Reaching Goals through Strategic Networking and Good Work Habits

Reaching Goals through Strategic Networking and Good Work Habits

Chia-Li Chien, PhD, CFP®, PMP® Oct 14, 2018

The School of Management at California Lutheran University (CLU) holds regular executive fireside chat events. Sandy Brown was the most recent featured executive in October 2018. Sandy has an impressive financial services executive career. She is a retired president from Transamerica Financial Advisors. Before Transamerica, she was board chair at Bank of American (Security Pacific) and Assistant Vice President at Texas Commerce Bank (Chemical Bank.) She and her husband survived 14 different mergers and acquisitions when both of them were executives in Fortune 100 companies. Sandy is a member of the Executive Council of the School of Management at CLU.

I had some opportunities to talk with Sandy before the Fireside Chat on the CLU campus. Both Sandy and her husband grew up in a small town, Muncie, IN. What a small world! I taught three years at Ball State University (BSU) located in Muncie. Sandy and her husband are high school sweethearts and dated for seven years before they got married. When Sandy was 16, she experienced sexual harassment at work. She told her dad about the incident, and her dad advised her to speak to her boss, the attorney owner. She did not hold back and told her boss. Her boss subsequently fired the employee that misbehaved at the workplace. She stood her ground and did the right thing, not just to protect herself, but also to ensure a pleasant work environment for others.

Sandy does not take no for an answer easily. Her dad coached boys’ and girls’ tennis. She learned in tennis that if her opponent gave her a black eye, she gave the opponent a bloody nose. She applied how she competed on the tennis court to her highly demanding executive and boardroom roles. Sandy always received executive job offers with no job descriptions because her employers wanted her to create her own organization. One HR management team assessed why Sandy’s division always had more internal candidates applying for her openings than any other departments. The HR team found that Sandy created a diverse environment that empowered employees to innovate. The results were high retention of her employees as well as a reputation that attracted the right people to work for her division.

There are three take-aways from Sandy’s fireside chat:

  • Network strategically. Sandy acknowledges that her biggest mistake was not enough networking. She was the first in the office by 7 a.m. and worked until 9 pm. She should have worked until 7 p.m. and network from 7 to 9 p.m. Sandy believes that networking helps to land your next opportunity. She suggested that people should always associate with three professional associations and one not-for-profit organization. You’ll get to meet people through your involvement in these organizations and build your network alliances over time.
  • Don’t bad-mouth anyone. Sandy did not have time for these activities. She believed that if one took time to bad-mouth anyone, especially your boss, it always comes back to bite you. Incidentally, my mom also said the same when I was little. I have never heard my mom bad-mouth anyone—not even her sons’ wives. My mom was a retired executive, too, and I am glad to hear that Sandy and my mom are similar in this way.
  • Stop whining and move on. Sandy indicated that top performers often are too busy getting the next clients, projects, etc. They don’t have time to whine. However, the bottom slackers spent much of their time whining about something. Sandy often told people to “stop whining and do something to move on.” I agreed with Sandy on this, because time is one of the most valuable things we all have. How you use your time can help or destroy your future.

I was the president of the Financial Planning Association Charlotte chapter in 2011, but I did not have a chance to serve on a public company’s board. Sandy asked me three times why I did not consider serving on a board of directors. I did not have an answer for her at all. I recalled when I left my corporate executive role, I wanted to have my own consulting firm, which I have today. But I also want to be a member of a board of directors. Perhaps the universe sent Sandy to remind me about my board director goal. Like Sandy said, I won’t have time to whine about why I did not. The best for me to do is to put together my resume for a board director and tell my network alliances. Most importantly, I need to be intentional and proactive to reach the goal, because I don’t want to be a bottom slacker. As Stephanie Bogan says, “If you lick the mediocre lollipop, you will always suck at it!”

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