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Leaning Into Leadership: A Conversation with Melissa Goldner

Melissa has been with Prophet for a little over a year and has driven immense impact across our Organization & Culture practice. Her passion for our clients and our people is infectious. I’ve learned well before this conversation (and during, it was cemented) that we are incredibly similar and like-minded. I am happy that Melissa is part of the Prophet community and cannot wait to find ways to collaborate with her in the future. 

Amanda Nizzere: What’s one professional skill you’re currently working on?  

Melissa Goldner: Intentionality. Since joining Prophet, I’ve worked hard to build relationships with my clients. Before I head out on maternity leave in July, I’m being intentional about meeting with our talent team to identify any “unsung heroes” that I can introduce to my clients. This will provide them with an opportunity and visibility to oversee my work while I’m away. Additionally, my goal is to provide an opportunity they might not have had prior to my being out. I have the influence to help drive that type of impact, and I’m going to use it.  

AN: What’s your go-to productivity hack?  

MG: If I don’t write things down, they don’t exist. And when I write things down, it’s done in an incredibly organized way. I have a color-coded notebook based on topic, client, whether the initiative is internal or external, etc. As you might imagine, outside of work, my closets and kitchen cabinets are organized in a similar fashion. Being well-planned and schedule-oriented is my hack. 

AN: What’s a mistake you made early on in your career, and what did you learn from it?  

MG: My first job out of college was “accidentally” running HR for a 400-person IT and business consulting company. I say “accidentally” because, at that time, I was going to school to get my master’s degree and was one of the youngest employees at the company. I moved up quickly and within five years I was on the executive leadership team.  

However, my metrics for success were blinded by title and being in a position of power. I forgot about the core – people. I had an AHA! moment one day when managing an employee issue. While trying to solve the problem – in this scenario, instead of listening to what some of the execs wanted – I realized that I should be pushing for the employees and their points of view and needs. It was at that moment I realized that some of the executive’s organizational vision was not aligned with my values, and I redefined what success meant.  

My definition of success now is the dash between when I’m born and when I die and what’s on my tombstone. It’s about the impact I have on the people I work with, my family, my friends and the world. I’m no longer driven by influence or title.   

“My definition of success now is the dash between when I’m born and when I die and what’s on my tombstone.“

Melissa Goldner, Partner

AN: What energizes you at work?  

MG: I firmly believe that I am a work in progress and always will be. I also believe in continuous learning – the moment you stop learning is the moment you stop growing. I love creating things that don’t exist today, future-proofing organizations and redesigning broken systems to embed something more equitable. 

AN: What drains you personally and/or at work?  

MG: Disrespect or unfair treatment of others.  

AN: If you could write a book about your life, what would the title be and why?  

MG: “How Nice Girls Do Corporate America.” I have not grown in my career by taking the traditional route of progression throughout an organization. I progress because I adhere to my values. Whether you’re a famous rock star or are homeless, I will treat you with respect and integrity. In my career, I’ve built deep connections because I genuinely care for people. I challenge myself to do the right thing even when no one is watching and when it may be the harder thing to do. If I am facing a difficult situation, I make sure I ask myself, “Will you be proud of yourself if you die tomorrow?”  

“I progress because I adhere to my values. Whether you’re a famous rock star or are homeless, I will treat you with respect and integrity.”

AN: What’s one thing you’re currently trying to make a habit of?  

MG: Forgiveness of self. I put myself at a high standard which is the reason I’m so motivated. Now that I have a daughter, I recognize that I have to treat myself with a lot more self-love. I’m working on it and am trying to lead by example. 

AN: If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would you choose?  

MG: My 18-month-old daughter. I think it would be so cool to explore and experience the world through such a sense of wonder.  

AN: If you had to pick one age to be permanently, which age would you choose?  

MG: I want to be the senior citizen who just doesn’t care anymore. She is who she is. She’s the cool grandma who shares her wisdom, humor and stories of the various things she has overcome. And of course, she always has candy.  

About the Series

Throughout my career, I have been fascinated with the building blocks of leadership, from motivation, coaching and communication to mentorship, empathy, inspiration and more. Unraveling and understanding what makes a strong and impactful leader tick can help each of us implement new strategies to grow as individuals and leaders ourselves.

Over the years, I’ve listened to podcasts, read books, attended conferences and listened to TED Talks about various leadership topics, but some of the most impactful lessons and pieces of advice I’ve learned have been from those around me—my mentors, colleagues and industry peers—which led me to create this interview series. I invite you to join me as I interview various leaders in my network to share new tools and wise advice from them that you may just want to add to your own leadership toolbox.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Melissa is a partner in the New York office in Prophet’s Organization & Culture practice. She specializes in change management, especially with companies that are going through large-scale transformations. She is an expert in the adoption and scale of that change.  

Melissa’s expertise is vast, ranging from transformation vision, to change management strategy, to employee engagement, to DE&I learning and development, to executive leadership and coaching. Want to learn more? Reach out to Melissa directly here

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