After leaving the relative security of fourteen years with Microsoft, Diane Janknegt took a leap into the unknown with the help of her favorite caffeinated beverage. “I drank a lot of coffee with a lot of people,” she said in her opening keynote at the Society of Women Engineers WE Europe Conference in Amsterdam.
Janknegt reached out to people she admired and invited them for coffee, asking questions like “What inspires you?” and “What do you like about your work?” It was through these conversations that she discovered her own passion for entrepreneurship. She went on to found WizeNoze, a search engine that makes the internet better for children by helping them access age-appropriate content.
So what is Janknegt’s advice for aspiring leaders?
“Don’t be afraid to hire people who are much, much smarter than you are,” she says. And make sure to find people whose skills complement your own. “Don’t hire a copycat of yourself. Look for people whose skills are the opposite of yours.”
It’s not enough just to focus on your strengths, either. “Dare to emphasize your weaknesses,” was Janknegt’s advice to her audience.
Jo Miller is founding editor of BeLeaderly.com and CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching, Inc. Jo is a sought-after speaker who has traveled widely in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East to deliver keynotes and leadership workshops. Follow @jo_miller on Twitter.