Sandra Harbecht spends a lot of time bringing people together. You might call her a matchmaker, except it’s not romance she’s trying to create. Harbrecht spends her days bringing talented people together in hopes of creating something special for others.
“The whole notion of building a team and guiding a team and getting a team to work together is probably an everyday priority for me,” says Harbrecht, president and CEO at Paul Werth Associates. “Whether it’s work I do for my company, my clients or work in the community, it’s really about how effectively people work with each other to get something bigger than any one individual could have accomplished.”
In the past 26 years, Harbrecht has helped the 25-employee company become one of Ohio’s premier strategic communications firms. She’s now trying to help the Columbus region achieve the same great things by serving as chair of Experience Columbus.
“It’s something I’m very engaged in and excited about,” Harbrecht says. “It’s getting everybody from all these different perspectives to get engaged in and excited about building great programs to attract people, businesses and visitors to Columbus.”
The first step in getting people excited about a new idea or a new venture is to show how excited you are about it.
“You have to convey your own sense of passion,” Harbrecht says. “You have to make sure people know that you’re willing to work as hard, if not harder, than anybody else. You’re not asking anybody to do anything that you’re not going to do. It’s the commitment: ‘I believe in this. I’m passionate about it, and I’m going to work as hard as anybody to make it happen. If you can convey your own sense of investment and your willingness to sacrifice for it, that’s a good start.”
As you convey that passion, you need to keep in mind that people receive information in different ways.
“If you apply the same approaches with everybody, you won’t be as successful as if you really take time to think about and get to know people as intimately as you can,” Harbrecht says. “That helps you tap into their own belief systems or value systems and their passions and skills and capabilities.”
Keep in mind as you’re thinking about the groups of people you’re trying to bring together that it’s not about you.
“So much of motivating people, managing people and inspiring people, it’s not about you,” Harbrecht says. “It’s about them. It’s understanding what motivates them, what gets them up in the morning and what is personally meaningful for them. Then it’s finding a connection between that and where you believe the team needs to go.”
You also need to remember that as you’re generating dialogue about the idea you have or the proposal you’re considering, there has to be a benefit to the people who are taking part in it.
“The other piece of getting people on board is helping them to see what is in it for them,” Harbrecht says. “If it’s not directly what’s in it for them, then how does what we do contribute to a better community for all of us? It’s that sense that there is a benefit to be gained from being successful.”
Don’t go into a new project with your mind made up about what you want to do or with preconceived notions that are close to being written in stone.
“Take the time to thoroughly understand the situation and to understand both the obvious but also a littler deeper beneath the obvious,” Harbrecht says. “What’s underneath the situation here? Looking at circumstances at some level of depth helps me.”
Harbrecht is a big believer in saving her work so she can put that depth of knowledge to use when she begins a new project. It helps get her ready and also puts her in a better position to lead her team.
“We certainly go back and look at what we’ve done before,” Harbrecht says. “There’s a lot of work product that exists that’s very valuable that we can tap into in future situations.”
But as important as data and information can be, it’s your passion that may be the most valuable tool you have to sell an idea.
“I just love the opportunity to share what I know with someone else and to help that person be successful,” Harbrecht says. “I don’t need credit. I just need to know that somebody has gained benefit from what we’ve done and that our work has made an impact.”