I am doing a series of posts based on the 7×7 Mentoring Salon I did for SMW in February. For this session I had seven up-and-coming professionals / entrepreneurs pose a question to seven experienced entrepreneurs and leaders. Over the next few weeks I will share the seven questions asked and the mentors answers. Here is Part 2 of Molly’s question on what skills you need to focus on in your twenties to help you become a leader (see the first part here).
Molly Ford is the founder of SmartPrettyandAwkward.com, a lifestyle website that offers advice on how to be smarter, how to be prettier and how to be less awkward. It started as a blog several years ago and has grown into a vital platform regularly featured in national press. Molly also works as a digital marketing associate for a large media entertainment company and has a syndicated column that appears in Parade. Her goal is to grow the concept of Smart, Pretty and Awkward beyond a website. Her question towards building this future:
What is the best leadership capability that I should work on developing early in my career?
A4: Own the numbers.
If you want to build a business that grows and has great employees, then you have three jobs as the CEO. The first is to develop and communicate the vision to all stakeholders. You have to get comfortable communicating your vision in a public context as well as an individual context. The second job is to hire the best people. It’s a cliché but you always want to hire people better than you — people that can take your job. You never want to lose the, “I hired the best person for the job at that point in time” mindset. The third job is to ensure, particularly the startup case, that the company never runs out of money. That means raising money and keeping the company liquid. At the risk of stereotyping, I think women entrepreneurs can have a bit of a problem with that. Make sure that you “own the numbers” of your business. Get comfortable with them. The old saying is true … it’s not rocket science. Basically a 12-year old kid could do the numbers, particularly in the early stages, so don’t be frightened of them. Learn to communicate the “oh nos” in a positive way. If you do these three things well, you’ll win. – Adam Quinton, Chief Financial Officer at Nopsec
A5. Listen twice as much as you speak
This may be very simplistic advice but it has helped me so much, especially as our world gets increasingly noisy with so much information thrown at us. I tend to live by this: listen twice as much as you speak. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Remembering this will help you with all the people around you…with your team, with your customers and with your stakeholders. Listening to people leads to trust if you really do listen to them and not just hear them. — Susan McPherson, founder and CEO, McPherson Strategies
A6. Listen to yourself.
A really important person to listen to is yourself. One of my favorite definitions of leadership comes from Marshal Ganz. He says that leadership is taking responsibility for enabling others to achieve a shared purpose in the face of uncertainty. I found that when I’ve been challenged to get a team to achieve a shared purpose, it was because they didn’t trust me. And they didn’t trust me because I wasn’t fully aligned on my own purpose. You need to have your actions, your words, your thoughts and your vision aligned. That allows you to not have to spend so much energy reconciling what to do. It’s an important part of being centered and being a great leader. — Tiffany Dufu, Chief Leadership Officer, Levo League