President, Women Presidents' Organization
Firestone started the WPO in 1997 in New York City, after noticing a lack of peer groups for women who'd achieved the highest levels of success. She left her post as vice president with the American Women's Economic Corporation to form the organization, which now runs 112 chapters on six continents. (New chapters launched this year in Turkey, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.) There are three membership levels based on minimum annual company revenue: Regular ($1 million for service; $2 million for product), Platinum ($10 million) and Zenith ($50 million). Firestone notes that the average revenue of all members was $7 million in the early years, but now a full quarter of the membership boasts at least $10 million.
On empowering members:
We have groups with a maximum size of 20 and pay and train facilitators whose job is to get teams to share what they're working on, get exposed to new ideas and encourage each other to make commitments--and report back to the chapter when they've done it. We create accountability and provide role models. And members also get a say in what they want to learn.
On motivating her own team:
I have a roundtable in my office, and I get all parties involved in decision-making and action items and meet as needed so everyone knows what they're going to be working on. But I'm not someone who stands over employees and says, "Did you do it?" If you hire well and people have a sense of pride in what they're doing, that's a great motivator.