Several months ago, the Detroit Regional Chamber asked me to moderate their inaugural International Women’s Day luncheon. The theme – Leading with a Purpose.

I truly enjoy moderating group conversations for a crowd. It’s like doing our show One Detroit, live, for an hour in front a few hundred people. There’s always a good energy in the room, and it’s a great opportunity to do a deep dive on a particular subject. (Remind me to tell you about the time I had to moderate a discussion turned argument about regional mass transit between Warren Evans, Brooks Patterson, Mark Hackel and Mike Duggan in front of 600+ people)

Monday afternoon, about 150 women (3 men were there too) came together at the Detroit Golf Club for the event. It featured three speakers: Ana Almeda, VP at Fourecia, Adrienne Bennett, Master Plumber/CEO Benkari Mechanical, and Leigh Ann Hello, VP of The Cabinet Studio.

They are women from very different backgrounds. One from corporate leadership, one built her own plumbing business (see Adrienne’s shout out from Mayor Mike Duggan at his State of the City address last week) and one is a small business entrepreneur.

I’ve always been curious when I talk to women in big leadership roles about the path they took. I like to hear about the professional as well as personal decisions and sacrifices they made that brought them to where they are. So, I wanted to share a few things I picked up from Ana, Adrienne and Leigh Ann.

Communicate clearly. Chaos in the workplace is deadly. Personally, I’ve found the best leaders communicate exactly what they want, who should deliver it and what the expectation is. Then check back with the team to make sure they heard the direction and project, so there’s no confusion. All agree its best not to make assumptions. Always clarify.

Surround yourself with smarts. Leaders and managers who are afraid to delegate may not have the best team surrounding them. Hire the best and smartest. Let them challenge, train them well and put them to work.

Understand the Industry. Leigh Ann designs kitchens. But she also knows just as much about construction and logistics. She understands what her contractors have to do and can push for what she needs.

Failure can be good. Ana says of course no one wants to fail, but we learn the most when we do. There’s something about acknowledging that and moving forward. Which leads to…

Preparation. Adrienne needs her workers to be ready to go on each project. Whether it’s small scale or Little Caesars Arena. She expects her crew to be on time, knowledgeable and up to date on training/education. And as someone who was the first black female plumber in the country, Adrienne says she knows she’s scrutinized even more. Which is why she prepares extensively for each project.

This is just a small snapshot about what we talked about. But I look forward to more conversations with women leaders from our area, focusing on real issues. Like work place atmosphere, job flexibility and perceptions of female leaders.

We need to have them – if we want to get more women to the front of the room.