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Community Member Spotlight: Krista Johnson | Entrepreneur, Leader, & Creator

Today we’re excited to introduce you to Krista Johnson. Krista is an entrepreneur, empowering leader and creative and is also a content partner. Content partners help Voyage in so many ways from spreading the word about the work that we do, sponsoring our mission and collaborating with us on content like this. Check out our conversation with Krista below.

Krista, thank you so much for joining us again.  We’re so inspired by you, your work and your story, but some of our readers might not be as familiar with your story as we are, so maybe you can start by briefly introducing yourself?

I’m an entrepreneur, brand and visibility strategist, and people developer who helps businesses and individuals tell impactful stories to captivate the attention of their target audience and convert that audience to action. To date I’ve had the opportunity to craft powerful and profitable brands for successful, multi-million dollar companies while simultaneously guiding individuals in their personal brand journeys, activating the same processes and techniques used by fortune 500 companies.

I’m passionate about understanding the human behaviors that create and determine success at work and in our personal lives. I am an active mentor to young women in business and serve as a Dallas Chapter Leader of UPWARD, an organization that helps executive women build their professional networks and move up in their careers.

Most recently I Co-Founded Luminary 2, a Dallas-based creative and marketing agency. After a few years of building a successful startup and leading a talented team that offered a wide variety of services to various verticals, at the beginning of September I shifted focus to my next project. Sneak peek: a firm that focuses on developing women, building brands, and creating content for women-owned, women-led, and mission-driven businesses. Launching this winter!

Alright so let’s start with a few questions about remote work. With a significant amount of professionals working from home for the first time, what changes are you seeing with ways of work?

I have been working remotely for a few years now, and I LOVE it! But, it wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows. When I started working remotely full-time, I immediately noticed there were things missing. I missed having my team members or colleagues pop by my office just to say hi. I missed those fortuitous crossing of paths and the rapport that’s built during informal walks to grab a coffee. And I really missed the magic of in-person brainstorm sessions. Without that daily human element, I had a lot of work to do to infuse humanity in remote work, to stay productive, and to remain engaged.

As humans we are programmed to read a person’s eyes, facial expressions, hear their voice inflection, and take in hundreds of other interpersonal indicators during a conversation. When communication is mostly digital, the human on the receiving end gets absolutely none of this information. We have to work even harder to connect! My best advice is: create your own “digital smile” to give your email communication context and personality. This could mean using an emoji here, sharing a funny meme, or including a personal story that is appropriate for your work culture. Remember, even over the phone, a person can hear a smile, but it’s even harder in emails!

Some of the most successful remote leaders I’ve met overflow with personality, and it’s not because it just comes naturally. It’s strategic! If most of your communication is done via text or email, work even harder to include your authentic self, give more context for your message, and be really clear. Always reread your messages and add more details so what you’re asking or saying is correct and clear.

How can professionals ensure they are moving their careers forward and advocating for themselves during this time?

Remote work environments can be challenging for everyone! Especially women. We often shy away from self-promotion at work, because we fear being labeled a bragger or boaster. Our male counterparts traditionally don’t hesitate to share their wins and progress! In fact, the data shows us that women have a deep discomfort with self-promotion. This unfortunately fact only adds to the gender gap in promotions and pay.

This is not the time to press pause on goal setting, and it’s definitely not the time to slow down in your pursuit of those goals. Even if your boss isn’t asking about your progress toward work-related goals, project milestones, or professional development, share them! Ask for a weekly or monthly touchbase to discuss what you have achieved, what you are currently working on, and what you hope to achieve in the future. If you have a win, celebrate it with your team and leadership! Stay visible, even if it feels slightly uncomfortable. It’s okay to do things right outside our comfort zones. That is where the growth happens!

With networking and professional events either canceled or transitioning to zoom, how can women ensure they are continuing to build strong relationships and connections?

Keep showing up! If your professional networking group is meeting via Zoom or video chat, prioritize attending and remain checked in and engaged during the virtual event. If you aren’t involved in a professional organization, search for one that is hosting virtual meet ups and aligns with your interests and industry. Also, prioritize 1 hour each week to spend time engaging with your professional network on Linked In. Engage with posts, send a few individuals an encouraging or informal note, and make it a priority to build or maintain the connections with your network This is the only way to maintain network and career momentum in a time that could otherwise become stagnant.

For professionals who lead others, how can they ensure they are keeping their teams engaged?

Your team still needs a high level of interaction with you, even if that is digital interaction! We all know it’s important to schedule formal connect points with our teams, like one-on-ones, personal development meetings, etc. But what about those informal conversations that have nothing to do with work and everything to do with building rapport, trust, and bringing company values to life? The only way I have found to keep myself focused on the extremely important task of connecting with my team is to schedule it. If you were to peek into my calendar back in the day when I led a big team you’d see a different employee’s name assigned to each day of the week. I had my calendar set to send me a reminder with their name at 11AM. This prompted me to send a message and check in with them. Sometimes I would ask how they are, how their family is doing, or what’s going on in their world. Other times I would share a book, an article, or something else that reminded me of them. And there were times I didn’t have anything to share at all! Sometimes it was just about leaving room in my day for an organic connection with the most important people in my work world… my team. You can do this with anyone, like your peers, mentors and leaders. Utilize your calendar to help you remember the importance of checking in!

Also, remember to ASK your team what they need! You can find out a lot about a person by observation and working with them, but really, it’s easier to just ask. Once you know what each person prefers, you can Individualize your communication, recognition, etc. to the employee’s needs. This is the key to optimizing their performance and keeping them engaged. Especially during a time with so many new challenges and roadblocks.

Given your expertise on women’s leadership issues perhaps we can just end with a few related questions. So, for one, can you talk to us about why mentorship is important for womens’ success in their careers?
I truly believe the Mary Wright Edelman quote, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Female leadership and representation is so important. Having a mentor who has achieved what you hope to or has navigated similar challenges to yours gives you a real-life, tangible connection to what is possible for YOU! Great mentors provide a safe environment to chat through work and career-related topics and goals, and if you find a mentor within your organization, this person can help create a future growth pipeline. Career development, personal growth, professional challenges…we need each other now, more than ever. Finding a mentor, a mentorship circle, or an organization that provides that support might just be the missing connection you need to propel forward.

How do you find the right mentor?
Women don’t know where to begin, and once they do the hard work to identify a mentor, they are nervous to ask. First things first, think about your short-term and long-term career goals or professional development goals. What do you want your career to look like in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? Then, take a look at your current network both inside and outside the company where you are currently employed. If you are an entrepreneur, think about who might be in your network or connected to people you know. Linked In is a great resource for this! Think about who you might know who has had a similar career path and demonstrated success.

Once you have identified a potential mentor…it’s time to make the ask. Women traditionally don’t ask for what they need. It’s time to get over that! Have your elevator pitch ready; 30 seconds worth of information that tells this person who you are, what you are hoping to accomplish, and what exactly you are asking of them. I recommend starting out by asking for a brief phone call or video chat where you can share where you are today, any challenges you are navigating, where you would like to see your career go. Ask them what their bandwidth is for regular meetings. These are most likely successful women who are juggling competing priorities, so be realistic with your expectations and specific with your ask! And don’t be afraid of rejection. Like my colleague Courtney Ramsey says, if you don’t ask, the answer is always no!

Alternatively, mentorship circles are fantastic if you can’t identify a specific person in your network. Do you have a group of colleagues that you could bring together virtually or in-person to talk about the unique career challenges you are facing? Ask the group how they handle certain situations, how they learned a specific skill, how they asked for that promotion. Don’t underestimate the power of a group of women who are coming together to help, uplift, and build up one another! We are powerful.

What ensures a successful mentor and mentee partnership?

A clear ask, clear expectations, and a commitment to growth will help the partnership thrive! As I mentioned earlier, the more clear you are on what you’d like to achieve and how you feel your mentor can help you get there…the more likely you are to create a successful partnership. Stay open to feedback and learning. A good mentor will challenge you, and that’s exactly what we need to grow.

Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations, says to show up “prepared to be here and nowhere else”. Ensure you have prepared for your sessions with your mentor and you are fully present and engaged in your conversations.

How can you give back to your mentor?

I love this question, because mentors need love too! Ask your mentor how you can support them in the projects they are working on or the goals they are working toward. You can also offer to endorse their leadership skills on Linked In or to write a review for their company.

Finally, please let us know how our readers can connect with you and learn more.

For now, the best way to connect with me is on Linked In or Instagram. I look forward to the connections!

Instagram: @kristaraejohnson_

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