Ladies, thanks for reading. And gentlemen, don’t shy away! There is a lot I learned from the Women’s Leadership Conference that both women and men can benefit from.
I learned so much from this conference, and not just from the speakers, but by simply observing the people around me. I had to break it into a three-part series. This first article is essentially a breakdown of the inspirational keynote speakers and the educational sessions I attended. All from my point of view.
Wow! What a start to the conference! As you may know, Donna has worked as a democratic political strategist including this year’s campaign for Hilary Clinton. I must admit, I was afraid of a one-sided talk. I don’t like to get into politics, but I’ve always considered myself a moderate because both ends seem too extreme for me, and a happy medium seems to always work best. Well, did she surprise me! Not only did she talk about her successes with the Democratic Party, including working with former President Bill Clinton, but she also talked about breaking barriers with Republican former President, George W. Bush.
My favorite story of hers was when she talked about how nervous she was going to speak with Bush after hurricane Katrina hit. So, why did she do it? Because she knew how valuable relationships are, even with those you don’t necessarily see eye to eye with. She took the time to get to know Bush and called him an “artist”. Full of grace, she was!
My favorite quote from her, and this is very important (men, listen up!) – “I don’t want men to move out of the way or leave when I come into the room. I just want them to scoot over!” Yes! That’s the key. It’s not about women being better than men, or men being better than women. It’s about realizing that we need both men and women at the table to make decisions, to make change, to create innovation, and to run a business. Our minds are different and that’s okay, in fact, it’s even better!
During one of the breakout sessions, Boring to Brave, Judi Holler took the stage and was a burst of energy from the get-go. Whoa, I thought, who is this tiny blonde chick booming with all of this energy? If you want to see a firecracker, this is the girl to see!
Now, if you didn’t realize that you can’t hide in today’s society, then let me kindly remind you – you cannot hide in today’s society!! Your personal brand (buzzword!) is so, so, so important! Did you know that 90% of companies will Google your name first before thoroughly reading your resume? What would someone think if they saw your Facebook page or your Instagram photos from last weekend? Whether or not it is right for companies to do this, your life is out there and available for public viewing. So, what are you doing about it? How are you creating the perception you want others to have of you? Perception is important, and in most cases, perception is reality.
One of my favorite quotes that Judi shared with us: “If you’re not standing out, then you’re invisible.” It’s as simple as that. Self-promotion is okay, in fact, you need to do it. Of course you don’t want to be obnoxious, but let others know what you can contribute and what you have done in your career, in your community, for your family. This is your personal brand and it is way more important than a resume. It’s what creates our relationships and keeps our relationships.
Homework: Take a look at your online brand image. What story does it tell? Then, work on your value proposition statement. Here’s a quick little template that Judi provided us:
- I am a ____________ (insert expertise)
- Who helps ____________ (target audience)
- Understand or do ____________ (unique situation)
- So they can ____________ (transformation)
Here’s what I created while in session: I am a game changer who helps companies engage their target audience through video so they can reach their goals and improve ROI.
Use this as your guide, but feel free to build upon it and make it your very own. Then, place this into your LinkedIn profile because it’s not just about your title, it’s about what you do for others and how you make an impact.
STEFANIE D. MILLER
GLOBAL VP, STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP MARKETING, THE COCA-COLA COMPANY
There was a brief executive panel at the conference – Looking Back to Look Ahead: Is the Glass Ceiling Shatterproof? Stefanie Miller stood out to me. I don’t know exactly what it was about her. She was graceful, intelligent and didn’t promote women over men. Maybe I liked her so much because she shared a lot of my thoughts that I keep so tightly in my head. Here’s my favorite thing she said, “Hire the best and the brightest!” Don’t just hire women because you need more women leadership, and don’t just hire men because you think they’ll do a better job. Hire who you think is best for the job. Leadership positions need both a woman’s and a man’s mind – mix the two and you have pure gold! If you want to have a successful business, inspire innovation and create actual solutions – leave gender at the door and promote the best person, the brightest person, the person who will soar as a leader and inspire the team.
Do men and women lead differently? Yes! Absolutely! Of course! We have different brains, different goals and different ways of approaching challenges. Embrace that! Why use only male traits when you can also incorporate characteristics of women? I equate this concept to the left and right side of the brain. We are often defined by which side of the brain we use dominantly. I have taken several tests and I am pretty evenly distributed. I love being creative and artsy, but numbers drive me and inspire me to work harder. When we get together on teams – football teams, college project teams – we all learn from one another due to which parts of our brains we use. There is always that person that wants to make the presentation look beautiful. They want the fonts to match and a beautiful cover page (right brain). Then you have that person who wants to make sure all your sources are in check and are organized perfectly at the end of your presentation (left brain). We excel as a group because of our individual parts and what we can contribute. A business is not successful because of one person. It’s successful because one person (a leader) decides to listen to others around them and surround themselves with people who are smarter and different than them. They succeed because they are taking the best skills and characteristics of an array of different individuals and getting them to work on something together to create something great!
Men and women think differently because we need to. It’s what makes the world work. It’s what spurs on new ideas and new innovation. So, I challenge you, women, to learn something from one of your male colleagues that he is better at than you. And men, I challenge you to learn something from a female colleague of yours that she is better at than you. When we find the good in others, it allows us to be better. It sounds simple, but admitting you’re not as great at something to someone else is often hard. Asking for help is hard. But we all have something to learn, no one knows everything. Come on, now! Not saying anything you don’t already know. But let’s open up about it, ask for help or for a lesson on something new!
Adrianne, Adrianne, Adrianne. What an amazing person! Seriously. If you don’t know who she is, or if you don’t know her story, I have a video for you to watch (after you finish reading this post first of course).
For those of you who don’t know, Adrianne is a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing. She has a prosthetic leg, mostly made out of materials from Home Depot, has returned to ballroom dancing and just completed the Boston Marathon! Do I have your attention now?
This woman could teach all of us a little bit on how to overcome a challenge. She hates challenges. Let me make that clear. She absolutely hates challenges. What does she love? Overcoming challenges. Yes, it’s completely different. I thought to myself, yes, that’s exactly it! I hate challenges as well, but boy, when I succeed, when I overcome and realize what I have just done – it just drives me to do more and more.
Not only has she overcome her own challenges from being a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing, but she is doing more than you may know. She is an advocate for amputees around the world fighting for prosthetics to not be defined as a “luxury” under a Medicare proposed act. She has also partnered with Limbs for Life to help provide prosthetic care to individuals who cannot afford it. How is she doing it? Well, for starters, her prosthetic leg is made mostly out of materials from Home Depot to save on cost. She will not wear an expensive prosthetic leg until they are reasonably affordable for all amputees. She has spoken to Congress and continues the fight every single day. In fact, Congress told her she’s going to have to scream it from the mountain tops. So what does Adrianne do? She climbs Cayambe Mountain and screams it from the mountain tops!
Here’s what I learned from Adrianne. There are going to be people in your life, personal and professional, that want to bring you down. They will want to cripple you. But if you are passionate enough about something, and if you set your eyes on your goal – then no one can bring you down. That one person does not define your life, let alone your destiny. Let your passion drive you and move you forward and onward.
I encourage you to watch her story and learn about how she is inspiring and helping others to make a difference.
Funny, sarcastic and doesn’t give a $&%# about what anyone thinks of her! That’s Dr. Rach. Her main focus was educating us on the fact that leadership is not for everyone, it’s for adults only. Immaturity does not stand a chance when trying to lead a team, or even being part of a team. You need to make the decision every day to be a mature leader. To do that thing you hate to do, because hey, it’s part of the job. Don’t expect your team to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself. That is immature thinking.
Mature leadership is preparing. Prepare, prepare, and then prepare some more! Learn about your team. Learn about the challenges. Learn about your competitors. Learn about the people who lead you. All companies, groups, organizations, whatever it is – succeed because of preparation. What’s essential in a successful team? A leader willing to take the leadership role. A plan. A strategy. A team with the confidence and know-how to execute. And of course – preparation. It’s not only the leader that gets you where you need to be, it’s the proper leadership that gets their team on board to accomplish something for the greater good of the company. The video below sums up what she’s talking about perfectly. She showed this to us at the conference and they seem so simple, yet they are so meaningful. See for yourself below.
Boles is the man! He most certainly allowed me to look at where I am professionally in a completely different light. His educational session was all about fearless leadership - fearingless. We all have fears. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, even fear of success. But if we fear less, we can open up so many doors. You need to start getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. The more uncomfortable you are, the more you’re growing, and that my friends, equals success.
You may or may not know, but Boles used to play for the NY Jets. He likes to equate a lot of what we’re feeling to the football field. Have you ever started something new? Let’s use Excel as an example. Do you remember when you first started to use Excel? At first it was daunting. You didn’t even know how to create a formula. And why all the cells? But then you learned your first formula. You started to grasp some amazing things that Excel can do. Eventually your charts started to look good with adding colors and borders. That time it took you to learn Excel, all the way from the uncomfortable feeling when you had no idea what to do in Excel, to that feeling of “yes, I got this”. That time frame is only a season. It’s only a season of being uncomfortable. It’s only a season of getting your feet wet. If you push through the season and make progress every day, then eventually you will be the all-star player you always wanted to be – the starting quarterback! If you can accept that you’re going to feel awkward and sometimes even nauseous doing the things that you know you need to do to succeed. Then you will tackle your way through and gain a new skill. Whether that skill be cold-calling, leading a meeting, closing a sale, writing for your company’s blog, speaking in front of an audience – if you put yourself through the uncomfortable stage, you will win in the end.
Do not underestimate this tiny, sweet woman. Alison has completed the Adventure Grand Slam – climbing 7 Summits (highest peak on each continent) and skiing to both poles. If those words don’t mean much, well, less than 30 people in the entire world can say they have accomplished this. So, this woman, is fierce!! If you don’t know what it takes to climb Everest (before her presentation I had no idea!), then I invite you to read her book - On The Edge. What a feat! To give a quick overview, when you climb Mount Everest, you’re ascending to above cruising altitude, so you need to take your time in order for your body to acclimate to the new levels in which you climb. There are several camps from the Base Camp (bottom of the mountain) all the way through to the Summit. Every time you hike to a new camp, you must go back down to Base Camp after acclimation. I have a drawing below for you to get the idea. After every single camp, you must go all the way down to Base Camp and re-do the hike. This is why it takes two months to get to the top. I had no idea this is what the climb entailed and was in awe.
But how does this relate to leadership and our professional careers?
The answer is simply this – we are going to take steps that further us along in our journey. Those steps are clear and we can easily see how it will get us to where we want to be, or “the top”. But sometimes you’ll have to go backwards. Backwards is not the same as backing down. Progress does not always move upwards, sometimes progress moves backwards. I couldn’t think of a better example than climbing Mount Everest. Obviously the trek back down to Base Camp after each camp stop was progress into the hike. It may have not seemed like it at the time, and the climbers I’m sure were feeling frustrated. But in the end it was a part of the journey, and those trips backwards to Base Camp were necessary to get to the top.
Alison was just filled with wisdom and I took away these key points from her:
- Fear is okay, complacency will kill you.
- Storms are always temporary. The key to surviving is to take action based on the situation NOW.
- A single person’s poor judgement can bring down the entire team.
- You don’t need complete clarity to put one foot in front of the other.
- And finally, you have got to be able to weather the storms to enjoy the view.
Yes! I couldn’t have said it better myself! Her book is sitting on my desk as we speak because after her speech, I could not wait to read more! I encourage you to read thisbook because you will look at leadership, your professional life and your personal life in a whole new light.
Charlotte is Executive VP for the Dallas Cowboys and the Chief Brand Officer. She is also daughter to Jerry Jones – owner of the Dallas Cowboys. Now, at first I thought, of course she is where she is today because of her dad. It can’t be that hard being the daughter of Jerry Jones. Right? Well, don't think of her as the average girl who was given everything. In fact, through her stories, she fought hard for what she wanted. She had a vision for what the Dallas Cowboys brand should be, and she didn’t back down. She put herself in situations where she had next to zero experience, but because she could see the vision in the end, she was willing to take on projects that were a bit out of her comfort zone. She is a risk taker, and with that, comes huge rewards! She didn’t shy away from the first ever Red Kettle campaign she launched 19 years ago at the Thanksgiving football halftime show. In fact she asked for (my number may be off a tad due to the fact that I’m just going off of memory) several million dollars in free advertising space for the first halftime show for the Salvation Army. And she got it!
Her father gave her great advice, advice that we could all use when going after our dreams – find something that you’re passionate about, that you truly believe in and look in the mirror every day and ask yourself if you’re doing everything you can to turn your passion into reality. Do not let setbacks, or what Jerry Jones calls “character building opportunities” take you off track.
That concludes the first of a three-part series – what I learned at the Women’s Leadership Conference. Do you have anything to add or comment on? Did anything inspire you? Do you agree or disagree with some of the speakers’ theories? Please, let’s keep the conversation going. I would love to hear your thoughts!