Her resume is extensive, so I’ll not be redundant – her credentials are well articulated on her website and on LinkedIn.
Her mom wanted her to be a medical doctor. She is a doctor, but doesn’t carry a black bag or own a stethoscope. She’s the management-guru type of doctor. I’d been wanting to meet the person behind those blog-mails I’d been receiving and since our paths had never crossed – I reached out to her and found someone both receptive and willing to make herself available. Her company is Transcend Management Advisors Inc.
Born in Redvers, Saskatchewan. First born of two, she grew up with lots of moves around the prairies (parents had emigrated from the Netherlands - dad worked on farms and ranches, mom ran the household), trips to visit family in Europe, speaking Dutch at home – formal schooling began in Redvers, and finished with high school (a top student and athlete – tall girl who could jump) in Airdrie and finishing in Chestermere.
Wilma’s post secondary beginnings at University of Calgary were general – and not having good study habits didn’t help. Her result, phys. ed and teaching – she obtained a B.PE. and soon found herself combining a failed 1st marriage to an NHL aspiring hockey player, her B.Ed., didn’t liked teaching as much as working for the City of Calgary in recreation, parks to not yet be fulfilling. She took up speed skating. The Olympics were coming to Calgary – one thing led to another and she was all over the map, travelled, did an MBA in Brussels, had an appetite for international work – which, looking back, seems perfect preparation for someone who didn’t fit typical bureaucratic work. “After the 1988 Olympics where I was a key volunteer (long track speedskating) I was a sport ambassador for Alberta. A fellow coach and I educated short track coaches in Harbin, Heilongjiang and also trained junior national skaters.”
She says, I grew up Dutch on the Prairies, “I didn’t fit in anywhere. Now, I fit in anywhere!”
Her career with Accenture (formerly Arthur Andersen – 45,000 employees) piled up air miles: London, Chicago, Calgary … with clients around the world but wasn’t helping marriage #2 (Victor Didkowsky and one step-son), so she gave up the big-leagues for a local focus on leading-edge change management. Nineteen years on, she says “change consulting is about asking the questions other people won’t.” Her clients are primarily mid-senior leaders in large corporations and Presidents and CEOs of small to mid-sized businesses.
Why are you successful? “Of course, working with fabulous clients. I believe we define it for ourselves. That I act with integrity, authenticity – and I work very hard. I believe in the best in people. I’ve had a lot of support, people who’ve helped me along the way. I don’t believe there are boundaries on limitations.”
What has held you back? “Self-doubt. I still do from time to time. Being difficult! Staying small.”
How do you see your business – coaching and consulting – going forward over the next quarter?
… it’s alright. It’s good. Some of my clients have cut down, cut back, given the current economic climate. Oil & gas is about 30% of my business. There are tremendous opportunities. I’m exploring them. My own perception is this is a time of great opportunity.
And over the next five years?
… coaching and consulting – my firm – will be strong and growing. Our clients will be adapting to a new normal. There will be great opportunities in business development, particularly for baby-boomers who are still very young, looking for opportunities to fill a leadership-void in many companies which have cut back.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… their high standards are a fit. Some commonality, shared perspectives or beliefs. Value for money.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Wilma Slenders, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… I challenge their assumptions, beliefs and values – in a respectful way. My commitment is that I WILL add value, and I’ll be their biggest fan.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… I’m a transformation leader. I can create a vision – and inspire people to buy-in. I encourage people to do their best, AND hold them accountable.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… lots of random things! My parents declining health.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my husband has encouraged me to believe in myself, take risks and tells me to ‘step-it-up’. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. My parents instilled a strong work-ethic. In 1987, while working on Olympics matters, we were at a retreat social event – I met Doug Black (now a Senator) who encouraged me, “you should do an MBA at the best school you can afford”. He saw something in me. Working at Accenture gave me the foundation for my business.
Work-life balance – do you have it?
… YES!. We have a cabin at Invermere, a place in Manzanillo and we travel lots. Theatre.
… outdoor activities, cycling, hiking, photography – I’ve only speed-skated twice since 1989!
What do you read?
… books on leadership, Marie Kondo books [ie: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up].
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