Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Communication, Negotiation, Conflict....Oh My!

Tonight I got to spend a nice evening at a Torchbearers event. (Shameless plug: If you are unfamiliar with this organization, definitely check it out For each new class we have specific leadership classes/seminars to attend and they are always very insightful.

Tonight's session focused on Communication, Negotiation and Conflict Management. I think these are three areas that most of us can agree are not at the top of everyone's "love to deal with this" list! Good communication, successful negotiations and effective conflict management are all hard topics to tackle as young professionals and up and coming leaders. Heck, they're hard for seasoned leaders to navigate.

We had three great panelists: Mary Jones, Dan Flowers, and Mike Moore from FedEx Custom Critical. The session went really well and all three speakers had wonderful information, tactics and experiences to share with us. I wanted to share some of the highlights with you too.

Mary Jones, VP of Administration and Legal Counsel at Oriana House Inc, spoke about building trust relationships. Just a few of her tips for us included: be accessible, listen openly, own up to mistakes, speak the truth, be a coach, and speak in a straight forward manner. Each of these pieces is key to our success. If you are open, honest, loyal and engage your team members, you will surely be successful in building your trust relationships and thus your success in your career and life will come.

Dan Flowers, President & CEO of the Akron Canton Regional Foodbank spoke about his top ten list for managing communication, conflict and negotiation. A couple take aways from Dan's list were these: be nice, use your boss, remain in the awkward moments, and run toward your fear. I really liked these. Part of Dan's message was to just let go a little bit, focus on what your mission is, treat your people with respect and don't let fear or insecurity stop you...get help when you need it!

Mike Moore, Managing Director of Finance and Controller at FedEx Custom Critical spoke on some of his life/career experiences that got him to the place where he is today. Mike shared some of his key points such as being sure to build a strong foundation of faith, hope, love, loyalty, honesty and integrity. Further your education, additional learning and continually add to your toolbox and do it early on before "things happen." And one piece that struck a chord with me was to enjoy the journey. We get very wrapped up, and I'm guilty too, of where's the next step, avenue, project, job, etc, that we don't take a minute to celebrate the now and how far we've already come. Don't miss that celebration.

We always hear that executives are "real people" and that we shouldn't be worried to approach them and ask questions. These panelists were just that...approachable, accessible, honest, straight forward and engaging. Thank you to Mary, Dan and Mike for spending your time with Torchbearers.

To everyone else - Sorry for a long one today! I hope you took something from tonight's session as I did. Are there other tactics that you have heard of or employ in these three big areas that would help others add to their toolbox? Please share! Your info can benefit us.

Parting quote shared by Mike Moore for leadership, and it comes from Zig Ziglar. "You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want." Good stuff!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

How Do I Get Into Leadership?

I have always been intrigued by leadership and being in a position where I can influence action in a company and in people. Leadership is not for everyone, but I always kind of knew it's where I wanted to be. As a young professional, we face challenges in trying to get to leadership sometimes. Some people think we're too young to take on these responsibilities, some don't think we have the "experience" necessary, and some places just don't take the time to help young professionals develop for leadership. So I always had to ask myself and those around me, "How do I get into leadership?"

Some people get into leadership because they're technically good at what they do while others are simply good leaders. In reading articles about leadership and young professionals, I came across some tips on It is an article called Six Steps to Leadership for Young Professionals by Jason Kent. Below are the steps mentioned in the article and my interpretation.

1. Do Good Work. Seems kind of obvious, but some may miss this step. Be the best at what you do!
2. Get a Mentor. I like the idea of a Career Board of Directors. I have "Megan's Board of Directors" that include people in my company as well as outside in order to gain various perspectives.
3. Take on an Initiative or Side Project. This can help develop skills that you may not be as strong in as well as help with your own exposure to other leaders.
4. Speak or Write About Your Work. Communication is key. Whether this is inside your company at team meetings or externally at other organizations. Again, another way to get your name at the top of people's minds and gain credibility.
5. Stay Above the Fray. Who wants their name associated with the water cooler gossip? Stay out of it and help to minimize it.
6. Ask for Advancement. If leaders don't know your goals, why would they consider you for the next leadership position? Ask for the opportunities! The worst they can say is "not this time," then you go back to number 1 here and repeat.

Diligence is key! Make sure people know who you are, what you represent and where you want to go.

What are you doing to get into leadership or keep yourself top of mind for the leaders in your company and community?

NOTE: For the full article, copy and paste the link below in your browser.

Friday, June 3, 2011

It's A Marathon....Not A Sprint!

We are young professionals. Young is the operative word there and I will use it for as long as possible! Being coined as a young professional is exciting to me. I feel, as a young professional, that I am in a "new" stage in my career where I am continuously learning and gaining valuable work and life experiences.

Here's the thing, though, I want the money, achievements, status and lifestyle of the CEO's that I look up to in our community...and I want that now! There is one piece that I feel young professionals so often forget. That piece is that it took these successful, well-educated leaders a long time to get where they are today with the knowledge and respect they deserve. In a society of immediate gratification, we all want it now. I have been to college job fairs as a prospective employer looking for talent. True story: I asked a student what type of position they were looking for at the job fair. They told me they were looking for "management." Their experience entailed being a shift manager at the local video store. When asked the salary they were looking for, the student replied, "I am looking for around $73,000 - $75,000 in the first year." Bravo! Bravo to that student that had the guts to confidently share those expectations. Unfortunately, I think they are a little misguided in their post college expectation for the majority of positions available to someone with their experience.

I have recently gotten into the running world and completed a couple of races. Let's just say I have not come anywhere near the front of the race. That is not to say that I don't want to, because I do. I want to get a medal. Realistically, it's not going to happen this year, maybe not even next year. That is why I am comfortable saying "It's a marathon, not a sprint." As in leadership, it is going to take me longer to win that race. I have a lot to learn. I also have a lot to share with other young professionals and even insight to share with experienced leaders. You do too.

A professor once told me to be the best at whatever it is I decide to do. I could be a maintenance person or an astronaut, but my goal was to be the best. In case you weren't sure, I will win! I will get that running and in leadership. I'm okay with it taking a little longer, because when I get there, I will be the best at what I'm doing.

I'm curious, while starting your leadership experience, are there things that you thought to be true and turned out a little different than expected? I would love to hear your story.