Freddie. Leaders, Networks, Marketing and Differentiation

posted July 17th, 2009 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

I asked Freddie to think of the people she considers to be leaders and the qualities she associates with them and her view of their impact on the world and the people around them. She said her first thought about leaders is that she loves true leaders but hates “politicians”. She recalled the president at her company who was born in Britain and brought up in Geneva who now lives in L.A. He is semi-retired today, however, Freddie says when he was working full time, he was truly inspirational; a voracious reader with vast knowledge of everything and an unmatched attention to detail. Given his overall knowledge and his phenomenal memory, he could put people in their places if they needed to be but never harshly, never without complete class. When you work with a bunch of prima donna portfolio managers, it is important to have someone who commands respect and he did so and without any pretension. He was the kind of person that when he came to the Toronto office or to any office for that matter, he would stop and say hi to absolutely everybody individually. He would address assistants by their first names or would introduce himself to them. She doesn’t think there is a single person in the organization who doesn’t respect him. In Freddie’s opinion, he exhibited real leadership.

She says other leadership traits include being a visionary. She says she can’t really think of a public figure that resonates with her from this perspective. However, she thinks to some extent her boss/mentor at the securities firm was a leader, in terms of having vision, although not everyone would agree with her. On the other hand, she says he was not always a good judge of people and as a result his choice of people was questionable at times.

She says Barak Obama is someone she has high aspirations for and hopes to learn from in terms of leadership. She says we have already learned from him the impact of charisma, communication style and empathy. Freddie thinks he is going to be a great leader and someone to watch and look up to.

I asked Freddie to think of the people she did not consider to be leaders and the qualities she associates with them and their impact on the world and the people around them. She said she didn’t know that there was anyone specifically that she could isolate from this perspective, except possibly Stephen Harper. And she felt she would simply be talking about her political preferences in any discussion of him.

She did say that poor leaders are those that put themselves before the people that they work for or represent. She says the sad thing is she cannot cite many examples of great CEOs because she thinks too often in recent years CEOs have put themselves ahead of their employees and their shareholders. She says her criticism is not directed at any specific individual but people who are selfish as leaders. She thinks there are too many people in positions of power who lack vision and empathy and in her mind a good leader must have both.

I asked Freddie to think of the people she had the greatest difficulty with and how she would characterize them or describe their impact. As a straight shooter herself, she says she tends to relate to people of the same ilk. She says she struggles with people of little substance or those who are full of fluff; she simply doesn’t trust what she sees with them. She thinks she generally starts by trusting everybody and endeavouring to like everybody. However, she doesn’t connect well with “social climbers”. She says she learned at an early age to shed relationships she felt were not worth the effort. She says she is drawn to people who have a cause; people who want to make a difference.

I asked Freddie about the best advice she had ever been given and what advice she would pass along to a young woman. She says in terms of the best advice she had received it would be the advice she received in terms of using information to generate business ideas and managing your boss. She thinks that most of us don’t know that we should be managing our bosses and if we all knew that going in we would approach things differently. She thinks women tend to be told what to do, put their heads down and execute their work fabulously but unlike their male counterparts they don’t know how to get the recognition of their boss and or how to perform in front of their bosses, whereas if they were managing the process and communication with their boss they might benefit from greater recognition. Freddie thinks women tend to under promise and over deliver whereas men tend to over promise and under deliver and she thinks this could be fixed with greater communication.

She says she also thinks that it’s essentially no different than what you have to do if you’re in a sales position but she thinks many young women don’t think enough about how to market themselves. She says: “The advice I would give to anyone in a career is to work hard, let management know you are working hard and don’t forget to make friends! She says you must manage your boss and you also need to network and market yourself within the company, outside the company and within the industry, including joining relevant associations. She thinks there is a big marketing element to a career that a lot of women are unaware of or may find intimidating. Women should take their lead from men and be better at networking.

Freddie says she is a little disappointed with organizations like Women in Capital Markets because she thinks they take away some of the onus on women to network. In her mind, women join Women in Capital Markets and think they are doing all of the personal networking and marketing required. In her mind, they appear to limit their networking efforts to targeting female members of Women in Capital Markets and she is not sure they make additional efforts outside of this association, either within or outside their own organizations. She doesn’t believe this serves them well because she believes that marketing yourself is extremely important and many women don’t know it or how to do it and she doesn’t believe that joining one organization whose membership is comprised of like individuals is anywhere near enough.

The other advice she would say to women starting off their career goes back to something she learned early on which is that you have to dress the part. She says when she was working at the securities firm on the desk in Montreal she made friends there and when she was promoted and was moved to the Toronto office in a lead global position which would entail international travel and her first trip to Tokyo was planned, one of her colleagues in Montreal suggested he take Freddie shopping for new clothes. He explained that in Tokyo in particular, she needed to dress as a manager and he helped her pick out a few suits and scarves. She says she knows most people would take offence at this because it implied this person would have to teach her how to dress but she wasn’t offended; she was grateful. This colleague’s father had spent his career at a large Quebec company and had travelled to places like Tokyo and he knew that the way you dress determines whether the people you are seeing are going to take you seriously. He knew it was important to dress the part and Freddie thought it was a very valuable lesson and it changed the way she dressed. She thinks dressing the part is important for both men and women, however, most men learn this lesson early on from their fathers. For women, she thinks it’s a little different.

The other thing that she would advise everybody to do is to differentiate yourself. She says: “Differentiate yourself everywhere you go. In a world where people are highly educated, dress the same and drive similar cars, “strive to be different”. Differentiate your firm, your offering and yourself from your colleagues. It doesn’t mean that you’re stepping on anybody; it’s what makes you different. Why should your boss pay you differently than everyone else? Make sure they know you are special. I’ve always managed my bosses by letting them know what I have done which has differentiated our firm and ultimately benefitted it and I believe this has always been reflected in my compensation. I like being able to impact the way I am compensated. I am aware that I am sending a message about why I should be paid more than anybody else. When I’m out selling and I’m selling our firm, I’m also selling me. Why should someone want to talk to me? Why should someone want to deal with me? It’s all about differentiation and so I would recommend to anybody to differentiate themselves in whatever way they can and that’s where your personality comes out and that’s where you also build your confidence and I also think that is what leads to success because people who differentiate themselves, differentiate their offering, ultimately get selected and singled out and those are successful people. That would be my advice.”

I asked Freddie whether she would advise a young woman to establish alliances with other women at their own firm and elsewhere. And she said she would encourage her to establish alliances with as many women as she possibly can. She says she thinks it’s easy and natural to establish relationships with women. She says at the securities firm, she doesn’t think she ever established alliances with women until one woman organized a canoe trip for 18 women at the firm and that was her first exposure to spending time with a group of women and it was simply fantastic. She says ironically of the 18 women she thinks there is only one of them left at the firm today but they formed such a tremendous bond that she thinks that she could probably pick up where she left off with any one of those 18 women at any time. She thinks that women don’t do enough of that and she thinks it is super, super, super positive. She thinks that women probably don’t take enough time to do that the way men do. She would just encourage people to establish a network at work, period. She thinks it’s just so important and she can think of many people she knows today from her various previous jobs and several who have become REAL close friends. She says funnily enough the women who are her closest friends today tend to all have been women that she has worked with in one way or another over her career. And she thinks that happened naturally; she doesn’t think that she actually set out to do it.

I asked Freddie whether she would advise a young woman to acquire technical or management skills and she said she would definitely advise her to acquire technical skills because she thinks you are your own master if you have technical skills and are successful because once you have technical skills, generally speaking the next step, if you wish it to be, can be management and not the other way around.

What Strikes Me?

Leaders are visionary, have empathy and do not put their own interests first

Differentiate yourself

Manage your boss

Dress the part

Market yourself

Network, network, network. Inside and outside your organization with everyone possible

What Strikes You?Please add your comments.

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