Wouldn’t it be great to have a small circle of trusted advisors to help you achieve your professional goals? That’s what a strategy group does. It’s a great idea but it’s not easy to create one.
Here’s how mine started. Last winter a colleague urged me to put one together. She knew I had just moved back to Boston and was working solo as I tried to expand my work portfolio. She firmly believed that with some support and connections, my task would be easier and more enjoyable. But she was suggesting something much deeper and more meaningful than “networking”.
“Sure, no problem”, I thought. How hard could it be to bring together five or six smart and seasoned women, each with her own goal to discuss, and enough motivation to commit to a monthly in-person meeting for about 3 hours on top of her busy schedule? And, the maturity to keep it all confidential and the wisdom to offer solid advice?
Well, a bit harder than I thought.
For about 8 weeks, I scoured all my professional associations, made pitches to my alumni groups, and put the word out on my network on LinkedIn. Despite describing the benefits (and expectations), no takers. No surprise really: how do you get strangers to come to a confidential conversation and build trust and loyalty from the start? I think some women would like to have tried it but were either too time-crunched already or wary of how it really might go. Understandable.
At the beginning, even though I didn’t have enough to constitute a “group”, I turned a couple of people down. Got the vibe while spending some time with them that they would not make good members. Too immature, too restless, or too self-absorbed. Best not to go down that road and have to dis-invite them. Or worse, have them tank the whole effort. The first couple of meetings when new people come on board are crucial. One or two inappropriate people can undermine the project.
Intrepid, I convened the first meeting with 3 “charter members”: Cathy, Karin, and me. I kept the effort up and the group grew through the spring. I looked for women who were enthusiastic, engaged in interesting projects, experienced in the work world, and demonstrated a willingness to help others. Ann and Deb came on board from a common Harvard connection. Then I invited Penny, a sparkling woman I met at a social club we both had just joined. She brought one more in, Louise. We were at “escape velocity” and we took off!
Over the summer, some of us have gone horse-back riding, hiking, visited Nantucket together, or met for lunch — this is all “off-line”. We still marvel at the chemistry among us, the good fortune of finding each other, and how useful this group is.
Eight months later, it is humming along. We are a diverse group of professional women, ages from 40 to 60 and occupations from journalism to psychotherapy. Some are married, some have children. We seem to have found that “sweet spot” of sharing information, resources, and advice in an atmosphere of friendship and camaraderie.
Definitely a good start! We even have an unofficial “waiting list” : )
If you are interested in starting a strategy group, let me know (either leave a comment here or at my website: achievingwomenintransition.wordpress.com). I’d be happy to share ideas and give some tips on how to launch it successfully.