1. Have a “can and will do” attitude
When presented with promotion opportunities, women tend to focus on the skills they don’t have for the role as opposed to what they can actually offer and then back themselves to learn the rest on the job. Their male peers on the other hand, readily put up their hands for bigger positions often beyond their current remit and capability.
Be brave when presented with opportunities and in spite of self-doubt go for it anyway! If it doesn’t work out, so what? There is always a plan B… or C and you may actually learn something about yourself along the way.
2. Ask for, and embrace opportunities
Look for ways to get yourself seen and heard. What is keeping your boss up at night and how can you be the one to solve some of their biggest problems. Identify which projects are going to get you noticed and promoted and ask for them, especially if they stretch and develop you further. You need to show your potential and not just how well you perform in your current role.
3. Build your tribe of leaders
Build your tribe of leaders “deliberately”. Women are often too focused on excelling at the role at hand and do not take time to look up and identify: (1) mentors, “who know your heart” and can guide you in making important decisions in your life, not just your career; (2) sponsors “who will put their reputation on the line for you” and present you for specific opportunities; (3) coaches who will “help you close specific gaps” in your people and technical skills; and (4) role models, who you choose to emulate, but whom you may not know personally.
4. Courage & Character
Woman leaders need to have excellent communication skills. Written and oral communication skills are crucial for success. In the past, for a woman to make it to a top position, they would often have to behave in a more aggressive, command and control and masculine style similar to their male counterparts. However, we are now finally beginning to see women in top positions embracing their authentic and often feminine styles in their behaviours which exudes gravitas too. Often a coach can help you discover where your blind spots in this area may be.
5. Be mindful and work/life balance
Burn out is prevalent among women striving to emulate their “superwomen’ role models. We need to find more balance in our lives, be kind to ourselves, listen to our bodies and the warning signs.
Aside form the burn out issue itself, it’s not uncommon for stressed, under-pressure female leaders to engage in behaviours that can be perceived as aggressive. This can have a knock-on negative effect on the team, which in turn can lead to untimely attrition and can also lead to difficulties in attracting new talent. If you begin to feel like this, there are a number of avenues you might want to explore, ie hire a life coach, book a yoga class or explore a meditation retreat, the idea is to find your outlet.
6. Learn to say no
With the above in mind, you may feel you have no time for yourself. Log your time for a week, both personal and professional. Notice where the big time and energy sappers are and figure out how you can reduce them and increase the things that enhance your well-being. Find a way to delegate or merely learn to let go of “stuff. The world will continue to turn, I promise!
7. Don’t take it personally
Women are often perceived as being more “sensitive” in the work environment. It is important not to change your character or behave like an iron maiden and don’t let comments or criticisms throw you off your game. If you do face patronising remarks, remind yourself how valuable you are, that you’re doing your best and let it roll off your back. Don’t allow those comments to have power over you and never give up. Use it to empower and embolden you!
8. Never stop trying
Talent is innate, but skill is developed with practice and perseverance. You must practice relentlessly to perfect the skill in whatever it is that captures your interest. Seize every opportunity to speak at events or even publish an article. No one is perfect the first time around so be kind to yourself and enlist the help of someone you trust or revere to practice with and get their guidance.
9. Pull other women up with you.
It is crazy that some women in top positions, consciously or unconsciously, make it more difficult for other aspiring and talented women. They believe they have fought to get where they are and are not embracing the opportunity to share their journey thereby encouraging other women to follow in their footsteps. Don’t be one of these! Be an active mentor, coach or sponsor. You will not only be giving back you will broaden your own skill set and be seen as an authentic female leader that top organisations are looking for. Moreover, they also know you’ll be bringing an entourage of talented female followers with you!
10. Take the advantages that come with being a woman and a minority.
When I speak to women about this it is always slightly controversial. It’s perfectly normal to want to be seen for what you can do and bring, not just because you are female.
There is, however, an agenda to promote diversity, which includes providing opportunities to women from consulting backgrounds to further progress their careers. The higher up you go within an organisation the less women you will encounter, however in both Management Consulting firms and in-house corporate Strategy and Transformation teams, senior leaders are open and actively looking to progress their diversity agenda and in particular talented women. Use it!
They are often bonused on having diverse leadership teams and are actively seeking out opportunities to sponsor or mentor junior female talent. Ask for their advice and you will often get their attention and be noticed.