3 Lessons from SHEday 2015

One of my favourite things about working with the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba is the opportunity for personal and professional growth. I have had the chance to attend some of our sessions and workshops, learning and tweeting all at the same time.
Yesterday I attended the much-anticipated, sold-out event, SHEDay. SHEDay’s slogan was “Share, Hear, Empower”. After listening to a variety of inspirational, powerful speakers who shared their stories of challenges and success, I felt energized and inspired. Here’s what I learned.

Brand Yourself
Barbara Bowes of Legacy Bowes Group had me chuckling to myself as she took us through her witty history of style. The Hat Strategy, as she called it, was developed when she was a school teacher. She decided she no longer cared about fitting in, and recognized that by being herself and wearing what she wanted, she was in turn, branding herself. Others began to know her as the hat lady, and this proved to be a significant marketing tool for her career.

As Barbara told her story, I was reminded of many other entrepreneurs who stay true to a specific uniform or aesthetic. Mark Zuckerberg, Zaha Hadid and Steve Jobs came to mind. As someone who is interested in fashion, the idea of maintaining an aesthetic can make you memorable and notorious is fascinating to me.

David Baker of Think Shift also touched on branding yourself when he suggested developing a leadership toolkit. What makes you different from other leaders? What are your personal mantras and beliefs when it comes to leading others? An example he gave from his own toolkit was, “I will always push for the best idea, not only my idea.” What I took away from this section of his presentation was that it is crucial to look inward to develop your own professional code of conduct. What immediately came to mind for me was, “Never overlook or underestimate introverts”, which brings me to my next lesson.

Leaders Come In All Forms
Sometimes it is hard to hear “be yourself” when speaking about leadership, when the typical prototype is a charismatic extrovert who can command a room. Beth Bell focused on this subject when she spoke on eminence. Eminence is what value any individual can bring to their job. Can you bring technical ability? Ability to sell? Knowledge of the competitive landscape? There are many ways to be a leader without fitting into the generic prototype.

Gail Stevens stated that there is a leader within everyone, and there is such thing as quiet leadership. She stressed that we need to acknowledge the different forms of leadership.

But can we really be like ourselves at work? Denise Zaporzan asked, “Do we need to be different at the board room table than how we are on the couch?” While there is certain professional conduct that should be always be followed, Denise spoke on how one should never compromise core values for a job.

Be Your Own Author
Denise told a story of being given an ultimatum: family, or career. She knew in an instant that she would never give up her family for any job, and moved on to apply to different companies. She made it clear in her interviews that she would need a work-life balance.

While I don’t have children yet, I am an advocate of work-life balance, which might be a bit taboo for someone my age. I believe that recognizing the value of work-life balance is crucial for real success in life. This comes back to being the author of your own story. David Baker stated the importance of living with intention and defining your own story, which resonated with me. At SHEDay, I took away that while we all know the traditional form of leadership, we can be who we want to be, work in an environment where we feel good, and contribute in our own way. We can define our own brand, leadership and work style and success!