Join Lydia Fenet and me in this episode of the Productive Living series as we talk about leading with confidence, negotiating for what you’re worth, and networking like a pro.
Leadership for all of us: knowing your worth and negotiating with confidence
Lydia is Global Managing Director and Strategic Partnerships and Lead Benefit Auctioneer at Christie’s Auction House. She has led auctions for more than 600 organizations and raised over half a billion dollars for nonprofits globally. She was named one of New York’s most influential women by Gotham magazine and has been featured in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Crain’s, and has appeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair and Town & Country. Her widely acclaimed book, The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You, was published by Simon & Schuster and was optioned for TV/Film by New Form Entertainment. Lydia is also a wife and mom who lives in New York City with her family.
Lydia first moved to New York City 20 years ago, after leaving college and securing a job at Christie’s Auction House. While Lydia was in college in 1997, she read an article in Vanity Fair magazine about how Princess Diana sold her dresses for charity and she thought it was incredible. She decided right then that she had to work at Christie’s and told everyone she met that she was going to work there one day. Lydia thinks that voicing your goals to others is very important, and in this case, it worked! She ended up encountering an employee of Christie’s, which enabled her to get an internship while in college, and that led to her job. Lydia has been at Christie’s in various roles for 20 years. She has a passion for her work, which was not something she necessarily envisioned doing while growing up in a small town. She wants to share her passion and message with other women who may want to do something bigger with their lives and to have confidence while doing it.
Lydia’s role as a Charity Auctioneer
In Lydia’s role as a charity auctioneer, she does talk very fast, if that’s something you were wondering about. But she also gets to see beautiful and rare pieces sold all the time, such as a da Vinci painting worth half a million dollars. She gets to stand on stage in front of a crowd with items she has selected for the auction and uses a variety of skills she has learned over time to get the audience excited and competitive with each other, all with the goal of having them bid against each other to raise the most money for a good cause. Lydia loves this part of her job and the “feel good” moments it brings, as well as knowing she is contributing to helping others.
What inspired Lydia to write her book
Lydia says that every time she does her job as an auctioneer, either before or after the auction takes place, there are women who will come up to her and say that they could never do what she does. This may be for a variety of reasons, such as they hate selling or asking others for something or to do something. Lydia began to hear this often and realized that the skills these women lacked were something she lacked at one point too, but she learned the skills and they could too. It was then that she decided to write her book, The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You, to teach women the tools she has learned over the last 16 years–how to be confident in front of crowds, how to sell a product or idea, or even themselves, and feel good while doing it.
A lot of Lydia’s book relates to leadership in a broad sense. One of the themes she comes back to throughout the book is inspiring others and leading by example. When it comes to leadership, Lydia says one of the most important aspects of it is supporting the cause. If you are someone who takes credit for all of the good things that happen and leaves everyone else behind, all in an attempt to get the “gold star”, then you will be a target. But if you instead build people up around you and support their ideas and initiatives, your staff/co-workers will support you. Choosing to support and lift others up doesn’t take anything away from you, it’s additive. Lydia loves to teach this to others because it has been a valuable lesson in her own life.
Negotiating for what you’re worth
When Lydia is asked by other women how they can better advocate for themselves, she reminds them that no one gives you a permission slip in life. If you are wondering if you should email that person back or ask for more, ask yourself what will happen if you do? For some reason, women feel that there is a set of rules we have to follow in life that includes not asking for too much and not putting ourselves out there. But nobody succeeds without asking for more. Lydia once worked for a company she loved for 10 years, only to find out she was making a third of what she should have been. She felt horrible for never asking for a raise the whole time she worked there.
Learn to ask for things you know you’re not going to get. Get used to hearing the word no and understand that it may not mean no forever, maybe just no at that moment. When it comes to negotiation, there are many shades of grey. Never walk out of a situation without exploring all those shades.
Negotiating for what you’re worth matters because if you don’t ask, you will never receive. Lydia’s father always said, “You are worth what you negotiate and not a penny more”. If you never ask for more, or used to ask but no longer feel comfortable doing so, you are leaving money on the table, and that compounds over time.
When it comes to sales and advocating for yourself, remember that this is not personal, it’s business. When you’re asking someone to buy something, such as a product or service, you need to understand that this is a gift because you are giving them something they don’t have but need. Whenever Lydia is offering something to another person, like to join a Masterclass, for example, she looks at it as something they will ultimately benefit from. Instead of feeling rejected, if that person doesn’t want what you are offering, consider why they don’t want it–there could be many reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with you. It’s not personal and does not relate to your value as a human being.
Understanding money and how it contributes to making a life that matters
In Lydia’s book she writes:
Educating yourself about money, how to use it, how to spend it, how to make it, how to save it, and how to make more of it, is one of the most important things you can do in your life.
While growing up, Lydia’s parents did not educate her about money and she feels that if they had, she could have avoided some major pitfalls. It took her until she was nearly 30 years old to learn how money worked and how to invest it–and now she wants to teach other women. Money makes the world go ’round, so you need to learn how it works and understand what role it has in your life in order to live the life you want.
Lydia feels that if women were given a solid education about money, they could realize the benefits of it and set themselves up to be financially successful.
It’s also important to remember that you never know what may happen in life. You could go from being a stay-at-home mom to the sole breadwinner, or go from working full-time to working part-time. Being educated about money helps you prepare for any situations that may arise.
The importance of networking
Lydia uses the phrase “Network or Die” in her book because networking is just that important. If you don’t network, your business will die because things just don’t stay the same forever. Networking is free and because of social media, you can reach out to anyone at any time, anywhere in the world. You can constantly spend time building your network, both personally and professionally. And you don’t have to limit your networking to your profession or interests–network with everyone. This will help you grow your business or professional standing, and help you expand your thinking and points of view.
Networking is about meeting people, connecting with them, and figuring out how you can work together and know them on a personal level.
When you think of networking, you might be envisioning an awkward cocktail hour and forced conversations, but it doesn’t have to be like that. You want to connect with others on a personal level and get to know them organically. This will lead you to introduce them to others in your network, which can eventually lead to increased business or personal benefits for you.
You want to network without any goal in mind but to simply get to know someone else. Lydia meets a lot of people due to networking and keeps a notebook to keep track of everyone. She will note one or two details about a person to help her remember their name and what they do. She keeps this notebook with her all the time, so if she runs into that person again, she can know what things to talk to them about. Remembering and using small personal details about another person helps them feel connected to you, which is crucial in networking.
How to be The Most Powerful Woman In the Room
Lydia has three suggestions for women on how to be powerful, which she also discusses in her book.
- If you are in a room trying to sell a product, yourself, or an idea, be yourself. Be authentic and genuine, using your own words.
- Network or die! Trying to spend an hour each week connecting with people you don’t know to increase your professional and personal reach. This can be done virtually or in person, but one thing is certain–networking will not fail you.
- Lift those up around you. This has been a hard year and everyone needs kindness, encouragement, and help.
How Lydia makes a life that matters
What Lydia wants above all things is to be able to look back at the end of her life and know she passed along information to people that was helpful to them. Lydia is now in her early 40s and spent the last 20 years learning. For the next 20 years, she wants to pass on all that knowledge to other women so they can avoid pitfalls she wasn’t able to. For Lydia, living a life that matters is about living in service of others, uplifting others, and living her dreams at the same time.
What do you do to get back on track on a day when everything gets away from you?
Of course, Lydia has these days. She has learned to not let these kinds of days get away from her, though. Instead of looking at the whole day as a loss, she tries to think about it in terms of segments of time. She is always trying to focus on her mindset and knows that it’s okay if everything doesn’t go her way. She may have a bad hour or two, but it doesn’t have to be a bad day.
Lydia’s last words for the listener
We’ve made it through a tough year and we are still here. Wherever you are right now, congratulations! I hope that the next year will be filled with confidence and power. You are the only person who can change your life, so go out there with confidence, own your power, and live the life you want to live.
What do you think? Questions? Comments?
Connect with Lydia
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