How Powerful Are You?

Thumbnail image for kerri quenellHow powerful are you?

The Austin Business Journal has named this year’s Women of Influence for Central Texas, so I thought I’d ask a few of the 25 Profiles in Power winners about their “secret sauce.”

KERRI QUNELL (at left)
Vice President, Communications, Capital Area Food Bank of Texas

How do you define power?
Power is the capacity to have impact. If you have no power, your engine doesn’t go. There’s no light. You can’t be effective. I try to direct mine for good. As a good mentor, good mentee, and good example. My passion is mentoring young girls, helping them discover their amazing potential: their light.

What is the most important lesson you have learned?
To offer something in return whenever I make an “ask.” And to then find many ways to say “thank you” — not just with words, but also with actions.

What do you wish you had known/learned much earlier in life?
To fully listen before — or without — giving my thought or opinion. And to speak Spanish. I only use the six years of German I took in high school and college when ordering a meal in Fredericksburg.

STUART VICK SMITH
Partner, Maxwell Locke & Ritter LLP

How do you define power?
I view a powerful woman as a hard worker, an expert in her field, a connector, and willing to give back to her community. A woman in “power” mentors other women and gives them the opportunity to learn and grow from her experiences.

What is the most important lesson you have learned?
Start small. You can be a leader in any situation. Each step you take builds on experiences and adds to your resume. You do not have to be on the board the first time you decide to volunteer for a nonprofit. You do not have to be the leader of a project to be a key player. Make each role matter and put everything into it. As your experiences grow, so will the role you play.

What do you wish you would have known/learned earlier in your life?
I wish I would have had more confidence earlier in my career. I have been lucky and have always worked for individuals who believed in me and gave me the opportunity to grow. Still, I was a little afraid to put myself out there and get out of my comfort zone. I think that is typical of women early in their careers. I would recommend jumping in and not being afraid of someone saying “no.” Chances are, that will happen very rarely.

REBECCA POWERS
President, Impact Austin

How do you define power?
Getting others to follow you when they have the freedom not to.

What is the most important lesson you have learned?
Humility trumps everything.

What do you wish you would have known/learned earlier in your life?
Being authentic and true to one’s self is infinitely more important (and satisfying!) than trying to make everyone like you.

MARNY LIFSHEN
Principal, Marny Lifshen Consulting

How do you define power?
I define power as having ability to make decisions based on what is best for you and your family, and having the experience, influence, and network to help others solve problems and reach their goals. For me, power really lies in taking what I have learned and earned and passing it on — spreading the wealth, so to speak. Nothing feels as good as having someone tell me that I made a difference in their career or life.

What is the most important lesson you have learned?
You have to take chances and proactively ask for opportunities in order to excel. It doesn’t really matter how smart and talented you are, or how reliable and valuable you are, if you aren’t actively looking for ways to showcase these abilities. You have to learn how to promote yourself effectively AND take risks by asking for what you want, rather than just putting your nose to the grindstone and hoping to get noticed.

What do you wish you would have known/learned earlier in your life?
I wish I had understood that there is rarely just ONE way to do something. I spent a lot of time agonizing over decisions and worrying over doing the right thing. I didn’t know that there are usually pros and cons to each way, and that the important thing is to make the best decision you can, rather than getting paralyzed over deciding exactly how to perfectly handle something. Few decisions are truly life or death.

Tell me, how would you answer these questions? I’ll share the responses.

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