90 Ideas in 90 Minutes: Mary Dowell

Founder and CEO, MJ Dowell & Associates


The following are the ideas presented by Mary Dowell, founder and CEO of MJ Dowell & Associates, at the BizTimes Media 90 Ideas in 90 Minutes event:

Mary Dowell

1. Lead by example. Leaders need to show, not just tell.
“Leading by example means walking your talk. If you are successful in accomplishing this, you become a person others will want to follow. You will find that others will be more receptive and will embrace what you have to offer. When leaders say one thing, but do another, they erode trust–a critical element of productive leadership. An effective leader knows how to show others what is required, rather than simply telling them. A good leader will take responsibility. Blame costs you your credibility, keeps team members on the defensive and ultimately sabotages real growth.”

2. Never underestimate the power of a mentor.
“No man is an island, as they say. The best leaders out there know when they need help, and they know where to turn to in order to get it. Nobody can know everything; so finding someone you trust for advice when things get tough can make all of the difference for you. Mentoring is an extremely valuable asset from both a personal and professional perspective. There are many views on the definition of mentoring. Specifically, mentoring might be described as activities conducted by one person (the mentor) with another person (the mentee) in order to enhance their life and/or career.”

3. A little humility goes a long way.
“Leading with humility means understanding that mutual respect is the foundation of effective leadership. A poor leader sees and treats people differently, showing respect only to those he deems worthy of it. A true leader treats everyone with respect, thus earning the respect of others. There’s a difference between a leader and a boss. While both are in charge, a leader shares the spotlight and is comfortable crediting others. While it might seem counterintuitive, being humble takes more confidence than basking in glory. Employees will appreciate it, and clients will, too.”

4. Communicate effectively.
“Effective communication and teamwork is essential for the delivery of high quality work, and is imperative, both in the office and in life. Of course, a very essential component of effective communication is effective listening. Great leaders make sure they are heard and understood, but they also know the importance of listening. Communication is a two-way street. In order to get the most out of how you communicate be sure you listen to get the facts. Doing this will put you on the road to enhanced creativity and problem resolution.”

5. Learn from the past.
“Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. History, recent and otherwise, is filled with examples of successful business models and spectacular business failures. Think about what the people you admire do well, and consider what went wrong for those who end their careers mired in scandal or disgrace. Lessons can be found everywhere. Don’t ever view setbacks or mistakes as signs that it’s time to quit – they are not! Rather, setbacks tell you that you need to try a different way, or to try harder. If something doesn’t work, figure out a new and better way. Be the first to create and offer solutions. Don’t dwell on problems.”

6. Turn negatives into positives.
“I have not only observed, but have practiced the art of turning a negative into a positive. As much as leaders wish that their team’s day-to-day operations could run smoothly all the time, they’re bound to run into the occasional obstacle. Whether it’s a minor miscommunication or a major error, the way a leader handles a negative situation says a lot about his or her leadership skills. It takes practice to learn to focus on the good in any negative circumstance. Learn to direct your focus from what’s going wrong to what’s going right.

7. Know your limits.
“This simply means learning how not to overcommit. This pattern is typically seen in individuals who have difficulty in saying ‘no.’ They feel compelled to say ‘yes’ to every request that’s asked of them. They would rather take the chance and hope they will be successful, but often at the risk of failing. They tend to see saying ‘no’ as a sign of weakness or inadequacy. It’s their own self-doubt that’s taking control. This type of leader tends to experience anxiety and early burn out.”

8. Be emotionally aware.
While many people advise keeping emotions separate from matters of business, business is ultimately about relationships between people. To make these relationships last, you need to be emotionally intelligent — to be sensitive to different points of view and different backgrounds. When using your head to do what’s best for your company and others, don’t forget to have a heart. Developing solid, meaningful relationships is key to lasting success.”

9. Never stop learning.
“Great leaders — indeed, great people — are constantly learning and are always trying to improve themselves. There’s always something that you can work on or a new skill to master. Be sure to keep your mind open to new ideas and possibilities.”

10. Be your authentic self.
“I believe that it is essential to be who you really are. Sharing your interests, hobbies, elements of your culture, the things that make you YOU can have such a positive impact on your team and those around you. We sometimes create masks to help us engage with others in a variety of situations. However, research has shown that wearing a mask (pretending to be someone or something else) in the work environment can hinder the relationship building process, as those around us can actually detect signs of inconsistency in our behaviors, hence leading them to mistrust us.”

Click here to see a video of Dowell’s remarks at the 90 Ideas in 90 Minutes event.

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Andrew Weiland
Andrew Weiland is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Weiland is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, and son, Zachary. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys coaching his son’s youth baseball and basketball teams.