visibility

The secret to getting noticed for all the right reasons for executive women

sml The secret to self promotion for executive women with Amanda Blesing Executive Coach.png
I was not rescued by a Prince. I was the adminstrator of my own rescue
— Elizabeth Gilbert

A funny thing happened to me on a webinar the other day.  I was in the middle of introducing the Gold Standard of Executive Branded - proactive, intentional, future focused and strategic when someone asked me a question "Isn't it disingenuous to do this? Surely if we're doing great work people will notice us?" 

My heart stopped.  It was such a great question.

I then took a deep breath and thought deeply before I responded, because I knew exactly where she was coming from.

Let me explain.

My new book From Invisible to Invincible - a self-promotion handbook for executive women (advance orders available here) was originally going to be called Noticed: For all the right reasons. 

Oh, how I loved that title. It was punchy. It was going to have a sealed section with all the wrong reasons (and no, not those sort of wrong reasons). This book was about being noticed by the right audience, at the right time, in the right place with the right key messages in the right currency.

But when I reflected on the issues that many women face: a lack of agency or a tendency to rely more on waiting to be noticed than creating the notice, I simply could not go to print with that title. It would convey the wrong message and keep us stuck once again playing small.

THE SECRET

The secret to creating a career that really counts is that success comes soonest to those who create it themselves - deliberately, proactively, strategically and in a future focused manner.  Not to those who wait around for it to happen to them or for someone to hand it to them.

The socialisation of young women and girls is comes from fairy stories and romance novels where the female protagonist waits to be rescued. Even if we didn't consciously buy into that narrative, it was all around us - television, advertising, magazine articles, our mothers, grans, aunties, female cousins, babysitters or childcare workers who reared us with those same stereotypes in mind. 

After all -

  • Men sweat, while women glow

  • Men go on quests and adventures, while women are required to stay at home waiting and keeping the hearth fires warm

Our history is flooded with images of women sitting passively and looking amazing, without a hair out of place as though as though we didn't break a sweat, Mona Lisa style, while imagery of men is all guts and glory, of men riding, lifting, heaving, throwing, running, creating and leading.

This creates a tendency towards a lack of agency for women. We subconsciously end up imagining that someone needs to tap us on the shoulder, for us to wait to be invited, for it to be worthwhile; that being discovered like Australia’s Top Model is the holy grail (thank you NOT Dolly Magazine of the 70's and 80s'); and this somehow perpetuates a mixed up mess of, if you actually create your own success then it isn't as valid.

Logically this doesn’t even make sense, but it’s so ingrained in the thinking of yesteryear that it’s hard to decode or dismiss even now.

In 2015, I was attending an International Women’s Day function and was seated at a table with a mature-aged (75+) business woman renowned in the dispute resolution sector. She had just published her first, much awaited, book. When I asked her why she waited so long to write the book, she replied ‘No-one had invited me to write one before, so I didn’t think it would be the right thing to do’

This exemplifies much of what many of us still hold to be true. We're still waiting to be invited because we think it's the right thing to do. 

But the new rules for women are - if you don't have a seat at the table, BYO chair. 

This takes focus, striving, strategy, influencing others and right effort.

So to answer the question? No this is not disingenuous. We women simply got the wrong memo. This is the secret ingredient that we've only recently stumbled upon. The men and women winning all the glory are quite simply, creating it for themselves.

Instead, we need to stop waiting and get on with the business of being great then create a world we want to inhabit.

As television producer Shonda Rhimes famously said ... 'I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don't call me lucky. Call me a badass'.

YOUR THOUGHTS?  Have you had your badass moment yet?  Or deep down, are you still waiting?  Drop me a note and let me know.

#Icreatesheroes #womenofimpact #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes

 

Share if you dare, to inspire another woman somewhere!

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Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Self Promotion Blunders Executive Women Definitely Want to Avoid - national tour

Self Promotion Blunders we all Want to Avoid

If a girl pulls an all-nighter and there’s no one there to see it, does she get promoted?
— Helen Coster

I've made every self promotion blunder in the book and then some. In particular, back in the early 2000s when I'd come back from a stint as an expat and felt I had to make up for lost ground. No-one knew me or remembered the great work I had previously done and I needed to catch up, so I tooted my own hornblew my own trumpet and hustled with the best ..... and the worst of them. 

Then there are other times too, when I suspect that we convince ourselves we don't need to self promote at all, because if we miss out on an opportunity it simply wasn't meant to be.

I get it. It's tough for everyone - and especially tough for executive women.   

COMING OF AGE

Yet it's an absolute career game changer when done right and can make you wonder why they don't teach this in uni.

I had one senior level client just last week tell me she finally feels as though she has made it!   What's changed for her? She is self promoting skilfully, subtly and powerfully inside her current organisation. She feels as though she has come of age career-wise and will never look back.  

This is empowering stuff and I'd love for you to feel this way too. And you can.

So I'm running a series of events to talk about self promotion blunders we all make - from not doing any, through to going OTT. Then we'll talk about what you can do about it and you'll definitely come away with a plan to move forward with.


WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

If you're in the mid level of your career and you are feeling:

  • As though you've managed to get yourself pigeon holed

  • Frustrated and invisible as decision makers overlook you despite stellar work

  • Horrified as others take credit for your work or ideas 

  • Like you're about to be caught out if you don't do something different soon

  • Or maybe you're simply curious about working with me so want to see me in action.

If that's you, why not join me for an intro session? 

We'll examine the 7 self promotion blunders we all want to avoid - and what you can do about it.


Then let's get this self promotion party started! 

Places are limited to ensure everyone feels seen, heard and valued.  

Early registration recommended - check out the events page and book today.

#executiveimpact #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #womenofimpact

 

 
Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

How to ensure your flex arrangements work for you, not against you

Navigating Flex Arrangements for executive women - Amanda Blesing.jpg
As the world of work is changing, employees are increasingly working remotely and the four walls of the workplace are evaporating
— Fay Calderone

A 2016 Report by Chief Executive Women (CEW) and Bain & Co entitled ‘The Power of Flexibility’ found that “in order to advance gender equality in the workplace, flexible arrangements must be available to and actively supported for both genders”.  From an individual perspective “where flexible arrangements are widely used, all employees are four times happier”.

Nice! Flexible work arrangements are great for both genders and make us four times happier. What's not to like?

So why is it that many of the women I speak with are hesitant to ask?  Reasons include:

  1. The boss is old fashioned and he or she will never allow it

  2. My organisation doesn’t really accommodate it – the policy is there but we don't make it easy with technology, and we need our people to be visible and on the ground

  3. I’m worried that if I do ask I’ll be perceived as though I'm not ambitious enough any more, and it will be harder to compete for plum assignments and negotiate on salary and future career opportunities.

True - these are all valid concerns, yet times are changing albeit more slowly in some industries than others. However, they are changing as organisations recognise that flexible working arrangements are incredibly helpful as a talent acquisition and retention strategy. 

“You are enabled to really attract the best talent to your organisation. If you are not limited by a specific office location, you can look anywhere in the country or anywhere on the globe.” Nicole McCabe – Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion at SAP

To assist you to carve out more flexible arrangements that are a win win for both you and your organisation – here are five issues to consider  

  1. Do ask – if you don’t ask you won’t get.

  2. Mindset - shift from thinking about trading time for money to trading impact or results for money. When you make that shift yourself its easier to see the benefits of your work for what they are which means you can articulate them more clearly to your boss. 

  3. Back yourself - Instead of Abba “take a chance on me”  think far more Kylie “you should be so lucky!” Self confidence combined with self advocacy are very compelling career assets.

  4. Make a plan, don’t just wing it – just like when you negotiate a raise, craft a plan beforehand, and include what you do want, how it helps the organisation and where your line in the sand is.

  5. Don’t accept the first no you get as “no forever” - maybe it’s “no, not right now but let’s revisit in a month” or "not sure? How about a trial for a month?"

If you are successful 

For those who have been successful in navigating this flex conversation you want to put some risk mitigation strategies in place to make sure that people don't side line or forget you exist.  They key theme is don't leave them wondering.   

  1. Proactively manage expectations and set protocols - Make sure your boss, team and customers know how and when to find you - when you are at work and when you’re not; when you’ll respond and when you won’t. 

  2. Be strategic re emailing and communications with your team, staff and boss - timing is everything. I knew a bloke once who took this to the extreme and would deliberately email the boss at 10pm at night every now and then.  It worked a treat for him, but made everyone else who knew about it feel vaguely ill and the boss look incredibly gullible. I'm not recommending that, but if you are worried your boss thinks you are skiving off, email a progress report at the end of your working day. 

  3. Be strategically visible on a regular basis so you don’t get forgotten -  When you do get into the office - stay visibile. 

One of my clients is a senior level executive, with young children and an overseas client in a very different time zone. The demands on her personally and professionally are high including spending much of her time working late nights on the client portfolio. She has flex arrangements. However, she noticed that head office staff started to bypass her in important decisions because she wasn’t perceived asbeing around. She was becoming invisible. So she came up with a plan that included making sure to stop in and have conversations with key decision makers before she headed to her own division area on the days she did come into the office. At the end of her stint in the office she would then revisit the C-level decision makers for ad-hoc visits and corridor chats before she left to work from home.  Highly visible. Highly sought after. Much more satisfied.

Drop me an email if you've got any tactics that might help others navigate flexible arrangements. 
And do get in touch if you want help with that.

Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolutionrocks #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition #success #career #standout #executivewomen #careerfutureproofing


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Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Let's get vi-si-ble, vi-si-ble

It's time!

It’s time to brush off your leadership brand and start standing out for all the right reasons again.⠀

  • Say no - to throwing yourself in at the office boots and all to make up all that lost ground over the holidays. ⠀
  • Say no - to having a default head down backside up attitude without lifting your head to see what’s on the horizon.⠀
  • Say no - to being the flustered, worn out executive up the back of the office - because no-one promotes or appoints that person anyway!!⠀
  • Instead, say yes to the gold standard of executive branded - proactive, future focused, plus deliberately and strategically visible.


Moving forwards
Moving forwards it would be great to see regular content sharing from you this year - either on LinkedIn, via your email newsletter, your internal intranet site or other profile building platform of choice. If I’ve learnt anything in observing leaders and experts, it’s that the people who frequently and consistently stay visible, gain far more traction. 

Here are my five tips to up the ante on standing out for all the right reasons in 2018!

1. Pick a curation tool and get started
- Register one or two Google alerts that will feed you news in your industry that you can share or comment on.  Be specific with your search words so you don’t get overwhelmed.
- Alternatively, follow a bunch of media outlets on Facebook.  I get the AFR via Facebook and it's an awesome feed. I also use Drumup.io and Flipboard as curation tools.
Pick one, then get started. You'll be surprised how easy this is, and how easy it makes your branding journey.

2. Plan the events you will attend, host, chair or speak at where you can get most ROI
Events not only give you great content (images, ideas and inspiration) but you never know who you might bump into. Do ensure that the event is right for your goals. Confidence building is one thing but staying strategically visible by decision makers in your preferred industry category is probably better.  Take a wing woman if you need additional support. Not to chat to each other - but to instead bolster each other, facilitate introductions and to halve the effort yet double your impact.

3. Write a bunch of 50-75 word mini blogs in advance
Ideas to get you started
- what do you believe about your area of expertise?
- what do you believe about leadership/management?
- what do you believe about the future of your industry? 
- what do you believe about women in leadership?
- and why are these things important? 
Think future focused and proactive. These paragraphs then stand you in good stead in meetings, are great starters for networking events or longer form articles/papers, or you can schedule them to go out weekly on LinkedIn. 6 to10 pieces is a great start and puts you well ahead of the rest. Why not dump in a few appropriate hashtags while you're at it? 

#dontdelaystarttoday #thoughtleadership #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes

Invisible to invincible! 

Invisible to invincible! 

4. Start strong, avoid passive or safe. Lead with what you stand for. 
When you’re creating content for LinkedIn in response to other content or events, avoid the following;
- simply regurgitating the article
- starting with "this is a great article I found on xxx".
- and by now you know my thoughts on starting a share with "delighted to attend/win/speak/catch up with  .....".  

Do - start with what you stand for and why that's important, then segue to how it adds impact in the context of the group you write for. Add something to it - opinion, analysis, top tips, more information on related topics, advice etc. If graciousness is important, finish with the graciousness piece but certainly don't lead with it.  

 5. Make the time & consider timing. 
I’m finding lunchtime Monday to Wednesday for LinkedIn great during the summer. Thursdays are okay too.  Not too late though, as everyone is back in meetings by 2pm. Another of my clients is having success with Saturdays. Her clients are business leaders and they find time on the weekend.
- Note: Realtime live shares are best. LinkedIn algorithms are now "downgrading" sharing from automated softwares including Buffer or Hootsuite.

I hope to see more quality sharing on LinkedIn or your newsletter in the coming weeks! Do pop me a text, email or LinkedIn message with the link to your post when it goes up, so that I can thumbs up and/or comment myself. 

The Visibility Game
I call much of this a game. In fact, the ever changing algorithms on social media platforms make it so. Did you know that when someone likes, comments or shares your content on LinkedIn, you get points on that item?  And when you’re in the business of staying visible so you can make a bigger difference - this matters - to you, to your organisation, to your mission.

And remember, the goal is to spend quality, strategic and focused time on this now, so you get more bang for your buck when the going gets tough - and have more time to spend on the things that truly make a difference.

Let's get vi-si-ble .... vi-si-ble (she sang)

Amanda


Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

#1 Advice for Women Nominating for Awards

How to craft a winning Award nomination and why you (yes you) should be nominating.

One way to stand out in a crowd is to win, or be nominated for, an Award.

"Easier said than done" you say.

WomenShouldntWaitExecutiveCareer

And you could be right some of the time - but not others.

For the uninitiated you might imagine you need to wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder. It simply doesn’t work that way!  

In fact, you need to do much of the work yourself including putting your hand up to be in it to win it, getting out of your own way and talking up your own wins and achievements in delivering turnaround results or programs that make a bigger difference.

Why is this challenging?

We know from research that many women struggle with self promotion, self advocating and expressing their expertise.  We have a tendency to downplay our part in the wins and achievements of our departments. While we willingly and enthusiastically write nominations for our junior staff members, we hesitate to do the same for ourselves. And worse? We're far more likely to 'not want to waste anyone's time' (including our own) not necessarily seeing the big picture about the value and benefit of nominating in the longer term for both ourselves and the business.

In a nutshell, nominating yourself for an Award will require you to knock a bunch of stereotypical and socialised tendencies on the head and to:

  • back yourself,
  • sell yourself, and
  • articulate your 'special sauce' in a very public way.

Why is this important?

Because organisations with more women in the leadership team not only perform better overall with larger returns to shareholders, increases in performance, productivity and better risk management – but the men and women who work there are frequently better off as well.

"research with the Peterson Institute for International Economics recently found that companies with at least 30% female leaders can add as much as 6% to their net margins." Mark Weinberger,
Global Chairman & CEO, EY

 
But why Awards?

One of the issues that gets in the way for women applying for senior leadership opportunities is not being seen. Not being seen as ideal (traditional) leadership potential, as fitting in, or as having what it takes to make tough decisions. Women are also frequently in enablement type functions that are not perceived as essential to performance, nor as visible.

Forward thinking, progressive organisations are beginning to acknowledge this hidden talent issue and to bring in programs that help uncover and tap into non traditional talent as we saw in MckInsey's January 2017 article Finding Hidden Leaders.

Winning an Award (or even making the finalists list) helps your leadership potential to be seen - to get you (the difference you make, the problems you solve and the value you add) out of the wings and onto centre stage.

And even if your bid is unsuccessful, the process of nominating helps you;

  • build a great support network around your leadership aspirations,
  • to craft winning arguments that will boost your credibility and confidence, 
  • highlight the amazing results you deliver that are sometimes taken for granted.

Most importantly the process of gathering the evidence of wins and achievements can be re-purposed easily and skilfully for your next tilt at the C-suite.

'How to' advice for women from four experts on writing winning Award nominations

So to help you with your next nomination I've asked four experts to come to contribute with their #1 advice for women nominating for Awards.  Thanks to Janita, Kate, Kimberly and Michelle!

Janita Friend

Meet Janita a Corporate Communications Strategist and Consultant.  As you might imagine, Janita has a bunch of experience writing Awards nominations and has generously offered 5 tips for women writing award nominations

  • Spend quality time reading and considering all the questions so you can give the best and most relevant answers.   Give yourself plenty of time and be prepared to do several drafts to get it right – understanding what the award criteria are is a crucial element of the process.

  • Speak to a person close to you – a partner or colleague/manager -  about your career highlights.  If possible, ask someone to interview you to draw out some of your finest moments.

  • Don’t be shy – this is about promoting yourself, your talents and results – be bold and aim to hit them with the dazzling highlights up front.  Make it simple for the judges to read through and identify you as a contender.

  • Ensure you use the criteria outlined and use key words that relate (sound familiar?)

  • A good story gains attention.   Include any interesting parts of your personal life journey which may show adversity you may have had to overcome to gain your results.  For example, being a single mother, a widow, dyslexic etc. – although you may not wish to draw attention tothese things, they will provide a richer story which may give you the edge over other candidates.
    Want to know more about Janita?  Check out her website

Kimberly Palmer

Kimberly is a Marketing Expert with her own company, Brazen Productions. Kimberly has helped craft winning award entries for clients for Telstra Business Womens Award and also used to run the Business Award programs for the City of Port Phillip and City of Moonee Valley.

She’s even been successful with achieving funding via winning a Churchill Fellowship for herself so is well qualified in understanding the challenges you might experience when it comes to self promotion.

 Her #1 Tip is Quantify your achievements - with personality

Your first aim to grab the judges attention. Most judges are usually volunteers and reviewing award entries in very limited time. So don't take too long to get to the point!

Open your entry with what's special about your achievements - relative to your own journey but also relative to others in the space. Then remember, don't make it too dry, or too full of jargon. You want to get across your enthusiasm, personality - and even why you'd make a good ambassador for the awards program should you be a winner.”

She also says - spend time getting it right. Don't leave it till deadline day - or worse, after deadline day! Your first draft will be just that. If you're being judged on this work, give it the time and effort it deserves.

And finally - try to have more than one person proof read it - there's nothing worse than poor spelling or grammar, it's distracting from what you're really trying to say.

Connect with Kimberly via LinkedIn or her website

Kate, Janita, Kimberly & Michelle

Kate, Janita, Kimberly & Michelle

Kate Duckworth

Kate is Marketing Manager at Buzinga; An Award Winning Mobile Design and Development Company.  Her claim to fame when it comes to writing award nominations is that she has constructed and written multiple award winning nominations for Buzinga to be acknowledged for excellence in company culture, product design and innovation, resulting in a streak of 7 wins out of 8 nominations (!) including:

  • Top 100 Australian Fast Starter, BRW 2015

  • 9th Coolest Tech Company, Job Advisor, 2016

  • 4th Coolest Tech Company - Job Advisor 2015

  • Top 100 Cool Companies, Anthill 2016. 

  • Coolest Mobile Business, Anthill 2015

  • Best Australian Startup, Top 5, Startup Smart 2015.

  • Best App Design, 2 Apps, App Design Awards 2016. (Buzinga, 2016)

Kate's #1 Tip: Write with creative flair and engaging copy... Like you would a website or a blog post. 

 "People have an enormous emotional or impulse appeal that transcends logic and basic needs" - Dan S. Kennedy. 

Individuals who are vetoing your award applications are humans, with a job that you can imagine is a lengthy, repetitive and snoozy.

In my applications, I write with the intent to ignite emotion, whether it's a laugh, a smile or an engaging story they can relate to. 

And please, don't be vanilla... Leave that to the profit and loss section!  (Go Kate!)

 Connect with Kate on LinkedIn

Michelle Devanny

Michelle is the Communications Manager at Kiandra IT and has been involved and/or written many award nominations for both individuals and companies.

Michelle's #1 tip?  Answer the question using evidence (where appropriate …. which is most of the time!) and allocate the appropriate amount of time and effort to your submission.

Awards are an incredible marketing tool which can build reputation, validate capability and make you (and those that work for you) feel nice and fuzzy but participating in reputable awards programs usually involve a fairly in-depth process. Do not underestimate the time taken to articulate who you are, and what you’re about. If you’ve decided to enter an awards program do yourself/your business justice, and be prepared to do it properly. You don’t want to be skipping corners, rushing to meet the 5pm Friday deadline when everyone else is scrambling to get their submission in, which crashes the awards site!

Most importantly make sure you actually answer the question. The judges read a lot of submissions and they can tell the difference between marketing guff and substance, so where possible you should back up your answers with evidence. Independent evidence is invaluable — whether it is press mentions, customer testimonials or social media mentions — use real examples wherever possible.

Why not connect with Michelle on LinkedIn?

My advice?  After running, hosting or being part of various award processes over 8+ years I notice that sometimes nominees choose the hard row to hoe, doing it all for themselves. Instead, why not get some help from the experts?  Ask the comms, PR or marketing department in your organisation to get involved and help you with crafting your nomination.

It's a little known secret, but some organisations even have entire teams dedicated to helping other staff become recognised through external Awards processes. They may simply not know that you have an Award you are eligible to nominate for. So get out of your own way and get expert advice from someone in your business with a third person expert perspective. After all, it's not just great for you if you win, it's a business win as well!

Finally -

You've got to be in it to win it and sometimes more than once.  I heard on the grapevine that one of the 2016 Telstra Business Women of the Year Award winners announced she had nominated each year for seven years and finally won after seven attempts. And if that story doesn't give you the kcik up the butt you need to nominate yourself for an Award, then I don't know what will. 

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition

#success #career #visibility #standout #leadership#executivewomen #careerfutureproofing


Keen to read more? ... 

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Visibility, Age and Self Promotion

The last few weeks have seen us exploring the issue of being visible (or not) in the leadership talent pipeline.


However, we can’t talk about the issues of visibility in the leadership talent pipeline for women without addressing age - and for women, and the gender bias around aging couldn’t be more obvious.  

Young women are dismissed as "likeable" and "pretty" but lacking in credibility. (The most memorable line from my own career 20 years ago was "lets give the little woman something to keep her busy".  But that's a story for another day.)

While the older a woman becomes, the more “invisible” she becomes, with some arguing the mysterious magical tipping point of 50 years old - despite this being an ideal age to be leading.

The opposite is true for men who are perceived to become more credible and more influential with age. (Hmmmm, just like fine wine or an aged cheddar).
 
In addition to the bias that surrounds aging for women there is the issue of socialisation, where more mature women have not been socialised to self promote. In research released in 2014 revealed that senior women executives still struggle with some of the career advancement challenges that women in middle management do. The research was the result of a survey of 326 senior women leaders across North America and the challenges that arose were:

  • self-promotion,
  • advocating for themselves, and
  • expressing their expertise

Let's face it, we're far more likely to suggest that a junior colleague should nominate for an Award than we are to nominate ourselves. 

stand out

Women have been socialised to believe that doing the job well, rigorously and thoroughly is a fast track to success and that our results and good work should speak for themselves. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we got the wrong memo.

Additionally, younger generations have grown up in the era of the rise of the celebrity and self promotion. While more mature generations may not be as comfortable with self promotion, younger generations are executing self promotion strategies, advocating on their own behalf and claiming expert status far more skillfully and effortlessly - whether we like it or not.

Standing out for the right reasons
As women with leadership aspirations, in addition to doing the "good work", we also need to stand out, become more visible and create impact.  

If you're beginning to feel less than worthy because of your age, don't worry. Recent research demonstrating that in fact women over the age of 55 are better suited to lead organisational change than many of their male counterparts. According to Jessica Leitch, people and organization consultant at PwC -

“Historically women over the age of 55 would not have been an area of focus (for HR managers), but as the research suggests, this pool of talent might hold the key to transformation and in some cases, business survival ... "

So how do we become more visible?
How do we create impact? How can we stand out? We need to learn -

  • to self promote,
  • be able to articulate our achievement’s back up into the business with key messages about value, and
  • we need to advocate on our own behalf, not just on behalf of our team or junior staff as is frequently our want.

And what else?  
Nuance is key - because when we hit up against stereotype and biases we run the risk of being criticised rather than elevated.  So ensure that your visibility strategy includes multiple and varied ways of articulating the same three elements - the problems you solve, the difference you make and the value you add to the business.

Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution #visibility #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes

 

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Visibility, vulnerability & vitriol - when visibility makes you vulnerable

The flipside of lack of visibility is too much scrutiny. There is definitely a downside for those who do become more visible, in that it makes you vulnerable. The higher up the food chain you go, the more visible you become, in particular if you are unique or can identify as a minority in some way. In an ideal world that truly valued diversity, that difference would be seen as a unique value proposition. Obviously we're not quite there yet.
 
The more visible you are, the more vulnerable you become. And because we still have so few women in leadership, it is seen as unfeminine in some way at best and as taking jobs away from the blokes at worse, which opens us up to criticism. Unfortunately these criticisms are rarely about our leadership, what we say or even our results, but frequently about:        

FlamingoStandOut
  • Our appearance, hair and wardrobe choices
  • Our speech mannerisms
  • Whether or not we are nice enough
  • The way we manage our family obligations
  • How we articulate ambition
  • How we express our femininity  

And because female leaders are so few and far between, if a woman leader makes a mistake it’s as though she makes it on behalf of all women every where – which I'm sure is a deterrent for many and would definitely increase the sense of vulnerability.
 
In Australia we have a long history of personal attacks against senior female political figures. In recent years we saw the extremely personal nature of the attacks against former Prime Minister Julia Gillard by men and women alike – which prompted her world famous misogyny speech as a response.
 
Currently we are witnessing the on-going attacks of a personal nature against Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs. Despite your political view point, the extremely personal nature and the vitriol directed at her is enough to put to put anyone off becoming more visible including younger ambitious women who may have been considering a life in public office.  

Additionally, unless you've been off the grid or hiding under a rock, it's been very difficult to ignore the overtly personal criticisms and attacks of Hilary Clinton during the USA presidential campaign. In fact, I'm still feeling somewhat traumatised by the seemingly sanctioned overt acts of aggression.
 
This is not limited to female politicians or office bearers, but anyone in the public eye. You may remember the producers of Q&A on ABC in February 2016 discussing some of the challenges they experienced in getting women to appear on the show which included the adversarial nature of the show, plus the social media bullying and trolling that was highly likely to eventuate as a result of being visible on the show.
 
While most of my clients don’t work in public office, several do work in the rarefied air of C-suite executive offices or in masculine working environments where women are still few and far between. They are extremely visible and therefore somewhat vulnerable, unless adequately prepared.

And there in lies the rub.  How do you adequately prepare?

My clients tell stories of being accused, by men and women, of being aggressive, unfeminine and worse, when they are trying to impose tighter safety measures, transformational change programs or tighten risk management frameworks. I hear stories of Boardroom bullying behaviours that make me cringe where once again, the person, not the policy is under attack.

However, I also hear stories of both men and women calling out these tactics for what they are.  These issues shouldn't be swept under the table and ignored. Bullying tactics and personal verbal attacks need to be identified, called out and stopped. Easier said than done, but perhaps right now is the time to do something about it.

Remember the rule of thumb - critique the plan, the play or the policy, not the person, and certainly not for anything unrelated to the issue at hand.


There is an upside to recent political events - and that's the increase in awareness by men and women everywhere who have been horrified to see female leaders bullied so intensely and very differently from male leaders. Men have been equally as horrified as women.

My hope is that there is a newer understanding of some of the challenges that women experience in their quest to lead.  I am also inspired to think that a newer breed of courageous female leaders, and male champions of change will endorse and champion leadership talent, no matter how it expresses itself.

Gender equality will be achieved when we have as many incompetent women in senior leadership roles as we do incompetent men.
— Jane Caro


Vive la révolution!
#ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition #careerfutureproofing #visibility

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PS: I help women future proof their future leadership goals and ambitions! Call or email if you want to get started on yours.

 

 

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Stereotypes, advertising and being prepared to stand out

I like to describe myself as a proudly visible member of the most invisible segments of our society - older women.
— Cindy Gallop

As I begin to unpack the issue of visibility for women in leadership, I can't help but reflect on the advertising industry. Cindy Gallop, the British self described 'visible older woman' advertising industry executive quoted above, is an extremely vocal advocate of change. Change, not just about the women and men who work in the sector, but because of the key messages this powerful industry perpetuates in society. In a nutshell, the advertising industry sells and perpetuates stereotypes - what it is to be a bloke, a woman, to be young, old, successful - and these stereotypes become then norm.

Relevantly, a recent global study of the advertising industry found that -

"just 2% of adverts featured women who could be described as “intelligent”; just 3% were shown in leadership roles."

The advertising industry is just the tip of the iceberg with the media and entertainment industries, all such powerful influencers of our socialisation, compounding the problem and promoting and reinforcing a lack of 'visibility' for women as leaders.

 
diversity

Real life statistics
Real life statistics aren't much better off with the recent McKinsey and Lean In global research highlighting that women only make up 19% of those in the C-suite despite intense focus and huge effort in the last 50 years.

The survey also found that the roadblocks, brick walls and glass ceilings that more mature women have battled for years are still having impact on younger generations - with 23% of millennial women believe their gender has prevented them from getting ahead at work (compared to 26% non-millennials), and with a more than 14% ambition gap between millennial women vs men (compared to 17% non-millennial).

You cannot be who you cannot see.
— Cindy Gallop

It's not that women aren't getting there because we're/they're not good enough. In fact, there is now overwhelming evidence to the contrary including analysis of performance during the GFC demonstrating that organisations with mixed gender Boards performed better at that time.  It's just that perception and biases get in the way of us seeing (women included) that women also make great leaders.

Bias is bad for business
Bias is a huge issue for those who aspire to leadership roles but don't fit the stereotype. It's also a huge issue for those industries and organisations who have yet to embrace the benefits that diversity brings in order to meet 2020 business challenges and remain competitive.

Relevance and sustainability in a modern and ever changing business environment are some of the greatest obstacles in any industry. If organisations want to remain relevant and be around in the future, they need to ensure that women are seen as leadership potential. Put simply, invisibility and the biases that surround it, are a problem for both the individual and the organisation. And to quote Jonathan Segal;

"Bias is bad for business."

When ambitious women don't fit in easily (don't always get the jokes, don't look the same, don't play golf, don't know the unwritten ground rules, other women think we're bossy and men may feel threatened) we may accidentally find ourselves becoming invisible in the leadership talent pipeline despite targets, quotas and best intentions.

Taking a stand makes companies stand out
Recently we've seen several brands come out and really embrace the benefits that diversity brings. Earlier in the year we saw Lynx parent company Unilever come out publicly and vow to drop advertising that promotes stereotypes.  Yes, this makes them far more visible in a crowded market place. Plus the lamb diversity campaign by the MLA in Australia is a great example of turning diversity into a competitive advantage.  

In a modern world, future focused successful organisations are also embracing diversity as a competitive advantage in terms of attracting talent, creating new markets and mechanisms to innovate.  

Why not be a stand out individual?

For the individual, this represents an opportunity to really stand out as well. This is an opportunity for you as an individual to let go of the old ways of getting ahead - fitting in, playing the game and playing by the rules. They aren't going to work much longer anyway.

Instead embrace the new rules of the portfolio career, personal branding and self promotion. Leadership opportunities will go to those who are prepared to Step Up, Speak Out and Take Charge. And the best bit? This then becomes a competitive advantage for those who don't fit the mold.

Some rules of thumb to remember in your quest for leadership:

  • Back yourself and be prepared to have a crack at it - women have a tendency to underestimate our future performance as compared to men. Don't let that tendency stand in your way.
  • You shouldn't have to fit in in order to lead - in fact it might be more helpful if you stand out
  • Invisible might feel comfortable, but visibility is the new black
  • Results don't speak for themselves, you need to speak to them
  • Your future leadership personal brand is your key differentiator
  • It's your job to sell brand you, not someone else's

While the advertising industry itself still has a long way to go, there are great lessons emerging for us all. And as Oscar Wild once wrote;

"Life imitates art far more than art imitates life."
 

Your thoughts?

  • Does your organisation promote the same old tired stereotype? Or are you seeing fresh ideas and different thinking championed and celebrated throughout the business? 
  • If you are seeing fresh ideas and different thinking championed - what are the results to date?
  • What mechanisms does your organisation have in place in order to encourage different thinking, diverse ideas and innovation?  
  • Have you tried to stand out and did it work (yet)?
Why not BYO chair? The view from the top is great.

Why not BYO chair? The view from the top is great.

Let me know.  I love receiving emails from you with your own ideas and insights.
And by the way - still don't have a seat at the table?  Why don't you BYO chair?  The view is great from where I'm sitting!

Vive la révolution!

#ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition

 

And if you liked this article - please share.

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Why executive women need to create a visibility strategy

Gone are the days when you turned up to work and put in the time, and in return got

  • a pat on the back,
  • a promotion, and
  • a payrise ... then waited a while longer while you marched towards the sweet release of retirement.

It simply doesn't work that way anymore - but neither do I think we really want it to. We all love stories such as the 90+ year old nurse still working and flourishing. I used to work with a 92 yo consultant who came into the office every day and advised on policy and protocol - an area where he had considerably more experience and expertise than the rest of the team put together.

Visibiility

However with the rise of the portfolio career, and where brand development is both for companies and for people, plus an era of self promotion you need to develop a few more powerful tactics.

Visibility

Visibility is a cool tool.  Staying ahead of the visibility curve is great for both you and for your business.  And here's the kicker - even if you don't do it particularly well, it's still better than not doing it at all.

Well executed visibility - rising to the top

Averagely executed visibility - staying afloat

No visibility - sinking

Strategy

I'm taking this one step further and saying we need to be strategic about this.  It's not enough to simply spread yourself thin at networking functions and golf games any more. You need to focus on what's most effective - separate busy from strategic and focus on the areas that are going to give you the most bang for you buck and deliver on the results you need. 

And in this day and age whether you are a business owner, a professional in a firm, or maybe on a fast track to corporate C-suite ascendancy - any strategy, even the wrong strategy, is better than no strategy.

Four rules of thumb to remember:

  • Work is not school - you won't get the corner office by being good or quiet
  • No-one promotes the stressed out, worn out and flustered looking executive with their head down up the back of the office
  • Results no longer speak for themselves
  • Stop being busy, start being strategic

Visibility and Strategy Unpacked

When you cross reference busy v's strategic and low visibility v's high visibility - you begin to see the picture.

Busy & low visibility (going nowhere) - head down, tail up, doing the job because it's the right thing to do. Historically this may have worked, but not any more. You will be bypassed and overlooked despite working hard and best intentions on your part.

High visibility but busy (going crazy) - leaves you worn out, overworked and potentially resentful as you feel like you've been hung out to dry for things that weren't even in your remit. When you're worn out and overworked, you are far more likely to lean out, pick up your bat and ball and go play elsewhere. And remember how after just two years in a business women lose their ambition more than men and are more likely to lean out? I wonder if this contributes.

Low visibility but strategic (going somewhere slowly) - you're being strategic about the approaches you make, very considered and highly professional. Quite possibly you're feeling a little frustrated as you see other younger players head on past you far more easily or you're simply bypassed by those who do know how to sell themselves.  Maybe you've turned down opportunities to tackle different projects, to speak, to write whitepapers or be quoted in the press until you feel better prepared or more certain. You tell yourself that it's better to have have more substance than flash, but can't help but wondering if you are doing something wrong. Sound familiar? 

High visibility AND strategic (the sweet spot) - where visibility meets strategy and sees you leading a team, tackling big substantive work or creating enterprise/industry wide change far sooner than you might possibly imagine. You'll have fine tuned a nuanced approach to talking up the problems you solve, the difference you in particular make and the value you are adding.

What needs to be in your visibility strategy?

Here are 13 ideas to get you started. The list consists of basically anything that aligns with your goals, dreams or ambitions that is going to see you shine or draw attention to you and your contribution. For women, we walk a perilous knife edge between flying our own flag and flagrant self promotion - so keep the need for nuance in mind as you go.  Nuance, not to be confused with retiring. Nuance - subtle, effective and (in this case) really smart 'n savvy.

1. Define what you want - work out what it is you want to be when you grow up. Don't panic!  In a world where careers are morphing and changing in more cyclical and circular ways, vertical career strategy is a thing of the past, so maybe work out what's next for right now and start there.

2. Accept responsibility - let go of notions of my work should speak for itself or others should be able to see the good work I do because it simply doesn't happen any more. Stakeholders in your career success are busy themselves. As Avril Henry said at the Women World Changers event in Sydney in October -

"The only person who is as interested in your career as you - is you! So do something about it."

3. Always be linking back to the strategy - your own, or your organisation's. Anything and everything you do should connect back to a why that underpins the reason you are at work. If you don't know what the strategic objectives are for your department or your organisation, or you haven't worked them out for your own personal brand, then go do that now. Turning up to simply pass the time and get a paycheck is not for those who have leadership goals or ambitions.

4. Put your hand up before you feel ready - don't wait to be asked or until you feel prepared to do anything on this list. Ever had the experience of trying something new only for it to become your new normal? Give it a crack and you might find

5. Don't hide your light under a bushel - let go of shy and demure, it doesn't serve anyone. If Susan Cain's Quiet taught us anything it was that introverts can indeed lead - and indeed, lead better than many in times of trouble such as the GFC.  So stand up straight, walk with purpose and confidence, develop a voice that can be heard in meetings, dress in colours that draw attention (well ...... maybe not purple but who am I to judge!), stop apologising and own your own stuff.

6. Develop your leadership personal brand on social media - once again help people to help you - if people can work out who you are and what you stand for by what you like, share, comment or write about on social it makes it far easier to help you.

7. Regularly report on what you do - make sure that you get a regular spot in your department/division meeting to report on the progress of the project or BHAG. Don't hide it. Don't wait to be asked. Volunteer.

8. Write up a case study - the beauty of volunteering for special projects is that it gives you material to reflect on and possibly teach others. Write up a case study and share in your team meeting, AND with your manager, AND on the intranet, AND on LinkedIn (with your disclaimer about views expressed etc), AND on Twitter, PLUS with other departments who are keen to motivate younger team members or who might be tackling the same issue themselves - or share even with your peak body. Find ways to spread the word.

9. Be proactive with your peak body or professional association. Again - don't wait to be asked. Volunteer to help. Many associations run on the smell of an oily rag and are keen to have proactive contributors or volunteers on special projects to help them maintain their momentum. In my time as CEO of SOCAP our volunteer committees rewrote the industry Standard for Australia and New Zealand and created an industry wide Core Competency Framework that became the go to reference point for anyone in industry. Several of the committee members then went onto consult on the International Standard. Make sure you get credited for the work in some way whether that's a listing on the website, in the magazine, the report, or even a more active role at the industry conference. And then share the results of your work back into your business.

10. Learn to pitch or speak in public - yes I know that most people that many people rate public speaking as their #1 fear (above dying in fact). But as part of a modern and successful career you need to learn to speak and also pitch ideas well. The flip side of leadership is followership - and if you can pitch or speak, creating a followership is far easier.  If you can't speak already, then sign up for public speaking training or send yourself to Toastmasters, but do get started. Make it a priority.

11. Be seen with the movers and shakers - make time to mix, mingle and network with senior level decision makers inside and outside of your business. You need to go to where they are if they don't normally come to you. Find ways to make sure you are included in discussions both formal and informal that happen about the future of industry or your business. Don't be shy. Volunteer an opinion whether you think you know the right answer or not. You need to be heard in addition to being visible.

12. Consistency trumps frequency - Establish a maintenance schedule for your leadership personal brand - it's not enough to speak on a panel once and then tick it off your list as having been there done that. It's not enough to write an article once and think that one article will do the job. You need to be flying your own flag over and over again. Repeatedly. It takes time. Your visibility strategy needs to be ritualised and feature as a regular appointment in your calendar. But beware, you don't want to become the the squeaky wheel whereby you saturate the airwaves with brand you. Once again, be strategic. Find the Goldilocks sweet spot - that balance between too little and too much - and stick with it until you get a chance to reassess.

13. Reassess every 6 months - start at the top and work your way down to make sure that your plan doesn't need tweaking and refining.

So there you have it. 13 tactics to try to help you build a Visibility Strategy. If this looks like too much simply start at the beginning and work your way through over the period of a year.  Or you could sign up for Executive Coaching where brand you is dealt with front and centre. 

Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution #feminineambition #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes

Comments? I'm sure there are other things that you might be doing that may help others, so email me (or comment below) and let me know your thoughts.

 

 

If you enjoyed this please spread the word! Let's inspire women everywhere to keep their eye on the prize

 

  • I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and art of amping smart and savvy
  • I mentor busy professional women to ensure they remain smart, strategic and focused on the bigger game.
  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but are struggling to do so.
Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months