Although research shows that women are more effective leaders than men, unfortunately the majority of women who want to ascend, remain frozen in the middle unable to pierce the veil of upper management.
The Zenker Folkman study found that women were more effective than men in 12 of the top 16 leadership competencies. This is a clear indication that it takes much more than effectiveness to move beyond the middle.
As a former HR Executive, I know from first hand experience that this is true. However, I also realized that instead of taking ownership of my career, I was relying on my bosses to do all of the heavy lifting for me. I chose to look out the window as a way to validate all of my reasons for my career being stagnant instead of first looking in the mirror. I eventually got it together and used these six strategies to go from HR Assistant to HR Executive.
1. Presence Must Always Precede Performance: This is about focused mindfulness and always being fully present to every interaction you have with others. Instead of feeling like you need to impress them by leading with your strategy and your ego, allow your magnetic presence to take the lead instead. This is not about being forced or manipulative but rather leading from a calm, confident and grounded place of being prepared to engage in meaningful conversations.
2. Know Your Narrative: What do you want to be known as AND for? Once you’re clear on this, it becomes your primary narrative and the thing that people come to you for. Your narrative is a mix of your passion and your brilliance and it’s the place where you get the best results. Start by doing quick pulse survey to understand how people see you today and put a plan in place to close the gap so that you fully embody what you stand for.
3. Develop Proprietary Relationships: Success doesn’t happen in a silo. In order to move your personal agenda forward, a key part of it must be aligned to the organization’s agenda. Get in the habit of developing proprietary relationships with key individuals where there is mutual benefit to co-create and collaborate with one another. Don’t make the mistake in thinking that these relationships are always up as they can be with anyone who has a stronger relationship in the area that you’re trying to penetrate.
4. Engage Strategically: According to the Zenker Folkman research, this is one of the areas where men tend to excel by a high margin, but it’s only because the majority of ‘strategic assignments’ are given to upper management. However, this doesn’t prevent you from engaging very strategically and quarterly agendas are one way to do it. Always have a quarterly agenda with at least one high-visibility project that engages others and positions you for what’s next.
5. Leverage Your Power: Gloria Feldt, the New York Times best-selling author and co-founder of Take the Lead is the pioneer of a paradigm shift around power that moves from the negative connotation of Power Over to Power To. She encourages women to not allow titles and the archaic power over mentality deter us from using our Power To. With that in mind, I encourage women to leverage their power to use their voice and disrupt the status quo which is different and far more effective than being a disruption. Just as you have to leave your comfort zone in order to ascend, you must help others do the same.
6. Lock Arms with a Codebreaker: Sponsorship is essential and you need someone who can provide you access but also has the authority to make decisions that are outside of your sphere of influence. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, President of the Center for Talent Innovation says it best: “It doesn’t quite take a village but breaking into the ‘white boys club’ takes more than individual effort. No matter how fiercely you lean in, you still need someone with the power to lean in with you.”
As you work on positioning for your next move, remember these six strategies which are encapsulated within three main areas of focus: Reputation, Relationships & Results. Your Reputation gets you access, your Relationships extend your access and your Results get you rewarded and positioned to ascend at an accelerated pace!