Powerful! Influential! Confident!

As businesswomen, we strive to define ourselves using these words. Before we start adding comparable terms to our LinkedIn profiles, we need to ask ourselves not “how impressive am I?” but “how remarkable is my team?”

Oh, sure, overall we are talented individuals with the ability to keep all the plates spinning in the air like circus performers. But face it . . . we produce our best work when we work together. It takes courage to assess our personal strengths and face the fact that we have shortcomings, too. Do any of us excel at everything? Rather than attempt to achieve the impossible – personal perfection – let’s acknowledge the contradictions, embrace them, and surround ourselves with others who balance us out.

I hope I’ve sold you on the whole you-need-a-team-to-keep-your-plates-in-the-air concept, so now I’m recommending that you have two teams: internal and external. The internal team is composed of peers, direct reports, coworkers, employees, etc. Sometimes we handpick them; on other occasions, we inherit them. Nonetheless, we interact with them on a daily basis more than we do with our close friends and family.

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others.” -Gen. Douglas MacArthur

I recently spoke with Marla Black, president and CEO of Junior Achievement of San Diego County. In both her current nonprofit and former banking careers, her internal teams have taught her, “There are different ways of doing the same thing. New ideas, dissimilar approaches and a diversity of perspectives can bring you to the same decision by taking different paths.”

She shared a story about the strategic steps she took to create the ultimate team. Marla first asked herself a question regarding the bank branches she led: “We are functioning well, but how can we function great?”

Her response was a carefully orchestrated plan: instead of competing against each other, the branches in her district began using a “buddy system.” The employees harnessed their individual strengths to support each other collectively. They enthusiastically provided training, openly shared knowledge and willingly donated staffing for their peers. Her workforce was engaged, turnover was minimal and, as Marla so passionately put it, “We were unstoppable!” Marla’s motto expresses the perfect blend of her confidence and experience: “Plan and predict rather than hope and pray.”

No matter the size of the business or number of employees, we all benefit from carefully selecting the ideal team. If you are your company’s sole employee, you may be wondering, “What team? I’m a lone ranger.” We all need an external team, made up of the lawyers, bankers, financial planners and accountants in whom we place our trust and whom we rely upon for industry advice and support.

Last summer my good friend Emilie Hersh resigned as CEO at a local technology company in order to establish her own business. After opening her bank account, she began operating as Unbuttoned Innovation, Inc., a consulting firm designed to “drive exceptional business outcomes.” She admitted that she knew just enough to be dangerous when it came to accounting, legal and financial planning, so she needed experts in each field to eliminate risk and provide guidance.

Emilie quickly discovered that the accountant she and her husband used for their personal needs would not do. He had no interest in her new business, his receptionist called her by the wrong name, and she received a bill after she called with a simple question. Customer service was nonexistent. A referral from a trusted friend led her to an accounting/bookkeeping service that took the time to get to know her and her business. Lesson learned, says Emilie: “Get your referrals from colleagues, friends and your own network. Don’t be afraid to get rid of them or make a change; carefully screen your vendor circle.”

Another member of Emilie’s external team is Elisabeth Cullington, senior wealth advisor and co-founder of HoyleCohen’s Women’s Practice. Through her experience working with women in transition, she both recognized the need and realized her passion for working with women to build their financial confidence. She prides herself on using the power of a mastermind, team approach. Following a sobering meeting with a group of Elisabeth’s experts, one of her clients said, “I’m confident I’ll prevail because I have my team.”
Elisabeth’s goal is to be a “silent partner in the ways women can build their businesses or their personal lives . . . be resources to one another and serve each other’s clients.” We could all use Elisabeth on our external team!

Whether we are at the top of the corporate ladder, in the midst of the entrepreneurial experience or someplace in between, we need to accept the fact that while we may be powerful, influential and confident, we are only as remarkable as our team.

About Your Columnist

Becky Moore is a featured columnist for Women Taking Charge, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence, covering the topic of teamwork. Becky is the branch manager of Silvergate Bank, serving the San Diego business community.

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