As independent communications consultants, we are both PR practitioners by profession and entrepreneurs by nature. Given these dual roles, it’s essential for us to know how to handle the challenges that come with launching a business, nurturing its growth and ensuring its sustainability well into the future.
Recently, I had the good fortune to catch Elise Mitchell’s presentation, “Full Throttle Leadership: Lessons Learned Through the Turn,” at the 2015 FPRA conference in Orlando, FL. As President and CEO of Mitchell Communications Group and Dentsu Aegis Public Relations Network, Elise knows a thing or two about leadership and building a successful PR business. Interestingly, she also loves motorcycles, and her presentation illustrated the parallels between these two passions.
In fact, creating and managing a thriving communications business requires confident and forward-thinking leadership that adapts to navigate the twists and turns that are inevitable along the journey.
5 key leadership lessons from Elise Mitchell include:
1. Focus on Your Goal
“Looking through the turn” is a basic principle of motorcycling that means paying attention to your destination – rather than concentrating on potential obstacles in the road – and then making fine, instinctive adjustments and corrections as needed. Likewise, such adept responsiveness, agility and flexibility is often called upon in business.
Always maintain your focus on your end goal regardless of what’s happening around you. Chart your course the best you can, and when something unexpected happens, find a way to power through.
“Destination focus keeps you with your eyes on the prize.”
Mitchell’s advice for anticipating what’s on the horizon and swiftly responding to it with dexterity rings true for anyone running their own PR consultancy.
2. Be an Explorer and Lifelong Learner
Being a strong, confident leader means having the self-assuredness to admit when you don’t know something. However, it’s imperative that you are willing to do whatever it takes to become informed.
It’s also important to be able to learn as you go, “embrace firsts” and continue to seek greater knowledge and skill building for continuous improvement.
“Be a lifelong learner, so you can grow and change.”
3. Master the Maneuvers
“Leaders know how to adapt and respond,” says Mitchell. As a leader, the key is to know what’s going on in your environment, so you can modify your actions accordingly. Resilience is another critical factor for overcoming hurdles, so you can learn from mistakes and move on—quickly and fluidly—to the next level.
“Be resilient in the face of adversity, and get comfortable with complexity and change.”
4. Learn to Negotiate the Turns
The ability to adjust is important not only for handling obstructions, but also to stay current and innovative so you can be more responsive to clients’ needs.
Keep apprised of the trends, and stay alert to what’s changing and its impact on your business and that of your clients. As Mitchell asserts, “If you aren’t innovating, you’re falling behind. Innovation is how you ensure you’re staying relevant.”
This can include adding new tools, piloting new service offerings or hiring new team members. Also, be selective in the projects and, more importantly, the risks you’re willing to take on. “You need to learn to say no to the good things, so you can say yes to the very best,” says Mitchell.
“Create a culture of try. Don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try.”
5. Enjoy the Ride
Although we’re all driven to be successful, it’s important to experience—and enjoy—the voyage in getting there. As Mitchell explains, “Have a journey mindset.”
Also, learn to let go when necessary. Be a leader that is able to delegate and share freely, including helping those around you. Bring together the right team, and then equip, empower and support them so they can grow and develop as professionals and meaningfully contribute to your company.
“The best leaders are willing to evolve. Know when you need to redefine your role.”
According to Mitchell, by focusing on your goals and intended endpoint while remaining alert and nimble, you can not only anticipate change and impending challenges, but also be positioned to capitalize on new opportunities early.
Whether you’re just beginning in your communications consulting business or you are a seasoned pro, these inspiring leadership principles can encourage us to be a trailblazer. Embrace a willingness to take risks, be ready to counter steer and have the confidence to be bold and daring. And don’t forget to wear a helmet. (OK, I added that last one. J)!
Image credits:Elise Mitchell courtesy of Mitchell Communications Group.
Motorcycle image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Thank you, Kellye. I think lesson #2 is my favorite. If we’re open to learning, we will continue to grow as leaders. And that’s what helps us stay on top of our game no matter what obstacles we might face — or as we say in motorcycling “Keep the shiny side up.”
The motorcycling crowd has some great expressions – “keep the shiny side up” is another gem! Thanks for sharing, and for your excellent presentation at FPRA.