Are you ready for promotion? As a careers adviser, I do a lot of support for folks looking for jobs - CV checks, interview practice, job searching strategies. I support career changers in figuring out what career they want and what their next steps will be. I also coach women in taking the next step in their career, stepping into more responsibility and coaching through all the emotions that come with that.
Questions that come with these moves include:
- Do you do what everyone else does or do you try and do it your way?
- Do you hide your ambition or embrace it?
- Should you adopt more masculine energy in your leadership?
- What is your leadership style?
I personally don’t think any of us should change ourselves or dim our lights. That’s not to say we shouldn’t work on our limiting beliefs or how we self-sabotage our efforts, we should change those things as they take us towards our best selves. However, when I think of leaders who inspire me, they are always authentic. Driven by their values and full of integrity. How can we demonstrate these qualities if we are pretending to be something we’re not?
The Double-Bind Paradox
Whilst researching my blog last week on masculine/feminine energies in leadership I noticed that much of the onus is on the women to change in order to be successful. We don’t need to change but we do need to be able to understand the rules of the game.
Leadership presence is not an attribute based on your results. Nor is it reflective of your strengths and potential. Instead, it depends on how others perceive you. As men rise in rank and status at work, they retain their perceived likeability, allowing them to be both powerful and likeable. The Double-Bind Paradox states that while women must project authority in order to advance, the more powerful they appear, the less they are liked. Research by Catalyst shows that women in power can be seen as capable or likeable, but rarely both.
We come back to the masculine/feminine traits I discussed last week. Women are stereotypically seen as nurturing, sensitive and collaborative. When we behave in this way, we are likeable, but not powerful. When we behave oppositely, we are perceived more negatively.
In addition, a report published by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, finds that women tend to experience significant organisational discrimination during their late 20s and early 30s – precisely when they’re starting to jump into leadership roles. It’s also the age when women most frequently decide to partner off and have children. For professional women in relationships with men, this life stage also entails a disproportionate burden of childcare and housework, the so-called ‘second shift’.
A better strategy
We are brought up to avoid recognition and visibility and instead to nurture to surrender our desires. In doing so, however, we risk failing to find the energy to push on and achieve our potential.
Are we damned if we do and doomed if we don’t? Maybe not. There have been some studies that show that women who are assertive and confident but who can turn these traits on and off depending on the social circumstances get more promotions overall.
When you are looking for promotion, motivation, energy and expertise isn’t enough to get you where you want to be. It’s also important to be clear about your career goals and the barriers that you may face on your journey. The most successful leaders have developed a strategic ability to read a situation and alter their behaviour accordingly.
Six things you can do to help yourself get promoted
Plan your career
Make time to actively plan your career and be realistic about what each role will give you in terms of skills and experience, making sure what your priorities are at each different stage of your career - this might change of course! (I can help with this)
Articulate what you want
Be honest with yourself about your ambitions. Women can fall into the trap of waiting their turn or holding back at meetings; they don’t speak up or own their place at the table. Remember that you are there for a good reason - this isn’t the time to apologise or add in qualifiers like ‘I’m not sure what you’ll think’ or I’m not sure you’ll agree. Instead, own your point of view, be courageous and outspoken.
Build your network
Ensure you have advocates who will support you. Cultivate a mentor relationship at the management level directly above you and learn all you can about everything you can. If you can’t find a mentor, analyse how the most successful leaders within the organisation operate—not only their business skills but also how they negotiate the organisation’s culture. Apply what you learn from them to become a more effective leader.
Develop your own leadership style
Your best leadership self involves being authentic to yourself and your values, rather than choosing a style that you feel is more desirable/inspirational. If you don’t know what your leadership style is then I have a questionnaire you can use.
Choose your legacy
What do you want to be known for? It could be a project, an area of expertise or your leadership style that might help you stand out in your organisation. Make sure that you talk about your own potential and raise your visibility within the company (using advocates and your network) and in a wider context e.g. by using LinkedIn.
Appreciate your strengths
We are so quick to limit ourselves, less willing to take risks and pursue an opportunity because we don’t appreciate what we can do. When a door opens, walk through it, move out of your comfort zone.
As you seek promotion, remember you’re not aspiring to become the title, it’s the journey that changes you. I know it’s a cliche, but that’s what makes it true. Instead, consider these questions instead - what job am I going to progress to next? What strengths will I use to help myself excel?