Spring 2015 Vol. 11-2
Interview with Veronica Marsden, BA, BSc, Co-President, Tri Fit & Sue Pridham, BA, MA, Co-President, Tri Fit

Veronica Marsden and Sue Pridham are outstanding in many respects. They are women leaders who have received national and international attention for their contributions to the field of fitness and workplace wellness. In the corporate world, they are successful company presidents. In fact, they are co-presidents of their own company, Tri Fit, which has been recognized not only as a Great Place to Work®, but also as a Great Place to Work for Women.

1. As women leaders within your professional field and in the corporate world, do you think women bring special characteristics to leadership roles?   If so, what are they?

Women tend to bring emotional intelligence to their leadership roles. They tend to be more empathetic and flexible, and have stronger interpersonal and relational skills than their male counterparts. They are highly collaborative and more focused on team building. At home or at work, women are often the glue that keeps things together – they make great team players. Women are master multi-taskers accustomed to juggling priorities. At home, women typically value, foster and maintain traditions. At work, they help create traditions that positively impact culture. Because women often have to prove their value and self-worth, they work hard to exceed expectations. They are not afraid to ask questions to ensure that decisions are well thought out. They tend to focus on quality vs quantity. Bigger is not always better.

2. How do you foster those leadership characteristics in other women?

Many women leaders enjoy inspiring others to achieve. They know what it’s like to work hard to prove their abilities and have their contributions valued. To foster leadership in others:

  • Develop a mentorship program by pairing women who aspire to taking on more challenging positions with women who have risen to the senior ranks.
  • Hire an executive coach to be part of the development team.
  • Invest in training and development.
  • Lead by example.

3. You have a collaborative leadership style that differs from traditional ideas of hierarchy. How do you make collaborative leadership work?

Veronica: When we started Tri Fit we both had young children. We respected that at times family came first. Always, we have valued each other’s strengths and contributions  and been supportive of each other when faced with business failure. We make joint decisions on all aspects of the business and, through ongoing communication, keep each other informed and ask for feedback.

Sue: Working together for so many years, we sometimes feel we are starting to think alike so we check in regularly on our goals and on the division of work based on our strengths, interests and workload. From time to time, we get away from the day-to-day. For a few years, we hired an executive coach to bring a new perspective to our leadership roles, challenge our assumptions and review our strategy. Even so, we stick to our unique competencies and hire staff and consultants to bridge the gaps. We respect each other’s personal time and ideas, and celebrate our success with our team.

4. Why is it important for organizations to advance women to leadership positions?

Women tend to bring a different perspective to problem solving, project management and innovation. On any leadership team it is important to have diversity to ensure the best outcome for the organization. Women’s unique qualities create a leadership style that is inclusive and open, and builds consensus.

5. What advice do you have for women who wish to achieve leadership positions or who want to assume more leadership responsibilities?

  • Find a role model or mentor who will support your career goals.
  • Ask for stretch assignments and gain experience in different areas of the company, always asking questions and putting forward your own ideas.
  • Remember: an idea or approach that didn’t work in the past, may work in the future.
  • Continue to learn, try new approaches and don’t be afraid to fail.