On August, 15 2017 we sent a single question survey to executive women asking what is stopping them to get a senior executive position. Some of the reasons why women leave the executive career or stay at mid manager level were: lack of opportunities of learning and growing, not having strong relationship or networks, not having the opportunity to work on meaningful, cutting edge topics, not being heard, lack of strategies to cope with gender discrimination or looking for work-life balance and more flexibility
After talking with some of these executive women I realized that we, women, should focus on transition. To reach the top we have to climb on executive ladder, as men do. Every jump is a transition moment where new skills, new relationships and new knowledge are required. To take your career to the next level you should take 5 steps!
The 5 Steps
Step 1: Identify Where You Want to Go
Goal setting. If you know where you want to go, it is easier to find the path to reach it. How can we define goals? Some tips:
- Set Goals That Motivate You: To make sure your goal is motivating, write down why it is valuable and important to you.
- Set SMART Goals: Specific Measurable. Attainable. Relevant. Time Bound
- Make an action plan: You get so focused on the outcome that you forget to plan all of the steps that are needed along the way.
Step 2: List What You Need to Do
Use To-Do List; make yourself a To-Do List template that has your goals at the top of it.
Step 3: Break Bigger Steps Down Into Something Manageable
By writing out the individual steps, and then crossing each one off as you complete it, you’ll realize that you are making progress towards your ultimate goal. This is especially important if your goal is big and demanding, or long-term.
Step 4 Take That First Step
“Take” means action. Trying to do is not an action. Master Yoda said in star wars: do or do not. There is not try.
When I was attending the advance course on coaching at the International Coach Academy, one of the lessons was related to “trying”. This is a summary.
Commitment versus Trying
Following through on commitments vs. trying to make them happen gives us the power to change. It builds confidence and self trust. Once we explore our underlying beliefs and what we are truly committed to we have choices. We may decide to change it or not.
We are always committed to something.
Consider this scenario: It is Saturday afternoon and Jane has a stack of work to complete by Monday. She knows that to finish it on time, she will need to work on it all weekend. Instead, she is lying on the sofa watching television. Jane can’t understand why she has to work on weekends and she resents it. She really does not like the company she works for and believes her manager is uncaring.
What might be her underlying, in fact, her true commitment at that moment?
Until such beliefs are uncovered, explored and reframed they will drive our actions. We may find creative reasons or rationalizations for why we lie on the sofa and they seem so “true.” We make sure we have friends around us who agree with our reasons: “Oh, I know, it’s terrible the way they make you do all the work. You deserve a break.”
There is a lot of power in being honest about why we do things the way we do. This is key to living a happy and fulfilling life.
If one does not know what they are truly committed to then, others will often dictate their commitments.
Many times we carry out tasks that we are not committed to and then wonder why we aren’t progressing. It may be that we need to reframe our perspective and see the task in a whole new way to align with it our commitments
“Trying is Lying!”
Consider the example of former South African President, Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison. He was once asked how he could forgive his captors. He replied: “I realized one day, breaking rocks, that they could take everything away from me, everything, but my mind and heart. Now, those things I would have to give away, and I simply decided I would not give them away.” Even in a prison, Mandela found choices to make; choices that showed a commitment to freedom, to love, to independence and to moving forward. It showed a commitment to himself.
If we are only trying to commit to ourselves then we are not living in awareness. Trying is when we keep a small percentage available to us for failure so we feel okay when it happens. However this means we are committing to failure rather than success. If you feel and know that the path forward is the right one then you can more easily and fully commit to it. Any percentage allocated to failure means you are still uncertain and there is doubt and doubt will become the focus – seeking reasons to doubt along the way leading to further doubt.
Trying + Doubt = Failure
Commitment + Action = Success
It is not an uncommon to feel doubtful about a success or fearful the failure. However, if you commit to your vision, which is aligned with your values and what you truly want, during times of doubt or even failure, you are more likely to view these as learning opportunities and keep moving forward.
Commitment leaves no room for doubt, error, or subscribing to other people’s values, these are signs of trying. Commitment translates into taking action and action produces result.
Step 5: Look for a mentor
50% of the top executive American women have asked for a mentor during their transition to the top of the executive profession. Some tips related to mentorship:
- Mutual Trust– A quality mentorship relationship is a safe-haven where a mentee can share her mistakes, lack of confidence, doubt and/ or weaknesses while knowing that the discussion would not impact her negatively.
- Improvement Focus: While it feels nice to have someone who cheers you on, the most effective mentors are brutally honest. They would tell you what you need to hear to reach your goals would point out your blind spots and push you to understand where and why you are making a mistake.
- Clarity of Goal and Expectations: We all have relentless competition for our time. You want to make sure that if you are going to add being a mentor or mentee to your To Do list that you make it worth your while.
Understanding of Limitations – It is important to have realistic expectations from a mentorship relationship. A good mentor has limitations in their knowledge and experience and does not shy away from admitting these and pointing the mentee in the right direction instead.
In this video, two successful leaders discuss why they believe mentoring is a great way to pay it forward.