Why do we even talk about how to be female at work and still excel in 2019? No-one is searching for web content about “thriving at work as a man in 2019”. Maybe we will one day see “thriving at work after extended parental leave as a man in 2019″. For women it’ s still a far more simple question.
I listened to four females, of different levels, in my management consultancy discuss how they had navigated working in a professional services firm through various challenges, opportunities and peaks and troughs in their non-working lives.
How three women are navigating their own success path
I have summarised their talks into eight key takeaways in this post and last that I thought are useful for any working person who doesn’t have time to read or agree with the principles of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean in. You want practical tips, fast. Below follows on from the first four precepts(go at your own base, educate your boss on your life thereby trust and understanding, become the trailblazer for other women, speak up) :
Get a “venting partner”
Sometimes you will have an intervention/innovation that will scare people or your enthusiasm will intimidate them. You may never know the underlying uses at play. Tess Bregman once suggested a new client move to an Agile operating model. The retort “What are you thinking? A young girl telling my management team how things should run!”. Sadly this is often reality and it is vital to have someone that you can recount to immediately after the meeting. Moreover, this ensures you maintain perspective on feedback or problems.
Spot talent in others and pay it forward
Abiola Barnor said many men and women could be “too preoccupied with …home or even on their project to think they are ready for promotion. But if you spot it, it’s worthwhile telling them (they should go for it)”. Abiola attributes two personal promotions to other colleagues. Crucially, if the promotion doesn’t happen the first time you can be in the right mind-set for next time, as is so often the experience.
Repeated, for effect… play the long game
Hsui Mei Wong has been with the organisation for 20 years, in two practices, and three counties. She advises “Just go beyond the stereotype”. She devised an unprecedented “crazy island strategy” that allowed her to localise work in the Manhattan and tri-state area. This avoided “road-warrioring” with small children. It “was rather heretical” as a concept, but she aligned her interests with her practice strategy and it worked.
Your mentors and role models don’t have to be women
Mentors should have strengths at your learning edges. Therefore, build trust with someone who is an expert in the area you need to get better at. Different mentors for different areas can work well. Use your personal network to find somebody if there is no formal mentoring scheme. Be clear with the mentor about the desired outcomes of collaboration. Equally, if you see “somebody being marginalised, whether consciously or subconsciously, speak up for them”. “Biases are pervasive and they’re worse when we don’t recognise them (Hsui-Mei).
Lead by example said another, “support women on their way to the top. Trust that they will extend a hand to those who follow”. This was so true of all of the consultants. Imperative to their success was they knew actively seek out mentors who could meet them for a coffee on a regular basis. These women/men challenged their ideas, gave them ideas for new contacts to connect with and encouraged them to keep going. As soon as their confidence built but not before they were promoted, these women then looked out for other women to sponsor along the way. Paying it forward is vital.
I have a life I love which in turn gives me more life and twinkle and I know from testimony my colleagues above are the same. A massive contributor to that is a purpose-driven working life that blends well with the rest. These ladies put in words in a way that I can’t how to do it. Simple, effective ways to “game” the world of work. Last week, Jess Spring shared on the flip side of this; how things could work better for you at home. Catch that here. As I always say, the best is ahead.
Last year for IWD, I wrote about the advice of four very prominent individuals in their fields and you can read it here.