Spring always seems to be full of celebratory events, and the month of May is no different.
During this month, we not only officially celebrate Victoria Day on May 19, we also celebrate Mother's Day, the YMCA-YWCA Women of Distinction Awards and the Women Business Owners Entrepreneur of the Year award among a flurry of many other important events.
As a female business owner for many years, I'm pleased to see women business owners are finally being seen as key contributors to the small- and medium-size enterprise sector (SME) in Canada. Women business owners play a key role in Canada's wealth and job creation.
In addition, the number of women leaders at the executive table of larger corporations is expanding. For instance, Sandra Edie, Scotiabank district banking manager, works closely with her vice-president and 26 branch teams across Manitoba and northwest Ontario.
Over her 30-year career, she had the courage and insight to accept risk and opportunity to advance her career. In fact, Edie feels her career has consisted of a number of mini-careers through which she gained knowledge at each opportunity.
For her, one of the most important lessons was the importance of taking personal control of her career. Not only that, she says it's important to recognize "every day is a job interview," and women in particular need to have the courage to reach for higher goals.
Another important lesson for Edie was the importance of giving back, and this has placed her front and centre among Scotiabank women in a leadership program where she acts as mentor and coach to women. As a senior leader, she encourages the regional hubs to engage in education, networking and community involvement as career-development initiatives.
As with many women, including me, earlier in our careers, mentorship and coaching were not part of our development. Coaching was reserved for those who were designated high performers and/or individuals who needed fixing -- or else. Thankfully, the view on coaching and mentoring has changed for the better.
Edie, for instance, did not have access to a mentor early in her career, but did have male and female role models. As she progressed to higher levels, she was assigned a personal coach who helped her make her personal brand known through connections within her organization, such as participating in executive meet-and-greets. Today, she ensures each employee within her business unit has a coaching relationship with their direct supervisor.
Arlene Dickinson, one of the Canada's best known, high-profile and powerful business leaders, and a panellist on the CBC TV program Dragons' Den, is Scotiabank's small-business champion, providing advice and mentorship to enterprises.
In town recently to speak to Scotiabank women in a leadership group, Dickinson said she too did not have a mentor in the early stages of her life and career, so today, she advocates for mentoring and coaching as a critical part of leadership development, particularly for women. Dickinson feels so strongly about helping others, she has launched a new business called Youinc.com. This website provides content, opportunities for collaboration, storytelling and even an ask-the-expert capability.
One of Dickinson's key messages in her Winnipeg presentation was the importance of developing not only a personal brand, but a brand that integrates honesty, integrity and authenticity. In her view, authenticity is critical for building trust. She assured listeners authenticity is not a one-time effort, but must be a consistent part of one's life in order for people to believe in and do business with you.
Sandra Edie says Dickinson's concept of authenticity also applies to larger corporations, especially customer-service-oriented businesses such as Scotiabank. In her view, authenticity must be practised with both staff and customers to create the type of "followership" leaders need for success. To Edie, authenticity is critical to getting on the short list for a promotion, negotiating a business deal and/or providing financial-planning advice.
In my view, another of Dickinson's key messages from her speech and her books is the importance of reciprocity. Whatever your service and/or product, leaders must think about what benefits the client -- in other words, what's in it for them in the short and long term. If a client fails to feel the reciprocity of a true win-win relationship, they will slowly move away from you because the feeling of being taken will linger and eat away at their trust in you.
Another of Dickinson's key messages is the importance of being not only a good listener, but an intense listener. This means no clever questioning and no mentioning of your own needs, just pure listening with genuine interest. It means watching the body language, the pitch and tone of the voice and being sensitive to where the individual is at. Focus, focus, focus.
Dickinson and Edie emphasize that building a personal brand is exactly that -- it's personal. In other words, you can't outsource your brand; you need to develop it yourself. This requires understanding yourself, what you stand for, what you are passionate about, then developing consistency around a strong moral fibre of honesty, integrity, authenticity and reciprocity.
Manitoba is blessed with a number of women leaders in corporations and small business. I am confident the winners of each of the award ceremonies this month will exhibit those qualities demonstrated by leaders such as Sandra Edie, Scotiabank district banking manager, and Arlene Dickinson, star of Dragons' Den and CEO of Ventures Communication, YouInc.com.
-- sources: interviews with Sandra Edie and Arlene Dickinson, and the books All In and Persuasion.
Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP, M.Ed., is president of Legacy Bowes Group and Career Partners International, Manitoba.