Do you have anyone to thank for your present success? I do.
At one of the darkest times in my life, debilitated by my own depression and self-doubt, it took the encouragement of a friend to pull me toward the light. This friend of mine, Barbara, literally shouldered the promise of my potential until I was ready to carry it myself. Her encouragement was the wind I needed to take off in flight – toward a new beginning, the first step in a new professional career and life.
I shared this story and a similar story about my mother last week. The common thread in both is how women are marked by special qualities that can make us unstoppable change agents in our organizations and our world – if we choose to use these gifts for good.
Today I’ll provide 8 tangible ways women can help each other get to great.
Two of the most powerful natural abilities we women bring to the table is our natural inclinations to empathize and rally behind our fellow sisters. We do it in our personal lives all the time. Championing our girlfriends is second-nature.
But did you ever think that activating this talent in your workplace by positioning others for success could actually accelerate your success as a leader as well?
When you lift others up around you, you will be automatically lifted as a result.
How? For example, if someone works for you and that person is sharp and great at what they do and your influence has helped them get to a place of recognition- you look good too! You were in on the ground floor with this person. You had the foresight to champion them – you are now viewed as a wise and empowering leader.
The same sentiment applies as you work alongside other women. Don’t worry about being in the limelight or being recognized. If your colleague wants to shine and be at the forefront of the projects or conversation, don’t fight and claw your way with her. Let her have her place. When you operate from a place of abundance rather than lack, you’ll be assured that you too will have your moment. You will find your place, or the place will find you… not by tantrums or cut-throat tactics, but by becoming known as an encourager and supporter of others.
Here’s a true example: When I worked in Recruitment at BMW there was a young lady who worked on the production floor and applied for a position in Quality. This was a jump from an hourly to a salaried position for her. I felt she would be an excellent fit for the department and proceeded to demonstrate, with precision and passion, why I felt she was a diamond in the rough. Though she did not have specific quality experience, the hiring manager was impressed by her tenacity, strategic mindset, superb organizational skills, process development experience, and dynamic ability to influence and inspire others. All she needed was a platform of opportunity to demonstrate her brilliance – and when she was eventually hired for the position she did just that. The hiring manager came to me later and thanked me for causing him to look closer at this candidate.
Fast forward 15 years and this lady, now a friend, was responsible for my invite to speak at Verizon’s Women in a Leadership conference. This opportunity was invaluable to me and demonstrated this very principle – uplifting others will always create the wind that carries you higher as well.
How to Create your Own Wind:
1) Choose to see the best in others. When you focus on one’s strengths rather than one’s weaknesses you begin to appreciate and value that person for their positive contributions. Now focused on what they bring to the table, you’re able to work through their weaknesses or challenges with greater ease and less frustration.
2) Look for ways to stretch others toward professional development. Give one another opportunity for stretch assignments, for recognition in front of senior leaders, for special projects. Today we have many millennials who are moving into the workforce who are eager and anxious to make an impact. Even those who have been in the workforce for years need new opportunities for growth. Perhaps you recognize the budding potential in a colleague who hasn’t been able to manifest this talent due to lack of opportunity. Invite them to participate in your special project.
3) Give credit where it’s due. If someone helped you develop the material for a presentation for senior management- give them an opportunity to present a part of it, or at least put their name on the presentation. If we’re honest, there are always others who make our triumphs possible. Just as the credits roll at the end of a movie, always give credit to the people who supported you.
4) Believe in your colleague until she’s ready to believe in herself. Often, we are our own worst critics. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve coached people who are proficient in their roles but despite their obvious talent, they are doubtful or self-critical. Due to unrealistic self-imposed expectations, or the disappointment from previous criticisms or failures, we can resign ourselves to a limiting mindset. When you see the potential in someone, hold that for them, encourage them in it. You could become someone’s, Mrs. Wade or Barbara.
5) Never badmouth another person, no matter what. Stop gossiping. Cease with the ridicule and snide comments. If you have feedback from a colleague, go to her directly and share your information from a place of genuine care. If you can’t be kind, keep it to yourself. Listen, as women we hear others downplaying our leadership capabilities all the time. There are others who are putting us down, never ever badmouth another woman.
6) Seek to understand by always being on the learning side of the situation. You know what they say about assuming… Rather than jumping to conclusions about the intentions of others in the workplace, approach situations with an open and reflective disposition. If there is conflict, go directly to the source, seeking to learn. The tone of voice and disposition are key here.
7) Forgive one another. Forgiveness is powerful. As much as I aim to encourage women toward the high road, I would be remiss not to prepare you for the darker days of leadership. At some point along your professional journey you will be misunderstood, perhaps even attacked, condemned, or talked about. You may even make a big mistake and others may condemn you, you may condemn yourself. Prepare yourself now to forgive – forgive yourself, seek forgiveness if you need to, and forgive others. Forgiveness, for ourselves and for others, free us.
8) Use your failures to move forward to exceptional leadership. Failure will happen, but it’s not the end. Reflect on the problem, assess what went wrong and what went right, revamp your plan of action for the next time, and then rejuvenate. By learning from your failures and realigning your actions for improvements you teach others to do the same. Our transparency in our shortcomings gives others permission to be human and make mistakes too – credibility also results when your team feels that “we’re in this together.”
So, take these tips and get moving toward the big purpose of it all – advancing more women into key leadership roles.
Getting yourself recognized, appreciated, and valued starts today with how you treat the other women in your circle.
When women begin to pull together and use the phenomenal resources that we possess to help one another shine, we begin to chip away and dismantle all of those seemingly defeating images and stereotypes that others have of us -including ourselves.
I would like to challenge each of you today to find a way to lift up your colleague.
Question: How do you lift others?
Share your thoughts. We learn from each other and I learn from you!