I joined Women In Sports & Events (@wisechicago) in January to meet other women working in and pursuing careers in the sports industry. WISE has been a fabulous outlet to grow and learn… and make new friends along the way! I’ve taken a tidbit (or many) from each event I’ve gone to thus far, and have been lucky enough to be paired with a fabulous mentor as part of the WISE Within Mentor Program. This past week, I went to yet another amazing WISE event that focused on “being your best you.” As I start this blog and begin to think about my “brand” as a triathlete and a woman in business, this event really hit home for me.
You see, I tend to be just slightlyyyy type A and a bit of a planner (ask anyone who knows me!). I have been working diligently this year to fina a balance between my methodical planning tendencies and seizing the moment. Given this mission, I was particularly entranced by the first presentation of the evening, from Anne Phelan (President & Executive Coach of Merrett Davies International, LLC)
Anne’s ultimate message?
Massive action trumps planning every time.
Anne spoke about the three most common mistakes women make that cause them to be overloaded, overworked, and overlooked. These are mistakes that I have definitely made (and still do). I think many women (and perhaps some men!) would find Anne’s advice extremely relevant to their pursuit of excellence whether in their career, their life, or any other realm. So, with Anne’s permission (thanks Anne!), today I share with you countdown of the three mistakes that cause women to be overloaded, overworked, and ultimately overlooked (and what you can do to correct them!).
#3 CAN’T (OR WON’T) SAY NO
We are often afraid to say “no” to our managers, co-workers, friends, loved ones, you name it, for fear that we might appear weak, lazy, or lacking certain capabilities. However, according to Anne, studies have shown that saying “no” more often indicates self assurance and confidence. This sentiment is echoed in the recent the Wall Street Journal article, “For Some Executives, Doing Less Means Getting More Done.” How, you might ask, do you start feeling more comfortable saying no? Anne recommends taking the following three actions:
a) Reflect - what are the business priorities and what is your role in achieving those?
b) Given your answers to (a), what is the implication of your saying “no” to given requests?
c) Based on your conclusions from (a) and (b) above, respond to requests with one of three answers: yes, no, or counter offer ("I am happy to do X, but I won't be able to have it done until [fill in the blank]").
For more ideas about how to say "no," check out this relevant HBR blog post.
#2 INEFFECTIVE DELEGATION
According to Anne, women, more than men, tend to take work upon themselves, whether it is out of dislike of hierarchies, lack of trust in their team, or a feeling that they must “prove themselves.” The result? Feeling overloaded, tired, and unable to effectively lead their team.
Many women (and men, in my experience) also find it hard to entrust work to another person. Doing so means taking a risk, which can be hard to do when we are so wrapped up in successfully completing one task so we can get on to the next. However, Anne reminded us that while someone else’s work may not immediately meet our standards, it may also exceed them. Most of us are leaders in some way shape or form, whether in our work, extra-curriculars, or families. Chances are that along the way, someone took a risk on you, which allowed you to build skills and visibility and to progress to where you are today. Who is that for you? Next time you’re about to take on a task that you know you don’t have time for, take a second to think of that person and then ask yourself if there is anyone else who could handle the task. Take that chance on your colleague or employee who has done good work but perhaps hasn’t had as much opportunity to shine. Your load will be lighter in the long run, and you will be contributing to the growth and development of another, which, in my opinion, is what leadership is all about.
#1 INVISIBLE THOUGHT LEADERSHIP
How many of you are stuck in the weeds at work? How many of you have your head in the details, making it hard to see the big picture and provide strategic insight for your team, company, etc.? To help us think about whether we are invisible or effective thought leaders, Anne asked us: Do you read about your business/industry regularly? Do you network? Do you mentor anyone? Do you speak up (either in person or in writing) in front of an audience? She went on to ask us: how will you stand out? What do you have to say?
People need to know who you are and what you stand for before they will look to you for any type of leadership roll. In the theme of “action trumps planning,” Anne challenged us to write down one action that we will take after the event to build a presence and become an effective thought leader. I took her idea of writing down one thing I am grateful for and one thing I am proud of each night before bed as a way to get myself writing more regularly (journaling often falls to the bottom of my ever-growing to-do list, and this makes it simple!).
Having read this, are you guilty of any of these mistakes? What one change will you make to establish yourself as a effective thought leader? To all you planners out there, get out and ACT!