The 5 Professional Development Pillars of Real-Life Career Girls

July 29th, 2016 Posted by Leadership No Comment yet

career-girl-collage

Adriane Wilson was interviewed for an article on Ms. Career Girl, a community of women for women, in July of 2016.
http://www.mscareergirl.stfi.re/2016/07/27/real-life-career-girls/

Professional development seems the obvious solution for an ambitious careerists trying to climb the ladder of success. What isn’t so obvious, is what effective professional development really looks like.

It is one thing to talk about being a student of your field, it’s another to know exactly what to study and how to put that new knowledge to use. When you’re at the wheel, steering your own on-going career development, it can be a lot to take on.

How is a young career girl to know what really works? How is someone supposed to decipher between pursuits really worth their time and activities that only serve to waste it?

For this article I had the chance to speak with a number of real-life career girls, all of which are at different stages in life, but have accomplished their own levels of professional success. Each of these women also seemed to have positioned themselves for many more successful tomorrows.

In sharing their thoughts, experiences, and wisdom I will pull back the vail on professional development that really works. I’ll do this by exploring the fundamental aspects of professional development real-life career girls are already using to achieve success in their lives and in their work.

Know Your Priorities

With so many directions to take when it comes to a career it can be overwhelming to know where to start, if you don’t know where you want to go.

According to Adriane Wilson, who owns the executive coaching and training firm Strengths Zone, self-inventory and career planning are the foundation for professional development and career success.
Adriane says, “Step-one is to take inventory of where you are in your career and where you want to be… so that other people can help you, so that you can identify the proper resources to help you. So really, step-one is to map your future.”

This idea of mapping your future is one that Adriane puts to use herself through goal setting. For Adriane it is a regular practice to write out goals on a quarterly basis, making plans for the next year and beyond.

Set Goals

When it comes to defining goals in writing like she does, Adriane adds, “When you write things down you are more committed to what is happening.” Which is something she believes has allowed her to succeed in the many directions her career has taken.

To date, Adriane has seen her fair share of success as a journalist, a sales professional, and marketing director. Adriane is now building a business to help individuals and the organizations they work for, to best use the human resources they already have available. Her company, Strengths Zones, does this through helping people to understand the particular strengths they already possess and then leveraging those strengths to achieve a particular personal or organizational goal.

Coronel Ann Peru Knabe is another proponent of having your priorities point you in the right direction. As a U.S. Airforce reservist, Ann has had her civilian career, teaching commutations at the university level, detoured by a number of military deployments.

changed-priorities-sign

Ann considers herself a, “Big goal setter.” She also admits, “Sometimes I am also action-on-target … taking opportunity on things that pop-up out of nowhere.”

Because of four deployments, receiving her interdisciplinary Ph.D. in public relations, distance learning, and psychology took more than 10 years. Reflecting on how her military services impacted her academic aspirations Ann says, “Your first priority coming back [from deployment] is family – to get your family reunified. The second is your job – to get reintegrated at work… The third for me – and it always came last – was the dissertation.”

Put First Things First

Ann’s story is one that could be used to illustrate the value in putting first things first. After her fourth consecutive deployment as a reservist, Ann was ready to throw in the towel on finishing her dissertation.

It had been a lower priority for so long that progress wasn’t being made at a rate she was proud of. Because of the strong support system she had nurtured by making her family a priority, however, her husband was there to remind her how far she had come.

In Ann’s recollection of that moment, “He came in and said ‘No, don’t give-up. Are you kidding me? You’ve dedicated eight years of your life – this is in reach.” And, that was all it took to see herself through to the end.

Without her Ph.D., Ann wouldn’t have qualified for the assignment of her latest three-year tour. Ann is currently serving on deployment as the Dean of Students for the International College of Security Affairs at the National Defense University in Washington D.C.

 

Read

When I asked if reading has had an impact on her career, serial entrepreneur Alyssa Ripp replied, “Without question it has. Reading periodicals like The New York Times and the New Yorker pushes me to think bigger, more broadly, and in a global context.”

Alyssa also mentioned that the combination of reading and her work as a management lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business helps her to maintain a 50,000-foot view on an industry she’s been working in for over a decade. Alyssa describes that perspective as being “Extraordinarily valuable.”

The same seems to be true for women not so far along in their career. Catherine Barrett, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in 2012 and 2014 respectively, works as a senior healthcare consultant at Pershing, Yoakley and Associates. She says, “I’m an avid reader–of books and articles and anything else with words on it.”

Books like the Go-Giver, a parable by Bob Burg and John David Mann, and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In have helped her a great deal in the early years of her career. To Catherine’s surprise, these titles helped her overcome the kinds of disillusion young professionals often struggle with when first starting out.

Reading Feeds Your Mind

Catherine also suggests, “If you’re in healthcare, anything by Atul Gawande is a must-read, and if you’re not in healthcare, you should still read his stuff.”

For Coronel Ann Peru Knabe it is the Wall Street Journal that she makes time for every day. Usually she juggles the WSJ pages while working out on the elliptical in the morning, but she is also a big fan of their app.

“In my business, one needs to be acutely aware of world and domestic issues. Whether I’m working as the Dean of Students, in the world of PR, or doing Air Force duty at the Pentagon, I need to be aware of what’s happening in the world around us,” Ann says.

As for executive coach and entrepreneur Adriane Wilson, when it comes to professional development, she is a firm believer that, “Except for the books that you read, the people you meet, and the places you go you could be in the same place next year.”

books-1

 

Write

As much as she enjoys the 50,000-foot view of her industry that she gets from reading and teaching, Alyssa Rapp is also keen on stringing together the written word herself. In her own words, “I absolutely love writing and journaling.”

While journaling for Alyssa is typically feast or famine, an informal business plan or the idea for a book are the kind of thing Alyssa will come down from her bird’s-eye view of the world to work out through journaling.

Having a journal entry or notes to kick-off each revival of an idea keeps the ball moving in a positive direction, especially if she is looking for help from her husband – or anyone else – to better flesh out the concept.

Alyssa Rapp would be the first to admit that journaling in the digital age doesn’t always resemble what many of us grew up to know as the practice of taking pen to paper, but she is still a big fan of simply jotting down notes –even digitally- on anything she may want to revisit or add to over time.

Just how important is writing to Alyssa and her creative process as an entrepreneur? “I believe writing is incredibly important to finding balance in my life,” she says. “Sometimes fiction writing serves that purpose, sometimes nonfiction writing serves that purpose.”

Alyssa is such a proponent of journaling that she often gifts moleskin journals to employees and interns. She encourages them to use the journals for capturing their own entrepreneurial thoughts for use if they ever leave her company.

Of course, Alyssa was sure to make the distinction that writing 400 obligatory emails on a daily basis doesn’t offer her the same benefits as the kind of writing she might do in a journal. Journaling is a way to work out an idea or reflect on a situation before it is communicated to anyone else.

An actionable way to incorporate writing into your professional development can be learned from the example of Catherine Barrett. She told me, “I have a work journal where at the end of the day – most of the time – I write down the highlight of the day and at least one thing I learned,” because, “experiences were starting to blur together.”

Not only does Catherine use her journal to track areas she can improve upon, but she’s found that when working long hours – as seasons of a career can require – it can become easy to get caught-up in the negative moments.

writing

So, as a means of celebrating her accomplishments and fueling herself to push through the not so happy parts of being a young professional, Catherine explains, “My one goal is to write down something really great that happened, and something that I learn each day. That way I’ll be ending my day with something positive, and with something to grow from.”

As far as reviewing the good things, Catherine adds that not only does such a journal serve as a good pick-me-up, but also a good check point. Because young professionals have so much new information coming at them, it can be helpful to have something to refer back to. Such a reference can prevent having to struggle through the same lesson more than once.

Similarly, Adriane Wilson has nothing but praise for a regular journaling practice, “As a formal journalist I find journaling to be quite powerful. I really like to look back on my writing from a year ago or years-past to see the growth and to have a good understanding on how learning is just part of the process.”

 

Do

When asked if her experience had unearthed anything that works especially well for fostering her own professional development, Colonel Ann Peru Knabe replied, “Instead of thinking about trying to improve myself, taking risk and moving ahead. Less talk, more action.”

This is coming from a woman who has given herself every permission to pursue her interests. As a reservist and public affairs officer for the USAF, Ann has been deployed all over the globe. At home in Wisconsin Ann was worked in publishing and on the industry side of public relations. At the same time, Ann was climbing the ranks of academia, from graduate student, to university instructor, to Ph.D. and Professor.

To some, pursuits in academia, the private sector, and military service are seemingly unrelated. Ann is one of those people, but she also recognizes her sprawling experience is the only reason she was a fit for a three year assignment at National Defense University.

Ann’s appointment as a Dean of Students at the National Defense University is not one she would have considered 20 years ago, but every new pursuit has given way to even more opportunity. Things she didn’t know she’d ever want for her career are now within reach.

The effects of military deployment on the progress of her Ph.D. is just one example of the hurdles that come with pursuing a variety of passions. In spite of those hurdles however, Ann continues to permit herself to pursue her interests, regardless of how seemingly unrelated they might be.

It stands to reason that Ann’s habit of allowing her priorities and passions to guide her activity has played a role in maintaining her motivation. Not only has Ann fueled her ambitions with genuine interest in their subject matter, she has continued to trade novelty for nuance, diving deep into her education rather than moving on to the next shinny object or interesting pursuit.

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Never Stop Improving Yourself

“Never stop improving yourself,” is what Ann considers the guiding philosophy of her career. She says that you should always be striving for more, pushing yourself to the level of discomfort. Ann’s warning is that, “If you get too comfortable, you grow stagnant.”

As a testament to how well Ann embodies those words, as soon as she is settled with her family, following her latest tour of duty, she plans is to relaunch the consulting business she started prior to deployment. For her, consulting is the ultimate opportunity to parlay her military experience in crisis communication to working in the private sector. Ann also plans to get her real estate license, which has been something of a peripheral interest she’s had for some time.

Ann’s advice to other women is to, “Be open to ideas – now I’m open to the idea of being a business owner. Be agile and flexible. Be able to envision yourself in different roles. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself into one spot.”

 

Seek Mentorship

As Alyssa Rapp builds here latest company, AJR Ventures, she still considers it her career’s mission to simply work with and be mentored by extraordinary people.

In fact, mentorship from other women like her mother Fay Levin, former US ambassador to the Netherlands, has had such a positive influence on her career she is driven to make sure other young people to have similar guidance in their lives. To accomplish this, Alyssa has joined the board of the Spark Program, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing mentorship to middle schoolers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

Alyssa also gives humble credit for her success to mentors like Christie Hefner, executive chairman of Canyon Ranch Enterprises, as well as her good friend, Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer.

For Colonel Ann Peru Knabe, it was a mentor and teaching colleague that challenged her to pursue an accreditation in public relation from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). That accreditation has served her well in every avenue of her public affairs and public relations career.

Adriane Wilson recalls being taken under the wing of a few journalists while still in high school. She says, “Mentorship has taught me a lot about the unspoken rules in the workplace and professionalism and the importance of paying it forward. In fact – quite a few – I am still in contact with and I’m still always learning from. Now I’m at a place where I share as well. You never get too old for advice, and good advice is even better!”

mentoring

The Value of Mentorship

Conversely, we live in a world where our youngest working generation is bombarded by reminders of how important mentorship is. So much so that the construct is being formalized into coarse curriculum and corporate operations. At times it seems that informal mentorship might be losing its appeal and credibility. The prevalence of formal mentorship may even make it hard for younger professionals to simply recognize informal mentorship, even while they are experiencing it.

Speaking to her experience as a young professional in standardized mentoring environments, Catherine Barrett explained that an important component to a successful mentoring relationship is vulnerability. She says, “You have to find someone you can be vulnerable with.  When you are new in a situation it can be hard to be vulnerable. Especially with people you hope might promote you or are responsible for reviewing you.”

Because formal mentorship is often structured between superiors and subordinates in the workplace, the natural influence of organizational hierarchy can keep mentees from allowing themselves to be vulnerable. They aren’t honest because they don’t want to appear incompetent. They don’t ask for help when they need it, because they are afraid of being demoted or fired.

Be Open And Vulnerable

Catherine believes that if you can’t be vulnerable with your mentor, you probably don’t have the right mentor. She also thinks that many of her peers approach mentorship as a networking play. As if accepting someone’s counsel is only valuable in creating proximity – an opportunity to posture – a chance in which to prove yourself worth hiring or recommending for a higher paying job somewhere else.

The issue Catherine sees with such an approach is that, “You never give yourself the chance to be vulnerable and honest, and you never give them the chance to be a true mentor to you.”

Create Organic Mentor Relationships

In Catherine’s experience, her most successful mentor relationships have been formed organically. They originated from casual conversations rather than being mandated by her organization. While all have been more experienced than her, she didn’t feel threatened because they weren’t her direct supervisors. Sharing problems, concerns, and questions came naturally with these people.

It’s hard for a lot of people just strike up a conversation. For these people a more formal mentorship is probably a good place to start. Of course, Catherine cautions other young professionals to not overlook the more traditional, informal mentoring opportunities.

“When you discount the less formal mentorships, you probably handicap yourself in the more formal mentorships,” explained Catherine. For her, it was the more natural conversations with her informal mentors in which she learned to become comfortable asking questions, asking for help, and how to make the most of the mentorship curriculum she received from her managers.

 

The 5 Professional Development Pillars of Real-Life Career Girls

  1. KNOW YOUR PRIORITIES: Without knowing what is important you, there is no level of success that will yield career fulfillment. By knowing your purpose, having goals, and sticking to your values, you are much more likely to achieve fulfillment from your work.

 

  1. READ: Reading is an opportunity to discover concepts, ideas, and new ways of thinking. Your current circle of colleagues can only introduce you to so much, but a good book or article can clue you into a part of the world you would otherwise never have known.

 

  1. WRITE: The use of the written word has a fantastic way of making your own ideas more clear. Journaling is a great tool for synthesizing the things you learn with one another. Being able to do this will increase your professional acumen and help you work much more productively.

 

  1. DO: There is no greater teacher than experience. Only through trial-and-error can you prove what you think you know to be true. The word failure gets associated with some not so great sentiments. In reality, failure is a key ingredient to growth.

 

  1. SEEK MENTORSHIP: Otto von Bismarck is famous for having said, “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” But, not only can other people tell you what mistakes to avoid, they can become strategic partners in navigating your career. You might find out that they become just as emotionally invested in your success as you are.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brendan Alan Barrett, writes about professional development at www.StartInPhx.com, a blog dedicated to the mission of career success without student-debt. Brendan is also the author of READ WRITE DO Professional Development and Career Success Playbook, a no nonsense book written for people who want to jump start the career they’ve wanted for way too long.

Images:

Priorities Peter Reed  Books Moyan Brenn Writing Fredrik Rubensson Learning India Edu

From Journalism to a Career in Executive Coaching

July 18th, 2016 Posted by Leadership No Comment yet

Adriane Wilson Quote

Adriane Wilson was interviewed for a feature on StartInPhx, a professional development blog, in July of 2016.
http://startinphx.com/from-journalism-to-a-career-in-executive-coaching/

Adriane Wilson is the founder and president of Strengths Zone, an organization that specializes in Gallup-Certified Strengths Training and Executive Coaching.

In this week’s Career Success Q&A, Adriane talks about which professional development fundamentals have allowed her to excel in journalism, sales, marketing, and as an entrepreneur. She also goes into depth on how she continues to overcome a professional hurdle she sees as one of the most stressful for professional women: moving cross country to pursue a new opportunity.

Adriane and her team at Strengths Zone facilitate individual and group strengths-based development training for corporate, government, non-profit, and faith-based organizations nationwide. The training and coaching that Strengths Zone provides are all based in Gallup backed research and the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment.

In not so many words, Adriane and her team help individuals identify what they do best. They do this so that professionals can focus on applying these strengths to achieve their greatest potential as an individual or as an asset to their organization.

Adriane began her career as a journalist with The Dallas Morning News. She was at one time a top sales director with Mary Kay reaching the $300,000 Circle of Achievement and the $500,000 Circle of Excellence.

In healthcare, Adriane spent a decade in Texas-based healthcare systems. Adriane held progressive, hospital-based roles as Marketing Director, Regional Marketing Director and as Vice President of Business Development.

Today, Adriane’s aim is to elevate employee engagement, leadership capacity and productivity using Strengths Based Development keys.

She is a frequent workshop speaker at National conferences and retreats. She is also an approved Executive Coach for the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).

Past and current clients include AT&T Network National Centers, Lexus, Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development, SafeHaven of Tarrant County, INROADS/JP Morgan Chase Fellowship Program, Alpha Sigma Alpha National Convention & Leadership Conference and Leadership groups.

She earned a BA from the University of North Texas and MA from Stanford University.


 

Career Success Q&A

Do you have a mission statement or a guiding philosophy for your career?

Own your own development.

Often times we kind of sit back in our careers and wait on our managers or supervisors to suggest professional development training or workshops that could accelerate our careers.

I’m a big proponent of not waiting for your organization to tell you what you should be learning and what is trending. Take it upon yourself to always be learning and growing in your career.

Invest in yourself. Don’t sit back and wait for the organization to recognize that you have a lot of potential and room to grow, or that you’re interested in doing those things.

Step-one is to take inventory of where you are in your career and where you want to be. It is very crucial that you have a vision of where you are going, so that other people can help you, so that you can identify the proper resources to help you. So really, step-one is to map your future.

 

What excites you most about your career right now?

I’m excited about the variety, and [also] the ability to actually see people and teams transform in a positive way once they understand how they are wired.

Coaching is one part of my business and training is the other, both are based on the same effective tool.

In the individual coaching we get to unpack at a very precise level and understand the talents of the person and aim that at an individual goal or hurdle.

In group training we have the ability to talent map the DNA of a team or group, so that everyone on the team is using their specialty towards the overall success of the group.

In a team situation it isn’t as important for the individuals to be well rounded, but it is important that a group or company be well rounded.

One of the things that excites me about group training is the discovery of talent hiding in plain sight.

With the use of the StrengthsFinder tool, we are able to precisely identify the specialties that are represented in the existing organization.

 

What do you consider to be your greatest career accomplishment so far?

Having launched my own business.

I always wanted to have a career that paid me for thinking – that paid me for being a thinker – and I’m glad that my career really affords me that opportunity.

As a coach and a trainer I am continuously interpreting information from the [StrengthsFinder] assessment and connecting it with the well-being of individuals’ lives.

I think [wanting to be paid for thinking] comes from reading a lot and studying successful people. Just having a foundation in the necessity of being the best version of who you already are.

I think that probably came from a lot of mentoring along the way. I’d say I had mentors from age 16 on – from my high schools years on. Because of that, I feel an obligation to pay that forward. Being able to coach people and train people, based on an assessment – based on an actual tool, really allows me to do that.

 

How often do you read outside of work?

I get most of reading done while I travel, because my work is travel intensive. I always have a book for those unexpected flight delays and the flight itself.

Right now I’m reading The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. Most of my reading is biographies, and a lot is really motivational. I love to read about the lives of successful people.

Shonda Rhimes is a T.V. producer. She’s the producer of Grey’s Anatomy, and I’m really enjoying that read.

 

Would you say reading has had a significant impact on your career?

I’d say reading has definitely had an impact.

I’d say [personal development] is a combination of three things. It’s a combination of the books that you read, the people you meet, and the places you go. A lot of development for me has been what I’m reading, who I’m meeting, and where I’m going.

If you were to stand up and look at your feet and understand that, except for the people you meet, the books that you read, and the places you’ll go, you could be in the same place next year, if you don’t develop that formula.

 

What books to you most frequently gift or recommend to others?

I love to see what’s on the A-list – what other people recommend. I love to see what’s on their list and build on that.

A book that I do recommend very often is, Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty. It’s about the importance of networking and being able to fill your well – your well being your connections with people and relationships that are positive – before you’re in a position to have to ask them for help.

I’ve found [Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty] to be helpful for people that are in career transition for the first time [after having worked a job for many years]. [Because] they realize that the landscape of how you land a job has changed drastically over the years.

[Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty] supports the notion that it’s really important to build relationships at times where you don’t need anything from anybody. It’s something I’ve picked up as a philosophy in the last few years.

Something that predates [Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty] would be a classic one – Think and Grow Rich (Napoleon Hill). It’s something I’ve reread over the years.

Classic titles, [like Think and Grow Rich], are good to revisit because each time you read them you’re at a different point in your career and you’re at a different age and stage of life.

We are always evolving. No one stays the same. So, it is good to consider rereading some classic titles because something new may resonate with you for the very first time – totally based on the fact that you are at a different age and stage of life and business.

 

Is there one kind of media you consume most regularly as a means of continuing your on-going professional education?

I started as a journalist – I am a news junkie. I’m always tuned into the national networks – CNN, MSNBC, Fox News – I’m always tuned in at a national level. I certainly keep track of that online.

I love the technology we have in place now. I can get breaking news alerts on my phone or on my watch. I like the immediacy that we have now. I’m very much a national news addict.

I have the CNN app, I really like that because I get the breaking news alerts 24 hours.

The 24 hour news cycle is real. We are no longer living in a world where you come home and sit down to watch the 6 o’clock news. I’m very appreciative of apps and the CNN app is the one I go to quite a bit – well it comes to me now.

 

What role has mentorship had in your professional development?

Mentorship has made all the difference in my career.

I was taken under the wings of a group of journalist in my high school years and they have tracked my career since then. I’ve even had the opportunity to hire them for various projects.

Mentorship has taught me a lot about the unspoken rules in the workplace and professionalism and the importance of paying it forward.

In fact, I am still in contact with quite a few and I’m still always learning from them. Now I’m at a place where I share as well – [as a peer].

You never get too old for advice, and good advice is even better!

Some of the hallmarks of an outstanding mentor would be – number one – they have an ability to see your blind spots. Secondly, I’d say they give you authentic feedback. Third, I’d say they have a knack for understanding the unspoken rules of different business cultures.

Those are the things you can’t get from a college education. There are no specific classes on those areas, but they are quite critical to success.

Some business cultures are very verbally expressive. They are filled with people who are heavy talkers – heavy communicators verbally.  There are others that are very introverted. If you’re not really clear on that you might present as a fish out of water, because you’re not using the same communication style that company has attained large measures of success with.

Some culture are heavy on email, others are heavy on face-to-face, and that is largely based on who is at helm of the ship.

But it could take you six months to a year to really know what the expectations are [without mentorship].

 

Do all of the people you consider to be your mentors know you hold them in that regard?

Most people do know, because I still describe them as that. And I like to introduce them as [my mentor].

 

 Do you actively mentor other professionals?

Yes, in variety of industries and people in variety of ages.

People have come to know my style as one that is quite neutral. As in – I have an eye of objectivity for situations that allows me to share sound guidance.

Most people tend to call their mentor when they are in crisis. That tends to be time when you’d need advice. When you are in crisis you can be highly emotional, and [may] not really have the ability to process circumstances and information accurately.

A mentor can actually remove a lot of the emotional factors and strip down a situation to its basic pillars in a way that people cannot when they are in crisis.

 

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your career, so far?

One of the biggest challenges has been moving from one state to another – not just one city to another. Moving is a very stressful process for women. I think I read somewhere that it is one of their top 3 stresses.

I [moved] and stated a business in a state where I had no [business] connections. The way that I continue to overcome that was by networking quite strategically, and meeting people. It’s absolutely became a necessity to meet new people every week, and to really take interest in what they are doing.

First and foremost – take interest in them. It’s a matter of really meeting people – new business people and peers when you have 100 other things on your list of things to do that come with the process of moving.

It’s everything from starting as a new member of a chamber [of commerce], to learning were every FedEx office is, to having to use your GPS every time you leave home, to having to introduce yourself everywhere you go, to going to meetings and networking events where you might not know a soul in the room.

I think what triggered me [to be so strategic] was knowing that I had to be very clear on who my customers are. All business owners need to know – in refined clarity – who their ideal client is.

I found that there was such a necessity to step out of my comfort zone in order to be in the rooms with people I could actually help – and decision makers – and that has made a tremendous difference.

[There is] a difference between being busy and going out to network to be really productive.

When you say that going backwards is not an option, your only option is moving forward. I think that came out of wanting to stay in the entrepreneurial lane, and knowing [entrepreneurship] was the best life for me to be in. Going backwards would not be an option.

[Another] part of my story is that getting laid-off isn’t always the worst thing in the world. I used [being laid-off] as the window to spread my wings and launch a business and in the long-run that has been very rewarding. Had it not been for losing my job, I might still be in the same place.

 

What have you found to work really well for fostering your own professional growth?

Knowing my own strengths has been the best professional development process yet. Because, prior to that I was guessing quite a bit. Now that I am very clear on what I naturally do well, it has eliminated a lot of frustration.

 

Would you consider yourself a goal-setter?

I set monthly goals and quarterly goals and annual goals and long-term plans as well. I think that is very much a part of tracking and measuring your successes.

When you write [goals] down you are more committed to what is happening.

One of the talents that describes me is called ’achiever.’ That is a reflection of my natural drive to get things done. I like to check the box. I think that is serving me well [in pursuing goals]. You can count on me to get things done and to have thoroughly thought about it at the same time.

 

Has writing or journaling had an impact your life or career?

As a formal journalist I find journaling to be quite powerful. I really like to look back on my writing from a year ago or years-past to see the growth and to have a good understanding on how learning is just part of the process.

Generally speaking, people are not going to think the same way at 25 years old as they did at 35 years old. I think it is a positive thing to write journals, because it is an easy way to actually compare ways you use to think and how your mind has evolved with experience.

 

If you could, what advice would you give your younger self?

The advice I would have given my younger self would have been – don’t be afraid to give yourself opportunities that don’t already exist.

I had in my mind, a career in online newspapers before they even existed. But, because that career and that title didn’t exist yet – it wasn’t available – I didn’t quite know how to matriculate that. I didn’t know how to create a job that was ahead of the technology.

Looking back, I probably would have done that differently. I probably would have been more of a pioneer instead of saying – Well, that job doesn’t exist yet I guess I’ll do something else.

Now if I have an idea that is something unique or innovative, I do as much research as I can and surround myself with people who can be helpful.

What Are the Keys to Effective Leadership?

January 29th, 2016 Posted by Leadership No Comment yet

What Are the Keys to Effective Leadership

Effective leadership is more than just telling others what to do.

A true leader understands the importance of enabling others to feel they have a say in how something is done and that providing this type of atmosphere improves job satisfaction and productivity.

Too often, leaders are not aware what the keys to effective leadership that provides this atmosphere actually are, however.

Invest in Strengths

Good leaders know how to leverage their strengths to meet the challenges they face when leading others. They know where they are the strongest and focus on improving those strengths in order to effectively guide those around them.

It has been said that leadership consists of four domains that include executing, influencing, relationship-building and strategic thinking. Surprisingly, effective leaders are rarely strong in all four of these domains. In fact, one of them may actually be a weakness. However, effective leaders know how to focus on the domains where they excel in order to motivate others.

A leader who attempts to excel in all four domains is often a mediocre leader.

Surrounded with Greatness

The key to becoming an effective leader is to surround yourself with those who are strong where you are weak. If you have difficulty selling ideas, but excel in uniting a group of diverse individuals into a team that works, you want to be sure that someone on your team has strong influence skills that will work well with your relationship-building skills.

Because good leaders know what their weaknesses are, they are able to choose team members who excel in those skills and can support the team in an area where the leader cannot. Too often, leaders choose teams based on technical skill when what they really need are more leaders in order to make the team effective.

Understand the Needs of the Team

Effective leaders have the ability to meet the following four needs in order to create a good team:

  • Trust – The members of the team trust the leader and the leader trusts the team.
  • Compassion – It is critical that the team believe that the leader cares about them.
  • Stability – An effective leader is dependable at all times.
  • Hope – Team members want to feel as if their work matters and that their future prospects are secure.

Unlike leadership domains, an effective leader must meet all four of these needs in order to build an effective team.

A leader may possess many skills that will benefit them when they guide a team, but an effective leader not only understands what strengths they have, but also where their weaknesses lie. This allows them to build a team with members who may fill in the areas where the leader lacks ability.

If you want to learn more about becoming an effective leader, contact Strengths Zone today. As a Gallup Certified Training and Coaching organization, Strengths Zone creates strategies and solutions based on natural talent, not by eliminating weaknesses. Visit us online or send us an email today to learn more about our training programs.

4 Things You Need to Know About Strength-Based Leadership

January 20th, 2016 Posted by Leadership No Comment yet

4 Things You Need to Know About Strength-Based Leadership

Looking for the negative aspects in life is human nature, but it isn’t necessarily because people have a negative view on life. Instead, it is also human nature to want to fix things, to make things right.

It is instinctive to find problems and then develop a solution to that problem to feel as if we are accomplishing things. We do this when we tackle projects, but we also do it in our interactions with people, especially employees.

Unfortunately, this style of leadership rarely accomplishes anything. Instead, quality leaders use what is known as strength-based leadership, focusing on the strengths and passions of employees rather than their weaknesses. These four tips can help you move into a strength-based leadership role as opposed to a weakness-focused leadership role.

Ask Don’t Assign

When you are leading a team or a company, it is a natural instinct to want to assign the best staff member to particular projects. Learn about your employees by talking to them individually to identify their strengths.

You may find that a quiet analyst would love to work on a marketing campaign or that your best graphic designer may also have a knack for numbers. It may mean moving people around to fill in gaps, but when you work from a strength-based focus, you will find yourself choosing team members that fit together perfectly.

Diversity is Important

When you focus on weaknesses, you tend to choose “yes” people for your projects instead of those who will question, make suggestions and point out flaws. You want a team made up of many different cultures, passions, ages and genders in order to get a multitude of perspectives.

Instead of choosing based solely on skill, choose team members based on their strengths, even if those strengths may not seem to apply to their actual job title. Diverse teams historically develop the most ground-breaking ideas.

Be Open

Transparency is a word that is thrown around often in today’s business world, but it is one of the most important character traits of an exceptional leader. If you are open and honest with your team, they will be open and honest with you. You will learn their hopes, their passions and their dreams which provides you with insight to their motivation.

The key is to listen to their ideas rather than just hear the words. When you implement one of their ideas, give them credit to let them know you were listening. You will find that an open atmosphere will encourage your team to work much harder for you and your company.

Encourage Thinking Outside the Box

When you empower your employees, you encourage them to think outside the box, to be creative and to take risks. You want your team members to be curious, naïve and willing to implement unconventional ideas. There will be conflicts as a diverse team often means strong opinions that can lead to disagreement.

Effective leaders know how to guide those passions into action without dampening the enthusiasm of the team or the individuals who disagree.

An effective leader understands how to encourage others to express their opinions, how to motivate a team to think unconventionally and methods for creating an honest, open relationship with everyone in the company.

At Strengths Zone, a Gallup Certified Training & Coaching organization, we provide you with the skills to focus on these four keys to becoming a strength-based leader. Visit us online or send us an email today to learn how we can help you apply strengths-based development to your company.

Gallup’s Theme Thursday

August 27th, 2015 Posted by Talent Themes No Comment yet

Theme Thursday is a Gallup Strengths Center live video event (via YouTube). With this series, we hope to provide a deeper context behind the language of strengths by talking in-depth about each of the 34 Clifton StrengthsFinder themes.

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