Women Who Lead

women-who-lead

Did you know that women today occupy just four percent of CEO spots at Fortune 500 companies (according to Catalyst.org)? That begs this question: Why aren’t women more represented in leadership positions?

Aside from promotional bias, I think part of the problem is that many women don’t have confidence in their ability to lead. I know I’ve struggled with this myself. This fear of failing reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. In her 1960 missive, You Learn by Living, she wrote, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Whenever I’m feeling uncertain, those words help me to realize that I can do anything I put my mind to. Easier said than done though, right?

Trust me, you can become a strong female leader.

Let’s look at the traits of women who lead and how you can get there (in fact, don’t be surprised if you already embody some of these).

Step out of your comfort zone.

Don’t pass up opportunities because you’re scared. Be honest with yourself about your apprehension and what’s causing it – and then confront your fear head on.

And, don’t be afraid to go off-plan, as this Forbes article notes: “Stay nimble, have flexible expectations, and don’t try to map your life decades in advance only to find that you’ve foreclosed opportunity.”

Exude confidence.

This is all about believing in yourself. Obviously, it’s not something that can be forced; but it is something you can practice. Start with small everyday tasks that you have trouble with. For instance, does parallel parking scare you? Force yourself to do it until you get it right. Believe that you can do it and I promise you’ll succeed.

As Jerome Knyszewski writes in 7 Characteristics of Hugely Successful Female Leaders, “You either have confidence, or you will have to develop confidence within yourself in order to become truly successful. Start today to see the desired results faster!”

Stay true to yourself. It’s like that old saying: “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” Don’t do things because you think you have to, or because it’s what everyone else is doing. Trust your own instincts and let them guide your decisions. Great leaders are authentic; they are trailblazers, not followers.

Knyszewski says, “Hugely successful leaders do never copy others, but rather create extraordinary results through unique work, authenticity, a personal style and continuous expression of that uniqueness.”

Ask for help.

Women who lead aren’t afraid to ask for help. Because let’s face it, no one knows everything. And asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s smart! Part of being a leader is surrounding yourself with the talented, qualified people who can help you reach your goals.

It may be easier to think of asking for help as simply networking. As the Forbes article explains, networking “means building relationships with colleagues with whom you have something in common – giving, as well as asking for, input and advice from a community of colleagues you cultivate over time.”

Don’t give up.

I think this is the most important trait of women who lead. They never give up. They set their minds to something and they accomplish it. They act with purpose. Above all, they persevere. Whatever happens – failures, gains, losses, or wins – they keep their eyes on their ultimate goal. And inevitably, they accomplish it!

Do you see any of these leadership traits in yourself? Are you a woman who leads?

Leadership for Women

women-in-leadership

Do you consider yourself a leader? What about a good leader? You’re probably a leader, in some way, whether you realize it or not. As women, we all have natural leadership abilities; it’s how we tap into and nurture these abilities that makes the difference between simply being a leader and being a great one.

As leadership coach Lolly Daskal notes, “I sometimes find myself having to remind my clients of how powerful they really are, and the ways in which they can exercise that power.”

Do you want to be a great leader? What does great leadership mean to you? Your definition will undoubtedly be different than someone else’s.

For instance, when leading, I think it is important to be focused, passionate, confident, transparent, and inspiring. Meanwhile, Daskal’s leadership superpowers are persuasion, positivity, observation, decisiveness, modesty, tenacity, and insight.

Ask yourself: What attributes do I consider important in leadership for women? Once you have that list, look at each attribute and determine whether you embody it in your life (and how well you do so). Knowing this, you can come up with a plan to improve your performance in each area.

That plan may sound daunting, but it’s really about taking simple, concrete steps in your daily life. For instance, here are some of Daskal’s suggestions for cultivating your leadership growth:

  • Learn from every experience
  • Focus on the collective (understand the value of others)
  • Make it a priority to get along with people
  • Work on communication every day
  • Take on more responsibility
  • Give your personal best

If you still want more guidance, I recommend checking out a talent development firm like Successful Culture, which offers helpful workshops as well as Mastermind leadership groups. My go-to resource is Learning in Bloom, a small learning solutions company in my area that provides customized development courses online. Do a quick Google search and you’ll see that there are so many options out there.

Whichever path you choose for your leadership journey, please remember that it’s just that – a journey! You can’t expect to become a great leader overnight. But with consistent effort and purpose, you will become the leader you want to be.

As Daskal posits, leadership “is earned with hard work and dedication to the craft. It’s a lifelong process, one that we begin again every day. We have to develop from where we are to get to where we want to go.”

What are your thoughts on leadership for women? Are you satisfied with your leadership skills today? What have you done to foster your own leadership growth?

Women Who Mentor

mentor

men·tor
noun
an experienced and trusted adviser.
verb
advise or train (someone, especially a younger colleague)

In the purest sense of the word, a mentor is someone who advises others. It comes from the Greek “Mentōr,” the name of the adviser of Telemachus in Homer’s Odyssey.

I think every woman should have a mentor.

A mentor can have an incredibly positive impact on your life, even from any early age. Parents and grandparents are typically our first mentors. For some of us, a particularly dedicated teacher, professor, or guidance counselor probably filled the role later on. Think about when you were in high school or college. Did you have a role model to guide you and offer advice?

But women who mentor come in many other forms – family, friends, work acquaintances, neighbors, and on and on. Really, anyone can be a mentor to you. It’s about finding a person that you connect with and admire – and someone who is willing and able to put in the time to connect with you. You may already have a mentor in your life and not even realize it!

What can a mentor do for you?

A 2014 Huffington Post blog describes the benefits of having a mentor this way: “Successful women are fully aware of the importance of having someone who recognizes their potential, who cares about their career and who guides them through the twists, turns and pitfalls that come with reaching great heights.”

And according to a now dated, but still relevant, Harvard Business Review survey, “Executives who have had a mentor are on the average better educated, receive higher compensation and express greater satisfaction with their work than their peers who have not had a mentor.”

How do you find a mentor?

I find – and the Huffington Post agrees with me – that women benefit most from being mentored by other women. As they put it, women who mentor “are able to relate to and are better equipped to guide women through their particular challenges.” On top of that, I know that as a woman, I feel more comfortable and empowered around other women, as opposed to men.

If you already have a female mentor in mind, great! Don’t be shy about approaching her. You don’t have to lay it out all at once; simply ask her if you can schedule time over coffee or lunch to get some advice, then let the relationship evolve naturally.

If a mentor doesn’t immediately come to mind, you may need to look outside your current network and meet new people. Consider professional organizations, events, and meet-up groups. Search for these opportunities on social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

Just remember that professional commonalities alone do not a good mentor make. You also want to make sure the woman you choose is enthusiastic about helping you to grow professionally and personally. She should be someone you can trust and bounce ideas off of. In the end, the mentor-mentee relationship should be beneficial to both of you.

What has your experience been with women who mentor? How has a mentor affected your life?

Opportunities for the New Year

the-book-is-calledopportunityand-its-first-chapteris-new-years-day-edith-lovejoy-pierce

“The Book is called Opportunity, and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

– Edith Lovejoy Pierce

We have another new year fast approaching!

While each year typically goes out with a bang – with the hustle and bustle of shopping, decorating, hosting guests, and traveling – there is some solace in knowing a respite is ahead and for many, a clean slate or fresh start with the new year.

Opportunities are around us all the time – even now. But we tend to await them with a more eager expectation when we have fresh eyes to see.

I don’t know about you, but I personally do not like to make New Year’s Resolutions. I am a goal-setter, and I’m continually setting new goals and driving to complete them. I like to see every day as an opportunity to make progress in my goals and achieve great things.

But I know sometimes people need to start a new chapter in their life, and the New Year offers just that. What opportunities would you like to pursue? What changes would you like to see?

Starting New Year’s Day (or even now!), “write” that new adventure with your choices, habits, and goals. Live eyes wide open for those opportunities and do not shrink back from the hard work or belief it takes to step into them boldly.

I look forward to hearing all about the upcoming chapters of your “book.” Keep me posted!

Remarkable Resources for December 2016

december-resources

StoryCorps

As you gather with family for the holidays, consider setting aside time to capture your legacy by recording your stories. StoryCorps offers a convenient format to interview each other – podcast fashion – save it online, and share it with others. The platform allows you to upload a photo, set tags and categories, and share out the link.

Cyndy Porter

Cyndy Porter is an image and style expert who really goes deep into how to highlight your best features. She takes into consideration your body shape, personality and favorite style, and offers suggestions on what to improve or how best to incorporate new elements. As you think about the new year, consider hiring her or someone like her in your area to make positive changes in your personal brand – from the inside out.

Book – Recharge

Heidi Hanna is a remarkable woman who specializes in brain health and minimizing stress for optimum performance. She is a notable speaker and advisor to large corporations, and has authored many books, including Recharge – 5 Simple Shifts to Energize Your Life. 

Women in Business

women-in-business

Perhaps in all of history, today is the absolute best time to be a woman. Today, women are empowered. We are innovating and inspiring. We are achieving more than ever before.

I can think of so many strong female entrepreneurs – famous and otherwise – who are role models for girls today. When it comes to women and business, we permeate every part of the business world, from government to healthcare to retail.

There’s J.K. Rowling, founder of the Harry Potter empire, who was a struggling single mother when she wrote her first book; or Oprah Winfrey, who was born into poverty and overcame years of abuse to become a multi-billionaire media mogul. It’s stories like these that inspire me to work hard at my business every day.

We are all capable of achieving our dreams, whether that’s success and celebrity status on a large scale or simply meeting our monthly business goals. Women like you and me are rising in business every day – but let’s face it, we can always do a little bit more.

So, what are the characteristics of successful businesswomen?

To answer this question, I’m borrowing from Gail McGovern, who laid out her five traits for success in a keynote address at the 2002 Dynamic Women in Business conference. At the time, she was president of Fidelity Personal Investments (she is now president and CEO of the American Red Cross).

As quoted in this Harvard Business School article, McGovern’s secrets to success are:

  • Balance between work and personal life
  • Attract, attain, and motivate the best people
  • Love and embrace change
  • Be resilient
  • Make every decision based on whether or not it’s good for business.

While each of these traits is undoubtedly important, and many of them overlap, the one that speaks to me the most is loving and embracing change. And that’s because I think many people are afraid of change. I’ve found that in business, this attitude will only hold you back.

Look at businesses that have failed to embrace change, or have embraced change too late. Blockbuster immediately comes to mind. The video rental chain – not a woman-led business, by the way – was virtually phased out when video-on-demand services like Netflix came on the scene. By the time Blockbuster released its own streaming service, its competitors had already taken over the market.

The moral of this story is to not only embrace change, but also invite it! Always look for opportunities to make those strategic choices that could ensure the future success of your business. Think about how your industry or niche is changing and stay on top of the trends. Better yet, be a trendsetter!

As women in business – or anyone in business, for that matter – we should never take our success for granted. Just because we’re successful today doesn’t mean we’ll be successful tomorrow. We must innovate to stay ahead – even if that means changing our business model entirely.

What are your thoughts on women and business? What traits or strategies have helped you find success?