Women’s Leadership Exchange East Coast Summit

by Zoe Cruz (New York City)

“One would think that in this time of stresses, the little things wouldn’t bother us too much. But they do.” So said by Mimi Donaldson, empowerment expert and co-author of Bless Your Stress, as she began her workshop entitled “Tactics to Triumph In Tough Times”. The workshop was one of the many available during the Women’s Leadership Exchange East Coast Summit held on November 12th in New York City.

Donaldson went on to say that the reason the little things do bother us much more than the big things is because we have more control over the little things, unlike the big things, like the bad economy. She advised that there are always four things – the four cornerstones – that each person does have control over and talked about why working on each of them can help:

  • Education – because it allows us to be inspired daily.
  • Activity – because it is empowering to remember what you do in a given 24 hour period is in your control.
  • Attitude – because we have the choice to keep a positive outlook on things.
  • Change – because we must be open to it to see opportunity.

Summit participants were able to attend a variety of other programs in keeping with this year’s theme – “Navigating the Economic Storm” – on topics ranging from green growth strategies and corporate sustainability to creating a new “money mindset” and developing the skills to build a new sales momentum.

During the luncheon general session, the 2008 Compass Awards were presented to five women who have “shifted the paradigm of how women are perceived as business leaders in the world.” This year’s honorees were: Robin Koval, president of Kaplan Thaler Group and co-author of The Power of Nice; Francine LeFrak, a successful entrepreneur, philanthropist, and partner in the LeFrak Organization, a noted real estate company; and Ellyn A. McColgan, president and Chief Operating Officer of the Global Wealth Management Group at Morgan Stanley.

The day concluded with the panel entitled “Seizing Opportunities in a Down Economy”, which provided participants with a chance to hear experts address the topic on everyone’s mind. Moderated by Jennifer Westhoven, the anchor of Headline News at CNN, the panel included Jennifer Openshaw, author of The Millionaire Zone: Seven Winning Steps to a Seven-Figure Fortune; Sophia Corona, of CFO of Creditex; and Simon Sinek, CEO and founder of SinekPartners.

“How can someone take a time like this and make an opportunity out of it?” asked Westhoven, kicking off the discussion. “I don’t think it’s about the economy, it’s about your perspective,” said Sinek. Corona agreed, remarking that we should “look at the market in a different way that helps you think of a new service, a new idea.” Openshaw added, “What’s great about this market is that it’s giving people a time to reflect.”

The panel addressed head on the issue of lay-offs, one of the hot topics given the current economic climate. All the panelists agreed that managers should communicate the situation to their employers and be honest with them. Sinek advised that employers should engage everyone in the problem solving by telling employees, “Here’s the trouble, what should we do?” Corona stressed that talking to employees about what is going on is going to help the company get through the bad year. She added that “discussing what everyone can do to help is a way to involve all employees. If lay-offs are needed, they can be done without making it personal. The key thing that every company should watch out for is cash flow…This is a time to make wise decisions.”

The panel ended with each panelist stating what he or she suggests the audience do to make a difference in 5 years’ time. Sinek advised to “do business with those who believe in you.” Corona said, “Ask yourself: what can I afford? What’s working? What’s not working?” And Openshaw said, “Make sure you are hugely following your passion.”