“The WICT Network’s Touchstone Inspire and others will follow is really a leadership tip that we should all focus on. It’s important to nurture those who are coming up behind you, because the better they are, the more your team can accomplish,” explains Cliona Robb, Director at Large for The WICT Network: Virginia, as she reflects on leadership tips she’s learned.
As the New Year continues, it’s important to reflect on lessons that 2021 has taught us about leadership. Here you’ll learn from Robb and three additional leaders from The WICT Network who will share their top tips, advice and more.
Top Tips to Consider Following
Robb used to think that if something had to be done well, she had to do it herself, but that line of thinking has changed. “I turned that mindset around because I have good people under me and I needed to maximize their abilities. Along those lines I was thinking about the Communicate with passion and poise, in writing and in-person Touchstone, because you really don’t need to do everything and your team really improves when you take the time to show them how to do a task,” says Robb.
Being genuine and flexible are main leadership tips that Robin Parker, Event Co-Chair for The WICT Network: Virginia centers on.
“People have to believe that their leader cares about them and that they can trust them,” Parker says. “Communication is very important, especially when you’re working remotely. Besides regular business calls, I’ve found that I need to intentionally take time to check in with people on a regular basis, making sure that everyone is doing okay.”
Keeping your tasks at the forefront is something Lisenia Howard, Executive Champion for The WICT Network: Pacific Northwest, finds helpful.
“You should try to stay focused on the problem you’re trying to solve and remember not to take it personally. Try to shift your attention to working as a team to find the root cause of the problem; by doing so you can help minimize your stress,” explains Howard.
Setting Goals is Key
Most leaders will tell you that goals are important for any level in the workplace, and our chapter leaders agree.
“It’s important to have and set goals because they will serve as your roadmap for learning and growth for what you want to achieve in your life, in work and at home,” says Parker. “For long-term success, you’re not going to go from point A to something that’s 10 years down the road without putting a plan in place to be able to achieve that.”
Parker says that there needs to be a mix of setting short-term goals to be able to reach an intermediate point and then building on that experience to continue your journey to your long-term goals.
Howard agrees and says that goals helped to guide her in her path to successful leadership. “Setting goals gives you direction and for me it offers ways to expand my network. I’m so honored to be a volunteer with The WICT Network: Pacific Northwest chapter. The Network gave me the opportunity to work with professionals not only in my area, but around the world. It has been so beneficial to me,” Howard says.
Not everyone thinks that setting goals comes easy, and as Robb notes, she’s not always been as successful with this.
“Honestly I struggle with setting goals because I spend so much time focusing on getting projects done that I don’t naturally do long-term planning,” Robb explains. “What’s helped me in this regard is calendaring a time with my team and then a separate time with our marketing director each month to make me focus on long-term goals.”
“This year I want to find the areas that I’m not as familiar with and expand my knowledge so that I can grow within my organization and help the others on my team to do the same,” Howard shares.
“I’m focused on strengthening my executive presence, increasing my emotional intelligence, influencing others and working on my personal brand, Parker shares. She also aims to share her experiences with her team so that they can also benefit. “It’s all about making sure my team is prepared for the future with their goals,” Parker explains.
Robb will focus on a main point she learned in a recent chapter meeting.
“The WICT Network: Virginia Chapter met to set the agenda for the year, and we spoke about what we would like to focus on. We ended on the Be fearless and confident in your convictions as you take risks and bring others along Touchstone, and that really resounded with me because there have been situations at work that have led me to speaking up,” Robb explains. “It really helped me to have the conversation about being fearless, and I think that will be my mantra for 2022. Along with that, being a catalyst, because it’s not only about pointing out the flaws – you also have to do something about it.”
Lessons Learned in 2021
The ability to consistently learn is one of the many qualities found in successful leaders. Our chapter leaders all have lessons they learned in 2021 that will help to better shape their year ahead. Read on to learn some of their top takeaways.
According to Parker, one of the things that really resonated with her was becoming a multiplier. “These are things that we all try to do and are components of leadership:
- We need to recognize and leverage our team members’ strengths and capabilities so that we have the right people doing the right job.
- We need to create a safe environment, which allows people to speak openly and to act upon those ideas within reason.
- We need to have tolerance for people to learn and grow and make some mistakes.
- We also need coaching and teaching, so that your team can function independently and can be accountable for their own results.”
“I think these are things that all leaders strive to do,” explains Parker. “With the advances that we’re seeing in technology and the demands from our customers, it’s creating a huge opportunity for the companies to grow, which has created advancement opportunities in areas of growth for individuals within the organization.”
Howard explains that 2021 was a challenging year that showed her the need for a better work and home life balance.
“I’m a very career-oriented person. I came from Peru 11 years ago and for some reason I kept postponing going to see my family,” Howard recalls. “Last year my mom was sent to the hospital and I rushed to see her. That was an eye-opener to me: you should not postpone things that bring you happiness and you should not take anything for granted. It’s very good to be professional, but you always have to have a balance with your family.”
Howard also notes that if your family life is going well, it can help you to have a better work performance, and vice versa. She also emphasizes the importance of having empathy for others. “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle of which you know nothing about, so we should always be kind to others, this helps directly when you lead as well,” says Howard.
Maria Holmes, Past President for The WICT Network: Great Lakes, reflects on how the pandemic took the industry by storm.
“[The pandemic] wasn’t anything that we anticipated. However, we were better able to plan 2021 with lessons learned from 2020. One lesson learned is sometimes you get so bogged down in the day-to-day survival mode of COVID that we lost some focus on nurturing non-profit leaders along the way. It was all hands on deck; move it forward” explains Holmes. “Reflecting back on 2020, we were better able to plan for 2021 and focus on how are we supporting and preparing leaders. We discussed the challenges and level set the potential outcomes given the pandemic world we are in. I encouraged the team; don’t let the stress get the best of you. It’s not easy, but we can do it! You are an incredible group of women on a mission.”
Robb saw the value in reaching out to others in the network.
“I’m thinking about The WICT Network Touchstone – Connect to your peers, your industry, and everything around you. You don’t always have to recreate the wheel when you have a friend at another company that can share options on how they’ve overcome the same or a similar issue,” Robb explains. “It saved me so much time and made me stronger all because I reached out to a friend from The WICT Network who was willing to share.”
“The Communicate with passion and poise, in writing and in-person Touchstone was also really important in 2021 for me, especially considering everything going on with COVID. I figured out that making an effort to carve out time for friends was so much more important in 2021 than it seemed to be in previous years,” Robb says.
All of our chapter leaders agreed on the importance of vocalizing your goals to your supervisors in your journey to a higher leadership position.
Parker says leaders may not know if members of their staff are looking to advance because not all leaders frequently ask. Robb believes it’s a leader’s responsibility to ensure that team members who want to move toward a leadership role be given assignments and opportunities, which can help them achieve their goals.
“It’s also important to request feedback from others about how you present yourself and about what behaviors and qualities are needed for the next step. Then you must be able to accept it and apply the feedback and work on the areas that need improvement,” Parker says.
“I would also advise leaders to communicate and be more proactive. Sometimes as a supervisor I think that people can read my mind when there’s a problem, but being proactive is a plus,” Robb says.
For those on your team who want to become leaders, finding learning opportunities can be challenging, according to Parker. This is due to specific leadership training only being available to current leaders.
“I strongly recommend The WICT Network to women looking to advance and strengthen their leadership skills because the organization puts on a lot of great programs related to leadership, personal growth and development,” says Parker.
Howard advises women to always think big.
“Don’t give up, we have so many resources available to us. I came from Peru and started in a big company. I excelled and became a manager, which gave me an opportunity to eventually go back to my original professional background, which is in finance,” says Howard. “All women must know that they should never give up – your time will come and always think positive.”