Seeing Problems As Opportunities
Amanda Kahlow is the founder, executive chairman and chief strategy officer of 6sense, an account based orchestration platform. Aside from her role in 6sense, she’s committed to inspiring women and girls to achieve their dreams.
So, on top of her involvement as a board member of Girl Rising, Amanda recently launched a retreat for women CMOs, the Empowered CMO Network, where like-minded women come together to share ideas and inspire others. She dubs herself a passionate, positive, spiritual warrior for women and girls, and has a mission to prove that educating women is the number one solution of our time, not the number one problem. I had a chance to interview her recently.
Here are the highlights of that interview:
Jill Griffin: Where did you grow up? Describe your early childhood and its significance on your life.
Amanda Kahlow: I grew up on the east coast in the Maryland, Virginia and DC metropolitan area. I had lived in 22 houses before I was 18 years old. Moving from house to house with a single mom who worked at least 15 hours a day at minimum wage to provide for my brothers and me was a humbling experience.
Growing up as the only girl — where I had two older brothers and saw my dad on the weekends — I felt like I was never good enough, never old enough, smart enough, strong enough, athletic enough, etc. I’m sure this was never my family’s intention, but subconsciously, I never felt like I lived up. I always needed to prove myself, which is why I took so much pride in my performance — working extra hard to move out of the remedial classes, playing every sport imaginable.
When I graduated from college, my brother told me that I’d be lucky if I ended up as a telemarketer. I knew I needed to prove him wrong, and this need turned into a burning desire to ‘do it.’ I was determined to be more successful than anyone could have imagined, even myself. I learned that my key to success was to let people tell me I couldn’t do it and then use that as my fuel.
Griffin: When did you first get the whisper you belonged in business?
Kahlow: I always knew I wanted to be in control of my own destiny, and the only way to not work for someone is to work for yourself. I had my first job at a golf course when I was 13, followed by about 10 other jobs before I graduated high school.
I always had a side hustle — selling Girl Scout cookies, washing cars or babysitting. I even created a small service business trading lunch box foods and charging my friends to have me “style” them for school. I’ve always seen problems as opportunities — in fact, I look for them. Uncovering the real problem is the hard part, but solving it is easy.
Griffin: Was there an early teacher that inspired you? Who and how?
Kahlow: My father was my greatest teacher. I’ve watched him start so many companies and continue to dream big. He was always looking to solve real problems for real people he came in contact with in his daily life — but he would give it away.
For example, he has spent the last 10+ years creating a non-profit to fix our biased electoral system. His passion is beautiful and lit a fire in me to succeed for others without taking away from my own personal success. I like to think that we can be capitalistic and save the world. In fact, if you don’t make money, you won’t have any resources to solve problems.
Griffin: What’s a great piece of business or life advice have you received, who gave it to you, and how has it enhanced your life?
Kahlow: Come up with your personal motto. Who are you? Find your purpose and what you stand for. After deep soul searching, I knew that my motto was: “I am a passionate, positive, spiritual warrior for women and girls.” Whenever I encounter a big endeavor, I run it by this motto to see if it aligns. I consider, while I may be called to do something, does it really resonate with why I’m here? If not, perhaps it’s time to change my motto.
Griffin: Please give me the top 3 bullet points in your Personal Leadership Credo.
Kahlow: It may sound cliché, but I try to believe you must “be yourself and lead with your whole self.” I will never complain about the differences between being a woman and being a man, as there are so many positives to make up for it.
I have no shame in being my authentic, compassionate, empathetic self when negotiating or when building a culture and team. It’s okay to appeal more to people’s hearts than to their minds. Show up fully. Whether it be with your colleagues, customers, prospects or just when networking, show up fully and care about people beyond the challenge you’re looking to solve for them.
Don’t focus on what you want to get out of people, but see their humanity. Slow down and give them all of you in those moments — and if you can’t, shorten the interaction or reschedule.
Griffin: What advice do you have for young, talented, ambitious women who want to rise?
Kahlow: Be strong, be brave, but be humble. Risk it all, but do so with positive emotion and intention. If you do that, you can have anything you dream of in this world. Dream big, roll your shoulders back and own it, but never lose your authentic woman! I used to wear my hair back and try to hide my ‘woman,’ now I wear my hair down and lead with my authentic softer side. And while you’re owning your real self, solve real business problems. There’s nothing wrong with women building shopping or makeup apps, but that’s not all we can do. Dream to solve real business problems, real-world problems that you have a passion for!