Saturday, May 9, 2009

Managing Change to Survive & Thrive

I attended the Women In Leadership Foundation's (WIL) Annual BC Women In Business Luncheon last week.

Four women, from different industries with very different career paths gave us their perspective on overcoming change. Overally a very insightful afternoon with a lot of common themes to success in managing change. There were certainly a number of 'light bulb' moments that had personal relevance for me. But I expect that each woman in the sold out Hycroft ballroom took home something different.

Below are some of the key insights into each woman's success.

Rita Rogers, Senior Manager Events, Canucks Sports & Entertainment

The always charming Rita, acted as moderator for the event. She opened with a story relevant to me when she received some great advice just as she was about to have her first child.... "It will pass". It is often hard to imagine that things will change or that "it will pass", especially when you are up at all hours, with no sleep and are staring at the shopping channel for hours on end. But when you look back you realize that this advice is true. For all aspects of our lives.

Andrea Scott, Co-owner Skoah & Chikki Munki

Andrea has had an interesting career path from teacher on the lower eastside to fashion sales to owning her own business as well as being a marketing consultant at the same time and also being a Mom (she was very pregnant with child #2 while giving the speech). The big theme for Andrea is that you need to have a vision of your career vs a master plan. Now given, Andrea is the type of woman who LOVES change. But it is true that with an overarching vision of your career you are able to adjust and take advantage of new opportunities, while never losing sight of your vision. It also helped Andrea to have an attitude that "very little in life isn't completely irreversible". She felt that if a new opportunity didn't work she could always go back.

Now I have to ask myself what is my vision? Being a strategic marketer I really should know the answer to that question. I tell clients and peers everyday that you can't go forward and be successful without a vision. This certainly gave me something to think about.

Silvia Livingston, District VP, TD Canada Trust

I'll be honest I wasn't expecting to learn a lot from Silvia's talk. She has worked in banking (and at TD) for her entire career. I'm a marketer, who has spent much of her career in advertising agencies, and I didn't think there would be a lot of parallels for me to draw from. I was wrong.

Silvia spoke about 3 key themes to success in her career.

Knowledge is key - you build credibility through knowledge - both top down and bottom up. For Silvia this was particularly important when she had a staff with more years and more experience than her. She felt strong knowledge and leading by example helped her build the necessary credibility with her team.

Check your ego at the door - No job is too small and we all succeed if we get their together. This is true in group dynamics but also in your individual career path. Getting the career you want is not always a straight line. Silvia took 2 different lateral moves or demotions in her career in order to achieve the position and success she has today. These positions were challenging, but they allowed her to broaden her experience. She credits these moves as a key part of her success.

  • This was a light bulb moment for me. As I continue to struggle to find full time work I wonder if there aren't some great opportunities out there that could help me broaden my skill set and help me advance my career in the long term. Hopefully I will be able to check my ego at the door.
Know your own weaknesses - when dealing with mistakes & failures it is important to learn from the mistake, take ownership and then get over it. But most of all understanding your own weaknesses can potentially help avoid future mistakes. For Silvia this was about talking less and listening more - this one conveniently is also relevant for me.

Claire Smith, VP Sales & Marketing, Vancouver Convention Centre

Claire had a career epiphany in a magazine store while in Frankfurt during a business trip when she found a book called "Managing your career". She notes that the book itself wasn't necessarily that profound, but it spoke to her at the right time in her career. At that point she felt she needed a change after 17 years in the same organization. So she went out on her own and became a consultant. Not the right step for everyone, but the one that made the right sense for her at the time. Her advice:

  • there is a momentum to change... taking the 1st big step forward starts the ball rolling
  • take charge of your career - there are no bad decisions as everything you do adds to your tool kit
  • don't be afraid to take risks professional and personally
  • ask for help
  • don't let self doubt take over - push through it
  • 3 degree of separation - there are a lot of people who can help you or they know someone who can
For me Claire reminded me the most of me - with the exception that she has gone out and taken charge of her career. I'm still in that 1st big step stage.

Taya Hawes-Puiu, Chief Marketing Officer, Cossette West

I know Taya, we used to work together at Cossette. We never worked on any direct project together, so we know each other from those short little conversations at social functions, in the hallway, elevator, etc. I learnt a lot about Taya this day. She is a bold and brave woman who has seized opportunities when they presented themselves and on at least one occassion asked for advice from the Universe (giving them a deadline for their response). She also came to a realization of her own vision while lying in a hospital bed in Hawaii. The secrets to her success are:
  • be bold and brave
  • the only constant is change
  • trust your instincts
  • seize opportunities
  • if you don't know how - make a list
  • cherish your relationships

To me this last one is the most important one as a human being. Jobs are not who we are. It is the people we know and the relationships we have that we cherish most in life. Don't let them get forgotten while you are busy doing something else.

Now what?

For a lot of years I took myself out of the drivers seat of my own career. And decisions made weren't really mine, but the one that came up at the time. I've been nervous to step out there and be bold, in part because that little 'friend' self doubt crops up. I really hate asking for help. And mostly I'm afraid if I make a mistake, go the wrong direction, take a demotion that I'll never be able to climb back to where I was before. At the same time I want to be flexible for change - I just don't want it to bend me like it has in the past. Somewhere in there is a happy medium - plus time for lunch with my girlfriends.

A note about Women In Leadership Foundation (WIL)

Women like to stick together. We are there to support each other, keep each other company and help each other succeed. This is true for women at all stages of their careers. Each of the speakers mentioned a friend (in the room) who helped support or mentor them towards their current success. To me this is the key to continued development of women in leadership. WIL gets that and it is this type of event that helps bring us together to learn from, support and celebrate each other's success. I'm pretty passionate about this. And it is for this reason that I volunteer on WIL's advisory board and lead their volunteer brand/marketing team.

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