This week I read the book, “Who Says It’s a Man’s World: The Girls’ Guide To Corporate Domination,” by Emily Bennington. The book offers Ms. Bennington’s career advancement advice to help more women reach positions of leadership. On her website, Ms. Bennington describes herself as a “career author, speaker, and space invader.” Her book is a quirky career guide, jumping all over the map with insights and action planning. It is definitely not for linear thinkers. Because of her book, I checked out her blog and I LOVE the blog. Buy the book but definitely read the blog. Ms. Bennington’s shorter, punchier pieces are outstanding. Here’s a fabulous sample: “Any Grizzlies In Your Office?”
Ms. Bennington starts the book by asking, “What does it take for women to win at the highest levels of business?” The question matters because as of 2013, women account for 4% of Fortune 500 CEOs, 6% of top earners, and 16% of board directors and corporate officers. In a search for answers, Ms. Bennington interviewed 700 executive women, interviewed super-achievers for Forbes magazine, presented at women’s leadership events, and coached numerous professional women. Ms. Bennington then compiled specific strategies in the areas of self-awareness, social skills, personal effectiveness, team development, and leadership. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Stop choosing a semi-manic state. Makes choices that allow you to focus rather than live in chaos. (Hint: You might have to start saying, “No,” to more voluntary obligations.)
2. If you’re an employed mother, push your children’s school to commit to dates in advance. It is not OK to tell you on Monday that the school play is on Thursday. Also, guilt is self-induced. Lose the guilt.
3. You get to choose what story you tell yourself and if the story you are currently using is stressing you out, change the story.
4. Focus 30% on goals and 70% on virtues. For example, here is a list of virtues compiled by Benjamin Franklin: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. Ms. Bennington uses a similar list and the book includes instructions on how to personalize your own list.
5. Practice sadhana. Sadhana is a Sanskrit word that means “dedicated, daily action employed to reach a specific goal.”
6. Two tips about email: (1) Ignoring emails is rude, and (2) Don’t use email to settle disagreements. If conflict is involved, talk face-to-face. (For employees who telecommute, this must mean Skype or the telephone).
7. Don’t be petty and think because you worked two hours past 5 pm one day, you should come to work at 10:30 am the next day.
8. Make career advancement a priority. Schedule time to lead an internal committee, publish an article in your field, improve a process or system, make your LinkedIn profile 100% complete, and/or read industry newsletters and publications (including the ones read by your clients or customers).
9. Get to know your team. Ask them questions like, “Would you rather work with data, people, products, or ideas?” “How do you see yourself best contributing to the team?” “What really bugs you about this place?” The book includes 100 coaching questions from which to chose.
10. Be a magnificent woman first to have a magnificent career (not the other way around). You can be a leader and wield influence even before you have a specific title. Ms. Bennington says that the single best way to do this is to be someone who inspires others to connect with their own power. Over time, you will garner influence because others will view you as someone who will help them win.