3 career lessons from Momentum that every woman needs to know, featuring Ann-Marie Stanford of Spire


Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum, women, leadership, Spire
Ann-Marie Stanford at Spire offices in Birmingham. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

Momentum is a leadership development program for executive and early-career women based right here in Birmingham. So what can you learn from Momentum? Bham Now caught up with Ann-Marie Stanford, director of supply chain-special projects and supplier diversity at Spire. She also happens to be a recent alumna of Momentum’s Executive Leadership Program. Here’s how she’s applied three lessons from Momentum to her career and life.

Momentum Lesson 1

Invest in yourself. (Do not put your own needs last. Do not wait for someone else to extend the opportunities or “tap” you to do a new role. Actively seek it.)

Q. Now that you’ve gone through Momentum’s Executive Leadership Program, how do you apply the lesson of investing in yourself.

A. The first fundamental of investing in yourself, which I’ve been focusing on this year after going through the Momentum Executive Leadership Program, is taking the time to breathe, to pause and reflect on what is going well. Oftentimes, we reflect on how things can improve, but I have been more intentional this year on focusing on what am I grateful for.

What I find when I do that is I start to see how we’re all connected. I find now that I can focus on how I can elevate others. Now, in any stressful situation, I take the time to pause, breathe and reflect on what’s going well in that situation and that has been a fundamental take away from Momentum this year.

The second thing I would note about investing in yourself is rethinking your idea of permission.

At Momentum, we had a seminar on branding by speaker Susan Hodgkinson, who wrote the book “The Leader’s Edge.” In her seminar, she talked about being able to give ourselves permission to feel worthy of access and success. This really resonated with me.

What I am seeing now is sometimes you must invite yourself in to be able to make your contribution; don’t wait for permission.

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum, women, leadership
Visiting speakers, such as Marsha Sampson Johnson, shown here addressing the class of 2016, spark new insights for those in the Momentum program. Photo submitted

For 15 years, Momentum has offered executive leadership development for women professionals. Today, there are more than 400 Momentum alumnae. In 2019, Momentum welcomes its first class of young women professionals  in the Upward Early-Career Program. Learn more about Momentum’s programs.

Momentum Lesson 2

Know your value and be able to communicate it. This means: (1) Identify your strengths and how they align with organizational goals. (2) Be upfront about weaknesses and how you manage them. (3) Learn how to communicate with consistent, clear confidence.

Q. How did Momentum help you understand your value, how to align that value with organizational goals and how to communicate your value to others?

A. When thinking about the idea of value, Momentum taught me to focus on what I am truly passionate about. I’ve had more than 15 years in my career, so I’ve had the opportunity to focus on strengths and weaknesses. But really knowing what I am passionate about—and being able to communicate that—is paramount.

Here’s one example. I’ve always been passionate about working in the community and providing opportunities for underserved vendors to do business with our company.

I communicated my goals to Spire’s leadership team, and my goals also aligned with our mission statement: answer every challenge, advance every community and enrich every life through the strength of our energy. Based on my communication, my company afforded me the opportunity to lead the initiative around Supplier Diversity.

Birmingham, Alabama, Spire, 2101 6th Ave. N
Spire offices (right), downtown Birmingham. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

I knew I could really add value, but I also knew it was going to be a huge task for a growing company as large as ours. I needed guidance.

I reached out to my network and executive leadership about my goals for the project and where I needed support. Right away, I was virtually connected to someone who had led a similar initiative at another company, and I was able to learn about supplier diversity initiatives from my new connection.

Now, I am hosting events in the community that bring vendors together to grow their business, and ours.

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum, women, leadership
Women who attend Momentum become a support system for each other and an extended professional network. Photo submitted

Learn how Momentum, Alabama’s premier women’s leadership program, empowers a diverse group of promising women to develop leadership skills that positively impact business, culture and politics in Alabama.

Momentum Lesson 3

You cannot do it alone. Mentors, executive sponsors, co-mentoring groups, professional networks and peer support groups are all essential to your success. As you achieve respect and stature in business and in the community, you will also have the opportunity to give those things back!

Q. How has Momentum helped you build your support network, and how do you pay it forward?

A. Momentum really helped me see three things clearly: (1) On this journey we cannot do it alone. (2) We are very connected (3) We are truly better together.

I truly feel that I have the support of my class as well as the organization’s 400 alumnae. They, along with many others who have supported me throughout my career, are my extended professional network.

Momentum also has small network groups, where we discuss everything from potential interview questions for executive positions to healthy tips, such as having walking meetings or going dancing after work for fun. These groups are another valuable source of support.

On the topic of giving back, I have found that one of my strengths is being a connector. I’ve been very fortunate to meet some amazing women along this journey. Oftentimes, I’m afforded the opportunity to make virtual connections by email to connect someone to a topic. Sometimes we do lunch or coffee meetings to connect and introduce each other.

When you’re able to connect groups, who are interested in a certain topic, fun activity or professional development, it is truly the gift that continues to give.

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The Birmingham Bar Association at 2021 2nd Avenue North will be home base for Momentum’s 2019 classes. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

Q. What would you tell other women about your Momentum experience?

A. There are just not enough words. For me, Momentum was an amazing opportunity during a period of transition, as my company, Spire, was going through tremendous growth.

The amount of support and diversity of experience in functional areas in my class was amazing. We had lawyers, medical professionals and experts in finance and manufacturing. The diversity of experience and personalities opened my eyes to new things I wouldn’t have thought about before.

My group also pushed me to try new things, explore new cultures and travel to new places. Momentum is about more than leadership—it’s a personal experience, too.

Are you ready to get momentum? Visit momentumleaders.org.

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