Mary Barneby | Crain's Connecticut

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Mary Barneby


The Girl Scouts of Connecticut marked 100 years in 2012, the same year that Mary Barneby become its chief executive officer. The Hartford-based organization has 32,000 members, who range in age from five to 17 years old. Barneby was a Girl Scout herself before going on to a career in the financial services industry, which included senior positions at Merrill Lynch & Co. and serving as head of the UBS Private Wealth Management office in Stamford, where she handled client portfolios totaling $6.5 billion. She lives in Madison with her husband Kirk; the couple has six grown children.

The Mistake:

Worrying about making mistakes was my mistake. Working in the financial industry is all about results. I found that worrying about mistakes takes you away from being decisive. I was trying hard to be the person I thought people wanted me to be. I felt overworked and under-fulfilled. I got caught up on the treadmill of performing and denying my passions and dreams.

Status and money moves some people with a sense of mission. They never worked for me, though.

I’ve always been passionate about the development of girls and gender equity. I took skills from my business career and was able to connect them to an organization that shares my passion and values.

Some people wait too long. I was very fortunate in not waiting too long to grab my dream. It was an incredible opportunity for me to lead in the development of girls, watching them become amazing leaders. I get to see it happening all around me. That gets me excited to come to work every day.

It’s a journey and it’s also about the content of what you’re doing.

The Lesson:

Done is better than perfect. That has become one of my mottos. Mistakes are part of life. You can’t avoid them completely.

Also, don’t get stuck living in someone else’s dream. Ask yourself the question, “Who am I, really?” Once you answer that, then you will have your sense of mission.

Once you’ve found ... your mission, don’t just stand in awe of it. Keep working. Things can be improved. Bring in people to add power to your work.

The Girl Scouts haven’t done a great job in communicating with the world. Girls are taking effective action in their worlds and that’s not getting out there. I want to get more about those accomplishments out to the public.

It’s a journey and it’s also about the content of what you’re doing. You have to remember those things or you can do a disservice to yourself.

Follow the Girl Scouts of Connecticut on Twitter at @GSofCT.

Photo courtesy of Mary Barneby.

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