"Stress, Your Business Partner"
My recently posted story in Thrive Global
You finally made it to the c-suite. It’s the job you’ve been seeking your entire career. It gives you the authority to get things done, it’s validation that you are making a difference, it rewards your belief in your values, and it is awfully nice to have the perquisites that go with the office.
But, there are other, negative, perks that seem to come with the territory as well.
The workload you felt at times was crushing on the way to the c-suite has increased now that you’ve arrived. There is no “honeymoon period!” The little time you thought you had before is now completely gone. And, the political minefields you carefully had to navigate on the journey to the corner office now extend over the horizon.
A lot is riding on your shoulders. Mistakes are now magnified with consequences far greater for the organization and they touch more careers than before.
Waiting for you in your new c-suite office among the congratulatory messages and bouquets is another “gift.” STRESS. Welcome to the CEO suite and the loneliest job in the business!
There is no c-suite “owners’ manual,” but there are things you can do to recognize and deal with the additional stress executive leaders experience. And, make no mistake, that stress is heightened if you are a woman. Stress can take a tremendous toll and lead to illness, depression and, in extreme cases even lead to suicide
Many female CEOs experience stressful work situations because of a constant sense of having their confidence undermined by men and are put in situations where they have to continuously prove themselves in the workplace. Women have also taken on more responsibilities at work while also retaining their responsibilities at home. That doubling of things on women’s plates is a huge stress accelerator.
Whether your stress is due to daily organizational or financial matters, communications challenges, time-management and c-suite obligations, or work-life balance issues, identifying and addressing it (or them) will help you successfully get through the day, meet your obligations and maintain your health — mental and physical.
Stress and its partner, burn out, do not occur overnight and their warning signs can be subtle, so you have to be self-aware and pay close attention to potential “red flags.”
Here are a few things you can check that will help you identify your level of stress and whether you are burning out.
It is not difficult to understand why leaders can feel isolated. There are few people they can trust to “speak truth to power.” It generally is not someone in their organization or on their management team, who might believe his/her career progression could be affected by such action. But, finding someone with whom you can speak honestly and who will provide honest feedback — a former c-suite executive who has worked in a similar organization or who sits on a comparable board, or an executive coach, is important in combatting isolation.
There are also some practical things we all can do to relieve stress and defeat burnout.
Face it head on. “If the source of the stress is something that’s being ignored, deal with directly, “ says Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Stress primarily comes from not taking action over something that you can have some control over. As soon as you can identify it and do whatever it is that you are going to do to start to address that situation (make the phone call or send off an e-mail) — even if it’s not solved — the fact that you’re addressing it dramatically reduces some of the stress that might come from it.
Find A Quiet Place. When you are feeling overwhelmed, go to a quiet place… some corporations now have “meditation” rooms and if all else fails, maybe a bathroom. You’re the CEO; you have your own bathroom. Hey, it works for Oprah!
Take a Break and Move Away From the Desk. Sometimes, stepping away and taking a break is the best strategy. You just might see things differently and in a new light…and you just might come away with new insights.
Get Your Sleep. I can’t tell you enough how sleep or the lack of sleep can make a difference in your day! Sleep and productivity are linked and you need to make it a priority.
Create a list of priorities and plan ahead. Identify the most important things you have to accomplish in a given day and focus your activities on those priorities.
Promote Open Communications. Make sure you’re engaging in a dialog with your employees; facilitate flexibility in workplace policies so your people don’t burn out. It’s bad for your company, and just plain bad for everyone!
Delegate. You do not have to do everything yourself. Delegating is also a way you can identify future organizational leaders and maybe come up with new ways to meet old challenges.
Be mindful of work-life balance. Carve out time away from work to maintain that balance. If you don’t have a management team that can support an occasional time out for you, you may have other organizational issues to address.
Build in time to exercise. Give stress physical release or find other ways to maintain your health and diminish stress. Walk to meetings instead of taking an elevator, take a few “power naps” during the day or find something else that works for you.
Understand that every business — and every life — has its ups and downs, its good days and bad. But that doesn’t mean it gets to take over your life. When handled correctly, stress can be contained, minimized and conquered.
By better managing the daily c-suite stresses, you will become more productive, build better relationships, balance work and life, and become a better leader. It might also help you enjoy life more.
We all know those women — the ones who stride with an air of grace into a room. They’re not always the prettiest or smartest. They’re not arrogant. They’re the ones who make you want to be around them.
But not everyone is comfortable walking into a room with that kind of confidence. So many of us walk straight toward people we already know. If we walk up to two people talking, we generally stand there and wait for them to notice us. Or even worse, you go to an event and instead of meeting people, you pull out your phone and studiously check email as if you are too important to meet people.
You know what's interesting? When you are with friends, I will bet you have the BEST stories. But if you meet a group of people you don’t know, suddenly you have nothing to say. Most people just think “that’s how it goes,” but you can actually treat this as a skill and improve it.
Here is some sage advice to “get our from behind the potted plant” from Aspire Ascend’s communication and public speaking coach, Jan Fox
Your boss invites you to a high-end networking event in NYC. He suddenly gets called away. You are told to, “Handle it!” A young friend of mine recently faced this situation. Petrified, she says she spent most of the evening hiding behind a big potted plant.
No connections made that night! How many times have you gone into a networking event feeling less than secure, wishing you could find the proverbial plant? You try:
Want to get out of plant land?
You will be invited in, so offer a handshake. Here comes the most often asked question at every networking event, “What do you do?”
“Get out of the elevator!” Throw away that canned pitch. They all sound alike these days. “I drive results and help you reach your fullest potential,” says nothing about who you are and what you do.
Start with your end user. Who uses what you do most?
Instead of rattling off her long title at a top consulting firm, Sandra asked the group a question: “Do you ever ride AMTRAK? Notice how the conductors now use a hand held scanner to check your ticket? It’s a lot faster and more accurate. I work with ABC - the company that developed that technology. Now we’re working on an app for soldiers on the battlefield. They can call it up to find tips to fight fatigue.”
Imagine the questions and conversations that kind of tangible, visual answer will generate!
Who are your end users? What do you do for them? What’s the next offering in the pipeline – the one that sparks your passion?
Let it show as you talk about it.
Start there. You won’t end up behind the potted plant ever again!
Some great advice, right? But you also need to be your authentic self---no more, no less. Some other suggestions to help you be confident are to stop taking everything personally. Do you know any confident woman who takes everything personally? Those with true confidence know that any perceived ego blow is more a reflection of the speaker than of them.
When you’re able to hear criticism and not take it personally, your reactions change. Life isn’t as much of a drama. Confidence emerges naturally with life.
And finally, ask empowering questions. What is an empowering question? It is one that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” answer. It requires the person to gather their thoughts and explain them with some level of detail. How do you know if your question is empowering? One hint is the first word used in asking the question. If your question begins with the words, “What”, “Why”, “Where” “Who” or “How”, it is an empowering question. A great question: “Why did this work?”
Simply, the more empowering questions we ask, the more confidant we will become. When empowering questions become second nature, you have no choice but to find confidence-inducing answers. And that is a sure pathway out from behind that potted plant!
Did you know that one crucial difference between how women and men manage their careers is how they form professional networks?
Men's networks are widely dispersed while women tend to form their professional networks in the same ways they form their personal ones -- based on trust and first-degree knowledge. Women tend to stay in their comfort zones with old friends, former colleagues, and “safe” networks where many of us know one another. This insular approach can actually stop women from reaching beyond the people they already know, reducing the effectiveness of their networks by excluding people who could become a positive influence on their professional lives.
But savvy women executives are learning from their male counterparts and replicating the nuances of male networking that have proven successful, taking time to meet and engage new people!
So let’s learn some of the networking rules of engagement that will yield better results and help us gain more meaningful and tangential connections.
Yes, the old model of networking for short-term gain -- to help you find that next job -- can yield immediate financial returns, but the new rules will pay off in the long run. Instead of leveraging people for your own gain, start to learn from them and make more meaningful gains from these connections.
What more women are realizing is that formal networking is critical to their success. While these types of formal networks are taking hold in several fields, including medicine and science, women executives are often too busy to take advantage of them. Oftentimes women are so focused on succeeding in their current jobs and getting their jobs done well, they may not think about attending an event or make these a priority.
So say “yes” to salons and other organized networking events that will introduce interesting people to one another. Use your network to learn new things. Share interesting knowledge, and you will make deeper connections rather than just adding people to your network.
I know digital networking groups are important, but don’t assume you are networking just because you are on LinkedIn.
A great networker is someone who helps people connect with others! Invest in building a deeper network by developing a reputation as a person who has something to offer others.
“It’s not just about who I know, it’s about what I know.”
And that is why I founded Aspire Ascend, so women executives have the space not only to support each other but also the ability to expand their networks and enhance their professional and personal lives.
Take a look at the photos from our most recent networking event, Wine, Women, and Knowledge, held November 16, 2017!
Yes, it is a glass ceiling with some cracks, but it is not shattered! The business world has not yet embraced women and diversity in the C-suite, nor in the boardroom, nor in any industry to date. Twenty years later, we are still explaining the persistence of that glass ceiling.
Nationally, in the boardroom female representation is 17.9%. In Maryland, Virginia, and the District, women hold 14% of the board positions at publicly traded companies. When you look at these boards, you will see a cadre of retired male executives. According to Women in Technology, a nonprofit group in Falls Church, VA, 25% of the 250 publicly traded companies in the DC region do not have women on their boards.
Changing the status quo is still a very slow process. That glass ceiling is a barrier so “subtle that it is transparent, yet so strong that it prevents women from moving up the corporate hierarchy”. From their vantage point on the corporate ladder, women can see the high-level corporate positions but are kept from reaching the top.
As for the boardroom, corporate boards do not have term limits or age restrictions, which mean members often remain in board positions for years, if not decades. And when a spot does open up, executives generally fill it with their peers, who just happen to be white males. In the C-suite, as well as in the boardroom, the number-one limiting belief is that they don’t know (or recognize) many women who are qualified or board-ready, or who are perceived as “leaders” in the C-suite.
But they’re out there. You just don’t – or won’t – see them.
Women’s abilities are more harshly judged than men. Holding women to higher standards and evaluating female leaders and prospective board members more critically than their male counterparts is common practice.
While overt discrimination seems to be on the way out of organizations, subtle gender discrimination still exists and accounts for so few significant cracks in the glass ceiling. Such discrimination, mostly exemplified in cultural norms, is so entrenched in some organizations that it is difficult to detect, and only incremental steps aimed at changing bias can chip away at the barriers that keep women from moving into senior levels and the boardroom.
Companies that succeed in changing the gender dynamic have major initiatives such as training programs for valuing gender diversity; changing recruiting patterns to eliminate bias, and setting specific succession goals that include women in senior positions. In other words, these companies walk their talk and make gender diversity part of their culture all the way into the boardroom.
If we are to see significant changes within leadership, organizations must create and implement executive development programs that include issues addressing gender diversity and transformational leadership in order to change preconceived ideas, bias, and assumptions about women’s abilities to lead.
And then, just maybe that glass ceiling will be shattered!
Last week, my firm, Aspire Ascend, held its first in a series of Remarkable Woman Luncheons. Our first speaker was Susan Ann Davis, a “remarkable woman” with an inspirational story and a speaking style that draws you in….and we couldn’t have asked for anyone better to initiate this series.
Susan is a pioneer who opened her own public relations agency when few women were experiencing success in the business world, and fewer still owned their own businesses. It has grown into a global organization with major international clients, and Susan has ¬¬emerged as one of the most influential people (man or woman) in her field.
Among the sold-out audience were senior-level executives, an ambassador, a congresswoman, and entrepreneurs -- all remarkable women themselves. They came to hear Susan share her story, and she came because she lives the philosophy that women help women.
Every attendee agreed that Susan was engaging, funny, and down-to-earth as well as remaining an entrepreneur of global business. But her message was serious: believe in yourself, build a support network, and don’t be afraid to take a chance. I like those words!
These are great guidelines for all women, but they are particularly important for those of us who are already in leadership.
At a time when we may very well see the first woman President of the United States, we still hear stories of accomplished, well-qualified women being passed over for positions or promotions even when they have the same experience and qualifications as men. And, when women make it to the c-suite, build a successful enterprise, or are elected to office, they are held to a different -- and often ridiculously higher -- standard than men.
Susan has lived through all of it in her rise to the top, and she shared her story -- no, make that stories -- with the group. Her anecdotes were both cheerful and tearful, and I saw many in the room taking notes from this true role model.
The diversity of women in the room confirmed my long-held belief that one of the most important elements of any network (but especially women’s networks) is diversity. We put limits on both our network and what we can learn from them if we don’t make our “circle of influence” as wide as possible.
One of the themes I heard, both in Susan’s comments and in the numerous conversations among attendees, was the importance (and I’m paraphrasing here) of “doing less and networking more.” To me, it’s the difference between meeting short-term goals or building a career…and taking the reins of leadership in whatever endeavor you pursue.
This message resonated with me since I frequently find myself advising clients to “keep their heads up” and build relationships instead of “keeping their heads down” and passing up on the events and programs where you can meet more “influencers.” That will help you find new avenues for business success, career advancement, and greater self-fulfillment.
I was pleased to see that women who had just met were making plans to follow up and meet again, and exchanging business cards, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses as they left the luncheon together.
One attendee told me as she was leaving, “It was great to meet other successful and enthusiastic women. We spend so much time working on business objectives, we don’t often get the chance to work on our own objectives.”
It’s good for women -- at whatever stage of their careers -- to hear from other women who are willing to share their stories. We learn that no dream is too big and that support is there when you ask for it. That’s the ultimate message…. And that’s why I’m proud that Aspire Ascend will continue to provide membership and a forum for discussion and support -- where women support other women!
Take a look at the photos from the Remarkable Woman lunch here
Aspire Ascend is a global service provider and a member-based organization providing a comprehensive portfolio of career-building services to enhance the success of women in leadership positions. It helps executive women meet the challenges of career advancement and make an impact in the C-suite.
Washington, DC, September 15, 2016 – “Women are underrepresented at every level of the corporate pipeline, with the greatest disparity at senior levels of leadership,” according to Jan Molino, CEO and Managing Partner of Aspire Ascend. In Filling the Leadership Pipeline with Women, a free e-book just published by the firm, she offers senior women in the workplace common-sense ways to take charge of their careers in what continues to be a male-dominated environment.
The e-book advises women on how to help themselves and their organizations’ with strategies for gender equity in the workplace.
Ms. Molino shares the knowledge gained over more than 20 years as a senior executive and counselor to c-suites and both corporate and non-profit boards. She has worked with numerous executive women, counseling them on how to cross the threshold into the c-suite, and she shares that knowledge and experience with readers.
"When we make the corporate ladder more accessible to women, we incorporate fresh thinking, new perspectives and a more inclusive outlook into an organization’s culture,” says Molino.
The book also shines a light on the need for organizations to recognize that true gender equity – not just lip service – is needed for women to rise into the leadership ranks. Ms. Molino suggests ways in which organizations can build cultures that encourage, support, and recognize the success of women as they take on greater responsibilities and move toward leadership positions.
“Organizations need to build conviction that what is good for women will be good for men, as well as for the entire enterprise,” says Molino.
The free e-book, “Filling the Leadership Pipelines with Women,” is available to download here.
Aspire Ascend is a global service provider and a member-based organization providing a comprehensive portfolio of career building services to enhance the success of women in leadership positions. It helps executive women meet the challenges of career advancement and make an impact in the C-suite.
I was recently interviewed on a podcast called Finding Success Through Relationships, one of the “Women Taking the Lead” series. The host, Jodi Flynn, asked me what put me on the path that eventually led to me start my own firm.
It wasn’t until she asked that question that I really thought about what motivated me and what held me back in the early days of my career, and what kind of support I received that helped me overcome barriers to success; those that were imposed on me and those that I created myself.
I realized that I lacked confidence after turning down an opportunity to relocate and run my own team. I was afraid to take a chance on myself. But, I was fortunate enough to have a boss who believed in me and offered his support. He told me to advise him of my next opportunity because he thought I was ready to move up. His confidence in me gave me confidence in myself. When the next chance for advancement came, I was able to summon the inner strength to say “yes.”
One of the best pieces of advice I now give to women who ask me how I got started on my path is, “get a mentor.” Find someone who recognizes your talents and is willing to be supportive, to help you navigate the minefields that lie between where you are and where you want to be.
My experience as the guest on that podcast reminded me that no one makes it on her own.
Jodi Flynn and I covered a lot of ground in 20 or so minutes and I want to share that information with you in the hope that it might give you perspective and maybe even some ideas about how to move your career forward.
Here’s the link to the podcast: https://womentakingthelead.com/151
Almost lost amidst last week’s political circus, international terrorist strikes and stock market ups and downs, a brief but significant ceremony was held in Boston’s State House when the Commonwealth’s Governor, Charlie Baker, signed into law a pay equity act. A key provision of which will prevent employers from requiring prospective employees to say how much they made at their last job.
This is significant because it will help women break out of the cycle of low or inequitable salaries when compared to men who do the same work.
This is not a concept divided along political lines. The act, now law, had bi-partisan support. It was sponsored by a Democrat state senator and signed by a Republican governor. Massachusetts now joins California, New York and Maryland, states that passed similar legislation last year, and a number of other states with such laws on the books.
Sentiment is growing nationally for this kind of support for pay equity. A 2014 survey commissioned by American Women, the National Partnership for Women & Families, and the Rockefeller Family Fund, shows broad majorities of likely voters favor public policies that help families and women get ahead. The poll results also show that voters are more likely to support a candidate who is in favor of policies, such as a higher minimum wage, fair pay for women, paid sick days, and paid family and medical leave.
It is fair to say that pay equity and other concepts supportive of workplace gender equality are gaining traction among most Americans and moving politicians to act. So, can we expect an avalanche of legislation favoring workplace gender balance – especially with the prospect of a woman in the White House? Possibly…maybe even probably.
But, why wait?
We women already have legislation – and a growing number of legislators – on our side (more correctly, on the side of doing the right thing…this is not just a “women’s issue”*).
I have been helping women position themselves for leadership and supporting their efforts in a fight for workplace equality for years, and have seen some remarkable women seek out mentors and sponsors who can help them reach their aspirations. They didn’t need laws and legislation…and neither does any women.
We all have the moral courage to act in our own best interests when negotiating compensation or seeking support for moving along our career paths. No question, legislation helps…but we really don’t need it.
The kind of support now growing in state legislatures and on the federal level should provide encouragement for any woman who has been hesitant to push back in a job interview when the question of “salary history” comes up to now assert herself; to recognize how answering that question hampers her negotiating position.
There is no question that favorable legislation provides “political cover” for women in the workplace. In this political season, we should thank the legislators – men and women – who are willing to step out front to push gender equity legislation, and in some cases, jeopardize political careers, and who shine a light on the need for greater gender balance. They provide women with the legislative and regulatory support needed to move their careers forward.
*About half of all workers (51 percent of women and 47 percent of men) report that the discussion of wage and salary information is either discouraged or prohibited and/or could lead to punishment. Most government agencies have formal grade and step systems that make general wage and salary information public (only 18 percent of women and 11 percent of men in the public sector report discouragement or prohibition of wage and salary discussions). - See more at:http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/pay-secrecy-and-wage-discrimination-1#sthash.EEZ28VD7.dpuf
The Wine, Women, & Knowledge Networking event will launch on November 16, 2016 and feature Allison Shapira, founder and President, Global Public Speaking LLC.
Allison is a former opera singer who teaches public speaking and presentation skills at the Harvard Kennedy School and develops training programs for Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and nonprofits around the world. She has worked with elected officials, military veterans, businessmen and women, diplomats, nonprofit leaders, and entrepreneurs.
Allison helps people speak with confidence, network with authenticity, and handle difficult questions. She is also a TEDx speaker and songwriter who speaks and performs worldwide, using music as a way to help others find their voice and their courage to speak. Allison also travels around the world with the nonprofit Vital Voices Global Partnership and with the US Department of State, teaching public speaking as a way to help women leaders find their voice and their confidence to speak. She has taught training programs in Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in Italian language from Boston University, a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, and is a member of the National Speakers Association. She speaks Italian and Hebrew and has studied 8 other languages. She lives in Washington, DC and works with clients around the world.
Wine, Women, Knowledge (WWK) Networks are valuable Aspire Ascend networking opportunities where you can connect with fellow Aspire Ascend members or meet other women leaders like you.
To learn more about the "Wine, Women, and Knowledge Networking" series and events, click here
To become a member, click here
The "Remarkable Woman" series will launch on October 26, 2016 and feature Susan Ann Davis, Chairman of Susan Davis International, a global strategic communications consulting firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. with 74 agency partners worldwide. She is internationally known for her expertise in reputation management, market entry and expansion, crisis and cyber risk, communications, and public affairs.
Davis is also a consultant and thought leader on issues and opportunities related to the business of smart aging, annually co-chairing the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit and the “What’s Next” Boomer Business Summit. She spearheaded the Global Irish Forum’s recommendations for Ireland developing as a global hub for smart aging technologies, design, products, and services, and is vice chair of the board of directors of the Irish Smart Ageing Exchange.
A lifelong advocate for social entrepreneurship, democracy building and leadership development for women, she is the board chair of Vital Voices Global Partnership, the preeminent NGO begun by Hillary Clinton supporting 15,000 emerging women leaders in 144 countries.
Additionally, she chaired the landmark U.S. Ireland Business Summit, creating the groundbreaking U.S.-Ireland R&D Partnership, and is board chair of The Irish Breakfast Club, co-chair of the Washington Ireland Program Trustees Council, and a member of ITLG Womens Leadership Group. Davis is also board chair for the Zabuli School for girls in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The "Remarkable Woman" series focuses on women’s achievement and challenges, the very issues executive women face every day.
Each luncheon provides an engaging forum for professional women to come together and enjoy a memorable meal, broaden their “Circle of Influence” and connect with fellow women and hear from an extraordinary guest speaker.
To learn more about the "Remarkable Woman" series and events, click here