I recently spoke to a seasoned professional to raise money.
It was very clear to me that she was incredibly qualified to tackle the issues she was raising money for – but few people in the ecosystem knew who she was compared to other, better-known professionals.
There were other people who spent more time on social media doing podcasts, videos, and interviews – things that opened them up to more criticism as they built the brand. After all, the social internet can be a pretty critical and mean place – especially for women.
Instead, she spent most of her career focusing on real success and being great at every job that was assigned to her. She was a heads down guy who focused on metrics, not the press. Her entire career has been one difficult problem after another, asking her to do things that most people couldn’t do – mostly operational roles that were behind the scenes to keep trains running on time – and at which she had a tremendous success.
The headline after the headline introduces men with less relevant experience than them, who make attention-grabbing predictions and share innovative sound ideas with little detail, research, or practicality. They show up at every conference, spending hours and hours on social media platforms, making them wonder who has time for this shit.
It was obvious that she didn’t want to do the horse racing – she just wanted to do her job. It’s something that I’ve seen a lot in the 30 or so female founders I’ve supported.
Unfortunately, you can’t separate the two.
Collecting donations and running the dog and pony show are part of the job of being a manager. You can’t just do the job – you have to convince others that the way you work is the right way because you can’t go in on your own. You need to get media support, hiring, and partnering.
Also, there are a lot of people who seem to be doing a good job, but it’s hard to tell who is really outstanding. You always have to do your case. If you are a baseball player we can keep track of your stats.
In leadership positions, performance allocation is much more difficult.
Remember, what you’ve done before doesn’t tell me what you plan to do in the future, either. I can’t invest in your past. I can look at your past and make some guesses as to what you might do in the future, however
Getting enough money to get to the next step is an integral part of the job.
That being said, you don’t have to play the game like everyone else does. You don’t have to jump into discussions that encircle all of the social media who are who if that’s not part of your narrative.
Do it, but do it in a way that allows people who tend to support you to discover you. Tell your story. Go academic on the operational side. Share a medium post on how you feel about really difficult problems with specific examples from your accomplishments. Don’t just hope someone will notice – frame them for people with context and a little pride.
And don’t just ignore the haters. Take them down with microphone drops. Encourage them to take the risk of trying. Most of them will go away – especially once you’ve built a community of supporters around you.
Many executives don’t want to participate in social media because they feel like it’s just about blowing your own horn and exposing yourself to anonymous trolls.
Sure, it is – but it can also be a way for you to connect with people directly through your message. It’s a great way to connect with the media. In fact, much of the value to the social can lie in the face-to-face conversations it fosters. You tweet or repost someone or a comment and they both take it offline for an entire conversation.
It’s also a place to talk about the problems you want to solve and the importance of solving them in a certain way that doesn’t involve just talking about yourself. You can advocate focusing on specific topics, advocating for others, and challenging others to do the same.
None of that is horn tooting.
When you’ve worked really hard and had a success that doesn’t always show up, stop making it so difficult for people to find out that you are great.