skip to Main Content

What does it mean to have street smarts in business? It’s about thinking on your feet and making quick decisions in high-stress situations. It’s about having the foresight to see all possible outcomes in front of you, and using your experience to guide your judgement.

Streets smarts is an asset in leadership. According to Julie Nelson, CEO of Meeting Muse, a meeting and event planning company, street smarts is essential, especially in her line of work:

Street smart is knowing the appropriate fix for the situation, and knowing the consequence connected to the choice you’re about to make. In event planning, the most important part of our role is on site [where a meeting or event is taking place]. That’s when all the plans can go wrong. You’ve got to be really quick on your feet to make sure you can deliver a great program, even if it’s not to the script you wrote for it.” 

Streets smarts came into play at an event when a keynote speaker that Nelson had hired had an anxiety attack on stage. Nelson immediately jumped into action and approached an attendee in the audience she knew was trying to perfect his public speaking skills. She told him he was on in five, and he took the stage for a great presentation. Crisis averted!

Street smarts also has to do with knowing who you can trust with important tasks in your business. Nelson says she’s selective when it comes to her staff of contractors. She doesn’t just hire able bodies. She has a deep understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of her regular contractors, and she knows who will shine in certain situations.

From her 15 years in the business, Nelson has an arsenal of people in her talent pool that she can pull in as needed. When working with someone new, she provides support but also gives them space to learn and and grow and test themselves on non-critical parts of a project.

I have internal red flags built in. I like to manage people who are good at what they do, but still perfecting their skills. I like to be able to oversee what they’re doing and collaborate with them. I can tell when people feel not-so-confident about what they’re doing. I can hear it in their voice. My intuition tells me when to step in.”

Where does street smarts come from? Certain qualities, like realistic thinking, self-reliance, and assertiveness, are built into your personality. For Nelson, she says she’s always been very curious and has always enjoyed figuring things out. One summer day as a kid, she taught herself to ride a bike. “I wanted to learn,” she says, “and my parents were at work.”

Street smarts is also something you sharpen over time. Nelson says now that she’s put in her 10,000 hours in meeting and event planning, she has strong instincts and a clear understanding of “choice and consequence” in her craft.

To learn more about street smarts, relationship building, and becoming an expert, listen to our podcast episode with Julie Nelson here on iHeartRadio.

Back To Top