An Open Letter From A High-Performing Woman To Female Business Leaders
My name is Felicia Lyon, and I’ve worked at the intersection of business strategy, talent and technology for the last 20 years. As an accomplished business leader, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with numerous Fortune 500 companies, State and Local Government Agencies, International Companies, and a Foreign Government.
However I’ve noticed a major issue in today’s business environment. There are still a painstakingly low number of women in leadership positions. I’m sure you’ve noticed it, too. It’s come up again and again. Although women make up half of the workforce, we don’t make up anywhere near half of the leadership. Ironically enough, I’ve seen first-hand how having more women leaders on a team leads to more creative problem solving, more innovative ideas, more employee engagement and overall higher client satisfaction and revenues for organizations.
Yet any high-achieving woman looking to fill a leadership role or gain a promotion still has quite an uphill battle ahead of her. I know this from personal experience. Ever since my first career in law enforcement, I’ve worked in positions that had a limited number of women in leadership roles. That meant I had a very limited number of female role models to learn from and emulate. As a result many of the most valuable lessons I learned about advancing in my career, building key relationships and showing up as that leader I knew I was capable of being, I had to learn the hard way.
It’s now my personal mission to see more women CEOs, high-performing businesswomen and female leaders. That means we need more successful and prominent women at every level in the business world.
Having managed my own career while coaching numerous other women along the path of success over the past 24 years, I’ve realized that in order for women to successfully navigate a male-dominated culture, you and I must take three critical steps.
Here are three steps every female leader must take when looking to advance in her career, secure the promotion she deserves and become a leader in her space.
1. Create a Career Plan and Vision
Are you trying to do it all? Does working overtime, never turning down a project, and putting everyone else’s needs before your own sound familiar? Are you just following the path in front of you because it’s there and you’re too tired to do anything differently? I’ve been there, and I know firsthand that not only is this not sustainable, but it also doesn’t work.
You wind up feeling completely burnt out by the end of the day and have no time or energy to spend on yourself. Not only are you being stretched too thin, but you’re also still not making the money you want. It doesn’t have to be this way.
You need a personalized plan that works for you. Get clear on your values and learn what motivates you. Identify your strengths so you can build on them, and gain awareness of any derailers that could throw you off track so that you are confident in your plan to get you where you want - without draining all your energy.
Keep in mind that it’s about more than just learning to prioritize the items on your to-do list. By getting clarity on where you want to go with your career, having a clear decision-making strategy for new opportunities (and deciding which items to knock off your list), and defining the boundaries for your life, you can start to manage your schedule instead of letting it manage you.
2. Build Your Personal Board of Advisors
Men in business lift each other up all the time. They take trips to casinos, play golf, and visit Las Vegas on business. It’s during these outings that networking takes place, relationships grow, and men make professional connections that they can later rely on for support.
Maybe as a woman you don’t play golf or couldn’t make it to the casino because of your priorities as a wife or a mother. That means you end up missing out on forming these valuable relationships in a world where it’s about who you know as much as what you know. This is why it’s even more important that you surround yourself with built-in advocates who understand you, who will champion and promote you, and will help you navigate the unwritten rules of a male-dominated culture.
With a powerful, meaningful network of female peers you will gain the support you need to elevate your career, not feel like you have to face your biggest challenges alone and create lifetime friendships. Developing friends in your business who know your time restraints, understand your challenges, and support your goals is essential. When you need emotional support, have a question, or want to celebrate a new client you can always fall back on the women you’ve nurtured a professional a relationship with. Imagine the direct result of such a huge change—you would no longer feel so lonely in your business journey.
3. Master Negotiation and Influence
To be successful in any business, you need to possess specific competencies and skills to work within a unique culture. This applies for both professional advancement and personal gain. This is why it’s critical that every woman in business learn to negotiate, giving her the power to sway the decision makers and gatekeepers around her into her favor. Use this to champion your business, your people, and your clients.
After you have identified your own succession plan, you will have an invaluable tool helping you grow and develop relationships with the high potentials around you. Ultimately, it will open up the path for getting that promotion you want and the recognition you deserve.
Looking at the big picture, this is about so much more than just working hard to get ahead. It’s about moving into the driver's seat so you can create the career of your dreams, cultivate meaningful and impactful relationships, and live a beautiful, balanced life.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, and that I’ve given you a few actionable things to think about regardless of where you currently are in your career. Having been an executive leader responsible for large portions of businesses, and having mentored, managed, coached and advised women over the life of my career, I have been on the upward climb you're now undertaking.
Business is better when there are female leaders on the team, and so it is my personal mission to promote female leadership. That’s why I’ve left several handholds for my sisters to grasp as they begin on their climb — All you need is a boost.
Founder Of Women Moving Mountains
P.S. If you’ve enjoyed this article and are a high-achieving woman who’s interested in advancing her career along with being a part of a supportive community of other women leaders , I’d to like to invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn or check out our upcoming Society meetings.