I have been an executive coach since 2006, and have worked with hundreds of professional women in both one on one coaching relationships as well as group settings for workshops and presentations. The information that women share with me is invaluable. It helps me to recognize their ongoing challenges and design programs to assist them to realize their ambitions and goals. It gives me the knowledge to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s currently happening for women in the workplace.
For the most part, women enter the workforce with ambition and optimism. We are better educated than our male counterparts yet do not achieve equal compensation or leadership positions. The women I speak with are frustrated with the lack of recognition for their hard work and talent. They understand the importance of “leaning in” but still face gender bias. They also admit to holding themselves back in many ways from realizing their full leadership potential.
Here is what I have learned from listening to women.
- We don’t understand how we contribute to the success of our organizations. We don’t know our value proposition. This lack of understanding about our unique talent and how we achieve results holds us back from leaning in, speaking up, and offering our opinions. It impacts our ability to self-promote authentically. It affects how others perceive us in the workplace, our executive presence, which is essential for leadership. Because we don’t understand how our work positively impacts business outcomes, we hesitate to ask for more compensation; more responsibility and the resources we need to be successful.
- We still don’t know what we want to do when we grow up. The absence of a career goal is a barrier to our success. Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” To move our careers forward, we need to think more strategically. The workplace today requires that we be proactive and intentional in order to navigate the workplace, make decisions, and evaluate opportunities.
- We still believe our hard work and talent will get us ahead. We have distaste for workplace politics, and can’t see how political skill and savvy can benefit our advancement. We ignore the politics and, therefore, we don’t understand the way decisions are made and who in our organization has the power and influence. As a result, we don’t have the information necessary, to better position ourselves for advancement, and we are still surprised when we are passed over for promotions.
- For the most part, we are great at building relationships, yet we don’t network strategically for our professional development. We like to stay in our comfort zone and network with people we like rather than identify who we need to know to move our careers forward. We find it challenging to approach new people. As a consequence, we lack the visibility and credibility we need across the organization.
It takes a village to build a successful business or career. With this realization, women are banding together to help each other in innovative ways that we have not seen before. More and more women are now realizing that they can support and advocate for each other and that these relationships are powerful and influential. These relationships can catapult your business or career.
This week we’re going to learn more about how women connect and support each other for their professional advancement with my guest, Debbie Phillips.
Debbie Phillips is the inspiring founder of Women on Fire™ and a pioneer in the field of executive and life coaching. She is known for her work in transforming women’s lives. Her gift is her ability to see and nurture the strengths, gifts and talents of the women she works with. She is also an author, speaker and film producer. Her credits include the book Women on Fire: 20 Inspiring Women Share Their Life Secrets (and Save You Years of Struggle!) and she co-produced the DVD Inspire Me!
After several years of coaching individuals and teams, in 2003 she founded Women on Fire™. It is a membership organization that features tea parties, retreats and coaching groups to extend the outreach of inspiration, strategies and support for women’s successes.
Prior to becoming a coach, she was a reporter for the Columbus (Ohio) Citizen-Journal; a deputy press secretary to former U.S. Senator John Glenn during his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination; press secretary to former Ohio Governor Richard F. Celeste; and an executive with U.S. Health Productions Company, which featured the internationally syndicated television health and lifestyle show “Life Choices with Erie Chapman.”
Debbie has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and a master’s degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Flex time is now being offered by more and more companies in response to a workforce of men and women who seek different work options. Companies looking to attract and retain talented employees are discovering that flex time makes them more attractive to prospective employees. It also benefits employees, especially women, who want the flexibility to work at home and/or not work traditional hours.
Joining me today to discuss flexible work options, how you can take advantage of it, and how it benefits companies is Allison O’Kelly. Allison is founder/CEO of Mom Corps, a national talent acquisition and career development firm that connects employers with a unique pool of 150,000 experienced professionals seeking flexible work. With locations throughout the U.S., Mom Corps fills the ranks of the nation’s leading companies by placing its candidates in flexible jobs across many functions, including Finance, Marketing, HR, Legal and Strategy. For more information about Mom Corps, please visit their website, www.MomCorps.com
What keeps you from showing up as you best self? In every aspect of your life? Many of us are so tuned into the negative voices we hear in our head that distort our self image. Today we’re going to learn some tips from my guest, Jen Sincero on how to tune out those voices and show up as our badass self.
Jen Sincero is a success coach, speaker and the Bestselling author of You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, The Straight Girl’s Guide to Sleeping With Chicks and the semi-autobiographical novel, Don’t Sleep With Your Drummer. Jen and her work have been featured in media outlets all over the world,including Interview Magazine, The Howard Stern Show, Allure, German Cosmo, Bust, Playboy Magazine/TV, The Village Voice, The NY Post and the LA Times. In 2011 Jen bid her home in California farewell to travel the world indefinitely and encourage as many people as possible to live lives of unbridled awesomeness.
Personally, I hate wearing them. I do confess, however, that when I want to emphasize my power and executive presence, I choose to wear high heels. I guess I buy into the myth that the increased height that wearing high heels affords me enhances not only my stature but my status.
Sheryl Sandberg posed for the cover of Time in her stilettos. Marissa Meyer wore her signature high heels for her profile in Vogue. It would seem to the observer that high powered women wear stylish high heels and aren’t afraid to show off their femininity.
An article in the New York Times last year commented on this growing trend for women in tech to be fashionable. The question is, however, do women in tech or any other male dominated industry appear less capable if they focus on fashion?
“Silicon Valley has long been known for semiconductors and social networks, not stilettos and socialites. But in a place where the most highly prized style is to appear to ignore style altogether and the hottest accessory is the newest phone, a growing group of women is bucking convention not only by being women in a male-dominated industry, but also by unabashedly embracing fashion.”
There has been a growing trend toward “feminine feminism”.
“I was researching an article for The New York Times, and I flew out to California to attend a women’s conference. And I walked into a room of 50 of some of the most high-powered women in the U.S. And I noticed, immediately, that they defied all the stereotypes – the age-old stereotypes of high-powered women in the workforce. When I worked in consulting – management consulting and finance – there was one way to dress, and there was one model for success. And that was really the male way. And you found women dressing in the sort of female equivalent of the male suits. It was the blue and gray pinstripe suits, or black with the big shoulder pads. It was the 80s power suit. And typically, women would cut their hair. They were trying to do anything to mask their femininity – because, again, they were trying to blend in with men, and not accentuate any part of their sort of womanhood. There was only one model for success. And it was all men in positions of power – and, if you wanted to blend in, and you wanted these men to have the experience of your mind – you couldn’t be wearing bright colors and talking about your shoes. “
Technology has changed the business landscape in many ways. Innovations in technology have supported businesses in critical ways and produced new creative products and services. Technology has changed the way we communicate with each other and with our customers.
This week we’re going to learn about a dynamic new way to approach marketing that engages customers.
My guest is Daina Middleton. Daina Middleton speaker and CEO of Performics, is a respected thought leader who has created innovative approaches to the many changes in the field of digital marketing. She is best known for developing the framework of “participant marketing,” which shifts the philosophy about how brands and people connect, creating new roles and leveling the playing field between marketers and customer.
In her book, “Marketing in the Digital Age: A Guide to Motivating People to Join, Share, Take Part, Connect, and Engage”, Middleton explains how to transform consumers into active participants for brands by capturing their interest, empowering them to contribute, and developing meaningful relationships that keep them involved.
Head & Shoulders, the shampoo company, recently surveyed 2,000 British women about their confidence level and 48% said they believe that they would have progressed further in their careers if they had more confidence.
First of all, it is a little surprising that a shampoo company is interested in women’s career advancement. C’mon, right? I guess they believe that eliminating dandruff helps women gain confidence. That being said, the results of their survey are not surprising at all.
It has been my experience coaching hundreds of professional women that we, as women, underplay our value and, in fact, often don’t recognize how much we contribute to our organization. Because we don’t realize our value, we don’t behave or show up in the workplace with confidence. This is reflected in our body language, our communication, and our lack of executive presence. Quite simply, lack of confidence leads others to believe we don’t have leadership potential.
I’m not suggesting that we fake confidence. What I am suggesting, however, is that we take the time to understand our value proposition, and that once we fully embrace how much we contribute to the positive outcomes of our business, we will have more confidence in the workplace.
Ask yourself these questions:
- · What is unique about the way I do my work based on who I am?
- · How does my work contribute to positive business outcomes?
To help you keep track of all your accomplishments, start a success journal. Make an entry every night of everything, big and small, that you accomplished that day. At the end of the week, review your entries and ask yourself what does this say about me?
Repeat after me: I’m awesome!
I’m awesome because I am very sensitive to people’s wants and needs and that allows me to build strong relationships with clients which increases customer loyalty and impacts the bottom line.
I’m awesome because I can see solutions to complex problems and have the ability to break down projects into actionable steps for my team which allows the team to be productive. We complete our projects on time and within our budget which contributes positively to the bottom line.
How are you awesome?
Create your value proposition and your mantra and keep it visible in your work space.
Repeat after me: I’m awesome. I’m talented, competent, and add value to my department, my direct reports, my boss and my organization every day!
We know that nothing stays the same for very long and in the current business environment you need to be prepared for the many changes that take place every day. Companies reorganize to stay profitable and marketable. Mergers and acquisitions are ever present. All these changes directly affect your career and your ability to thrive in the workplace.
How do you stay on top? Manage the politics!
Even if there is no imminent threat, you must never get too comfortable. Your boss could leave the company for any reason, and if he/she is the only person in the company who knows what you are doing, you are very vulnerable! Don’t let yourself get caught in this trap of complacency.
Here are 10 tips to manage the politics and stay on top in the workplace:
- Pay attention to who has the power and influence in your organization.
- Understand who controls the resources (budget, people etc.)
- Create a detailed list of these key stakeholders.
Your focus is making everyone around you happy. This includes spouses/partners, children, family, colleagues, friends, and bosses. You want everyone to not only be happy, but to be pleased with you. You like doing things for others. You are most content when you are recognized for helping other people achieve their goals and dreams.
What about your goals?
What about your dreams?
If you are a pleaser, then your goals and dreams are just not as important as the people in your world; the people you care about. Less focus, less energy is spent on you. You fall to the bottom of your priority list.
As women, we are programmed to be pleasers. We feel selfish when we do things for ourselves. We are not comfortable asking for anything for us. Am I right?
Well, I hope you can see this is a trap. This attitude and accompanying behavior robs you of the energy to have the life and career that you want. You are expending most of your energy on others and there is very little left for yourself.
In the workplace, you are a team player. You are well liked by your colleagues. You go out of your way to help them out even when time is an issue in your already cramped schedule. As you begin to build your network and relationships in the organization, you are the first to offer assistance, but often the last to ask for anything in return.
I hope you see this is a trap.
You need a village to help you achieve your career goals. You need to build relationships of trust and confidence and it certainly helps if people like you and want to work with you. They are more likely to help you move your career forward. However, we need to be better at asking for the help we need to improve our performance or gain more visibility in the company. We don’t need to be 100% self serving, but we do need to shift our focus a bit from helping everyone else to helping ourselves achieve our own dreams.
Consider a two step process. You offer to help and then at some point you ask for a favor in return. It’s that simple. That favor might be an introduction to someone in your organization. It might mean making a call to the IT department to help you move a project along. Whatever it is, don’t forget the second step; the ask. You can please others by offering to help and they will be more than willing to help you in return.
Everyone wins! Now doesn’t that please you?
Women excel academically. We are currently earning almost 60% of college degrees, about 50% of doctorates, and roughly 45% of MBA’s. We are more prepared than ever to assume leadership roles in business. Yet just 4.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. So why hasn’t women’s academic success translated to more leadership positions in the workplace?
The answer lies in the fact that different skills are necessary to succeed in school versus the workplace, and this is vitally important for women to recognize if they have any ambition to advance to leadership roles.
In school, success is based on industriousness. You work diligently and you are rewarded with good grades. In the workplace, however, the rules of the game are not so simple. Although hard work and good performance are important, often promotions are based on the ability to work the politics and promote oneself with intention. Women shy away from this type of self promotion, and as a consequence remain invisible and often passed over for promotions.
A recent article in The Atlantic commented on this:
“Just as important, the behaviors that school rewards—studying, careful preparation, patient climbing from one level to the next—seem to give women an advantage academically, judging from the fact that they get higher grades in college than men do. Yet these behaviors aren’t necessarily so helpful in the workplace. Out in the work world, people hire and promote based on personality as much as on formal qualifications, and very often networking can trump grinding away.”
Also, it is important to note that gender bias still exists in the work place. Often women are left on their own to battle the discrimination that is often subtle and hidden.
The Atlantic article further states:
“Women begin to fall behind the moment they leave school. Even controlling for their college major and professional field, they wind up being paid 7 percent less than men, on average, one year after graduating, according to a 2012 study by the American Association of University Women. One reason is that they take fewer risks right out of the gate: they are much less likely to negotiate their first salary—57 percent of men do this, versus 7 percent of women. Compared with their male peers, women also set less ambitious goals. A McKinsey study published last April found that 36 percent of male employees at major companies hope to be top executives, compared with just 18 percent of female employees.”
Once again it comes down to making an intentional choice to embrace your ambition and set a strategic plan for your career. Understanding what it takes to be successful is the first step!
Learning how to effectively promote yourself and navigate the workplace politics is vital for your success.
How serious are you about moving your career forward? Once you can say to yourself with commitment that you have higher career aspirations, put a strategic plan to get to reach your goals. Understand what it takes and learn the necessary skills to make it happen.