by Christena Garduno, chief executive officer of Media Culture
The path to entrepreneurship has its obstacles – especially as a female in a male-dominated workforce. In today’s world, however, many women are pursuing their dreams by breaking through industry barriers and becoming powerful, inspirational leaders. According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women are returning to the workforce by the hundreds of thousands – but they can’t do it without a great support system. A vital proponent to a female entrepreneur’s success is creating meaningful relationships that will advance their professional development.
As a successful female entrepreneur and leader who built a career from the bottom up, I’ve faced my fair share of hurdles. From gender stereotypes and internal conflicts regarding how others perceive me, to how I expand my presence in the industry and make a positive impact on younger women with big aspirations. Though the challenge of finding a balance between the seemingly fine line of dominating boss and respected leader does present itself, I’ve found that creating meaningful relationships with those around me has been a huge contributor to my success. When creating these authentic connections, female entrepreneurs set themselves up for continued learning, honest and trustworthy communication, a community of supporters and industry-wide respect.
Here’s a look at three ways to create meaningful relationships as a female entrepreneur.
1. Create Authentic Connections with Other People.
Throughout my life, building authentic connections with those around me – whether in personal or professional settings – has been of astounding importance to me. When I reflect on my success as a female entrepreneur and leader, I can’t help but imagine where I’d be without my team, mentors, friends and family by my side.
Building meaningful relationships is more than exchanging brief greetings and pleasantries as you enter and leave the office – it’s also noticing if someone is having a bad day and approaching them with empathy. Creating these connections is not always easy, but the effort does not go unnoticed or forgotten. Establishing trust, though that too may be easier than it sounds, goes a long way when building relationships with employees, mentors, clients and colleagues – just as it does with a friend. These connections amplify relationships, promote honest and transparent communication, enhance success and pave the way for long-term relationships where compassion is mutual.
2. Build an Impactful Community with Likeminded People.
At the start of my career, I took on whatever function came my way whether it was accounting, media buying or new business outreach. I garnered so much experience in different areas of business, which allowed me to discover my true passion in advertising. Not only did I develop skills in an array of areas while branching out, but I also met new people and developed relationships with those around me.
Strong connections with other women in an array of roles prepares females to have an open-ended approach to business, always looking at the situation from different perspectives. One person’s experiences, however, cannot begin to compare to an entire community of individuals’ experiences – that’s why surrounding yourself with likeminded individuals who you can look to for insights is a vital component to success.
3. Always Be Open to Knowledge and Insight.
Life happens – that’s the simple truth. There are so many unprecedented challenges people face that can’t be put on hold, despite how important a meeting or presentation is. I learned this when I was diagnosed with cancer. Upon battling and beating the disease, I returned to work and realized overcoming the hardship was only half of the journey. Many female leaders find themselves feeling left out or lost after returning from maternity leave or family vacation or taking any time away from the office. They notice their team was able to creatively strategize and achieve success despite their absence. Upon my return, I watched my team closely – in awe of their incredible work – and saw that the success was not a product of one person, but many.
As a female-leader it is critical to remain open minded to the knowledge and insights of others, despite their title or position. I’ve always strived to continuously learn, but when I returned to work, I was reminded very clearly that I depend on my team just as much as they depend on me. Every day is a new day, full of surprises and obstacles, where I lean on my team and continue to learn from them. Many leaders get caught up in the notion that they are experts and know everything there is to know, but reality shows us that input from others is of extreme value. Opening up the floor not only allows leaders to continuously learn from their teams and further their own expertise, but it was also demonstrates that the leader truly cares about what their employees have to stay – garnering an amazing, supportive work culture.
Looking ahead to the future where many more female leaders will continue to emerge and thrive, there are an array of variables that will affect a minority-leader’s success. To manage the unforeseen challenges, women should hold tight to the meaningful relationships they have built along the way. By connecting with others, building a community of likeminded people and always being open to knowledge — females can join together and continue to break the glass ceiling.
Christena Garduno is chief executive officer of Media Culture, a multichannel brand response media agency that drives growth for global clients with innovative and performance-driven media campaigns. She is a member of Forbes Agency Council.