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Jumping the Curve: The Simmons Leadership Conference

I recently attended the annual Leadership Conference, sponsored by Simmons College, considered to be the world’s premier professional development event for women. This year’s theme was “Jumping the Curve,” stepping away from the familiar and stepping up to the unknown.

While I have been engaged with the conference for the past several years, I find each year’s experience to be something special and I continue to be humbled and inspired by the journeys of many of the participants. I wanted to share some of the ideas that stuck with me. The following advice may not be new, but I find it worth repeating – and relevant to women and men. 

  • Don’t be afraid to take risks:  With every new endeavor, you’ll gain new experiences and expand your network. Along the way, you’re likely to gain new sponsors and potential advocates.
  • Invest in networking:  Stay connected with your professional and personal contacts. And when you connect and collaborate, if you serve as mentor or mentee, be sure to be clear on objectives to foster a successful relationship.
  • Dare to compete:  Be confident in your abilities, and don’t be afraid to step into the ring. Keynote speaker Hilary Clinton addressed this keenly, noting that male colleagues are more likely to raise their hands regardless of qualifications.
  • Be patient and adapt quickly:  The very funny and talented Rita Moreno spoke from experience as a successful entertainer who overcame years of struggle against Hollywood typecasting. She reminded us that success rarely comes overnight—there are many struggles to overcome, and we must be flexible to succeed.
  • Don’t just judge; act with purpose:  We all harbor some unconscious bias toward others, and that can affect our actions. Instead of judging, listen actively and take action on what you can control and change. As Gandhi once said, “Be careful of your thoughts, for they become your words.  Be careful of your words, for they become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for they become your legacy.”

These points of advice can serve us well if we put them into practice, but just how do we do that?
Please take a moment to share your strategies for jumping the curve in the comments section, or continue the discussion on Twitter.

Learn more about Cisco Careers and Cisco’s Inclusion and Diversity program.

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Cisco Hosts Future Women Leaders from Tunisia

rbartmesThis post was written by guest blogger Richard Bartmess, a Cisco IT analyst.

Inspired by the 2011 Tunisian Revolution and the demand for more freedom, transparency, and democracy, Afràa is determined to fight against corruption and to help lead her country forward. Imane has a master’s degree and works in an engineering field dominated by men. Neila co-founded a political party that won four seats in Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly.

Afràa, Imane, and Neila are just 3 of the 17 women from Tunisia who visited Cisco today as part of the Women’s Initiative Fellowship of the George W. Bush Institute.  The Women’s Initiative Fellowship is designed to enhance the leadership skills of women around the world, with a focus on women in the Middle East and Africa.

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Creating Environments for Better Employee Engagement

I recently wrote about the importance of laughter at work. Laughter isn’t the only indicator of employee engagement, but it’s a good one. There have been times in my career where it seemed that my team’s leaders considered laughter as a sign that people weren’t serious enough about their work. (My current team is seriously amused – serious about our work and consistently amused in general.)

These organizations operated according to invisible “all work and no play” mantras. And those were gray places indeed. Places with little collaboration, innovation, and motivation. Places where people showed up, clicked through ominous task lists of multitasking, and went home. Places with little energy. Places with low employee engagement.

Improving employee engagement is gaining emphasis as organizations realize that they can set up all the processes and objectives they want, but people and organizational culture make the difference. Read More »

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Employee Engagement Goal: Encourage Laughter

I like to laugh. I find humor in all sorts of places and situations. Often unlikely ones. I’ve laughed in the most appropriate of situations and some of the most awkward. And I laugh at work. A lot.

Frankly, I think the Food and Drug Administration should have a recommended daily allowance for laughter along the lines of those identified for Vitamin C, Iron, and Riboflavin.

Peter Bregman recently had a great post on Harvard Business Review blog network. In “Why You Should Treat Laughter as a Metric,” Bregman writes about the lack of laughter as a symptom of a problem within organizations. And he suggests that increasing the opportunity for laughter should be a leadership priority. Read More »

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Digital Transformation: Is Your Company Making the Pivot?

80% of survey respondents [administered by MIT/Sloan and Cap Gemini] believe that their companies need to go through a significant digital transformation. However, 63% of those respondents also believe that their current pace is too slow.

Sound familiar? Is your company moving too slowly? Are you moving at all?

I heard these stats while attending the recent Digital Leaders Summit in San Francisco. Aimed at those responsible for guiding their enterprises into the new digital future, the summit highlighted trends, best practices and case studies from a number of media and other companies including leaders from The New York Times, The Economist, Turner Broadcasting, Jump Associates, Coca-Cola, The LA Times, Politico, and others.

Digital Leader Summit

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