Tips for Women in Leadership Roles

Jacksonville has a fair number of resources for women in business: we can find information, training, and opportunities through the Women Business Owners of Northern Florida and the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center. The Jacksonville Business Journal recently featured a profile of The Mayo Clinic’s former CE, Shirley Weis, that claimed to include nine tips for getting more women in the corner office.

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In reality, though, the article featured only three basic principles: learn yourself, learn the game, and maximize opportunities for success.

Learn Yourself

Ideally, as part of the interview process you will have taken stock of yourself and you know wherein your strengths and passions lie. You know what risks you want to take, and how you define personal and professional success. That knowledge will allow you to direct your efforts toward those projects that further your ideals and vision for the company, your career, and your sense of self. Use your energy for that which makes you grow as a colleague and leader, and ditch that which drains you, including fighting losing battles.

Learn the Game

I agree with Weis that business is a game, and each company has its own team culture, rules, style, and goals. When you first join an organization and after personnel shifts, watch carefully. You’ll see the unspoken rules and where the opportunities lie. There are actually organizations where you can fit in wel land make big, positive waves. More likely, you’ll have to make active decisions about what battles to fight and what cultural legacies to adhere to. Interview well and find the right fit and you won’t have to choose peace versus affect. If you do need to calculate whether to fight or placate, choose wisely. It’s easier to get a new job than a fresh shipment of self worth.

Maximize Opportunities for Success

Studies repeatedly show that grit, the willingness to struggle through a challenge until you’ve succeeded and the perspective that setbacks are learning opportunities, is the single most important predictor of success. Cultivate that mindset and take on challenges as a path toward growth. Try, try, try, until you’re a master. Get better than your nemesis at some quantifiable and valuable skill. Making mistakes is exciting because faltering offers feedback on something that’s not working, and gives you the chance to change and try again.

Cultivating personal and professional grit also means ignoring people who doubt you. Critique from trusted advisors will focus on techniques and won’t feel like attacks. If naysayers tell you what you can’t do, or how your priorities are wrong, avoid these people and discount what they say. Do not let their criticism affect your drive toward mastery. In fact, note their pettiness, their meanness, and their incompetence as fuel toward your own efforts to get better and learn more.

As important as learning the rules of game, learning yourself, and growing toward being an invaluable part of your organization are, I feel Weis’s advice is missing a technique crucial toward getting more women into leadership roles:

Mentor other women

As younger or newer colleagues come into your sphere, see how they can fit into the game. A good coach can see the strength and potential in other people, and helping colleagues cultivate their best selves is part of the long game toward creating better workplaces, professional success, and personal fulfillment. Don’t mentor for you, bur rather foster the growth of your direct reports and interdepartmental colleagues to boost the level of play in your organization and industry.

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