Growing up in the underprivileged section of Lagos, Nigeria, young Jane Egerton-Idehen had a dream. In it, she wore a white pantsuit and stood in front of a tall building. She was an executive. Today, she is living that dream as head of sales, Middle East and Africa, for Facebook.
The dynamic leader and author of Be Fearless: Give Yourself Permission to Be You, joined Crayon for an interactive Lighthouse Fireside Chat last week. Jane has been recognized for her sound business judgment and has substantial experience diagnosing and improving sales & distribution organizations. This has lead to the achievement of unusually high sales, revenue and profit results.
With two decades of tech experience, and a passion for helping women in this space, Jane spoke about career shifts, leadership and staying relevant. A few key takeaways from her session.
Be open to change.
Build up the courage to be open to trying new things. When Jane first switched to a new team, she admitted that she did not have all the answers. But she took up the task anyway. She wanted to learn, and so, she found the answers.
This isn’t limited to the workplace. “You have to be deliberate about trying new experiences. Never played tennis before? Pick up a racket and give it a shot. It helps you think differently than you are used to,” she said.
When you’re in this continuous learning mode, remind yourself that there is no harm in trying something new. When Jane wanted to shift to a different role, people told her not to go beyond the scope of her existing job. She didn’t listen to them, choosing instead to write her own narrative.
In sales, be present and pay attention.
Jane called out some of the soft skills that helped her climb the corporate ladder. “The largest deal I ever closed as a salesperson was simply because I was paying attention,” she recalls. A difficult client who, in their first meeting, listed out plenty of reasons why Jane’s company would not get the project. Instead of crumbling, Jane took those actions and reasons and worked on them. She said, “I visited the client at less busy hours of the day, when she was more relaxed and paying attention. We spoke about her kids, then arranged play dates with my kids. She loved cooking, so I learned from her in her kitchen. Being present helped me win the client.”
In leadership, live life in uncertainty.
As a leader you learn to lead in uncertainty. You do not know it all, have all the answers or have it all figured out. Jane follows a two-step method.
1. Learn to sit in the fire, in situations that are uncomfortable.
2. Keep moving. Move with the things you have clarity on and start seeking the information you need.
Use your superpower
Jane also believes in strength-based leadership. Your superpower does have to be a hard skill that you use at work. Use a technique like SWOT to find out what comes naturally and effortlessly to you. If you’re good at something and you put effort into it, you’ll excel at it.
Manage your own career, do not outsource that to anyone else. When you are in the driver’s seat, you know what you want in the next few years. Take risks. Set goals, but also hold them more lightly. It’s ok to adjust your goals as you go along.
Jane added, “Do not be afraid to tell the universe what you want. Just in speaking about it in the right audience, you might get the access you are looking for.”