Article by Kyla Frye, Associate Director, WT Enterprise Center
Choose two or three channels to focus on
Being present is really important in today’s business climate when you are looking to expand your influence. However, trying to be in all places at once isn’t conducive and it can be time consuming. Focus on working smarter not harder. I would encourage you to pick one social media, one local professional organization, one national organization and one philanthropy. I find that’s a solid balance without feeling too stretched. Now, if you find yourself on the board of all those organizations at the same time you might not agree – balance is key. This combination adds value by being present, gaining value and creating connections.
Don’t underestimate the power of attendance. People want to feel valued just as much as you seek support from them. Attending events in the community and supporting different efforts shows your dedication to your community as well as peers, leaders and customers. It’s also a really great way to meet new people and get customer feedback on your services or product. You really never know who could be of value to you until you are presented with the opportunity to get to know them outside of the office or general meetings. It also gives you really great talking points when you know about people’s philanthropic efforts, hobbies and how they spend their time.
Interview the people you admire
If you find someone in life that really inspires you, you love their story or you want to emulate them, I encourage you to interview them! You can learn so much about a person from meeting with them face-to-face or even through a phone call. You can ask your burning questions, their advice, and even just a better understanding of their journey. Doing this helps you understand what it takes to get to the level you want to be at. I find when I have these conversations I always come away with at least two kernels of valuable insight that I would not have known had I not asked. You also never know what doors this could open for you. They might be just as interested in your success and want to be a mentor, make a connection for you or invest in what you’re doing. It might seem intimidating for some to ask this person to coffee or lunch but I promise you from experience, the time spent far outweighs the intimidation of the ask.
Have a mentor
Mentors are like guardian angels in some ways. They are there to encourage, ask the hard questions and sometimes keep you out of the ditches. A mentor is one you can completely trust with your hardships and you know will be there to celebrate the successes. I encourage frequent communication with mentors whether it’s a monthly coffee meetings, weekly call or even just frequent email/text conversations as you make pivots or headway. Finding a mentor isn’t always easy but they can be found a number of ways from leadership in your organization, membership networks, teachers, advisory board members, community connections, family, friends and church peers. The main thing about mentorship is the connection – can you trust this person, is the admiration and value mutual and do they have the time to invest in you? From my experience, I have made the best mentor relationships by being vulnerable in asking for help or advice. I have made a committed effort to communicate with them frequently and I tried to provide value back to them as I could. Even if that is through following through with the advice they have given – that shows respect for their time and input. Because of that, if I needed an introduction or their help on a project they are more than willing to contribute because they have trust in me as well!