We sent a series of 10 questions to four female entrepreneurs, each representing a different career path, background, and industry. Our goal was to learn from their individual experiences, benefit from their advice, and (ultimately) to greedily absorb their successful vibes as they discussed what makes a person professionally powerful.
Robyn Streisand, 54, Founder & CEO of The Mixx + Titanium Worldwide. Has worked for 25+ years to achieve her position. Currently manages 20 people at The Mixx and 17 agencies from Titanium Worldwide.
Brenda*, 32, a managing director in the field of architecture/design. Has worked for approximately 10 years to achieve her position. Currently manages 22 people.
CL*, 44, a director in the field of education. Has worked for 18 years to achieve her position. Currently manages 12 people.
Debra*, 32, Director of Catering in the hospitality industry. Has worked for 11 years to achieve her position. Manages 14 people.
*Names have been changed at the request of the interviewees.
What we learned:
1. Power means gaining the respect of your coworkers.
“Power is when the people you work with respect you and rely heavily on you for business decisions, because they know you can make the appropriate decisions and provide the necessary tools to excel, succeed and get the job done. When they need your opinion in any given situation in order to move forward, that’s when you become powerful.”
2. Don’t expect everyone to like you along the way.
“Work your hardest at every project that comes your way to prove yourself and not to come in feeling entitled. Nothing will get handed to you, you will and should always expect to have to earn people’s respect and to show why you should be the one running the show. Do not take things personally and realize you do not have to be friends with everyone. Not everyone will like you and you may not like everyone but you will need to learn to work with various personalities in order to make your program run well.”
3. Focus on yourself and learn to grow through feedback.
“Try to take care of yourself first, you need to be the best you in order to support your staff and make critical decisions. Also, expect criticism and accept criticism. Let it help guide your self evaluation to make you a better person.”
4. Understand the b-word.
“I think the word ‘bossy’ may sometimes get confused with attention to detail or wanting something done a specific way. I find myself correcting people to revise their actions or change their tactics because I know that it isn’t the most successful way or best course of action. When wanting to make sure you maximize profits, increase revenue, instill the best policies and procedures, and make appropriate business decisions, ensuring things are done perfectly is a vital role of your job. Being able to think that way is what makes you be that successful person. So perhaps I have been called bossy in style, but again I think of it as being a perfectionist and expecting that from others.”
5. Go after what you want.
“I define success as having freedom to make decisions on what business to pursue or not, having freedom to do things ‘my’ way, freedom to evolve and grow as a true entrepreneur.”
6. Don’t be afraid to shed a tear at moments of frustration…
“Yes, I have cried at work. But if you want to be taken seriously you shouldn’t…wait till you get home.”
7. …and don’t shrug it off as just a side-effect of being a female.
“I have probably cried at work, yes. But it was certainly not because I am a woman. It was just because something frustrated or annoyed me that much that I just needed a release.”
8. Sometimes sacrifices must be made on the path to success…
“There are always consequences. I’m sure that throughout my career, I have consciously chosen work over my partner, my family and friends as well. Never meant to hurt anyone, and never to get back at someone. But there are always situations where you have to make a choice in the moment, and it’s at someone else’s expense. Sucks.”
9. …but in some cases they may be worth it.
“I think for the first 8 years after college, I gave up my personal life completely. I did nothing but work for years following college, working my way up. And it was completely worth it. Having professional success gave me the confidence to do other things, outside of work even, contributing to a happier life with the right balance between my professional and personal sides.”
10. Know that not every choice you make will be greeted with warmth.
“Yes, (I have been called cold,) when I make decisions based on the needs of the program and college regardless of subordinates’ individual concerns.”
11. At some points in your career you may be treated differently as a woman.
“Earlier in my career it was very difficult to be taken seriously by clients and especially their contractors. But I don’t feel that way now. The owners of my company have always been very supportive of me and have given me the tools I need to the best of their ability.”
12. At some points in your career you may be treated differently for other reasons.
“Over the years, I have occasionally felt like I was treated differently because I was a manager at such a young age. I had plenty of experience, and led a team of employees that might include someone 20 years my senior. That is what was more uncomfortable for me.”
13. Above all, always remember to go with your instincts.
“Do business with integrity, stand for yourself, don’t be afraid to say no, and trust your gut.”