Be Outrageous, Women's Keynoter Urges

Kimberly Ventus-Darks prides herself on being outrageous and has made a career of encouraging others - somewhat loudly - to give it a try, too. Outrageousness, she believes, is the key to being spectacular.

Thanks to the

Women’s Leadership Conference


Feb. 28

at Kingsgate Conference Center, her energetic and highly audible message has been injected into hundreds of women who work at UC. Conference attendees gave her a standing ovation after she opened the daylong event.

The president of Ventus-Darks Communications Inc.urged her listeners to take risks by changing and trying something new. “If you always do what you have always done, then you will always get what you have always got,” shouted the Cincinnati-based motivator and PhD, whose clients include Lucent Technologies, ATT and the Army Corps of Engineer. Her audience was instructed to repeat after her, and they eagerly complied, despite the fact it was about 8:30 a.m.

“If you want something that you have never had, then you need to do something that you have never done. If you always think the way you have always thought, then you will always get what you have always got,” she said.

Her presentation emphasized “secrets” that successful leaders know:

  • “We teach people how to treat us by what we will accept from them.”
    Ventus-Darks says if there is something wrong, and we fail to speak up, we lose our right to complain.

  • Don’t dwell on what others think of you. She advised her listeners to deflect other people’s behavior and not allow it to take away from their own power or joy. For example, if a cranky co-worker doesn’t say good morning back to you when you greet him or her, don’t let it bother you. “If you don’t speak back to me, it doesn’t take my joy. I speak to you not because I need you to like me, but because I need to like me,” she said.

  • Rather than worrying about other individuals’ opinions, assume that most people won’t understand you. “And if they do, what a nice surprise!” she said. In trying to decide how much value to place on an individual’s view of you ask yourself: “Do I want them to attend my funeral?” she instructed.

  • “Whoever rules your mind is your God,” she warned. If something a nasty co-worker said to you today becomes the obsessive thought that stays with you while you cook dinner or try to go to sleep, put it in perspective. Don’t allow that person to rule your thoughts. One strategy she suggests to avoid obsessing about some incident is to write the offender’s name on a small piece of paper and put it in your shoe. That way you can walk around on it all day. Or write it on paper and then sit on it, she said.

  • Hold on loosely - to your job, to issues. If you hold on too tightly, that’s when fear and anxiety result. Holding on loosely can be empowering and give you flexibility, Ventus-Darks advised.
  • “Be excellent because you’re excellent.” Don’t compete with anyone but yourself, she urged.

  • If you want to find your true strength and value, find the area that people despise about you. “That is the area where you’ve got the most value. Your blessing is your curse, and your curse is your blessing.”

  • If you want a soft answer, add words. This is what women tend to do, she said. If you want a strong answer, take words away. In an exercise in which she asked a volunteer to stand and shout forcefully at her “shout up and sit down,” Ventus-Dark demonstrated some effective comments that allow workers to respond to hurtful messages or problems, while retaining their own power yet remain courteous. She suggested:  “I give no one permission to disrespect me, and you are no exception” or “I respectfully disagree.” Her personal favorite is: “This is not a complaint, but an observation” to introduce a potentially negative topic in a non-threatening way.

This year’s conference was the seventh held since 1997. UC’s Women’s Leadership Conference attracts more than 300 attendees from all areas of the university in a day filled with workshops and networking. The event is sponsored by the Association for Administrative and Professional Women, the Association for Women Faculty and the Commission on the Status of UC Women.

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