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Women in the workplace

Do you know where you are going as a woman in the workplace?

(by Simone Lawrence)

Your unique value is your superpower

This topic keeps coming up for me in workshops and discussions with leading women. How well do working women know and appreciate their unique values in the workplace? Let’s pause for a moment to consider one perspective of looking at this.

As an executive coach with a focus on developing women in leadership, I notice that women in the workplace are generally so diligent with their day to day tasks to be conscious of what their unique value is. A typical working style shared by many of us seems to be “to do more and more and more” in the belief that this is demonstrating their value without really knowing what their value is. Following this belief that working hard, achieving a lot and being focused on high standards will get them noticed can create career roadblocks that require different navigation.

Don’t go down that rabbit hole

While this approach may sometimes reap rewards, the opposite effect, being under-recognized seems to be more the common feeling amongst women in the workforce. Being so involved in the day-to-day job can result in not being fully seen, heard, or understood. Many efforts and achievements can go largely unnoticed or not acknowledged and career progression can be limited. This approach can keep you bogged down with tasks and deliverables that may not be feeding into your overall career goals. Through understanding where you are going, what is the bigger purpose you are serving, and taking conscious actions to get there, can drastically accelerate career growth.

Let’s start with getting clear on where you are going. This is 100% essential. It sounds simple and is not always easy for busy working women to be more aware and take action.  Women often benefit from having support to think things through and consider what could be done differently. It is important to consider, in the words of Cheshire Cat, the fictional cat popularized by Lewis Caroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ‘If you don’t know where you are going then it really doesn’t matter which way you go.’

Combine this way of working without a clear direction with some of the other tendencies typically present in professional women, such as working endlessly until things are perfect. Caring too much about the tasks and the quality of the deliverables, keeping involvement in projects on a much deeper level than what may be needed and for a much longer time than is required. This can stall the ability to progress and start something new which limits opportunities for growth. The combination of doing too much, for too long in the pursuit of excellence without really understanding the direction can mean be a recipe for another Alice in Wonderland moment of going “down the rabbit hole” and staying there for longer than is needed. Often it may not have even been necessary to go down the rabbit hole in the first place in order to get to where you want to go. Zoom out and let go, Alice!

Of course, these traits are not exclusively demonstrated by women in the workplace, many men fall trap to the same path. So, let’s imagine you are clear on where you are going and let’s start the chain of thoughts with the following questions:

  • Do you know your unique value?
  • Is just knowing your unique value enough?
  • How can your unique value be communicated and demonstrated more?
  • How often do you connect with it and celebrate what is going right for you versus focusing on what you have not yet done?
  • What could be possible if your unique value was put to work more to accelerate more career success?

Reflection + Clarity = Intentional Pursuit of Career Goals

Often doing less can create the right conditions, space, and thinking time for understanding oneself better. Only then can you become more intentional with the right aligned actions you need to take to demonstrate your unique value. By taking a step back from your day to day job from time to time, spending a few minutes a day thinking about what has gone well, what have you achieved, and connecting that to your career aspirations for the future can help you ensure you are busy doing the right things that are aligned directly to your aspirational vision. These are the moments when you become very clear about your unique value. Once you know your unique value, you are in the right headspace to think about how you should be communicating and demonstrating your unique value more. Because to answer the question, whether just knowing your unique value is enough: no, it is not. You need to create your brand visible to people around you, otherwise, no one will know of the jewel they own.

What’s in it for you and your organization?

  • Gaining more momentum towards where you want to be, leading the way, and role modeling the right behaviors for others to follow-creating a pipeline of effective leadership behaviors
  • Reducing the effort and time required to get your job done as you feel a stronger pull towards your future, conserving energy which can be applied where it can make a bigger difference to what matters-more impact and faster progress.
  • Experiencing more enjoyment in day-to-day tasks can be energizing and motivating, increasing job satisfaction-reducing stress, and contributing to a happier engaged workforce.
  • Positioning yourself as a game change- a mover and a shaker, somebody that can’t be unnoticed.

If workplaces proactively created the right environment and initiatives to help their employees take time out to reflect and realign towards their future goals it could truly transform human capabilities. Through providing support to individuals to understand their specific challenges and transform the habits and behaviors that are not serving their career growth it could help everybody progress whilst also contributing to gender diversity goals through getting more women into senior roles much faster.

Say it out loud

Women in the workplace can drive this forward by getting clear on where they are going, understanding and communicating their unique values, and aligning their daily actions towards their goals. Being seen, heard, and understood. Sharing the success, they are having with others and asking for the support that they need.

Talking about success is something many women don’t get across the finishing line, not wanting to appear as braggers, and as a result success is seldom celebrated. One solution to change this is to celebrate yourself daily and even if it is a small achievement – getting into the habit of doing it, will create a routine for you to continue doing it.

Your unique value is your superpower. It is your strength that can empower teams, influence change, or serve you in what you are working to achieve. Let’s put it to work for you and make more intentional use of it in service of your career growth.

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