No one attends the same conference as another and walks away with the same key insights or takeaways. What we glean from a conference is what we bring to it. If we're seeking guidance for the direction of our path or our purpose, we're more likely to "hear" or interpret what we hear with that filter. Here is my takeaway from Women 2.0 Conference 2014.
When I heard about the Women 2.0 Conference 2014 I wasn't sure what to expect. I hadn't read anything about it, so I didn't much beyond the Pitch Competition and whether sessions would be inspirational or informational in nature.
Turns out Women 2.0 was the perfect mix of general inspiration and information as well as targeted specific mentorship around issues we may be having. I walked away with takeaways about culture and leadership and an action plan for a product launch.
I walked into Women 2.0, unsure whether I should go it on my own or partner with another entrepreneurial spirit. Walking out of the Women 2.0 Conference 2014 confirmed what I had already suspected: one's path lies not in another. One can seek consul, but until one begins practicing and executing, the likelihood that one will not advance on their path is slim.
A few female entrepreneurs helped me realize that everyone's success starts with culture. That culture is the embodiment of one's values. And that culture is visualized through one's actions.
Understanding the Importance of Culture
Going into Women 2.0, I believed that a company's culture is the intrinsic DNA for an organization. It shapes how that organization shares its mission and vision to the world through all of its interactions, including events (both in person and online), social media conversations, sales calls and emails, marketing collateral, and more.
Without clear culture it's impossible to scale or amplify your message effectively. Imagine multiple people trying to talk into the same bullhorn speaking different words. All the audience hears is noise.
Leaving Women 2.0, I'm struck by how culture is defined and communicated. "Values, beliefs, and behaviors determine who survives," according to Danae Ringelmann, co-founder, Indiegogo. "Culture is our means for survival."
Indiegogo's culture has four tenets: F.A.C.E. or Fearlessness. Authenticity. Collaboration. Empowerment. Ringelmann says, "the more our customers exhibit F.A.C.E., the more successful they are, and the more successful Indiegogo is." For Indiegogo, culture is intentional.
She cautioned entrepreneurs about being imprecise with how they establish culture. "Every action you take is setting culture. If you aren’t intentional with culture, you may be creating an environment that values the wrong beliefs and behaviors."
Choosing to be Mission-Driven vs. Mercenary
An organization's leadership is inherently tied to its culture. Julie Hanna, entrepreneur, investor, chair of the board, Kiva, says, "There are two kinds of companies. 1) Those who are mission driven, that is on a mission to change the world. And, 2) those that are mercenary driven; those that come out during the boom times."
There is a clue as to what type of company an organization is and it's not the organizational structure. The clue relates to the founder(s), specifically their goals. The goals, Ringelman said, are the values, beliefs, and behaviors that determine or define success for the business.
Hanna believes that "You get more of a running start when your mission is self evident," which parallels Ringelmann's insight into how to succeed: "to truly make a successful business that business needs to be meaningful. If your business is not important to the world, you won't be successful."
Acting According to My Truth
A colleague once called me "disarmingly genuine." I was a little surprised and asked what it meant. We had just successfully completed an internal sales presentation competition, and they'd been surprised at my performance. While I have never dated a superior, those rumors started when I was promoted to my first management position and they were once again going strong my first month at this new company. The colleague had believed those rumors as had other teammates and had felt they would have to carry me. They were extremely surprised that I could actually do what my resume stated.
I adopted "disarmingly genuine" as a personal core value then. When it comes to my resume and accomplishments, I'm honest to a fault, not taking credit for work others have done or including skills I know I can do, but haven't yet done in a corporate setting.
And, it's time I raise the mantle of that core value again.
I think I've always believed time is money. According to my mom, I've always measured it precisely. I would frequently "correct" my mom when she'd say "it's about 4:30," stating instead "it's 4:32," as if the omission of those two minutes would cause the world to end.
My early job experiences probably reinforced that time is money. Time clocks: punching your card when your shift started, when you stepped out for a break, when you returned from a break, and when you left for the evening. (Well, not really when you left for the evening, when the gate went down at the front of the shop and you began vacuuming and straightening the merchandise. We were only paid for helping customers and for ringing up sales.) Time sheets: accurately tracking and appropriately assigning each minute to a billable project. Design clients weren't paying for chit chat. If we wanted to talk about what we watched on TV last night, we waited until break or lunch.
At one point in my career, I was placed on a performance plan. One failing that I had to correct or be fired for was being too curt in email communications. I used to end my emails simply with just my name. So I added "Sincerely" to my email signature.
According to the dictionary, sincerely can mean "free of deceit, hypocrisy, or falseness; genuine; real." I wasn't in the least bit being real; I was being sarcastic and acting childishly. That sarcastic email signature stuck with me for almost a decade. Friday, I realized it was disingenuous even if others didn't know its origin and even if I'd forgotten its significance. I was being unintentional with the culture I was sharing.
Using Your Signature as a Culture Check
One change I'm making immediately as part of being intentional in the culture I want to create around me involves my signature. Not just here, but for business communications as well.
Why is this important? Because, if I can't sign "genuinely. eden!," to an email or virtually to a tweet, a Facebook update, and so on, I won't send or hit publish. I want to be intentional in my interactions (behaviors) with others and authentic to my values and beliefs.
Finding Your Life Word
I was getting ready to stand up and talk to an auditorium of undergraduate engineering students (I was standing in for a developer who wasn't able to make it). To say I was nervous was an understatement. I was supposed to give the developer's standard inspirational talk about choosing the right first job after graduation. I'd practiced his speech until I knew it by heart. It didn't feel right. I couldn't connect with the words, and knew the students would see through me. (Unlike him, I hadn't chosen the right job after school. I had to make a series of job choices before I had the right skills for the job I wanted.)
So on the plane ride to UIUC, I read The Brand You 50 searching for an insight I could use to pull an interesting thread from work history. My thread was being genuine. Explaining that not everyone gets the perfect job immediately after graduation, but that didn't mean it wasn't possible. Or that there wasn't value to the in-between jobs.
I stood up in front of a packed auditorium and opened up about what to do if your first job isn't that dream job you thought it would be. And I guided them from how I went from there to here (I was at my dream job).
While I stumbled on my one life word accidentally, nowadays there are more direct paths. The following books walk you through the process. The first and the last can be read start to finish in a night or on a two to three hour flight.
- One Word That Will Change Your Life, Expanded Edition(*affiliate link)
- Your One Word: The Powerful Secret to Creating a Business and Life That Matter(*affiliate link)
- Life Word: Discover Your One Word to Leave a Legacy(*affiliate link)
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.
DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, followed by (*affiliate link). I feature products that I own or that I am considering purchasing. I own all of the books included in this post. All opinions presented are my own.
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