Real Women, Real Questions 4

In this post, our questions from WID Leadership Summit participants are all about minding the gap. Here’s the questions …

  • How do I move from glorified secretary/assistant role into a leadership role?
  • How do I get promoted as a non-engineer in an engineering command?
  • How do I effectively lead a diverse group of men and have them see me as a critical member of their team and not just a note taker?

Solutions involve recognizing any knowledge, skill, behavioral, and perceptual gaps and dealing with these. Were you in the session Growing through Disruption: Leverage the Power of Change for Career Success? If so, we walked through creating a “quad chart.” In general, this is a living document that captures the following information in quadrants:

Upper left (UL) – Your dream or career objective. What role or position would you like to hold in one year? In two to three years?

Upper right (UR) – Your key strengths and skills. What do you know; what do others say?

Lower right (LR) – Your Brand today and what needs to shift to meet the needs of your desired role?

Lower left (LL) – The gap and your development plan. What’s missing from UR/LR that takes you toward UL? This should include who are (or should be) your mentor(s); learning, courses, or degree program; projects or assignments to demonstrate new or critical skills; key experiences you need (for example, international experience), etc.

Your quad chart can take any format. I happen to like PowerPoint because everyone usually has access and it’s super easy to create boxes and bulleted lists. This also makes the document easy to share for performance discussions. The key is to be clear on your objectives, your strengths, branding assets, and gaps, and to have set of activities that move you towards your goals.

The second thread running through the three questions involves understanding and shaping perception. What assures we are perceived as a leader, a critical member of a team, or as a valuable contributor, as opposed to assistant, note taker, or non-engineer?

First we need to understand the current state—what people are really thinking, and not just what we think they’re thinking. We can use conversations, tools (such as a “360”), or other means to get a clear picture of how our peers, team members, and organizational leaders think about our position, our contributions, and us. How does that differ from any descriptions of someone who fits the “ideal” of the role or perception we aspire to? What knowledge, language, and behaviors must we demonstrate to showcase how we fit the ideal?

The next steps entail crafting a plan to address the perceptual difference and executing to shape perception. Before you make any changes, consider whether the actions involved align with your own values and leadership authenticity. And recognize that you won’t change perceptions overnight. You’ll have to demonstrate the new knowledge and behaviors over and over and over, consistently. We can’t say, “I tried that for a couple weeks and it didn’t work.”

Working with a coach or trusted accountability partner can help accelerate change and keep us on track. We can try out new behaviors and role-play critical conversations. If you want to make a change that leads toward an important goal, take some time to consider who might serve as coach, mentor, advocate, or sponsor. If you’d like to explore coaching, please reach out—a discovery conversation is complimentary.

What career changes or transitions would you like to make? I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas about what has worked for you.

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