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A Change of Perception

A Change of Perception

There are three questions I always ask the women I work with – because the answers will dictate whether she’s going to flourish in her leadership role or work herself to the ground (and feel like she’s selling her soul in the process). 

They are:

  •  Do you see yourself as a leader?
  • Does your leadership role sit comfortably with you?
  • Have you found your place as a leader within your organisation?

These questions are an important part of the discovery process, for me and for my clients. Let me explain why. 

Not so long ago, I worked with an incredible woman in my Leadership Connection membership program. Let’s call her Emma (even though that’s not her real name). Emma had an enviable work ethic that kept pace with an extremely busy workplace. She was well-liked and respected by both her peers and the senior executive team. Following a restructure, Emma was excited to be tapped on the shoulder for a leadership position. 

In the new role, Emma found herself reporting to a director that was new to the organisation, and brought a leadership style she wasn’t used to working with. Emma’s new team included some of her former peers, and sadly the shift from colleague to leader did not go smoothly. 

Emma’s former peers were happy to keep her in a place of micromanagement, while the rest of the team (who were looking for strategic guidance) grew resentful of the lack of direction they were receiving from Emma and frustrated that she did not seem to trust them to just get on with the job. 

Emma knew she needed to step up, but being stuck in her to-do list, working ridiculously long hours and dealing with borderline-toxic team dynamics, meant she simply couldn’t see a path forward. She constantly questioned her capabilities, value, and worth.

This story is devastating! And, sadly, all too common.

The transition from peer to leader can be really difficult, and it is rarely an issue of competency. After all, you are employed as a leader in recognition of your abilities and hard work. However, at its core, leadership isn’t just a different way of doing – it requires a different way of thinking. And one of the biggest obstacles to this is how leaders see themselves! Throw in the good girl dynamic that’s so prevalent in our generation and it becomes even more difficult.

Embracing a leadership role requires a distinct shift in how women see themselves. 

Very few people are natural leaders (despite what pervasive mythology would try to have you believe). Effective leadership comes from developing a set of skills, and cultivating the perception that you are, in fact, a leader. And the most significant perception comes from within. 

So, tell me… do you actually see yourself as a leader?

When we step into a leadership role, our behaviour needs to reflect that as well. In performance psychology there is a philosophy of ‘behaviour informs action’, as a reflection of attitude. Put simply, action is (literally) the act of doing something. Behaviour describes the way you conduct yourself as you take the action. To step up into the next level of leadership, the way you behave likely needs to shift, along with your perception of yourself.

When someone steps into a leadership role, they’re really good at doing the work – especially when this role has come from a series of shoulder taps. And while this should shift in their new leadership role, it often doesn’t.

One of the frustrations women share with me (far too often) is that, while they recognise this new role should allow them to be visionary, set the strategic direction, and drive change, that is not the case. 

They find themselves still caught up with implementation (doing the do) and, in some cases, still doing big chunks of their old job! Very often they get stuck in that go-to-girl image.  Their title and official PD changed, but how they approach their workload does not. Which leads to resentment and burnout, with many women left wondering… is this is? Is this what I’ve worked so hard for? No thank you!

Which brings me back to those 3 important questions. 

  • Do you see yourself as a leader?
  • Does your leadership role sit comfortably with you?
  • Have you found your place as a leader within your organisation?

We start here because it helps us focus our work, and understand where exactly my clients need to shift their perception of themselves from the reliable, hard-working, go-to girl to the capable, engaged, and insightful leader they truly are. 

When they come to me, they usually understand the responsibilities, obligations and potential that comes with leading a team, but they are unable to see a path forward that gets them out of the busywork and into the big-picture visionary work that will move the organisation forward. That’s where I come in – so let’s start a conversation today.

By the way, if you’re wondering about what happened to Emma? Through our work together and her own commitment to shifting her perception and the perception of those around her – not only is she now wholeheartedly embracing her leadership role, she is respected by her team and peers and kicking goals!

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Click below to…

Join “Leading Ladies” – a private FREE Facebook group of over 1600 other mid-career professional women to inspire and support
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Get my best tips on working smarter not harder 
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What’s holding you back?

What’s holding you back?

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that an incredibly accomplished woman may find herself held back… Held back from achieving her aspirations, from stepping into her leadership potential and from becoming even more accomplished.  

 The saddest part of all?  Many of the roadblocks and obstacles that hold women back come from within.   

 Yes… the system and structures, unconscious bias and the preconceived vision of what a leader looks like play a part, but they’re not the only factors. 

 What’s holding you back? 

Women come to me for a wide range of reasons. While they’re all mid-career, some find themselves ‘stuck’ and unable to progress their careers, while others have reached (and smashed!) their career goals but instead of feeling jubilant feel underwhelmed. Others come to me because they feel unseen and overlooked, while others know they’re working far harder than they should.  

Almost every time I ask “What’s the number one thing holding you back?” they answer without too much hesitation… ME!  

 What almost all these women have in common is the (horrible!) experience of ruminating and questioning their sense of worth. They have internal blocks and mental obstacles that take up far too much real estate in their heads. Instead of strategically approaching their work and career, it’s happening by default, and that doesn’t feel great in the long term.  

 So, how does this arise? At a macro level it’s the patriarchy, no doubt about it, but let’s save that discussion for another day. Let’s go to the nitty gritty of how it arises and the impact it leaves.  

It’s not unusual for women to come with me with an extremely unclear understanding of their worth.  

 They either shrug off their accomplishments or don’t even see the value in what they do. What’s interesting is that low self-worth and busy work that keeps women occupied (but doesn’t progress their career) often go hand in hand.  

 The thing with being busy is it’s incredibly validating. Ticking things off a list feels great. There’s that dopamine hit as we ‘prove’ our output and productivity. But just like a sugar rush, there’s a crash, and in this context the resulting erosion of boundaries breeds resentment and limits career progression. It also means they continue to show up as a do-er rather than a leader.  

 The other thing holding women back is a reluctance to delegate.  

 In some cases, it’s a flat out refusal. Instead of hand-balling appropriately to the relevant team members, some women find themselves doing the workload of an entire team. This is unsustainable and quite frankly insulting to their people, not to mention demoralising.  

 There’s only one way to move past this and that’s to learn to let go. Trust in other people’s abilities and allow them to step up and actually do the job you’ve engaged them to do.  

 Another inner block that keeps women stuck is a lack of clarity around their values and what matters most to them. As I detailed in this piece, sometimes women compare their current state of being with how they defined success in their 20s or 30s, and while their priorities shifted their approach didn’t. The end result is misalignment between their role and the way they see themselves, OR the way they see themselves and the way they intrinsically feel 

 Women are also held back by their own comfort zone.  

 They’re afraid to fail, afraid to be vulnerable and as a result they are unable to stretch and grow. Sometimes women simply lack confidence in their own abilities, which keeps them in their comfort zone. A great way to tackle this is to simply track your wins. We all have to do lists, but how many of us have ‘done, and done beautifully’ lists?  

 Internal blocks aren’t insurmountable. They require a level of self-awareness. I find that when I help women create a reflective practice they gain the perspective to see their blind spots, and then, in turn, put into place a plan of attack against them.  

 Almost always there’s a need to firstly manage expectations, both their own and those of others, and the next step?  Doing the work to quieten the inner critic, believe in your worth and build courage to back yourself.  

What’s holding you back?  

 If you’re like the women I work with, your inner blocks are something we can absolutely kick to the curb – just reach out. 

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Join “Leading Ladies” – a private FREE Facebook group of over 1600 other mid-career professional women to inspire and support
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How to break free of the Go-To Girl Syndrome

How to break free of the Go-To Girl Syndrome

I’ve had some incredibly enlightening conversations this week with smart, mid-career professional women who, like me, fell into the sneaky trap of being the notorious “go-to girl.” Maybe you can relate. Are you known as the Jack of all trades, the fix-it woman, or have you earned the label of “reliable”? Oh boy, it’s time to take a closer look.

Confession time: I used to proudly wear the “go-to girl” badge as if it were the ultimate mark of distinction. It fed my ego to know that people sought me out, recognising that I was the one who would always make time to help them.

But here’s the kicker—I had no clue just how much it was holding me back. Looking back now, I realise I was seen as a doer, not the remarkable leader I truly wanted to be.

Reflecting on my journey, I can’t help but recall a comment from an HR director about me “over mothering” the team. Let me tell you, it stung like a slap in the face back then. But now, with a fresh perspective, I understand that he was providing me with invaluable guidance on how I could step up and lead more effectively. Funny how life works, right? Sometimes, those seemingly hurtful remarks are the catalysts for profound self-discovery and growth.

So, if you’ve found yourself deep in the weeds as the go-to girl here’s what to do about it.

1. Recognise the Go-To Girl Pitfall

Now that we’re on the same page, let’s dive deeper into this notorious pitfall. Being the go-to girl might feel flattering, but it can become a double-edged sword. While it’s wonderful to be dependable and reliable, it can also lead to being pigeonholed and undervalued. It’s time to break free from this limited perception and step into your full leadership potential.

2. Unleash Your Leadership Mindset

Shifting from the go-to girl to an esteemed leader requires a mindset overhaul. It’s time to shed the belief that your worth is solely defined by being the problem solver. Embrace the idea that leadership is about inspiring, influencing, and creating meaningful impact. Believe in your capabilities and envision yourself as the influential leader you aspire to become.

3. Break free from the Go-To Girl Leadership Mould

Your Go-To Girl role may have defined you in the past, but it’s now time to release the expectations and limitations that come with that role. Embrace your uniqueness and craft your own leadership style. Reflect on your strengths, values, and passions. Define the type of leader you want to be and align your actions with that vision.

4. Shift your reputation by shifting your focus


If you want to change how others perceive you, it’s time to shift your focus. Instead of solely being the go-to girl who handles everything, redirect your attention towards strategic initiatives, team empowerment, and impactful contributions. By shifting your focus from being the problem solver to being a visionary leader, you’ll not only transform your reputation but also inspire others to see you in a new light.

5. Focus on Growth and Continuous Learning

Breaking free from the go-to girl role and unleashing your leadership superpowers takes courage and growth. It’s time to level up by mastering the art of delegation, embracing change with open arms, and empowering your team to do their best work. Say goodbye to spreading yourself too thin and hello to focusing on what truly matters. Trust in your team’s capabilities, confidently say no when necessary, and create a culture of innovation and growth. And make sure you’re aligning your time and effort with what matters most to the organisation.

Are you ready to shift from “go-to girl” to leader?

Bidding farewell to the role of the go-to girl starts with the simple decision to no longer play that part for your boss, your team and your organisation. Are you ready?

 

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Jane Benston

Click below to…

Join “Leading Ladies” – a private FREE Facebook group of over 1600 other mid-career professional women to inspire and support
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Watch The Next Level Training to breakthrough to the next level of leadership, impact and recognition.  
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Why Working Harder Isn’t Always the Answer: A Guide for Mid-Career Professional Women

Why Working Harder Isn't Always the Answer: A Guide for Mid-Career Professional Women

The mistake I see many mid-career professional women making is thinking that the way to be seen, heard, recognised and promoted is… to work harder and do more.   

I really don’t know how that would be possible though, because most of the professional women I speak to are already working super hard.  

But I get it. Over the years we’ve been told that success comes to those who work hard. 

Your strong work ethic, getting the job done and doing it well, was probably what got you to where you are today.  It may be what you are known for. It’s likely helped to open up some fabulous opportunities for you over the years. You may have even crafted a reputation as someone who is super helpful, reliable and dependable.  

But being helpful, useful and reliable is likely the very thing that is now holding you back.   

It was great in the early years of your career but if you want to be seen as an impactful leader it will keep you stuck at the level, you’re at.   

Take a look at the leaders who you admire. And think about this for a moment... 

Are they stuck in the day to day, busy doing low value tasks? 

NO, they are not!   

The brutal truth is that working harder and doing more is more likely to lead to burnout than respect, recognition or an amazing job offer.  

So, you may be wondering… how do you get to that next level of leadership, impact and recognition?  

It starts with DOING LESS and dedicating more time and energy to actually LEADING.   

It may seem counterintuitive at first. How can you get ahead when you are actually DOING less? 

It’s quite simple really. When you’re busy being busy you’ve got no time or head space to truly lead.   

Leadership is about setting the vision, making impactful decisions, solving the big problems and focusing on progressing projects that will support the growth and sustainability of the business. It’s about building and leading high performing teams and supporting and mentoring people to perform at their best.   

All of these activities require space to think.   

So that’s exactly where you need to start – by creating the space to think and lead.   

That means taking back control of your calendar. I recommend that my clients start by clearing the clutter, removing unnecessary meetings and creating at least 1 or 2 chunks of time each week which they dedicate to focusing on the big picture work of leadership.  

It means setting boundaries.  

It means saying NO to the busy work so you can focus on the work that matters.  

But first… 

Do you actually know what work matters most to you, your team and the organisation?   

If you want your talents and capabilities to be recognised, it’s important you’re prioritising based on what matters most to your boss (and their boss!)  Too often I see women lost in the weeds of the day to day and not focused on the work that is in alignment with the organisations goals, and then wonder why they are being overlooked for promotion or interesting projects.  

Recognition will come from DOING LESS, creating space to think, and focusing your efforts on what matters most to the organisation and doing work that supports the business goals.   

And finally – we cant overlook the importance of making time and space prioritise you.   

Being happy, healthy and well rested is a prerequisite for great leadership. It supports productivity, is the foundation of creativity and is essential to enable you to show up as the best version of you!  

Taking time out for you is not a luxury – it’s a necessity. As is getting enough sleep, making sure you move your body, and doing what you need to do to quieten your mind and nurture your spirit.  

So, let me ask you…. 

Do you really want to stay stuck in the day-to-day busyness, working really hard – but not getting the recognition you deserve?  

Or is it time to break free of this pattern and finally step up to the next level of leadership, impact and recognition – not by doing more but by doing less?   

 

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Join “Leading Ladies” – a private FREE Facebook group of over 1600 other mid-career professional women to inspire and support
Join the newsletter list for weekly tips and strategies showing you how to ignite your career, lead your way and accelerate your success. 
Watch The Next Level Training to breakthrough to the next level of leadership, impact and recognition.  
Get my best tips on working smarter not harder 
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The Farm Girl Who Cares

The farm girl who cares

I’m a leadership coach for mid-career women who want to step up to the next level of leadership … without burning out or selling out. I’ve spent my career in the corporate space working with incredible people across the country.  

 However, my first ‘job’ was not even remotely corporate. It was helping Mum and Dad out in the paddocks mustering stock or in the sheep yards drafting sheep. Yes, my work wardrobe of grossly unflattering hospital and retail uniforms or corporate suit and heels was a far cry from gumboots!  

 My first pay check didn’t come from working in McDonald’s or the local café, but rather from selling my pet lambs and calves at market, that I’d hand feed each day before and after school. 

 I’m a farm girl, born and bred.  

 People are sometimes surprised when I share that I grew up on a sheep and cattle farm. I’m not exactly sure why. I know there are a lot of misconceptions about what farm life actually is. There are those romanticised depictions of rural serenity, a slow pace, an Old MacDonald-esque life that’s all about animals and hard work. 

 Of course, these aren’t inaccurate, but in reality, farming is all about people. Farming is teamwork, everyone pitches in when there’s a job to be done and farming communities are well known for their sense of … well, community.  

 My career off the farm actually started out in the health sector as an Occupational Therapist – firstly in the UK and then back in Melbourne.  

 Next came working for 2 INCREDIBLE young women in a fast-growing, award-winning service-based business – where my role was to negotiate win, win solutions to support injured workers return to work.  

 From here I moved to the corporate world in the space of health and safety, traveling to big cities and smaller towns across Australia to work with leaders and their teams.  

 I’ve written about my path to leadership coaching here, but when I reflect on my career, theoretically leagues away from the ‘industry’ of farming, at the core of my work is people, specifically a deep care for their wellbeing within the context of meeting their potential.  

 Every role, from that of graduate OT through to leader in the aforementioned ugly hospital culottes to the suit and heels, has, to put it mildly, involved creating the environment for humans to flourish.  

 My work today continues to encompass this.  

 Having experienced the polar opposite of flourishing, aka burnout, my work is now centred around women avoiding the pitfalls that come with being a high achiever without a roadmap to a successful, fulfilling and rewarding career.   

 I help women achieve their goals and aspirations in a way that doesn’t involve them working harder. On the whole, the women I meet are already working ridiculously hard with phenomenal work ethics.  I show them how they can have a much bigger impact at the leadership table by actually “Doing” less. 

 And I’m passionate about supporting women to “Lead Their Way.”  This means digging deep on their values, their aspirations, the way they see themselves and aligning their professional life to this, and not the other way around. It’s also about finding a leadership style that works for them – rather than trying to fit into an outdated or overly masculine style of leadership that is out of step with who they are at their core.  

 So, in a nutshell… my farming girl start in life has led me to the work I do today.  

 I help mid-career women to up level their career in a way that enables them to flourish, not just survive. If I’m the leadership coach/farm girl to help you get to where you want to be, please reach out. I’d love to work with you! 

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A Change of Perception

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that an incredibly accomplished woman may find herself held back… Held back from achieving her aspirations, from stepping into her leadership potential and from becoming even more accomplished.

Jane Benston

Click below to…

Join “Leading Ladies” – a private FREE Facebook group of over 1600 other mid-career professional women to inspire and support
Join the newsletter list for weekly tips and strategies showing you how to ignite your career, lead your way and accelerate your success. 
Watch The Next Level Training to breakthrough to the next level of leadership, impact and recognition.  
Get my best tips on working smarter not harder 
Read my latest blog post.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact my team.

Know you need to build better boundaries? Here’s how.

Know you need to build better boundaries? Here’s how.

[jc_buttons]

Time for a truth bomb: You won’t get what you want. You get what you tolerate. Harsh, I know, but it’s so true.  

 Standards that aren’t aligned to your expectations of how you should be treated are a surefire way to limit your leadership potential and leave you working far too hard and in a way that depletes and drains you.  

 It’s an easy fix, relatively speaking. It’s time to put up boundaries. Not wishy-washy, ‘here if you need’ tentative boundaries, but firm, don’t mess with me boundaries.  

I like to call them barbed wire boundaries!  

(There’s that farm girl coming out again!)  

 There’s a fundamental practice and perception shift when we move from an implementer role (the DOER) to one of leadership. We no longer have the dopamine hit from the to-do list and so we need to replace it with leadership practices that give that hit, but not in a way that holds us back and keeps us stuck in the busy. What better way to protect our greatest asset, our time, than by metaphorically encircling it with barbed wire? 

 Boundaries create structure and protect us from scope creep and overwhelm. They allow us to focus on what matters most, and in leadership it’s that deep focus time and space.  

 I have many strategies that bring to life my barbed wire boundaries concept to enable women to move into the visionary, change-making work that signifies their leadership. 

 Here are a few strategies for building and maintaining Barbed Wire Boundaries. 

 First up: my world famous (in my IGNITE circle anyway!) 90 minute white space strategy.  

 This is 2 x 90 minute blocks of time within a weekly schedule that are untouchable. These are for deep thinking and high level work. Nothing, nothing can encroach on this time. There is no excuse big enough to remove it from the schedule, pending fire, flood or locusts. (Or perhaps a specific urgent request from the CEO!) 

During these protected 90-minute periods of deep thinking time, it is a really good idea to have the phone on do not disturb because every notification ping equals a loss of focus. My clients have achieved some incredible work from my 90 minute white space strategy, including:  

  • Mapping out a team strategy day 
  • Overhauling a customer experience process that was actually causing a poor customer experience 
  • Completing their annual performance review – focusing in on how they would position themselves for a pay rise.  

 We teach people how to treat us and what we tolerate.  

 This can happen by default or accident, or we can mindfully and intentionally craft this. If we’re always available and ‘on’ then we’re always available. My 90 minute white space strategy only works when it’s untouchable. That means it’s not OK for people to waltz into your space to ask you about something during those 90 minutes.  

 Obviously, when you’ve been the go-to girl, there’s some bad habits to break. People will expect you to be accessible, but you know what? They’ll get over it. I asked some of my Ignite Ladies how they enforce barbed wire boundaries around their 90 minute white space blocks as well as their broader work.  

 This answer cracked me up:  

 ‘Noise cancelling headphones. Not those tiny little AirPods that are invisible until someone’s up close, but the big, over the ears, ‘back off’ ones.’ 

 Another likes to …  ‘Head to my local café.  I grab a coffee or two and immerse in thinking, planning and problem solving.’ 

 Beyond my white space strategy, boundaries are important across all facets of our leadership.  

 As we know, there’s no ‘I’ in team, so stop putting your hand up to people’s requests for help.  

 One of my clients has a strategy where she’s asked her team to present issues in a way that’s not simply hand balling them to her to fix. Instead, when sharing an issue, it’s in the structure of 1 problem/issue, 2-3 solutions and 1 recommendation. Boom! 

 When it’s time off, it’s time off.  

 I encourage women to take time away from work, and this means really stepping away. The phone must be off, emails unchecked. On this – I’ve had clients take the step of removing their email from their phone, initially as an attempt to have a holiday, and then leave emails permanently off as a strategy to protect their boundaries. I like it!  

 Another woman who had previously been known as the go-to girl … for just about everything from creating beautiful Powerpoint slides, solving pesky tech issues to facilitating the most difficult, high level global consultation processes, made it clear that she was 100% UNAVAILABLE when she took an entire month off at Christmas.  Issues came up but she didn’t rush in to fix them.  The team handled it all and nothing broke in her absence.  

 If you do need to be contacted, communicate your preference as to how! If you hate after hours phone calls and would prefer an email, communicate that clearly with your team. More importantly, don’t answer the phone! Your email signature is also a good place to set boundaries. I’ve seen signatures with messages that detail clearly when people can expect a response, beautifully setting expectations and role modelling barbed wire boundaries.  

 How are your boundaries?  

 Are they flimsy and susceptible to falling over? Or are they impenetrable, protecting your time, headspace and your wellbeing? If you’d like some help with creating barbed wire boundaries, please reach out. 

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Side view.Young businesswoman dressed in light pink shirt sitting at wooden table and using laptop while talking on cellphone.Girl uses digital gadget. On table cup of coffee. Online shopping,working.

A Change of Perception

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that an incredibly accomplished woman may find herself held back… Held back from achieving her aspirations, from stepping into her leadership potential and from becoming even more accomplished.

Jane Benston

Click below to…

Join “Leading Ladies” – a private FREE Facebook group of over 1600 other mid-career professional women to inspire and support
Join the newsletter list for weekly tips and strategies showing you how to ignite your career, lead your way and accelerate your success. 
Watch The Next Level Training to breakthrough to the next level of leadership, impact and recognition.  
Get my best tips on working smarter not harder 
Read my latest blog post.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact my team.

The danger of the shoulder tap

The danger of the shoulder tap

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From the time we enter the workforce, we’re programmed to believe that being headhunted is a good thing. We work hard for our talent to be recognised by the powers that be, in the hope that they simply can’t help but throw opportunities our way!  

 The problem with this is it’s a really passive way to build a career.  

Waiting to be tapped on the shoulder can work well in your earlier years.  It certainly did for me.  For about 15 years I worked in a large corporate business where I found an abundance of opportunities.   

 Or should I say the opportunities found me.   

 Every couple of years there would be a major business restructure, landing me in a new role, a new department or a completely different part of the business.  I didn’t need to look too far for the next promotion or challenge to come knocking on my door.   

 All I needed was to put myself in the right place to be seen and wait to be tapped on the shoulder.  And just like a cat with 9 lives – when the dust settled, I always found myself in a better position than before.   

 I’ve spoken to many women who tell me that their career has been one of default rather than design – with new opportunities being offered to them even when they aren’t really looking.  

 But something seems to happen in mid-career.  The opportunities tend to dry up and many good women are left feeling overlooked and thinking they are on the fast track to… well… nowhere, really.   

 They are still doing really great work – but they have fallen into the trap of believing that working hard and striving for excellence is enough to take them to the next level of leadership.  But it’s not.  At this level of leadership, doing great work is expected.  It’s a given.    

 What it takes to be seen as the obvious candidate for your dream executive role is not your hard work… but rather your leadership!  

 Being helpful, useful and reliable was what got you into your current role – but being valuable will get you to the next.   

 So, if that’s what you want, it might be time to get out of the passenger seat (or even the boot) and back into the driver’s seat of your career.  You need to be in control, managing your reputation, building strategic relationships and positioning yourself for what you want.  

 Leaving your career at the mercy of people noticing you is hugely problematic.  In the words of Alice in Wonderland, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” 

 There are THREE major problems I see when women set their career on autopilot. 

  1. Reliance on others

 Leaving your career progression in the hands of others is fraught with danger.  No one should care more about your career than you.   

 I have seen far too many smart women who are waiting for the shoulder tap, being overlooked.  They have allowed other people to make decisions and value judgements about their capacities that are based on generalisations or inaccuracies.  

 No-one in my Leading Ladies group is surprised when someone discloses they’ve been overlooked for their dream role because ‘someone’ decided they wouldn’t be interested because of their family status or because they are already super busy or because they never shared their aspirations for a more senior role.  Ugh. 

2. Opportunity blindness  

 Waiting for or relying on the shoulder tap can make women blind to opportunities. They’re simply not in the habit of actively seeking them out. When you know what it is that you want, you’ll start seeing opportunities all around you.  But it starts with getting really clear on what you want and taking action steps towards that goal.  

 Without this, you can be put up for roles that you’re highly suited to, well within your capabilities, but is there room for growth? Is it a role you’re actually attracted to?   

  3.  Land in the wrong place

 Across the corporate world, people are identified as ‘high potential’ talent and offered space in leadership programs without being asked if they actually want to lead other humans, or offered roles that they can do but aren’t exactly passionate about.   

 If you’ve found yourself down a career path that doesn’t fill you with excitement – then perhaps it’s because it’s not actually aligned to your greatest strengths and your deeper vision values.  You may have moved into the role to fill a need the business had rather than stepping into a role that was a great fit for who you are and what you truly want to be doing.  

 Of course, being tapped on the shoulder feels amazing and is a valid career growth strategy.  

 It means you have people ready to open doors for you and advocate for you to executives you may not have access to in the same timeframe or with the same level of ease. But it’s important to notice when it’s your only strategy. Waiting to be tapped on the shoulder takes you out of the driving seat of your own career.  

 It’s a much more beneficial and rewarding process to decide what you want and go after it! 

 Don’t wait to be tapped on the shoulder my work with mid-career women is all about making informed choices. I help women achieve success as defined by them, on their terms, without burning out or selling their souls. Shall we chat about how I could help you design your career? Let’s do it! 

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Side view.Young businesswoman dressed in light pink shirt sitting at wooden table and using laptop while talking on cellphone.Girl uses digital gadget. On table cup of coffee. Online shopping,working.

A Change of Perception

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that an incredibly accomplished woman may find herself held back… Held back from achieving her aspirations, from stepping into her leadership potential and from becoming even more accomplished.

Jane Benston

Click below to…

Join “Leading Ladies” – a private FREE Facebook group of over 1600 other mid-career professional women to inspire and support
Join the newsletter list for weekly tips and strategies showing you how to ignite your career, lead your way and accelerate your success. 
Watch The Next Level Training to breakthrough to the next level of leadership, impact and recognition.  
Get my best tips on working smarter not harder 
Read my latest blog post.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact my team.

From doing it all … to not!

From doing it all … to not!

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When you cast your mind back to when you first stepped into a leadership role, it’s possible you remember the feelings of excitement and pride, mixed with fear and trepidation.   

What’s required to excel as an effective team member is different to what’s required of us as a leader.  It involves a massive behavioural shift which, according to the tenets of Emotional Intelligence, also requires a corresponding shift in self-perception and identity.  

So much of what we ‘do’ is tied up in how we see ourselves.   

Making the shift to seeing ourselves as a valuable leader can sometimes be difficult for women who’ve held the busy label for many years. However, in leadership, and in life in general, busy is the highway to burnout. No thanks!   

The shift in activity that comes with a leadership role, from doing to leading, can feel seismic, especially for those women who have made a career out of being known as the woman who gets things done. This reminds me of that infuriating quote/meme:  

‘If you want something done, ask a busy woman.’  

It’s such a patronising, manipulative ethos designed to simultaneously stroke a woman’s ego and leave her in the lurch of taking on the heavy lifting. At the risk of repeating myself, no thanks times infinity!  

While it’s not necessarily easy for a woman to step away from doing it all, it’s not impossible.  

In fact, it’s one of the most remarked upon outcomes of my work with mid-career women. Once they stop doing the busy, out of leadership scope work, women have the space and the capacity to tackle – and embrace – their leadership role of thinking, driving, leading and (depending on their leadership style) serving aspects. They can be visionary and strategic. They can guide rather than do.  

By definition, leadership is about thinking. The traits of good leadership are almost all conceptual rather than activity based. It’s analysis, facilitative thinking, enabling, communicating and decision making, generating and bringing to life opportunities. Deep, strategic, critical thinking, not (necessarily) the execution or the doing. A big picture perspective becomes essential to this process.  

In ‘busy’ doing work we can’t see the big picture. We’re stuck in getting sh*t done mode, ticking through the list. The result is a disproportionate workload that makes us feel like rubbish. It also leads to disengagement, stress and potentially even burnout.  

Getting caught up in the busy work often means we’re doing work that’s not taking advantage of our capabilities nor our potential. It’s often soul destroying and erodes self confidence.  

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should!  

When we spend time after hours and on weekends doing the ‘stuff’ that didn’t get completed in business hours we erode our boundaries which are designed to protect us.  

A side note: so many times I see ‘taking one for the team’ accompanying this ‘doing’ mode of operandi. This does us no favours and is a massive breach of our boundaries.  

Want an example?  

Picture a meeting room, and someone says ‘who wants to take the minutes?’ Of course, no-one wants to take the minutes. Who would? There’s a few moments of uncomfortable silence and then a woman raises her hand. So instead of contributing her expertise, experience and smarts to the discussion as a leader, she’s recording it.  

I think it’s important to note that this type of behaviour, ie not having allocated roles for meetings ahead of time, is really symptomatic of a poor organisational culture, but it doesn’t change the fact that rather than step into her leadership, a woman has relegated herself down the ladder. Sadly, this isn’t an isolated incident across the many, many women I’ve worked with.  

On this – as a leader you have an obligation to be a good role model. We all know that there’s gender inequality in the workplace. Statistically, women are more likely to put their hand up to volunteer for work that won’t progress their career.  What message are you sending the young women sitting around the table?  

When you don’t automatically volunteer to take on the “housekeeping” jobs you are role modeling for the young women at the table that they don’t always have to either.  And you never know…  you may just allow space for a bloke to put his hand up. 

So, how to make this transition from doing it all to not? 

We could ask the workplace to step up – ha!   

Change is always more embedded with long term stickiness when it’s self-directed.  

I’m a big proponent of what gets measured gets managed. Have you ever tried time tracking? It’s illuminating. You can’t argue with data that tells you exactly how much of your working day is spent involved in tasks that have no bearing on your leadership.  

Start with building better boundaries  

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. These are not flippy floppy boundaries – but boundaries protected with barbed wire!  Without barbed wire boundaries, there’s simply no time or space to effectively lead. Enough said.  

Boundaries in place? Great! Now we enforce them.  

Don’t be the first to ‘just get on with it’ or volunteer to do something just because nobody else is stepping up. Either delegate if that’s within your remit or politely decline.  

This applies to your personal life too. I was recently chatting to someone who was having a mini-grumble about a friend cancelling a lunch because they had to dole out basketball uniforms for their local community club. Here’s the kicker – the uniform coordinator’s kids had long stopped playing yet she was still stuck in that role! 

And now for a word on delegation.  

It’s an art and a science in itself, or it could be. Allocate the task, check understanding and then let people do their jobs! Clear communication of your expectations is key. Clarity will get the best and the most out of your team and will help them stay on track and focused on delivering your strategy or vision. 

This brings me to the concept of trust.  

Trust your team, allow people to get on with it, scaffolded by your clearly communicated expectations.  

Being helpful, useful and reliable – focused on doing the do may have supported your career progression up to this point.  But sadly, from this point forward it’s going to hold you back.   

As a leader you need to move from the role of do-er/implementer and shift your focus to be one of leading others to do that execution.  

Leadership is about enabling, and at the core? It’s a conscious decision on how you want to show up as a leader. This is not something you need to explore alone – let’s have a conversation about how I can be of support as you transition from a reliable doer to an exceptional leader.  

 

 

 

 

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Side view.Young businesswoman dressed in light pink shirt sitting at wooden table and using laptop while talking on cellphone.Girl uses digital gadget. On table cup of coffee. Online shopping,working.

A Change of Perception

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that an incredibly accomplished woman may find herself held back… Held back from achieving her aspirations, from stepping into her leadership potential and from becoming even more accomplished.

Jane Benston

Click below to…

Join “Leading Ladies” – a private FREE Facebook group of over 1600 other mid-career professional women to inspire and support
Join the newsletter list for weekly tips and strategies showing you how to ignite your career, lead your way and accelerate your success. 
Watch The Next Level Training to breakthrough to the next level of leadership, impact and recognition.  
Get my best tips on working smarter not harder 
Read my latest blog post.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact my team.

My story, amplified

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My story, amplified

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Over a decade ago I launched my consultancy, Jane Benston, delivering leadership coaching to women in mid-career roles looking to step up the corporate ladder without burning out or selling their soul, two critical caveats to success in my world view! So, how did I come to be a women’s leadership coach?  

Like all good stories, the journey wasn’t all smooth sailing. I help women dig deep from a place not just of expertise but also from experience. I’ve felt that sense of career frustration and resentment. Let me tell you my story… 

My about page shares some of the not-so-pretty details about my own personal career journey and path to my role now as a leadership coach for women. I thought I’d share a bit more of the story of how a girl from a sheep and cattle farm in central Victoria came to be working with incredible women from across Australia achieving remarkable feats in their careers, and more importantly, loving their work.  

I’ve worked extensively as a womens leadership coach, corporate trainer and career strategist since starting my business in 2011. Prior to this, I had over 15 yearsexperience working in corporate leadership. I experienced first hand the impact of strong, female leadership both on the bottom line of a business as well as from a workplace culture perspective. Today, I absolutely love that I continue to play a part in nurturing female leadership.  

My career started as an Occupational Therapist before quickly transitioning to working for 2 incredibly talented strong women in a small but rapidly growing dynamic business, negotiating return to work solutions for injured workers.   

Next came my step into the corporate Health and Safety space.  

For the first fifteen years or so in the workforce I had regular promotions and new opportunities as I followed a path and climbed a somewhat predictable career ladder. I loved my work, I loved making a difference and I really, really loved how easily the pay rises and promotions came my way!  

I was proud of how my income was affording me a wonderful lifestyle – enjoying fabulous holidays and adventures overseas and independently purchasing my first home. My role also included a ton of interstate travel which, again, as a farm girl, never stopped being a ‘pinch me’ moment. My parents also took it as confirmation that their girl had made it! 

As my career progressed, my leadership skills and strong results were recognised more and more. I had incredible mentors and cheerleaders who were in my corner, supporting me, advocating for me and encouraging me.  

As a single woman without children, my work was incredibly important to me and was closely attached to my sense of self. I was fiercely independent, I wanted to make a real difference and I knew I had the skills and expertise to do that.  

Everything was going according to plan, my plan, until it wasn’t. 

Enter a corporate takeover which saw me working in a position and a role that just wasn’t me. It didn’t fit. I didn’t fit. I was that proverbial square peg in a round hole, or to use one of Dad’s favourite farming sayings, I was flogging a dead horse. I lost my mojo, my sense of direction and all belief in my skills. With that loss followed my sense of identity. The result?  My confidence was in tatters. 

Every time I walked through the office doors my heart would sink. It’s a feeling that’s difficult to describe, but one that’s familiar to anyone knowing intrinsically that they’re not where they should be. It was like walking around with a boulder in the pit of my stomach. Happy, fulfilled and engaged at work? I think not!   

Here’s the thing with psychological stress – very rarely does it restrict itself to a mindset issue.  

Hello burnout! 

My health fell apart.  My brain was foggy. My joints ached. My sleep was disturbed, I experienced unexplained dizziness. I’d cry for no good reason. I was EXHAUSTED. Put simply, I felt like crap. All the time.  

I made the difficult decision to put my health first and walk away from my corporate career, saying goodbye to a great salary and job security. With my confidence already shot, it was incredibly scary to make that move, but I knew I needed to make a change. I also knew I didn’t want to make that change alone.  

My first step was to find a coach to guide me through this huge transition. I didnt want to just survive, I wanted to thriveand I knew I was going to have to bare my soul, so the coach had to be someone that could give me a safe space. 

The coaching process led me to the world of self-development. I was fascinated by the amazing world of neuroscience, and I invested a ton into my own personal development. I buried myself in every book and course I could find, as well as throwing myself into learning about human behaviour and the importance of empowered feminine leadership.  

I learnt the secret code for controlling the inner critic and boosting confidence. I discovered simple language structures for becoming an influential communicator and recognising behaviours that get in the way of success. I applied everything I learnt to myself and in response? Everything changed. 

Investing in myself paid off, big time, across all measures 

I was happier, healthier and more fulfilled than I had been in years. I found more confidence, more clarity and more direction than ever before. I loved the person I was becoming and, for the first time ever, I believed with absolute certainty that I could achieve anything I wanted. 

Fast forward to todayand not only am I reaching all my goals, Im helping other women to do the same.  

My corporate experience is backed up with qualifications in behaviour profiling, executive coaching and neuroscience. My approach is fresh, warm and energetic, and I believe in making every coaching experience fun and transformational. Ive worked with some of the biggest names and brightest minds in Australian business, and helped hundreds of women to believe in themselves, to find their perfect next role and to lead in a way that’s congruent with who they are. 

I love helping driven women unlock their limitless potential both personally and professionally – and Ive dedicated my career to doing just that. I work with women to get the results they deserve. I’m rarely without fresh flowers on my desk, a candle nearby and a glass of bubbles on hand for when women bring their aspirations to life.  

To find out more about working with me, please reach out

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It’s a truth universally acknowledged that an incredibly accomplished woman may find herself held back… Held back from achieving her aspirations, from stepping into her leadership potential and from becoming even more accomplished.

Jane Benston

Click below to…

Join “Leading Ladies” – a private FREE Facebook group of over 1600 other mid-career professional women to inspire and support
Join the newsletter list for weekly tips and strategies showing you how to ignite your career, lead your way and accelerate your success. 
Watch The Next Level Training to breakthrough to the next level of leadership, impact and recognition.  
Get my best tips on working smarter not harder 
Read my latest blog post.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact my team.

What the Queen taught me about unconscious bias

What The Queen Taught Me About Unconscious Bias

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As I sat on the couch this week watching the Queens funeral, I was transfixed by the pomp and ceremony of it all.  There’s no doubt the Pom’s know how to create a sense of occasion.  

Here we were, witnessing history.   

This is going to be one of those moments we will talk about in years to come and ask, “where were you when you heard the Queen had died?”   

I will always remember the gorgeous Airbnb in Brunswick Heads in Northern NSW – because just like when the twin towers came down… I was on holidays. 

How about you?  Where were you when you learnt the Queen had died?  

I will also remember my surprise at the degree of sadness and loss I’ve felt. 

Not just for the 70 years of this amazing woman’s life of leadership and service – but also for the pure fact that here was a woman ahead of her time, excelling in her leadership role long before it was common for women to have a place at the leadership table.   

She came to leadership not by choice but through duty.  At just 21 she was thrust into a role so few of us would want, let alone excel in. Yes, she has made mistakes – but haven’t we all.   

What struck me most while I watched her funeral, was my disappointment as I realised we are unlikely to have another female monarch for at least the next 3 generations.  Our new King and the next 2 in line were all on display for us to see. All men. 

And here’s the lesson for me.   

My own unconscious bias… towards a preference for a Queen rather than a King as the head of the monarchy.   

We’ve got so accustomed to the style of leadership the Queen brought to the role. For 70 years we’ve seen no other leadership style.  We’re become comfortable and familiar with having a woman in the role.   

Is it possible the new King – a man – will do a great job too?   

Probably.  

However right now, I’m having a hard time seeing Charles as the head of the monarchy.  Not only because I don’t warm to him.  I don’t see him having the same caring touch, poise, grace or sparkle of the queen – all qualities I’ve come to expect from the Crown.   

But we are going to have to let go of what we’ve come to expect and allow him to Lead His Way.  His leadership style will be different.  He will bring not only his own strengths, passions and quirks – but also the male perspective.   

Just like any new leader – we need to give him a chance to find his way.   

Which brings me back to unconscious bias. 

As we strive to bring more women to the leadership table – we need to be aware of the unconscious bias that is undoubtedly playing out each and every day in workplaces across the globe.  Until recently, senior leadership roles were almost exclusively held by men.  We became comfortable and accustomed to the style of leadership they brought to the table – just like we became accustomed to the style of leadership Queen Elizabeth demonstrated over such a prolonged period.   

Today, as I’ve pondered the Queens final farewell as she was finally laid to rest, I’ve been shocked by my own unconscious bias, and it’s left me wondering about the degree of impact unconscious bias continues to have on hiring managers around the world.   

I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

 

 

Image source:Steve Parsons/Pool Photo via AP

 

 

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Side view.Young businesswoman dressed in light pink shirt sitting at wooden table and using laptop while talking on cellphone.Girl uses digital gadget. On table cup of coffee. Online shopping,working.

A Change of Perception

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that an incredibly accomplished woman may find herself held back… Held back from achieving her aspirations, from stepping into her leadership potential and from becoming even more accomplished.

Jane Benston

Click below to…

Join “Leading Ladies” – a private FREE Facebook group of over 1600 other mid-career professional women to inspire and support
Join the newsletter list for weekly tips and strategies showing you how to ignite your career, lead your way and accelerate your success. 
Watch The Next Level Training to breakthrough to the next level of leadership, impact and recognition.  
Get my best tips on working smarter not harder 
Read my latest blog post.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact my team.