Women in Politics - The Traits You Need to Succeed!


You're listening to episode two hundred forty seven of women worldwide. What does it take to be a woman in government and politics today? Are there certain characteristics. Ristic you need not just to survive. But also thrive. I've got a guest today. WHO has a lot to share on this topic? So stay tuned to to learn more. Hi I'm Deirdre Breckenridge. I've spent entire career helping women to share stories. Nurture relationships were of their brands but most of all to find their voices so they can make a difference. Do you feel stuck. Do you want to power up your own voice. Women worldwide features stories of passionate women who have navigated big career challenges and some of the toughest changes these professionals nationals. Offer deep insights and advice to inspire you and to help you cover. What's holding you back? Let women worldwide. Ignite your passion sooner. You can excel in life. I everyone welcome to another episode of women worldwide wide. Thank you so much for showing up for tuning into the show and we hear you every week. We're hearing from you about challenging stories topics things that you WANNA learn about and that really helps us to line up our guests now. You know that every every week is a new guest someone who is a highly talented and accomplished professional and they make it look easy but you know it's not always easy and they're here to share the ups and downs of their journeys and what they've experienced all to help new overcome your challenges to help you feel your passion and power up your own voice so please keep the comments coming you know. I'm on twitter. At breckenridge. You can post on. facebook subscribe on our Youtube Channel. Leave a comment there or just email me and that's Deirdre at pure performance com with two M'S DOT COM okay. Let's get to today's topic and special guests the topic Vic is women in Hala Ticks. Yes wasn't exciting. Time to be hitting this particular topic. What are the characteristics risk? Fix what do you need if you're a woman in politics or if you're in a tough workplace environment not just to to survive but actually really to thrive what does it take. Were some of the challenges. I've got the perfect guest today. Joining me on the show is Joni Wickham Now Joni is a seasoned leader in government and politics. She has spent time directing public public policy communication strategies and political campaigns. Now she spent a Lotta time about eight years or so in the office of the city of Kansas City Missouri. The mayor's office sly James. She was chief of staff and today she is the CO founder under of Wickham James Strategies and solutions. Joni here to share her journey with you. Joni it's great to have you on my show show welcome. Hi thank you so much for having me. It's really an honor to be with you. I appreciate the opportunity. Well thank you so much and being a woman in politics there is a lot not that you can certainly share through your journey and as a leader and I think that's where let's start with the journey so Joni did. Did you always want to be in government in politics for you. A child to certain New Year Direction. or how did this all kind of come about A little bit. Yes a little bit no. I always enjoyed Watching the news with my grandparents I grew up in rural North Carolina and My family was a very modest means so we didn't really have the resources to go to museums or Go to movies in that sort of thank thank for entertainment so I did a lot of reading the newspaper to them I did a lot of out watching. TV with them and in the evenings we would watch the nightly news. David Brinkley was was a fixture in our living room. Right in so I was kind of Almost obsessed with The news because that's basically all that I had going on around me so for the longest time I thought I wanted to be a political journalist and when I was a freshman in college I was lucky enough to get a internship in my hometown. Newspaper taper teeny tiny hometown population than of all. I don't know maybe Fifty sixty thousand And I honestly The editor percent to cover a city council meeting and while as their their Seven older white gentleman who made up the city council and they had an eight hundred thousand dollar budget which was a huge amount of money for city of that size At that time and so they decided to close that budget gap by cutting what they call the Weiss Program and was very clear from the discussion at the table. That no one they are knew. What the Weiss program was Come to find out it was w WNYC women infant children. And I had been recipients of that program when my mother and I We're finding our way through do Poverty and Generational poverty under education. That sort of thing. When I was growing up I knew percent with that program minutes Or four families in our in our community and so I was just shocked. and appalled that A decision like that can be made with really little all fought given to the impact it was gonna have and I went back to my editor and told him about it. He was like yeah. That really sucks. Go right about it so I thought for a minute. Oh my gosh in this system. My my only role is to write about a decision after he'd been made so I decided in there that actually wanted to figure out a way to get a seat at that decision making table And and maybe they wouldn't listen to every single thing I said but I was GonNa make sure that in a situation like that they knew what the women infant children for room was in the impact that it had. I mean that's so personal A way to get started at really hits your life what you've been through so as you sort. Do you started with the reporting and the city council meeting and you grew into a role a big role as a chief of staff the mayor and that's quite a role. What was that like just being a woman in politics? Can you maybe share how you fell. Did you feel alone. You feel empowered. I felt all of that Sometimes I there were times that I felt along. There were times is that I had Imposter Syndrome that. A lot of women leaders feel You know Imposter Syndrome is win. If you don't feel like you know every single thing about about a topic you feel like you don't deserve a place at the table. I certainly felt that from time to time. there is also times that I felt very grateful to have the network of strong women leaders around me. Who would number one tell me what I was doing wrong and sometimes tell me things that I did one a year which is powerful writing But they would either for you Joanie on him just curious when you were receiving feedback from other women. was that difficult at first or was that something that you embraced right away It's something that I embraced in. I had to because As I mentioned I had a very modest in in make upbringing and I really didn't have professional role role models much less women professional role models too late so I always knew that I had to soak up whatever knowledge in feedback. I can get because there had always been on experience experience and knowledge gap there because of Where came from So I think I've always been open to feedback because that was how I learned thanks to do when things not to do. Now that's really important. I mean it's always hard to receive feedback. Some people feel it's easier to give of it but it's a gift no matter lately and I think sometimes when you receive feedback even if it is horsh or critical. It's realizing that those people are coming coming from a place of in most cases help and to help you grow so good that you had women leaders around you. What do you think are some of the importance and skills that helped you mentioned the whole not just survive but actually thrive? What are some skills that you relied on or or felt like you had to develop more as you went along? Good question I've always had to be very thick skinned If I were particularly sensitive I don't think I would have been able to survive. I've always had to be resilient in try and build resilient teams around me in politics in government. You can wake up one day thinking that your your schedule is GonNa look a certain manner and then a pothole breaks or God forbid. There's another homicide in your city. You know and it changes ever a a so resilient cities key Work Ethic and determination. I mean it seems so obvious but sometimes I think we forget about it One one of the things that helped me overcome impostor syndrome was that I tried to make sure I was the most prepared person in a room. I did a lot of Meetings in negotiations with economic development attorneys real estate attorneys. That sort of thing. I am not an attorney. I didn't have a different attitude on our property tax abatement when I took gophers chief of staff in the mayor's office but I had to learn very quickly because my job dependent on the momentum of the mayor's administration dependent on and so I would do things like going Amazon and purchase real estate development law books bet a student would read in their classes acid and I would read it on the treadmill at night. Yeah just just preparation In hard work. Sure Yeah I mean a I. I think it's really good. That's great advice because you are going steps beyond would somebody in that role might do and do you feel who You know as you were learning more that the impostor syndrome was less. Did you ever feel at some point that allow now I get this yeah Competence Begins Competence and success. Begets success in so I would find myself When I walked into a room and I knew that I had prepared? I knew that I knew what I was talking about on that I knew what I was. the principles that I was standing bore four That type of situation and Success made me feel more confident in ready to take on the next challenge. And I think also I had to prove myself to a lot of different stakeholders I moved to Kansas City from the state capital's a lot of people didn't didn't didn't know me as an individual much less as a professional I am a petite young ish gonNA go youngest I male with a southern accident that you may detect and so a lot of those things creates biases for sure. And I'm sure other women experience those things to So when you walk into a room and you immediately know that people are Kinda Trying to figure out measuring you up off on what you're what you're shortcomings. Are you figure out ways very quickly to walk into a room With some confidence and make sure you're prepared in in no What you need to do to take care of business now? That's really good. I just remember looking on the youngest side earlier earlier in my career walking into the Board Room when we were I owned an agency and we were catching a law firm for services and and my partners in myself we walked in. We'll young ish and the partners at the table actually said to us we're the executives with this so what we did luckily thankfully we were author so we put our books down on the table to away crew showed Oh that we were the experts. So it's really interesting but yes. Competence does get confidence. What was the reason for the Transition Shen to move into your own business? Yes so the city of Kansas City has term limits on the mayor is allowed two four year terms He was re elected in Twenty fifteen with eighty six percent of the vote. That was a great for us in art. Ministration ration- in We were term limited. Last eight office was July thirty first of this year so I would say probably a year and a half two years before we were term limited We knew do that We had an expiration date. If you will on our term in we started kind of figuring out I Each of us individually what we wanted to do the more we thought about our own individual visions and hopes and dreams for life Both personally and professionally. We really discovered that We number one still liked each other. which doesn't always between the chief of staff and elected so whenever together for the right? We still liked. It's each other and appreciated The difference skills that we each brought to the table We have complementary personalities and skill sets which is very important We have the same values And so we decided that we would open up our own consulting firm Wickham Jane Strategies and Solutions Solutions and have greater control over a life. The mayor of a city is largest. Kansas City. Doesn't have much control over his or her life which also means the chief of staff doesn't have much control over his relied. Actually I knew that a so. When we decided to start her own firm we had to a guiding pieces of of criteria? That we want to operate this firm. All in the first is that we would never compromise all values when it came Axa our business and the second that we didn't work with eight holes anymore politics. There are few of those my Oh goodness yes criteria everything else we can kinda talk about Johnson. Glad that you said that. Congratulations on launching. I think that's fantastic and upholding your values and knowing who you WanNa work with and now you don't WanNa work with So challenges in our mentioned it at the beginning of the show. If I were to ask you if this was a a speed question just I challenge off the top of your ahead. What do you think your biggest challenge was or is as a woman in politics man there are so many it's hard to pick just one Tom Honestly I would go back to that imposter syndrome. Yeah because it is so indicative of the Internal Psychology -nology and confidence that women leaders have but it's also indicative. I mean not. All of that stuff comes from within some of that stuff You're dealing dealing with because other people projected on you. I know when I walk into a room and people have low expectations of me. I know you can kind of Women tend to have more emotional intelligence agence and so That's kind of a blessing and a curse when you can use it to your advantage and a negotiation or something but when you walk into a room and you're using components of emotional national intelligence that you can tell that people are rolling their eyes when you talk or what happens to me a lot even to this day. Is that Line I will be in a conversation. I'll ask a similar question. And they'll turn Hanan answer it so just like that Imposter Syndrome Is Probably one of the biggest challenges that I've experienced. I know a lot of other women do to absolutely so so do I and Joanie I'm GonNa ask you to hold your thoughts just for a moment. We're going to shift our focus over to the sponsor of today's episode which is the empowered women event. That's taking place on December fifth in San Francisco and this is an event in Joanie. You know it you're speaking added. I'm speaking at it. Where women are sharing their authentic stories about their experiences experiences in business in an hell equity really matters and on that note Joni we've been talking about being a woman women in politics and now you're a woman in business? I just want to ask you a quick question on because it is all about empowering women how can women support one another another good question I think a key to women empowering each other is making king sure that we get outside of our bubble and outside of our comfort zone and talked to women who may be have different backgrounds. I was at a Women's leadership conference put on by our regional. Better Business Bureau and it was so insightful for me to be in that room because as we've mentioned I've been in politics and government for over twenty years into being a room surrounded by women who had worked in business nonprofit I never would have interacted with many of them if I hadn't taken that step to get out of my comfort zone in meet women of different perspectives backgrounds in an expertise I think that's helpful. Because has there are so many lessons to be learned insights to be conveyed between women who have different experiences And particularly these days I think it's is important to make sure that we have a diverse network network of women I love Being able to learn Some of the things that my sisters who are women of Color Experience and how I can support them. that sort of thing I think diversity -versity of Background expertise on just building. A network of women from all walks of life is really important. I agree and thank you so much for answering that question and just a little bit more about the empowered women event of the speakers are absolutely absolutely amazing. So we have Dr Deborah Tannin. Who wrote the book? You're the only one I can tell with a best selling book. We also have Pat Gillette. WHO's taking sage? She is a motivational keynote speaker. Who deals with diversity and women's issues and business he's joining? What's your topic? What are you going to be talking about? So my topic is near and dear to my heart and it's Based in a lot of personal experience served in politics and government. And it's called the thin line between cupcake in bitch familiar to you until you while I I the Try to increase my own network and have more diverse women that I can lean on. There's so many women who experienced this you know you go into a meeting in your your viewed as being too much of a cupcake by one person. Too much of a bitch by somebody else at the same meeting. Oh I think we've all had that experience so that's going to be the name of my talk I'm excited about it fantastic. I can't wait to listen. I'll be there also. I'm so honored to be taking the stage. I'm going to talk about a new communication. The Model Colt Steel based on a year's journey of research with millennials. I'm excited about that. And for all of you who want to join us APP December fifth empowered women events. They're still tickets left although I am told by the conference coordinator that they are going quickly. So if you are interested in attending and we save you or L. and then of course you can find it in the show notes. You can find it on the my youtube channel L. But it's H. T. T. P. Colon Ford slash four slash bitterly that's be it dot l. y. forward slash and. I WANNA make sure I get this right. Empowered D. E. C. Five. So look for that you are l.. Go find out more information. Sign up and hope to see you there. Joni thank you so much for answering the questions about how women can support one another and a big thank you to the organizers of the empowered word women event for being sponsor of winter worldwide. Okay Tony Let's dive back into our discussion. We left off talking about out imposter syndrome. We mentioned emotional intelligence. That is something that women have. It's gift it's it's sometimes could the occurs and I think I wanted to key into your thought around millennials and kind of you know I'm doing a lot of research around millennials noticing that they are really wanting more emotional intelligence from the leaders around them. So were you finding this. In your experience with millennials in this generation in government for sure Yeah and this is something Honestly I think I tried to grow into it was interesting to me. Working with millennials in the mayor's office they are so creative Much more creative than Some of the peers. I have my own agent and a little bit older when it comes to innovation and strategy that sort of thing And it was interesting marrying that Creativity with things like resiliency Yeah so I think it's going to be interesting in the decades to come to see how millennials both grow as individuals and and grow as cohorts In how they married those strengths and weaknesses in the workforce with other generations. As well right now I think that's really interesting and allot comes down to trust in the environment and I'm just curious so I'm sure you had millennials. I think you mentioned that. There were millennials in your office. What were some of the ways that maybe you were building? Trust just helping some of the listeners. Out there who also have millennials around them might be on their teams. They might be supervising. Lenny's what does it take to build trust. I really tried to focus on building them as individuals and professionals We did a lot of professional development and training and We have staff meetings where we would try to at least have a portion of their staff meetings be introspective In focus on How we as individuals could contribute more to the group's mission We did a lot lot of leadership. Training we did a lot of focusing on articles in invest practices and talking can about how we can incorporate that into our daily lives and so I felt like As a leader it was incumbent upon me to make sure that I wasn't just focusing on the day today the mayor's office but also seeing growing our staff. On particularly the millennials. We several staffers who that was their very first job was working in. The mayor's office I I can remember working for us. Senator when I was nineteen and how scary that exactly. That can be really scary. You just feel like if you mess up when you're GonNa read about it in the newspaper the next day safe. Yeah which which can be traumatic for some people or An can lead to the Imposter Syndrome that. We've we've talk so much about as well so I just felt like as a leader. It was important to make sure that I was helping develop Our staff MILLENNIALS millennials included in helping them see what their leadership strengths are perhaps where some areas where where they could grow. I think that's really good. Did you notice as you were doing this. Their behavior change at all. was there anything that I mean whether they were saying. I feel great about this this environment and verbally saying or even the non verbal cues. Did you notice any changes. Within the way that they were acting. Yeah I think the more we focused on growing each others leadership potential. The more they saw themselves as individuals. I can remember willing young lady. There was something some big crisis hit. The mayor's office and I was supposed to go in. Speak on behalf of the mayor at a conference in this crisis happened and I had to stay back at the office in help him through strategy so I had this young lady who I asked to go speaking on my behalf and she was so scared to do it but we had just been focused and the staff eating before Thankfully sometimes timing on taking risks risks in overwhelming fear. She was scared at the public speaking in. So we KINDA had admitted resent my office In reflected on that discussion about fear in and Dan taking risks and how we can gain so much alerts much from that she knocked out of the park. She was great now. Yeah so I hope over the time that we were in the mayor's office not only did we help The city in a Lotta different ways but I hope we kinda planets in seeds in some of our staff that they can take leadership positions as well. That's wonderful that is a great story and I'm so glad she knocked it out of the power grade you know. Take a risk. It could be scary. It's such an opportunity just to see how you can succeed so I also wanted to talk a little bit about communication in in general because I mentioned communication strategy political campaigns. How are you feeling about social media? He's days is it helpful. Pulled to what you're doing is horrible meaningful if you could share a little bit there bill like everything in life or most things in life. I think It's a blessing and a curse sometimes When I first started out in political communication the only way to get your message out was by walking out of the the state capital in Raleigh in walking down to the Raleigh News and observers office in having a face to face conversation with reporter on changed? Yeah Yeah and then within a few years you could fax someone s release. I reverend so now I mean it's just a whole new world In so I find social media really help comes to spreading the word about events You know when we wanted to make sure people knew when and where the Mayor State in the city address was absolutely social. Media was wonderful wonderful. I have not found social media to be that helpful when you WANNA have Some robust conversations in public discourse about public policy Elsie Issues I think he can be destructive in toxic from time to Time I. I can remember several circumstances in the mayor's office where someone would tweet something with no facts or data to back it up Whatever they felt like was the reason that we we had a pothole on in the city? absolutely no truth to it and then we would have spent four or five hours dealing with it because of how the viral nature of social media so I think it can be a blessing and a curse. Sure I mean you can hide behind your Avatar on social media. I just is fine. I mean we're seeing things play out clearly on a national level election coming up but it's more of finding what is being said this level of toxic discourse wouldn't happen necessarily in if you were face to face with somebody sometimes when you're in the room when you're having those one on one or even a small group you might be able to get to some kind of resolution. Social Media tends to fuel sometimes the worst. Why what's being said? I mean there is good. There's no doubt about it and I won't blame social media for everything but there is this level of you kind of step back and say is this a waste of my time or can we really help here. It's Har- right difficult to determine right a lot of what my work was In the mayor's office dealt with navigating conflict of different varieties in my fear ear about social media. Is that to your point. People can hide behind an Avatar right. And there's very little Media consequences for bad behavior on social social media. Also it changes the way you navigate conflict when you can respond to tweet without any ramifications of it in any the personal contact or interaction so I hope that it doesn't negatively impact society's ability to navigate conflict right. That's a really good point tornadoes. Kidding believe it were at the question where I ask you advise so that you can share some advice with all of our listeners. In we're going to wrap up this segment. So what would you say to those business professionals out there who whether they're in politics or they're just in a really tough landscape landscape. What what's your advice so I think my biggest piece of advice is to remember to take care of yourself This is there's been a weakness of mine for a long time And I know when I'm not taking care of myself. I'm not firing on all cylinders and my work in my decision making isn't the best There were times in the mayor's office that like I couldn't even remember what I did in the week because I was so exhausted by the end of the week. And so I think it's important to take a step back act whether you're in business nonprofit philanthropy politics whatever it is when you're going through times of crisis conflict. It's tough times to make sure you're taking care of yourself so that you can be sharked in make sure you're navigating whatever issue it is to the fullest extent that you can't ah be sharp. Be Present your it'll show. Yep absolutely making absolutely Joni last question super easy. We're can people find out more about you. And Wickham James. Our website is www dot wickham james dot com and you'll also find links to in each of our dreaded social media channels. You've got to have them around him. And there is a blessing curse. Everything said did it while I hope everybody goes in and looks you up and checks you out. Thank you so much for coming on the show for sharing your journey for talking about a tough landscape landscape and forgiving really great advice and just for sharing your insights openly. So thank you thank you so much for having me your welcome and thank you to so all of you for tuning into women worldwide. Please keep the feedback coming. Keep sharing the stories of amazing guest like Joni who come on the show. We are changing changing. Lives one story at a time. You know you can always reach out to me at D. Breckenridge twitter leave a comment on Youtube Channel. And please subscribe subscribe there. You could also go to the women worldwide show DOT COM website and sign up for updates. Okay friends till our next episode. Stay focus energized. Feeling empowered thank you.

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