October 24, 2014

Women, Want to Be Promoted? Talk About Yourself

In a recent survey of working adults conducted by Accenture, 68 percent of the women thought it took hard work and long hours to advance in a company. The result often leaves women feeling burned out and resentful for the lack of appreciation for their efforts.

In reality, people don’t advance into top positions just because they work harder and give up their lives for the company. Most successful men will tell you that if you want power, you have to take it. You have to speak up, acknowledge your value and love your power.

Speak UP

I do live 360 interviews for my executive women clients. No one has ever suggested my clients should work harder. Most often the suggestions for improvement include:

  1. Increase your visibility by sharing your ideas and unique perspective more often.
  2. Link what you know to the bigger picture so everyone can see your vision.

In other words, show the world what you know. This makes you indispensable. This gives you leverage for choosing your career path. This lets people see you as an inspiration instead of an irritation.

In meetings, don’t wait until you are sure your comments are perfect to speak up. Announce your idea as a work in progress then share it. Link your observations to the overall goals. Share what is going well to drive a hopeful, positive perspective. Share your vision of what is possible no matter who may shoot it down. At least they will understand your passion and motivation.

Also, build your key relationships by letting stakeholders and senior leaders know how you can help them. Share data and resources they might find useful. Help to solve their problems and they will become your champions.

Acknowledge Your Value

Another comment I frequently hear is, “She is valued more by senior management than she values herself.”

In my own career, I survived many layoffs and zig zagged up the corporate ladder taking on greater and more interesting challenges each time I moved. I learned that self-promotion is not bragging. Sharing my core talents (what I give beyond my skills and knowledge) helped management determine how best to use me.

When I ask my female executive clients to identify what they contribute beyond their skills and knowledge, they act as if I’m speaking another language. They are able to tell me what they have accomplished, but they struggle articulating what traits they possess that helped drive their success. These women hold top leadership positions. They possess special and critical traits that qualified them for their roles. Yet they become totally helpless when I ask them to tell me what makes them special.

From my experiences, some traits women tend to stand out for:

  1. Bringing a more comprehensive and long-term perspective to the table
  2. Providing a deep sense of how systems and people interconnect in the organization
  3. Embracing the value of diverse people and ideas
  4. Reading non-verbal and emotional cues

Do any of these traits characterize your contributions? What else do you call forth that helps you move forward at work and in your life? What can you develop that will make you stand out? What do you have a passion for that could put you on the short list for stimulating projects and advancement?

If you aren’t sure, here is an exercise to help you articulate your worth to your organization:

Describe a peak experience where you felt fully alive and excited about your work. This could be while you were working on something, or at the end of a project or challenging situation. What five things did you contribute to creating this peak experience beyond your work knowledge and skills (personal strengths, gifts, talents, emotions, attitudes, values, unique perspective)?

If you still struggle with filling out your list, keep a success journal. Whenever you do something well, ask yourself what special insight, values or traits you conjured forth to get the results. When someone tells you, “You did a great job,” don’t just say, “It was nothing.” Ask them what specifically they thought you did. Let others help you identify your special contributions.

Love Your Power

After hearing Pattie Sellers, Editor at Large for Fortune magazine, speak about women and power I have a better understanding of our love/hate relationship with power.

Pattie has been responsible for Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list since 1998. Over the years, she has interviewed the most successful and powerful women in the United States. They all seem to wince at the word power until she had a second interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah told her that generally when people speak about power, they are referring to the male view of “power over others” or getting people to do what you want them to do. It took time, but when she realized her power was to “have an impact with purpose,” then she fell in love with the idea of being powerful.

Are you a woman of impact? Whether you are impacting your family, your work group, your community or the world, you are wielding your power. The more you accept that you are powerful, the more good you can do.

Get over your barriers to speaking up by learning how to speak your truth – authentically and powerfully. 

Photo Credit: beverlyislike

Marcia Reynolds (19 Posts)

Marcia Reynolds, PsyD, MCC – Executive Coach & Leadership Speaker (read posts) Marcia amuses, inspires and fascinates her audiences as she translates the latest discoveries of how the brain works to workable strategies for dealing with life's challenges. She has published two books, Outsmart Your Brain and Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction. Read her bio and follow her on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter.


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