By Dave Moore, Staff Writer
A crowd of more than 300 attended the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Oct. 18 YP Summit, an event that gives members of the Young Professionals organization a chance to connect, hone their professional skills, and to interact with top civic and business leaders from the Dallas Region.
Delivering the morning keynote discussion were event moderator/Hilton Customer Platform Engagement Manager Arielle Andres and At Home Chief Marketing Officer Ashley Sheetz, who discussed keys to progressing professionally and personally. Also speaking at the YP Summit were afternoon keynote Hilti North America President/CEO Avi Kahn, and DRC President and CEO Dale Petroskey.
Sheetz, whose 20 years in marketing include work for Sally Beauty, GameStop, and at international marketing and advertising agencies, attributed her success to these practices she has followed:
- Set clear long-term goals, along with daily tasks, and work with supervisors
“I always at least had a one-year and three-year, very focused objective of what I wanted to get to next,” she said. “And I always made sure that I communicated that with my supervisors, and said, ‘This is where I want to be. What do I need to get there?’ There’s something about putting that out there and being vocal about that, and being bold. Now, (that I am a) supervisor and who manages a lot of people… it changes people’s perception of you and thinking about you – not in the current role you are in – but starting to think about you in your next role.”
- Identify a mentor at your workplace who is vested in your success
“I hate the word ‘mentor’ because I feel like it’s very clinical, and a lot of times, the people who were… my direct supervisor or somebody who had a lot of sway within the organization. But they were never formally assigned… to be my mentor and it was more of a natural relationship and natural situation. They had a vested interest in helping me grow in my career. I would say that if you don’t have that now, try to figure out what that looks like for you. And if… you’re just not finding it, that’s when you lift your head up and say, ‘Am I in the right place? Am I in the right company?”Sheetz said one of her mentors taught her an invaluable lesson, requiring her to reduce her message to a single page; it enabled her to become more concise in expressing her ideas.
- Surround yourself with diversity
“Make sure that you’re not surrounding yourself with just people just like you,” Sheetz said. “Whatever it takes… groups you can be involved in, or whatever community service you can be involved in, the more diverse groups of people that you’re around, and the more diverse thinking that you’re around, that’s really where learning takes place.”She said one of her mentors encouraged her to have breakfasts and lunches with people who aren’t in her field, so she could broaden her perspectives. It’s something she still does.
- Know you’re good enough and smart enough to be in the C-suite
“I had a boss who brought me to that (C-suite) table. We’d leave those meetings, and he’d say, ‘It’s not as brilliant as you thought it was going to be, is it?’ These are normal people with objectives, and with hang-ups, and all these things. The C-suite is not as unattainable as you think. I would say that there’s not a single person in this room that shouldn’t be [at the C-level] at some point in your career.”“It’s hard work, determination, and drive that gets you that table,” she said. “That was helpful to me because I needed that confidence [to know] that I can sit at that table.”
- Ask the right questions
“Early in my career, I thought I had to have all the answers,” Sheetz said. “I realized I’m much more effective in my job saying… I need to ask the right questions. That’s been an instrumental shift for me, especially now that I lead a large team. If you’re not pulling out the right perspectives, you’re missing the key ingredients.”Sheetz said she initially learned passively, but she had to become a more active learner, so she could ask better questions.
- Organizational perception is reality
“I believed that work output would get me where I wanted to go, but there are very few people exposed to your work output,” she said. “But I wasn’t building a relationship. I kept my head down and missed opportunities to grow within an organization. People will pull you into projects based on their perception of you.”
Hilti North America’s Avi Kahn: Live in the Now, Face Conflicts
Hilti North America CEO Avi Kahn started with the firm in San Francisco in 2008 and worked his way up the ranks in the company over time.
Kahn shared his three methods to becoming a more effective organizational learner and how to leverage that skill into leadership abilities:
- “To be an effective learner, you’ve got to be curious.”
“As you reflect on your childhood, you were much more curious than you are today. You used to ask a lot more questions.” Kahn said it’s possible to recapture that tendency within an organization by stoking a desire to learn more about how others work in your organization. “It will lead you to become a better listener. You’re listening to understand, not just to respond.”“One of the things I appreciate most about my job is the opportunity to meet people who know more about a topic than I,” he said.
- Be more open with supervisors when there are difficulties or conflicts at work
“We in the U.S. are prone to put your best foot forward,” he said. “We’re prone to say, ‘I’m doing great. When is my next raise?’ Take a small step and tell your boss one area you’re struggling in – one task, where you were not so happy with the outcome.” Kahn described such conversations as “constructive conflicts,” and that telling supervisors about difficulties helps them to assure their own success. Professionals might be positively surprised by the response from their supervisors. “In most cases, they’ll dig right in with you and be highly engaged in making you successful,” he said.
- Live in the moment and avoid distractions
Smartphones are easy to blame, but a tougher challenge to face is a wandering mind, Kahn told the crowd. Kahn cited a Harvard study that indicates more than 40 percent of the time, minds are on things other than what’s happening in the moment.“We’re thinking about problems at work, problems at home,” he said. “Don’t feel guilty – it happens to all of us,” he said. But when distractions subtract from what’s happening at that moment, or when people don’t set aside time to think, they’re missing out, Kahn added.“Some people come up with great ideas in the shower, or while they’re driving,” he said. “It’s also happening when you’re having a conversation with your spouse, or your kids are trying to tell you something, or you’re taking a great course. Ideas are being shared and they’re going right past you.”
Kahn wrote his own take on the YP Summit here.
DRC President and CEO Petroskey: Raise Your Hand to Gain Leadership Skills
Dallas Regional Chamber President and CEO Dale Petroskey related a tip he gleaned from Cigna North Texas and Oklahoma Market President LaMonte Thomas, who rapidly progressed up the ranks at the major insurance carrier.
“[Thomas] said, ‘I got all of my leadership training through nonprofits and through volunteer activities. Raising my hand to chair this, or to raise money for that,’” Petroskey said. Petroskey said while Thomas was volunteering, he was also learning the organizational and leadership skills that proved invaluable to him at Cigna.
“That’s what all of you have an opportunity to do, by being part of YP and other things that you’ll be part of down the road, to practice leadership outside of your companies, and to learn how to bring people together and to inspire people,” he said. “And to think about visionary kinds of things that you can also take back to your company.”
YP Summit was presented by Thomson Reuters; Silver Sponsor was BKD LLP; Community Partners were Communities Foundation of Texas and USAA; Happy Hour Sponsor was Crowe LLP in partnership with Say Yes To Dallas.