8 Lessons Learned from Successful CLE Businesswomen

Friday, April 20, 2018

I had the honor of attending yesterday's Next generation of women in leadership event yesterday, hosted by Engage! Cleveland & Sherwin-Williams & held at the stadium where the Cleveland Browns play. It was a beautiful day for views of Lake Erie, & inside, the view was even better: The 200+ young women in attendance heard from six of our city's successful businesswomen, who each spoke on a different topic that impacts young women in our personal & professional lives.

Here are some of my favorite nuggets of wisdom from throughout the event.

1. "Be the CEO of your life."

This was my favorite line of the day, from Kim Jenkins Manigault, EVP & chief diversity/inclusion officer at KeyBank, who spoke about finding your tribe & your support system. The full quote was, "Be the CEO of your life. Demote or fire people who don't deserve to share your space." Amen, right? Give yourself permission to be in charge of your mental, emotional, & physical space, including who is allowed through the doors. If someone deserves to be fired from your life, so be it.

2. Your personal brand is who other people think you are.

This seems like a no-brainer, but it's something I never really thought about: Liza Zone, managing director of Dix & Eaton, pointed out that your personal brand isn't the image you want to convey; it's the image you do convey. What are your blindspots? What don't you realize you're doing? Whether it's Resting Bitch Face, a lack of eye contact, or a haughty attitude, you could be contributing to your personal brand in a way you don't realize - & don't mean to.

3 It's OK to cry. Just do it behind closed doors.

Micki Byrnes, president & general manager of WKYC, spoke about having difficult conversations at work, from discussions about harassment to navigating maternity leave to asking for a raise. It's hard to believe that a badass like Byrnes has ever cried at work, but she admitted that she's sobbed after firing people - key word being after. Take your lumps (or give them out, depending on your position) & then feel free to be emotional about it... when no one is watching. 

4. Women who use conversational "hedges" have lower professional status.

Amy Shannon, president of Pinnacle Leadership Solutions, shared a handout titled "10 Common Things that Undermine Women's Speech Habits." I already knew to be wary of words like "just" & "actually," which indicate a tentativeness & a lack of professional confidence, but I didn't know they were called "hedges" - or that the women who use them are almost always in lower positions than women who don't. Trim the hedges!

5. Seek organizational investment in your civic engagement.

Teresa Metcalf Beasley of Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP has her hand in a million projects, including motherhood, volunteerism, & being a partner at her law firm. She spoke about the need to discuss your volunteer work with your superiors in order to get buy-in from them - which gives you more wiggle room to participate in that work. Instead of simply being seen as leaving half an hour early one day, you'll be seen at leaving half an hour early to go serve on a board to help better your community - which makes a world of a difference to higher-ups. 

6. Yes, your personal brand can evolve over time - for better or for worse! 

Lisa Zone 's two examples of this were Snoop Dogg (who ever expected him to become BFF with Martha Stewart?!) & Bill Cosby (who ever expected him to fall from grace so very hard?) - talk about a change in perception! Not every brand evolution is so drastic or identifiable, but you can change the way you're perceived - whether it's by doing something major or just by chipping away at a better version of yourself.

7. Pauses in conversation denote confidence. 

It's no secret that people who ramble usually do so because they're nervous (hand up over here!) Amy Shannon taught us that women who are able to speak slowly & to take deliberate pauses while speaking (especially when presenting) are seen as confident & knowledgeable. It's one of those things you know but don't realize - that if rambling indicates nervousness, not rambling indicates that you're cool, calm, & collected. Something to strive for!

8. Almost no one says no to a genuine request of "Can you help me?"

Another no-brainer, but it was somehow impactful to hear this from someone at the top: KeyBank's Kim Jenkins Manigault said she never turns down a request for help & is willing to mentor anyone who asks - to some extent. How much you get from her depends on how much you put into it & the level of support you're willing to offer her in return. 

"Lift as you climb, but you're under no obligation to carry," she told us. Deep.

Disclosure: I was offered a complimentary ticket to Next Generation of Women in exchange for the creation of promotional content in advance of the event & recap content after the event. All opinions are my own. Truly, it was a great event!

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