As we celebrate International Women’s Day today and women’s history all month, I get giddy when I think about the considerable amount of progress that we’ve made over the years. Things like Imelme Umana being elected as Harvard Law Review’s first black woman president. In their 130 year history, they have never had a black woman as president. There’s also Stephanie Johnson who recently became Delta Airlines first black  female Captain. And I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention one of my former clients, Loretta Cheeks who was recently recognized by Black Enterprise for the amazing work that she’s doing in the tech space specifically a STEM-based program that she created for our future generation of tech leaders. Loretta’s STEAM program was harnessed out of one of the leadership programs that I offer and seeing her vision come to life along with all of the other amazing work women are doing is what keeps me inspired to keep serving women in the best way that I know.

While we must continue to celebrate our wins and the wins of others, there is still so much work to do.   The VUCA environment that we’re currently in calls for us to be more intentional in how we show up. I can certainly feel a new level of energy and ownership rising up among women, because it’s clear that we can not afford to lay low or operate in a silo when it comes to doing our great work. There is a lot of chaos and controversy swirling around us but that means there is an equal amount, if not more opportunity for us to be an architect or catalyst for change. If you’re anything like me, it can be easy to get consumed and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of challenges that are before us. I try to manage that overwhelm by focusing on one BIG ROCK every quarter. This allows me to be deeply entrenched in one issue that will help move the needle forward in developing more women leaders in ways that matter most.

As I prepare to host my annual Women Powered Up Experience in July, I’ve thought long and hard about who and what absolutely needs to be present in this years event given the environment that we’re in. Along those same lines, I realize that it’s also imperative that I incorporate experiential exercises that will open the hearts and minds of attendees in a way that inspires them to rise up as leaders.  It’s important for me to be very intentional in how this years event is curated, because it can be so easy to get caught up in the race to do more and that’s not my intention at all. In fact, a core part of our conversation will be around embracing your power to slow down in order to do more. With that in mind, below are five tips that I feel will help you powerfully lead and succeed in 2017:

  1. Get Clear on Your Why – This is nothing new as we’ve all heard it before and it became wildly popular when Simon Sinek brought his best-selling book Start With Why to the masses several years ago. It’s a simple concept but sometimes hard to grasp in a way that feels good and authentic. If you’re clear about your why, this is the time to reconnect with it in a very intimate way and ask yourself what exactly have I done that impacts my Why in a way that truly makes a difference. Doing this gives you the clarity you need to know what your next steps need to be.
  2. Know Where You Stand, Stand There  & Advocate for It– If you’re used to laying low, sitting on the sidelines and having not voicing your opinion, this has to change if you’re really committed to seeing change. Think about everything that’s happening around you and what ONE issue is so important to you that you’re willing to stand out on the skinny branch alone to support it. A few questions to help you unpack where you stand:
    1. What is it about that issue that causes you to pause?
    2. What emotional energy comes up for you when you think about that issue and why?
    3. What’s one small thing you can do today to start initiating change around that issue?
    4. Who can you talk to for insight and guidance around your next steps.
    5. If absolutely nothing comes to mind for you, you are asleep at the wheel and I’d suggest you take a personal weekend retreat with no distractions so that you can get clear.
  3. Use Your Voice Wisely – In the age of social media stardom where the more obnoxious you are, the more attention you get, you must be very thoughtful around what you’re saying that will rise above the noise and have people lean in and pay attention. This requires you to understand what matters most to the people you care about including their aspirations, challenges, concerns and secret fears. The only way to authentically do this is through a container of intimacy where you’re connecting with people in much more meaningful ways.  Once you’re clear on this, focus your energy on bringing fresh new insights to their awareness and educating them in ways their unaccustomed to. This will serve them at deeper and higher level while further solidifying your credibility and your relationship.
  4. Find Your Community & Lean In – One of my favorite personal mantras is ‘Success doesn’t happen in a silo but it does start with you.’ Allow that to sink in knowing that while you may have been given the Vision, you’ll need others to help you carry out. Not only will you need others to help carry it out, but you need a community that you can support and be supported. Your community may be large or it may be an intimate group of like-minded people who have come together after having a direct and purposeful conversation around what each person needs and how you’re going to support one another. Get agreement around what ‘support’ means so that expectations are level-set from the beginning.
  5. Embrace Your Pace – This is probably the most important thing that you can do as you move forward in doing your work. If I’ve learned nothing else from suffering two strokes is that self-care is essential. Don’t get caught up in the comparison loop feeling like you’ve got to keep up with everyone else.  I know this can sometimes be a lot easier said than done as I was recently put to the test when having to decide whether to move the date of my event which typically happens during Women’s History Month in March. It was a test of my commitment to the people who had already registered, the speakers who had committed to partnering with me and quite frankly my ego around what would people think about me changing the date.  Ultimately, the decision to move it to July was easy for personal reasons, but I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that all of those thoughts went through my head as I was making phone calls and sending emails.  Fortunately, we only had one registrant and one speaker have to cancel due a scheduling conflict BUT we also gained five new registrants due to the date change. So my decision to embrace my pace was a win and I want to encourage you to do the same as you decide how best to use your time. Know that staying in front of the curve and keeping up require two different levels of energy and as long as you’re committed to #3, everything you do and every decision you make will be the perfect one for you!

I’d love to hear from you in the comments around your thoughts and how you’re planning to Power Up in 2017.