Many aspiring female executives, business managers and other professionals often forget that they really have 2 jobs – the first is to do what they get paid for (and do it better than men).
The other is to proactively manage their business career path and do what is required to ensure their upward mobility isn’t dependent on others – especially those who notoriously subscribe to the “Old Boys Club” mentality who may or may not be working in her best interest.
The following “secrets”, amassed through my extensive background as both a corporate executive and business consultant, will help female professionals better manage their success path:
1. Understand the “circle of success”. A common piece of advice given to managers is for them to spend a great deal of time getting to know, and working side-by-side, with their staff to ensure each employee has what (s)he needs to be productive. While that idea is well intentioned, it’s does not provide maximum benefit to all involved. Rather, it is more important that female managers spend time helping their boss look good at every opportunity. When (s)he understands that you are able to help her/him succeed, you and your team will get more time, attention and resources facilitating maximum productivity.
2. Accept that sexist stereotypes still exist. Gender stereotyping remains a harsh reality even in today’s so-called politically correct workplace. Many women professionals cite male stereotyping and preconceptions of female “appropriate” roles and abilities as a top barrier to their advancement. It’s important for women to gauge where a male boss stands relative to female professionals. This can be done by analyzing his promotion track record of men vs. women, his balance, or lack, of interactions with male vs. female staffers, and if his interactions with female staffers is strictly professional rather than flirty or simply inane small talk solely about her family. Knowledge is power and, with it, female professionals can navigate accordingly.
3. Speak assertively. How we sound (i.e., one’s unique characteristics of the voice such as pitch, tone, and volume) play an important role in how women are perceived. It is important for female professionals to be especially mindful of how their voices carry during meetings with others, in large rooms, or in rooms with ambient noise issues lest her comment not garner the attention, and perhaps the response, it warrants. Additionally, many women tend to state their opinions, objections or suggestions as a question as opposed to affirmatively and confidently making their point as a statement. In a work context, women must command the floor lest their great ideas fall by the wayside.
4. “Presence” pays. One’s “presence” plays a big part in who gets promoted and who doesn’t. In a nutshell, presence is a combination of how we look, how we carry ourselves, and our communication skills. Because many of us still associate one’s appearance, demeanor and speaking ability with their overall ability, this remains a formidable challenge for those women who have physical or other stereotype-based attributes that are difficult, if not impossible to change, such as height or weight, blonde hair color, or simply a high pitched voice. This subjectivity is even worse for women as society is generally more able to accept men with what’s considered to be shortfalls more than women. Irrespective of these barriers, condition yourself to carry yourself with best posture, speak and gesture in a confident and authoritative manner, and wear attire that imparts your success.
5. Pace your boss. To really stand out from the others and get the all important promotion, women should ensure they are in the office whenever her boss is in the office. Let her or him see that you share the same work ethic. Right, wrong or indifferent, these are new rules of time management. Simply put, if your boss is at work, you should be as well. If (s)he has decided that it’s necessary to be there after hours, on weekends, or early in the morning, it is entirely to your advantage to be there at the same time. Even in this day in age of so-called gender equality, women must take advantage of all opportunities to distinguish themselves in the workplace.
6. Step up self promotion. It is important that those who are in the position to benefit a woman’s career in any way know who she is and what she has accomplished. Successful business people understand the importance of letting others know about their successes, and go about it in the appropriate way. If done properly, it will not be construed as bragging or conceit. Women should not wait to get noticed while they toil away at the task at hand, but rather develop the skill of how to strategically talk about her achievements in the workplace.
7. Avoid stagnation. Far too many workers throughout our nation are bored and disinterested, which is adversely impacting their productivity and creativity. Consequently, many U.S. industries are falling behind in the global marketplace. It’s time for our nation’s corporate leaders to re-engage and spend more time acting as leaders rather than bureaucrats. People respond best to positive feedback, emotion and enthusiasm – not e-mail communications, inexplicable charts and fear management. This is where ladies have a leg up, since they tend to be more in tune with the feelings and attitudes of those around them. Women should exploit this innate ability whenever possible, since such attentive leadership ensures that everyone is focused on, and vested in, getting to the goal lines. This is the most critical issue impacting an organization’s productivity.