When it comes to insider knowledge of and commentary on C-suite trends nobody does it better than the experts at Shields Meneley Partners. That was why Joann Lublin and Vanessa Furhrmans, two highly respected reporters from The Wall Street Journal, turned to our very own Hugh Shields for their article exploring the top concerns are for chief executive officers in 2018.
Chicago is a city where dreams come true, goals are audacious, and innovations are born – and we’re grateful to be a part of it all. While Shields Meneley Partners works with CEOs and other top executives around the globe, we’ve found a large percentage right in our own backyard. In tribute, we wanted to honor some of Chicago’s most unstoppable CEOs, and cheer them on. Whether you’re on this list, or drawing inspiration from it, we hope that our roundup is just what you needed to get motivated today.
Jeff Malehorn, CEO of World Business Chicago
As CEO of World Business Chicago, Jeff Malehorn has heavy expectations from the business and civic community. The organization describes themselves as “a public-private, non-profit partnership that drives inclusive economic growth and job creation, supports business, and promotes Chicago as a leading global city.” Malehorn is in charge of leading them towards success. So far? He’s done a phenomenal job.
Malehorn is a former GE executive who chose to switch to the nonprofit in 2013 to focus on the local economy and job creation. The city is now listed among the top 10 business cities in the world, and leads in corporate relocations, in part due to Malehorn’s and WBC’s efforts Malehorn credits his ability to “sell” Chicago as an ideal business environment based on his experience working all over the globe.
David Nelms, Chairman & CEO of Discover Bank
You’d think that not much more could be said for being the CEO and Chairman of one of the biggest banks in the world, but David Nelms continues to impress. Not only has he led Discover Bank to significant growth, he hasn’t forgotten to lift up the Chicago community along with his own success.
Discover Bank has made a point to incorporate philanthropy, volunteer work and social initiatives throughout, from partnering with local organizations to build the community to assisting with financial education in Chicago schools with their Pathway to Financial Success Program.
Taylor Rhodes, CEO of SMS Assist
One of the newest appointments, Taylor Rhodes was named CEO of the IPO-likely tech company SMS Assist in May of this year. Rhodes managed cloud services innovator Rackspace through a successful IPO, but craved to lead another small growth company. After finishing with a strong fourth quarter, Rhodes announced in a public blog post that he was taking on SMS Assist. It’s rare for a CEO to step down right when they know they’ve made their greatest contribution, which makes us all the more impressed with Rhodes. We’re excited to see what happens with SMS Assist under Rhodes’ leadership, and all of the positive advancements a rapidly growing tech innovator will lead in the Chicago tech scene.
While there are many more unstoppable CEOs in Chicago, we picked these three to focus on as we find their stories both relatable and inspiring. Each CEO has demonstrated that whether you’re steering one of the biggest enterprise brands in the world, or jumping ship to go with a nonprofit or small startup, stick to your guns and your goals. Great things await you.
When you’re searching for the next thing, it’s normal to feel impatient. Every point of contact feels like hope, and it can be crushing to not hear anything back. You can almost imagine yourself as one of your ancestors, with a bow and arrow, stalking a prize – and you know that if you stay focused on the herd, you’re bound to bring one of them down. There’s a big problem with this analogy though – when you hunt, the easiest beasts to take down are the old, sick, or infant members of a pool of possibilities. Do you really want this for your career?
If you feel like your job search is like hunting, you’re looking at your efforts in the wrong way. There should be no weapons involved, and you shouldn’t be trying to catch an unsuspecting target. You should be cultivating a range of highly valuable options by strategically and aggressively networking. You should be farming.
The reality for senior executives looking for a career change is that networking will have a huge impact on their success. This can seem intimidating if you haven’t been to a proper networking event in years (or decades), but learning how to get the most out of each interaction can be done at any age, and in any stage of life.
Networking is so important for your career growth that, at Shield Meneley Partners, we dedicate a significant amount of effort to helping each of our clients learn how to optimize their public demeanor, read body language more effectively, break out of their shell and increase their charisma.
The first step to this process is to look at each interaction as a chance to plant and nurture a new relationship. When you first meet a new person, you have the opportunity to plant the seed of possibility by making a great first impression. Think of the effort of going to networking events and aggressively rekindling old friendships and relationships as planting a whole garden of seeds.
Pick The Right Fertilizer
Just as plants need fertilizer to grow, in order for relationship seed to grow and bear fruit, you’ll need to nurture them diligently over the course of their life. This means making sure to pick the right fertilizer for the seed, which, in this case, would be the right communication medium and frequency for the situation.
While your Shields Meneley Partners advisor can help you optimize specific relationships (especially those with the most potential), there are a few rules of thumb when following up with new contacts:
- Reach out within 24 hours after your first introduction. If you met in person at a networking event or other gathering, include a reminder of who you are.
- Connect on LinkedIn. This will help you keep track of them, and also advertise your relationship to both of your contacts.
- Offer value them before asking for something in return. This can be something as small as taking them out for coffee or drinks, or just give them some (positive) feedback on their work. Don’t go into an interaction expecting them to give you something – everyone can tell when they’re being used.
- Set a reminder for yourself to reach back out on a regular basis. We recommend about once a month!
The goal here is to essentially be a great business contact for them, and a good friend. Scheduling reminders helps you keep in contact, and it also shows effort. Be as involved as they’re comfortable with, and invest in the relationship to get the most in return. The goal here is to build up a solid base of contacts, friends and trusted professional relationships. Not all of them – or even most of them – will result in the perfect job offer, but having a strong network will help you close that big opportunity when it’s presented.
You can’t rush a plant to grow faster, and you can’t pressure an opportunity into presenting before it’s time. When you’re looking for a career transition, it’s easy to get discouraged or frustrated when, after a few initial meetings, it doesn’t look like a friendship is going anywhere, but keep at it! You never know who is connected to someone you need to know.
Further, don’t discount the value of a friend or employee referral. The more you network, the more opportunities you give yourself to be found by a stranger who knows your new contact. Remember, job hunting isn’t about hunting for the “perfect” opportunity, or finding the one contact who can help you get what you want – it’s about cultivating many contacts who can, by their sheer numbers, lift you up in the eyes of others. One of them may know someone, too.
Be Part Of The Community
While we still urge you to be patient, there are a few things you can do to speed up the process a bit – but beware, they all involve proactively being a part of the communities you’re interested in. For many Shields Meneley Partner clients, there are a few popular choices:
- TEDx talks
- Free classes (both on and offline)
- Proactive interactions in online forums
How does community and public involvement work? Establishing your thought leadership will showcase your skills, expertise and enthusiasm to your community. Displaying these characteristics often acts as the catalyst for turning relationships into opportunities. After all, if you’re well versed enough in something to teach others about it – and have the ganas to do public speaking – it’s hard to think of anything that could stop you from being successful. If you’re chronically successful, you’re instantly more valuable to their team.
As you build up your reputation and network, the more you work at it, the better your prospects will be. You may be tempted to harvest the fruit of your labor early, but wait until it’s something you truly find satisfying – if you network properly, your opportunities should increase exponentially over time.
Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden recently joined up with Ferrara Candy’s Trolli brand, adding to his portfolio of 10 endorsement partners. As one of the NBA’s highest-paid players both on and off the court, he is clearly a sought-after athlete and spokesperson. Trolli’s advertising tagline is “Weirdly Awesome,” and it fits Harden. He has one of the league’s most famous beards, and he’s know for his unique style. Harden himself could be described as weirdly awesome.
This is part of his personal brand, and we all have one. When I say “Coca-Cola” or “Nike” or “NASCAR,” you think of distinct words, images, feelings, and experiences. Whether those brands agree with them or not, that’s what their brand embodies to you as a consumer. They can control the perception of their brand through marketing and promotions, but ultimately the “brand” itself is in the eye of the consumer. The same is true with our own personal brands, but many of us do not do enough to control our brand’s messages. When entering the job, it is import to evaluate your personal brand.
Like James Harden embodies the weird awesomeness of Trolli candy, what do you embody? How do you communicate this to recruiters, interviewers, and colleagues? The easiest way to convey your brand is to update your LinkedIn profile and tailor it to show your accomplishments and passions. Customizing your professional headline and summary are easy ways to say, “this is who I am, this is what I stand for, and this is what I want.” Other social media accounts like Instagram and Twitter also display your personal brand. Posting pictures from your vacations shows that you like to travel. Retweeting content from National Geographic and Conde Nast Traveler further reinforce that in others’ minds.
It may, however, be difficult to pinpoint your personal brand during a career transition. If you invested so much time into your previous position, it may be difficult to define who you are now and what you want going forward. There are several online tests you can use to find out what is important to you and what your strengths are beyond just your topical interests. The US VALS™ Survey results in primary and secondary VALS types explaining your dominant approach to life and a particular emphasis you give to your dominant approach. The Life Values Inventory can help you identify your core values and provide strategies for you to flourish given your values.
A good example of a journey of personal brand discovery comes from this podcast by Terry O’Reilly. In this episode of his series “Under the Influence,” he explores how UFC fighter Geroges St. Pierre re-branded himself (with the help of Sid Lee) to shed his vicious, blood-thirsty image and project a more polished persona. Although not all of us have the help of an agency with extensive resources, O’Reilly provides a step-by-step guide to putting your personal brand online for recruiters to see.