An incubator of women leaders

Member Spotlight: Lee McEnany Caraher

12/01/2014 9:10 AM | Anonymous

Name: Lee McEnany Caraher
Job: President & CEO, Author
Company: Double Forte
Book: “Millennials & Management: The Essential Guide to Making it Work at Work”
Industry: Public Relations & Social Media

From your perspective, what are the most important trends that will take place in your industry in the next 10 years?
Public Relations and communications has gone through a dramatic transformation in the last 4 years – while the fundamentals of what matters – what’s the message, who’s the audience, and how do you connect the two has stayed constant – how we do our work has completely changed and will keep changing. In the next 10 years I think we’ll see more dramatic changes in how people communicate and we’ll need to be right behind the edge of how things are working to be effective. At the same time I don’t think the fundamentals of communication will change – be real, be honest, be helpful.

If you can share one piece of advice that you know now about navigating your career, what would that be?
If your job grates against your soul, then you’re in the wrong job. Find work and an employer (or become an employer) where your worst day at the good job is a regular day in the soul-grating day. You are in charge of your career and your happiness.

What advice would you give those beginning their own business?
Focus is your friend, and it’s important to focus your activities on where you are most valuable. Focus on what you do well and pay or barter with someone else to do the things that you don’t do well. I can do the numbers and the billing but it’s drudgery for me. The first employee I had at my company was my accountant, who I paid 6 months before I paid myself. Best decision I ever made. (Although I still go to Office Depot myself because I love office supplies.)

How do you approach someone who you may want as a mentor?
Mentorship is so important – when my mother graduated from the first Simmons all woman MBA class, her advice to me was find a male mentor who is in the position you want and copy him to get where you want to go. That worked really well for her – she retired after creating the career she wanted, at the top of her game. I think today, gender is not as important in looking for a mentor. I recommend people identify someone who’s “just out of their league” or at least 2 rungs up the ladder. Consider what you want from a mentor — what do you hope to get out of a mentorship with this person? what is the timeframe you want? what is the subject matter? how would you like to engage (on email, on the phone, on Skype, in person)? and how often? What do you have to offer the potential mentor? Get specific so that when you approach the person, they will know exactly what you want and will be able to respond productively and more likely, in the positive. Then stick to your plan. And at the end of every meeting, check in to make sure it’s working for them.

What does leadership mean to you?
You can only lead those who want to be led. Leadership means that other people trust you to get them to their goals. I think the most important thing for leaders is to focus on engendering positive feeling among those who follow. That means we need to understand who’s following us, what makes them tick, and what will motivate them in the context of the company’s goals. It’s humbling and invigorating at the same time.

Fun Fact.
I strongly dislike olives, which my assistant noticed and took to heart. One day when we ordered pizza for the office I heard him say to the Office Manager “make sure there’s pizza without olives for Lee” – and since I overheard him, everyone else overheard him too, and now it’s “thing” in the office.

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