By Jill Flynn, Kathryn Heath, and Mary Davis Holt
There are plenty of instances in life when proper protocol entails obeying the rules. However, there are many othertimes when you need to give yourself the green light to proceed.
Being bold and resolute takes practice. The best way to add assertiveness to your repertoire is by looking for opportunities to flex your muscles. Here are some hints to help you proceed until apprehended:
Make Things Happen
Research on what it takes to be a senior leader points to a number of key competencies. One of the competencies that we emphasize in our coaching is the ability to create a vision for change. In fact, when we conduct 360-degree interviews, we always ask this question: “How would you rate this person on being able to lead change and make things happen?”
The answers we get are very revealing.
Many very accomplished women who have made it to mid-career status are not good at managing change. In fact, we recently coached and trained a group of 21 high-potential women for 18 months. The lowest score each of them received on their 360-degree feedback was the ability to drive change and make things happen. One of our most difficult assignments for this group was to create a vision for change and to make a presentation about that vision to the rest of the group.
After we gave that assignment, you would have thought we had asked each woman to sacrifice her first-born!
We worked individually with women during our coaching sessions to help each one figure out a vision for change in her marketplace or office. The idea was to articulate her vision in a way that would inspire others. Rehearsals included one-on-one sessions with a speech coach and practice sessions with a video camera to help hone presentation skills. After the final group training session, each presented her vision in front of the rest of the group, plus some other leaders from the firm. It was a great day. Every one of the 21 women presented a passionate, compelling vision for change and convinced the audience of her commitment to lead it.
The “visions for change” exercise exceeded our expectations. As a result of their visions, several of these women were recognized by the CEO and were asked to take on larger roles in the firm.
Most of us are not naturally visionary leaders who can easily drive change. But as the women in our coaching session learned, these are skills, like any other, that you can hone. If you want to be viewed as senior leader material, you need to demonstrate you can inspire others and make change happen. So step out of your comfort zone and rise to the challenge.
Excerpt from BREAK YOUR OWN RULES: How to Change the Patterns of Thinking that Block Women’s Paths to Power,by Jill Flynn, Kathryn Heath and Mary Davis Holt (Jossey-Bass, September 13, 2011).
Jill Flynn, Kathryn Heath, and Mary Davis Holt are nationally recognized experts on women’s leadership and co-authors of Break Your Own Rules: How to Change the Patterns of Thinking that Block Women’s Paths to Power. Each has commanded senior-level positions in Fortune 100 companies, and each has experienced the hurdles that still face executive women today. Now, as principals of Flynn Heath Holt Leadership(FHHL), they partner with Fortune 500 companies to customize and implement research-driven development programs that put women into top positions. Their expertise spans the critical areas that drive individual and organizational performance in every sector and at many levels—executive coaching, leadership development, training design, and organizational change. FHHL’sclients span industries and include financial services, energy, manufacturing, professional services, nonprofits, and government. Join the conversation at FlynnHeathHolt.comand on Twitter @FlynnHeathHolt.