By Kathy Caprino, M.A.
In the past several years, I’ve had the great pleasure of coaching and partnering with some amazing women in the U.S. – senior managers and leaders in Fortune 500 companies and non-profits who absolutely love their work, relish their roles, and feel they’re able to apply their many gifts and talents to achieve heart-aligned professional goals. These women are fortunate indeed, but they’ve also co-created their great success through hard work, commitment, and dedication.
Yet even among women leaders who've accomplished much, I’ve observed one behavior that holds women back from greater leadership success. It's this - when women are concerned about their perceived weaknesses or knowledge gaps, they tend to isolate, and work hard to hide their “imperfections.” They don’t realize that we simply can’t reach our potential if we don’t 1) admit the need for growth and 2) find empowering help to get it.
In order for professional women to stretch to reach their best, they need to take action to close their power gaps, and find support on a continual basis from inspiring, successful, heart-aligned women leaders. But how?
Take these three action steps:
1) Find a Visual Role Model/Mentor Who Inspires You – OUTSIDE of your company
Find an inspiring female mentor who is a living, breathing example of where you want to go and who you wish to be. Make sure this female leader is speaking, behaving, managing and leading as you wish to. And have your most relied-upon mentor come from OUTSIDE of your firm.
A wonderful client of mine mentioned to me that her male boss liked the idea of her finding a mentor, and recommended she use a fellow one level above her at the company as her mentor. My response to that was, "Sure, that’s fine, but it’s not enough."
You need to find a powerful mentor OUTSIDE your company as well, make sure it’s a woman! Yes, men can and will be wonderful supporters of your work, and you can find fabulous mentors within your company. Do it.
But for the one mentor who is going to help you be all you wish to be, ask a female leader outside your immediate realm – someone with whom you can be perfectly authentic and candid -- a woman who will have your best interests at heart. Find an individual who isn’t tempted to feel competitive with you, doesn’t have an agenda working with you, and isn’t compromised when you tell her exactly how you feel.
Why choose a woman as your mentor? Because we believe what we see – and when you interact closely with other powerful and enlightening female leaders who are expert at achieving their passion, power, and purpose at work, then you’ll be one step closer to that as well.
2) Join Your Industry’s Best National and Regional Organizations for Women
As female leaders and managers, it’s essential that you connect with women in your region and nationally who are engaged in developing your profession and moving it forward for women. This is not to bash men, but corporate America was founded on a “white male competitive career model” that simply doesn’t fit a majority of women. This will change – it has to. But it will take a very long time.
In the meantime, there are still powerful assumptions and expectations about what makes a successful professional that don’t, in general, align with thousands of women’s priorities, values and goals today. (See my book Breakdown Breakthrough for more about this ill-fitting model and the 12 “hidden” crises working women face today).
So don’t wait. Locate the leading organizations in your field that support women, and join them. Invest in membership (yes, my friends, you must invest in yourself) and become active in your chapter and nationally – it will change how you see yourself, your work, and your possibilities.
3) Close Your “Power Gaps”
Finally, no matter who you are, you have insecurities (unless you’re a narcissist). There will always be areas that you wish were stronger, that you’re afraid others will shine the light on, exposing your flaws and “weaknesses.” It’s universal – we’re ALL afraid of being “found out” to some degree.
So rather than spend any more precious time and energy hiding or over-compensating for the areas in which you need to grow, get into the cage with your fears and do something about them! Figure out exactly what training, education, credentials, experiences or new knowledge you need to acquire to feel more competent in your job, and go out and get them. And if you can, ask your employer to support you in this training and education. Once you’ve addressed your perceived weaknesses, you’ll be amazed at how much more powerful and confident you feel and act.
Trust me when I say that getting help to courageously address your competency gaps will change you, and you’ll be delighted with the outcome.
What are your “power gaps?” Where do you feel “less than?” And who can serve as your powerful female mentor to help you overcome these gaps?
Kathy Caprino, M.A., is a nationally-recognized women’s work-life expert, career and executive coach, marketing consultant, and author of Breakdown, Breakthrough: The Professional Woman’s Guide to Claiming a Life of Passion, Power, and Purpose. Founder/President of Ellia Communications, Inc. -- a premier career coaching and marketing consulting firm dedicated to helping women achieve breakthrough to create the professional success and fulfillment they truly want, Caprino is a previous corporate marketing executive, trained psychotherapist, seasoned career coach, and sought-after writer and speaker on women’s issues. She is a popular blogger on women’s career topics and trends, and as a top media source, she has appeared in more than 100 leading newspapers and magazines and on national TV. Her second book and current research study focuses on “My 52 Mistakes” – an open forum for women to explore the top “mistakes” they’ve made in their lives, and share the powerful lessons learned.
Kathy’s Breakthrough Marketing division provides top-level marketing support for women entrepreneurs, writers, consultants and practitioners. For more information on Ellia’s services, seminars and group coaching programs, visit www.elliacommunications.com or write to Kathy at Kathy@elliacommunications.com. Follow Kathy on Twitter at @kathycaprino.