Women entrepreneurs are often on the leading edge, breaking down barriers in male-dominated industries and forging their own unique paths forward. WBENC-Certified WBE Crystal Davis, Founder & CEO of The Lean Coach Inc., is no different.

As a veteran business consultant with 20 years of experience in Lean Business Systems, Crystal recently spearheaded the very first special edition of the ASQ Lean & Six Sigma Review, featuring and spotlighting ALL women’s voices in the Lean community.

We asked Crystal to share your perspective and advice on leadership, authenticity, and how we can continue to elevate women’s voices.

Why was it important to you to spearhead this special edition the ASQ Lean & Six Sigma Review?

I wanted to spearhead this edition because a lot of the women in Lean were complaining that their voices were not being heard or amplified, that their work was not being presented, and they were not seeing a lot of women represented at conferences in our industry.

I wanted to show up in a way to influence change.

I had served on the editorial board for the magazine for a couple of years. At a conference dinner I shared the idea with the editor. She fell in love with the idea. I knew then that I had to see this work through.

It was indeed a labor of love, because many of the women that I invited to write had never written for a publication before. Some were a bit intimidated by the process. I knew that my role would be more than just inviting them to write about their work, and about their experience as a woman in Lean. I knew that it was also my responsibility to help coach them through the process to overcome the demanding process of being featured in a publication.

What does it mean for women in the Lean Six Sigma community?

It shows people what is possible. A lot of times when you don’t see representation, you don’t think that something is possible.

Since this special edition more women have pitched their work to other publications. Our LinkedIn Group Women in Lean Our Table, for which I am a co-founder, community has started a magazine, and more women are pitching their work for speaking opportunities.

What is your leadership style? 

I would categorize my leadership style as what John Maxwell defines as Pinnacle leadership. I lead in a way that matches my values yet shows respect to other people in a way that allows them to show up fully. I try to meet people where they are. And I would in turn like for people to meet me where I am, and that we can find a common place, a common ground to connect.

I spent a lot of time getting comfortable being uncomfortable in spaces that were not designed for me. I had to learn how to be comfortable showing up in a way that did not require me to be someone that I wasn’t. That took years of learning about myself and learning to find my voice. I also had to learn that it was not my responsibility to change other people, or to make them comfortable with me, but to just illustrate that me being different was not a threat to them.

Can you explain Lean Six Sigma and how it can help business performance? How does your company approach leadership development?

Lean Six Sigma is a methodology that follows a set of principles around continuous improvement to reduce defects and variation in processes. Processes are all around us in any aspect of work that we do, whether written or unwritten. Lean Six Sigma can help organizations achieve their desired performance and output. The principles, when applied effectively drive a problem solving culture and improvement culture.

At The Lean Coach, Inc. we approach leadership development by teaching managers to lead as a coach and to allow people to experiment so they learn by doing. We help organizations develop leaders to transfer knowledge so that they can actually lead the strategic work and change needed to elevate the business. What is problem-solving and continuous improvement if it is not connected to the business or growth strategy?

What piece of advice would you share with aspiring women entrepreneurs?

Oh my goodness….what a great question! I would share with aspiring women entrepreneurs to GO FOR IT. To be determined that you will not quit or give up.

Being an entrepreneur is exceedingly difficult, but it is extremely rewarding. The most important thing that you can do before you launch your business is to really understand who you are, why you want to start a business, and who you want to help.

And to be very explicit in answering those questions. Why? Because when the road gets rough, you can always come back to this as your foundation.

The second piece of advice that I would give to aspiring women entrepreneurs is to invest in educating yourself about running a business and to surround yourself with people who are already doing what you aspire to do. And the last piece of advice, of course, is to get your business certified as a woman-owned business, because the resources and connections that are available through WBENC, and through your local RPO are tremendous.

What are you most looking forward to in 2021?

I am looking forward to bringing new products and services to my clients in a way that allows me to scale my business so that I am able to serve more people simultaneously. I am also looking forward to seeing more businesses move from survival to recovery!