We recently had the opportunity to attend the Women in Agribusiness conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. What a great experience to bring together women within the industry for education and exceptional networking. Here are just a few of the main observations that we took away from this enlightening event.
“Tomorrow’s talent has to be comfortable with ambiguity.” – Sarena Lin, President, Cargill Feed & Nutrition, Cargill Animal Nutrition. We thoroughly enjoyed this presenter’s viewpoint, and couldn’t agree more with that statement in particular. Sarena referenced the acronym VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity), as part of an adaptive leadership style. More than ever, this industry is looking for thought leaders, and talent that brings openness to teamwork and innovation.
There was a common theme among many of the presenters that diversity should be measured, but not in the form of meeting quotas….organizations need to strive for diversity in thought. Women pull from different experiences and viewpoints than men, and a group of individuals of varied races and cultures can bring unique approaches to problem solving. Diversity in thought is what we should be striving for within our organizations to effectively solve today’s issues.
The way you speak has a great deal to do with your perceived credibility. Dr. Laura Sicola led a great session around minimizing the distraction and lack of respect that can occur when you don’t follow the rules of effective speech. You really noticed a few habits are easily to get into, and it was so interesting to tune in and really listen to how others present themselves in first impressions.
Workplace culture is really set by the tone at the top and those in this leadership role should demonstrate nothing less than openness, honesty and integrity. When it comes to the openness, share what you can and anticipate the questions and answer them before they are asked. Be astute to resistance. The expressed resistance is just the tip of the iceberg; it is the silence in the room that is the killer. Engage those in silence by asking them for feedback or to poke holes in ideas shared. This helps improve solidarity and the ability for everyone to stand shoulder to shoulder once a decision has been made.
During a fun networking session, Dr. Laura Sicola shared that we should be more forward with sharing our ‘why’. What is the purpose for us being at an event and what do we hope to gain from the event/networking experience. In turn, we should understand the purpose for those that we network with. Being more up front and purposeful will actually produce the return we are looking for.
The event subtly promoted empowerment through many of the sessions, particularly the session on personal branding. Michele Fite of DuPont Nutrition & Health took participants through an exercise to develop a personal brand statement. She set the stage well with anecdotes for the drive and purpose for a brand. Personally, the one that resonated the most was ‘I can’t lead if I don’t know who I am and what I stand for.’ Logical, yes, but actually outlining your personal emotional appeal, description and function in a memorable, meaningful and simplistic way was quite empowering.
The evolution of diversity in the workplace was brought up and in particular talking with our sons so that they can help steer the path for women in the workplace. Research is already showing that this is happening. Thought provoking dialogue, is that this younger generation has grown up in a more diverse population (ethnic, gender, cultural, etc.) than ever before. Diversity is natural to them. Will diversity in the workplace take on a new meaning in the next five, ten or fifteen years?