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StoneAge Inc. CEO launches ‘The Ownership Mindset’

Kerry Siggins discusses personal obstacles faced in new book promoting leadership
StoneAge Inc. Chief Executive Officer Kerry Siggins will officially launch her new book, “The Ownership Mindset: A Handbook for Transforming Your Life and Leadership,” on Oct. 17. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

For StoneAge Inc. Chief Executive Officer Kerry Siggins, her path to success wasn’t a direct line.

Like many, building a career in her 20s was difficult, but before taking on the role of CEO of StoneAge, she admits she hit rock bottom.

In her upcoming book, “The Ownership Mindset: A Handbook for Transforming Your Life and Leadership,” she details her experiences of feeling lost in her 20s and how the desire to be seen as an achiever drove her down a dark path.

“I had been dealing with substance abuse issues. I was a high functioning addict,” she said of her time living in Austin, Texas during her 20s.

In her book, Siggin dives deep into her past usage of cocaine in her 20s, saying she was “doing more cocaine than a 230-pound man,” which eventually led to an overdose in 2006.

“I overdosed. By myself, on the floor of my apartment. I nursed myself through the overdose; there was no way I was calling for help. I couldn’t allow anyone to see me in this state. My ego couldn’t handle it,” she said in the book.

She talks about how her high achiever personality, need for recognition and issues with family members drove her to a point where she craved recognition. This resulted in a need to be seen as worthy throughout her adolescence, creating negative situations for her.

“I was very self centered, mostly because I was miserable and had self esteem issues and things like that. When I came to Durango to heal---to turn my life around, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to stop putting myself first,” Siggins said.

But through these hardships, she realized how being honest about oneself can help people be a leader in the workplace or in life in general.

She then turned her life around and took over StoneAge, a company dedicated to manufactures high-pressure waterblast tools, only a year later. Siggins had never managed a company before, and it gave her the opportunity to consult with employees and troubleshoot concerns.

This forced her to get out of her own way and remove her ego from decision making. During this experience, she was able to identify three different types of leadership: managerial, visionary and strategic.

She defines visionary leadership as a person who has the ideas and vision, but they don't have the discipline and the structure to put a plan into place to execute, whereas a managerial leader doesn't have the vision, but can execute the plan really well. A strategic leader can combine both of those qualities.

“I was the visionary leader, and I've been accused of chasing shiny objects, which I hate,” Siggins said. “But I had to be able to translate this big vision that I had for the company and for our industry into actionable plan that the team could consistently execute over and over and over again.”

This forced her to change her leadership style in order to improve her planning skills. She said for some in her situation, that can mean hiring people with those planning skills to better the company.

Siggins was recently in the running for Colorado CEO of the year for her work.

“It means that we're doing the right thing as a company. People don't win those awards, if they haven't built a strong team,” Siggins said of the awards.

She said the most important takeaways from the book are that if people want to lead, they need to be vulnerable and transparent in order to develop self-awareness.

“You have to look at yourself and say, here are my strengths. And here are my weaknesses, here are the things that I like about myself, and here are the things that I need to work on,” Siggins said.

Siggins said the second takeaway is that people need to “dig deep.” She admitted there were several times over the last 17 years that she thought she wasn’t cut out to be a CEO. However, she continued to persevere and not listen to the proverbial devil on her shoulder telling her to give up.

She also said the last takeaway people should gain from the book is to make an impact.

“If you're willing to put yourself out there, you dig deep and then you do the work, this is how you can impact your team, your company, your community, your industry. That's really what this is all about,” she said.

One of the concepts Siggins discusses in her upcoming book is the difference between a “paycheck player” and a “high performer.”

Siggins defines a paycheck player as someone who simply cares about what they are paid and nothing else. But a high performer is someone who takes pride in the company they work for and values their team.

“A paycheck player can be a good performer in a company as well. I don't want to say a person who is just focused on their own career can't be a high performer,” Siggins said. “But when you are doing your job for more than a paycheck and the value that you bring to your customers and how you are engaged with your team and how you feel trusted by the company, it really creates a whole different mindset within you.”

The book will officially launch on Oct. 17, with an official announcement preceding it on Oct. 16 at Seasons of Durango.


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