Welcome to my new blog series, Motivational Monday
I will be featuring interviews of successful women whose work includes inspiring other women to reach higher, and explore how we are re-defining what it means to be a modern woman.
I attended my first 6-Figures network event, launched by Jan Mercer Dahms. I was so impressed by Jan, the panelists, and the dynamic diversity of the women attending. Jan was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to share some of her advice and view points regarding passion & power, style & success.
Most recently, Jan Mercer launched 6-Figures, a national networking group for highly accomplished, executive women. In 2010, she launched Jan Mercer Dahms & Co., a consumer relations and brand experience management consulting firm. And, for the last 15 years, she has served in executive level finance positions, creating change management strategies to implement business and operational infrastructures from the bottom up. Currently, she is the CFO of International Planned Parenthood and previously she held leadership positions for organizations as diverse as Teach For America and Medicis Pharmaceutical Corporation. Jan Mercer holds an MBA in International Business.
left: Jan Mercer Dahms & 6-Figures. July 31, 2013, 6-Figures Event: From Point A to Plan B: A Second Life That Wows! Photo by Jan Goldstoff
Q: What motivated you to start the 6-figures group for women?
A: I found that the longer that I lived in NYC, the more narrow my world became. I wasn’t realizing the full potential of NYC’s professional diversity. I found that many networking groups in NYC were also narrowly defined according to industry or job function. I wanted to create an opportunity for professional women to get out of our comfort zones and meet, socialize, learn from, and have fun with other successful women who had potentially very different career trajectories. I believe that projects, teams, and companies are truly much richer and impactful when the people behind the work have very different professional experiences.
Q: What are you truly passionate about, and do you feel your work reflects your passion?
A: Living a happy, fulfilled life and helping others live happy lives. While 6-Figures and my consulting work is very much business focused, the much larger goal is to help people and companies achieve balance, happiness, and a sense of healthy accomplishment. We live in a culture, especially in NYC, where work can become an obsession very quickly. What is life really about if we never get off that gerbil wheel to laugh, love, and have fun once in a while? And if I can help even just a few people get to a state of happiness, that is what drives my professional passion.
Q: How do you define “success” in your work life?
A: Success for me isn’t a dollar amount, or achieving a certain “end goal” because my “end goals” are fluid and organic and change over time. I believe professional success is a feeling of accomplishment through the act of creating “something” that at the end of the day, you sit back and reflect: wow, I really did that! That “something” has been 6-Figures and building my consulting practice. But it’s also something much larger. I’m a girl from the Midwest — from a small town of under 6,000 people. And, jump forward a few decades…I’m living in NYC, working with incredibly talented, amazing women and men. And I think…”wow, I really made that happen!”
Please describe your definition of power?
A: We often think of power as the ability to externally motivate, persuade, or manipulate (sometimes in good ways, sometimes not) others. I’ve recently focused more of my energies inward to further develop my own emotional intelligence. Warren Buffet once said that he firmly believes that that’s what he looks for most in candidates when building work teams: emotional intelligence. Power is about coming to the table as an authentic, transparent, and honest self; detached from ego and other self-motivating factors. There’s something very powerful about showing up really wanting to do the right thing. Additionally there is something very powerful about surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals and companies.
Q: How would you describe empowerment?
A: Believing that you have the power within you to impact positive, influential change; and then doing something about it.
Q: Is it possible for a woman to feel both powerful and pretty?
A: Absolutely. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Feeling powerful and feeling pretty are largely states of mind that, if tapped into correctly, can help us exude the right balance of confidence, assertiveness, and positivity.
Q: What do you wear that makes you feel empowered?
A: Good question! For a 6-Figures event, it’s usually a unique dress: something that is a unique mix of glamour, sophistication, and hipster-chic. I like to stand out a bit, but do it tastefully. For a business meeting, it’s a power suit with a touch of uniqueness in the cut or design. On a daily basis, it’s not really about the clothing, but about how the clothing makes me feel. If an outfit doesn’t make me feel “like me“, I’ll change it immediately. It’s funny how much those little things can distract you during the day. What we wear is a direct reflection of how we feel about ourselves and the world around us.
Q: What advice or “mantra” can you offer the busy woman working on achieving her career goals?
A: Listen to your instincts. This is important and something that women are often socialized to ignore. Change the conversation in your mind from worrying about whether someone likes you, for example a co-worker, potential business partner, potential new employer, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. to asking yourself how that person or company or situation makes you FEEL. If you aren’t happy, act to change the situation immediately. If acting on the situation doesn’t work, that’s not the right situation for you to be around. Surround yourself with positive people – you deserve nothing less!