women and career

The Importance of a Career Strategy for Executive Women

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“She believed she could, so she set a goal, then made a plan and worked the plan til she did.”
— A J Blesing

Do you remember Susan Colantuono's TED talk The Missing 33%?  In summary she says that "The Missing 33% of the career success equation for women is not because women don't or can't have business, strategic and financial acumen, but because very few women are clearly told how essential these skills are for reaching the top."

Great advice. Finally. A solution that works. 

And doesn't it feel good to be able to pinpoint the problem of lack of women in leadership to one particular issue?


IS IT REALLY THAT SIMPLE?


Of course not. It’s an idea, not a silver bullet.

I don't need to tell you that the issue is much more challenging than merely understanding balance sheets - after all there are many superbly financially savvy female executives out there who still struggle.

Case in point my recent gobsmacking conversation with a well known male Financial Columnist who told me that women weren't good with money and didn't care about money and that he only knew two financially savvy female leaders (paraphrased - and perhaps he had watched Susan's TED talk but got the wrong end of the stick).  

Other issues in this complex area include:

  • exclusion tactics by those already in positions of leadership leaving some women believing it’s not only not possible, but not something they really want anyway

  • fewer opportunities at the top for both men and women (ergo higher competition)

  • lack of female role models in CEO roles (just 7% female CEO's in S&P/ASX200 in 2018) and 

  • the subsequent high levels of scrutiny and potential for backlash for executive women, sometimes culminating in a fall over the Glass Cliff which deters many others from following in her footsteps. Another case in point - the recent débâcle at the ABC. 


ANOTHER Idea - another MISSING 33% 

I've discovered a startling fact.

Most women don't have a clear career strategy. In fact, they've probably never even heard of the need for one.

According to recent research from the Women CEOs Speak Study (Korn Ferry and The Rockefeller Foundation, published August, 2018), "65% of the female CEOs surveyed said they only realised they could become a CEO after someone told them so. With few .... female CEOs to model after, only 12% of women CEOs said they had aspired to a CEO role for “a long time.”

In a nutshell, many executive women, including those already leading, don't aspire to become the boss - they don't aim for the top job, they don't believe it's a real option for them and they don't plan for the possibility of getting there. 

Someone else told them it was possible.

And I'm not surprised.

After talking with literally hundreds of women about their career plans here's what I notice in the narrative that surrounds women and their career - 

  • "I was lucky"

  • "Someone tapped me on the shoulder"

  • "I didn't know it was possible until my boss suggested I apply, and even then I didn't feel ready"

  • "I was in the right place at the right time" 

  • "My career just unfolded"

I recently facilitated a discussion with a room full of female CEOs and Managing Directors in Sydney where all but one said they had no plan to lead or clearly defined career strategy, and that the opportunities just presented themselves or unfolded. Three of them said they were simply lucky.

Passive language. No agency.  

Don't forget that luck is really what happens when planning meets opportunity - and not passive at all.


LET'S NOT BLAME THE WOMEN AGAIN
Let's not just blame women for yet another issue that they get wrong. Executive women have enough to feel guilty about without adding lack of career strategy to the burden.

  • We teach women about work - and how to do that well, rigorously, thoroughly and appropriately

  • We teach women about the importance having an identity outside of work

  • We're forever reinforcing the need for women to have work life balance and the ubiquitous Women in Leadership Conference panel on said topic is testament to that.

  • But what we don't teach young women and girls is about the importance of having a career strategy.  

    Is it that we educate boys differently? Yes, but not that much. However, the informal education of young men and boys, along with the role modelling from so many more male leaders definitely  includes the possibility that the top job might be for them should they want it and plan for it.

The socialisation of women and girls leaves a lot to be desired.   After all, many still believe it’s better to have effortlessly been discovered than to be perceived as having strived, pushed and manoeuvred to get to the top.

Organisations need help defining and following the necessary steps to maintain a proven pipeline of female leadership candidates .....….and women need help identifying the right career approaches to prepare for CEO roles.
— Jane Stephenson, Korn Ferry


However educators, coaches, mentors, sponsors, L&D professionals, talent acquisition and retention specialists all need to keep this in mind and ensure career strategy is part of talent development from the get go.  

Ensure that the talent you recruit or champion knows where they are aiming for and of the importance of having a clear plan for how they might get there.  



After all, if they don't know where they are going, how will they know when they get there?


FOR THE INDIVIDUAL? 

Senior level executive women need to ask for support in planning a possible tilt for the top from the moment they're appointed.  It's not over bold, it's simply a strategic play.  Wouldn't you prefer to find out sooner rather than later what the future might hold?

One super talented younger ambitious woman I mentor negotiated her tilt for her new bosses role, prior to her commencement date, with great success. It further enabled her boss to plan his exit strategy and groom her for taking over from the start.

If your career isn't working out for you right now, do something about it. Life's too short to stick in a role going nowhere, with a boss who keeps you playing small, in an organisation that you've out grown.   

You run the risk of becoming a smaller version of yourself and that helps no-one.

So take the time to get back in touch with what's important, where you were heading before you became a square peg in a round hole, and put a plan in action. 

Never forget, don't let perfect be the enemy of the good.

After all, a mediocre plan that you executive is far better than a perfect plan in limbo. And any strategy, even the wrong one, is frequently better than no strategy.


SURVEY TIME
I'd love to know your thoughts - why not have your say?

  • It will only take two minutes and may be just the thing that helps us understand this issue further.

  • Do you attribute your success in your career to luck or planning? 

  • How has your approach worked for you?   

  • Click on the link for this survey to have your say. 

Want help with your career strategy and executive brand?
Why not book in a 30 min one on one  phone call to learn more. 1st in best dressed rules apply.

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

😰Even the #girlboss needs a little pampering every now and then!!!

😰Even the #girlboss needs a little pampering every now and then!!!

Just because you have a strong, independent blueprint or just because you are a leader, doesn't mean you don't need a little help and support or even pampering every now and then.

So maybe it's time 

>> The comic is by Tatsuya Ishida from a strip called Sinfest.   See the full original here

>> The comic is by Tatsuya Ishida from a strip called Sinfest. See the full original here

  • to lift your nose up off the grindstone
  • to look up for a moment & smell the roses
  • to not mistake the map for the territory
  • and ask for a little support or help along the way 🙏

And if you know someone, who is fiercely independent and normally great at stoically coping, it's okay to offer a helping hand. 

We're all in this together and we should be #thrivingnotjustsurviving

 

>> Ask yourself - If you're too busy making everyone else look and feel good, who looks after you? 

>> NEED HELP WITH THIS? 

    >> And do reach out if you're a smart 'n savvy executive woman looking for career support

     

    Tribute to the many strong, independent, entrepreneurial women in my network! 😍

    Tribute also to International Emoji Day 🙏 on July 18, 2018

    #leadership #womenofimpact #leadingwomen #personalbranding

    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

    Find your sweet spot for effective and strategic networking

    If you are like many people, the thought of heading out to networking events gives you the heebie jeebies.  It's far easier to find great reasons not to go! 

    • "I've got too much work"
    • "I need to pick up the kids"
    • "I'm tired/it's raining/it's cold"
    • "I don't drink and networking events always involve alcohol"
    • "I just stand in the corner and feel stupid anyway"
    • "I'm one of the only women and feel uncomfortable"- or perhaps
    • "I've been to lots of women's only functions but the quality of the networking is not at the right level for my career"

    I hear you.  Finding the right time, the right place, the right audience and the right network can be challenging.

    But don't let that stop you.

    Research tells us that those who have great networks are the ones getting ahead far easier.  

    You might remember last month me sharing Shawn Achor's recent research on the benefits of attending Womens Conferences - where attending (and implementing)

    • Doubled your chances of getting a promotion and
    • Tripled your chances of receiving a raise of 10% or more.

    I personally also recommend mixed gender networking events in the mix, because as someone who has hosted more conferences that most people have had hot dinners, I've witnessed heaps of manoeuvring, partnership creation and opportunities opening up for attendees who got out of their comfort zone and networked. Bold, hairy, audacious moves to the rescue! 
     

    But wait, there's more!
     

    Just last week, HBR published an article that stated that CEOs with diverse networks create higher firm value.

    "Diversely networked CEOs generated an approximately sixteenfold firm market value increase relative to their compensation." ~ HBR, April 2010

    Yes that's right. Diverse networks - breadth, not necessarily depth. 

    Put that together with what is already well known - that "firms with better-connected CEOs can obtain cheaper financing, and firms with well-connected board directors see better performance"and you begin to see that networking is not just great for you and your career, it's also great for the divisions you lead and the organisations you work for.
     

    Picture this ....


    At one end of the networking spectrum there is Nigella No-friends. She's busy. Give Nigella something to do, and she does it. Well! 

    Nigella is incredibly conscientious, diligent, works hard, and pushes the proverbial uphill. She is reliable and available - and doesn't have time or energy to invest in strategic networking.

    Then at the other end of the spectrum is Garry (name changed to protect the innocent).

    Now Garry is the CFO of an ASX listed organisation and I affectionately name him Gantt Chart Garry. Because he takes the notion of strategic networking to a whole next level by running a Gantt Chart on his professional networking activity. Not only does he schedule his activity over several years but he also ranks his network on their net worth, how helpful they have been, and tracking where and when he last saw them, what was discussed and how helpful they may be in the future.

    Oh my.

    Yes he exists.

    And yes, he is incredibly successful in his career.

    And if the research on the value of strategic networking is true, then he is also incredibly valuable in the C-suite of the organisations he works for. This approach helps him deliver better results.

    Invisible_to_Invincible_Women_Of_Impact_Executive_Women_AmandaBlesing.jpg


    Networking counts


    Now I'm not saying for a minute that we all need to go out and set up a CRM or Gantt Chart for our networking strategy. 

    There's probably not a lot of room in that approach for emotional intelligence, intuition and ad hoc encounters.

    But somewhere in between Nigella and Garry, there is a strategy or plan that's right for you. 

    A sweet spot that enables you to balance a heavy workload, family obligations, your career and leadership aspirations along with your discomfort with networking.

    And ... that's why I love LinkedIn so much. But that's a story for another day! 

    ► So what helpful tactics have you found to get out of your comfort zone help you network more effectively? 
    ► Drop me an email and let me know what works for you. Because your ideas might be just the thing that help someone else springboard more effectively in the future!

    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

    Are Women's Conferences Worth It?

    Shawn Achor seems to think so!

    (Vested interest: I’m in an airport lounge heading to speak at the Gartner Senior Women in Multinationals Retreat as I write this)

    Back to Shawn - he was so challenged by the scepticism displayed by a fellow plane passenger that he conducted some research to test the theory.

    In the year after connecting with peers at the Conference for Women -

    • the likelihood of receiving a promotion doubled 
    • attendees had triple the likelihood of a 10%+ pay increase 
    • 78% percent of them reported feeling “more optimistic about the future”

    Other critical determiners from his own observations of 900 conferences included:

    Invisible_to_Invincible_Women_Of_Impact_Executive_Women_AmandaBlesing.jpg
    • a sense of social connection felt by the attendees
    • engaging sessions
    • leaders who role model & exemplify the qualities that the conference is attempting to instil
    • a memorable moment, and
    • a realistic assessment of the present with an optimistic look to the future.

    My take? Put a few conferences designed for women into the mix - men included. Many of the journey stories and case studies are inspiring in their own right, and it might just lead to you winning the raise, promotion or recognition you truly deserve.

     

     

    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

    Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

    “Am I really good enough?”
    “I’m worried everyone will find out that I’m making it up as I go along”
    “I’m worn out & not sure I’ve got it anymore!”

    Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it?

    But these are real comments, from real people ….. as they hit up against resistance, self doubt & fear, over & over again in their career journey.

    When you’ve been rejected, not listened to or not included in the A-team for most of your career despite equal if not better performances ….. it can be tough to stay resilient & keep going!

    Imposter syndrome is an insidious beast.

    Which makes the work I do, so much more important.

    I don’t always have all the answers either.

    I too have doubts and fears just like everyone else.

    Feeling like a fraud can sneak up on you when you least expect it.

    But I keep on keeping on because I know I’m fighting the good fight.

    And love being part of making a difference.

    So, next time you say to yourself “I’m not good enough” realise that every one feels this way

    No-one said leadership would be comfortable.

    But it’s those with true grit who will keep on going

    And for the thousands who do keep going in the face of self doubt? 

    RESPECT

    Get comfortable with discomfort – it’s part and parcel of a difference worth making

     

    Liked this? Try some 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

    Language habits that get in the way of women leading

    Language Warning!   

    Are you making these common language mistakes at work?

    “I’m no expert but ….”
    “I know you’ve been doing this much longer than me but  ….” 
    “Am I making sense?” 
    “Do you understand what I mean?”
    “I just wanted to send you an email …..”
    “I actually wanted to find out ….” 
    “I probably should check this …..” 
    “Let me quickly say …..”

    And my personal favourite - uptalk - which makes you sound uncertain, as though you are seeking approval or need your ideas validated.

    Passive or apologetic language habits get in the way of your executive brand, your career success & any leadership aspirations you may have.

    They undermine your credibility.

    Subtly but surely

    And what’s scary?

    They’re worse if you are overworked, overwhelmed or worn out

    Get awareness.

    Get an audit to identify where you need to -

    • Slow down, pause, conveying confidence and authority
    • Remove shrinkers like "just" and "actually" before sending emails to make your statements appear stronger
    • Use eye contact to show kindness, while keeping your power

    Then eliminate slowly but surely.

    Do the work.

    Then take charge of the narrative before it takes charge of you!

    1510483502226_Sunday_Life_Language _article_with_Amanda_Blesing.jpg
    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 executive women can grab attention without swearing

    At the bottom of this article is a video from mother, author and swearing expert, Melissa Mohr, Ph.D. to provide mothers with 'alternative curse words' as their get out of jail card free in times of stress ……  but first …..

    Do you struggle to grab attention at work, in meetings, or on social media platforms such as LinkedIn? Despite best intentions at staying visible, standing out and being noticed by the decision makers, you’re battling to be taken seriously?

    No longer is it good enough to go to work and do our job well rigorously, thoroughly and properly. Instead we also need to back ourselves, sell ourselves and articulate our expertise in language the business values and understands. In fact, we need to be our own PR, comms and marketing department rolled into one.

    But it's getting really hard to cut through the clutter. Some senior level, seemingly, super successful executive women share with me that despite flying the flag for their future leadership brand 24/7 they still get bypassed and don’t know what they’re doing wrong.

    Shorter attention span than a goldfish (yes you read that right)

    Maybe it’s not just you, but it’s the reality of the human condition. In fact, it’s official  - as modern urbanised beings we have a problem. According to researchers, human beings now have an attention span shorter than a goldfish (9 seconds). 

    With the increase of mobile technology and demands on our attention ever increasing our attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds (according to Canadian researchers in a study by Microsoft).  

    No wonder you’re struggling to be taken seriously - it’s an uphill battle!

    The new rules of engagement to Ensure your killer point is remembered

    While we now know it’s not enough for your results to speak for themselves, it’s becoming obvious that even if and when you do speak to them, unless you work out a way of cutting through the clutter - your big ideas, your best suggestions, your great input, will run the risk of being bypassed. And businesses desperately need people with new ideas to solve old problems.

    The new rule of engagement - 'she who can grab and hold attention will win'.  So developing techniques and skills that showcase your thought leadership, that capturepersuade, and influence, are part and parcel of your leadership tool kit.  

    And while you might think it’s too hard, here are some great rules of thumb to keep in mind next time you need to grab and hold attention.

    1. First impressions count - after all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression
    2. But those impressions must be backed up with substance and content to build on your leadership brand, otherwise you’ll lose your credibility (achievements, case studies, results, evidence, arguments, commentary)
    3. Know what you stand for (key messages)
    4. And why - people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it
    5. Make it relevant - so your audience identifies with you
    6. Articulate this in different ways - so you don’t sound like a broken record
    7. Consistency and congruence trumps frequency - you don't have to wear people down or people will switch off.

    So back to the video

    Our swearing expert is also an expert at grabbing and retaining attention.  While I'm not an advocate of either swearing or Mac & Cheese, this campaign did really well all over the globe. The campaign uses humour, surprise, statistics (and flips statistics really effectively), shock value, empathy, popular phraseology and is relevant (for Mothers Day - right audience, right key message, right time, right place, right battles.)  So while you probably wouldn’t use some of what she does, you might employ one or two of the devices quite effectively.

    Why? Because business, community and government need smart 'n savvy women with big, bold and new ideas leading!

    And if you want help with this, do get in touch.

    Feminine Leadership Superpowers + Attention = Priceless

    And happy belated Mothers Day! .

    Click the video below...

    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 fear that holds you back in your career

    Have you ever found yourself at the end of the day after a couple of hefty debates at work thinking

    • "Why didn't I say that?", 
    • "Gee, I wish I hadn't said this ..... ", or
    • "Why is it that I always think of the right answer after the fact?"

    If that's you, I hear you. I'm the same. Good with an argument after the fact, but not in the spur of the moment. If there was ever a subject that should become compulsory at high school, I reckon it's debating, to help young people learn how to speak in public, to construct rational arguments on the fly and to give them confidence in responding under pressure.

    Frequently in a professional environment we need to defend a position or champion an idea, and speak out effectively on said topic. Easier said than done for most.

    You have no doubt heard the humorous, but serious terms, bro-propriation, manterruptions and mansplaining, used to draw attention to those times when men speak over women, interrupt women or appropriate women's ideas. Worse, you've likely experienced them.  Yet there are things we women can do on our own behalf to ensure that our voice is heard and opinion is valued.

    Learning how to back yourself and your ideas, express your opinions powerfully and effectively in meetings, public forums and via published mediums such as interviews will help.   

    Evidence tells us that there are more male speakers on the speaker circuit and historically the consulting world has been dominated by men. However with more and more women speakers stepping up and speaking out, along with the rise of the fempreneur, our professional world is changing.  And the expectation for consultants, business leaders, professionals and entrepreneurs, is that you need to know how to express your opinion in public (comms department permission pending of course).


    I believe in the power of the voice of women.
    — Malala Yousafzai

    Letting go of your need to be right

    Landing an opinion and having others critique it is extremely challenging for the recovering perfectionist. Yet when you let go of your need to be right, it is far easier.

    Once you let go of your need to be right all of a sudden you allow for the possibility that there might be more than one opinion that is right at any one time.  After all, an opinion is just an opinion and what we hold to be 'true' today may be considered 'false' tomorrow anyway - and vice versa.

    "Pressophobia" - fear of being interviewed by the press

    Here’s the rub – most people are scared of expressing their opinion in public. In fact, fear of public speaking is the #1 fear for many and ranks even higher than death.

    But I reckon if there is one thing that some people fear more than speaking in public, that’s being interviewed by the press/media.
     
    If done right, media is a great way to boost your personal brand, build your credibility, position you as an expert and help you create authority.   Whether that’s industry press, your peak body magazine, or more highly publicised media channels such as television, radio and print/online articles it doesn’t matter.  

    And if it’s done badly you have egg on your professional face in a potentially humiliating way.

    Expert advice from three women in the know

    Michele Barry, Sharon Sebastian & Rebecca Leo

    Michele Barry, Sharon Sebastian & Rebecca Leo

     

     

    So to help you become better prepared about possible interviews and getting more comfortable with voicing your opinion – I went straight to the source. Three women who know what it’s like to speak with the press and be quoted in public, have given you their thoughts on how to prepare. Thanks to each of Michele Barry, Rebecca Leo and Sharon Sebastian for generously donating their perspectives!

     

    Michele Barry is a leader in the pubic health sector, is currently National President of Better Hearing Australia and Director of Frontis Consulting.  She regularly represents the organisations she works for.

    Michelle’s advice:

    1. Know your key messages and be ready for action. Media opportunities can be valuable and at times unexpected. Write media releases, followed by phone calls - get to know the journalists and producers in your topic area.

    2. Be easy to deal with - when a journo calls you; call back quickly, respect the time lines of those in the media. If you are easy to deal with you will be called  back for your area of expertise. If you are difficult to deal with journos will simply call someone else.

    3. Media interviews take practice so ask a trusted friend or colleague for feedback. I was told I smiled too much, which might be good sometimes, but in that instance it was a serious topic.

    4. Call or write back to the journalist and say thank you. Tell them about the impact. You are more likely to be asked for an interview again.

    5. Have a heading called media contacts on your website/ Facebook.  Make it easy for people to help you and connect withyou.

    • Michelle’s recommended resources: Invest in media training. Watch recordings of your self and work on your personal style. Sign up to "the Source" a PR reaching site and go for it.
    • Michele can be contacted via LinkedIn

    Rebecca Leo is the Founder of Roar Women and the award winning Roar Events Australia. She is a speaker, coach and presenter who found herself winning a spot as a guest co-host on The Project!

    Rebecca’s #1 tip was given to her by journalist (and host on the night) Hugh Riminton, when she was on The Project:  Just be yourself!  Be in the conversation as you would be with your best friends.   Your presence on camera is much more appealing when you are being naturally you.

    Sharon Sebastian is a former journalist and currently works as a senior communications professional in Queensland. 

    Sharon’s #1 advice?

    Be prepared and do your research on the journalist, the publication and their target audience

    1. Find out who the journalist is and which publication they are from. Try and find a couple of articles written by your interviewer to get a feel for what their writing style is like.   
    2. Ask what the article is about and get the deadline.
    3. Get your questions ahead of time – a good journalist will normally send you through a set of questions so you can prepare. If they don't, not to worry, just ask.
    4. Key messages – if you are representing your organisation, think about what key messages you would want to get across. Don't try to be a salesperson! (Journalists do not like this.) Think about how you can creatively incorporate key messages about your organisation, while answering the questions put forward by the journalist, in line with what the article is about.

    In summary

    1. Yes, learning how to speak out articulately and confidently is an excellent executive branding tool. Invest in training, support and practice so you can leverage it.
    2. Work out what you stand for - key messages, succinct, articulate, powerful and effective
    3. Be yourself - everyone else is taken!
    4. Do your research into the publication and audience
    5. Make it easy for people to find you.

    Let me know how you go! If you end up being featured by your industry rag or profiled in your peak body magazine, send me a copy!  I'd love to share.


    Vive la révolution!

    #ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition #careerfutureproofing #visibility #womeninleadership


    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

    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

    More Powerful Advice for Women Leading

    Every few months I call out to my #feminineambition network for wisdom and advice for women and leadership. In case you missed it, here's the last one.

    This month we learn from eight leading women in both Australia and overseas who are already doing it - tackling big juicy leadership problems with feminine leadership principles front of mind. Strategy, unpacking big business goals, managing staff, stakeholder relations and personal reflection are all under the microscope. Take what you need! And thanks so much to those who contributed.

     "Make sure everything you do plays to your vision (leaders should of course have articulated a vision for themselves). Another tip is to value and unpack those events or conversations that leave you feeling uncomfortable - they are your greatest learning opportunities as you hone your leadership skills." - Jocelyn Furlan, Principal, Furlan Consulting
    “One of my biggest learnings in gaining respect in a boardroom dominated by men is to pick the right time to speak, make it powerful, focus on the big picture basing the comments on facts not emotions” -  Fiona Evans, Vice President, Customer Service, DHL
    "When I think about how to tackle a business issue, or strive for growth through aspirational goals, I always start with the end in mind. Take the goal, target or outcome - then understand if we did nothing new what would the BAU performance be. This then identifies the true 'gap', target or goal! From there build an operational plan that addresses the 'gap'. Key success metrics, creation of executive and team member dashboards to allow regular communication of progress, provides run-way correction and initiatives as need to achieve your outcomes!"   - Deborah Harrigan, COO, Sales, Innovation, Technology and CX Consultant
    “Take care of your team and your team will take care of you. Be interested in what they do outside of work and truly listen to them. You’ll be amazed at how much they’ll appreciate you for it. One of the biggest things I’ve seen time and time again is the amazing depth of knowledge that front line staff have of your business. Do the walk! Go out and meet the workforce. Ask them what their pain points are and how they think a process can be improved. You’ll be shocked at how much you’ll learn. Lastly, encourage failure. I know this sounds counter intuitive but from failure we learn. I like to meet with my team every week and ask them what they failed doing followed by what they learned from it. Being ok with failing in the workplace frees up anxiety and is quite liberating.” - Jo Zimpel PhD BI, Analytics and Strategy, Founder & Head Data Geek, DataNotes
    "Always remember the value you bring to a relationship whether it is in a colleague, direct report, family or friend relationship. Once you appreciate this value, use it to reinforce your confidence and self-belief and encourage others to do the same."  - Jane Pires, Executive Manager - Group Customer Relations, Suncorp
    "Change is a constant and inevitable. Your ability to manage change is a necessity." - Carla Wall, Managing Director, COINS Australia
    "My approach is simple and well-tested: Build great relationships and establish clear goals. The positive relationships can be leveraged to collaborate and achieve your mission. As a leader, it's key to identify strong players, communicate well and keep those players engaged until you cross the finish line." - Shelley Elkins, Director, Customer Contact at CREDO Mobile
    "Learn that the most challenging role in leadership can be working with the people not the projects.  Lead by example always and treat your people with respect - treat them how you like to be treated. Take time to get to know them but always remember that you are the final decision maker and need to be accountable and responsible for outcome. Everyone can teach you something new - give them the time to contribute their ideas." - Janita Friend, Managing Director and Owner, Best Friend PR and Marketing

    Thanks for sharing everyone!

    My mission in life is to help women to play a much bigger game – change the world if you will – and do so with big ideas, big vision and big, audacious bucket loads of confidence.

    Vive la révolution!

    #ambitionrevolution #feminineambition #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes


    If you enjoyed this article why not share? Let's spread the word to help smart 'n savvy women and men everywhere.
     

    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

    What's your Productivity Tipping Point?

    Or maybe the headline should read "What's Your Productivity Tripping Point?"

    Ever wondered why it’s so easy for you to go from "everything's perfect" and "on top of the world" one day, to “woe is me”, “everything is dreadful”, and “I’m not good enough” the next?  
     
    I hear you!  It happens to me as well.  My ambitious woman avatar is a tad gungho. She is driven,  motivated and she throws herself into the fray full on - forgetting that she is in it for the long haul and that if she pushes too hard one day she pays the price the next.
     
    Tim Ferriss of Four Hour Work Week and Four Hour Body fame refers to finding your the Minimum Effective Dose (MED).  That’s the minimum amount you need to do to get a great result.
     
    Well I reckon most of us want to do more than the MED. When you’re on a mission you’re more likely to want to throw yourself in boots and all and give it your best shot.  But that best shot runs the risk of being far closer to your Tipping Point than your MED when you're in the realm of feeling like you need to prove yourself.

    Instead, find your Tipping Point and step back from it one step, so you can play your long game. This links right back to the Goldilocks principle: not too much, not too little, but just right.
     
    Just because some is good, doesn't mean more is better
    So what triggers you tripping over your Tipping Point?  Frequently, not what you might imagine and all stuff you can take responsibility for easily.

    Leadershiplonggame
    1. Sleep – is big.  As the book title says “Sleep your Way to the Top”.  Too little and you’re crabby. Too much and you totally lose your motivation and want to do not much all day.  I measure my sleep.  How cool is that? Try it. You might be surprised at what you find out.   
    2. Water - Dehydration = lethargic and impaired mental agility.  Too much has other consequences. Do your research and work out how much fluid is enough for you.
    3. Caffeine – has a half life of about 5-6 hours.  Drink too much in the afternoon and it not only impairs the quality of your sleep, but also makes you jumpy and increases your stress response all while you are unaware.
    4. Exercise – too much and too intense and you tip over into the realm of impaired performance at the gym AND at work - sluggish, drained and tired. And we all know what too little exercise does for you.  Enough said.
    5. Alcohol – and your tipping point might be closer than you really want to know about. Here’s a great article on New Scientist on the benefits of alcohol free for a while.
    6. Work - even if you’re managing all of the above and then work too much, you risk losing your edge.  Your performance diminishes and you potentially lose drive, motivation and ambition.  My tipping point is about 9 hours/day with time off on weekends.  I love my job. I love the people I work with, I love the difference I get to be part of in people’s lives and I love stretching and pushing myself. As a result I can focus intensely for hours on end but …… as soon as I go over 9 hours it tips me over the edge.  As a result, the next day I am once again, sluggish, defensive and unproductive.
    7. Uncertainty - the amplifying factor - if you've got lots of uncertainty going on with home, family or finances, or maybe there's been a leadership/management spill at work, then putting systems and routines in place to keep you just below your tipping point are critical.

    Monitor your own productivity and performance

    If you were a high performance athlete you’d be training daily with a coach who would provide that third person perspective and help you monitor your productivity and performance. But you’re not, so productivity and performance peaks and troughs will slip through the cracks un-monitored unless you take responsibility. 

    Get yourself some wearable tech. Measure, reflect, journal and if you're really into it, keep a spreadsheet. Work out what works for you and what doesn't.  

    • When are you most effective at the office?
    • When are your staff performing best?
    • When do you and your team deliver best results?
    • When do you shine in front of an audience?
    • When are you and your boss performing like a well oiled machine?

    And it might be as simple as tweaking one or two of the list above. So take responsibility and do something about it.
     
    So what about you? What tips you over the edge?

    • Did setting yourself a challenge of 10 sales meetings per week actually help? Or did it get in the way of servicing existing clients well, with fewer, higher quality, more successful sales meetings?
    • Is that week of long hours really necessary? Or is it in fact keeping you tired and in the realm of never good enough, never enough hours in the day and feeling under confident.
    • Is that extra session at the gym really helpful? Or did it make you 'slangry' at work, rest and play?
    • Does that huge year of nose to the grindstone result, not in a promotion or a pay-rise, but in you wanting to lean out, pick up your bat and ball and go home, or find something else entirely?

    Leadership is a long game
    Remember, leadership is a long game. Work out your Tipping Point and you are on the way to successfully carving out a career that really counts far more easily.  And if you're feeling down, start creating strategies that help you shift you from wanting to hang up your aspiring leadership boots, to being back in the zone again - today.

     

    My goal is that you win the feminine ambition trifecta - earn a great salary, feel like you are being heard and to know you are making an even bigger difference. 

    Vive la révolution!
    #ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition

     

     

    My mission in life is to help women to play a much bigger game – change the world if you will – and do so with big ideas, big vision and big, audacious bucket loads of confidence.


    If you enjoyed this please spread the word. And don't forget - I love receiving emails from you with your own wins and achievements.

    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

    Five ninja success techniques to help you hit your straps more easily

    The last couple of months have seen a bunch of my clients win some seriously big wins. (Go team Ambition!!) And it got me curious. Are there any common themes?

    Ninja.com
    • Was is their age?
    • Was it the organisations they work for?
    • Or was it they work in masculine or feminine dominated industries?

    And while it’s easy to put success down to IQ, luck or timing, that’s not what I can see is really happening. In fact, not at all.
     

    So to help you achieve your own Big Hairy Audacious Goals more easily, here are some of the key themes in their approaches ......
     

    1. A really clearly defined big goal or vision - with room to manoeuvre.

    • A vision of wanting to be CEO of an ASX listed organisation in 10 years time - means that the immediate short term tactics and timeframes around leadership, promotions and career progression are simple.
    • A vision around wanting to be "Head of .." – helps you define a clear pathway along which to travel – what to study, who to connect with, which peak bodies to be part of or what substantive work projects you need to put your hand up for

    A study of a Harvard Business School class, demonstrated that people who wrote down their goals earned on average 10 times more than any of their classmates. This is big. Learn more here.

     2. A willingness to do what it takes - even if that made them feel uncomfortable.

    • If that meant late nights, weekend work in preparation and finding time between the cracks to craft an approach or to prepare for their session with me - then that's what they did.
    • If that meant six interview rehearsal sessions with me, then they booked six rehearsal sessions with me. And turned up for each one with a willingness to hear feedback, refine and improve.
    • If that meant letting go of attitudes, mindsets or beliefs that were getting in the way, then they simply let go. And yes, getting out of your comfort zone does feel uncomfortable. But remember, that’s where the magic happens!
    I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.
    — Estee Lauder

     
    3. Zero excuses -  In fact excuses don’t figure in their vocabulary

    And while that might sound a bit trite, it’s true.
    For example:

    • “I’m too busy” translated into “How can I make this happen despite being busy?”
    • “My boss won’t let me” translated into “What do I need to do to get my boss to hear me?" or "Is there a way to to approach this?”
    • “My husband/partner doesn’t think I need this” translated into “I think I need to do this, so I made it happen. My husband/partner will thank me later when I land my next promotion or come home with a pay rise or am not whinging about work any more.”

     
    4. #justdoitnow - Immediacy and urgency

    They all had an approach of immediacy and a sense of urgency – rather than leave things til the last minute.  One big thing I noticed was that after a session with me, those who have been more immediately successful, have all done their actions within a few days of seeing me – despite having a 2 week window of opportunity. They simply made it happen as soon as they could.

    One of the benefits of this is that they nearly always come back and ask for feedback on what they’ve done so we can fine tune and refine their approach between sessions and not waste another session waiting for progress.   If leadership is a priority for you, then prioritise leadership, and yourself.
     
    5. And finally - Buoyancy - Conversations with these women are incredibly upbeat and buoyant.

    They all have strategies that help them stay afloat, so to speak, even when the proverbial hits the fan.

    Dan Pink in To Sell is Human talks about the critical nature of buoyancy in a sales process. Let's face it. When you're tackling your next big career goal, you are definitely selling. You are selling yourself and the value of your work up the business, or into a new business. Buoyancy is absolutely, categorically, critical.

    So buoyancy is how do you remain buoyant on the notion of rejection? What do you do before? What do you do during? What do you do after?
    — Dan Pink

    Helping you hit your straps

    FemAmbitionTrifecta

    So if you're feeling like you haven't hit your straps yet, or your own goals feel a long way out of reach - then I'd suggest start adopting some of the principles above.  As always, remember:

    1. Hope is not a strategy
    2. Be prepared to make mistakes
    3. Be prepared to be uncomfortable, and
    4. Be prepared to do the work.

    And I'm looking forward to hearing about your next wins and achievements!

    My mission in life is to help women to play a much bigger game – change the world if you will – and do so with big ideas, big vision and big, audacious bucket loads of confidence.

    Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution #feminineambition #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