Tuesday, 17 October 2017

What Professional Women Need In Order To Get Ahead In Their Career

My clients this month have (as always) been fascinating me, and I have found myself in many discussions about the reasons why ‘Executive Presence’ is so critical to career success.

As always, my work is rooted in data. What are the facts, figures and statistics that reinforce the need for the skills and strategies that I coach my clients to develop?

Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour at ESMT Berlin Business School, Laura Guillén, published research over the summer to reinforce the need for women to demonstrate confidence in order to get ahead. So far, so not new. However in addition, what her research also suggests is that women need to demonstrate what are called ‘pro social’ attributes if they get on in their career. What does ‘pro social’ mean? It means – in essence – to show that we care.

Guillén studied 236 engineers from a global software business and the premise was to explore how self-confident the female proportion of this population was perceived to be versus the men. Whilst the data suggested that there was no difference between the sexes in terms of self-confidence, what was apparent, was that the self-confidence evidenced by women was not rewarded in the same way. To quote the author “in other words, they were not liked”. What professional women also needed to evidence was more inclusive, caring behaviours to act as a counterbalance to their portrayal of self-confidence.

I’m not about arguing the rights and wrongs of this state of play; I’m about supporting professional women (and men) to understand and develop the skills to succeed even when gender bias exists. For me this means ‘Executive Presence’ and to be clear, Executive Presence isn’t about being an executive. Change the word to ‘professional' and we’re all talking the same language. Everyone needs it because everyone in business needs to influence others in order to succeed and get ahead. I define ‘executive presence’ as the ability to radiate confidence by commanding and not demanding attention. It means being ‘impactful, confident, poised, enthusiastic, engaging, inspiring, authoritative, influential, crisp, clear, compelling, credible, motivating, authentic, natural, flexible, self-aware, trustworthy, reliable, honest, flexible, humble and a stand out communicator’.

A lot of words that mean a lot of skills are necessary in order to get the balance of confidence and caring right – no matter the audience, the topic or the environment.

And by the way, my view is that professional men need to develop these skills much as professional women need to, if they are to deliver change, drive results and succeed in a fast-paced, global business environment.

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