Evelyn Dilsaver, former President & CEO, Charles Schwab Investment Management, Board Member of Aeropostale, Tempur-pedic In'l, Blue Shield of California, High Mark Funds, Russell ETFs, gave the Keynote at the U.S. FWN100™ awards gala on October 14, 2011 at the Stanford Court Renaissance San Francisco Hotel.
I am honored to accept this award on behalf of all the fabulous women being recognized tonight. Marily and her team, the board of directors of FWN, are to be applauded for their vision and creativity in bringing together women who can mentor and support our next generation of leaders.
You might have questions such as: What does it mean to be an influencer and how does one succeed and become one? What common traits do we share that allow us to be leaders and influencers in our respective fields?
Let’s start with a definition: To be an influencer is one whose actions and opinions strongly change the course of events. Some do it because of the high position they are in, like our honoree Eleanor Valentin, Rear Admiral with the U. S. Navy, some through the passion of their ideas, like Angel Velasco-Shaw, who is a filmmaker, educator and General Manager of The Center for Global Art and Thought.
In today’s world of instant connection, almost anyone can be an influencer. And all of you can be influencers in the world or company in which you operate.
I asked our honorees their top strategies for succeeding and becoming influential. Like David Letterman, I’ve compiled the top ten. That way, it will be short enough to keep your attention and if you get bored, you’ll know exactly how much longer this speech will last!
1. Knowledge and competence
Knowledge is different than competence. You could be knowledgeable about a subject, but have no idea how to make it happen. Competence is knowing how to use your knowledge. Leaders have both. Leaders continue to gain knowledge and are constant learners and listeners. And they are willing to share their knowledge and skills with others.
2. Have an opinion and voice it
We all have informed opinions and have learned to voice them in a manner that is constructive, solves problems, and tells a story that influences others to believe in our cause, product or idea. We believe in ourselves and that confidence is evident and inspires others to believe.
3. Hire smarter people, build a team and let them go
While we may have started out as individual contributors, along the way we learned to lead a team. We hire people smarter than us, build a highly functioning team with a common goal or mission and get out of their way so they could do great things. We use our gifts to help others in the team grow and succeed.
4. Have a mentor but please your boss
Some of us may have had a mentor or many of them and our mentor may have been our boss. Importantly, we know that to be promoted, we had to make sure our boss was successful. Sometimes they knew what we did to help them and sometimes they didn’t. I describe that as “The Wonder Bra Job” or invisible means of support.
5. Take risks
We all took risks. It might have been the job or big project that no one else wanted, traveling to other cities or countries and being away from family, moving from a staff position to one with responsibility for bringing in the sales or bottom line profit. Also, we knew when it was time to move and take on a new adventure.
6. Create a win-win situation
True leaders are respected for creating win-win situations. The “I win, you lose attitude” has no place. Sure, some make it to the top, but they are transitory and don’t leave lasting legacies. Influencers bring great ideas and the right people together.
7. Show up, be present, attitude is everything
We show up on the job and not on Filpino time! We come fully prepared, with an excellent attitude, and a great sense of humor.
8. Be passionate
Would you follow someone who wasn’t passionate about what they did? We are all passionate about our job, our product, our idea and we excite others around us to embrace and share in that passion. Our honorees are passionate and persistent!
9. Luck. Where competence and timing meet.
A few people are truly lucky in life. But I believe that many of us created our own luck by applying our knowledge, being observant to opportunities and willing to take a risk when we saw that opportunity.
Finally, and most importantly, we had parents who pushed us, created high expectations, told us we were going to college and in the case of mine, didn’t allow me to date until I knew how to cook for the entire family! We have husbands, significant others, kids, friends, and colleagues who support us, cheer us on, pick us up when we we’re down, tell us the truth even if we don’t want to hear it … we built trusted relationships and networks that sustained us then and continue to do so today.
That’s the top ten. I know that tomorrow, there will be a day full of mentoring and opportunities to connect. My hope and expectation is that many of you in the audience today will be sharing this podium in the years to come. I want to be in the audience applauding you when that happens.