Editor's note: United Way's Emerging Leaders had the pleasure of hearing from Angela Braly at their bi-monthly professional development lunch. Read on for Katie Hammer's recap of the event and summary of Angela's presentation.
Know who you are
This theory is simple. You have to know who you are, or everyone else will have the opportunity to tell you who you should be. For Angela, knowing who she is is reflected in three simple principles: First, do the right thing. Second, always do it for the customer. Finally, do it right the first time. Angela believes that these principles are of the utmost importance. The path that you should choose, the decisions to make, might not always be clear. However, if you know that you are acting in an effort to do the right thing, you can rest assured that you will end up at the right outcome.
Take the biggest risk that you can. Oftentimes, we stay in a seemingly secure spot, thinking that we are on the right track, knowing that we are comfortable. The reality is that you might be missing out on a great opportunity by playing it safe. Angela suggests that you find the biggest, messiest risk you can and go for it. For women, she talked about the “double bind” – how do you combat the perception that women are less likely to take risks? Angela says start small, put yourself out there a little more than you are comfortable doing. Push yourself to take small, calculated risks until you are ready to make the leap on a larger one.
For Angela, working as a waitress turned out to be a life-changing lesson. That job taught her what serving really meant and led her to hold service of others as a top priority as she progressed through her career. Her advice? Flip the pyramid. Serve those who work with you and for you. Make sure you are serving your boss and your customers. Providing those around you with what they need (skills, training and information) to serve others will ensure everyone’s success. Specifically, Angela says that she always begins the week with the intent to serve. Starting the week in that mindset ensures that she does the best job possible.
Angela then went on to answer a few of our questions:
When do you know that the risk is one to take?
When you are faced with making a decision regarding a risky situation, take stock. Are you trying to talk yourself out of it because it makes you uncomfortable? Is it because of fear? If so, work backwards. Assume that the risk will be worth it and make note of possible outcomes. Look honestly at any negatives. Then go with your gut.
For women, specifically, how do you balance being modest with being confident and talking up your skills?
Be aware of the “double bind.” Formerly called the glass ceiling, the double bind refers to the constant balance that women must keep. You can’t be too aggressive; you can’t be too modest. It’s a constant battle. Angela suggests that it’s not always about the large battles, but often about facing and effectively handling small challenges along the way. Women, be aware that you have a narrower walk to take, but always be yourself. Don’t worry too much about being too aggressive, too shy – just be genuine. Be who you are, be secure in your skills and go forward confident. When you are yourself, while remaining aware of bias, of any issues, you will enjoy your job and your career more.
How do you balance work and family?
It helps to have a great partner and, ultimately, you have to make choices. Acknowledge that there is no way to balance everything that you’ll want to do. Realize that every choice will have a consequence. Most importantly, make a commitment to “be here now.” When you are at work, be totally at work. When you are home, be totally at home. Everything is a trade-off, and everyone has
to find the balance that is best for them.
Have you had a mentor who has helped you in your career?
Yes! Having a mentor is crucial to learning new career lessons, getting advice and moving yourself forward. Angela credits her mentor with showing her how important philanthropy can be to your career and what you are remembered for. She encourages young professionals to think outside the box when it comes to finding a mentor. There won’t be one magical mentor in your life, and the most impactful relationships may not be with a person who is a formal mentor. Take the initiative to staff your own mentor team. Pick people whom you admire, even if you just admire them for their philanthropic service or the way they interact with their family. Realize that sponsors within your organization can also be very helpful. Bottom line, look around you for people with skills you want to strengthen and reach out. Odds are, they would love to help.
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--Katie Hammer, senior manager, donor relations, United Way of Central Indiana