Earlier this month I attended The Massachusetts Conference for Women in Boston. I was asked ahead of time if I’d like to write a blog post. In reviewing the list of impressive keynote speakers, I wasn’t sure what to choose. I decided to wait and see what inspired me. Luckily for me, there were plenty of inspirational speakers.
Linda Cliatt-Wayman shared her experiences as principal of a high school where the prevalence of violence has interfered with education. Guided by her faith, she has dedicated herself to improving the educational experience of children attending Strawberry Mansion High School in Philadelphia. Her love for her students has resulted in a safer learning environment which has in turn fostered academic progress. I was inspired by her selflessness and passion.
Blake Mycoskie encouraged us all to look for opportunities to help others. As the founder of TOMS Shoes, Blake has been able to successfully combine his entrepreneurial abilities with charitable giving in an effective way. Even from the beginning, when he started with just a few pairs of handmade shoes he sold to a small group of family and friends, his intent was to give back to those in need. As his business has grown, he has not lost sight of his original mission of helping others. I was inspired by his generosity and humility.
Robin Roberts warmed our hearts with stories connecting her personal life to her career. Through her experiences with life-threatening diseases as well as worry about her family during Hurricane Katrina, Robin has been willing to share her emotions with her audiences. Although she is a famous television host, it felt like she was chatting with friends over lunch rather than presenting a prepared speech. I was inspired by her genuineness and her fortitude.
Leymah Gbowee spoke of her role as an activist for women’s rights. Listening to her firsthand experiences with war, I was impressed by her courage in the face of such very real danger. She has seen much violence and yet remained committed to the idea of peaceful activism. I was inspired by her bravery and commitment.
As you can see from these examples, there was a wide range of speakers at the Massachusetts Conference for Women. Their diverse experiences illustrate that there are many ways to make a difference in this world as well as to inspire others. Although my sphere of influence is not nearly as large as these presenters, my goal is to continually look for opportunities to be a positive force for change and an inspiration for others. I would encourage each of you to not only find opportunities to be inspired, but also to inspire.
What’s the cost of being quiet? At the Massachusetts Conference for Women, Susan Cain had some answers.
I was interested in hearing Susan speak since I read her book – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. I looked to Susan’s book for insights for raising my highly introverted son in a vibrant and noisy community. And, I got some ideas to modify my parenting style to meet the needs of my son.
Back to the cost of being quiet, Susan’s talk at the conference was more focused on the implications to employers. She led us through our evolution from a culture of character to a culture of personality, which has contributed to the further silencing of introverts.
From Susan’s point of view, here are some of the implications for employers:
- Employers are losing talent and vision because our culture overvalues extroverts –and, technology has provided another mechanism to amplify the voice of extroverts.
- Introverts are not being groomed for leadership roles and are frequently passed over – although some of history’s most transformative leaders were introverts.
- Introverts are perceived as passive – however, they are acutely paying attention.
- All creativity doesn’t come from teamwork and brainstorming. To generate creativity and innovation, we need to consider the importance of introspection and solitude in our always on, hyper-connected world.
There’s a place for everyone. As Susan pointed out, we need both the bold and quiet thinkers working together and they need their own domains. By acknowledging how they work differently, we will raise our awareness and change the perception of introverts in the workplace. Here are some differences Susan pointed out:
- Experience meetings differently. Extroverts see introverts as aloof; introverts want to think before they speak. Advice to introverts – push yourself to speak early in a meeting.
- Handle conflict differently. You need to work through style differences and not expect introverts and extroverts to match styles.
- Express enthusiasm differently. See #2.
When I read a book, attend a conference, or research a topic, I simplify the content and experience and if valuable, identify one action item. I like to be realistic! Based on Susan’s research and insights, here’s my one action item – I am seeking out the opinions and perspective of introverts. I like to broaden my perspective on issues and typically seek out the opinion of others. But, I usually reach to the extroverts and now I am starting to be more diligent about engaging the quiet thinkers. I have already uncovered some great perspectives. It’s true – Silence is Golden.
If you are interested in this topic, check out Cain’s TED Talk video. It reached over 1M views faster than any other TED talk. With over 5.5M views total, she must have something of importance to say. You might get some ideas on how to change your relationship with a manager, co-worker, associate or better yet your child.
All year I have had an article tacked to my cubical title Big Idea 2013: Get All of Your Employees on Social Media. The article by Charlene Li is about the benefits of involving all of your employees in your social media strategy and giving them the opportunity to become advocates for your brand. In other words, making social media a part of every employee’s job. I have heard this point reiterated a number of times throughout the year and I know it has been a top priority for companies.
Last week at the Massachusetts Conference for Women, I attended a session titled The Facebook Era: Tapping Social Networks to Invent and Enhance Your Brand. Each panelist who spoke during this session echoed the sentiment that making social a part of each employee’s job is crucial.
When asked where social media is going, Stephanie Schierholz, social media manager at Raytheon, said that you can’t have just one person doing social media. Eventually it will not be the job title of one person, but rather an integrated part of every person’s job.
Randi Zuckerberg, former marketing director for Facebook, also had some thoughts on the subject. She said that with social media we can no longer control who the spokespeople are for our companies. This is why a good social media training program is important. She recognized that sometimes however the social media guidelines we put in place for employees are too strict. She said that employees should not censor themselves on social media so much that they become sterile.
At Boston Financial, we are laying the groundwork to make this notion a reality. When it comes to associates on social media, we come from a place of yes. Rather than worrying what someone might say about our company, we have put all the pieces in place to reap the benefits.
This year we have implemented a number of initiatives to get our associates involved with our social media strategy.
- We launched an enterprise social network that teaches associates basic social media skills and integrates social media into their daily work life.
- We trained associates on the appropriate use of social media through formal workshops and informal one-on-one sessions.
- We have run a number of associate user generated content campaigns.
- We encourage associates to Tweet and blog about work-related events they attend.
How is your organization integrating social media into every person’s job?
Giving back to the community and creating positive change are two things that have always been important to me personally. Everyone’s life is busy with family and work commitments, so it is not always easy to find the time to get involved. Being a member of the large Boston Financial community allows me the opportunity to impact social change by volunteering and giving back locally. Corporate citizenship and philanthropy are integrated throughout Boston Financial through many aspects – awareness, volunteerism, and financial support.
Recently, I attended a session at the Massachusetts Conference for Women titled “Driving Social Good and Change through the Power of the Workplace”. I was excited to hear how other companies were engaging their associates to make a difference. Throughout the session, a panel of women from companies of varying sizes and sectors discussed ways they had created an impact by integrating corporate social responsibility in their workplace.
One key message from the session got me thinking – find more ways to say yes when in the world it is easy to say no. It is important to get involved and give back, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because each individual can say yes and have a positive impact. How can this be something that we integrate into our workplace? As members of our community, we have the power to present opportunities that promote corporate citizenship.
- Be creative and innovative – giving back does not always mean writing a check. Send volunteers to an event, involve corporate executives to donate time or subject matter expertise to a cause. Donate office supplies or pieces of furniture that are no longer being used. Explore ways to do things differently.
- Give back to areas people care about – create a menu of choices so employees can participate in events that interest them. Some people may want to walk, build houses, rake leaves, or just make a monetary donation. Offering options can increase participation and promote a culture of giving.
- Make it a way of life – ask volunteers what they hope to get out of an opportunity. Integrate corporate social responsibility throughout all areas of the organization, starting with the interview process. People want to join a company that they feel is doing good and giving back to the community.
Does your company have resources dedicated to corporate social responsibility? I encourage you to explore, and find ways to say yes! Find the passion in your community. Look around, participate, get active, volunteer. And most importantly, don’t underestimate the power of giving back.
Wouldn’t most of us, if not all, like to be? I recently had the opportunity to attend the Massachusetts Conference for Women in Boston, and attended a session “Forever Young: Tips for Aging Gracefully and Living Well.” I figured that for those of us who have been working in the financial services industry for many years, I might pick up some hints to help us to keep up with the newer folks. The three panelists shared their insights on the topic, based on research they’ve done and the trends they see on a daily basis in their jobs – director of life management at Canyon Ranch, HUB health editor for Boston Magazine, and a doctor focused on nutrition and healthy aging. I came away with three main tips:
First, no surprise here, is the importance of fitness and good nutrition, although the latter can be a challenge since oftentimes what was supposedly good for us yesterday is no longer good for us today – chocolate, coffee, red wine, etc.
Then, the benefits of yoga were highlighted. The panelist who discussed it admitted she did not practice yoga but was planning to take it up. Why? Her research had identified some major advantages: can slow dementia, help to decrease back pain and reduce the need for related medications, and seems to make people more compassionate.
The last point was the most powerful to me. It’s essential to continually do things that “shock you in newness” no matter what your age – learn a new language, how to dance, etc. Novelty is key! So, I guess it’s not too late for me to finally learn how to swim.