I recently spoke at a women’s leadership conference and instead of having to get in, out and on to my next event, I had time to participate as a learner. The loudest message I repeatedly heard from several successful females in the business world was this: hard work will NOT get you to the top.
As women, many of us believe if we work hard it will be noticed and we’ll be rewarded and promoted for it. I have to say I’ve been operating under this belief my whole life. One of my strongest core values relates to working hard for the things I want, and I’ve prided myself in being a hard worker.
A frustrated, exhausted and often burned out hard worker. Ugh.
It’s time to work smart AND hard.
Here are 3 ways to have more success without having to grind so hard:
1. POSITION AND PROMOTE YOURSELF
As a Minnesotan, I was brought up under the strong social norm of not talking about yourself too positively or too much – it’s considered bragging. If you want to be liked, you don’t do it. I get really turned off by people who talk too much about the great things they’ve done, then get even moreirritated by them being rewarded for it. Ha! Joke’s on me!
- No one is going to toot your horn for you – they’re too busy honking their own. Assume most people in your organization or business have no idea what you do. Make your value and contributions clear, as well as how they benefit the organization.
- To not sound like a total self-aggrandizing ass, use both “I” and “we”. For instance, “Because of the market research I did, we were able to save $100,000 on the project.”
2. BUILD STRATEGIC RELATIONSHIPS AND CONNECTIONS
As a speaker, it’s unrelenting hard work finding the next client. I have a group of other speakers I’m close with and we regularly recommend each other to our contacts and clients. It’s “free” work we didn’t have to hustle for and makes all of our lives easier.
Ladies, we need to stop getting more mentors and find those who can actively promote us. “The Old Boys Club” still exists for a very good reason – it works. Men understand the power of relationships and a network to get them the jobs, titles and power positions they want.
- Who are the decision-makers and stakeholders that can help you? Who will advocate for you? Suggest you for the promotion? Introduce yourself. Let them know how your value can help them. Relationships are two way streets and it’s not just about you getting what you want, but how you can help each other.
- Build these relationships in a way that works for you. If being out on the golf course is not your thing, find other ways to connect. Do your research and find out what you have in common and what problems you can help them solve.
3. HAVING ALLIES IS IMPORTANT
Allies are more “relaxed” professional relationships and are sources of information, feedback and support. Allies have your back. They find opportunities to publicly call out your accomplishments and offer help and encouragement when you need it.
- Cultivate diversity. We need allies outside our own groups. Women need allies who are men. Minorities need allies who are in the majority. As part of the GLBT community, having the rights I have now never would have happened without straight allies.
- Foster relationships in all levels of the business: leadership, management, support staff…they can be valuable champions, sources of information and access.
- It’s a quid pro quo relationship – you’re in it to help each other. Reach back and pull other people forward and don’t forget to always “send the elevator back down”.
Ladies, I’m a continual work in progress and I’m curious to learn from you. Would you please share in the comments how you successfully promote yourself, build strategic connections or use allies?