Top Takeaways from the Wharton Women in Business Conference

by Frank Roche on October 28, 2010

in Business, Careers, Communication, Culture, Learning, Teamwork

Jenn Cohen and Bethany Marzewski collaborated on this piece.

Last week, Jenn and I attended the 12th Annual Wharton Women in Business Conference in Philadelphia. While there, we heard dozens of women leaders discuss everything from how they built their career path to the how it’s possible for women to manage work and family life. After thinking over all of the discussions, we came up with these are our top takeaways.

Get a mentor
One of the biggest discussion topics was about how important it is to have a mentor. When finding a mentor, look for somebody who you respect. This also means understanding and enjoying how they work and relate to others. But your mentor doesn’t even need to be one of your direct coworkers—it could be a former coworker, a friend in another industry or even a family member.

Find your leadership style
You do have one, don’t you? The way you delegate and lead in your organization not only determines how you fit into the company culture, but also how your role in the company can grow. If you’re not sure how to describe your leadership style, ask yourself why you make decisions. As you develop, try to make decisions based on facts and research, rather than on your personal opinion. This will build credibility in you and your position.

Find the “shared vision” for your organization
Working together builds a relationship among your team, and eventually among your entire organization. Start thinking about your job in terms of “we” statements, instead of just how it fits with your role. This will help all of you identify your company’s place in the whole industry.

Know your ideal work/life balance
You can’t have it all, all the time. Before you get too settled in either category, think candidly about your ideal balance. This will help you figure out what kind of career you’d like to pursue and whether or not you should really take that promotion. Make a plan now, but don’t be afraid to change it if something unexpected comes up.

If you mess up, don’t dwell on it
We all make mistakes. The trick is not focus on them. Instead, focus on how to solve the problem. Think about a solution and prove why it won’t happen again. Hiding from your mistake, or even worse, trying to cover it up, will only come back to get you.

Be a game-changer
There are two kinds of leaders: those who lead their teams and those who lead externally. To be a company leader, you need to be proactive and think about how you can change the game in your company. To be a gifted, external leader, you need to think about what can change the game in the industry. Who would you rather be?

When it’s about opinion, everyone prefers his own
When negotiating, it’s important to do your research. Arguments based on facts and concrete data will always be more effective than those based on theory. Consistently ground your perspectives in reality and offer true examples. Your peers will respect and rely on your more eagerly if you’re known for your unwavering reliance on logic and reason.

Accumulate favors
Favors are a valuable and important form of currency. Make a conscious effort to be kind to your peers and offer a hand whenever possible. Nobody can reach his potential alone (though some will die trying); it’s crucial to build trust with as many people as possible. When you’re in a serious bind, and eventually you will be, you’ll find you have an army of supporters.

When partnering, find the yin to your yang
Partnering with someone who shares your skill-set will likely be counterproductive. Ego-based conflicts, over trivial issues, will act as unnecessary speed bumps. Choose to collaborate with someone who can fill in your knowledge gaps. It’s easier to develop mutual respect when you eliminate the “I could have done it better myself” feeling.

People do business with people
Potential clients are generally in a position to choose their service/product provider among a vast array of other providers who offer the exact same thing. Nowadays, which provider they go with will likely depend on character. Humanizing your business is easier than ever with social media. Take advantage of websites like Twitter and Facebook to give personality to your brand and give potential clients more of a connection. Merging the professional and the personal, just enough to show people you can relate to them, can take your business to a whole new level. If you make them fall in love with you, they’ll be apt to fall in love with your product as well.

Listen twice as often as you speak
Remember to use your social media outlets as a means of listening. There’s more feedback on the web than a person could possibly procure through any other means—and it’s free. GAP knew it’s new logo was a flop within minutes of putting it on their website. Pay attention to how people react to your posts and adjust accordingly.

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