Women in Management

by Rita Bailey

Junior manager - supporters

Confidence is everything. When you feel good about who you are and what you do, you are more likely to forge ahead with your plan for your career. A good dose of self-confidence will support you through the new plans and challenges that arise when you are moving ahead. Consequently, women in management need to identify a variety of approaches that can boost their confidence and keep them buoyant when challenged by setbacks. Tools such as Coaching or Mentoring can support you by helping you to keep such challenges in perspective. When you are taking steps to face the very thing you fear, your coach or mentor may work with you to remove the barriers and self-limiting beliefs that get in the way of your progress.

Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.

Martha Graham, American Choreographer

Apart from your personal support network of family and friends, coaching and mentoring are highly recommended as objective and focused tools which can be used

  • To develop a clear perspective
  • As a sounding board for all those ideas
  • To examine how personal matters may impact on your work and to help you resolve such matters
  • To help you navigate through organisational politics, develop skills and play to your strengths
  • To provide you with valuable feedback.

If you seriously want to boost your confidence and keep moving forward, a coach can play a vital and different role to that of a mentor, so you can actually benefit from having both. Mentoring time is a gift, whereas in your sessions with your coach you should focus on particular areas that you may need to explore. Mentoring and/or coaching can support your plans to raise your profile. Talking things through with someone who is interested in your success will prove fruitful in developing the level of clarity required to secure what you want.

Feedback

There is a lot of sensitivity around receiving Feedback in our professional arena. Too many of us have had unconstructive feedback that did little to help our performance and, in some cases, knocked our confidence. Indeed, in some work environments, women have to learn not to take things personally, as feedback may come in the form of negative comment or criticism.

Learn from any of these situations, however negative they may seem, and use them as an opportunity to develop and improve your skills.

If you have experienced good feedback recently or in the past, consider the benefits it offered you. Did it change the way you approach matters? Did it change your perspective about a situation, or about yourself, for the better?

Constructive feedback will help you to develop your on-going confidence, increase self-awareness and improve your professional and personal performance, all in preparation for your next step.

Your personal network

Who are the key people you listen to and trust, and whose opinion you respect? Maybe they are among your family, friends and peers. In addition to ensuring you have professional support, your own personal network is vital for your wellbeing and balance. Your own personal network of friends consists of people you like, so include your family as well as friends who will support you, keep you sane and celebrate your successes with you. Make sure you maintain a network of people who will ensure you don’t take yourself so seriously that you forget to laugh with life.

Your professional network

Networking is no longer a luxury for women who want to advance into leadership roles: it’s an essential activity for getting ahead. Networking is found to be one of the most powerful tools for women who want to secure high-level positions. Whether you’re starting out or moving onto your second, third or fourth management role, ignoring networking can be detrimental to your career.

Women in management have a wealth of arenas for networking: within their organisations, within the industry as a whole, in professional associations, at networking events of personal interest or at all-women career forums. You should use networking to advance your career, find more senior roles and network with other senior professionals. You can use networking to develop yourself professionally and personally, while accessing invaluable support in the shape of potential mentors or like-minded individuals who can provide insightful information about where you are planning to move to next.

Networking with a clear purpose means you have a plan. You are clear about who you would like to meet and how you are going to promote yourself. Attending key networking events, either within your company or externally, can provide you with a supportive environment and access to senior women who work within and externally to your organisation. This can give you easy reasons to contact these senior people and get them to share the strategies they used to progress their careers. Remember that what you want is tips and strategies to advance your career path.

Note

Skilled networkers give as well as take.

On another level, networking is really just a matter of building relationships that can support you and promote you. Imagine having a network of friends, acquaintances and colleagues who will support your progress every step of the way with advice, feedback, introductions and referrals. This is also something you can offer others, sharing and exchanging in your networks.

Getting started

Networking can take some concerted effort, if it’s not a ‘natural’ thing for you to do. Below are some tips to get you started.

  • Start with your existing network. List your contacts, within your organisation and externally. You never know who your existing contacts may know. Now you are clear about what you want, you are able to approach your networks differently, asking for referrals, introductions or information. You can also make sure that new people you connect with pass on introductions or make referrals that can help you with your plan.
  • One of the obvious ways to network is to attend networking functions. Keep in mind conferences, seminars, workshops and consultation or focus groups that offer opportunities to meet colleagues across the organisation as well as other peers across the industry you work within.
  • Some people are good working a room; if you’re not keen on that, make one-to-one appointments and have a coffee or a drink. A quick coffee to exchange advice can seem more inviting than lunch.
  • Keep tabs on the people you meet and likewise let them know what you are up to. Tools such as Facebook and LinkedIn enable you to stay in touch and see when people move on. You can use LinkedIn to get endorsements and recommendations.

Networking can help you find external mentors, including any resource you may need to keep on track with your plans. Professional institutes, industry and trade associations are also valuable in extending your networks and enhancing your development. Put networking at the top of your list as a worthwhile activity.

Understanding politics

There are plenty of resources dedicated to understanding politics (see Political Intelligence). Both mentoring and coaching can support you with getting to grips with politics at the next level. They can help you to decipher the unwritten rules, behaviour patterns and relationships in your workplace. Understanding the dynamics in the organisation is part of any role. Whether we like politics or not, we have to work with a diversity of people who have different ranges of influence, status and authority.

People develop political understanding through their expertise and the results they achieve. Take a few moments to consider what you did to understand the politics of where you are now. If you haven’t got to grips with the politics around your current role, let alone those that apply on the next level, you will find it challenging to operate and work successfully, both in your current role and the future role for which you are aiming.

Mentoring

Do you have a mentor, such as a senior manager or a previous manager, whom you can turn to for advice and feedback? If not, make finding one a priority and include them in your ongoing planning to achieve your next role. If your organisation is not sufficiently forward-thinking to offer you a mentor, then you need to be proactive and either find one inside the organisation or external to it (in the latter case, you may need to network to find a mentor who will be a valuable resource to you).

A mentor can form part of the support system that will help you identify what’s required at the next level. This goes beyond job descriptions. Your mentor will offer you invaluable support in working out who are the key players and how best to manage the dynamics of new working relationships in your next role.

Mentors are an ideal source of advice, feedback and insights. Bear in mind that you are not limited to one person. It can be helpful to seek out mentors, informal or formal, from whom you can receive ad hoc advice and seek feedback on a range of specific topics and issues on an on-going basis.

Mentors move on and get promoted too, so a mentor who can share their strategies and lessons with you about the road they travelled will help you progress quickly. At the very least, they will help minimise the mistakes that come from taking new risks.

Mentoring can help you to

  • Build excellent working relationships
  • Influence upwards, working at the next level more smoothly and strategically
  • Broaden your thinking and show you how to act more strategically
  • Engage with senior people successfully.
Note

Inspiration can come from anywhere, so don’t limit yourself.

Whether you choose male or female mentors is up to you. Depending on your own needs, both will give you great insight and guidance, according to what you emphasise. Always find a mentor you admire, respect and trust.

If your organisation doesn’t currently have a senior woman to mentor you, consider looking externally within your industry and remember to ask across your networks for mentors or role models who inspire you.