How Inspirational Leadership Improves Your Bottom Line

I recently came across “Inspirational Leadership” as a core leadership competency on the Government of Canada’s website. Although it’s written for public servants, one part of the definition caught my eye: to provide motivational support employees need to grow and the empowerment and accountability to take responsibility for their own success. 

Imagine having managers in your company who make it their responsibility to do exactly this with their direct reports? How might this kind of inspiration affect your company’s bottom line? 

Inspiration’s a key motivator for employees.  A good manager inspires their employees and teams a number of ways. They listen, ask questions and make it a priority to help others make the connection between the organization’s vision and goals with that employee’s or team’s specific accountabilities.

Great managers create a culture of curiosity and creativity.  They know the strengths of their employees and make way for them to express their talents. 

The result is employees who feel heard, valued and and connected to the bigger picture. This translates to being engaged and motivated.

According to Gallup, highly engaged business units realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism, 24% lower turnover and a 17% increase in productivity. Those are pretty substantial statistics. 

Unfortunately many of us have experienced low motivation and inspiration in our work. 

According to O.C. Tanner, an employee recognition and reward solutions company, more than 1 in 4 employees don’t trust their direct manager. It’s no surprise then that only half say their manager motivates them to do their best work. 

If we don’t trust our manager, it’s highly unlikely they will inspire us. This can result in lessened enthusiasm for doing one’s best or a growing culture of negative behaviors by team members. Whatever the outcome, lack of inspiration can spread throughout the organization like wildfire.

What does inspiration really look like? How does a great manager inspire?

Inspiration begins with the manager who makes it their purpose to hold others up rather than hold him or herself up.  They recognize great work in others and use feedback as a respectful tool for learning.  Abundance is the perspective of a great senior leader; they’re willing to share what they know and get out of the way when they should.

The problem in many organizations is that senior leaders assume when they promote or hire a new manager that they’ll come with all the skills and traits necessary to be an effective manager.  And that’s a mistake because there are very few “naturally great” managers.

So what’s the solution? Support and development. 

Managers, especially new ones, need an array of tools and experiences that expose them to new perspectives and the soft people skills.  And they need this before they develop habits that won’t serve them or their teams well. 

From an ROI perspective, investing in managers early in their career can result in huge savings later on: the loss of productivity and revenue plus the cost of high turnover will be far greater than money spent at the beginning of a manager’s career.

If we want motivated employees, we need to develop managers who inspire. This means investing in managers to develop strong skills for leading people effectively – early in their career.

Will They Stay or Will They Go? – How Managers are Key to Retention

With low unemployment rates in most places, retaining top talent is a hot issue on almost every manager or business owner’s mind.  The reasons are many but it’s not to be blamed solely on the Millenials and their desire to job hop. That’s why it’s critical companies focus on what really matters to their employees.  

My colleague, Janet Wright, and I recently delivered a workshop at a hospitality conference. This is an industry with turnover rates for food service professionals (17.6%) and hospitality professionals (17.0%) ranking second only to technology.

It’s no surprise the room was packed. We didn’t need to tell the audience that theirs is an industry of young and part-time employees. Or that traditionally in North America many hospitality roles are viewed as a “job” versus “career”.

We did need to help them understand that having strong leaders creates greater employee engagement. This results in greater staff retention.  And this is why Managers who are great leaders are the key to retaining employees.

We used the most recent data to prove our point.

Our quick quiz , based primarily on Gallup’s State of the World’s Workplace  and SHRM/Globoforce research, may surprise you.  For starters, companies with high employee engagement have less employee turnover than those with low employee engagement.

What’s the number one thing employees say their Manager could give them to improve engagement? If you guess money, flexibility and autonomy, you’d be wrong. While these do collectively contribute to decreasing employee turnover, the answer is feedback.

Done well, feedback can open the door to a two-way conversation, especially if it’s meaningful, specific and done in real time.

We offer up 3 simple, yet effective “soft skill” strategies Managers can put into practice right away.

  • Adopt the Platinum Rule – treat others the way they prefer.

We’ve been conditioned to treat others the way we want to be treated. But often, this is the exact opposite to the way the other person prefers. The onus is on the manager to learn to “read” others and adapt their communication style to one that can be heard and received comfortably by their employee.

If, for example, you’re a Manager with a more introverted personality, giving feedback to a more extroverted employee means being more animated and giving them time to share back their response and input in the moment.

Conversely, providing feedback to a more introverted employee requires speaking calmly, respecting their need for privacy, and giving them time to reflect without demanding a response from them in that moment.

  • Ask and Listen – instead of tell and sell

Whether it’s a formal performance review or “in the moment” feedback, good feedback starts with a question.  Not just a “How are you doing?” Rather, an intentional question that opens the exchange toward an issue or process. “How about you walk me through the project timeline to get a sense of progress and challenges?” is an example of a Manager finding out more information from their employee without putting them on the defensive. It empowers the employee to share what they know rather than potentially shutting the conversation down before it begins.

Continuing to ask questions can guide the employee to a new awareness or solution and keeps the story focused on them. Your listening acknowledges their importance.

Even if the feedback is negative, starting with a question gives the employee a chance to provide their perspective first. “I’m curious what you think about your work on XXX project?” can open up a dialogue where the Manager can gage the employee’s position or perspective.  This creates the space for the Manager to ask further questions or provide specific feedback.

  • Say Thank You

You and I have both heard this many times before.  But in the fast pace of work and the pressure to achieve results, there’s a high risk we don’t actually acknowledge others effectively.

We know this because 70% of employees say their motivation would improve massively if their managers thanked them more!

Like any feedback and recognition, it should be genuine, heartfelt and specific. Showing appreciation as soon after you’ve noticed it will have the biggest impact on the employee. Doing it publicly or privately is best tailored to the personality of the employee. Some of us simply don’t respond well to a public showing of affirmation.

There is one small caveat to this: constantly saying thank you has the reverse effect by being disingenuous. The rule of thumb? Do it when you really mean it!

Employee turnover is always going to be an issue for most companies. So the goal should be on increasing employee engagement to decrease the number of employees walking out the door.

We’ve offered up 3 simple strategies your Managers can begin doing. Add to this ongoing leadership development for those Managers and the result will be much higher staff retention. Doing this will also improve your company brand as a place that puts a high value on an engaged and positive culture.   

We’ve offered up 3 simple strategies your Managers can begin doing. Add to this ongoing leadership development for those Managers and the result will be much higher staff retention. Doing this will also improve your company brand as a place that puts a high value on an engaged and positive culture.   

Janet and I are on a mission to help organizations develop their Managers to be great leaders. Whether it’s one Manager or many, drop us a line at evegaudet@eveofchange.ca and we’ll talk with you about options to improve your engagement, retention and bottom line!

Workforce Changes: Future Head Scratchers

Consider this. It’s 2025 and the world we knew 6 years ago has changed dramatically.  The workforce no longer hinges on hierarchies and what worked in the past.  It’s about what could be possible and new agile systems schematics.  Data Analyst has toppled Dentist as the top job and Tech Ethicists are highly sought after.

And those are only a smidgen of what I imagine will be different in the 2025 world of work.  We’ll be scratching our heads as we think back on some illogical and inane practices, unwritten rules and beliefs we worked by. 

Here are my top 5 head scratchers on the workforce and why they’ll seem absurd in the near future:

1. Why was there an invisible barrier between employees and leaders?

I get it – executives are busy people. In the past they opted to put their faith and time into a tight circle of people surrounding them.  So how could they possibly tap into the ingenuity lying below them? They often didn’t. 

Conversely frustrated experts and innovators weren’t able to affect the value chain without ruffling feathers trying to leap over their manager to access senior leadership.

There’s a reckoning now with Millenials and Gen Zs; they’re unimpressed with hierarchies and prefer cross-functional relationships within an organization. They expect access to whomever they need in order to work collaboratively and achieve results.

We’re more comfortable now with flatter organizations and less hierarchy with glass ceilings in between.

2. Why did we believe high performers automatically made good managers?

It’s an easy assumption to make. If an employee proves to be a superstar in their role as a subject matter expert and sole contributor, why wouldn’t they make a superstar manager?

Did we ever get that wrong. Finally we realize that leading and inspiring others requires it’s own unique expertise. And, most people don’t come with the natural aptitude to be successful managing others. 

Companies invest in their managers, ensuring they have the critical people skills to guide and nurture their teams to success.

Companies have figured out the path to healthy employee engagement: having a specialized stream of people managers, whose only or primary role is the responsibility to develop, lead and motivate teams of people.

This also enables experts to become functional managers focusing on what they’re good at, without the added stress of human resource related issues.

3. Why did we believe employees be required to manage people to get a promotion?

This organizational policy always baffled me.  Sure, in theory it may have seemed like a good idea as a way to build soft skills and get a different perspective on leadership. But like head scratcher #2 above, it ran the risk of demoralizing both the manager and their direct reports.

A 2011 CareerBuilder survey revealed that more than a quarter (26%) of new managers felt underprepared for their new responsibilities and a staggering 58(%) reported receiving no management training.

The result? Gallup’s recent workplace survey found that almost half of all employees left their jobs because of their manager.  This begs the question: why have this policy when the potential for failure is 50%?

4. Why did we believe there was only one way to solve a problem?

For years we followed tradition. When success followed a certain approach to our work, we continued to rely on that method. Sure it may have moved us forward, but the kinds of challenges that are emerging don’t always lend themselves to “old think”.

I remember being referred to as a “maverick” by my supervisor because I challenged the status quo.  I was always looking at new ways of getting buy-in to change and looking at possibilities rather than “tried and true” methods.

With increased globalization, complexity and ambiguity, we’re in a time of disruption: everything we know to be predictable is on the chopping block.

This means addressing challenges in new ways. Whether it’s how we work, how we developing new insights to inform decision-making or shifting our focus on new technologies.

5. Why did the 9 to 5 work schedule ever last so long? 

Just ask Camilla Kring why this was never a good idea. Founder of Denmark’s Super Navigators aps, she’s on a mission transform the industrial work culture towards one that’s more flexible.

Her research on our personal circadian rhythms debunks the long held beliefs that to be successful we need to be an early bird. That’s great for certain people, but the rest of us may have family dynamics, work methods and biological rhythms best suited to working later in the day or evening.

Think about it. Are companies supporting flexibility more likely to have engaged and happy employees? Apparently yes according to Kring.

But that’s not the only reason for workday flexibility. With globalization, many of us need to be available to work with clients and colleagues in other time zones. It’s a 24-hour world; being able to adjust our schedules is now a necessity.

The Future is Now

As we move ahead in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complexity, ambiguity) world, questioning the status quo is required. Being open to possibilities, collaboration and asking “what if?” will become the norm in order to solve challenges and ignite new approaches.

Are you already scratching your head?

I Can’t to I Can – 3 Actions to take control of Your career

I’ve been working with a number of women clients who’ve achieved considerable success in their careers. Most want to take control of their career. Yet, these women are still thinking and behaving with a mindset similar to the one I had in the 90’s and early 2000’s.

It’s the “I can’t” attitude.

Let me explain.

Prospects for women, especially in business and the workplace are still far from being on par with men. Yes we’ve made significant gains in the past 100 years. But it hasn’t been a consistent upward trajectory. It’s been more like moments of truth along the way.

Arguably the most impactful “moment” occurred in the late 60’s early 70’s highlighted by 50,000 women marching in New York City demanding legal abortion, universal childcare, and equal pay. While these demands haven’t been met in most parts of the Western World, awareness and tireless activism by many has resulted in greater parity. But not full equality.

We’re nearing the 2020’s and once again we’re in a “moment”. #MeToo has risen to directly take on sexual harassment in the workplace. This is busting open the glass ceiling for a better view of women in power, or rather of not enough women in power, and the slippery path it takes to get there.

I don’t subscribe to the “us versus them” approach to change. Instead, the time has come for women to exercise our rights and ambitions.

What if we shift our narrative from I can’t to I can? We can start by individually doing 3 simple actions relating to the most common complaints or mindsets I hear from clients:

  1. Let go of “if I just work harder” as your measure for success

  2. Create your tribe

  3. Ask for what you want

As a leader in a large organization I took great pride in knowing I was a high producer. When stress kicked in I latched on to the idea that if I just worked harder I would be more successful and more likely to get promoted?

I was wrong. Working that hard eventually wore me down. Long hours aren’t the elixir for success and happiness. Buying into the “if I just work harder” is counter productive.

In Hive’s recent State of the Workplace Report, they note that women produce 10% more work than men. What’s more, they’re given 55% of all work, compared to 45% assigned to men.

The real question is, “working harder at what?” How meaningful is that additional work? When assigned a task, women ought to consider whether the task is promotable or non-promotable (beneficial to the organization, but doesn’t contribute to career advancement). If there’s a pattern of being asked to take on non-promotable tasks, it’s time to say no and rethink your measure of success.

The second shift comes by consciously surrounding yourself with and holding up other women leaders. Whether they’re in your own company or industry, so much can be gained from sharing ideas, talking through challenges and celebrating successes.

I’ve heard clients complain they simply don’t have access to critical business information – the kind shared on the golf course. Little desire or time to spend on male preferred social activities results in less opportunities to build relationships that lead to inside information and connections that can give them an edge.

There’s lots of ways to build your tribe. Start by hosting a breakfast or lunch with the intention of inviting women to support women. Organizations like Lean In offer local circle groups where women talk openly about their ambitions and encourage each other to take on new challenges. Join an established network like WXN or industry-focused networks like WNET or WIA.

Finally, and perhaps the most important shift you can make is to ASK. This sounds really simple. But according to several studies, women are less likely to negotiate their salary and benefits.

Knowing it’s your responsibility to understand what you can ask for, and asserting yourself is key to negotiation.

Companies expect you’ll negotiate your salary and benefits. Depending on your position and industry, here are some additional benefits to ask for:

  • Vacation time
  • Health benefits and wellness program
  • Flexibility in work schedule and location
  • Tuition reimbursement and professional dues
  • Conference attendance at the organization’s expense
  • Stock options
  • Your job title
  • Your reporting relationships
  • One-time signing bonus
  • An executive coach to support on-boarding

The more you’re prepared to negotiate, the more likely you’ll be confident in asking for what you believe you’re worth when the time comes. Think of it this way, you’ll be doing the right thing for you and creating a better culture for all women.

Let’s use the current “moment” to confidently step forward and take action to match what we believe, need, want and deserve. The moment of “we can” is here.

 

 

Why 3 Key Shifts Need Hidden Powers

I recently had the privilege of hosting Day 1of the Women’s Executive Network’s 2018 Wisdom Mentoring Program. Given carte blanche to develop a full leadership day, my intention was to provoke the attendees to realize how their leadership and hidden powers are critical in light of 3 massive and key shifts changing our world.

The attendees were women holding senior or executive positions in primarily male-dominated industries. Think oil and gas, manufacturing and international consulting firms.

These smart and outspoken leaders patiently indulged me in painting the picture of what’s underpinning the confluence of change happening now and expected to accelerate over the next 2-5 years. The impact will be not only on our work, but also on businesses’ ability to adapt and, how we as a society choose to respond.

I’m talking about Industry 4.0, the inter-generational workplace and #TimesUp.

If you don’t know much or even heard about these 3 key shifts, it’s time to get on board. Industry 4.0 alone will change the world in ways we can’t even imagine. Think big data, artificial intelligence or self-driving cars. It’s the bridging of physical industrial assets and digital technologies in so-called cyber-physical systems. It’s already here; humans just aren’t ready for it.

We’ve been talking about the inter-generational workplace for over ten years. Now we have Generation Zs filling positions. Millennials expect flexibility, diversity and ethical business practices. Generation Z expects the same and more: mainly, a self-actualized workplace culture. The Gen Z employee wants regular feedback, access to all levels of the company and to feel personally valued. This means power not situated top/down; rather, power that flows down, up and across.

#TimesUp is the third significant phenomenon. For centuries women have been relegated to subservient positions. It’s taken women of the Hollywood machine to break the silence of behavior both men and women have always known exists. #TimesUp is the recognition that women will not tolerate inequality and harassment in any industry. This will have huge impacts on ways we communicate and who sits in the C-Suite offices.

With these key shifts on the table, I proposed it’s time for women leaders, to bring out their “hidden powers”.

I’m talking about the characteristics we have in spades but don’t necessarily bring to our work. The women attendees dug in and came up with lists of values, behaviors and ways of being they don’t show up with at work.

I was met with complaints of, “my male colleagues speak over me in meetings”, “I’m called aggressive if I stand up for myself”, “it’s so hard being the only female at the board table”.

I don’t doubt the challenges these women face. What I’m suggesting is to change how we, as women, show up. We may work in male defined structures, but if we consider the 3 key shifts in front of us, we have compelling reasons to change the book on leadership.

We’re moving into a time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). Businesses will embrace agility, speed of change will be the norm and innovation and failure will be paramount. Employees will need to feel they matter and their work has meaning.

Four themes emerged through the hidden powers discussion:

  • Empathy
  • Inclusion
  • Vulnerability
  • Resilience

Now, I’m not suggesting men don’t have these same qualities – they do!

In a recent HBR article, authors Tinsley and Ely pinpoint that it’s actually organizational structures, company practices, and patterns of interaction that position men and women differently; this creates systematically different experiences for them.

We’ve created narratives over the years that reinforce gender stereotypes; the real explanation for any sex differences that exist in the workplace is context.

With 3 massive shifts in our midst, it’s time to let go of ancient directive management behaviors and bureaucratic structures where few hold the power. It’s critical to replace them with values and behaviors that support, not disenfranchise, people.

Since the 1990’s Daniel Goleman and others have been proselytizing Emotional Intelligence. That we need leaders with self-awareness, empathy and self-regulation has taken hold, and yet, it’s not enough.

For women in leadership positions, stepping up and promoting their hidden powers will generate learning for both genders. This can influence a shift in context, thinking and behavior from gender bias and stereotyping to one of inclusion and equality.

As we embark on the agile corporate landscape, we’ll need an antidote to the lightening speed, innovate/fail/adapt/change processes of cross-functional teams. We’ll need teams supported by senior leaders who are not only empathetic, but vulnerable, support failures and successes, understand and support inclusivity and create climates of resilience.

We may be heading into a future of artificial intelligence and robots, but as the women of the Wisdom Mentoring Program discovered, it’ll take very human actions and qualities to support people into this new era.

What’s Your Self-Development Plan?

If you’re thinking I’m asking about your personal self-development plan, you’d be only half right. So often we segregate our lives into personal and professional. But I’m in disagreement with this view.

We aren’t made up of compartments – we live whole lives. That means, when we think about goals and aspirations regarding our career, family, health and finances we need to look at our own big life picture.

Think of your life as a spider’s web. All parts are held in balance with each other, albeit sometimes tenuous. Whatever happens in one aspect of our life has impact on others.

As an executive leadership coach, I work with clients wanting to develop their professional competencies. In order to do that, it’s critical that we also look at how other aspects of their lives intersect with their learning.

Having a self-development plan is critical to your success. Being complacent and letting life happen is fine but won’t ensure you’re learning, reflecting and moving forward with intention.

At times your plan’s emphasis will be on health and other times career. But keeping the big picture in mind will help you achieve your goals. For example, if you’re planning to start a family, how will you realistically continue to meet your career objectives? Or if work is taking over your life, how is that supporting your health?

Consider approaching your self-development plan with these questions:

  1. What are the priorities in your life right now? This can change from time to time and that’s okay. Base your plan on what’s important to you now.
  2. What is your Why? How might you focus on what your purpose is to help build your self-development plan?
  3. What aspect of your life has room to give in order to put more emphasis into other parts of your life?
  4. What is the learning you want to put in your plan and how does that relate to the various aspects of your life? (Hint: it should support more than one goal)
  5. What do you want to have achieved in 2, 5 and 10 years? (Knowing of course that life changes along the way)
  6. What if you were to make this plan about you and what you want? As opposed to what you think others want of you? How will that affect your plan?
  7. What will you need to ensure you’re accountable in following your plan?

There are multitudes of templates, tools and approaches you can use to support your plan. MindTools offers some great tools for free. The important thing is that you set it up to work for you.

The key to a successful plan and the ability to see it through rests with its simplicity and detail.

That’s right. The challenge is to not make it more than you can possibly achieve. But it does require putting in both where you want to get to and how you are going to do it. The “how” requires specific activities that will help to move you forward.

As you create these activities look for the links and impacts to each part of your life. If furthering your education will take up the majority of your time, how will that impact your family life? How might you reorganize your time to meet your family commitments? Are there opportunities to combine your goals or use the space in between work or education to do healthy activities?

Finally, keep it simple by chunking your goals into time frames. Life shifts and being able to keep to your goals and activities is easier if you put them in 1-3 month periods.

Creating your self-development plan is your responsibility. Make it work for you. The results will follow!

What to do When Trust Slips Away

In one moment, I knew I’d eroded her trust in me. Recently I had one of those days where I should’ve just stayed at home. The kind of day where I felt overwhelmed caring for family members and too many deliverables in the hopper. Instead of paying attention, I ventured out and met a friend and colleague. She shared a decision and plans she’s making. My stress meter kicked in and I made unsupportive comments. I could feel the trust slip away.

We’ve all done it. No excuses.

It’s stressful days like this that the option of hiding under the covers isn’t possible. The question becomes, what could I have done better? And, what have I learned from this.

Stress and Trust are two very different concepts. And yet, put together the result can be devastating.

Let’s talk first about stress. We all have our own triggers and reactions to it. Yet we can learn to understand what it means for us, and the best way to go about our day without impacting others.

For me it’s spreading myself too thin, especially in caring for others. What is your trigger? Not enough sleep? Taking on too much?

Understanding our reaction to stress is equally important. I don’t focus and am distracted. This means I don’t practice active listening. I let my own narrative rule my head instead of paying attention to what others are saying and experiencing. And like my scenario above, I can blurt out instead of filtering my reaction.

How do you react when you’re stressed?

Unlike stress, trust is a delicate thing. Once we have it, we must tenderly nurture its presence. Philosophers have hotly debated the meaning of trust, but tend to agree that trust is a kind of reliance: to trust someone is to rely on them in a certain kind of way. We create trusting relationships that lean on the social construct of expectation.

My friend expected me to support her decision and be excited about her prospects. Her expectation represents her trust in me.

Trust is earned. But trust can just as easily slip away –  often when we’re overwhelmed. This intersection of trust and stress requires that we be deeply in tune to what another expects of us and to show up wholeheartedly to maintain their trust.

And when we don’t? There is only one viable path forward.

I contacted my friend and shared how sorry I was for my reaction. There were no excuses. I acknowledged her reaction in the moment. I shared how sorry I was to be insensitive and to not provide the reaction she was expecting.

My friend responded with her truth and the willingness to talk about how we move forward as friends and colleagues. I am deeply grateful.

What have I learned? Just how delicate trust is. I’m facing my own imperfection in the face of stress. I’m committed to noticing when I’m overwhelmed and to act/react with integrity. And I’m learning that letting trust slip away is never an option.

How do you break the glass ceiling?

Early in my career, as women’s wear manager for a fashion importing company, the owner of the company told me he was sure I’d make a great mother and not want to return to work when my baby arrived. I was stunned and speechless. In that moment I felt the power to make my own decision taken from me. I didn’t realize  I’d touched the glass ceiling. 

I tell this story because it’s one of many I hear from women highlighting how the glass ceiling stays so tightly in place.

The recent spate in the media of women revealing their mistreatment by men in power is another example (#timesup). Yes we’re seeing this primarily in Hollywood and the arts, but make no mistake; it exists in corporate boardrooms across multiple industries.

The glass ceiling, a term coined by Marilyn Loden (author and feminine leadership expert) in 1978, is situated within the historical domain of male-designed and built structures. It’s as abstract as the idea that women have traditionally subscribed: to think and behave as men in order to reach upper corporate echelons.

So how does one shatter the glass ceiling?

It’s a great question with no easy, straightforward answer.

I’ll start by suggesting you think of the glass ceiling as mirrored. Of course, when you look up you see your own reflection. And that’s the point. Before you can shatter that ceiling you have to understand yourself and how you may be contributing to your own hold-back.

By no means am I suggesting we’re responsible for this type of career limitation. Rather, I believe we have influence over both how we respond to systemic traditional practices and how we actively shift those outdated rules.

Start by asking yourself these important questions:

  • Are you aware of how you show up to others?
  • What meaning do others see in your actions?
  • Does your behavior represent your values and ethical stance?
  • Are you deeply aware that you always have a choice?
  • Are you decisive or do you seek to please?
  • Do you go it alone or do you actively collaborate and develop support networks?
  • Do you continuously work on your leadership practice? Or do you find yourself most often in a reactive state?

Now let’s go deeper by testing how we may be contributing or not contributing to the glass ceiling phenomenon:

  • Are you supporting other women – peers and subordinates? Or are you competing with them?
  • Are you accepting the status quo? Or are you curious to develop or promote women-centric approaches within your current professional culture?
  • If you’re accepting the status quo, what’s holding you back from drawing on your courage?
  • Are you clear on how you use your power professionally? Is it attached to your ego?
  • Do you ask the right questions? The kind of questions that create open dialogue without being offensive or defensive?
  • Do you respectfully challenge the unwritten rules?

And, most important…

  • Do you ask for what you need?

Answering these questions can reveal how you may be holding yourself back. Knowing this can give you a clear view of cracks in the ceiling.

It’s the cracks you’ll be looking for – the opportunities to slip through. The ones that welcome you as the strong authentic feminine leader you are. It takes courage. And it means taking responsibility to be that woman who doesn’t compromise to fit in. It means taking responsibility to define and embody new cultural rules that in turn create more cracks in the glass.

As women, we’ve come to know that change does not happen quickly. It happens because we make a conscious effort to change the course. I first heard the term “glass ceiling” almost 40 years ago. While it still exists, I believe the tiny shards of glass can be heard falling on the ground.

 

How to Change Careers Gracefully

You’ve finally decided to change your career. It takes all your energy to stay focused until you leave your current position.

While you’re excited with the prospect of moving forward, there’s a good chance you’re also feeling anxious, and a little bad to be leaving (think loyalty) – unless the decision to move on wasn’t yours.

Either way, taking your leave gracefully is paramount. Why? – For many reasons.

Making a clean break with as little emotional baggage as possible is top of the list.

Leaving with the lingering feeling you’ve angered or frustrated a co-worker or employer never feels good. You’re going to need as much positive and focused energy to be successful in your new career.

Whether you’re leaving of your own volition or not, your self-respect deserves to stay intact. Either way, reflecting on what you gave to the position and company will shed light on the value you’ve brought to the company. It’ll also give you the chance to understand what’s best left behind and what’s most important to take with you (hint: a negative outlook should be left and confidence should go with you).

Trust is the second (and as important) reason to be graceful. Your current employer relied on you to bring your professional skills and effort to the company. A graceful exit is your final commitment.

How exactly do you change careers gracefully? The following do’s and don’ts list seems so obvious! Unfortunately, too few career changers get this right:

  • Prepare a story to explain your career change. Making your leave about you and your future prevents others from creating assumptions.
  • Give the company your all – no “checking out” in the months preceding your departure. Your current employer is paying you to give 100% so keep your end of the bargain.
  • Ask for a reference letter from your supervisor at least a week before you leave the company.
  • Don’t commit to staying in touch if you have no plans to follow through. While it’s true that once we leave a company we may be quickly forgotten, it’s still a commitment you’ll be expected to live up to.
  • Be thoughtful in your exit interview with your supervisor or HR representative. Giving constructive feedback on the work and company culture is far more productive and gracious than giving negative comments on individuals.
  • Leave with your work handed off to your successor or team and your desk/office tidy.
  • Don’t take any documents or company owned materials.
  • No badmouthing your employer or other staff during and after your exit. Period.
  • Thank those who’ve most supported you in your current career – managers, colleagues or direct reports.
  • Wait until you’ve left your job to update your LinkedIn and other social media profiles.

A graceful leave shows others you live by your values. You’ll be able to close this chapter feeling confident, inspired and ready to start anew.

Next stop. Check out Charlotte Seager’s great post, 6 Tips on How to Make a Successful Career Change.

In the meantime, gracefully exiting from where you are now will likely pay off in spades as you embark on your new career.