours, numbers, dollars — quantifiable measurements.

Your business is already established. If the agreement you have is insufficient — or if you don’t have a written agreement — it’s not too late.

Take a step back and create a comprehensive partnership agreement. If your partner hesitates, explain you aren’t trying to change your current working conditions. All you’re trying to do is eliminate as many ways you might disagree in the future as possible.

Fortunately, talking about potential negatives with a potential business partner is a lot easier than having a similar discussion with a romantic partner. Setting up a prenuptial agreement may not be the greatest way to start a relationship, but setting up a comprehensive written partnership agreement is the perfect way to start a business partnership.


The ROI of Executive Coaching

How investing in one individual can transform an organization

by Margaret Gomez, BlessingWhite Executive Coach and Strategist, and David Hagerty, BlessingWhite Regional Vice President and Executive Coaching Practice Leader

When designing organizational change programs, we have many possible approaches. One powerful tool is executive coaching, and BlessingWhite increasingly incorporates targeted one-on-one coaching as part of organization-wide development initiatives.

While this approach may appear to be a significant investment at first glance — after all you are working with just one individual at a time — executive coaching has a deceptively high return-on-investment.

This is because a targeted investment in select individuals at the top can have a profound transformational effect across the whole organization. And when coaching is combined with formal leadership training, the impact on changed behavior of the executive is dramatic — nearly 4 times greater — increasing behavior change from 22% to 80% (Olivero, Bane, & Kopelman, 1997).

The power of executive coaching comes from its customized approach and ability to flex with the unique needs of each client. Effective executive coaching weaves personal development with the explicit needs of the business, and it delivers a far-reaching impact on the organization’s culture.

A Measurable Strategy

32% of coaches responding to a 2009 Harvard Business Review< survey indicated that the ability to measure ROI was very important when hiring a coach, and 61% ranked clear methodology as very important.

The Hudson Institute, a pioneer in coach training and seminal thinking, finds that organizations are investing more in one-on-one coaching than in traditional training because the ROI is much easier to track. Recent workplace research provides some useful benchmarks. The International Coach Federation’s 2009 Global Coaching Client Study reported a median return of 7 times the initial investment. 19% indicated a measured ROI of at least 5,000%. The Manchester Review study calculated ROI of 5.7 times the initial investment in coaching. 75% of the sample surveyed indicated the value of coaching was “considerably greater” or “far greater” than the money and time invested.

And while a 2010 Conference Board Coaching Study confirmed that most formal program evaluation occurs in larger organizations, smaller ones can also greatly benefit from executive coaching.

Measurement, Method, a Contract and some Standards

Pam McLean, CEO of The Hudson Institute, emphasizes the importance of foundational building blocks to ensure a strong ROI — a strong coaching methodology and effective contracting up front. She says, “Standards are another key ingredient. Data from stakeholder interviews and feedback other than from the leaders we are coaching help fortify the contract and track results that matter.”

As Pam points out, a big component of ensuring a strong ROI sits with the coach. Her message to coaches: “If you cannot measure ROI, you are not clear on the work you are doing.”

Lisa Ann Edwards, head of Talent Management at Corbis and founder of Bloom Coaching Institute, concurs: “Reporting back on a high ROI is less important than the accountability afforded by measuring ROI.”

Stakeholders, says Lisa, are more interested in knowing whether coaching accomplished the goals aligned with the business objectives, that behavior changed and that the change in behavior resulted in improved business impact.

She adds: “Key to the approach is to shift from an activities-based approach to a results-based approach. Better alignment of coaching to business results is a great start to ensuring that the coaching work is effective.”

Driving Leadership Behaviors

Over at H4B Chelsea, a unit of Havas Worldwide Health, Christian Bauman (Managing Director, Chief Creative Officer) was one of several executives to receive coaching as part of an initiative to establish common leadership behaviors across companies under shared leadership.

“Executive Coaching has been extraordinarily helpful to me and my role and my company. We were working together as I was transitioning into a new and larger role as well as preparing for another step up. Coaching was a critical help to think through problems, tackle things externally and prioritize. It enabled me to take informed action and see avenues of opportunity I had not considered before. Coaching benefited the company’s success as this was dependent on my success.”

“We move very, very quickly in our organization and sometimes we need to move people into roles fast. […] You identify people for new roles and they have to be equipped and ready to sink or swim. If they sink, their company sinks with them. Coaching helped me learn quickly, in weeks and months, what I would have taken longer to learn on my own. Coaching hyper-accelerated my development.”

“It is very motivating that the company cares about your future and it helps keep me here.”

“A year ago, when the promotion was broached to me, it was through my conversations with my coach that I was able to pull all the elements apart and see where I could be most successful.”

“By interacting with the coaches of others I was working closely with, it solidified how I could work better with them. Instead of vague feelings, I identified and quantified the parts which were about me and for which I needed to take responsibility. We’ve become stronger than ever in a shorter amount of time.”

Impacting others

Another coaching success story is The Dreyfus Corporation, where BlessingWhite executive coaching was a key component within an established, successful and well-respected leadership development program for BNY Mellon Asset Management.

Noreen Ross (EVP, Director of Marketing) describes the coaching as “absolutely transformational. One of the most simple, yet valuable, things was that it changed my mindset on how I show up for meetings — motivated and prepared — not just walking in and winging it.”

Noreen’s meetings with her manager have improved as well. “Our discussions are much more real and productive. Before, I would present a topic from both points of view and wait to get a mood read before I put out my POV. Now, I’m more confident and willing to put my opinion on the table and stand up to the debate.”

“One of the more tangible results of my coaching was that it helped identify a gap in our organization, which was a growing source of frustration for me and my senior staffers. Working with my coach, we developed a ‘Marketing Council’ which serves as a formal decision-making body between Sales and Marketing. This takes much of the guesswork out of what we do which leads to more consistent results.”

“I also have learned the value of strong leadership, and how it helps influence employees and bring them to the next level.” As an example, Noreen points to more productive goal-setting sessions: “I’ve asked each of my staff members to come prepared to discuss the next phase of their career, and now we work toward that. This gives us a better framework for discussion and enables me to provide targeted and valuable feedback.”

“We hyper-advanced the development of our employees by my being a stronger leader and mentor.”

The Dreyfus Corporation gave one person leadership lessons and executive coaching and, says Noreen, “I impact 50 people. Think of the multiples from that. They made that investment in me and the way it cascades throughout the organization is phenomenally powerful. There’s the ROI!”

This sums it up for Noreen: “I’ve had the ruby slippers on all the time and only now do I know how to use the power!”

Who We Are and What We Do

In our final example we look at BNY Mellon Asset Management. Here is where a Leadership Development Program designed and led by Dave DeFilippo, Chief Learning Officer, helps leaders reframe their role in service of their people. This represents a shift in the way they think about their jobs and a focus on “how they get stuff done.” Another emphasis is about leaders becoming comfortable in their own skin — “showing up at work actually congruent with who I am.”

Dave summarizes: “We have found that designing coaching engagements that are strength-based, outcome-oriented and individually tailored to be the most effective combination. Having a partner with the coaching acumen and worldwide capabilities that BlessingWhite offers has been game changing.”

A Proven Approach

Gone are the days when executive coaching was perceived as elitist entitlement or perk for the top-of-the-house. Today it is recognized as an effective organizational development tool that can be deployed as a stand-alone or as part of a concerted change program to accelerate the impact of a development initiative. Its flexibility as a tool and its proven ROI make it a compelling approach in the design of culture change activities, both to the benefit of the coachee and the organization at large.

Our special thanks to:

Lisa Ann Edwards, head of Talent Management for Corbis (Bill Gates’ privately owned global media company) and founder of Bloom Coaching Institute. She has authored, co-authored, and contributed to books on ROI and has provided a POV from her expertise on ROI.

Dave DeFilippo, Chief Learning Officer, BNY Mellon Asset Management, and Leadership Development Program leader. He provided insights and a POV on the importance of ROI in coaching engagements.

Noreen Ross, EVP, Director of Marketing at The Dreyfus Corporation, a unit of BNY Mellon, and
Christian Bauman, Managing Director, Chief Creative Officer, H4B Chelsea, a unit of Havas Worldwide Health. They generously provided a window into their experience and ROI from their respective BlessingWhite executive coaching programs.

Dr. Pamela McLean is co-founder and CEO of The Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara, one of the earliest and most eminent coaching schools to emerge in the 90s. She generously provided her POV, insights, and a cache of information for this article. pam.mclean@hudsoninstitute.com

Margaret A. Gomez, MCC, SPHR, BlessingWhite Executive Coach and Strategist. Margaret built her career in the talent management and development arena through senior leadership roles at global corporations and innovation leaders. These include Scali, McCabe, Sloves, The Olsten Corporation, and branding and advertising agencies at Omnicom and Interpublic. She is particularly skilled at navigating complex, demanding work systems, cultures, and transitions. Margaret received her formal coaching training at The Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara and is based in New York. mgomez@bwincconsulting.com
David Hagerty, Regional Vice President and Executive Coaching Practice Leader for BlessingWhite, is based in Boston. He is responsible for shaping BlessingWhite’s POV around Executive Coaching, sourcing its broad network of coaches globally, and helping match these coaches with Blessing White’s clients’ leadership development needs. david.hagerty@blessingwhite.com


Copyright © 2011 BlessingWhite, Inc.

Strengths-Based Teamwork

Successful business ventures often rely on the communication savvy of everyone involved in the deal. Relying on one person to lead or motivate a group leads to: reduced functionality if that person is absent, a stressful environment, unhealthy communication patterns, and increased conflicts. We all come from different backgrounds and families. What’s amazing is how we come together as a team to produce finished products. Here are 3 ways you can set yourself and your team up for success. They all involve self-reflection, greater self-awareness, and implementation of new skills based on both your and others’communication strengths.

  1. 1.       Use DISC Profiling to Rephrase Your Wants

DISC is an inventory that is taken specifically with the work environment in mind. It identifies your adapted behavior in the workplace, as well as your natural style. Bringing in someone to facilitate taking the DISC profile and interpreting the results with your team adds value to how well your team interacts with one another.

One of the fun things I did at the last corporate DISC training was to ask each participant what their pet peeve was (instead of what words to avoid or not to use) in regards to how other’s communicate with them. We also spent a great deal of time on what does work for each participant. We collated everyone’s results in a table for easy reference back in the office. During team training that teaches you communication skills, you learn more than just tendencies or preferences, you get to implement the knowledge right away, which ensures that you retain this information for later use.

It is critical to know that the greater awareness you have of your style and how to adapt how you communicate with others in the group based on their style is what sets you and your team apart from other groups operating by chance alone. Doing DISC as a group allows everyone to see patterns and how objectively to make changes in the way they speak and interact so the strengths of all team members are utilized rather than just the more extroverted or dominant communication and personality styles.

  1. 2.       Understand Gender Communication Differences

While DISC identifies your adapted and natural communication styles, going one step further to understand how men and women prefer to communicate leads to even greater results.

  • Men tend to use communication to solve problems.
  • Women tend to use communication to connect.

For example, at work—a woman’s natural inclination to take into account how a decision affects all parties involved both short and long term. Calling on this strength during a sale or when weighing options ensures greater logistical planning than a more single-minded approach. Calling on a man’s inclination to either solve a dilemma, or shelve for later is helpful in keeping negotiations focused with the end in sight.

Mars Venus Coaches in your area can facilitate DISC trainings for your organization and offer free Stress Management Seminars and workshops geared to getting what you want at work and gender differences in selling and buying. If you’re pressed for time you can also read the following online articles or take aneWorkshop too!

  1. 3.       Practice Conflict Resolution Skills

It is critical to know that under stress, we tend to do two things:

  • We revert to our natural DISC style—graph II, not our adapted DISC style—graph I. This is because under stress it is harder to mask our natural preferences for communicating.
  • We become more like our gender, because of our physiology and the way blood flows in our brains according to our sex.

Therefore, utilizing an objective observer or a facilitator that interprets how you work as a team is more helpful, then just reading about it or studying these skills alone.

The following are the 3 steps to conflict resolution and what primary DISC gravitates to each of the steps.

1. CREATE SPACE. S’s bring all views, ideas and opinions into dialogue.

Change location to a neutral place

-Use active listening to explore rather than condemn opposing views

Take breaks often to cool off during negotiations

2. ADD VALUE. C/I’snaturally use their skills to add value and make sure all voices are heard.

Cs (Ts) add value by generating logical alternativesto the conflict issues

Is (Fs) add value by creating options for growthfor all parties so no one leaves feeling empty handed

3. SEEK CLOSURE. D’s ensure an end result.

agree on decision principles before making decisions (i.e. equal input)

-take one step at a time and define the steps

-once steps are outlined and decided upon, close the book on conflict

The bottom line is to turn what you learn into translatable skills. Learning communication and resiliency skills that focus on your strengths enable you to stay present in the moment. When you are able to operate continually from this place of presence, then you will find there are no fights, conflicts will decrease, and both your productivity and efficiency will improve. If your entire team can identify what best works for them and how to adapt to other people’s preferences, then the climate and culture at work will cease to feel like “work,” and more like play—just like it felt as a kid on the playground at recess playing kickball.

Lyndsay Katauskas, MEd

Mars Venus Coaching

Corporate Media Relations


Is your lack of Gender Intelligence impacting your stress levels and your ability to manage stress?

 “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
Victor Hugo

John Gray’s , original work, Men are from Mars Women are from Venus, has touched many men and women around the world with its simple, but powerful message that men and women are fundamentally different….. and that knowing those differences and consciously applying that knowledge is guaranteed to improve our relationships, stress management, communication and sales.

But how many of those people are actually using that knowledge of gender difference to improve their lives and businesses?

Mars Venus Coaching is a global business dedicated to helping men and women to be more effective by becoming more gender intelligent.

In his recent book, “Why Mars and Venus Collide” John Gray, Ph.D. helps us understand how the Mars and Venus differences affect our management of stress.  He explains the brain structure and functioning and the effects of different hormones in management of stress.

Do you know…

  • The role cortisol plays in stress?
  • That women have a limbic system that is 10 time larger than a man’s?  What does that mean and what are the implications for our management of stress?
  • That men and women approach a daily to-do list differently?  Why does that matter?
  • Why women need to talk when they are under stress?
  • Why understanding the role of testosterone is important for both men and women to know?
  • That men’s irritability and grumpiness can be understood and managed better?
  • What oxytocin is and why should we care?

These and many other questions are addressed in the Mars Venus “Practicing Safe Stress” workshops.




Pauline Neville-Jones: ‘Some say I didn’t make it easy on myself’

Pauline Neville-Jones: ‘I hope I have never held back other women’ Photograph: Andrew Parsons/ZUMAPRESS.com

The former security minister talks about the difficulties of having been a woman in the ultra-macho defense world – but says things are now changing.

Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones always chooses her words with care. It is a trait of hers, and one that became a hallmark in a career that has taken her to the highest levels of the diplomatic service, overseeing MI5 and MI6, and as a security minister in government.

Looking back on this time in the highest echelons of Whitehall, she can speak a little more bluntly than perhaps she used to about the hurdles she faced as a woman making her way in what was – and to a certain extent remains – a man’s world.

“We were second-class citizens, really,” she says. “There were quite a lot of things that women were considered unsuitable for.”

Neville-Jones is referring specifically to her early days in the Foreign Office and the rules, both institutional and otherwise, that were designed to make life difficult for women seeking a career as a diplomat. She can laugh about them now, but at the time … “There was the bar on marriage. That lasted until the mid-1970s. The situation was that you had to resign if you got engaged, if you were a woman that is.”

She recalls that official uniforms, or rather the lack of them, was another divisive issue.

“Women diplomats didn’t have them. This was said to raise serious problems in certain countries with monarchies because it was thought that women couldn’t possibly go to formal ceremonies without one. The men had them, though they were not often worn, but not the women.

“There was some talk about creating an official evening dress with oak leaves. That came to nothing, luckily. It was a sign of the times, part of a forgotten world. Some heads of ministry wouldn’t even have women on their staff.”

That era has passed, though Neville-Jones may be reliving some of these moments this week, when she appears as one of the main speakers at a conference starting tomorrow at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank in London.

The two-day event is the first of its kind to bring together women from across the world who have forged careers in defense and security; sharing the platform will be an admiral from the US Navy, a brigadier from the Israeli Defense Force, and the secretary general of the Spanish Intelligence Agency.

In all, more than 30 women will discuss the jobs they do, the difficulties they have had to overcome, and offer advice to others embarking on similar journeys. Neville-Jones may have come further than any of them during her 50-year career.

A grammar-school girl from Leeds, she read history at Oxford University before deciding to test the thickness of the glass ceiling within the civil service.

It was 1961, and it had been impenetrable. “There were two women in my year out of a class of 20, but in other years there were none at all. So we were in a minority, there were very few of us around.”

For obvious reasons, it seems. The decade may have been swinging for some women, but the winds of change hadn’t blown very far into Whitehall when Neville-Jones started. Was there sexism in the service at the time?

“I do think that, yes. I think that climbing the tree was harder. Women were examined and criticized for things that men were not criticized for. The women certainly believed that to make average progress, they had to be rather better than average.

“I think some women believed that they would not be able to overcome this. They underrated their potential, and if you do that, then the system will underrate you too.”

Some decisions appear to grate even now. “I had been in Singapore for a period and wanted to know if I could learn Chinese. I got a very short note saying ‘no’. I was convinced this was because I was a woman. I think they thought there was no point putting in that investment, particularly with languages. The attitude was, ‘We are not going to train women who are going to leave.’ And they would never think of putting a woman in the Middle East.”

A thick skin has been one of the secrets of her longevity, and it is something she believes all women have to develop if they are to challenge the status quo.

“I am sure that there were [incidents of sexism]. But I am not one to dwell on difficulties or be thrown by slights. I can recall swallowing hard sometimes. One thing I do remember is the way some men would stand in front of you, and be talking to each other about you, as if you weren’t there.”

The Equal Opportunities Act in 1976, she says, “changed the game”, and she believes she was fortunate with the jobs she was appointed to. She also excelled in them.

They included a senior post at the British embassy in Washington, and then a move to Brussels where she was Chef de Cabinet to the Budget Commissioner, Christopher Tugendhat.

This was obviously a nightmare of a job; it was during the period when Mrs Thatcher was handbagging other European leaders, thumping tables and demanding her money back. Neville-Jones was caught in the middle – for five long years. “That was quite hard to navigate,” she says. “We were constantly under pressure.”

Understatement may be her preferred way of describing events, but there are certain issues about which she is more robust. One is that she never used gender as a weapon to get her own way, nor did she turn alpha male to survive.

“I was certainly never conscious of ‘playing the woman’. I would not have approved of that. It is not a winning tactic. I operated in the world as I found it, and it was a man’s world.”

That world increasingly included working with the armed forces, and then the intelligence services – she was chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee in 1993 and 1994.

Dame Stella Rimington was head of MI5 at the time, the first woman to head the security service, and the two got on well.

And she didn’t find the generals as difficult as she might. “The thing about the military,” she says, “is that they are always very courteous.”

Neville-Jones has remained friends with Rimington, though they never had a chance to share their experiences properly back then.

She also knows Eliza Manningham-Buller, who became the second woman to run MI5. All three were pioneers in their own way, but Neville-Jones accepts that their success has, perhaps, masked the difficulties other women have had underneath them.

She believes the latest generation of women entering Whitehall are “pretty level pegging” with the men, but in the intermediate generation some women are struggling to push through. “It will happen. The process is under way but because of the nature of these things, it will not change overnight.”

Women, she says, have to learn some of the tricks that have given men such an advantage. “We are not the greatest networkers, and particular networks begin at school. Women tend to break the network of friends they make, but it is a habit that men have learned. It is an approach to life that involves planning almost without thinking about it. And men sustain this. I came from a northern grammar school. I had a good education, but I didn’t have a good network.”

Careers where there are formal systems of assessment also help women, she believes. That is why, for all the difficulties she encountered, Neville-Jones says the public sector is now a better bet than the private sector for the ambitious.

“When I first left university, I thought about going into the private sector. But I discovered when I went to interview that I could only have a career in the back office, or doing HR. The attitude was, “My dear lady, you cannot possibly think about going on the board.”

“I believe women profit from merit and performance assessments which exist in the public sector. But this culture is much less strong in the commercial world. I think there is a huge waste of talent in the private sector.”

Inevitably, there have been sacrifices along the way. Neville-Jones doesn’t speak with rancour or bitterness about any of her experiences, but there is, I sense, just a hint of regret when she talks about her private life.

She says she never made a conscious decision not to marry, it just happened that way. She admits there were circumstances in which she would have liked to have someone alongside her, if only to have helped out at the merry-go-round of drinks and dinner parties she hosted on her own.

“Some people say that I didn’t make it easy on myself. There are prices one pays, but I was not going to give up something that I enjoyed doing. I suppose that official entertaining was harder without a partner to shoulder the burden. As a man, it would have been easier for me to get married. But I had demanding jobs. I undoubtedly made it difficult for myself.”

She adds: “And I hope I have never held back other women. I hope I have not been guilty of that because I have always tried to protect them. I was aware of their situations. I know some women did manage to pull off the very difficult trick of having a successful career and a family. It can be done.”

Neville-Jones doesn’t like to generalize, but she believes women have innate skills that make them good at the kind of intelligence jobs she has done well in. “I do think that women are good at detail. The average woman is better than the average man in this respect, and detail is important in security – it is primordial.

“You cannot do it properly unless you are capable of recognizing everything that is relevant. You have to get right down in there. “Women are better at getting in among the weeds, maybe partly because women accept that weeds are part of life. Men try to get away from them.”

And her advice to women starting out? Learn to deal with the mess, work hard, and come up with the occasional big idea. “Do what you want to do. Follow your instincts. Even if you have difficulties, don’t accept second best. Ever.”

‘I denied my female traits’: life in the US Navy in the 1970s

Vice Admiral Carol Pottenger hesitates before telling a story about her rise through the US Navy. In 1977, she was one of the first women selected for sea duty. This involved joining the crew of the USS Yosemite for deployment in the Mediterranean. She had prepared for the reaction of the other sailors, but not of their families, some of whom took a dim view of the women’s presence on board.

That unhappiness became all too clear when the crew returned to port months later to see banners: “Welcome Home Yosemite – Men.”

Pottenger has been pushing back the boundaries ever since, and is now one of the US Navy’s senior officers, who has served in Iraq and won the distinguished service medal.

Pottenger says the US Navy has come a long way since the days when women were only assigned to ships “that were welded to port or in decay”.

She admits that during most of her early career, she “was careful to … deny my female traits”. “This was the way to prosper in a male-dominated organization. You don’t want to stand out, you don’t want to be someone who brings tension to the mission. You want to adapt, to fit in smoothly.”

Now, she feels she can be more herself. “Being a woman is part of who you are. I might have denied that early on, but now I have the confidence not to care whether this is an issue.”

Pottenger now mentors other women. “It is really important for women to look up and see other women being successful. When I was in that position, all I wanted to do was blend in and be one of the guys.”  “Service should be color-blind, and gender-blind,” she says.