The 2016 Energetic Women annual conference was held last week June 14 – 16 in Houston, Texas. The event was kicked off at the Houston Space Center by Kirsty Spraggon, who introduced all 435 of us to her mantra: Have Awe-dacity. If we are filled with awe and audacity “you don’t have to know, you just have to go.” Recognizing this is easier said (or typed, in this case) than done, but Kirsty’s advice was to feel the fear and do it anyway. As it turns out, fear and how to respond to it, was an underlying theme in most of the sessions. Raise your hand if you have sat something out because you were intimidated or afraid of it. Come on now, be honest….there are a few of you at your computers with your hands up. For the rest of you, get those hands in the air! We have all sat out on at least one (one hundred?) job application, activity, trip, etc., because of fear. Recognize that you are fearful, understand why, and move through it; and some of your greatest successes will be on the other side!
After Kirsty’s session we then had the entire Houston Space Center to ourselves to mingle, learn from the incredible exhibits, show off our skills (or lack, thereof) at the hands-on exhibits, and network with other energetic women and a handful of energetic men. A few of us were fortunate enough to have the one-and-only Erin Inman, a former NASA employee, along with us as we explored a Space Shuttle piggybacked to a Boeing 747. For the record, even after watching the informational videos and having Erin and other engineers explain to me how such a contraption could fly, I am still 100 percent bewildered. It should not fly. Period. But thanks, engineering! And thank you to the NASA staff who felt the fear and did it anyway!
Sue from CenterPoint Energy kicked off Wednesday’s session with a great reminder to Think Big. Really big. Like Texas big! And to take ownership of your own career: know what you want and do not be afraid (there is that “fear” word again…) to let people know what you are interested in and then ask for it!
While asking for what you want, be aware that, on average, women use 13,000 more words per day then men do. 13,000! Keynote speaker Judy Urquahart shared that tidbit of information. At first I was floored and then I thought about being a female non-engineer at an engineering firm – I’m probably closer to 20k more than some folks here! Well, in our 13k+ use of words, sometimes we say too much (guilty!) and our message gets diluted. In the instant messaging and Twitter age, we need to break information into concise messages, provide a few key options, and have a plan to guide our clients’ selection. It reminded me of a personal shopper, actually. Apply concise messaging when asking for what you want, and be direct and assertive.
Janel Anderson, although from Minnesota, has broken out from under “Minnesota Nice” (or Midwestern nice, as this Wisconsinite knows) and has made a career out of coaching the rest of us how to have difficult conversations in a meaningful, professional way. No beating around the bush! It costs companies, on average, $1500 for every difficult conversation that does not happen and we waste an average of eight hours ruminating over it. For those difficult discussions that need to happen but we may be a little afraid to confront the issue, Janel gave us tools: Do not ease into a difficult discussion (how terribly un-Midwestern!), as the other person will recognize this and may start getting defensive (wait, why is my supervisor asking me about my Saint Bernard? He hates dogs…..hmm, something is up). Professionally you should dive right into the deep end of the pool with your discussion mapped out. Use the “Fact, And…Share the Impact” model. Start with a fact. AND state another fact. AND throw in a third fact if it is appropriate (this may be the time to factually state the difficult issue). Then share the impact of the issue. AND THEN STOP TALKING! As the 80’s band Depeche Mode says “Enjoy the Silence.” But we rarely can help ourselves! We fear the silence. It is uncomfortable. This is where some of those extra 13,000 words find their way in, but it is imperative to stay silent and let the other person have time to think about what you just said.
While practicing being silent after the “Fact, And” model, it is time to start practicing silencing your “Itty Bitty Committee.” You know, that little set of voices you hear telling you the five reasons an idea will not work, even though when you came up with it you knew you were being brilliant and it was perfect? Yeah, we all have those from time-to-time (there is that pesky fear again!). Well, using some fun and interactive techniques that only extroverts could love (seriously, the introverts were wide-eyed looking for the nearest exit) we discussed why delegating tasks can lead to innovative outcomes, that perfectionism can stifle creativity, and that being a leader also involves some self-promotion. The next time you have to do a little shameless self-promotion, get a partner and a soundproof room and have that person exuberantly cheer you on as you practice so you can walk in for the real deal standing tall with a smile on your face instead of looking like a frightened rabbit. Especially you, introverts!
Adding simple, fun things to our routines helps us take ourselves lightly, so we can take work seriously -was another common theme. Here at Primera, we definitely take our work seriously, but we also have fun doing it. It builds camaraderie, fosters a team atmosphere, and helps create mental space so we can come up with those innovative ideas. Check out www.whitespaceatwork.com for more tips!
One last thing I took away from this conference: find your passion and incorporate it into your world. Now, here is the part that I am certain was aimed at me: finding your passion does not necessarily mean you should quit your job and run off to join the circus or become a roadie for your favorite band (steady income is a good thing). It does mean you should go to the circus and see your favorite band when they come to town. Find what you love and intermingle it with your career and personal time in a way that makes sense for your situation. Done!
Of course, the highlight for all of us from Primera was the Energetic Women’s Maverick Award, given to Primera’s very own Mary O’Toole, honoring her years of commitment to the industry, empowering tomorrow’s leaders by providing mentorship today, and her unwavering commitment to promoting women. If you want to know more about this award and how awesome Mary is check out our post here. An incredible array of people who have worked with Mary for years shared what we at Primera have been fortunate to be a part of: Mary is collaborative, innovative, forward thinking, and is always cognizant of bringing emerging leaders with her on her journey. If you can embody even a piece of this during your journey then you are on the right path! She embodies leadership and stewardship and we are lucky to have such a treasure at our side.
As a recap, here are my top eight takeaways from this past weekend’s Energetic Women Conference:
- Recognize that you are fearful, understand why, and move through it
- Take ownership of your career. Know what you want, do not be afraid to let people know what you are interested in, and then ask for it!
- Apply concise, direct and assertive messaging when asking for what you want
- Dive right into the deep end of the pool when having difficult conversations and use the “Fact, And…Share the Impact” model
- Practice silencing your “Itty Bitty Committee”
- Being a leader also involves some self-promotion
- Add simple, fun things to your routine so you can take yourself lightly, but take work seriously
- Find your passion and incorporate it into your world
If you ever have the opportunity to attend this informative yet motivating event, please don’t be the person sitting this one out! For more information about the Energetic Women Conference click here.