In the last two years the number of women executives we coach and mentor has increased by 50% which is encouraging that more companies are investing in developing their women leaders. An increased number of these are the main bread winners earning more than their partners so roles at home have evolved to support this.
As a CEO client said recently: “If ever there was a moment for women to become board members – this is it.” From on-the-ground conversations businesses are recognising the differences between male and female leadership styles and how that can broaden a company’s pool of creativity and innovation. Not only as a more accurate reflection of consumer profiles on the board but the benefit to the bottom line. A recent study by McKinsey showed that publicly traded European companies with gender diversity in leadership experienced higher return on equity, operating profit, and stock price. In addition it is reported (2016 Global Diversity Analysis) that 16 out of 44 countries now have an average of three women on the board – the number proven as the critical mass required for sustainable impact. Progress is on track to make this the global average by 2021.
While progress has been made there is still a long way to go. What therefore can you do to make sure you are maximising every opportunity to make the most of this time? What do people do that makes the difference?
1. Build on your personal brand
For anyone – man or woman – to be successful, you need to position yourself for it.
Think about what you want to be known for in your career. Get clear on what value and uniqueness you bring to the boardroom table and/or clients. You have to not only excel at your role but develop your strategic thinking outside your role. Businesses need people with a depth of experience and a breadth of perspective to tackle the challenges they face.
A CEO client recently asked us to work with his CFO – she led the financial discussions with great competence but her board contribution went no further. Together we worked on broadening her strategic outlook so her impact and value was increased.
2. Make your time count
You can’t do it all. Be ruthless with your time, do the things that matter and outsource or delegate the rest. This applies to both your professional and home life. That can be as simple as structuring your diary with block appointments, factoring in valuable reflective time to plan ahead for key deadlines and prioritising time for school plays and sport events.
3. Create advocates
You are doing a great job and you need to let people know what you are doing so they can talk about you when you are not there. A client in the legal sector recognised that she was so busy in her job she did not have time to network. She has now identified the key relationships she needs to build and is creating opportunities both formal and informal to meet them. In addition she is accepting speaking opportunities to increase her profile as an expert in her field.
4. Build a supportive culture
In today’s technology-driven, often impersonal world, empathy can be your competitive advantage. And it can help everyone on your team develop their skills and do their best work.
5. Manage your impact
a) Be clear on the why: Why do you want this board position or promotion? How will this benefit you and your family. This gives you motivation and drive and impacts your confidence to exert your influence in your own way.
b) Prepare well and speak your mind: Study the agenda and decide the three key messages you want to convey during the meeting. This enables you to be clear, confident and focused. Be prepared for the most difficult question you could be asked so that you are able to respond with ease.
c) Have gravitas: What do you want people to say when you walk into a room and when you leave it? Everyone is busy but rushing into a meeting looking stressed impacts your sense of gravitas. Simple strategies can impact your presence whether it be adapting your body language or simply arriving 15 minutes early for the pre-meeting conversation.
6. Do something that scares you
I challenge every woman (or man) reading this article to endeavour to do at least one thing that makes you gulp. When you look back at some of the choices you made that terrified you – they are often the most meaningful ones.
So in-keeping with this years theme #BeBoldforChange we need to challenge ourselves, work together and build a culture that will enable all of us to succeed together. Hold out for your career aspirations and make it happen.