As produced for the The George Washington University Women in Business Spring 2018 Conference: As the theme for this year’s 9th Annual GW Women in Business Conference is #MakeYourMark, it’s a good time to think about your strategy for participating in the conference. What are you hoping to get out of the event? Where are your areas of confusion? In what way are you hoping to get more clarity? In addition to attending, listening and asking questions at the various sessions, how might you gain more specific insight into how to make your mark in a future career? You guessed it – it’s through networking. Click here to continue reading www.gwwibspringconference.com/new-blog/
Yes, we made it...54 miles from London to Brighton in under 6 hours, graced with beautiful sunshine and amazing team spirit. But the best part of the day wasn't actually reaching the finish line... it was witnessing the 4,000+ other riders who took time out of their lives to support a cause they believed in. Their efforts and the variety of charities represented was inspiring. Credit is also due to the organisers Skyline, who seemed to manage the mind-boggling logistics with ease.
The feeling of "I'm doing this in memory of my mother, my father, a friend, or for those less fortunate than me” was present throughout. Riders were good spirited, even when vying for a lane through the traffic or on the wrong end of an accident! Our training paid off as we passed a number of younger riders, especially up the hills and over the South Downs! Having said that, our son Zach (perhaps the youngest of the day’s riders) somehow managed to pull away from his parents all too easily despite much less training; such is youth.
A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR DONORS! We reached our £2,000 ($3,250) target! Without YOUR SUPPORT we would not have been able to experience such a heartening event and the warmth of knowing that we have enhanced the chances for a street child in Uganda to forge a better path in life through education.
Christine, Tom & Zach
The Myth of a One Dimensional Meritocracy
There is a fairly straightforward formula for career success: hard work and delivering a high performance. As most professional organisations refer to meritocracy as how their best people are promoted, the focus is then simply on the results each individual delivers. Or is it? While this may certainly be the case in the earlier stages of a career, the success formula becomes more opaque, more complex the more senior you become. Many observers in business give this phenomenon a bad name - 'office politics' - it's all about who you know and not the great job you do.
The answer though is yes and no. First, let's take a look at the definition of performance and meritocracy. In the junior years of your career, what you're delivering is direct and tangible - it's likely to be well defined tasks. This is what we call one dimensional meritocracy. If you continued to work within the bounds of well defined tasks, and tasks that are 'assigned to you', you're destined to plateau. You won't get the rewards for your hard work and commitment. You won't get the recognition for the brilliant performance of the task at hand. You eventually take on others' tasks, being a good team player, but failing to reach your potential. What lies behind this unintended consequence?
Navigating the Political Environment
Unlike university, where the benchmarks to attain certain grade levels are clear, benchmarks in business for determining 'high performance' go beyond the observable tasks - it's all about the 'soft stuff' such as your ability to influence others, build teams, think strategically, etc.
As you progress up the corporate ladder, more is expected of you. Doing the task is just the beginning. You are expected for example to manage office politics. You don't do office politics? Ignoring the political environment is one of the deadliest threats to a promising career. To have the maximum impact on an organisation, it's a given you will have to operate effectively with among people (politics). And having IMPACT is the exactly the point.
You will need to bring others along to be able to deliver your vision. You could have the absolute best solution to a problem, but unless you've involved the key players and stakeholders, your idea will remain just an idea. Business is fundamentally about people - clients, colleagues, bosses, senior management. Learning the tools to navigate these human dynamics is critical for career success. Ignore at your own peril!
YOU are Responsible for Your Own Career Development
You've earned that masters degree in business and you're now working for a very reputable organisation. Your new employer has a well developed Human Resource department and your manager seems to be interested in your career progression. Job done! Your career is just going to happen.
Think again. Who knows you better - your HR department , your manager or you? In order to move your career forward, you have to be in the driving seat. The environment around you is changing at a record pace. Restructurings are happening across all sectors and industries. Keeping your head down until the dust settles, although it may seem like a natural reaction, is one of the worse things you can do for you and for the company you work for. The irony is companies need employees to be thinking about what direction makes sense. They need employees who are putting forward suggestions and providing clarity. Lying low in uncertain times doesn't serve anyone.
Developing Your Strategic Career Plan
Stop waiting! That illustrious tap on the shoulder is unlikely to ever happen. Take the wheel. Do you have a personal business plan or career strategy? Where do you think you'd like to go next? And as you're working on that plan be sure to let others know what you're working on at the moment. You'll want to be having conversations with others about the possibilities you see. People are not mind readers. This is not a self serving strategy. You are helping others help you so that you can help the organisation. This is why a fundamental part of any career plan has to include telling others about the positive results you're providing (in a way that you preserve yourself respect!).
Rest assured that someone is waiting for that opportunity to steal your glory so speak up now before it's too late. The best plan is to be well aware of the trends, and opportunities and threats around you - in your department, your company, your business sector, your geography. When you know where you may want to go next , you can position yourself accordingly. You'll then get "lucky". You have put yourself in a position where the right people know you and where you're hearing about the exciting new roles. "Luck" in fact has very little to do with it.
Written for Citrix, GoToWebinar, November 2015
Have you ever felt that your confidence was holding you back from getting that bigger role, promotion or higher pay? And have you ever wondered how others manage to look confident, even in the most challenging and stressful situations? How do they do it? (It's it really annoying, isn't it?)
The link between confidence and career progression is widely documented. So why is confidence so important. In a business environment that's in a constant state of flux, being confident to take on something new is crucial, no matter what your profession, industry or sector. The good news is confidence is NOT something you're born with despite others giving the impression that it's a natural gift - this is simply not true! This fact alone has enormous positive implications for your career or business prospects.
So what's standing in the way of YOU and having the confidence to be all you can be and reach your true potential - it's the F word - FEAR! Fear is not the enemy, but rather a natural human emotion. The real enemy is lack of courage. Confidence therefore is about having the courage to do new things and step into the unknown. The world number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic, illustrates this point beautifully when talking about how he gets through those 'clutch moments' (which all of us have in our business & personal lives!): *"The first thing is to make sure you are in the moment. That's much easier to say than to do. You have to exclude all distractions and focus only on what you are about to do. In order to get to that state of concentration, you need to have a lot of experience and a lot of mental strength. You are not born with that. It is something you have to build by yourself".
Now for the HOW to crack the confidence code, moving from a position of fear, to building courage and finally to taking that scary action. Here are my top tips:
1. Get over the fear by knowing your higher purpose - You have to think about what you will achieve - the end goal or outcome - by getting over that fear and taking action. Now with 30+ years experience in business, I make sure my voice is heard so that I could have a positive impact on others, including clients. My younger self, however, was very shy and timid but then I realised (with the great advice of someone who I now see was a mentor!) that I've got to speak up if I want to make a difference, influence others and 'have a seat at the table'. Being held back by our fear prevents us from being all that we can be.
2. Tap into your courage memory bank - I think this is what Djokovic was referring to when he mentions having experience. Think back on those times when you were in perhaps an adverse situation and you had the courage to take the difficult action. If you've done it once you can do it again! Visualising those past moments of overcoming tough times slows your heart rate and can focus the mind on the new task at hand!
3. Give yourself regular pep talks - What key words work for you? For me it's simply "I CAN do this". Combining that with a repetitive activity you enjoy is even more powerful. I love running so if I'm about to face a stressful situation that requires courage I go running (with positive music streaming through my headphones) and repeat that mantra "I CAN do this!". Figure out what routine works for you - we're all different. The speaker, writer and behavioural expert Marissa Peer suggests looking in the mirror every morning and saying "I am enough". Sometimes we are so hard on ourselves - this is a good reminder that we are in fact enough. Be careful how you speak to yourself - YOU are listening.
By cracking the confidence you are taking back control of your personal and professional life. You are no longer letting the circumstances dictate the future. YOU are deciding how you're going to react and how you're going to behave. And if things don't quite turn out as you hoped, then what? Try again... you've had a good practice run - it's sure to go better the next time. And just think you had the courage to do something, rather than make excuses why you "can't" do something. That in itself is something to store in your memory bank!
*Source: Lunch with the FT, Peter Aspden, 15 October 2015
Written for the Georgetown University Women's Leadership Institute for its Leadership Lessons from the Field: Executive Voices blog series
Work hard and your career will progress, right? Wrong – this is FALSE and this myth holds many women back in their career progression. The truth is hard work is only one factor to career success, and this is especially true in today’s quickly evolving global economy where the only certainty is in fact change. Women Leaders are well versed on the subject of what it really takes to move their career forward and how to lead transformation in their organizations in this ‘new normal’ business environment.
What does this ‘new normal’ look like? Technology has accelerated the pace of change and the globalization of business. (It took the telephone 75 years to reach 100million customers, while it took Candy Crush only 1 year to reach 100m customers!) While technology has enabled flexible working and led to the viability of virtual teams, it’s also made business more complex & competitive. Restructurings are no longer one-offs or extraordinary times, but rather common place across all industries & sectors. It’s now a given that you won’t have a job for life and thus the responsibility for progressing your career falls firmly on your shoulders . While your company, your manager, or the HR department may support your goals, YOU must be in the driving seat.
In the midst of this economic transformation , how do I avoid getting stuck in the old and take advantage of the new? Here are my top three tips (S-I-S) for a successful career navigation plan:
S – Stretch yourself – Achieving work-life balance remains a dream if we’re not also investing in the work piece. Be proactive in pushing forward the strategic direction of your career and take risks (albeit well thought out) in order to experience personal growth. Think about what you need to develop further in order to move in the direction you want to move – especially when it comes to building the right relationships and letting others know what you have to offer and how you can ‘solve the problem’.
I – Invest in relationships – When women talk about ‘success’ it’s intertwined with success in our personal lives, so investing in relationships means investing both personally and professionally. It’s also the personal relationships that give us the support and grounding we need to sustain our professional lives. Looking back on my own 30+years in business, it’s the relationships with colleagues, managers and clients that I remember most, rather than meeting deadlines or delivering projects. The irony of course is that profits & people are intricately linked.
S – Speak up – As a career consultant I have met so many incredibly talented and competent women over the years and I often hear frustration that career progression has been stymied. Visibility is so often the Achilles heel. If others don’t know you, how can they know the great work you do? In a world of constant restructurings and revised business strategies, it’s nearly impossible for others just to see the work you do – they’re simply too busy! They themselves are trying to cope. At the end of the day, we all want meaning in our work, and this is why it’s critical to let others know what you’re achieving and suggesting how you might assist them . This approach not only benefits you, but it also benefits your colleagues, your bosses, your company and your industry as it puts you in a position to reach your full potential and have maximum impact on the business.
While change can be a scary thing, it can also create tremendous opportunities for career growth. Embrace the change and figure out how to position yourself so that you can play at your best in a way that supports and achieves the business goals. Like any smart business person, align your offering (your talents, skills, relationships, etc) to the needs of the client or business. That’s the key to navigating your career through change!
Following nearly 30+ years in business, Christine Brown-Quinn, embarked on a new career in 2010 as The Female Capitalist® to share with professional women globally, practical, hands-on business strategies for career progression. Through her webinars and in-person workshops, Christine unveils what really matters in getting ahead in the corporate world. As a former Managing Director in International Finance, Christine is well versed in what it takes to forge a thriving career in highly pressurized, alpha environments.
@FemaleCapital #CareerTip #womeninbusiness
Georgetown University, College ‘82
In May, my son and I had the opportunity to go to Uganda and run an innovative 2 day workshop with nine students.