Last week as part of the Hearst Empowering Women Initiative I went along to an event held by Red Magazine that formed part of their #SmartWomenWeek. This week long schedule was packed with a number of exclusive and innovative talks, Twitter takeovers and networking events designed to highlight the achievements of women and to get us all thinking about the question 'What does smart mean to you?'
I chose to go along on the Thursday evening to see a panel of three incredibly inspiring women talk about how they have successfully built their brands as part of the 'How to Build the Best of a British Brand' discussion held at the prestigious BAFTA HQ on Piccadilly.
The panel was hosted by Saskia Graville the Deputy Editor of Red and was made up of British Interior Designer and Dragons Den investor Kelly Hoppen, British Fashion Accessories Designer Lulu Guinness and the CEO of BAFTA Amanda Berry. What a panel and what a great deal of advice and first hand experience did they have to offer, some of which I thought would be really useful to share here today. The advice that they gave can really apply to all types of career and to the way you look at the balance of your working life.
So here's a little snippet of the wisdom that I managed to pick-up!
ESTABLISH YOUR CORE VALUES
It's not news but as you know in pretty much all careers and job choices these days there is a lot of competition out there. As Kelly wisely offered - defining your brand (whatever that may be and in whatever form that may take) is key. You must establish and identify your core values - that is your flag in the ground, the strong post that you always come back around to. Everything else will stem from those values. Always loop back to your core philosophies and don't let insecurities and fear throw you off track.
'Dare to Dream' said Amanda and aspire, be brave and take risks. Once you have that core grounding to come back to then you can take chances and you mustn't be afraid to do so. If you don't then you run the risk of loosing the interest of your customer, becoming staid and off track.
Authenticity was also a key theme especially with Lulu. As she said you can't afford to confuse your customer, they won't fall for it if you stop being you and start trying to do something that isn't in line with who you are. I think this can appeal to many of us in whatever we choose to do. Staying true and believing in yourself is part of that established core that you set off with and you mustn't loose that track.
DO WHAT YOU DO BEST
Other key advice was to step outside of your box every once in a while and look back in at what you're doing with a critical eye. You must be humble and don't get carried away without stepping back and keeping check on where you're going, making sure it's in line with what you originally set out to achieve. Don't believe your own press or hype and whatever you endeavour to do, do it well!
It's also very key, as Amanda pointed out, to only do what you can do. Let others around you do what they do best especially if they can do it better than you. Don't hold on to control so much that you're not free to concentrate on what really makes you good at what you do. Be interested in what's happening around you, embrace what's new and if you're frightened to take a risk, bring in new people with new ideas, embrace them and let them 'dare' for you. Trust the team around you. Do not become so consumed and driven by your own idea that you cannot step outside and look back in. Be bright enough to recognise if your business needs looking at.
MOVE ON FROM YOUR MISTAKES
Yes even these incredibly successful women have made mistakes along the way and as they shared these with us what became clear was that no matter how huge it might seem at the time all you can do is work fast to find a solution, fix it, learn from it and then MOVE ON!
Turn bad experiences into positive ones and keep going. Set backs are a natural part of all life and work but they teach you lessons and help you to grow.
Phew what crucial and inspiring advice and that's just a tiny but I hope very useful part of what was spoken about that evening. Finally I wanted to finish this piece by thinking about the word smart and what it means based on what the three panel members offered as their personal definitions.
SMART as Amanda said is not just about you but is about working with talented and diverse people. Working smart, being effective, clear and just getting on with it! You don't have to be perfect - don't give yourself unnecessary anxiety offered Lulu (I can relate to that) and for Kelly it is about intuition, integrity, focus, belief, confidence and communication. I can't really add much more to those definitions as they pretty much hit things head on. All I will say is that for me being smart is about understanding yourself and being kind to yourself when things don't always go as planned. Allow yourself room to learn and room to grow - go forward without regret.
I hope you find some of the above advice useful. If you're reading this and have any thoughts about what smart means to you and what you have learnt along the way about building your own career or brand then please don't hesitate to share them in the comments below.