Women of Influence, Simmons Leadership Conference

April 18, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Posted in Professional Development | Leave a comment

Thank you, NAHSL, for funding my attendance at the Simmons Leadership Conference. The conference theme, Women of Influence, promised to inform, empower, and energize participants. And, it did! For the past three years, I provided tech support for the NLM/AAHSL Leadership Fellowship. Every year, I hear the Directors say to hire based on soft skills. Most professional development programs in our field focus on developing technical skills. I chose this conference to cultivate my leadership and communication skills.

In the morning, Lois Frankel and Carol Frohlinger presented “Negotiations: Getting from Nice to Yes.” Lois said nice is necessary in every endeavor, as is creating balance. According to Frankel and Frohlinger, women often make mistakes when negotiating. They explained how men and women negotiate differently. Men often ask what do I want, while women ask how do I maintain the relationship. Women may struggle with getting called pushy, worry about feeling greedy, or take things personal. We learned seven steps to successful negotiation. Frankel’s book, “See Jane Lead, 99 Ways for Women to Take Charge at Work,” is a good primer to develop leadership skills.

At the morning keynote, “Winning in a World Transformed by Social Media,” Charlene Li recommended that businesses (re)organize for agility and resilience, and create a three year social media strategy. She said to think carefully about what you will do and will not do. At NN/LM NER, we decided to use Constant Contact and Twitter, but not Facebook. I appreciated her comment that we tend to overvalue the things we can measure, and undervalue the things we cannot. In my opinion, we can sometimes get so invested in having to measure every outcome and output, that less actually gets accomplished. Li reminded us social media is about relationships, not technology, and to think about the right questions to ask before you dive in.

In the afternoon keynote, “Claiming Your Voice Through it All,” Anna Deavere Smith, an amazing playwright, presented powerful “assemblages of stories” to move us to think in new ways. She told the stories of Madeleine Albright, Lance Armstrong, Martin Luther King, and others to teach lessons in leadership and grace. Her grandfather told her, “If you say a word often enough it becomes you.” Her monologues were interspersed with insightful quotes like Madeleine Albright’s “Leadership is forgiveness.” She told us to think of everyone we meet with the expectation of having our minds blown and hearts opened.

In the afternoon session, “Communication in a Crazy Busy World,” Victoria Labalme joked that people complain about being busy, but they’re secretly bragging. Victoria told us to discover our through line, or the nobility behind our work. She urged us to use our through lines to prepare for important meetings, events, presentations, and conversations. She asked how many attendees have ever attended a workshop on listening. Only a dozen participants, including me, raised our hands. She had us role play interrupting, pouncing, and true listening. She concluded by urging us to bring our passions to the workplace, to brand ourselves, and always follow our through lines.

In the closing keynote, “On Becoming a Woman of Influence,” Anna Deavere Smith interviewed Viola Davis, acclaimed actress from The Help. Viola talked about the lack of acting roles for African American women and how she and her husband created their own production company, to be part of the solution. She spoke about the importance of asking for what you really want. Viola told her story of growing up in poverty in Central Falls, RI and how education was her key to possibilities. Anna asked for her thoughts on the book, “Lean In.” Viola said, “we need to open our mouths not to accept the status quo, not to let people define who we are… each of us is a form of influence.”

Thank you, NAHSL, for sponsoring my attendance at the Simmons Leadership Conference! It provided the opportunity to reflect on ways to improve my leadership skills, and how to become a woman of influence. The conference was full of inspiration, helpful tips and networking. I think it would be wonderful if NAHSL sponsored a member to attend this conference every year.

Submitted by Michelle L. Eberle, MSLIS, AHIP
Consumer Health Information Coordinator
National Network of Libraries of Medicine, New England Region

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