As we usher a in a new board, we decided to get their thoughts on what it means to be an executive woman and what it means to serve as a leader and a champion for women and girls in the ever-changing landscape of the workforce.
The Puzzle Piece: Questions with Dulcie Forlonge, director Membership, AFETT 2019-2020
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership means stepping up to the plate and reaching deep down inside to bring out the best, not only in yourself, but in those around you. Those people may be your team, your colleagues, your family or even those who happen to be there during an emergency. Leadership requires you to be a conduit through which solutions can be discovered; success can be achieved and challenges minimised because you have tapped into that unique skill, talent or trait that others have. Each person in your team has a puzzle piece that contributes to creating the bigger picture but on its own it may not have context. Leadership is recognising how and where all the pieces fit together.
Who are your greatest inspirations?
My family unit. My parents, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins have all inspired me throughout my life. While it is fine to look for inspiration in great leaders or motivational speakers all they serve to do is reinforce what has been implanted and instilled in me through my family. I have family in various spheres and they have inspired me to see that I do not have to achieve in only one segment in my life but I can achieve in the various roles that make up who I am, personally and professionally. That is a definition of a truly inspired person – one who can achieve success in closing a deal, hosting a superb conference, making a delicious muffin, finishing that hike or fixing the leaking toilet.
What does mentorship mean to you?
I will speak on the impact that my mentors have had on me. The mentors that I have been destined to cross paths with have always shown me that when I think I have done all I can, that I really have more left in my gas tank. You know that “excess” in your gas tank when the warning light comes on?…Mentorship is showing you how to tap into that area and keep going. Each time I have listened to my mentors I have pivoted into an area or level that I did not know was there. Sometimes we wear blinders or we see the warning light and think that fuel is done. But mentors show you that this is just a blinking light. There is more fuel to burn.
Where would you like to see AFETT in the next ten years?
AFETT is a truly special organisation where people connect and help each other by sharing their experiences and connections to assist each other. This happens internally through the networking among the members and externally through the AFETT programmes. Initiatives such as Six Steps to Success, the REACH Mentorship programme, Women in Leadership Awards, the Women in Leadership Series serve to enhance citizens of TT. In tten years, I would like to see these initiatives and the flagship event Suit me UP, which celebrates its 17th year on October 5, continue its meaningful impact on communities; I would like to see beneficiaries of these programmes leading the organisation and holding positions of leadership in the country.
What made you decide to serve on the board of AFETT?
Serving on the Board of AFETT gives me the opportunity to be more involved in directing the course of AFETT and its programmes. The position of Membership director also puts me in direct contact with the members and I get to play a part in promoting their achievements and businesses to the other members and the wider public. Playing a part in helping others promote their skills and talents and showcasing their passions allows me to “pay it forward” as others have done the same for me in the past. It allows me to support others as I have been supported in the past.
What issues are most important to you as a female professional?
I think it is important to figure out what I can contribute as a female professional. How do I apply the unique perspectives that I have gained during my journey to the task at hand; the challenge being faced or the road to be travelled. It is not so much that I should gain some advantage because I am a female but rather because as a female I have a different perspective on things that are an important part of the solution. Going back to the puzzle analogy, each puzzle piece holds an essential part of forming the picture and society must realise that all the pieces together create the image – if any piece of a puzzle is missing it cannot be completed.
What advice would you like to give to an aspiring executive?
You need to discover the skills, talent and innate perspective that you bring to the table. It is not so much that any one deserves to be there because they are a particular age, race, education background and all the other ways society segments but rather what you have to contribute. What value do you bring to the project, programme, department etc.? Most importantly, you must always know how valuable what you bring to the table is and continue to improve and nurture that value. Never stay stagnant – you must know more next year than you know this year – the world changes each day and you must change and adapt as well.
Do you think that it is important for female executives to have good, strong mentors to guide them on their journey?
Yes, most certainly. Mentors show you what is possible when you don’t see it. They hold a special role as they analyse a situations and then provide guidance on how you can master the situation and take advantage of opportunities that you may not even see. They help you see the bigger picture because when you are “in it” sometimes you can only see what is in front of you or under you. A mentor is able to give you the drone view and help you see what is above you, behind you and around you. They help you to step out of the situation and look at it from a different perspective.
AFETT is a not-for-profit organisation formed in 2002 with the goal of bringing together professional women and engaging in networking opportunities, professional training and business ideas. ASK AFETT is a column meant to address issues and concerns of professionals seeking advice to assist in progressing in their careers. Today's response was written by AFETT Membership director, Dulcie Furlonge. Learn more about AFETT at www.afett.com, search for AFETT Events on Facebook, follow us @AFETTEXECS on Twitter or contact us at (868) 343-2160. Email us your career-related questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors, meant strictly as advice and guidance, based upon their experience and expertise. In no way are they meant to be legally binding upon AFETT and or its members, servants nor agents.