Catalytic Leadership

By McKenzie Schwark
Features Writer
Shannon Full Headshot

Meet Shannon Full

Shannon Full knows a thing or two about community. She’s been involved in chambers for the last two decades, and sat down with Ladyboss to talk about parenting through the pandemic and what makes a healthy community thrive.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in a small town in Northwestern Wisconsin.  I had always been very outgoing and demonstrated leadership attributes very early in life.  At the age of 13, I started my first job in my grandfather’s machine shop where I machined parts, packaged them and delivered them alongside my grandfather for the summer.  I quickly learned the power of transparent communication, authentic relationships, and strong work ethic.  Throughout high school and college I played volleyball and softball, coached volleyball and worked in the hospitality industry.  I went to college at the University of Wisconsin – – Eau Claire and graduated with a degree in Mass Communications and Business.

I have led chambers for over 20 years and moved here in November with my husband Travis and two children, daughter Finley (8) and son Beckett (5).  We reside in West Fargo and have already come to love the region.

How did you get involved in your work with chambers?

I took a job immediately after college at a new entrepreneurial venture and my job was to promote the company.  The first thing recommended to me was to join the local chamber of commerce.  It is here that I fell in love, and have been for more than 21 years. I took over that chamber as the president/CEO at the age of 24 and have spent my career leading chambers in Minnesota, Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin, and now North Dakota.

What do you believe is the role of a healthy chamber in a community?  

The role of a healthy chamber is to be a catalyst for growth and prosperity, a convener for diverse thought leaders and stakeholders, a connector for individuals that want to invest in themselves their businesses and their community, and a change agent that is willing to challenge the status quo to achieve the overall regional mission.

What makes a community a great place to live and work?  

A community that has open minds, open doors and open hearts.  It may sound a little cheesy, but it is true.  People are drawn to communities that are thriving, communities that are welcoming and inclusive with many diverse options for entertainment, dining, engagement, culture, etc.  The region must all have other strengths like diversity of industry, strong schools, safe neighborhoods and downtowns, and good access to housing.

What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

A strong leader is one that has the patience to listen, the willingness to change and the courage to make a difference.

How have mentors played a role in your success?

Mentors have been instrumental in shaping who I am as a leader.  I have intentionally engaged diverse mentors throughout my career.  I believe that in order to be successful, we have to ask for mentors to mentor us.  We have to make sure they know they are our mentors and what we want from a mentor.  I have surrounded myself with mentors that are very different from me so I can embrace new perspectives, but also others that are very similar to me so I can understand these similarities and see how they have overcome challenges I might also face.

Do you have tips for Ladybosses seeking out a mentor? What is their job as the mentee?

My greatest advice is to be self-aware and seek to identify your weaknesses.  Be bold, be courageous and ask for help where you need it.  Be intentional – I have found that my mentors have been honored to be asked but not all of them have accepted for whatever reasons (lack of time, lack of desire, etc.).  Don’t get frustrated but rather continue seeking out mentors that fit your needs.

Your job as a mentee is to be specific about your expectations.  Ask for what you want but be willing to take advice and be open-minded if the mentors have ideas on how to do things differently. I believe that different isn’t always better, but better is always different.

Why is it important to have strong professional relationships with other women?

In order for us to be strong women leaders, we must have strong, empowering support from other women.  It is critical for women to help lift each other up, identify career opportunities as well as volunteer opportunities for women to fill these roles.  Other professional women have the ability to understand the challenges we all face and once we can identify those common challenges we are able to form professional social networks that will also extend to personal social networks which can be critical for our overall success and wellbeing.

As a community leader and as someone with young children you have witnessed and experienced the impact of the pandemic on moms – juggling full time work with full time care taking and schooling responsibilities. You’ve seen the toll the pandemic has taken on women’s careers over the last year. How do you see the business community addressing these concerns? Are there ways you have seen businesses pivoting to make the situation more manageable for working parents? How do you see this experience changing the way we work in the future?

I believe there have been great strides to support not only women but families in the pandemic.  The flexible work environments have really advanced perhaps not out of willingness, but rather out of necessity and I believe aspects of this will remain long after the pandemic.  I also believe the pandemic has just forced the community, our workplaces and the world to slow down and appreciate families, especially children.  Crying in the background, children on zoom screens, multiple things going on at once has opened the door to increased understanding and empathy and it has created a sense of common reality amongst people.

What do you think women need right now?  

I believe women need to be empowered with empathy, opportunities, and numerous networks of support.  I believe we need to support one another with grace and determination, conviction and support, strength and commitment.

What does it mean to be a Ladyboss?  

It means being able to “lean into” other women, being vulnerable enough to leverage the relationships and resources that others are willing to give to help me be the best version of myself.  I also believe it means “leaning in” to provide these same things for other women.