Throughout my 23-year career, I have embraced diversity, both from an ethnic and gender perspective. As a Native American Indian female of the Ho-Chunk Nation Tribe and the first female area managing partner in my firm, I know first-hand the importance, as well as the challenges, of diversity. Diversity is not about being different; it’s about being dynamic.
One of the key messages I try to convey to young professionals is that throughout their careers, they will encounter various types of thinking and management styles. Having the skills to work with all types of people is a powerful asset, and one that should be consciously developed. I believe the most successful people in any organization are those that understand that there is a far greater power in diverse thought.
Mentoring is one way to understand how other people think. The key to broadening your perspective is choosing mentors who have “dissimilar” backgrounds, educations and experiences. Women should not look solely to other women for mentoring, since it can be very educational to see things from men’s eyes. I personally have had mentors who have had very different operating styles than I, but I found it very enlightening to learn their perspective, as I knew I would
encounter those different personalities throughout my career and life.
I also believe that taking risks is a critical component to both professional and personal growth. It is very important, however, not to confuse taking risks with saying yes to everything—one needs to be strategic and selective. Young professionals should also expect to fail, and likely more than once. However, one WILL learn from any missteps; that I can guarantee.
To become a leader, you must understand that there is an inherent responsibility in helping others succeed. Developing a team is essential to success. Sharing and giving credit is equally important to ‘tooting your own horn.’ Criticizing in private and praising in public go hand in hand with building trust within the team.
And lastly, never compromise your principles in life, especially outside of work. Ask yourself, “What are the possibilities?” and be optimistic. Don’t dwell on why things are the way they are—be positive and create change.
A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson has always stayed with me and grounded me: “The years teach much which the days never know.” Something to keep in mind.