It Is Time To Break The Rules

It Is Time To Break The Rules

Our world is made up of rules. They are there to provide us with order and certainty and they generally serve us very well. But I am here to tell you that it is time to break the rules. Well… maybe just a few.

Many of the rules we learned growing up and in school were not designed to develop courageous leadership. Many of us (me included) were taught to be good girls, to play nice and to work hard. These rules work well in the early years but, as we progress in our career and take on more of a leadership role, some of these rules will most certainly hold us back.

So, here are my top 5 rules to break this year.

1.  Saying yes all of the time. In the beginning of your career, success is about saying yes to pretty much everything. It is about getting involved, doing new things and finding where you fit best. But you can not continue to say yes… you will end up burnt out or in a job that you no longer love.

There comes a time when you must get clear on where you want your career to head and to focus on that.   It is about making a commitment to you and your priorities and consciously deciding which opportunities will support your direction and which will not.

Saying NO will create the space to say YES to the fabulous, juicy perfect opportunities that come your way. Remember, for every NO there will be a better YES right around the corner.

2.  Stop waiting for permission. You have been given the role… so now step out boldly, show initiative and take action. Sheryl Sandberg has said “It is hard to visualise someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do.”

For most of our lives, we have been taught to wait for permission before we do something. We are taught to follow instructions; stick to the plan we are given and to act like good girls.

This rule was definitely made to be broken. Make the decision today to stop waiting for an invitation to lead. Go out and be seen for the leader you truly are. Make decisions, take action and lead from the front.

3.  Needing the entire plan before you begin. Get over wanting all your ducks to line up before you take any action. Do not wait to go for your dream until your plan is perfect. Even if you did get it together, it is going to change the moment you step out there and take action.

Decide today what you want. Do not worry about the how for now. It is only once you take the first step that the plan will unfold before you. And the beautiful thing is, the richest opportunities are hidden within the unexpected twists and turns that come after we step out there.

4.  Not sharing what you think. Ladies, it is time to find your voice. Speak up and share your opinion and your ideas. Sitting silently through meetings will not serve you well. How can you be of influence or have an impact if you do not share your brilliance?

Stop being afraid that not everyone will like what you say. Some people will disagree with you. That is only natural. You are not a leader if you not sharing your thoughts and saying what you think.

5.  Ignoring your natural talents. We all come into this world with an array of unique and precious gifts. We shine most brightly when we get to play in the space of our gifts each day. We do our best work, we have the most fun and we feel the most fulfilled when we get to fully embrace our natural talents.

Too often we find ourselves in a place where we become a square peg in a round hold and our natural talents are left ignored. 

Sometimes it is in response to following the money or the lure of a great title or perhaps you have left your career up to chance until one day you wake up and think “how did I end up here?”

Imagine the joy that will come when you decide to consciously create the direction of your career, tapping into all of your beautiful, powerful unique and wonderful gifts.

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5 Critical Characteristics of High Achievers

5 Critical Characteristics of High Achievers

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to have the gift of turning everything they touch into gold? They lead the best teams, they achieve exceptional results and get noticed and promoted more often. And just to rub salt into the wound … they seem have everything sorted in their life outside of work too.

Meanwhile you struggle along, getting frustrated by the things you have tried and fail. Perhaps you get things started but you fail to get traction or real momentum, leaving you wondering what is it that you need to do differently.

It turns out that high performers think and operate differently. And the good news is that by adopting some of the key characteristics of those high achieving superstars we can more consistently achieve more of what we want from life and from our work.

5 Critical Characteristics of high achievers

1.  They believe it is possible. There is a correlation between what we believe is possible and what our results are. If we think we cant, we wont. If we think we can then there is a fare chance we will. It is like our belief becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

Possibility thinking gives us the physical and mental energy that drives creativity, inspires action and defeats self doubt. We notice the opportunities that arise and we are more likely to go after them with a sense of confidence and self worth.

2.  They resist the fear of failure. High achievers know that they are likely to encounter failures along the way. Both Oprah and Arianna Huffington have spoken about their failures as being learning lessons on their way to success. They do not fear failure or internalize it; they don’t identify with it or say, “I am a failure.” Instead they study it, analyse it and take what they can to learn from it.

They also don’t let the fear of failure hold them back from taking action. Just like the rest of us they experience fear, the difference is that they take action in spite of it.

3.  They consciously create their future. They don’t leave their life, their career, their future success and happiness up to chance.

Is your career and life by design or default?

High achievers feel empowered to create and shape their outcomes. They regularly carve out time in their year to get specific about what they want, and then to go about achieve those things.

The more specific you become in what you want from your career and your life, the more chance you have of achieving it.

4.  They tap into their motivation. Unless you know why your want something and feel connected to what is most important to you then it is all too easy to be thrown off course. There is going to come a point in the pursuit of any big goal when you are going to want to quit and walk away.

We have all done it. We set out to get fit, go after a new work goal, achieve a financial target and we start with a flurry of optimism and hope only to find that after a few weeks or months that it all gets a bit hard and the pull of our old comfortable ways stop us in our tracks.

The key to success is consistency and persistence and tapping into your inner motivation. We must remain connected to why this endeavour is important and what is at stake. This will give you the push you need to keep going when things get tough.

5.  They reject the urge to procrastinate. The biggest hurdle of achievement is procrastination. It is easy to put things off. It is too easy to push the pause button and not start. But starting is the key.

You will never achieve anything of significance if you succumb to the urge to stay safe and to wait until you have rock solid certainty or for courage to show up.  And don’t worry about  knowing every step towards your magnificent outcome before you get started.

High achievers know the secrete to success is to start.

Chunk the big idea down into small bit size pieces and start with small easy steps to gain momentum. But the most important step is to start.

So as we race towards the end of the year, think about whether your work and life is as you want it to be…. Or not.

Carve out some time to reflect on which of these characteristics will make the biggest impact if you were to take them on as your own.   Create some specific goals and take the first action to get traction and momentum towards some new outcomes.

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Are You Waiting For An Invitation To Lead?

Are You Waiting For An Invitation To Lead?

If you are a leader… you are expected to lead. It is as simple as that. So why is it that so many leaders tell me that they are waiting to be told what to do, what is expected of them, what their job role is, and how they fit into the corporate structure.

I was speaking with a senior leader last week. She had been in her role for more than 4 years and was frustrated (almost to the point of anger) that the CEO was not giving her guidance on how he saw the next evolution of her role.

Meanwhile the CEO was sharing with me his frustration that the senior leader was lacking initiative, was not demonstrating strategic thinking and was failing to contribute in a meaningful way to the leadership team.

It turns out that the leader had been waiting to be invited to the party… not recognising that the invitation had been given years earlier when she was given the leadership position. Just like a timid child in the school yard, she was hovering around the outer fringes of the group, desperately wanting to join in but waiting for permission and direction, which of course never came.

If you have been entrusted with a leadership position, assume you have permission to use it. Yes, it is always easier when we are given direction, provided with a clear strategy to follow and a road map for what is expected, but if it is not forth coming, see that as a stamp of approval to create your own direction.

Being in a leadership role means showing initiative. It’s about taking risks and being ok that sometimes you will get it wrong and that’s ok. It is better than waiting in the shadows and doing nothing. You will never be seen a true leader while you do this.

You have worked hard to get to this point in your career; don’t blow it now!

Purely waiting, marking time, hoping to get some clarity, will not get you seen as a leader with impact and influence. You will not only be letting yourself down, you will also be letting your team down and failing to contribute to your organisation in the way you know you are truly capable of.

So what do you need to do?

  1. Recognise your position. The permission to lead has already been given so go out and lead. Take on the identity of a leader and step fully into your role. Show initiative, think strategically and take action. Manage up rather than waiting for your manager to manage you. Seek feedback on ideas and performance rather than always asking for direction.
  1. Craft your own path. If it is not clear what the job role is, take this as permission to craft your own path, drawing on your unique skills, passions and abilities. Relish the freedom and free reign and enjoy the fact that your role is up to you to create as you want. Start with what you do really well and allow your best attributes to shine.
  1. Recognise your value. You have been appointed into this role because you are seen to be an exceptional leader. Recognise and believe in your value. An exercise I give most of the leaders I work with is to create a list of all the ways they add value and why they are worthy for the role they are in. It is only once we believe in our value that others will believe in us too

So, if you have been entrusted with a leadership position, assume you have the permission to use it. Step into the role fully with courage and confidence. No more waiting for an invitation to play. Just go out, join in and have fun.

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Women Lead Differently … And That Is A Good Thing

Women Lead Differently … And That Is A Good Thing

If we are to achieve an increasing number of women in leadership positions, we need to acknowledge that men and women lead differently,  and that it is a good thing. 

The leadership style of women is collaborative, inclusive, and consultative.  They focus on nurturing a strong team environment where ethical behaviour, quality and concern for each other is important.  They use their gift of language to solicit commitment to achieving the common goals and value the results that come from a highly engaged team.

Men in a leadership role are more competitive and are focused on achievement of power and success through demonstration of results.

Over recent years, advancements in neuroscience has produced increasing evidence that men and women are, on average, innately different, leading to different natural characteristics, tendencies and talents.

In a nutshell… we think, act and lead differently. 

And these differences appear to stem from our primitive beginnings.  As early cave men and women, we had different jobs and tasks that required different skills.  With centuries of natural selection, we have ended up with differences in our hormones and the architecture of our brains.

So let’s take a look the natural leadership skills common to women. 

1.  Web-like Thinking:

Research has shown that women tend to integrate vast amounts of data faster, consider more options and see more possible solutions to a problem.  We tend to think in “webs” of information rather take a straight line or linear approach to thinking.  This is likely to be related to the fact that the female brain has more connections between the left and right hemispheres.

Men, on the other hand, are more likely to focus their attention on one thing at a time. The higher levels of testosterone drive them to focus on one specific outcome … clearly developed back in the day when they were hunting the wilder beast for dinner.

2.  Mental Flexibility

With our brain wired for “web-like thinking”, we are naturally gifted with mental flexibility … an essential ingredient needed in the dynamic, ever-shifting, fast paced modern business environment.  Women have developed a gift for generating new ideas, creativity, ingenuity and imagination.

3.  Gifted with the power of language

Women are born to talk and have developed the skill over many lifetimes to use the power of language.  We use it to influence and persuade action, comfort those in need, educate and inform, bring people together to collaborate and sway minds and hearts.

This power over language emerges early in childhood with girls learning to speak sooner than boys. Research has also shown that our aptitude with language is linked to our higher levels of oestrogen.

4.  General Social Skills

It may seem at times that women have an uncanny ability to read minds!  It is because, to some degree, they do.  Throughout the history of civilisation, the general role of women has been to create and nurture the extended family unit.  The gift of this role is a highly developed innate ability to pick up and interpret the minute social and emotional cues that we give off.

5.  Networking and Collaboration

You only need to attend a women’s networking event to see the power of women coming together to network and collaborate.  Women enjoy working together for the greater good and see the power and the results that come from working cohesively together through a network of supportive connections.

Men, on the other hand, tend to focus on achieving power through rising to the top and value their rank and status.  Men tend to be more competitive and focus on “winning”, while women tend to be more inclusive and supportive.

These traits have again been linked to hormones but also hark back to our history of different roles within our family unit.

So what is the impact of all this?    

It is clear that men and women on average have different innate leadership styles.  This is not to say that one is better than the other or that men don’t display a lot of the characteristics and talents that have been discussed, because they do.

This is more to look at and to celebrate the differences.  It has been said that men and women are like two feet… they need each other to get ahead.  Imagine if more women were to have a greater impact at the decision making table.

Imagine how the work environment – and the world for that matter – would be if women with their natural talents for web-like thinking, their ability to generate fresh ideas, their powerful language and their preference for achieving results through collaboration, were more prominent and represented more equally.  

Many work environments continue to operate under a masculine paradigm, top heavy with men in positions of power.  I believe it is time to embrace that men and women lead differently and to allow women to be true to their own skills and aptitudes.

While we continue to measure leadership success from a masculine point of view, we will miss out on the gifts, talents and the results that can be gained from embracing a well-rounded leadership team.

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Is Focusing On Your “Areas Of Improvement”

Is Focusing On Your “Areas Of Improvement”

When you think back to your last performance appraisal, did you spend more time speaking about strengths and achievements or did you and your manager focus on your weaknesses and your areas of improvement?

For most of us … our focus has been on our “areas of improvement.”

This focus starts early in life with the review of the end of term school report card.  I seem to remember my parents glossing over the A’s & B’s and a zeroing in on that ever present area of weakness… which for me… was English, and my inability to spell.

So for years my daily routine when I arrived home from school was to suffer through an afternoon of spelling practice.  I hated it and it never seemed to get any easier.  And clearly it didn’t do me any good.  To this day, I still struggle to spell!

We are all pre-programed with tasks and activities that we are great at and which are our strength and others, which take more of our energy and that, will never be something which we excel at.

Imagine what we could achieve if we were to focus our time, energy and efforts on improving and strengthening those areas that we are innately talented in?  Instead our strengths often lie dormant or neglected while we attempt to repair our flaws.

Why is it that we focus on “fixing” our weaknesses?

Yes it is important to acknowledge and strengthen those areas of our work that are holding us back.  As a leader your success is reliant on you being a great leader and manager of people, able to develop and implement a successful strategy and to be highly skilled in your area of expertise. 

Ignoring your development in any one of these areas will have you falling short as a leader.  But focusing solely on your weaknesses will hold you back!

So how do we identify our strengths? 

There are many tools and assessments that can help with this.  The one that I use and love is the Extended Disc Behavioural Profiling tool.  This simple tool provides an easy to understand guideline on behaviours and activities that come easily to you and those that take more energy to master.

Knowing and understanding your strengths is an important step in your leadership development.  By far the simplest method for understanding your strengths is understanding YOU.  You are your best judge of your own strengths.

How do we define our strengths?

Strengths can be summed up as those activities that makes you feel strong.  If we pay attention to how a task or activity makes us feel; before, during and after the event, our emotions will give us all the information we need.  Some activities we actively look forward to.  While we are doing it we get into the “zone” and time speeds and afterwards we feel invigorated and energised.

Defining our weaknesses.

A weakness on the other hand is any activity that leaves us feeling weaker.  They are activities and tasks that we tend to avoid and get no joy from.  After we complete the task we feel depleted and drained of energy.

Generally we will enjoy being engaged in those tasks that call on our strengths and enjoy less, tasks that require us to venture into areas of our weakness.

But do not be fooled.  It is possible to be highly skilled and capable in tasks that we have no apatite for.  Just because we are good at something does not automatically mean that we will love it.  And the danger here is that you will be funneled into a role that has more and more of these tasks just because you are good them.  And before you know it you will find yourself in a job that brings you no joy.

What next?

1. Identify your strengths. Notice what activities leave you energised and do what you can to build more of these into your day to day and your career.  If you are not sure, then Extended Disc Behavioural Profile will definitely be helpful for you.  

2. Clarify your weaknesses. Notice what activities drag you down and leave you feeling uninspired and bored.  Delegate as many of these as possible.  There must be others in your team who are better at these tasks than you!

3. Look for opportunities to capitalise on your strengths.  Leverage your strengths and build your skills even more in this area.  The pay off of doing this will be more job satisfaction and better results for you and your team.

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Ladies … It Is Time To Lead Like A Woman

Ladies … It Is Time To Lead Like A Woman

Women continue to struggle to make their mark on the corporate landscape with the number of women securing leadership roles sadly lagging behind their male counterparts.

It saddens me to walk into leadership meetings to find the disproportionate representation of men and women on the team. 

A recent Ernst & Young women in leadership report concluded that “leadership groups make smarter, more informed decisions; customers are better understood; employees are less cynical and more engaged; and organisations gain competitive advantage” when there are large numbers of senior women within the organisation.

With only 16% to 20% of leadership positions occupied by women, clearly something needs to change. 

It is wonderful to see the conversation around how to support and promote women in leadership roles gaining momentum.  It is clear there is no one simple answer to this challenge.  There is robust debate about whether we should have quotas, the need for more ideal female role models, the impact senior men can have on encouraging more women and training to help women get the competitive edge. The answer will undoubtedly take a combination of all of these.   

But I believe it is also time for women to stop competing with men and start embracing their unique, brilliant feminine skills and capabilities to add to the corporate equation.  It is time we started to lead like women!

Mid last century women, in large numbers, discovered they liked working, earning money and gaining recognition for their talents.  They demanded to be treated equally to men and, in order to succeed in business, they believed they had to become like men and compete with them for the prized senior roles. 

Unfortunately, this means leaving much of our innate femininity behind.  On a primal level men and women are essentially wired differently.   

Women are hardwired to desire cooperation, collaboration and operate from a place of compassion, empathy and intuition.  While men – generally speaking – are driven to bring home a good income for their family, achieve status and recognition and are firmly focused on achieving targets and goals.

Given that historically most workplaces have been male dominated for a very long time, they essentially operate from a masculine paradigm where the focus is on winning, power and the bottom line. 

When we let go of our natural, innate strengths and reject our feminine energy, we don’t feel right…  but often we don’t know why.  

Women tell me they feel disconnected, constantly tired and struggle between making decisions from a compassionate, intuitive place verses from a logical numbers, driven perspective.

It is important to recognise that both men and women develop strong leadership skills when they tap into both their masculine and feminine energy.  It is not an either or but a combination that makes the most powerful leaders.

So ladies … it time to be bold and lead like a woman!  You will feel better, see better results from your team and create a more engaged, happier workplace. 

Here are some tips to bring your strong feminine energy to work.

1.  Recognise your strengths.  Start by recognising and acknowledging your unique strengths.   Are you bringing all of who you are and what you are capable of to your role?   

2.  Connect even more.  We love to connect and we are good at it.  So do more of it!  But lets also be a little strategic about it.  Who can you connect, network and build a relationship with, who might be able to support you and help you tap into new leadership opportunities. 

3.  Collaborate for powerful outcomes.  Collaboration is a key strength of many women.  It is time to break down the barriers and competitive nature of many workplaces and start working more effectively together to reach a common goal.  

Get your team on board.  We all bring so much more to our work if we feel involved and included.  An engaged team will bring you results that will get you noticed!

4.  Dress like a woman.  Stop blending in and looking like one of the men at work.  Identify your style, dress for success and bring a touch of femininity to your outfit.  However, keep it professional.  There is no place for your “girls” being out on show in the office. 

5.  Manage your energy.  Work life balance is a myth with many women holding down busy paid employment and then heading home to step into their second full time role as mother, wife and social organiser. 

To avoid burn out, one solution is to understand what activities give you energy and build more of these into your day.  Discover what tasks deplete you and delegate as many of these as you can.  If most of your work is made up of energy sappers … it is time to ask yourself whether you are in the right role.

Women bring unique and important attributes to leadership such as building relationships, collaboration and partnerships – all of which trump traditional power and competition of the masculine workplace.

Workplaces everywhere are crying out for a change in the way we do things and I believe, in many instances, the increased participation of women in leadership positions, leading as women from their feminine power, is the answer.

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