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Mid-Atlantic panel: 'Be connected to break barriers'

Tuesday, January 5, 2016  
Posted by: Rufino Cabang
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Andre Medina of EMD Sales Inc., Veronica Cool of Cool & Associates and EMD teammates Angelica Colon and Omar Molina at the NEW Mid-Atlantic event. See photo album.

"Know that the person who promoted you trusts you," Meg Ham, president of Food Lion, told more than 100 professionals at the NEW Mid-Atlantic learning event, Dec. 2, 2015 at the College Park Marriott in Hyattsville, Md. "Say to yourself, 'I have strengths. That is why they hired me.'"

Ham joined Sue Klug, chief marketing officer at Unified Grocers, and Subriana Pierce, managing partner at Navigator Sales and Marketing, for the panel discussion "Breaking through Barriers." Judy Spires, president and CEO of Kings Super Markets, moderated the event.

Pierce was asked if being a woman of color posed particular barriers to success. Pierce notes that being the first African American in a position "carries a weight to help others in the future," motivating her to "make it easier for the next person."

Klug, whose 17-year-old daughter has cystic fibrosis, fought for proper medical attention when doctors failed to step up for her child's best interests. "They had forgotten about the patient," Klug reminded them. She urged listeners to "fight hard and figure out who can help with the fight. It is okay to ask for help; always come from a point of being positive."

Solutions, not barriers

Ham doesn't feel she has barriers, only problems she "hasn't solved yet." When she started as a 23-year-old store manager, her supervisor didn't think she had anything to offer in a traditionally "male" role. Meg learned that to get the best out of people she needed to connect with supervisor "Joe” -- and appreciate what he brought to the table.

Spires recommends being authentic with who you are and your intentions. "When you are really clear and honest with yourself others will want to help," Spires advises. "Focus on the competition instead of competing with each other. Authenticity breaks down barriers without trying."

"Figure out how to connect with people one-on-one," says Pierce. "Bring 'me' to work."

The panelists agreed that being connected includes being heard.

Ham recommends going to the cafeteria at least three times a week, and forming relationships. "You need to socialize… once you break the ice it allows for a lot more to come through. If you don’t speak and have those relationships start saying something."

Klug noted the importance of the meetings before the meetings. "Be smart. Do the pre-work. Where you sit is important. No one will tell you to move. Have the facts." Also, "Say something within the first 5 minutes."

Attitude can make or break your professional impact.

"We tend to focus on the negative," Pierce cautions. "Turn the tide -- always start positively. Exude your confidence and skill set."

"Care about people and make them accountable," said Ham. "It is easier when you care about people."

Feedback is essential. "Lean into your own strengths and be really open to asking others for help and feedback," Ham urged attendees. " When you can do that you will get great feedback."

Klug recommends leaning on mentors for advice. "Ask them, 'Please give me three things that I can do better.' Ask, 'How can I improve?'" Klug added that the key to getting a sponsor is performance. "Get the job done. You have to perform."

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