If you don’t fail from time to time, it means you probably aren’t taking enough risks!

Apr 22 2014

The Toronto Sikh Professionals (TSP) celebrated International Women’s Day in style! They invited 3 wildly successful women to share their career success stories. It wasn’t easy, they all shared, and they each got there in very different ways. I was inspired by each of these women and as you read this blog you’ll see why.

TSP Women's Leadership Event
It was March 26th and I travelled to the Toronto offices of KPMG to hear a panel of distinguished women talk about their personal and career journeys. Now I’ve been rather fortunate over the years to attend a number of sessions like this one – so I wondered what exactly I would learn – and as you’ve likely guessed there’s still tons to learn (at least for me!).

First let me break down the speakers:

Beth Wilson – KPMG GTA Office Managing Partner and Canadian Managing Partner of Community Leadership.

Dinaz Dadyburjor – Managing Partner Corporate Operations, Brookfield Asset Management

Sharon Grewal-Macleod – Vice President, Mary Macleod’s Shortbread (and Mantralogix customer!)

So you see very different titles – and what a powerhouse of talent! And if this wasn’t enough the discussion was moderated by Puneet Mann, a rising star at Scotiabank! (Great last name, eh?)

So here are the key lessons I came away with after listening to these 4 trailblazers:

1) No matter how competent you are; you always have to “up your game” (so what Beth is saying is that you are never “done” with your development. As soon as you think you are it’s likely time to make plans for next steps!
2) To have the greatest impact, the ideas don’t have to come from you. In fact, the ideas with the greatest impact can come from other people. However, you do have to create the right environment to encourage others to speak up – your role is to support and champion others.
3) Speak up! This doesn’t mean you need to brag – but this does mean honest, transparent conversations with those helping you/ responsible for your career. Talk about what you have accomplished and how you did it. Typically we see men doing a much better job of this so let’s listen and learn!
4) Think like a leader! (even if that’s not the role you have right now). Develop a “leadership mindset” and spend time thinking about what your legacy will be.

Beth, Dinaz, and Sharon all reported that they had been inspired by many different women along the way – including their Moms, Grandmothers, girlfriends, and Hillary Clinton! As youngsters they dreamed about being an astronaut or a dentist.

Puneet asked a very thought provoking question to the panel at the end. “What advice would you give your 25 year old self”? Again the answers varied:

1) Get global experience – and do this sooner than later
2) Chill out and have fun! Life is a marathon not a sprint – keep the balance!
3) Take care of your health – and again do this sooner than later
4) Be a vocal advocate for yourself! Speak up and make sure people know what you’ve done.

On the topic of entrepreneurship Sharon highlighted some things people wanting to start their own businesses should be aware of:

1) Understand what you don’t know and hire expertise
2) Prioritize and do what’s important (true for business and life)
3) Have a business strategy focused on your product value proposition
4) Get outside of yourself and understand how other perceive you

Leadership was a topic that came up over and over again in all work environments – here’s what the ladies suggested:

1) One of our key roles is developing talent – develop people to their full potential and have them rise
2) Help people around you see their full potential – one way to do this is to ensure people are in the right roles – and your communication in this is key. Tailor your messages to those that you are communicating to/ trying to influence.
3) Don’t make assumptions about what women are willing to do in their careers – let the women decide how much they can commit
4) Find people who are willing to be advocates/ mentors for you/ your career.
5) If you don’t fail from time to time, it means you probably aren’t taking enough risk! Important learning comes from those bumps in the road!

I was intrigued by a concept the panel left the audience with. Set up a new company called “Me, Inc.”. Think of yourself as a corporation. What have you done lately to move the strategy of this company forward?
So what were my personal takeaways? A renewed commitment to talent development and some homework to determine what I need to do next to move “Me, Inc.” forward. It’s a little daunting yet very exciting to dream with your eyes open! From a leadership perspective I hope to offer our customers the same mentorship I have been gifted – an area I definitely need to speak up about!

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