Just a few weeks after opening its doors, The Riveter’s new Denver location jumpstarted its programming and welcomed attendees with a discussion on leadership, featuring Danielle Shoots, CFO of The Colorado Trust and CEO and founder of the Daily Boss Up, a digital startup that provides coaching for leaders at different professional stages.
Shoots, who became Denver’s youngest CFO at age 26, is more than equipped to talk about what it takes to be a woman in a leadership role. As an executive in corporate America, she challenged the all-too-familiar notion that a woman should “leave her personal life at home.” She is an avid believer that the “non-resume stuff” — motherhood, marriage, life experience — is and should be an asset to women in their professions. These very critical skills we develop in our personal lives make up what Shoots calls “our secret leadership toolbox.” On a summer evening, Shoots broke it down for the audience: “You have the tools already to get where you’re going because you multi-task; because you walk into environments and have to look different than everybody in a room and somehow still get your voice heard; because you understand how to lead when nobody thinks you’re going to do it right. That’s magic,” she says. “That’s the stuff they don’t tell us to tap into.”
Shoots, who made the list of the 2019 list of Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Business by the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, shared key insights with The Riveter Denver about life and work to help women uncover those razor-sharp tools that they already have at their disposal. Here are some of the key takeaways:
You’ll make more meaningful connections with your team if you just be yourself.
“You realize how much people can relate to you when you start to tell your story … the leader that I am today and the success I have accomplished is not in spite of being a teen mom, which is what most people will say, right? ‘Wow, you survived in spite of.’ It’s because I was a teen mom. It was because I learned responsibility at 16 years old. So, learning to lead a team where you are all doing this thing together was every day for me. That’s what I was doing with my son. I always say we grew up together. It is who we are. That is a piece of my story and my journey, and when I started to own it and say, ‘Hey, I think that’s kind of what’s making me different here, that’s what’s making me special here,’ that’s when people are like, ‘Oh, you’re a great leader. I want to work for you.’”
Learn how to collaborate: It benefits you and everyone around you.
“So, my first secret tool that I learned really quickly is if whatever you’re doing and you have people working for you and you’re working 70 hours a day, something’s wrong. Something’s wrong in the toolkit. The point of leadership is to let people help you.”
You have the essential qualities to do the job. The rest you can learn as you go along.
“We look at jobs and we say, ‘I’m not 100% qualified, so therefore I’m not qualified.’ All of that’s insane. First of all, we learn really quick. We’re really quick on our feet. Technically, we can be taught almost anything.”
The skills you develop in your personal life are applicable in your professional one.
“Being a mom is being the greatest executive on the planet. Because your job as an executive is to care about people whose lives and careers are in your hands. It’s to grow them. It’s to make them better. It’s to let them know when they’ve screwed it up. It’s to let them know when they’re not being their best, just like you do with your children. We all work for people, so I’m not saying this is the same as having children, but the skillset is the same.”
Find a support network: They’ll keep your negative voice in check and help you focus on the positive work you do.
“So, the other huge tool that I’ve learned in my life is to surround yourself with other amazing, powerful women. Do it, because they will tell you the things you will not tell yourself. You will never talk to your worst enemy the way you talk to yourself. You don’t fight with anyone or tug of war with anyone or take credit away from anyone as much as you take credit away from yourself. And you do things every day that are remarkable.”
Perspective is key: You are more than prepared for the challenges ahead in your job.
“I had this big, big goal when I was 18. …My goal was I didn’t want to be on public assistance. When that’s your goal, your perspective is beautiful. So, everything that’s happened since is charity. What that does is it makes me a risk-taker in my career. It makes me a risk-taker in life. It allows me to say, ‘I’m going to walk through that open door.’ When I became a vice president at Comcast, I was the youngest vice president of the whole $80 billion organization. I had never managed capital before, and they were giving me a billion-dollar capital portfolio. I had to remind myself why I was even being offered this opportunity, and then this is what I told myself, ‘Well, if it doesn’t work out, I’m an unemployed finance executive with some big package who has to go find a new job.’ Okay, I’m not on public assistance. Do you know how many steps back it would take me to get to being before the one goal I had in life when I was 18?”
Women need to support other women so we can all reach our potential.
“Once you are walking in your greatness and you know your worth and you’ve identified your superpower, you have a responsibility to help other women identify their superpowers. So, as we’re confidently walking in how amazing we are, what can we do to also help other women and bring them along, sponsor them, and lead them so they, too, can walk in their superpower? If you are not advocating for women, especially if they work for you, you’re a part of the problem.”
Pick your battles and fight for what’s really important to you.
“Don’t die on every mountain. Not every mountain is ours to die on. That’s why I said if you have a little power, wield it when it’s necessary.”
Surround yourself with people who will give you honest feedback.
“Find yourself a BS squad. What I mean by that is find people that tell you the truth about yourself. So, surround yourself with people who, if they tell you, ‘Girl, you really shouldn’t have done that,’ you can own it. You can take it in versus getting defensive about it. If you don’t have people like that in your life, it’s going to be tough. That’s the way that you have to continue to advocate for other people is to make sure that you’re being really honest with people that you love and you care about when you’re trying to help them grow their career.”
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Nicole Anderson is a writer and editor, focusing on design and architecture, and everything in between. She was formally the executive editor at Modern Magazine and managing editor at The Architect’s Newspaper. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Metropolis, Architectural Digest and DAMnation.