On October 16, 2013 I had the great honor to lead “A Day of Excellence Through Leadership”, a full day program and a sponsored by the New England Diversity Council and led by Ameerah Mukayed. The program is an annual event which brings together a diverse mix of successful women leaders who discuss topics pertinent to today’s workforce in order to educate, inspire, and encourage attendees to reflect as they strive to advance within their organizations. The panel sessions were moderated by my EMC colleague and friend Stacy Schaeffer and myself. Panel topics included: Becoming a Person of Influence in the Workplace and Community, Perceptions of Assertive Women, Winning at Office Politics, Prepping for a Position of Power, Maintaining Your Value During Shaky Economic Times.
Our five panelists had a broad range of experience covering different industries, cultural backgrounds, and points of view. Panelists were Danielle Duplin, VP & Executive Program Director at Fidelity Investments; Stephanie Sonnabend, Former President & CEO, Sonesta International Hotel Corporation Founder & Chair, 2020 Women on Boards; Carrie Webb Olson, Partner, Day Pitney LLP; RItu Jyoti, VP Product Management, startup Kaminario; and Juliette Mayers, Executive Director of Multicultural Marketing, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.
The panelists shared their thoughts on this event in this short video:
Chandra Jacobs, BRS Marketing shared her perspectives on the day in her Blog, which, to be honest, is a must read post. Another one of my guests, Blessing Chiedza Chimbindi shared her leadership lessons with the audience also. I was so impressed by Blessings reflections I wanted to share her learnings with a broader community of leaders . As you read through Chandra and Blessing’s posts, remember these are examples of how we, as leaders of our current generation, have the opportunity to support the next generation of leaders. As women of influence our leadership lessons have the potential impact to last a lifetime.
Blessing Chiedza Chimbindi-Entrepreneurial, Innovative, Masters in International Business, BSc Computer Information Systems
I have written this to document the key lessons I attain from various women in leadership. Growing up, I was continuously selected for leadership positions. I even earned leadership scholarships in college and graduate school. However I have always viewed leadership to be something that can’t be built overnight, it takes time and an intentional pursuit of evolving in leadership. I am naturally passionate about learning, and being a leader is a continuum of learning and growing.
Women in leadership symposium
I had the privilege to attend the Women in Leadership Symposium. I am grateful to Sheryl Chamberlain from EMC who invited me to the event. Here are some of the key lessons I learnt from the symposium.
Becoming a person of influence in the workplace and community
There are three types of computer engineers
1) Has a problem and no solution.
2) Has a problem and three alternatives.
3) Has a problem, three alternatives and choses one of the alternatives and explain the outcome.
Make your own opportunity, be entrepreneurial and bring solutions to the table.
Being influential comes with being valuable. Demonstrate the value you bring by being solution and results driven, taking initiative and thinking critically. I really liked the panelist who mentioned that even if you do an excellent job you don’t have to tone it down to make other people around you feel better. Being a leader whether male or female requires that you rise above the status quo and motivate others to do so. Leaders are trendsetters and that is what sets them apart, they lead by example. By doing so you influence change and you impact the community around you.
Besides the more we all do well and strive for excellence, the better the
a) company brand becomes
b) products/services become
c) customer satisfaction increases
Perceptions of an assertive woman
Three tips on how to be nice
1) Listen: Listen with your ears and your eyes.
2) Develop relationships: Ask people about themselves and continue to be supportive.
3) Lead by example: Engage with people of all levels
This creates a culture of caring
Three tips on how to be assertive
1) Speak up: Participate, volunteer for high profile projects, self -promote, acknowledge compliments
2) Develop a strategic plan (personal and professional). Start with your passion and define the skills and resources you need for pursuing your passion.
3) Have thick skin: Be subtle and expand. Let go and focus on the bigger picture. If your point is dismissed but listened to when another counterpart states the same point you could respond saying, “As I said before”
Continue being assertive but also continue to be nice.
Don’t participate in trashing other employees
Do your own work well. Believe in your idea.
Stay focused and don’t be hungry for a pat on the back.
At the beginning I perceived myself as a nice person and after the panelist described the ways of an assertive person I saw myself fitting into that as well. I believe assertiveness is often perceived as aggressiveness when it comes to women. I agree with the panelist who said that it is important to be assertive and nice. I also agree that one should not be focused and so hungry for getting a pat on the back, the overall goal is what matters.
Winning at office politics
Make people feel valued and respected.
Make time to understand other people rather than competing to be understood.
Be trusted (don’t gossip). Be well liked and be able to move other people.
Be well connected to the informer and influencer
o Informer – the person who tells you what is really happening.
o Influencer – the person whose opinions are highly valued.
Office politics can be tricky. This topic really appealed to me. I recall my mentor who once visited me at work and he told me that he admired how I don’t gossip and how trustworthy I am. At the time I didn’t know that it was such a valuable characteristic to have. It is one of the core components that help in winning office politics. Although these values are driven by my faith, they bring added value in my professional life.
Prepping for a position in power
Forms of power
Charisma Information Relationships (politics)
Authority Expertise Reputation
Add value to your corporation: Your ideas and tasks should be aligned and supportive of the corporation’s vision.
Communicate your work: It is critical for people to know the ideas you pioneer. You could do so through a memo, presentation of the ideaDon’t let your promotion pass you by.
As women we do work hard but make ourselves passive in communicating our value and work. This section really helped me find my voice and be more outspoken about my efforts.
I also learned that being intentional in aligning your efforts with the vision of the organization yields both individual and organizational success. Just like it is in science, the head contains the brain that controls signals in the whole body. Information is sent to and from the brain. That is where information is processed, the brain understands the body. So when you demonstrate that you understand the vision and implement your tasks with that knowledge, it is easier for you to be seen as someone who can be the ‘brain’ of the company.
Maintaining your value during shaky economic times
Don’t be stagnant. Update yourself.
Seek opportunities to network and grow.
Be excellent at what you do and maintain your competitive edge.
As I am seeking for a job, I ensure that I sharpen my skills. I do Java programming exercises at Codecademy to brush up my coding skills. Even in transition it is important to stay ahead and be proactive about polishing up your skills and adding value to maintain your competitive edge.