Throughout the years, women have faced – and continue to face – numerous challenges when it comes to succeeding in business. Yet despite significant challenges, female leaders are becoming more and more common – and they’re making a positive and powerful impact on society.
What are some characteristics that great women leaders share? We’ve put together a list of 5 of the best traits of powerful female leaders, as well as a few inspirational quotes from real women who are paving the way for future generations – in politics, business and beyond.
“Hope and change are hard-fought things.” – Michelle Obama
1. They work hard
Women who excel in leadership roles have a clear vision of what they want and what they need to do to get there. Their personal and professional goals are important to them, and obtaining success (whatever that means to them) is at the top of their list. They’re aware that it takes hard work and commitment to succeed, and they’re willing to work to achieve it.
Women leaders often need to juggle multiple roles or balance different areas of life in order to focus on their careers and professional aspirations. But they know with complete clarity what they want, and they’re willing to do what it takes to get there. The enthusiasm and strength these women possess is apparent to all who meet them, in both professional and personal settings.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from. The ability to triumph begins with you.” – Oprah Winfrey
2. They recognize their own strengths (and weaknesses)
Great women leaders have a strong understanding of their own gifts, and they understand the significance of these strengths and the role they play in their ability to succeed. Great leaders know what they can do well, and they use these assets to their advantage to help them excel in what they want to do.
Conversely, great women leaders also know their own weaknesses. Instead of letting weaknesses limit them, however, great leaders surround themselves with people who can support them and make them better.
“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” – Rosalynn Carter
3. They take risks
The greatest women leaders are confident in making decisions, even when those decisions are difficult or represent big risks. They rarely procrastinate or hesitate, and they are are remarkably assertive and influential. They don’t wait for direction – they jump in and get things done. They’re known for coming up with innovative solutions, because they aren’t afraid to take big risks or question rules and regulation in order to get the results they want.
Perhaps most importantly, as Margaret Thatcher reminds us below? Great women leaders aren’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers when it comes to getting things done.
“If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.” – Margaret Thatcher
4. They welcome change and challenges
Successful women leaders don’t just embrace challenges – they face them head-on. Moreover, they are excellent listeners, they seek out feedback, and they are genuinely interested in what others have to say about the issues they are faced with. Highly respected women listen to multiple points of views before they decide on the best possible decision.
Great women leaders welcome challenges, but they also welcome change. Women who are frontrunners in any industry embrace change, because they know that true progress can only be achieved through adaptation and innovation.
“I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.” – Nadia Comaneci
5. They have a strong desire to make a difference
All great leaders, regardless of gender, should be kindhearted and giving of themselves. This is a trait that’s even more evident in great women leaders, in every field and from all walks of life. Truly successful leaders not only have an incredible desire to lead, but also to help others and make a difference.
The most successful female leaders believe in the value of paying it forward, and they practice what they preach.
“I would rather make mistakes in kindness and compassion than work miracles in unkindness and hardness.” – Mother Teresa
What characteristics do you think great women leaders share?
We women in HR definitely have plenty to say about what managers can (and should) do to be more effective.
In fact, we’re often so overwhelmed with what a few of our business or functional managers did and didn’t do, that we don’t know where to start. I have worked in the HR field, as a consultant in the areas of performance management and leadership development, and have plenty of crazy stories about leadership gaps observed by HR generalists–mostly women. These gaps range from legal exposures of all kinds to managers de-motivating, or failing to develop and retain employees. Although the outliers are only a small percentage, most leaders we know could do a lot better at the things we know most about.
After researching and writing a book about workplace feedback, I am giving myself feedback about how I give feedback. Over the years, I have learned a lot.
A few important conclusions:
1. I wish I had been more honest and directive in my earlier days of HR consulting. When leaders asked me to do something that I thought wasn’t such a great idea, I was too accommodating, figuring my role was to “support management” by helping them do what they wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong; I never accommodated anything illegal or immoral. It was more like I said OK to things like training supervisors and low-level managers in a particular leadership skill, but letting the top executives get away with no training, buy-in or evidence of the skill themselves. Later, I pushed back at hare-brained requests and said–”Based on my experience, this won’t work.” My advice: Say what you know, loud and clear, upfront. I promise you, you will be MORE, rather than less respected for it. Of course you will give a business rationale, but don’t hold back your expertise.
2. I need to spend more time coaching leaders, because change is hard. Explaining everything once or twice won’t work. If they are adopting a new mindset and new behaviors, they will need many, many visits with you, to talk through what they are trying, what works, what doesn’t work, and how to address the setbacks. Focus each conversation on one or two things they plan to do differently, not a whole universe of competencies that would require a personality transplant. My advice: Plan a series of many incremental coaching conversations with leaders you are helping.
3. What I know from the HR field is beneficial to business and I need to shout that from the rooftops! People from other functions tend to roll their eyes when the topic of HR comes up. Part of that is something we can change, if we do a better job of linking everything we give feedback on to their specific goals. I used to think that things like performance development and career development had obvious benefits for a leader’s goals, but I know now that I need to explain that linkage in no uncertain terms. For example, a manager’s feedback to employees, done earlier and more often, helps people learn from mistakes and positively impacts the team’s goals. Duh! We need to repeat that and explain it in a way that each leader understands. My advice: Be the one responsible for communicating the linkage of people strategies to business success.
4. I will not always receive an immediate pat on the back for what I recommend, and that’s OK. What I learned is to align my work to my knowledge and experience about what optimizes the business through people. When I have done this, I have actually received MORE kudos than when I agreed with a suboptimal approach. Whether it was in the area of hiring right, designing a better leadership program, or facilitating a strategy session, everyone got better results when I trusted my expertise. My advice: Be your own positive reinforcement for your decisions and recommendations, and others will follow!
You are a talented leader in your field. Allow yourself to fully contribute to your organization’s goals, through HR!
About the Author: Anna Carroll, MSSW, is an organization development consultant, facilitator, coach, and speaker. She designs and leads training and group planning experiences and creates learning tools and assessments to speed up group success. Most recently Carroll has focused on the power of feedback loops and how leaders and team members can overcome their barriers to exchanging valuable feedback in the workplace. Her book, The Feedback Imperative: How to Give Everyday Feedback to Speed Up Your Team’s Success, was published in July 2014 by River Grove Press. Her website is www.EverydayFeedback.com. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband Michael Wilkes.
It’s about a week and a half since the 2014 version of the HR Technology Conference wrapped up in Las Vegas. I once again had the opportunity to attend as part of the social media & blogging team, my second time attending the full conference. I continue to be impressed by the sheer size of the conference, as well as the variety of topics and tracks available. It’s a conference that’s not just about seeing new technologies or new iterations of existing technologies available to help with our HR needs (though there is plenty of that if that’s what you’re looking for). But it goes beyond that to offer insights into HOW various companies are leveraging the technology available to address their HR challenges, and WHY we, as HR practitioners, need to be not just aware, but knowledgeable enough to be able to make recommendations as to how our organizations can leverage existing and yet to come technologies to maximize the effectiveness of our employees and drive success for our companies.
I have to admit that I walked away from this year’s conference a little overwhelmed. You see, I come from an interesting, dual viewpoint. In my day to day job as it currently exists, I don’t have much opportunity to work with or make decisions about the technologies we currently have in place. So to take what I hear and learn about at the conference and put it into perspective from a real-life, day to day, life in the trenches outlook becomes a bit of a challenge. But as a blogger, and someone who is (at least I like to think) a big picture and future focused thinker, I’m fascinated by what’s happening in the space. So this conference becomes a place where I’m soaking in as much as I can for my own benefit, while at the same time trying to pull it all together, step outside of my day-to-day responsibilities, and think about and share what I’ve learned from a much bigger perspective. And that can be a little overwhelming, but in a very good way.
You see, that feeling of being overwhelmed is a sign to me that it’s critically important for me to be at this conference. And it’s a sign that it’s probably important for many more HR practitioners, who are not that much different than me, to be there as well. Because even though we might not be responsible for technology in our day to day jobs now, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t become more knowledgeable. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make it our business to understand what’s out there and how it could make us more efficient and effective. Maybe more of us need to take the reins in our organizations and help drive decisions about how technology could and should make our processes and functions better drivers of business success.
Though I didn’t have the opportunity to attend it, there was quite a bit of buzz around the conference and on social media about one of Jason Averbrook’s (Chief Innovation Officer at Appirio) sessions in which he offered this bit of advice and wisdom: “We are all technologists.”
Think about that. What that’s saying is that as HR professionals, we have an obligation to understand technology. We live in a world where technology is everywhere, and is constantly changing, and we have a responsibility to ensure what happens inside our organizations mirrors the reality of the world outside of our organizations. And if we as HR leaders, and our HR teams, don’t have the skills to be technologists, we need to start teaching ourselves and our teams those skills. The HR Technology Conference is a place where we can come to ensure that we stay abreast of what’s happening in the space. Is all of right for every organization? No, of course not. Do we have a responsibility as HR leaders to understand the key trends so that we can make informed decisions about what’s best for our individual organizations? You bet.
Check back later this week when I’ll share some of the key themes I picked out from this year’s show.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
What does the word “technology” do to your blood pressure when you hear it? How about “digital space?” “Social media?”
Your answer may be different depending on a few things:
- Your age;
- Your geography;
- Your career choice; and possibly,
- Any expectations you’ve been given for using (or not using) technology.
For the record, I’m 53. I’m an HR professional – I am in banking, now for 13+ years, healthcare for 5 years prior, and in small business for 7+ years, with an even earlier working stint in the public welfare sector. I remember when the fax machine came out – I was ecstatic over the ability to move information faster, but had to wait until some of our vendors and clients “caught up” and caught on to the efficiency. I remember when I refused to use a computer mouse – I told my husband, “why should I, when I have all the function buttons memorized?” Remember F1, F2, F3?
I remember calling my husband (he was so tech-savvy back then!) from work so he could teach me this thing called ‘mail merge.’ Once I had a staff of 35 employees, I wasn’t going to type and retype names & addresses in my quarterly employee newsletter. And finally, did anyone delete all those requests back around the years 2002 – 2005 to “connect with your colleague Joe Schmoe” on something called LinkedIn? Yes. I did. I deleted them.
I live in the conservative Midwest, and in a smaller community. Hence, our population in general may be behind in the learning curve and usage of social media. My age group is, too – I’m often frustrated because I seem to still have close friends (who live thousands of miles away) who refuse to use social media. Any of it. I occasionally get a phone call, “did you know that Susie is fighting thyroid disease? No one told me, I’m so upset.” And actually, Susie posted the information herself on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere in the digital world. Ce la vie.
At a recent round table of HR banking professionals in my home state, we gathered to discuss HR topics. One of our frustrations was our trade association’s change of communication from a list-serv email to their website. To ask questions and share dilemmas with colleagues, we need to now learn something new. And different. And that is hard – for everyone. We HR professionals had to take a (difficult) look in the mirror and do what we often coach others to do – get with the program, learn new technology, adapt to change. Tough one.
I have to say, even for an “oldster,” I was surprised to hear that some of my HR colleagues still use paper applications when recruiting, aren’t engaged in the digital space, and aren’t on LinkedIn. I believe I also heard some of our collegial competitors still discourage internet usage and social media usage in the workplace. For me, I found that sad – even freely stating that I was NOT an early adopter, and I am still fairly tech-UNsavvy.
I contend that for HR to earn that proverbial seat at the executive level table (aka the C-suite), HR professionals need to be disruptors. Using social technologies can be disruptive and when learned and used in a positive way, a change agent. We need to question the status quo, make some decisions then ask for forgiveness, and we need to step up and lead. Human Resources has been administrative – almost forever, right? The “Personnel” departments of old were there to support operations, process paperwork, deliver payroll, file employee records, administer benefit programs, and write policies.
We still serve some of those administrative needs, but HR can be so much more to the organization. We need to ask the question “Why?” Why are we doing it this way, why aren’t we adapting new technologies, why don’t we invest in an HRIS? From my small corner of the world, we can help drive cultural shifts and mentalities, albeit slowly, and often with much assistance from other business drivers. Some of that comes from learning to use technology – it’s not going away.
Here are some ideas for HR professionals to consider:
- Have an open mind to change. Most of us no longer hand out cash on pay day, and many of us no longer hand out paper paychecks either. We have electronic means of delivering pay, so why wouldn’t we want to move along that continuum with everything HR does? From recruiting to performance management, HR is getting electronically delivered out there in many places – more efficiently, and often more effectively.
- Get social. Take a look, in your off-time, at the social spaces out there. LinkedIn is NOT just a tool people use for a job search. Not anymore. Ease into social media, one place at a time. It can be overwhelming. Join Facebook and just look around for a while. You don’t have to post. Same with LinkedIn – see what other HR professionals are doing in the social space. There are a ton of HR blogs out there, many are fabulous to read, and provide good tips. Seek out one you like and follow them for a bit to get a feel.
To move the Human Resources profession up, each of us has a responsibility to be continuous learners, and mostly, to learn to live in the digital spaces. Good luck! You can do this!
[One of these days, I might even get that blog started…. Yes, change happens slowly.]
About the Author: Dorothy Douglass is Vice President of Human Resources & Training at MutualBank, an Indiana-based financial institution. She began her career with Mutual in 2001 as Human Resources Manager, and is a graduate of Ball State University. She is proud to have been in Human Resources now for more than 17 years and is continuing to “lean in” and working to influence the “people management” side of her organization. She is passionate about managing and developing people; and I have yet to be bored in 13+ years in her current job. She considers herself fairly tech-UN-savvy, though has immersed herself in Facebook and LinkedIn. She’s still working on the Twitter-sphere & has goals to blog more in 2014.
Building a team is not easy, leading a successful one might be even harder. No reason to sugar coat it or make it seem like a piece of cake. Building and maintaining a strong team is hard work.
Having said that, does it mean that this is only a man’s job? Absolutely not. It is a true challenge for every leader in business, and more great women should take charge of their teams and face the exciting road ahead.
Whether in a well-established enterprise or in a small start-up, making your team stronger is probably the most important thing you can do to increase your chances of success. Unless you are one of 29,494 lucky ones that have been able to create a million-dollar one-person business, you need a team around you.
So, how to turn a great team into an even stronger one? How to leverage the assets that are already available and ensure that a strong team is built?
Practice supportive leadership
There are so many leadership styles and methods emerging that it often makes it difficult to take a stand on one style. What about returning to the basics and giving supportive leadership a chance? Professor Schyns has explained supportive leadership as a leadership style that is associated with a concern for the needs and well-being of followers, and the facilitation of a desirable climate for interaction between leaders and followers. Therefore, the emphasis is on the needs of the employees and increasing their satisfaction.
What is more, a research conducted by Schyns indicates that there is a positive relation between employee job satisfaction and supportive leadership climate. Employees are willing to do extra work for the leader if they feel trusted, appreciated and evaluated.
Engage your people
According to statistics, one of the biggest problems managers around the world face is declining employee engagement. A staggering 70% of workers are not reaching their full potential. Due to various distractions in the office, on the Internet, and in personal-life, it is increasingly difficult to engage the team. This is an alarming fact, and the best thing for every leader to do is to engage your people.
Engagement starts from supportive leadership and ends with little modifications around the office. The most important thing to do is to find out what your team truly needs. Whether it is a flexible work schedule, staying connected through remote locations, or reorganizing the office layout, there are always compromises that can be achieved which will strengthen engagement in return.
Each person on the team has goals, and one of the best things you can do as a leader is to align their goals with company objectives. An employee who wanders without a specific goal needs immediate attention. Pay special attention to people that seemingly move in a different directions. The others need to understand the overall vision and see how each contribution will be a big step towards the company’s future. No one wants to deal with unimportant or irrelevant tasks that have no meaning whatsoever. So, give meaning to each task, even the seemingly unimportant ones.
Behavior that has a purpose is beneficial to everyone. Employees feel like their actions truly have an impact, and leaders enjoy the fruitful outcome. Ensure that each member of the team is on the same page when it comes to objectives, because without proper alignment chances of success are diminished.
Stay in the loop
Whether the team is independent or not, the leader needs to stay on top of things. One way you can achieve this is through the use of a weekly reporting tool. This can give the team leader proper insights to everyone’s achievements, tasks, problems and happiness. The advantage is that you can get an automated report that sums up all crucial information and delivers it in one document. So, no need to dive into your mailbox and desperately pull out important information. By using online tools with the whole team, everybody is aware of the current situation and are able to collaborate when necessary.
An organization is all about groups of people moving together towards a vision. If you are not directing a “one man’s show,” then building a strong team should be your number one priority. Stronger teams are not built in days, but through constant work and attention. At times you might find the road to stronger teams paved with obstacles, but rarely are we faced with problems that do not have solutions. So, be a supportive leader and do everything you can to engage your team. Keep an eye on the goals and make sure these goals are also obvious to the team. Always know what the team is currently working on and use the right tools to enhance their performance.
About the Author: Külli Koort is currently working at Weekdone, a weekly reporting startup, where she is focused on introducing the easiest and most efficient weekly reporting tool to the world. She likes to write about time management, productivity and employee engagement.
With great power comes great responsibility, said Spider Man.
A good leader embodies a number of highly-desired traits. He or she is focused, flexible, empathetic, ethical, and is engaged in a strong pursuit of success. There are different types of leaders and many leadership styles. Each might approach a situation or a problem in a different way but the outcome should always be the same: success or solution to a problem. Being able to get things done is the sign of a good leader.
Leadership has been much discussed. Thousands of books, articles, and blogs have been dedicated to studying different and efficient leadership styles. So how is it that despite such a wealth of information available on being a good leader, every organization has its own set of bad leaders? How come every employee has at least once endured that dreaded thing called “bad boss”?
No one starts off with the goal of becoming a horrible boss, but one picks up undesirable qualities along the way and gets stuck in self-defeating patterns of words and actions that earns one the label of ‘the boss from hell’.
So what are the things that lead to people getting this not-so-coveted title? Here are some of the qualities that we absolutely do not want in our leaders.
Credit Snatcher Alert!
This is for all those bosses who can never appreciate the fine work of their juniors and waste no time in making it their own. So your juniors may be less experienced and less skilled than you but when they do a good job they do deserve appreciation.
While taking credit for someone else’s work could be unintentional at times, especially when you feel that you came up with an idea which your subordinates simply executed, the least you can do is give them the credit for their part of work. That is what a good mentor does.
Is an Opportunistic Communicator
Being a good communicator is one of the key qualities needed to become a good leader. But good communication is not limited to conveying what you want from your employees and giving them their targets unambiguously.
It is about keeping them motivated and positive at all times. You cannot be an aggressive and empowering communicator only when you need your subordinates to work for you. To be a good leader you should be an informative, enthusiastic and encouraging communicator at all times.
Many leaders do not let beneficial and important information trickle down to their juniors as they fear that access to such information may help their juniors outshine them. This is bad practice. Such leaders never earn the trust or willing support of their subordinates. You cannot lead a team with a need-to-know-only attitude towards your juniors.
Lacks Vision and Focus
Leading through action and direction is the mantra for most successful leaders. Nobody can trust or rely on a leader who does not have a vision for himself or for the growth of his team. A leader needs to be clear about his goals and be meticulous in his approach towards attaining these goals.
Such a leader is focused and leads through example. On the other hand, a leader who lacks vision and focus will not set long-term goals. He cannot induce passion or commitment towards work in his or her subordinates. The best leaders are those who inspire others to go ahead and achieve their dreams. Such leaders infuse positivity, discipline and focus in their subordinates.
A bad leader lacks vision and fails to plan properly. They are not connected to their employees and remain clueless about the goings-on at work. They also fail to remain accountable and often blame their juniors when something goes wrong. Most people don’t stick around for long under such leaders.
Lacks Empathy and Flexibility
Kindness and humility go a long way. A leader that always says ‘NO’ to all that a junior asks, refuses to accept any innovation put forth by young blood, and is dominating and dictatorial in his approach gets a thumbs-down form us.
One becomes a leader only when he or she has followers. A boss that does not empathize with his workers is a bad boss and won’t win any hearts.
When your subordinates feel that you care for them, they want to give you their best. On the other hand, if they only receive indifference and coldness from the boss, their productivity will decline and understandably so.
These are bosses with excessive ego, pride and arrogance. They usually possess all of the above mentioned qualities. In addition to that, they are bad listeners. They believe that they know everything and will discourage you to speak up or express your views. And if you do manage to do so and rub them the wrong way, be ready for some serious payback. Yes, they are vindictive too.
Engages in Favoritism
Now this is the boss who irks us the most. They will shower favors on those they like. They love people sucking up to them and if you don’t, you are in deep trouble. By now you might have guessed that they play an active role in office politics and deliberately underplay your talent and hard work. They also pit employees against each other and create a bad working atmosphere.
If you are a leader and have been deliberately or unintentionally exhibiting any of the above behavior, check yourself now. A good leader brings out the best in all his followers; he is fair and unbiased and gives wings to his followers’ dreams. If you are working under a leader who does not inspire you to give your best, you need to recognize the signs and find a way out to receive guidance from a better boss.
About the Author: Lura Peterson is a freelance writer for Topmobility.com and loves to write on mobility. Besides writing, she also enjoys shopping, traveling with her family to far-off places and time spent with her husband.
The old Mars versus Venus debate is back and this time it’s in the business arena. Traditionally, men have always had an edge over women in running businesses- more men own businesses and high revenue businesses are mostly controlled by men. So why ask this question? With many women rising to break the glass ceiling and proving that gender has nothing to do with success, it is indeed a valid question. Women are showing that they can handle business as well as men, if not better.
The rise of women in business: Why women are better at calling the shots
The last few years have seen a steady rise of women-owned businesses in the country. From startups to corporate giants, a number of women CEOs run companies. Business is no longer male-dominated. According to a 2013 report by American Express OPEN, women own 8.6 million businesses in America. Moreover, women-owned businesses have grown by 59 percent between 1997 and 2013 and this trend is set to continue in the next few years. As more women step into the business game, it brings us back to the question: Are women better at doing business? Here are five areas where women fare better than men, research has confirmed. All of them are important in the task of running a successful business. The findings may just about convince you!
Women were rated as better leaders than their male counterparts in a 2011 study carried out by Zenger Folkman Inc., the Harvard Business Review reports. Women score higher than men in most of the competencies critical in leadership, scoring high in qualities like taking initiative and pushing hard for results.
2. Decision making
The fairer sex lives up to their name. Research shows that women bosses are fairer than their male counterparts when it comes to making critical decisions in the company. A study by the International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics found that women leaders involved others in the decision making process and companies that had female board members were more successful, reports The Daily Telegraph.
3. Financial emergencies
A 2013 HSBC study has found that men are more likely than women to touch their retirement savings when faced with a financial crisis. More women also considered economizing as a possible means of dealing with financial crisis, the study adds. Going by this study, women seem to be better financial planners, a quality that is vital in business.
4. Credit management
A study by the American Association of University Women shows that women may just be better at handling debt than men, says a report by CBS News. While men and women are equal in terms of average credit scores, men tend to have bigger mortgages and higher incidents of late payments.
5. Social responsibility
Women leaders are more likely to contribute towards activities that have a societal impact. The 2013 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth reveals that female entrepreneurs love to give back to their community, Forbes reports. Philanthropy plays a big part in the financial portfolio of women leaders, more than men.
An article by American Express further makes the case for women, citing five reasons on what makes women more effective bosses than men- they are better at communication, better at fostering relationships, have got stronger business ethics, they are more patient and better at triggering passion in employees.
Women have always excelled in the corporate sector, but their numbers in top positions have been dismal. But these studies show why women may be better business handlers and how they make more successful leaders as compared to men. Some of the findings may have come as a surprise- traditionally men have been more driven and forward in taking the initiative but women outscore them in these two areas!
It’s not just in the big businesses that women are thriving. Driving for growth is also one of the characteristics of women who own small businesses, the Hartford small business report shows. The 2013 study showed that when it came to small businesses, women displayed more desire for growth than men owning similar sized businesses.There’s also increased optimism in women owners who operate small businesses, the study adds.
As the future for women-owned businesses seems bright, one thing is clear: In a tough business environment, women are no less and the numbers are out there for all to see. Can women handle business better than men? I think you know the answer!
About the Author: Elvis Donnelly is a father of two who works from home. He is a voracious reader and like to keep abreast of current affairs on personal finance, technology and innovation. In his spare time, he loves taking on home improvement projects and considers himself a closet chef.
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Women in leadership positions have been a hot topic on the global news circuit. In the US, tongues are wagging about whether Hillary still plans to become one of the most powerful people in the world , while in the UK, the government target of 25% female representation on boards by 2015 will likely be smashed since it’s shot up to 20% for the first time ever.
Yet despite the positive changes, a recent report released on Catalyst.org says that female representation on boards in North America has stagnated in the past few years. While women represented 47.3% of the 2011 workforce in Canada, they only made up 22.9% of senior management position s by 2012.
All the data suggests that the playing field is not even quite yet. So how have the women at the top of the global HR and business community climbed the career ladder to the top rung, and how can you do the same? Changeboard turned to seven senior business and HR professionals to get their advice on the problems they’ve faced, and how they’ve overcome them.
Carolyn McCall, CEO of easyjet, on balancing work and home life:
“You can’t be managing director or CEO of a company and not stay completely involved in the business, but it’s about finding a way of making it work. An important ingredient for me was having the right balance between my personal life and career.
It’s now time for women to keep their head above the parapet. Write a letter to your line manager or HR outlining the flexibility you require and present your business case. You may be surprised to find that you’re pushing at an open door.”
Kate Chapman, group HR director, PageGroup, on developing your own leadership style:
“I’m the same person I was when I started work, and have stayed true to my core values. I’ve got many great experiences to draw on and plenty of people I can reach out to.”
Leigh Lafever-Ayer, HR director of Enterprise Rent-a-Car, on the importance of mentoring:
“Look for mentors in and out of your organization. They can help you develop your skills and knowledge. Studies show that, despite having proven their talent, lots of women lack confidence in their abilities. A mentor can boost your confidence and could encourage you to go for jobs that you would otherwise pass over. Networking is equally as important. Introducing yourself to a wider community can lead you to untapped opportunities.
In my position, one of the areas of special focus is helping women to grasp the opportunity that is there. Many women readily admit that they are more cautious about putting themselves forward for a role than men. Even when their balanced scorecard is demonstrating ability, they may hesitate and wonder if they really are ready. Our mentoring, networking and development programmes are designed to help women overcome these hurdles.”
Fareda Abdullah, VP, human capital and corporate communications, Majid Al Futtaim Ventures, on what it takes to grow in business:
“I do not accept the common misconception that women have no career ambitions. It’s important to be focused and not give up. You must adapt according to your circumstances.”
Jane Bilcock, executive VP & chief HR officer, Pinstripe & Ochre House, on the key to success:
Do something you feel passionate about. Life’s too short to do something that doesn’t excite you.
Ceri-Anne Connelly, HR director, group functions, Aviva, on the value of hard work:
“Roll up your sleeves and get ‘into the work.’ I wouldn’t ask my team to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. Sitting with employees on the front line is the best possible way of understanding the need for change and defining the most successful people strategy.”
Jeannie Edwards, director of HR, Europe Africa, MWH Global, on being authentic in business for success:
“Don’t try to be anything other than yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t try to fit into a mould. The most successful women I know are comfortable with themselves. The most frustrated are role playing. A very senior woman once told me that I would never be taken seriously if I wore pink. I wear pink a lot, and it doesn’t seem to have done me too much damage.”
About the Author: Katie Richard is the online content editor for Changeboard.com, a global HR careers and content site based in the UK. A Canadian living in London, she’s interested in raising the profile of women in business.
We all know them. The inspiring leaders of our time who make us want to do, say, feel and ultimately, be more than we are today. It’s not just their many successes that catch our interest, in fact, many times it’s just the opposite. Their real-life, relatable traits are what make us stop and realize that just like you and me, they’ve made and will continue to make mistakes, but come back stronger in their wake. The fact is, that these leaders are all imperfectly perfect. They share multiple characteristics that contribute to their success in ways you wouldn’t expect. While developing a few of these may not make you the next Cheryl Sandberg, it can certainly help you find your way to becoming a better leader in the office, at home, or any time you find yourself in a leading role. To give you a better idea of what these characteristics include, we’ve created a list of the five most prevalent we’ve seen in today’s top leaders. Check it out!
Getting to know your team and welcoming, questions, comments and ideas can help you become the leader they’ll remember for a lifetime. Whether this means getting more involved in projects or simply sending an email asking for feedback, letting your team know that you are open to their input is not only a great way to build trust and camaraderie, but also the most beneficial tactic in making sure that your company is achieving the best work from a diversely talented team.
2. Ability to Delegate
Knowing that you can’t possibly be the best at everything and delegating work to team members based on their unique talents and abilities puts you leaps and bounds ahead of the average leader. Once again, get to know your team and determine how and when you can best utilize the strengths of each member to most effectively move the project forward. Throw bias out the window and understand that every hard worker deserves a fair shake at showing you what they can do.
3. Willingness to Learn
Great leaders understand that they can learn anything from anyone. Whether it be the CEO of their company or a child they met at the store, top leaders make the most of every opportunity by listening to what others have to tell them. Rather than shut down the next time you encounter criticism, really listen and take each point into consideration to create opportunity for growth. Also try to pick up on both verbal and non-verbal cues from your team to understand how you can best reach and motivate them.
4. Quick Thinking
The ability to think and act on cue is invaluable as a leader. Your team is looking to you to make decisions quickly and effectively at the moment they’re needed. While making a mistake at some point in your career is inevitable, quick thinking sustains project momentum and keeps your team on track regardless of speed bumps. Don’t get backed up waiting for a complete strategy when time is of the essence. Consider your options, inform your team members, and run with your decision.
5. Effective Communication Skills
Carefully considering your expectations and effectively communicating them to your team will help you achieve the best possible end result. Reminding your employees of your company goals, objectives and standards will help them stay on track and rise to the optimal level of quality. Be sure to relay your expectations in a way that is respectful, effective and consistent. Also try to relate to your individual team members to better understand how they can be motivated and inspired to produce their best work.
About the Author: Taylor Cotterell, Executive VP of NaviTrust Search & Recruitment. Since starting in the recruiting industry in 1998, Cotterell has become uniquely skilled at identifying top performing candidates who are currently employed and not actively looking to move. Cotterell joined the NaviTrust group in 2004 and currently manages a recruitment team, dedicated to local searches. Their focus is on permanent placement, contract, and contract-to-hire roles, mostly in the Utah market. NaviTrust holds a spot as one of the top Utah executive search firms, while also extending to achieve international, reach and recognition.
Much has been written about integrity. In fact, in the hundreds of team meetings and board retreats I have facilitated, integrity is, seldom, NOT a team value. However, I intend not to focus on what we perceive integrity to be; yet, what integrity is not.
Let’s start with a common definition: Webster defines integrity as a firm adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. Here are a few examples, from real life, which I believe shine a bright light on what integrity is not.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- A person hears a fabulous key note or presentation; and they believe it to be so fabulous, they take portions of it – change a few words – ‘just to be honest’ – and begin to tout this as their own brilliant idea.
- A person asks someone for a treasured family recipe. They don’t really want to give it; yet rather than to say no, they give it to that person – less an ingredient. (Yes, that has happened to me, and yes, it does happen….often in the South)
- A person/s are exposed to an idea, a word, a term or philosophy which rings true to them, on which someone else has built their methodology and often their company. They think that term is so unique and powerful; they take that term, a few key phrases, and build their approach around that same approach.
- A person has the opportunity to speak the whole truth about an issue – personally, socially or professionally – and they opt to tell the truth. However, they don’t tell ‘everything.’ They just tell portions of the story – they omit key points; most often swaying the point, certainly to their favor. (You know the drill….think about a sales person’s sales participation and their quest for sales credit/quota commission, think about sales/consulting methodology aspects – the consulting world is full of intellectual property wars – even social and political issues…..just turn on the TV or log onto YouTube.)
- A person says one thing to you, another version of what they have said to you to someone else, and yet, another version to another person of the same story. I wish I had a nickel for every time that has happened to me in my life!
- A person is newly hired onto a team from outside the company and that person begins a quick study on how to usurp the person that hired them in a quest for fame, fortune, and power. Discrediting, sabotaging, back-stabbing, hording of ideas….the list is long.
I have had every single one of these happen to me in my career … some in the past few months.
Many in big business will say: this is why we have trademarks, copyrights, and intellectual property infringement law; and this is learning to ‘play the game;’ survival of the fittest. If someone doesn’t ‘have it’ – then they are ‘fair game’. Sure, I ‘get it’ – remember, I lived in that world for over 25 years. It goes without saying that we must protect ourselves, our company, and our work product.
However, the issue I am raising is much more systemic in our culture. For I am quite certain there are many in business today who don’t share everything with their internal counterparts for fear of being ‘poached’ of the good ideas. I am also quite certain there are those in business who perhaps don’t lie by commission; yet lie by omission – just not sharing everything, just sharing ‘enough.’
Where do we think this behavior is taking us? To a constant shade of grey? To a moral stance that is our interpretation instead of one that is based on honesty and integrity?
So what, you may say? “That is life.” Well, I firmly believe that is wrong.
We have an obligation to own up to our responsibilities – and that means stopping this insanity of stealing and poaching and, not respecting one another as creators, individuals, contributors, and builders of our companies, our communities, our nation, and our world.
Two things to consider:
First: Be Impeccable with your Word. A fabulous book: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, A Toltec Wisdom Book became a ‘book of the month’ for many of my teams over my career. If you not have read it yet – read it. One of the agreements is to “be impeccable with your word.” This basically means telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Often in today’s world, the operative word is ‘whole.’ Many just simply omit key facts or nuances. This is an interesting observation – just listen to national news, politicians, Fortune executives, Oprah, even personal acquaintances. It is amazing to watch the ‘spin factor’ and the power of just ‘omitting a few key facts.’ What is the whole truth?!
I will offer one personal test case of integrating this philosophy into life. With one of our most successful teams in a publicly traded software company, we used this book as a gauge for how we could grow and learn together as a team; and this book and particularly this agreement of ‘being impeccable with our word’ became our mantra. We were in the fast paced world of dot com frenzy, software sales and mergers, and greed was rampant. This agreement saved our team and company in more ways than we will ever probably realize. We were not always the most popular at the time; yet I know from the CEO through the ranks, we were the most respected and valued at the end of the day.
Second: Stop stealing. A person’s original ideas will always be more authentic, rich, and potent than anything they ‘borrow’ or steal. Period. A person can rationalize due to complacency, laziness, or their perceived belief that they can ‘take this idea and really make it come to life’ (yes, I have heard that one of late, as well).
What I would suggest is simply this: If a person loves the idea, thinks it had merit, power, brilliance, cache, etc., then simply get permission, give credit or notice to that company, and source the source. It is truly that simple.
Again, this conjures up ‘legal jargon’ and it certainly gives many an attorney a steady annuity stream; and yes, there will always be a need for the law. Yet, it does not have to be that complicated. Just give notice to those that deserve it! Also, folks, please realize that YOUR ideas will be so much more powerful if they are truly YOURS. That is the beauty of pure authenticity and the power of telling your story… not plagiarizing someone else’s.
This philosophy and principle of integrity starts with each one of us. One person at a time. A germ of an idea at a time. It does not have to be on a soap box, on the national stage, or even in a national court of law. It is in the small acts, small companies, and small businesses which have often set the stage for many of our greatest achievements.
- We are responsible for protecting it.
- We foster all ideas – ours and others.
- We blow on all the embers of ideas of our fellow workers, our colleagues, our friends, our clients, our coaches, our partners….we don’t steal them.
- We give credit. We give public and private recognition.
- We make referrals expecting nothing in return.
- We are frightfully honest – in all arenas.
- We ask the questions of which we are afraid of the answers.
- We own the answers.
We are impeccable with our word – written, spoken, acted – regardless of the consequences. That is what integrity looks like.
About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.