Brilliant as Ever

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It's true: 2020 has been a strange year.

But through it all, so many leaders and changemakers in West Michigan are powering forward, forming new ideas, and helping out where they can. West Michigan Woman talked with some of our Brilliance Awards finalists about mentorship, connecting with others, growing beyond where you are, and more.

What advice do you have for others looking to connect with people who share similar passions?

"Get involved in professional member organization such as Inforum; this will allow you the opportunity to connect with likeminded people. Utilize social media to follow organizations that interest you and connect with their employees. In the past, we have connected with others in face-to-face meetings or networking events. However, in today's environment, we must be creative in how we connect by utilizing web conferencing platforms such as Zoom, WebEx, and Microsoft Teams."

—Becky Puckett-Wood, Brilliant Connector Finalist
Vice President, Corporate & Member Engagement, Inforum Michigan

"Learn how to make the connection. This is a skill I find is most important. I have realized many do not know how to give a referral or connection. If you say you are going to connect someone, do it. I have people say they are going to connect with so-and-so, and I 'm still waiting. What that does for me, is I realize that person forgot about me, doesn't follow through, or is too busy. You NEVER want to be too busy! Connect in their form of communication. If they text, send a group text; if they email, then use that. Ask each person if they mind—nobody likes surprises. I will have a conversation with both people, then my message is short and sweet. Follow up to see how the connection went. Occasionally, someone did not follow through and you need to know that, or your connection was not what they needed and you have an opportunity to help. I just like to hear success stories—that is my high, knowing I helped someone. Know it's going to take time out of your day and it needs to be an unselfish act."

—Michelle Gordon, Brilliant Connector Finalist
REALTOR®/Associate Broker/Owner, Great Properties By - The Gordon Group

What qualities make a good mentor?

"A good mentor is someone who makes time to educate, sharing experiences and real-life or real-world examples of what they are mentoring someone for. In our agency, we do a lot of website design and development, as well as search engine marketing—so mentoring staff, as well as educating clients, is a big part of my day-to-day work. Explaining things and then making sure you dig a little deeper to make sure the person understands what you explain. I also feel strongly that mentors make time for others. From being a 'Big Sister' and exchange student Host Mom as well as having worked with several interns and younger employees, making time for the extra work is part of the deal. Certainly not always convenient when running a business, but the time you spend with others to share stories, show them how things work, and just spending time together to talk and learn more about each other are the moments that impact people more than we know."

—Rebecca Dutcher, Brilliant Mentor Finalist
President & Founder, Red66 Marketing

How do you respond to criticism?

"When I was younger, criticism was the end of the world. Especially when it came to cooking and the food I was presenting to people. It's something that you really put your whole heart into, so when someone is critical, it hurts and there have been plenty of tears. But I told myself I needed to get over it, it wasn't anything personal, and that it was only going to make me better. Criticism just helps you grow and it's part of the learning process. If you do not get that critical feedback, you will never grow and become better."

Jennifer Fillenworth, Brilliant Emerging Leader Finalist
Personal Chef & Registered Dietitian, Jenny with the Good Eats + Grand Rapids Community College

Who is the best mentor you've ever had and why?

"The best mentor I have ever had happens to be a man named Jim Davis—a world-class radio broadcaster—who understood that women are very important to broadcasting. At a time when women were not taken very seriously, he listened to me and recognized exactly what I could offer and was very patient and taught me everything I know about radio—from technical to storytelling to advertising. And he made it so I could then turn around and give this gift to broadcasters behind me. This was at a time when there were really not many women in radio."

Michelle McKormick, Brilliant Mentor Finalist
Morning Show Host, Cumulus Media

When someone feels passionate about social change, what helps them stay motivated and not give up?

"I believe one of the most important things that can keep a social change agent motivated is to surround yourself with people who catch your vision for change. Surrounding yourself with people who will speak life—i.e., positivity—and encourage the things you are passionate about can keep you stay motivated and moving towards your end goal. It is also important to surround yourself with people who will push you outside of your comfort zone and who will challenge you in love to reach your full potential. We are most impactful when we move beyond our comfort zone and we need people in our corner who will help promote this growth. Another thing that can help is to be willing to extend grace to yourself if things do not go as planned. Failure is not final! In fact, viewing 'failure' as an opportunity to learn and revamp your way of approaching a problem or goal can help you as you move forward. When attempting to create social change, we must not let past setbacks impact what I like to call our 'next time.' In essence, do not let your past failures or setback stop you from having a next time ... the next time you work to create societal change."

Charmeka Newton, Brilliant Social Change Agent Finalist
Psychologist, Pine Rest Mental Health Services

Edited by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for West Michigan Woman.


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