Rebecca Minkoff Joins SAP’s Women at the Wheel Series to Preview Debut Book

SAP recently welcomed Rebecca Minkoff to its internal “Women at the Wheel” series. In a conversation moderated by April Crichlow, head of Marketing for SAP SuccessFactors, Minkoff spoke about her experiences over the past 20 years as the co-founder and creative director of her namesake fashion label, co-founder of the Female Founder Collective, and mother of three.

Minkoff’s debut book, Fearless: The New Rules for Unlocking Creativity, Courage, and Success, came out this June, and she shared a preview about what she has learned throughout her career.

Members of SAP’s Business Women’s Network group tuned in for the conversation, but we’re excited to share some top takeaways with the rest of the world here.

It’s not about living without fear, but about working with it.

Putting our ideas out into the world can leave us fraught with insecurity. Being responsible for others, saying yes, or setting limits are all uncertain decisions. Living fearlessly is not about shoving uncertainty aside but working with it every day.

“We all have fear — even me, the person who decided to call her first book Fearless,” Minkoff said. “Throughout my life, fear has stopped me in my tracks: trying new things, taking a risk, leaving a job, breaking up, saying yes, saying no, standing up for myself, standing up for someone else, turning a corner but not knowing what’s up ahead. It’s all scary. But the upside of all this practice is that I’ve learned how to have fear and how to still do what I do anyways. And I know you will too.”

Don’t be afraid to be wrong in front of your team. Openness builds trust.

At SAP SuccessFactors, we talk a lot about how work can bring us well-being and happiness, and how bringing your whole self to work is important — not because it’s about making life easy, but making it meaningful. Crichlow asked Minkoff about the power of authenticity and where fearlessness comes in.

“Every single time we’ve failed, we learned a really good lesson,” she said. “Hopefully, we don’t keep making that same mistake; we keep evolving.”

The more you can bring your humanity to the people that report to you or even the people you report up to, Minkoff noted, the more the potential for trust.

Fear can hold us back from making big moves at work, but when we embrace the possibility of failure, even in front of others, we’re able to do so much more. It’s important to lead by example by sharing with our teams that we aren’t perfect and we need to ask for help from time to time.

You’ve got to let your team face their own challenges. That’s why encouragement is a leader’s job.

With her trademark sangfroid, Minkoff talked about her management strategy: “I think my goal with employees who are dealing with things is to help them figure out how they can do it on their own. I’m going to tell them it’s scary, but unless you grow those skills, you’ll never have them. And so I always want to make it so that I’ll help them, support them, I’ll bridge the conversation — but they have to do the talking.”

Letting your team face their challenges won’t just help them grow, it will help the business grow. The price? The moment’s pain and frustration it sometimes takes to delegate rather than do. When you do rather than delegate, Minkoff said, it just pushes the teachable moment further down the line. When managing others, don’t think of the choice as coddling versus doing, but as whether to give feedback with conscious encouragement.

To manage the juggle of work and family, parents need resources.

Minkoff and her team at The Female Founder Collective have played a big part in one of SAP’s recent initiatives, the Back to Best for Parents program. We joined forces to deliver an exciting, first-of-its-kind program to help parents get back to best with special offers, resources, and content to support parents by helping them integrate work and life during this challenging time in our history. From meal delivery services and workout classes to blogs with resources and ways to keep kids occupied, Back to Best for Parents offers working parents a hand.

Crichlow shared SAP’s perspective on the program: “We wanted to talk about how the juggle of parenthood and how especially this year has been really tough. Sometimes, it feels impossible to do it all. I know a lot of parents have struggled with fear this year, wondering whether their kids are going to be okay and how they would make it through this year, and how they’ll manage it all.”

“Our goal with that was to fill in if you’re not able to do it on your own, or you don’t have the support,” Minkoff said. “It’s about asking who are the people in your village that can come together and support you.”

We had an incredible time speaking with Minkoff, asking questions, and learning how to live more fearlessly.


Krista Ruhe is vice president of Strategic Marketing and Communications Programs for SAP SuccessFactors.