Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a fantastic luncheon hosted by the Greater Philadelphia Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF), for which I volunteer. It was fantastic to network with the group of over 200 women from top companies in the Philadelphia region and to hear from dynamic and inspirational panelists on the topic of leveraging political savvy for success.
The WLF president, Angela Dowd-Burton, kicked off the event and encouraged us to stand for other women’s success. She introduced Lorina Marshall-Blake, the President of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation. Lorina hosted the group in the Independence Blue Cross building and committed to hosting again next year!
The panel included 4 dynamic leaders and was moderated by the head of communications for Mayor Nutter of Philadelphia, Desiree Peterkin Bell. Before kicking off the panel discussion, Desiree shared her story – she left a high paying legal career to pursue her passion of public service and has been wildly successful in the process – serving several cities and government officials in communications initiatives. She encouraged the crowd to not be afraid to reach out to people for advice and counsel, and proclaimed the power of social media!
Below are some of the key messages from the panelists that resonated with me at the event:
John Eldred, President of Transition One Associates, and the only male in the room (besides the photographer), stated that clarity of purpose is a huge source of power. He told a story about being in the military and having to lead his troop into a dangerous situation. He told them, “I need to do something stupid and I’d like your help.” When they all followed, he knew from that moment that he was a leader. He also told us to be open with our employer – if we are going to leave, tell them! They may be willing to change to keep you.
Joanne Lang, Founder and CEO of AboutOne and mom to 4 young boys, shared her story. She spent years in corporate America until she realized she needed an ERP system for her personal life. She then founded AboutOne and the rest is history. She highlighted the importance of self-promotion. This doesn’t always come naturally but is important and you should always provide monthly updates to your boss. She told us that just because people say no doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to support you – some of her biggest supporters said no the first time around.
Molly Shepard, President & CEO of The Leader’s Edge and author of Stop Whining and Start Winning and Breaking Into the Boys’ Club, touched on mentoring. She shared that informal mentoring is just as important as formal mentoring. Go to a virtual coffee with someone – don’t let geographic location limit you. She also told us that sponsorship is most important – identify those people across the organization who are willing to take a direct interest in your success. And her biggest tip of all – have confidence!
Lisa Walker, Vice President of Marketing for the Campbell Soup Company, stressed the importance of networking. We need to build our internal work networks and be strategic about it. We should understand the power map and make connections across our organizations and outside of our organizations. She said that women are so good at building and managing relationships outside of work but need to get better at doing this at work. She also said that we should always be prepared with an elevator pitch.