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Categories: APRIL/MAY 2020

Shannon Says: Secrets to success

By Dr. Shannon Terrell Gordon  

Photo by Leah Yetter

The annual “Women in Business” issue of Macon Magazine highlights women winning in our market. Yes! When I was younger – a first generation, scholarshipped college student from the wrong side of the tracks with exposure to few professional role models – I wondered if that could ever be me. I wish I had someone then to pass on this wisdom I’ve learned through the years. I hope you find it useful now.

Remember that success and significance are possible. Aim high! I am cheering for you to build a life that matters, one that makes the world a better place.

EMBRACE THE PROCESS: There is no program to build a life or a career. Embrace – and choose to both enjoy and make the most of – the journey. The years will pass more quickly than you realize!

BE PERSONALLY AWARE: Understand your strengths and weaknesses well. Work to improve them relentlessly.

PERFORM: Work hard. Work smart. Do great work consistently. Keep your skills up to date.

ALWAYS PURSUE LEARNING: Cultivate the confidence – and humility – to work with people smarter than you or with better skills than you. Observe. Ask questions. Commit to being a continual student.

RECOGNIZE THE PLACE: Learn that business is business. As they grow up, men are socialized to be assertive, to not share much personal information, to be comfortable shouting at one another then quickly hanging out. Little girls tend to be socialized differently. Current business operates in more accordance with male socialization. At work, be consistent and unflappable. Recover quickly after conflicts with a quick sense of humor.

TAKE SMART CHANCES: Be willing to try new things. Successful people take more calculated, well-thought-out risks. Even if an attempt isn’t successful, the experience will expand you.

UNEARTH LEARNINGS IN FAILURES: Failures aren’t fun, but they aren’t the end of the world. See them as a signal to practice more, to correct errors and to adjust your approach so that you go forward wiser to greater success next time.

PAY ATTENTION TO POLITICS: Politics are real and everywhere. Develop keen observation skills about who is in the know, who has power and who makes decisions. A broad network of relationships is helpful. Eventually, you will need help with a situation.

PRACTICE COMMUNICATION AND PRESENTATION: Ask open-ended questions and listen really well. Be able to talk succinctly about things that matter to you. Be brief in written and spoken communication. Make eye contact. Ditch qualifying statements common for women like, “Excuse me, but …” or, “I might be mistaken, but …” Keep your vocal tone level when you speak. Display a polished professional image. Invite yourself to important meetings and come prepared. Speak up in your area of expertise. Take advantage of teams, committees, volunteering and engaging with people socially.

PRIORITIZE RELATIONSHIPS: Mentor relationships are important. They can introduce stretch opportunities, help you learn politics and increase your visibility. Mentors can be great sounding boards and share hard-won wisdom from their experience. They can – and should – give honest feedback. They can be your advocates, lend credibility and assist ascendancy. Remember, though, all healthy relationships are mutual. Show respect and appreciation for your mentor’s time and experience.

PUT TOGETHER A NETWORK: It’s a reality of life that most business opportunities come through relationships. Build relationships for relationships’ sake, and then maintain them. Offer help before you ask for it.
PERSIST: Set written goals and chart your progress. Remember, any forward progress creates friction. Stay committed. Celebrate every step.

BE PATIENT: Be more patient when at the mercy of others. Choose to work with urgency and be “in action” when you have more control. Set the pace when you can.

Dr. Shannon Terrell Gordon leads Macon’s River Edge Behavioral Health and River Edge Foundation. Shannon is a researcher, author, speaker and teacher to help each person live his or her best life and to help leaders make the most meaningful impact possible. Follow her on Instagram with #drshannonsays. Contact her at