One ubiquitous quality of highly effective leaders is self-awareness. Successful leaders take time to reflect and cultivate an understanding of what makes them tick. This includes confronting ‘blind spots’ in their career journey that may create obstacles. Women leaders, in particular, have a tendency to tell themselves stories that hold them back.
Create a vision
Avoid the risks of drifting in your career by creating a long-term vision and a shorter-term strategic plan. You’ll need to assess your strengths and weaknesses, grow your skills, and identify where you want to go. In other words, think like a CEO and create a business plan for yourself.
It’s important to shape this narrative yourself rather than letting others do it for you.
Know who you are and how you land with others
Self-awareness is a lifelong journey and is developed with intention and hard work. Invest time in self-reflection and get feedback from others about how your style and personality are perceived. Resist the temptation to get defensive, and, above all, don’t let your inner voices hijack your thoughts. Rather, consider how you can change to keep improving.
Get known for something
Where do your reputation and personality meet? This is what we call ‘reputationality’ and it’s essential to building your personal brand. Reputationality merges the person you are with the work you do.
Preparation builds confidence, influence, and personal power.
It’s important to shape this narrative yourself rather than letting others do it for you. Develop effective communications strategies to highlight your accomplishments and achievements and tell your story in a bold way to get the attention of decision-makers and influencers.
Install a career GPS
Operating on autopilot is one of the worst things you can do for your career. Without good, real-time guidance, finding your way takes a lot more effort than it needs to. Think of feedback as your friend, or as a reliable GPS system that guides you in the right direction.
If you proactively seek feedback and advice, you can better decide on a strong path of action and detect any course corrections you need to make along the way.
Prepare for the outcome you want
Actors, athletes, and musicians all prepare and practice continually to get better at their craft. You should, too. Get clear about your intentions and the outcome you want, whether for a presentation, a meeting, or even a casual conversation.
Being deliberate in your career is a path to success. Find the big and small strategies that work for you.
Then prepare and practice so you can’t get it wrong. Preparation builds confidence, influence, and personal power.
Don’t go it alone
Many women are so focused on their daily responsibilities and ‘getting the job done’ that they haven’t developed and fostered a support network. But flying solo in your career is inefficient, exhausting, and unnecessary.
Develop a helpful web of people you can rely on and build mutually beneficial relationships with.
Consciously cultivate this network to be a diverse group of mentors, advisors, cheerleaders, and shoulders to lean on, and provide the same for others. Asking for help and giving it can be a great source of career power.
Be on purpose
Create a vision, plan, prepare, and execute. Being deliberate in your career is a path to success. Find the big and small strategies that work for you, especially when it comes to the elephant in the room: balancing work and family.
Knowing what you want and where you’re going is important, and equally important is knowing who you are and who you are not. Here are some practices and habits that can help.
Get clear about your values
Use a values assessment tool
Make commitments carefully
Audit your planner, schedule, or calendar
Practice saying no
Negotiate response time
Reframe your expectations
Look for new ways to get what you want in your home life
Create criteria for making decisions
Evaluate events and opportunities according to your values and priorities
Negotiate for flexibility
Ask for flexibility regarding work situations so you can have the quality of life you need
Ask for resources
Identify what you need to accomplish your goals and ask for those resources
Make a list of what you need to be at your best and a list of things that drain you, then choose wisely
Gather your posse
Create a personal support network
It’s not all up to women
Organisations have long struggled with retention and advancement of women, especially women of colour. As noted, women face unique challenges on their journeys to leadership and are often hindered by systemic dynamics that are outside of their control.
Men, dominant groups, company cultures, and policies all must change in order to develop more women leaders in the workplace.
The way to grow and keep women leaders is to help them recognize and build on their strengths and uniqueness. This can be accomplished by:
- Creating or enhancing leadership development programs to address skills gaps and ensure the highest potential women, including women of colour, are equipped for the next step
- Ensuring leadership pipelines are inclusive of women and historically underrepresented groups
- Offering coaching, assessments, peer mentoring groups, and sponsorship programs
- Providing continuous learning and cross-functional opportunities for high-potential women
- Nurturing a culture of inclusion, belonging, flexibility, and empathy for some of the unique challenges women face on their career journeys
Historically the rules and expectations have been different for women. While this has improved dramatically in recent years, we still have work to do. What action will you take today to help women leaders move forward faster?
Interested in this topic? Read Why is imposter syndrome plaguing women?