I recently had the opportunity to attend NCIMED's (North Carolina Institute for Minority Economic Development) Executive Networking Conference. There was so much great information for business owners and corporate professionals. I want to share info from one of the tremendous keynote speakers.
Perception is the co-pilot to reality. You can train people how to perceive you.
Carla Harris, a top executive at Morgan Stanley, Chair of the National Women's Business Council and author of "Expect To Win; 10 Proven Strategies for Thriving in the Workplace" said during her keynote at the 2014 NCIMED Executive Networking Conference that people's perceptions are the "co-pilot to reality." She said, "How people perceive you influences how they deal with you and work with you." Harris said that you can train people how to perceive you. She gave this advice:
• Pick 3 adjectives you want people to use to describe you when you're not in the room.
• Make sure the adjectives you choose are consistent with who you are
• Make sure the adjectives are consistent with things valued to the organization
• Where these intersect is where you need to behave consistently.
• Use these adjectives when you describe yourself to others so that you reinforce this perception
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
by Tivi Jones
“I am economic development. I can change my community by opening my door each day and delivering excellence.” ~Carolyn Sawyer
Carolyn Sawyer believes, as women our true power is in economics. And that, in order to reach our potential, we must always know the research and data behind: what we want, what we do and what others do.
Ms. Sawyer spoke with confidence and effortlessly pulled examples from memory of the highs and lows of running a dynamic business.
And we listened. Any woman who can, in the same, breath talk about turning down million-dollar deals, advise on juggling multiple real estate investment and joke about relationships, is a woman you should know.
President and CEO of Tom Sawyer Company, a company with locations in Columbia, SC and Washington, DC, Ms. Sawyer has a full plate, but she took the time to share valuable insights during our Leadership Conversation that will stick with me (and I'm sure the other women who attended) for a long time to come.
We were also honored to have Ms. Sawyer's friend and successful business woman, Leah Brown, President and CEO of A10 Solutions, in attendance to share in Ms. Sawyer's anecdotes and advice. Ms. Brown has been featured in Black Enterprise, Fortune and the 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express OPEN.
Both Ms. Sawyer and Ms. Brown spoke about business success, obstacles and fears with a grace and power of professional athletes who have already conquered difficult terrains many of us are just seeing along the horizon.
While it's a fact that black women are starting businesses at three times the rate of other demographic groups, we are going out of business six times as fast as everyone else.
Ms. Brown has a simple, but often overlooked solution to this problem:
"Don’t try at a business. Trying is a waste of time. Where you need to invest in your business is planning & market research” ~ Leah Brown
While facilitating the lively conversation, Ms. Sawyer shared the traits of women business owners who have companies that yield $1 million or more in revenue, based on a recent study.
A few of these traits were:
• They are life-long learners. These women wake up every morning and ask: “what can I learn today?”
• They are risk-takers. They are willing to go out of their comfort zones and try something new
• They embrace technology. They embrace things that work to their advantage and that help their bottom line/
• They work on their businesses. They understand that when you start a business and while you are working in your business, that you have to work on growing your business as well.
There were many take-aways from last week's Leadership Conversation. The quality of the content and the openness of the discussion was a reminder of exactly why Black Women in Business was founded.
It's like what Ms. Sawyer said while she outlined the key characteristics of women who have successful businesses:
"They are engaged in organizations like this. This surround themselves with other visionaries. And they form relationships with these women." ~ Carolyn Sawyer
Ms. Sawyer shared that our conversation last week was very similar to those in her Women's Presidents Organization meetings and these were the types of conversations that she credits to helping her grow her business.
Our next Leadership Conversation is April 8 and we will be discussing maintaining authenticity while climbing up the professional ladder.
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Last week's Leadership Conversation featured Anita Brown-Graham as conversation facilitator. Anita shared her valuable story of how genuine and strategic connections helped her career direction.
Below are a few notes and insight from the discussion for those looking to learn more about sponsors and mentors.
GENUINE CONNECTIONS, STRATEGIC DIRECTIONS WITH ANITA BROWN-GRAHAM
Insight from Anita Brown-Graham:
A mentoring relationship is a deeper relationship.
A sponsoring relationship is more transactional.
Re: sponsors -- remember: The person has to want to play the role of a sponsor.
• Things you have to do/consider to get a sponsor:
• 1. Have to be excellent every time you show up
• 2. Watch the way you interact with your sponsor - be professional.
• 3. Need to find sponsors whose core values are aligned with yours
• Remember: people may be able to open the door, but you have to know whether that’s a door to go into.
Resource Anita mentioned: Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor: The New Way to Fast-Track Your Career
• How do you go about getting a sponsor?
• Sponsors are more difficult to get- because it’s transactional
• Find opportunities to engage with your sponsor and sell yourself without being slimy.
• Offer value to them.
• Put yourself out there in a way that puts you on their level or where they can see you in a different light -- ex: volunteering on the same committees or organizations.
• Think about what it is that you can deliver for them, that they can’t deliver and then the sponsorship relationship can begin
• How do you get a mentor?
• Be clear about what you need. Make sure you’re asking someone who can deliver that for you. Communication is key.
"Sometimes you have to step out there on your own, even if you don’t have anyone behind you...I feel leadership, in some ways, requires courage. And you have to step out there sometimes." ~ Anita Brown-Graham
It’s really important to pay it forward. We have to be willing to do that for each other.
"If you’re in the room, make way for someone else to come into the room." ~ Anita Brown-Graham
by Tivi Jones
“There is a correlation between diversity and improved corporate performance.”
~Lissa Broome, University of North Carolina, School of Law.
At this week's Black Women in Business event, Triangle women discussed the ups, downs, advantages, disadvantages and features of corporate boards.
The bottom line was clear: the personal and professional experiences and perspectives of Black women are valuable on a corporate leadership level.
Below are a few notes, insights and resources from the discussion.
Lead On a New Level: How to Get On a Corporate Board
FACTS TO KNOW:
Percentage of board members who are female minorities:*
3.9% for Fortune 100 companies
3.2% for Fortune 500 companies
2 (total) for the top 50 publicly traded NC companies
INSIGHT TO CONSIDER:
1. Diversity on a corporate board signals to corporate employees and the public the values of the company.
2. A few reasons why we don’t have more diversity on corporate boards:
• There is very little turnover.
• Trend in the last few years of downsizing board size (less opportunity).
• Many companies expect you to be in the C-Suite of another corporate company.
• There is often career leak out of women heading towards the executive level because of parenting, etc.
• NOTE: This is why it’s important for women to start thinking about this process earlier so they don’t leak out of the pipeline.
• Corporate boards may think they are "checking boxes" just fine (aka doing just enough to claim diversity is met).
What is going to make you more attractive to corporate boards:
• Added value to the organization
Ways to get involved on a local level: City advisory board
RESOURCES TO REVIEW:
Director Diversity Initiative - encourages boards of directors of publicly traded companies to increase gender, racial and ethnic diversity. They also maintain a database of professionals interested in board leadership from which to recommend.
As a leader in an organization or of your own business, many of your goals may be centered on your employees, your employer or your clients and customers. Even in daily life, as Black women we often put ourselves behind all the others to whom we give care.
This year, think about how you can serve others better by caring for yourself—it’s the “oxygen mask” adage that you’ve heard so many times. In an airplane, you’re instructed to put the oxygen mask on yourself first so that you can then take care of the others around you.
Here are some Oxygen Mask resolutions for leaders:
• Give yourself time to think. Constant busy-ness can be counterproductive. If you’re constantly putting out fires and working on a short-term to-do list, you could lose sight of the big picture and your ultimate vision. Carve out an afternoon, an a hour or whatever amount of uninterrupted time you can and use it to think into the future and ask yourself questions such as:
• What do I want to ultimately achieve with this project, team, business or product?
• How will I know if [whatever you’re working on] is a success? What can I do to ensure this success?
• What do I want my legacy to be and how can [whatever you’re working on] help to fulfill that legacy?
• Step Away, Unplug: It can be hard to do because we’ve become so used to 24/7 availability of ourselves and others, but it’s important to get away. Many times, your most creative thoughts and solutions come while or after you’ve returned refreshed from having removed yourself from your work setting. Again, it can be a 10-minute walk, an afternoon massage or facial, a weekend trip or a long vacation.
• Seek out a mentor. A mentor is a form of self-care because it’s someone who can be your cheering section, your sponsor, your anchor or the mirror you need to help you succeed. If you already have one, connect with him or her. If you don’t have one, seek out someone you admire and go to coffee, lunch or chat with them in their office about how they’d handle a challenge you’re having.
What other Oxygen Mask Resolutions can you make for 2014?
By Olalah Njenga
If you are not leveraging value as a key element in your marketing strategy, you’re already behind the 8-ball. Whether you refer to your customers as clients, members, participants, guests, patients, students, or something else, the concept of value must take center stage if you are on a mission to woo, win and wow your customers. Why? Because if you don’t know why your customers buy from you, eventually they’ll buy from someone else.
Most people’s understanding of value is in its classic reference, typically associated with price or quantity. Some might take it a step further and tie value to tiers of purchasing. But I would argue that few people understand what the word value really means from a customer’s perspective. Value is not singly defined by a formula or a pricing model - and value means different things to different people. To leverage value, you first have to understand it.
Simply put, value is whatever the customer says it is. Knowing your customers means understanding from their perspective what elements of a value-based experience will move them into action. To help my clients embrace value and be more competitive, I say “value is what you deliver over what you promised to deliver.” Value is both subjective and relative, therefore if you don’t know what your customers value . . . start asking them.
To deliver value, you’ll need to develop a deeper insight about customer expectations and discover the needs and wants that drive what customers value most. It’s not going to be easy getting to the truth about customer expectations. In general, customers won’t tell you outright - most will make you work a little for it. But, to compete in today’s crowded marketplace, you’ll need to think like a modern marketer and develop a competitive positioning strategy that puts value at the heart of it.
1- Stop selling to yourself.
You are your own worst customer. In all likelihood, your marketing messages are designed around a naïve assumption that your customers buy for the same reasons you do. A popular mistake in perspective is to picture yourself as the customer and imagine what you would do if you were him/her. You are not your customer, thus what you value is not what he/she will value. Your customers have wants, needs, and expectations that are different from yours. Just because something makes sense to you doesn’t mean it will make sense to your customers.
2- If you don’t care, neither will they.
Customers crave an experience, not a transaction. Deliberately folding experiential elements into the customer buying process offers customers the assurance of being acknowledged and heard. Anything you can include in the process that highlights your understanding of them before they buy from you will translate into more value for those customers. Customers want to know that you get them before they buy from you. Create different levels of experience and engagement to show that you understand and care.
3- Promise something! Then deliver it.
A promise to your customer is a standard that you will be held to long after the sale. A promise isn’t a vague slogan about quality, or price. Rather, a promise is a clear statement about how the company feels about its customer relationships. At YellowWood Group our customer promise is “Once a client, always a friend” and we strive everyday to deliver on that promise. We listen out for what each customer needs from us in order to see the value of our relationship. It’s not easy and sometimes we stumble, but we get it right more than we get it wrong – and we keep trying. Many of our customers tell us that they value the fact that we keep trying.
Never forget that people make buying decisions.
Digging deeper to uncover why people buy and what people value puts you on a unique and sometimes hair-pulling journey into human dynamics. But if you are fortunate to master the process of delivering on value, you’ll be able to leverage value as a game-changing element to support your competitive advantage.
About The Author:
Olalah Njenga is the CEO of YellowWood Group, a strategic marketing consulting and management firm that helps companies objectively measure the value, contribution and impact of marketing against revenue performance. She can be reached through her websites www.Olalah.com and www.yellowwoodgroup.com, or via Twitter @Olalah.
Are you aware of your leadership image? Have you put time into personally crafting it, or has it “just happened” as you took on more responsibility, began managing larger staff and/or grew your business?
If it just happened, you may not be aware of how you’re perceived or whether you’re truly using your strengths to get the most out of your team and to get the most out of yourself. If you focused on developing your personal brand as a leader, do you continuously monitor your brand’s effectiveness and whether it aligns with who you are or your vision of who you want to be as a leader?
How do you find out? Well, there are a few ways:
1) 360o assessments are a great way to get feedback from the people you interact with most in your leadership role: your team, your boss, your colleagues. Since you’re hearing others’ perceptions and experiences of you, you might need a thick skin. The key is to be open to the feedback and if necessary, work with a coach or other mentor to determine how to move forward.
2) Self-Assessments are a great way to begin or further assist with the introspection needed to set your own course and understand your strengths and challenges. As a seasoned leader, you’ve probably done a variety of these: Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator®, DISC® profile, Clifton StrengthsFinder and more. You may be able to do some of the assessments on your own and others will need to be provided to you and reviewed by someone who is certified to interpret the instrument.
3) Of course, simply talking with and getting feedback from trusted sources can also help. This can be a mentor, your boss, colleagues who regularly see you interact with your staff and other colleagues. You can also ask your staff, however, you have to make sure that you’ve created an environment in which they can be candid and feel heard.
Do you have a personal leadership brand? How have you built it? What tools have helped you?