21 Women Making An Impact: Emily Flanagan, Independent Coach And Consultant

Written by: Brady Drake
  • United Way Volunteer and Advocate
  • United Way Tocqueville Investor
  • Women UNITED Leadership Team Volunteer

What is one lesson you have learned? How did you learn it? Feel free to share an example, story or anecdote.

One of the most important lessons I have learned in life is, ‘Believe you belong and you will.’ I often find myself stepping back to look at my life thinking, ‘is this really mine? How did I possibly get here?’ The truth is, when I look back at the things I am most proud of, I usually didn’t have a clue what I was doing going in.

In the early days of my career, I remember sitting in meetings hearing acronyms and sneak writing them down in my notebook so I could research them later to find out what the heck people were talking about. Quite honestly, I was not skilled, experienced or qualified enough to be in most of my roles but was committed to learning what

I had to in order to rise to the occasion. I remember so clearly the first time I wrote
a real marketing plan, made my first “big pitch” to a room of executives, or went on my first solo client visit. They were all things I had no business doing, but I did the work to make sure I was prepared – quite honestly, I was probably driven by the fear of someone finding out I didn’t belong.

Before I knew it, the firsts were behind me and those things that once seemed like
a farce became second nature. That is usually the time my sights get set on a new challenge and I find myself doing it all over again.

I don’t think I ever felt the gravity of lack of qualifications more than when the hospital just let us take our new baby home! After all, we were in our early 20’s, had only been married for a few years, had very little life experience… what did we know about being parents? I remember my husband setting the car seat down in the middle of the living room and thinking “Oh my…what do we do now? Do we take him out even though he is sleeping? Can we hold him, or do we have to put him in the crib?”

Somehow, I guess we figured it out because 22 years and 3 kids later we have a college graduate, a college freshman and a 7th grader whom we couldn’t be prouder of. We “winged it” through potty training, picking the right school to send them to, dealing with broken curfews and everything else in between.

At some point I realized this “fake it till you make it” approach is not unique to me.
And although daunting at times, it is not necessarily a bad thing. “Imposter” feelings are similar to what so many feel in our professional and personal lives as moms, spouses, teenagers, executives. What I began to realize is that it didn’t matter if I was interacting with business leaders at some of the top financial institutions in the country or fellow moms navigating through toddler to teenage challenges – we are all just humans trying to figure things out along the way.

I work hard to remind myself of this when new challenges arise – which they always will. Nobody is expected to know all the answers. If we accept new opportunities and work hard, we can use these feelings as an exciting driver to get us out of our comfort zones and continue to grow.

You and your husband are United Way investors – why?

We love Fargo! It is our home – where we raised our family and built our life. We have been so blessed and can think of no better mission to get behind than that of the United Way where we wholeheartedly trust in the people and believe in the programs.

We appreciate the fact that all donations made to United Way are invested locally. This
empowers the team to identify and prioritize programs that can have the greatest impact based on the specific needs facing OUR community. United Way realizes that no one organization can solve all of the problems facing a community – so they work with organizations already doing great work to innovate the way people, organizations, and systems work together.

Giving people the chance to be successful on their own is something my husband
and I believe carries great power. We also understand that due to many circumstances this isn’t as easy for everyone as it was for us. Some people need more help along the way. By focusing on programs that reduce homelessness/hunger, prepare children to succeed, help people be independent and lift people out of poverty, United Way is well positioned to get many on the path to personal independence and success.

We don’t take it for granted that the Fargo- Moorhead community has given us so many incredible opportunities. We will always place a priority on doing what we can to ensure others have the same opportunities.

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.