Maddy Dychtwald

Women and Leadership: How to Find a Mentor

In Influence on January 26, 2011 at 8:00 am

Now that 2011 is well under way, many of us are making and breaking resolutions — trying to figure out how we can be the best version of ourselves for 2011. The word “reinvention” keeps popping up, especially in conversations with women who want to move into leadership positions in their work. The economic meltdown has eliminated many jobs, ramped up the competition among qualified people and, in general, made it more urgent than ever to find that competitive edge. Both business and government would benefit from more women in leadership positions. Studies show us that profitability improves when women take on positions of leadership in companies. So what tools can best help women move ahead?

Enter the mentor

A mentor can show you how to ramp up your skill-sets, network effectively and work around or eliminate your weaknesses. They can even open some very important doors to leadership positions.

But how do you find that all-important mentor? Do you stay in your limited circle, hoping your parents, friends or co-workers might “know someone” and put in a good word for you? Or can you yourself have the audacity to reach out to someone you truly respect and admire and ask him or her (in some compelling way) to help you learn, improve and move forward?

In my experience as an entrepreneur, trend-spotter and author of several books (including “Influence: How Women’s Soaring Economic Power will Transform Our World for the Better“), I have had the good fortune to benefit from a number of incredible mentors, who have had great mentors themselves. The main reason they were willing to give me a boost up the ladder of success was simply this: I asked!

Of course, I also did my homework. I learned about their education, their path to success, their past work experience and even the nonprofits to which they contributed their time and/or money. In better understanding their interests, I could make my remarks and questions both respectful and authentic.

Aim high and don’t be intimidated

When searching for a mentor, the first thing you should keep in mind is that no leader is “too important” to be your mentor. Don’t put limits on your list of potential mentors by assuming someone is too busy, too high up or too inaccessible. Like the gorgeous model that no one asks out on a date because they assume she is not interested, often the leaders who are seemingly “too busy” do not get as many requests as you might expect. And they are often the very ones who want the opportunity to give back through helping someone just like you.

Keep in mind that mentoring comes in all sizes, shapes and durations. It doesn’t have to take the form of mentoring we often conjure up in our minds, in which we meet with someone for an hour each week, face-to-face. Maybe it’s a Skype video conference once a month with someone on the other side of the globe. Or perhaps it’s one potent walk-and-talk in the park, tagged onto a business trip or vacation to another city. Mentoring, really, is just learning what you can from someone more experienced and savvy who you admire and respect.

And remember that asking is a gift. I have learned firsthand that the knowledge and acumen that leaders have gained over the years is almost always something they want to share. It helps complete the circle and populate their profession and industry with new blood; it also leaves them feeling like they are making a purposeful contribution to the future of their profession, their company and even the world. In a nutshell, it helps them leave a legacy.

So while it is important to keep an open mind about who could be an excellent mentor, you should also consider these suggestions and tips as you begin your search:

  • Be bold, be gracious. After you figure out who you’d like to ask to be your mentor and do your due diligence on that individual, you’ve got to ask them. This can be scary, but you will never get your mentor without asking. Find a way to ask that person that appeals to their ego, intelligence and good will. Help them to know that you understand who they are and how they got to where they are. At the same time, provide them with a feel for who youare in a way that might draw them in and want to consider mentoring you.
  • Try different avenues. Emailing someone is relatively easy today, but a handwritten letter may make you stand out more. Once you know a lot about the person, consider the best method of contact — email, a letter or even, if appropriate, a direct message on Twitter or Facebook. Also, if you have something thoughtful you can send as a gift (e.g. a book you believe that person might like, a magazine article, etc.) include it as a gesture of respect.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again. Like many things in life, you have to reach out to many to find the one. If one attempt doesn’t work out, don’t give up. The most successful professionals in the U.S. have or have had a mentor and many of them did exactly what you are attempting to do — so they may well want to “pay it forward.” Don’t let any negative self-talk discourage you and rob you of what could be a rich opportunity to take your career — and your life — to the next level.

Remember what the great Virgil said: “Fortune favors the bold.” What was true in 29 B.C. is just as relevant today.

Good luck!

What Makes Maddy Tweet?

In Guest Post on July 26, 2010 at 11:28 am

What if your new book had just been published by Hyperion’s prestigious Voice imprint? What if you were the co-founder of one of the most influential and respected research firms ever?

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That (and a tad more) describes Maddy Dychtwald. She’s pretty well known, ridiculously successful and, dang, good looking to boot.

She’s the author of Influence: How Women’s Soaring Economic Power Will Transform Our World for the Better. She’s also the co-founder, along with her husband Ken, of Age Wave. Together they’ve been warning us for a long time now about the dangers of ignoring the demographics of aging and the talents of our senior citizens.

(Ken Dychtwald, by the way, is one of the very best speakers we’ve ever seen. He’s always understood intuitively what Seth Godin warns about in Really Bad PowerPoint – that bullet points slaughter audiences, but the right emotional images help deliver the message).

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So, why in the world would someone like Maddy Dychtwald feel it necessary to tweet? She’s got it all, already.

Contribution

Chris Brogan (one of the most knowledgeable social network experts on the planet) will tell you that online social networking is not about selling – but instead about contributing, mentoring and giving back.

In Maddy Dychtwald’s case she contributes her expertise. She’s intimately involved with issues like the marketing power of women and the implications of demographic shifts. She uses that expertise to link her followers to news, resources, studies and articles on the topics she knows best.

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Sure, she tweets about her own books and appearances. (we should be so lucky to have such success and such a schedule!).

But, she also uses her background to lead us to intriguing articles like a Christian Science Monitor article about the popular television show, The Closer; and an NPR story about Sarah McLachlan’s fight to keep her wonderful concert series, Lilith Fair, alive.

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And, those are just a couple of examples. Follow her and you’ll see a lot more.

So, what makes Maddy tweet?

Well, it’s certainly not what makes Sammy run.

Nope, those who are already successful, accomplished and knowledgeable are in the best position to give back – and they’re the ones who most need to pick up their keyboard and tweet with us.

Maddy does. Now, we just need to work on her husband Ken.

From Hidden Business Treasures by Michael Benidt and Sheryl Kay http://goldencompass.com/blog/

Interview with Maddy Dychtwald

In Guest Post on July 7, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Maddy Dychtwald is a nationally recognized author, public speaker, marketing executive and entrepreneur. She has spent nearly twenty-five years deeply involved in exploring and forecasting demographic, lifestyle and consumer marketing trends. In 1986, she co-founded Age Wave, with her husband, Ken. As the nation’s foremost thought-leader on population aging and its profound business, lifestyle, and cultural implications, Age Wave provides breakthrough research (including the landmark study Women, Money and Power), compelling presentations, award-winning communications, and results-driven marketing and consulting initiatives to over half the Fortune 500 companies.

Dychtwald is the author of three books: her latest is Influence: How Women’s Soaring Economic Power Will Transform Our World for the Better (May 2010). She has also written Cycles: How We Will Live, Work, and Buy (2004), and co-authored an illustrated children’s book entitled Gideon’s Dream: A Tale of New Beginnings (March 2008). As a sought-after public speaker, she has addressed more than 275,000 business leaders worldwide. She has been featured in leading newspapers and magazines nationwide, including Newsweek, Time, Bloomberg/Businessweek, and US News and World Report. Dychtwald lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two children.

Morris: Before discussing a specific book, a few general questions. First, please explain the meaning and significance of the name of your firm, Age Wave.

Dychtwald: For the first time in history, we are seeing a dramatic shift in our population from one dominated by youth to one dominated by mid life and older adults. It’s metaphorically a wave of older adults hitting us, with the impact of a tsunami—transforming every aspect of our society from the marketplace to the workplace to the very way we define old. Not only does our company name describe the trend that our business is focused on, it suggest power and a positive vibe which, when we started the company in 1986, wasn’t usually associated with aging. We wanted to help change the attitude of aging to be more positive.

Morris: Given the number of speeches you have delivered and your interaction with the members of each audience, to what extent (if any) have the questions you’ve been asked and the comments people have shared changed within the last several years?

Dychtwald: When I first started speaking at conferences and association meetings, most of the audience thought age 50 was over-the-hill. It was also news that older adults had money and were willing to spend it. Today that has transformed dramatically. We all know that 50 and even 60 are no longer over the hill. And it’s the aging of the baby boom generation—those born between 1946 – 1964–that is responsible for this change. They are 78 million strong –1/3 of our population—and they have always done things differently than their parents and grandparents. With that in mind, we’re beginning to see how boomers are beginning to reinvent retirement and our perspective of what 50, 60 or even 70 can be like.

Morris: In terms of balancing one’s career with one’s personal life, is it easier, more difficult, or about the same today as it was a few years ago?

Dychtwald: Balance is a continuous struggle, but it used to be considered a “women’s issue”–something that primarily described women trying to figure out how to build a family and a career simultaneously. That has changed. Today, with the growth and importance of two income families, it’s become a “family issue.” We see men as well as women struggle to balance family and career. In many married couples, all roles and responsibilities are open to negotiation and that makes things even more complicated. However, now that balance is recognized as an issue impacting women and men, our workplace policies are more likely to become family-friendly, giving women and men a better shot at successfully balancing family and work rather than having to choose between the two.

Morris: Your discussion of women’s “money profiles” caught my eye. For those who have not as yet read Influence, what are the five types and what is the dominant characteristic if each?

Dychtwald: As we collected data from our study, trying to better understand women and their financial behavior, five profiles of women and money emerged. Overall, our research uncovered the fact that what determines a women’s financial personality is very much how she feels about money, how much she defers to someone else to get the job done, what she wants money to do for her, what she wants to do with her money, and how confidant she is in her relationship with money. While these profiles are merely snapshots at one moment in time, it immediately became clear that three of the five personalities helped women’s economic emancipation while two others did not. In the book, I describe these personalities in detail, but here’s a quick take.

The most confident of the five personality types is the Alpha Female. Eighteen percent of the women surveyed identified with this profile, and their behavior (when it comes to money) is much like a stereotypical confidant male: a quick decision-maker, risk-tolerant, and less interested in the details than the results.

The Perceptive Planner is not quite as confident as the Alpha Female, but this is the personality that 35 percent of women identified with, making it the largest segment in the study. They are analytical, disciplined and responsible.

The third personality is the Power Partner which is the second most common group in our study with 23 percent of women identifying with this personality. She is collaborative and willing to strike compromises, believing that two heads are better than one. These three personality types are pro-active and empowered when it comes to money.

The last two personalities are not: Supportive Traditionalists and Uncertain Searchers. About a quarter of all women identify with these two personalities. A Supportive Traditionalist demonstrates the de facto way women used to behave with money, deferring decisions around money to a male. She enjoys spending and is not too interested in gaining knowledge around finances. Amazingly, it is the smallest group in our study with only 8 percent of women identifying with this personality.

The least confident personality is the Uncertain Searcher with about 16 percent of women identifying with this personality. This personality is led by her emotions when it comes to making financial decisions. She knows little to nothing about finances and doesn’t know where to turn for information. She knows she’s lost and isn’t sure how to move on.

Read the Robert Morris interview in it’s entirety on the First Friday Book Synopsis blog.

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