How a Nike Executive Found Her Confidence at Work
Patty Ross, former Nike executive and 4word board member, had an amazing 34-year-long career with Nike that was gratifying and in line with her vision for her life … and yet, she struggled for years with lack of confidence and self-doubt in the value she brought to the table. Read how she reclaimed her confidence!
4word: Did you always know which direction your career would take?
Patty: As the youngest of five (four girls and one boy), I was raised in a family grounded in specific values, discipline, and work ethic. Our dinner conversations centered around education, productivity, business, and sport. So it makes sense that I spent the majority of my career at the leading global sports and fitness company in the world.
From a very young age, God gave me the desire to lead, inspire, and teach. I was always the manager or teacher when playing with others! I never knew where that passion and interest would take me. Throughout school, I found myself loving to learn, explore, and question. I was active in the arts and sports and was enrolled in every business class available, with marketing and accounting being my personal favorites.
I was particularly interested in marketing, so I joined DECA, a marketing club that prepares young leaders for the business world. It was through DECA that I got deeply involved in marketing. My junior year in high school, I wrote a business plan introducing Frito Lay products into our student store. I submitted the plan at the annual DECA conference and won first place in the first-ever Pepsi Learn & Earn state competition. After winning both state and national honors, my marketing teacher introduced me to the head of accounting for a new start-up shoe company called Nike. At 16, I was an account payable file clerk, where I worked part-time after school and full time over summers until graduating from college. The rest is history!
I got my foot in the door at Nike in 1982 because someone believed in me and inspired me to see in myself what I could not see. They helped me build my confidence and also provided me with access to an opportunity that enabled me to get to where I am today.
4word: Did you ever struggle with feeling confident in your position with Nike?
Patty: Absolutely! Having had over 18 different roles throughout my career, I frequently found myself leading strategy, large organizations, and diverse content where I was not an expert. I will even go as far and say that in several situations, I knew nothing about what I was being asked to lead! Quite often, especially in the early stages of my career, I would question myself about whether or not I had the experience and capabilities to do what I was being asked to do, which left me second-guessing myself, insecure, and full of self-doubt.
Dealing with issues of self-confidence is a common problem, especially among women. What I realized over the years is that, if left unchecked, nagging self-doubt can keep gnawing away at you until suddenly you wake up and wonder why you are feeling so insignificant and powerless.
4word: Why do you think women today battle with not feeling confident in their abilities and worth?
Patty: What I know now, but didn’t realize until later in my career, is that the evil one wants nothing more than for us to “play small.” He wants us to lose sight of our God-given talents and gifts and instead question ourselves on whether or not we are good enough, which usually leads to asking questions like this:
- “Do I have what it takes to advance my career?”
- “Did I handle that situation appropriately?”
- “Did I make the right decision?”
- “What will happen if I express what I want?”
- “What if I make a mistake?”
- “Am I able to have a successful career AND live a balanced, joyful and fulfilling life?”
Do any of these questions sound familiar? What if I were to tell you that your self-doubt, insecurities and self-limiting beliefs are not from God, but come directly from the enemy, to kill, steal and destroy? How does that make you feel? For me, coming to this realization mid-career was a game-changer! How freeing to realize I had a choice about whether or not I was going to believe God or believe the lies of the enemy. I made a conscious and deliberate decision to no longer stuff and ignore my feelings, but instead wrap my arms around how I was feeling and bring that self-doubt, lack of confidence, and question of self-worth to the cross. I started living and speaking from a life based on God’s promises, which ignited a powerful transformation in my life.
4word: In your opinion, what is the key to feeling confident and knowing your worth?
Patty: Gaining confidence and embracing your self-worth is not an overnight process. As we often said at Nike, we are training for a marathon, not a sprint! It takes time, discipline, and grace. There is no perfect path for how each of us will get there. The key to finding that path, however, is first deciding to look to God for validation, acceptance, and approval versus looking to others. Over time, you will realize, as I did, that being indecisive in making this decision will keep you stuck and hold you back in recognizing God’s purpose for your life.
When you find and use your voice based on God’s promises, you become equipped to love God and love others, and acquire an essential tool for navigating daily tasks and decisions, big and small. You fill your mind with positive thoughts, you stop trying to be perfect, you continue to grow and improve, you ask for guidance, and you stop seeking reassurance from others. And your self-confidence soars! Joshua 1:9 says, “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go.” (NIV)
4word: As you move into retirement, how will your self-worth and confidence shift?
Patty: My self-worth and confidence started to significantly shift about five years ago when I attended my first silent retreat. Yes, you read that correctly: complete and utter silence for five full days! No phone, no email, no social media, no conversation! Just me, my thoughts, and quiet time with the Lord! I was scared to death on what would reveal itself during the process. But I knew I needed to go, regardless of the outcome.
I left that week of silence with a new-found relationship with myself and my Father. Through God’s word, prayer, and the Holy Spirit, I began to fully experience God’s love in a way that I had previously never understood. I started to look for divine guidance in how I saw myself and listen to the Holy Spirit for leadership and direction.
I believe each of us can find inner strength, confidence, and self-worth, but it’s only through God’s grace can we acquire the power and energy to actually make that transition. God will provide us with the tools we need to reach our goals and change our lives. We just need to ask!
Here are three “needs” everyone has, regardless of which chapter their life is in:
We need God’s Spirit to empower us.
God’s Spirit can help us make changes we cannot make on your own, based on God’s power and trust as opposed to willpower and trying.
Zechariah 4:6 says, “‘You will not succeed by your strength or by your power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord All-Powerful” (NCV).
We need God’s Word to guide us.
The Bible is the owner’s manual for life. The more we read it, study it, memorize it, and meditate on it, the more successful and fulfilled we are going to be in life. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (ESV)
We need God’s people to support us.
We will not be able to reach our goals on our own. It takes a team to fulfill a dream!
A crowd can’t support us, but a small group like 4word can. They know when we’re sick, when we’re having a tough time, and when we need a break. We can share our goals and our successes and failures, and they will rejoice with us and encourage us to keep going. We’re going to need that when we set the right goals and pursue them wholeheartedly.
So, as I look ahead to what is next, I will continue to remind myself daily of where my power source comes from, which will require disciple and commitment. I know I need to “let go and let God” and look for divine guidance in how I see myself and others. 2 Timothy 1:17 says, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” (NKJV)
How’s your confidence? Are you toward the beginning of your career or did you recently make a big turn in your career to something new? Or have you been in your career for a while but still doubt your abilities? Learn from Patty and begin working to silence the voices of the world and listen out for the only voice that matters: God’s!
Patty Ross recently retired after a 34-year career with Nike. She began her career as a 16-year-old, part-time accounting assistant — a job she held leading up to her graduation from Portland State University. Ross took on a few roles with other companies before returning to Nike in 1992.
In more than two decades with the company, Patty has led everything from strategy and business development to organizational change management to business operations. Her unique blend of skills has enabled her to become a decisive and accomplished leader, known for breaking down barriers, developing new leaders, and delivering game-changing results. Patty’s authentic style is best described as energetic and results-oriented.
She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Portland State University. Ross has also completed the Advanced Management Graduate Program at Harvard Business School and recently received her masters in coaching from The Hudson Institute of Coaching. Also, over the last two years, Patty has been training to be a Spiritual Director and is on track to graduate in June.
Outside of Nike, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Dave, their dog, Molly, and her many nieces and nephews. Ross is an avid sports fan who can be found golfing, hiking, biking, running, and doing yoga. She also supports leadership and women’s programs in various parts of the country and volunteers regularly through the Portland metro area.
Patty’s biggest passion is helping individuals and business leaders discover meaning and purpose in their personal, professional, and spiritual lives.
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