The start of a new year has traditionally been linked with reflection, goal setting, and – with the right mindset — excitement about a fresh start to a new year. By February, often that excitement has dimmed and best intentions have receded to the background. So before the new year gets away from you, now is a great time to pause, take stock and revise your personal strategic roadmap.
This year, consider some sound advice from successful female leaders and coaches from Forbes’ Coaches Council that addresses areas that can make or break women’s success in the workplace.
Don’t give up easily; instead, go for what you want and stay focused on what made you successful in the first place. Some skills might just need a little adjusting, so give them the attention that they deserve, because a little fine-tuning of communication style, for instance, can go a long way toward solidifying your reputation as a strong leader. Also, work on being more comfortable sharing your opinions in meetings. Raise your hand –and often — until your unique voice and perspective are heard.
Many women fear a negative perception if they communicate assertively, speak about their accomplishments and share their ideas. It helps to remember that if you’re “in the room,” you deserve to be there and your perspective is needed. Niya Allen-Vatel from Career Global, says “shrinking does nothing but delay your voice from being heard and taken seriously.” Not to mention the important insights the group will miss if you stay silent.
Negative thoughts can often sabotage the best of efforts at leadership positioning. When that inner critic is louder than the inner advocate, it can take control of your life and hold you back. One of our HNS partners, Ellen Keithline Byrne, advises women to name their inner critic, then take note of when it shows up. This increased awareness diminishes the critic’s negative impact over time. This year, why not work replacing those negative commentaries with more positive and encouraging ones?
Susan Colantuono, in her 2017 Ted Talk entitled The Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get, explains that in order to close the gender gap at the top, women must learn what men have already mastered: to focus on business, strategic, and financial acumen. In other words, “we have to begin to focus more on developing and demonstrating the skills we have that show that we’re people who understand our businesses, where they’re headed and our role in taking it there. That’s what enables that breakthrough from middle management to leadership at the top.”
Colantuono adds that finding the right mentor who will help you develop those business skills is critical to achieving a leadership position. We advise women to seek out mentors who are strong in areas they want to develop. If you want to work on a stronger presence, observe and emulate women who garner respect as soon as they walk into the room. If you want to build relationships with senior executives, ask for advice from those who do this with ease.
In HNS Accelerate, one of our areas of focus is self-efficacy or a belief in yourself that you can get the job done. A recent Harvard Business Review article echoed the importance of an internal belief system: “People become leaders by internalizing a leadership identity and developing a sense of purpose.” In order for a new leadership behavior to be effective, it must be reaffirmed regularly so that a woman feels confident enough to step out of her comfort zone and experiment with new ways to act as a leader. Self-efficacy is critical to achieving leadership success in the new year. Simply by restating and reaffirming –perhaps every morning — that you deserve to have a seat at the table, that your input is valuable, and that you are ready and excited to lead a team toward success, you can power up your own moxie.
After you’ve established what your roadmap is for the new year, how can you guarantee that it will truly take shape?
Dr. Susan Murphy, an organizational consultant, suggests limiting your goals and “spreading them out.” Starting out with smaller, more achievable goals will give you a feeling of empowerment. For instance, try doing the thing that you occasionally do, more frequently. She also suggests posting those goals around you for constant reminders and self-encouragement. And finally, it doesn’t hurt to visualize yourself in a new role, or trying on a new character, or interacting with new people. Visualization techniques can positively reinforce the new behaviors you are trying to achieve.
Then roll up your sleeves and get started. It’s going to be a great year.