Sharon Sayler

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Want really useful and effectively success strategies quickly? Combine speed dating with business mentoring and you get the BizWomen Mentoring Monday event, sponsored by the Business Journal.

Now, I’m not a morning person, but I was curious and honestly, a bit skeptical. However, with a company mantra of “Small changes make significant impacts!” I had to go see this combination for myself.

So, at 7 AM Monday, I joined a couple hundred women to network and ask questions of my selected mentors from a list of 40 women business leaders on what it takes to make big dreams succeed.

As with speed dating, Mentoring Monday was more about meeting great people for me. I didn’t come with a specific need and with five-minute rounds there wasn’t enough time to get down to deep personalized success strategies. Yet, it did give me enough time to ask the five women executives who agreed to be my speed-mentors, “What’s the one top tip you would like to tell the women here today?” They all shared more with me in the allotted time, yet here’s the top tip they each chose to share:

“Dress professional.” Angela Dowling, president of Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon suggested.  She may have noticed my sudden look to double check my own attire…. My mother taught me to always dress at a minimum how you expect the other people to dress, if not one step better than the expected attire. Perhaps you like to think clothes shouldn’t matter; well, they still do. A quality business suit will never let you down.

“Let ‘it’ go. Stop worrying about what others think,” Bess Wills, vice president and general manager of Gresham Ford shared. I agree, yet you might think this advice is at odds with the “dress professional” advice I had previously received. It’s not. You should strive to make a great first impression, as that will set the tone for the entire business relationship while “Let ‘it’ go” means that you can’t always please everyone and you shouldn’t take everything as personal. Give others the benefit of the doubt, and let ‘it’ go.

“Work hard,” was what Laurie Kelley, vice president at the University of Portland recommended. I don’t think that needs any more words from me – those two words sum it up well. It is hard work to be successful; if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Onto the next speed-mentor as the bell rings again. I sit down with Diana Marsden, owner of Aries Apparel who said she hoped women would “Don’t be afraid to not be nice. Tough messages can be delivered in a thoughtful way and we don’t always have to be ‘nice’ to each other – we have to deal with uncomfortable things to get them taken care of.”

Being “nice” comes from a desire to avoid conflict, yet in the long run it can often cause more or extend a conflict. It can be uncomfortable to question the status quo or share a differing opinion. When you commit to honest debate, improved practices, better relationships and teamwork, you don’t have to worry about being nice.

This tip may take a lot of practice if the culture you work in has a lot of egos bumping into each other. Breathe before implementing this positive suggestion – full breathing will help keep you alert and ready as you transition from being too nice to being forthright.

As the final round begins, DJ Wilson, the president and general manager of KGW Media Group, shared the universal reminder of: “Know that I can’t read minds.”  

As much as I value clarity in communication, I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of violating this one on more than one occasion. It is an excellent reminder to make sure the communication sent is the same as the communication received.

Great advice (and networking) all around, and mastering these five success skills will definitely get you ahead in the game.

What are your favorite success-building suggestions and resources? Please share!

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