Amanda Blesing, creator of The Ambition Revolution, shares her tips on how to step up, speak out and take charge.
“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,” said Blesing.
The former CEO currently works with, and speaks to, busy and ambitious professional women to help keep them focused on their strategic goals around their leadership aspirations.
One of the things she said she noticed while working alongside those in professional roles and larger organisations was that the women tended to require a different style of encouragement in order to step up into leadership roles or opportunities.
She said, “I would invite women to speak at a seminar or conference, and they would handball me to a male colleague, an ambitious younger staff member, or possibly to their (male) manager. I’d call for papers and ten males would respond and only one female. I watched on the side lines as the males would leapfrog over females when it came to going for promotions.”
Amanda said it was fascinating and not a little disheartening – and yet the women looked like they were doing great work – but required a different style of motivation and drive.
Read on for her tips for women who want to step up:
1. Stop being busy and start being strategic
Women derive a lot of value in being busy. I suspect that sometimes being busy helps us see that we’re adding value and makes us feel less like a fraud. So we’ve polished up ‘busily doing the job well’ to within an inch of it’s life and we imagine that it’s a sure-fire track to success. One of the key learnings is that being busy is going to make you miss the woods for the trees. Being busy keeps you side tracked. Being busy also wears you out. Work out ways of delegating, automating and systematising so that you can create time for strategy. Not just strategy at work but strategic about your career.
2. Put your hand up before you feel ready
The reality is that by the time we feel ready, it’s too late. We know statistically that there are more women undertaking post graduate education than men, and yet it’s not translating to more women in leadership or increased salary for women. And the studying is just one aspect of where we over prepare. Remember the old Hewlett Packard research where women will only apply when they meet 100 per cent of the criteria where as men are more likely to apply even if they only meet 60 per cent? Yep, there it is again.
So make sure you volunteer for projects and roles slightly beyond your comfort zone or expertise. Just in time learning is equally valid as an educative tool. The entire discovery learning model is predicated on it. Don’t dismiss it.
3. Get comfortable with discomfort
We know from the science of training for any sports performance, that the training will be hard work and will possibly hurt. Whether you like ‘Biggest Loser’ or not, it’s a great example that if you want to achieve great results you need to not only do the work, but put yourself out there. Is it that the female risk brain is more sensitive and finely tuned? Is it that young girls are protected and nurtured, where as young boys are (figuratively) thrown out into the wilderness to fend for themselves? Or is it something else entirely? Get comfortable with discomfort because it’s from that discomfort that you will achieve great things– and the reality? Our brains light up like a Christmas tree when we achieve great results that we’ve had to strive for.
4. Learn the language of value
When many women describe their professional performance they frequently use language such as ‘loyal’, ‘hard working’, ‘thorough’ and ‘diligent’ – even at a senior professional level. The reality is if you can’t communicate in language that the C-suite understands, connecting with overall results, drawing parallels and linkages to the organisations overall strategy, or even as to what keeps your CEO awake at nights, then you’ll be bypassed. This means thinking in terms of big picture and context and helping people to see how what you do contributes in those big picture ways. Susan Colantuono, a career coach for women based out of the USA, talks about the critical ‘missing 33 per cent’ in female business education; strategic acumen, financial acumen and business acumen. Once again, don’t wait to learn it. Teach it to yourself. Learn the language of value and start using it immediately.
Blesing’s book ‘Step Up, Speak Out, Take Charge: a women’s guide to getting ahead in our career’ will be available in all good bookstores around June 2016. She is also available for speaking appearance. Click here for more information.