I recently had the amazing opportunity to attend the Network of Executive Women (NEW) Leadership Summit in Chicago. NEW is a women’s leadership organization serving the retail, consumer goods, financial services and technology industries. It represents more than 11,000 members from 850 companies, in the U.S. and Canada. I feel so fortunate to have spent 3 days focused on my development and want to pay it forward by sharing what I learned at the summit with all of you. In business, we often start with an executive summary before diving into the details, so without further ado here are the top 4 things I want to accomplish walking away from the Summit:
- Re-evaluate my investment strategy | Make $$ while you sleep
- Sponsors | Find myself one and become one for my team
- Address my perfectionism trap & it’s impact on others
- Bring my whole-self to work
This summit had a heavy focus on money and the concept that unless you are financially independent you will never have true empowerment. To me it was an uncomfortable, but important topic, something that is typically taboo but if discussed it will help us to begin to close the Gender pay gap. Depending on what source you believe, on average, women are paid ~20% less than men. Key note speaker Sallie Krawcheck noted that women typically invest less than men, we avoid investing because we are risk aware. I am absolutely one of those people who is good at saving money (almost to the point of hording) but is petrified of investing it. Sure I have my 401K, and the kids 529 plans but I also lose money every single day because it is not properly invested. Sallie painted a clear picture for me when she asked, if there was a hole in your purse and you were loosing $100 each day, would you shrug and let it go, or would you fix your purse? My takeaway from this lesson is to set up a year end tune up with my financial planner and find ways to become more aggressive with my investments.Mentorship is something I am well versed in [MENTOR BLOG LINK], but I was less familiar with the concept and importance of Sponsorship that this leadership summit stressed. A Mentor is your trusted adviser while your Sponsor is a personal evangelist. It is someone that speaks about you behind closed doors and puts your name into consideration for new opportunities. We learned from Carla Harris, Vice chairman Morgan Stanley, that early in your career, performance is the most important currency for career advancement. In the middle of your career, sponsorship is most important, and later in your career, relationships are the most important. The best advice we received on how to form sponsor relationships is to focus on frequency of touchpoints with a potential sponsor and sharing your passion with them in a way that relates to their business objectives. Select three people in your company that could be good sponsors and make deliberate steps to achieve six “touches” with them in the next 3 months. Share relevant updates with them directly, connect with them in hallway conversations and always have your elevator pitch ready to share what you are working on. Sponsors need to see your “spark” so they will want to invest in you. Sponsors will be the key to unlocking your next opportunity.Another key theme of the summit for me was perfectionism. I have always viewed that as my personal brand and something that brings me great pleasure, but I had never stopped to consider its impact on the people and team around me. I am the person who obsesses over every tiny detail. A Christmas tree is not just a tree, it is a masterpiece with a color theme (red/Silver ONLY of course) and an intricate method for decorating, first the lights, then silver ribbon, followed by white snowflakes and all the shiny red/silver balls. The last touch is our assorted sentimental ornaments placed just so to give our tree a subtle unstructured look. But I learned at our conference that perfectionism becomes a trap later in your career when you need to rise. Early in your career you will be promoted for being precise and accurate, but as time goes on this habit makes it harder for you to delegate and will cause extra stress on yourself and your associates. That Christmas tree looks good now but as time passes my sweet little boys will want to add their personal touch and if I don’t let go of this vision of perfection I will be left decorating a tree on my own. This will be a work in progress for me and something I know I need to work on if I am going to rise in my career and in my life- this was a BIG ah-ha moment for me.The last lesson I learned is that you need to bring your “whole self” to work. I am a Mom, business women, a blogger, a sneaker & Coffee connoisseur, an athlete, and creative mind; I am diverse in thought and skillset. If I am only bringing the mom and business women to the office then I am bringing less than 50% of myself to the office and therefore I am not bringing my full value. I am proud of what I am doing with my blog, the drive it displays and the creative outlet it is affording me and yet I don’t share that with my co-workers. My hope is that with time I will learn to bring my whole self into the office and share with my team both the triumphs and challenges.
Thank you for reading and please share any questions on the summit below, I barely scratched the surface of the amazing content that was shared during these three days.
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