Two Influential Women Speak Out

Mary Prefontaine and Danielle Ferron

From the non-profit world to the legal landscape, two very successful women talk candidly on the subject of influence.

Mary Prefontaine is President
and CEO of the Institute for Career Advancement Needs (ICAN)

and has over twenty years of experience leading and developing dynamic teams in complex business environments—
from small businesses to Fortune 500s—
to help organizations build and foster an enterprising culture focused on the future.

Mary’s perspective :

I am often asked by organizations that I work with what it takes for a woman to become a leader.  You can’t become a leader without having influence in your organization.  To understand influence, you must understand people, and to understand people, you must understand yourself.    I am constantly learning, inquiring and being curious.  And one of the most important things that I’ve learned is that to influence others, you have to understand how your values and your curiosity influence your peer group in the workplace.

Margaret J. Wheatley, the thought leader, talks about following the energy of “Yes!”—taking that first step, and then the next, and then the next.  Often women don’t take the next step. We ignore the open door because we’re conditioned not to go through.  There are a lot of reasons we don’t, often because of the balancing act we carry in our lives—our homes, our families, our jobs.  Women think that if they take on the next step, they’ll have to make trade-offs and give something up.

As women respond to what’s important to them and decide how they would like to evolve their career, they must understand who they are and how they want to move forward—not just upward or laterally—but attitudinally. Women need to be conscious of what‘s in front of them—aware that there’s an open door, an invitation, an opportunity.  If you’re in the hallway of the office and someone gets in the elevator with you, do you introduce yourself, ask them to have coffee and ask about opportunities? Women don’t always step up to have the conversation and don’t say why it’s important.  And that’s exactly what they must do.

Mary Prefontaine

My whole life is a learning journey.  If you approach it that way, if you’re coming from a place of curiosity, you’ll always bring something new to the table.  Influence is tied to being curious, being a learner, being someone who is willing to help.  When you become part of the team that needs to get something done, when you step up and let your voice be heard and your actions be seen, you become influential.

Women who are influential often can think beyond the boundaries of what presently exists.  They can call the shots and get others to pay attention to them. They are capable of conveying a clear and compelling message to promote their talent and skills which makes them influential advocates for themselves.  But too often women stand behind their own electric fences—the political landmines of corporate America or the culture and etiquette of the organization.  And women often go beyond these corporate boundaries and add on ones of their own.

Women need to be their own best spokesperson.  They need to have a clear, compelling message and get out of their own limited beliefs.  Women need to think beyond the boundaries of what presently exists.  Then, they will be able to interact with others in a highly effective manner.  They can call the shots and get others to pay attention. When you’re standing in a place of invitation and you’re open to it, good things will happen.”

Danielle Ferron is a partner at law firm Langlois Kronström Desjardins and is co-chair of the firm’s Litigation Group.  A specialist in Commercial and Banking Litigation, Danielle has spent her career in private practice at both boutique and national law firms. In addition to commercial and banking litigation, her practice includes class actions and commercial fraud and intellectual property litigation. She also has expertise in insolvency and restructuring, insurance, and information technology law.

Danielle’s point of view:

I’ve been practicing law for close to 20 years in litigation with a specialty in banking litigation. I have been recognized by the courts and my peers as someone who is a very straight shooter.  I am a tough opponent, but a fair opponent, and I will not dishonor justice.

In 2009, I co-authored and co-published a book on injunctive relief and Anton Pillar injunctions which is a form of civil search warrants for fraud new to the Québec courts.  I was the first person to co-publish a book on this type of relief which gave me influence in my legal field and recognized me as one of the leaders for this type of injunction. I’m now known as one of the most knowledgeable in this field in Québec and this recognition has given me new mandates from my clients.

Danielle Ferron

For me, having influence has to do with your reputation. If you have a good reputation, it can go a long way in how much influence you can have with clients, colleagues and even to a certain degree with the courts and thus, for a lawyer, for your career in general. If fact, your reputation will have an impact on the degree of influence you can have in many aspects of your life.

For women to have influence, they must figure out what it is they want—what it is they’re good at.  They need to focus their energy on developing their expertise, getting known to other people and becoming the best at what they do.  For me, it began with a mentor who saw certain skills and potential and helped me channel that into something that was marketable.  My mentor guided me through the process asking “now that you’ve done this, have you thought about that?” If you want that promotion, that position, ask for it or ask what you need to do to get it.  Don’t just expect that you’ll be given it

The first couple of years I was practicing, I was learning the law.  Then I learned about marketing and developing my career.  I joined the AFFQ (Association of Québec Women in Finance) in 2002, became a board member in 2006, and a VP in 2008.  That gave me access to a number of women who had arrived in their careers—who had made something of themselves, who I could look up to and gain mentorship and guidance from.  In addition to focusing my energies as a lawyer, I also focused my energies as a business woman.  There are not a lot of women litigators that I could take advice from.  At the AFFQ, I sought the advice of influential women who allowed me to learn from them.

I think it boils down to figuring out what you want and asking for help from people that can influence you getting what you want. But you need to be good at what you do—working hard is not enough.  You need people of influence surrounding you to become a person of influence.”


Categories: Influence


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