Teresa Bazemore: You lose if you don't schmooze

What helps a young person in business rise through leadership ranks? Teresa Bryce Bazemore, president of Radian Guaranty Inc., says the key to success is building relationships outside the company. 

"One of the things I suggest to a lot of people is to get involved in the industry organization of whatever industry it is," Bazemore told me during our Leadership Agenda interview. "One of things I did early on was that I got involved in the Mortgage Bankers Association. I  started out on the legal issued committee and then I started going up on the leadership ladder [of the association] and then I was asked to be on the board of governors.

Teresa Bryce Bazemore

Question: What did that do for you?

Answer: "It allowed me to meet and get to know people throughout the industry. That’s one way of building your network and learning who is doing what and learning from that.

"That’s been incredibly helpful to me here because many of those folks that I got to know through the Mortgage Bankers Association are now our customers. So I now work with them in a different capacity as customers, but it meant that there was already a relationship and a friendship that had been built."

Q: Do you think that’s particularly important for women?

A: I think it is, because relationships are still important in business and I think there is a tendency for men to easily have those relationships. I think it’s important [for women] to develop them as well. I don’t think it means you have to play golf. But you  have to be able to have a discussion with folks about what’s interesting to them or how their kids are doing or where they went on vacation or a personal conversation that leads to having a good relationship.

Our Leadership Agenda interview wasn't the first time we had talked about the value of participating in industry groups. Bazemore told me then that it never hurts for a young and aspiring professional to be on a first name basis with the heads of competing businesses and it also never hurts to drop those names in casual conversation with the boss. Could be impressive. The young person in an industry association may end up having a closer relationship with an industry notable than her boss does. Even more impressive, and valuable.

Bazemore still practices what she preaches. She is the president of the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America, a trade group. She also chairs the trustee board of the Research Institute for Housing America.