What We’ve Learned About Success from West Michigan Leaders

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At Inforum, we have many opportunities to see many great leaders in action in pursuit of our vision of a culture that embraces women leading and succeeding.

And the importance of effective leadership has never been more important.

In our third podcast season, titled "Meet Them," we are conversing with pairs of high-level and rising professionals—female and male—who give their perspectives on careers and leadership. Our goal is to uncover ways we all can learn and succeed from each other. Here are a few highlights:

Network building:

Timothy Williams, vice president, diversity & inclusion, Meijer; and Hanna Johnson, Consumables Own brand lead, Meijer, emphasize the importance of being a constant learner and being open to different situations and environments. Be curious—ask questions. You don't know when you may need someone to lean on. Networking is key to that process.

"Networking is a subset of a broader competency," Williams told us. "You never know where life is going to take you—things change constantly ... and (how I changed) is a function of who I met, what people told me, and what I learned."

Johnson added, "It's something you don't see the benefit of until later on—it's kind of like your health. You eat healthy, you get your exercise, you drink your water, and in future years you won't have as many problems. ... As much as you can set yourself up for success in the beginning, networks can help you set yourself up."

Allyship and advocacy:

Giving and receiving are both important.

Shoran Reid Williams, general counsel and chief regulatory counsel, Fluresh, began her career in Atlanta and credits a relationship with two senior attorneys there—Twanda Turner-Hawkins and Karen St. Amand —who took her to lunch, talked to her about the process of practicing law and directed her to books that would help her learn to hone her skills and think through problems.

"It was completely unsolicited. They were immeasurably important in helping me to be comfortable in the practice of law," Reid Williams said.

Over a decade-plus, they advised her—about balance when she became engaged, and again when she had a baby.

"They never did not have time for me. .... I have tried ever since to pass along that kind of openness that I have received."

Joslin Monahan, an attorney and partner, Miller Johnson, says she missed having a female mentor earlier in her career, but meeting Shoran has made a difference.

"Being a working female person is different than being a working male person" because of the different gender expectations for spouses and children. "Meeting Shoran, whose kids and marriage are older, was enormously helpful," Monahan said.

How to learn more:

Our podcasts are designed on helping you learn more about how to succeed in your career and tips and advice for how to have a good mindset as a leader and as a learner.

Our current series, in addition to the topics above, also covers sponsorship, work/life blend, and mentorship. You can also hear from female and male leaders in our "Meet Her" and "Meet Him" podcast series.

Some quick highlights from those:

  • Be a good listener. Sandra Gaddy, CEO of the Women's Resource Center, said that although she's worked hard over time to listen well, she has found it important to focus even harder on being fully present during the pandemic to understand and guide her team. It's important to get it right, she says, not so important to "be right."

  • Persevere. Catherine Behrenbrinker, founder and CEO of Symplicity Communications, believes it's important to understand your "fail forward" moments so you can learn and move forward to future success.

  • Encourage creative thinking. Lynnette Collins, director of learning and development, Steelcase, told us it's important to encourage creative thinking by challenging assumptions.

    "It's so powerful, but it requires a sense of safety and being able to think differently," she said, noting that leaders need to know when to alter their preferred style of communication. "In times of high stress and high pressure, my default is to become more direct. ... However, this is when people need more context and time to breathe. How you make people feel matters."

  • Understand the responsibilities of leadership. Brian Kraus, Amway's chief supply chain officer, emphasizes that transitioning to a leadership position is difficult. He offers three pieces of advice: Get used to making mistakes. Stay confident—somebody saw potential for the future in you. And it's no longer about you, it's about lifting others up and deriving satisfaction from how you make others successful than from what you individually drive.

Becky Puckett-Wood is vice president of corporate and member engagement for Inforum. To see our full lineup of podcasts, visit inforummichigan.org/podcasts. To learn more about us, including membership, our leadership development programs, industry groups, and other offerings, contact Becky at [email protected].

Courtesy of Inforum.


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