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Sandy Stash means business

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Sandy Stash was handed an assignment from hell: Atlantic Richfield Co. sent her to Butte, Mont., to manage the cleanup of the nation’s biggest Superfund site, reduce the company’s liability and try to calm everybody’s nerves.

Stash knew that natural resources are a sensitive subject in the West, but having worked in oil fields since she was 19, she had credibility. She also has a knack for finding common ground.

“This is something in general that women tend to be good at,” Stash says. “I think we are more focused on the end point rather than who won. In these sorts of negotiations, nobody wins. You just try to come up with something everyone can live with.”

Here’s what she came up with:
  1. For ARCO, she helped reduce the liability from more than $2 billion to less than $1 billion.

  2. She completed the final settlement, mapping out the last stages of the cleanup.

  3. She attended the opening of a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course over a dump: a cap that contains waste from the old copper mine even as it generates the money to pay for maintaining it. This “crazy idea” came from the townspeople—thousands of whom had been laid off— and Stash led the fight to convince government officials and lawyers that the idea could work.
Stash’s advice to other leaders:
  • You have to get in the field. The fact that I spent seven years in the field—on a drilling rig, on construction sites—gives me a level of credibility I wouldn’t have had if I’d never left the office.”

  • Take risks and don’t be too hard on yourself if you fail.”

  • Always take the high road. Nobody ever faults you for taking the high road.”

  • Be happy with what you’re doing. It’s not money; it’s not titles. It’s just wanting to go to work every morning and enjoying every minute of the day.”
— Adapted from Women Who Mean Business, A. Mikaelian, William Morrow and Co.

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