Women in Management

by Rita Bailey

Junior manager - self knowledge

Women are like teabags. We don’t know our true strength until we are in hot water!

Eleanor Roosevelt

There is a lot of talk about managers becoming more emotionally intelligent. It is important to understand yourself: as a manager what are your thinking and behavioural styles and what is your impact on situations and the people you work with? No manager is an island, so it’s invaluable, for your own personal learning and development, to gain an understanding of how you respond in certain situations, particularly those involving stress, conflict and crisis, plus how you motivate and make decisions.

Your own self-audit

No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent

Eleanor Roosevelt

A good place to start is to ensure you can identify your own strengths and weaknesses. Really consider your abilities: where have you added value and contributed to the business? Your self review can reveal much to you that can help you with planning for your next post. If you want to test your own perception for accuracy, ask your boss, peers and colleagues you trust. Obtaining their feedback is invaluable, but be mindful of any comments – those made with a negative intent – that do not help your development.

A self-audit is a moment of truth in the process of your research of the role. It can reveal what your employer wants next in that role you are after and get you to honestly match your skills and experience against the criteria.

Hopefully, your self audit will make it easier for you to identify and seize the chances to fill any skills and experience gaps quickly, whether within your organisation or externally.

Having identified the gaps, the next stage is to work out how to remedy the situation.

  • Can you take steps to consolidate some experience by undertaking short-term roles (project secondments, maternity cover) which could open up new opportunities for you? This will need some discussion and planning with your boss. Be ready to put forward good reasons for taking this up (reduce costs, increase efficiency, helping the team or department).
  • Consider taking on additional responsibilities, such as line managing, leading a team or being involved in managing new projects, which could open up new markets for the company or offer to improve systems or processes in your area.

The key thing is that the project must also fill any gaps in your skills or experience at the same time as benefiting the organisation and raising your profile in it.

Raise your profile

Despite how much we hear about building our profile, women are still reluctant to blow their own trumpets, despite doing a good job. If this is true of you, then now’s the time to take on board the fact the waiting to be noticed simply doesn’t work in the 21st century workplace. Many women managers do a great, high-quality job for years and still get passed over for promotion.

The reality is you have to stand out amongst the crowd. So, who knows about the results you have achieved? Who knows what you are capable of? The wider organisation and key people in your industry need to know what you have achieved.

Meetings

Apart from maximising your profile through networking, another key way to raise your profile is through meetings. We all have mixed feelings about the effectiveness of meetings. Most of us have unfortunately experienced meetings that have wasted precious time because they were not well run. However, meetings are an opportunity to express your ideas and opinions, and build support for the ideas from your immediate peers, boss and staff.

Take the opportunity, where possible, to chair meetings and develop relationships with teams you do not directly work with. If interesting projects arise, offer to contribute your expertise.

Meetings are also a great opportunity to present your own papers, put project proposals to senior management, provide updates on projects you lead and, ultimately, build your own credibility. Collaborating with other departments and getting your team to produce results can lead to higher recognition of your team and advertise how you draw them together to achieve results.

You and your team will be seen as leading on best practice. Other parts of the organisation will be keen for exchanges to take place. Offer to speak at team events, awards, conferences, sales meetings and facilitating workshops. Public speaking is a great way to boost your confidence and develop your own speaking ability.

Writing

Writing articles or letters for the company newsletter on key issues or celebrating achievements are all healthy ways to support your team. The key thing is to make a start, even if it’s only by writing articles for the company newsletter, it all contributes to your PR plan.

Additional education and studying

Life long learning, both on and off the job, is now the trend. So, if there are leadership and management development programmes freely available to you, the advice is to jump on, as this means you will be targeted for great things in the organisation, plus you will be broadening your overall knowledge, skills and experience.

Always be confident and ask for development, attend trainings, seminars and workshops, and use this growing knowledge as an on-going part of your strategy.

Sometimes, a particular qualification or area of expertise is required for a specific job, so make sure you are aware what is required. Some organisations sponsor their managers to do postgraduate courses or take further specialist qualifications. As well as expecting a return on their investment in the form of that individual eventually taking on additional roles or project work, this is likely to mean that the person will eventually achieve promotion.

Also check the background and qualifications of the top people in your organisation, to ensure you don’t miss anything. Stay updated through reading trade magazines and staying touch with media releases. Keep observing and learning; your growing knowledge and skills will prepare you for the next level.

Essential skills

Learning and development opportunities are a chance to keep improving your performance. It’s important to take on new challenges and make the commitment to invest in your personal or leadership development. When opportunities for leadership come your way, welcome them, as they will prepare you to secure the next management role you want. The self-audit you undertook previously is an opportunity to identify specific ways to improve skills that will be essential for the new management role.

Examples of the key skills you will find valuable include

  • Public speaking
  • Meetings skills
  • Negotiations
  • Leading change
  • Understanding financial statements.

The key things to remember are to talk to your boss so that s/he can support your development and give you opportunities for leadership. Be proactive in seeking opportunities and development.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Make sure you keep up to date by reading the trade press, professional magazines, business pages in the national press and the company intranet so that you know what’s current in the economy, what’s taking place in your industry and who are the movers and shakers in it
  • Keep doing your job well and, when you have excelled at a project and produced the results, then let others know through newsletters, presentations and updates
  • Keep one eye on the successful people in your company; know their background, experience and results, and then ensure you are building a similar track record
  • Keep a diary of your results, successes and lessons
  • At your next performance review or appraisal, why not suggest to your boss some area where you could contribute your expertise or learn something new?