June 23, 2020 I SWIM I by Sarah Hollandsworth

SWIM’s Big Summit

This past spring, 16 female leaders from the music products industry came together for the first ever Smart Women in Music Leadership Summit. I was fortunate to be one of those women. What we did not know at that time was we were also fortunate in that the summit happened at all. Soon after it, the world of events, and everything else, was widely shut down due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Held March 4-6 at NAMM headquarters in Carlsbad, California, the SWIM Summit was made possible by the SWIM Fund, led by founders Robin Walenta, Crystal Morris and DeDe Heid. The SWIM Fund was created by the NAMM Foundation in 2018 to expand diversity, inclusion and support for women in our industry. SWIM’s mission is to cultivate a future where at least 10% of the CEO roles and 50% of C-suite positions in the music industry are held by women within the next ten years.

I applied to attend the SWIM Summit for many reasons, but one of the most important factors was to expand my network of creative, powerful and brilliant women influencers in this business. Support structures are critical to successful leadership, and SWIM is an invaluable resource for emerging leaders in our industry. In light of recent events, I am all the more grateful for the relationships that were forged that week.

This immersive leadership program focused on dialing in our strengths to better serve others and to understand the impact we have on those around us. We learned effective models for giving and receiving feedback while improving our skills in communication and influence. We also practiced shifting our mindsets, increasing resilience and creating actionable goals to move us forward in our careers.

Great leadership requires continuously pushing past comfort zones, seeking out knowledge and new levels of self-awareness. One of my biggest takeaways from the summit came from a strengths profile assessment. Each of us received detailed feedback on our individual strengths, realized and unrealized, as well as learned behaviors and weaknesses.

With this information, I am able to identify and focus on responsibilities and projects that cater to my strengths – energizing me and allowing me to achieve better flow in life and work. This insight also provides clarity around aspects of my work that I would benefit from delegating to those around me who have different strengths than my own.

A second assessment asked our superiors, peers and direct reports to provide feedback on various aspects of our leadership. This 360-degree feedback was uncomfortable but offered valuable insight into the difference between intent and impact. It’s rare to get candid, real information from colleagues on how we are perceived. I learned that what I intend to achieve or convey in a given situation does not always align with what others think or feel as a result of my behavior. The result: I’m not always having the impact that I want to have. With that information, I have the opportunity to do things differently.

Among the various tools we were given for our leadership toolbox, one of my favorites was a formula shared by our facilitator for providing effective feedback. By referencing the specific circumstance, the behavior observed (without labels or judgements) and the impact the behavior had on you, your department and your organization, you can deliver useful feedback without the typical attachment to how it is received.

One week later, none of this would have been possible. By the end of that week, on March 6, South By Southwest announced it was canceling the festival for the first time in 34 years. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic and the country began shutting down.

The SWIM Summit was an experience that I will never forget with people who I expect to be lifelong friends and colleagues. I look forward to continuing to be a part of this key initiative for women in our industry. MI

Sarah Hollandsworth is director of sales and marketing for the J.L. Smith Group.

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