I just read Play Like A Man, Win Like a Woman by Gail Evans, a senior executive at CNN. Because I specialize in working with high achieving women, the challenges she highlighted were all too familiar. I thought I'd share four pieces of advice that may be a valuable reminder to both men and women.
1. Ask for What You Want
Time and again, I coach women who are reluctant to ask for the raise, promotion, or assignment that they want. I recently interviewed a senior executive at a Fortune 500 company who remembers to this day how she got passed over for a promotion because her boss had no idea of her interest in the position (or the extent of her qualifications). Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking that the boss already knows, or we might simply be afraid of rejection. After her painful lesson, she made sure that key stakeholders understood her capabilities and career goals. A few months later, a similar position opened up and she got the promotion. When you really want something, don't hint. Ask for what you want.
2. Toot Your Own Horn
I give presentations on this topic all the time, and I know that many women fall into the trap of thinking that their good work will speak for itself. Well, I'm here to tell you that in this 24/7 world, most people are just too busy to notice all the ways that you are contributing. So, it's important to proactively provide snapshots of your performance, in a way that works for you. Women often wrestle with how to tastefully self-promote (i.e., without seeming like they are bragging). One simple idea is to send your boss a concise email every week to let him/her know about your progress on an important project or what your team is doing. When you think about self-promotion as sharing important information, it's much easier to do it.
3. Sit at the Table
Imagine if you were in a situation where your boss has called a meeting, and there are fewer chairs at the table than the number of participants. However, there are other chairs along the wall. Would you take a seat at the table or would you offer it to someone else? The author, Gail Evans, asserts that women often sit in one of the peripheral chairs because they think "the table is for the boss, key people or those who would be disgruntled sitting anywhere else." Remember that if you want to be considered a key player, take a seat at the table.
4. Speak Out
Have you ever been in a meeting that you're well prepared for, but you just don't speak up because there's something you lack information about? Meanwhile, the man sitting next to you confidently shares his ideas and perspective although he doesn't have all the facts. Just remember that if you don't talk, no one will know that you're really there. So, before each meeting take a few minutes to think about what you will say, even if it's asking a thought-provoking question.
I'll leave you with the final thought from this book: remember to be yourself. Women can build genuine, lasting relationships by allowing the natural, nurturing side of themselves to be available. This can be a real advantage in the workplace.