Tag Archive for leadership

Politics is a Mirror of Our Society

It’s election season and early voting is available in most states.  As I continue my life’s work to mentor women and guide each to achieve her own personal “High Heeled Success,” I’m hearing about more and more women running for office and engaging in the political process.  This inspires me!

This year is the 97th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage – women’s right to vote in the United States of America.  Women, it has not been that long, which is why it’s no surprise that women hold roughly 20 percent of elected positions at the federal, state and local levels.  And now, women are running for public office in record numbers.

Politics and women in public office is a mirror of the workplace and the rest of society.  There is definitely a gender bias when women run for office.  Women are not asked as frequently as men if they would consider taking on the challenge.  Women tend to think they’re not qualified enough, which is a problem men rarely have.  It’s harder for women to raise the funds needed to run a campaign.  These issues are the same, whether we’re talking about politics or the workplace.

Just as you face challenges in the workplace, you will experience similar challenges as you take on the political process.  Remember, however, the risks are worth the rewards.  At any given time, reassess your risk for seeking a political appointment or running for election.  In other words, what do you have to lose?

Please don’t be afraid of rocking the boat.  Remember, the women rocking the boat nearly 100 years ago were the ones who earned us the right to vote in this country.  When you stand up for yourself in traditionally male-dominated groups, you run the risk of being perceived as overbearing or nasty.  As long as you assess your risk and think it all through, you’ll be in good shape.

I also encourage you to support each other in political endeavors.  Men certainly support each other and help each other all the time.  Just like in the workplace, we need to do also do that in the political realm.

For example, help amplify other women and lift them up.  When another woman puts an idea out there by writing an op-ed or communicating with a political group, join the conversation and share your thoughts.  Just by responding, you validate her and make sure our place at the table doesn’t get lost.

Just like in the workplace, you need to call out blatant sexism in the political arena.  Women will be judged by different standards when they are running for office or succeeding in the workplace.  Be aware of it and don’t be afraid to speak up.

Being aware of these challenges is important, yet you still need to be both collaborative and competitive at the same time.  We can’t get anything done without learning how to do both.

To all the women running for office right now, I’m inspired by you and I’m proud of you.  In some ways, you’re taking on the most difficult glass ceiling to break.  I’m with you.  Now, don’t forget to vote on November 7 and let your voice be heard!

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

©Copyright 2017.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Top 5 Barriers to Delegation

We all have so much to do, and so little time.  It’s become the way of life for most of us.  The affliction is expressed in many different ways; “I’m so busy,” “I have so much on my plate,” “There is never enough time,” “I can’t catch up,” “I have no idea how I’m going to get it all done.”   With the frequency we say and hear these things, it would seem that we’d be open to help for our condition.  Yet, with many of my clients, the opposite continually rings true.  The mere suggestion that a co-worker, employee, manager or subordinate could help lighten the load is more often than not met with “Oh, I could never to that!”.

Women in higher management tend to struggle with delegation the most.  Seems paradoxical, but it’s true.  Delegating was an easier task for many when coming up through the ranks, but I find that once women reach a certain level, they are remiss to let go of the reigns so to speak.  Below is a list of the most common barriers to delegation, and their common rationales behind them.

  1. PerfectionismThis issue is by far the most difficult challenge women face, regardless of their level, but it is especially pervasive at the top.  Many women feel they’ve worked really hard for a long time to get where they are, and fear losing what they’ve gained.  To them, delegation means losing control of the outcome or that the work or project won’t live up to their high standards or expectations.  In reality, having everything ‘just right’ can often cause much larger issues such as missing deadlines and burnout.  The anxiety that accompanies this often leads to depression and never feeling that they or their work is ‘good enough.’
  1. Do It Myself AttitudeThis excuse is common in technical fields, finance or analysis-heavy projects.  Women who have this attitude often take great pride in their knowledge base and find it very difficult to accept that someone else could do just as good of a job.  Some women in this category fear that if they do delegate and someone else does a good (or better) job, the employee will get all the credit and recognition.  This issue runs strong in women who crave affirmation and thrive on recognition.
  1. Guilt in Delegating – Guilt is a combo issue.  On one hand, you may have the assumption that you should be able to do it all and if you delegate you may look weak and unable to carry the load.  On the other hand, you may be reluctant to add more to your employees’ plates.  Perhaps they are already working hard, don’t make high salaries, or the organization is going through a difficult time.  This may have some validity, but it still does not warrant stunting the growth of your team.
  1. Fear of Telling Others What to do and Reaping Criticism – As a female leader, you may garner some criticism for telling others what to do.  You may get responses verbally and through body language that imply, “Who do you think you are, anyway?”  Well, you are the boss.  Time to grow thicker skin!  If you don’t delegate for fear of receiving push back or criticism, you are allowing yourself to be held hostage by others.  Others may call you bossy.  Heed this quote from Mikki Paradis, “I’m not bossy.  I am THE boss.  Those who don’t understand the difference have no room in my world.”
  1. Understanding of What the Job Entails – This happens when women think they have to have ‘all the answers’ and can’t ask for help.  They worry that if they don’t know something, they will appear inept.  Women leaders who don’t delegate because of this roadblock can overcome it when they realize that no one has all the answers or the inside scoop on how to do it all correctly and efficiently.

Benefits of Delegating

When rising to the ranks of leadership, your role should naturally become more visionary with a focus on the bigger picture and outcomes.  Your role transforms from working ‘in’ the business to working ‘on’ the business.  As such a top priority as a leader must include developing the leader in others.  Below are some of the key benefits of delegating as it relates to leadershipes’.

  1. Empowers othersDelegating gives others a sense of empowerment.  Any control issues you may have at the onset will diminish as your team members feel empowered to take tasks head on.
  2. Builds confidence in othersYou were given a team because someone had confidence in you and your abilities.  Someone took a chance on you.  Model that behavior by showing your confidence in others with delegating tasks that are either new to them, or just out of their comfort zone.
  3. Develops othersDelegating something complex (that you may think takes too long to explain), has a big payout here.  Teaching and training develops others to a higher level, increases their capacity, and makes them a more valuable asset to the team.  It also increases their sense of self-worth.
  4. Builds trustThere is nothing worse than secrets, mistrust and skepticism in the workplace.  It not only destroys relationships; it is incredibly counterproductive to the business.  Delegating important projects builds trust, especially when comes with significant responsibility.  It says, “I know you can do this!” to your employee.
  5. Breaks down barriersDelegating takes time and can strengthen relationships.  Done correctly, it can create an environment of transparency where manager and employees feel safe in their roles and responsibilities, and know that someone always ‘has their back.’
  6. Builds a strong teamDelegating based on team members’ strengths will grow each one stronger.  Instead of fearing that you won’t get the credit, letting individuals shine in the limelight will reflect well on the whole team.
  7. Developing leadershipWhen your team grows strong and their leadership is recognized throughout the company, it will reflect well on you.  While it’s true that something could indeed go wrong (if that is your fear) people learn through their mistakes and the mistakes of others.  It’s all an important part of the development process, as the learning is applied going forward.
  8. Shows your faith in themIf you are known for perfectionistic tendencies, delegating to a team member can convey your faith in them.  If your team knows you have very high standards, and you delegate with words of encouragement and positivity, they will be assured of your faith in them.
  9. Builds loyaltyIf your employees feel like they are on the receiving end of your trust and faith while also being developed as a leader, they will become fiercely loyal.  Your fear of appearing weak to others will be allayed when your company recognizes how committed your team is to you and their work.
  10. Encourages new ways of thinking – You may have always done things a certain way, and it’s been good.  Imagine delegating some of your favorite tasks and having them tweaked or built upon to be even better or stronger. This provides both an opportunity to recognize someone for their abilities, while providing efficiencies that have a positive impact on the business.

I’ve seen transformative results when women conquer hurdles to delegation.  One such instance occurred when I helped a client to delegate by overcoming her fear of being too bossy.  Growing up she continually heard messages from her mother like “stop being so bossy – you’ll never have any friends.”  She internalized this message through adulthood.  It manifested by her pushing down her ideas and needs, deferring to what others wanted in the hopes that everyone would “like her.”  Some of her needs were to delegate, and it was almost impossible for her to do it.

I helped her realize that she could establish boundaries for herself and outline the needs of the business (which included delegating) without being bossy.  This was a huge revelation for her.  Further, I helped her understand that if she executed these requests with diplomacy and professionalism, others would respect her more.  This was a completely different way for her to operate versus trying to be a pleaser all the time.  As a result, she was able to work with a new empowered attitude and work much more effectively and efficiently.

Smart Steps

Did you find yourself identifying with any of the barriers to delegation, but also encouraged because you sparked to some of the benefits it could have?  I have guided hundreds of women who have successfully faced and conquered their challenges of delegating projects and authority.  If you would like someone to walk with on this journey, I would love to be your guide.  Email me at kay@highheeledsuccess.com or give me a call at (513) 561-4288 to discuss how I can help.

©Copyright 2016.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Standing out in the Crowd

Gaining a competitive edge in today’s business world requires a unique combination of skill, experience and the ability to stand out in a crowd.  Searching for a job, shining in your company, or being an industry expert; these activities and goals require various and many talents to be sure.  However; making your mark requires more than skill and experience.  You have to be truly unique to rise above the competition and stand out in the crowd; a daunting task.  In a society with pervasive social media noise and 24-7 news feeds, and a business climate saturated with voicemail and email overload, standing out in the crowd is challenging at best.  So how do you do it?

Deliver the unexpected.  In the business environment, this can range from a creative resume or job search approach to going above and being truly unique in the workplace.  The Huffington Post recently highlighted a young Australian job-seeker who created a candy bar wrapper out of her resume and sent it out on a chocolate bar to would-be employers.  When the story hit the news, she received offers from as far away as Europe.  Someone else I know sent her resume along with three copies of US News & World Report’s top-rated hospitals issue when applying for a marketing job at Cincinnati Children’s.  She shared how she would like to contribute to their marketing efforts to help keep them in the number 3 spot in the country.  Unique and unexpected; these two candidates stood out above the crowd.

In your daily job, experts give so much advice on how to stay ahead of the pack and get noticed.  ‘Under promise and over deliver’ is oft-quoted guidance.  Also popular are; be on time, work hard, be professional, stay goal-oriented, etc.  While these are solid ideas, the one I believe will make the greatest impact is effective communication skills; both speaking and listening.  In John Maxwell’s book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, he maintains that “The ability to communicate and connect with others is a major determining factor in reaching your potential.  To be successful, you must work well with others.  To do that at your absolute best, you must learn to connect.”  Being powerful in your communication is unique in the workplace.  If you want to stand out above the crowd, try listening more and talking less.  You’ll be amazed at the attention and people it draws.

Now, let’s turn our attention to standing out in the crowd as a speaker.  In my experience as a speaker and an audience member at any event, I have found one common thread that garners the most attention – delivering the unexpected.  The element of surprise –  something that catches people off guard, makes them pause and think, or knocks them of their normal course of thought; these are the things that cause you to rise up above the crowd.  I have two personal stories of the unexpected; one giving, the other receiving.

I attended a James Malinchak Speaker Bootcamp in Los Angeles one year, and wanted to get noticed among the hundreds of attendees that would be there.  In researching his bio, I learned that James was a former UC basketball player under coach Tony Yates, whom my husband knew through a friend.  Prior to heading to LA, I purchased UC spirit items and made a gift bag for James, and obtained permission from Tony to give his cell number to James.  When the opportunity arose at the bootcamp, I presented James with the gift and shared Tony’s number.  James was absolutely blown away by the gesture because it had been years since they last spoke, and Yates had had a profound impact on James as a coach.  No doubt, this connection was memorable for James and it definitely made me stand out in the crowd.  He referenced me many times over the course of the bootcamp, and in doing so I made 10 times the connections than I typically do at such events.

Just a few weeks ago, after joining a coaching program, they followed up with the unexpected.  I was surprised when UPS delivered a package one day, as I hadn’t recently ordered anything.  To my pleasant surprise, the organization sent a surprise gift to me as a new member.  I had absolutely no idea it was coming, and the bonus of this gesture increased the value of the investment I’d made with the program.  The unanticipated event made them stand out above myriad other membership programs I’d joined in the past.

As a speaker and presenter, passion, humor, and storytelling are the top three elements of delivering the unexpected to my audiences.  People are wowed when I come in from the back of the room with boxing gloves asking, “Do you come out punching every time you speak?”  This combines a little bit of humor with the unexpected.  Women love the red vinyl shoes I use to mark the way to the training room for public workshops.  This is storytelling in a sense, in that it connects with how to achieve High-Heeled Success.  I’ve been known to use many props in my workshops, some humorous, some to drive home an important point, and others to underscore an idea I am passionate about.  One of my favorite props is a wand that lights up and plays a magical chord when I wave it (thanks to Jenifer Quin-Wilson for the gift of the want).  The wand is an unexpected object that underscores breakthroughs, ‘ahah’ moments, and steps of courage that many women take when they grow and develop in my workshops.

Are you delivering the unexpected in what you do every day?  If you need help standing out above the crowd I’d love to help.  We can explore ways to develop your presentation skills, increase your passion, your delivery or storytelling skills.  Connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, or give me a call at (513) 561-4288.

©Copyright 2016.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Lessons in Leadership

Do you aspire to a leadership role within your organization, but the climb up the ladder seems insurmountable?  Start with small steps!  Leadership doesn’t happen all of a sudden at the top rung.  Developing leadership style, skills and tactics begins on the ground floor.  Let’s explore how to lay a game plan that builds to successful leadership.

A high profile title is not a prerequisite for being a leader.  You can be a leader whether you are in an entry level job or somewhere in middle management.  The best place to begin is to master your job responsibilities and execute them with excellence and authority.  Executing with authority should show mastery of your skills, and does not refer to upper-handed or arrogant authority.  Consistently executing your job deliverables with excellence (and without drama or martyrdom) will demonstrate your ability to drive projects and business forward, which is a true hallmark of a leader.  In tandem, scrutinize your work process and how it flows into your organization and aim to identify ways to implement change improvements.  A combined, continued effort in delivering with excellence and aiming to refine processes will self-promote you as a leader within your group, no matter its size.

Look for opportunities to lead outside of work.  This minimizes risk as you are developing your leadership muscle.  Search for volunteer or mentoring opportunities that relate to your career path.  Investing time and talent in this way will both hone your professional skills, and build your experience base with credible examples that will translate into your work life.  For example, serving on a marketing committee for a non-profit organization, and helping to build their mission statement and guide the development of marketing execution tactics would be an impressive story to share during an interview for a promotion level position.  Likewise, mentoring a young college student or recent grad in your area of expertise would position you as a developer of others.

Reframe leadership.  Are you currently in a leadership role with subordinates (employees?) who are intimidated by or reluctant to receive authority?   If so, shift try shifting focus from telling and directing to being a solution finder.  Problems and challenges, which need fixing and resolution surface constantly in an organization – that’s why it’s called work!  Instead of calling out the problems as belonging to someone, or as an evil that needs to be dispelled, start with a discussion about the solution instead.  Or, again, if you’re not in a leadership role, you can still be a leader in this area.  The blame game rarely has a winner. In your current work drive, or that of your teams, look at the overall project and find areas or people that need assistance and offer solutions instead of pointing the finger.  Everyone wins with this approach, and it will shine a leadership spotlight on you in the process.

Determine what your leadership stance will be on important issues.  That way you can be ready to troubleshoot potential problems as they arise.  Some key business areas where it’s important to have a developed leadership stance include: finance and budget; human resources; infrastructure and hardware; organization changes; communication protocols; and project development and timelines.  Depending on your line of work, your company may have additional important areas which merit a leadership stance.

The first approach to developing a leadership stance in these areas is to understand and align to your company or organization vision and mission, which will often provide a sound framework to build upon.  In the absence of a specific vision or mission, your company may have stated principles, guidelines or a history that can shape your stance.

Once you’ve studied and fully understand your organization’s outlook and drive in the aforementioned areas, use them to develop your leadership stance in the important business areas surrounding your work.  To demonstrate, if your company values diversity and inclusion as a principle, it is a necessary part of any hiring process.  For example, a human resource leadership stance would favor interviewing all possible candidates regardless of ethnicity or sexual orientation, and would exclude favoritism such as nepotism or the ‘good ole boy’ system.

Lead with both a commanding and collaborative style.  This requires a fine balance between speaking with authority and confidence, yet at the same time being inclusive and making a concerted effort to engage all people in your work process or project.

Leading with a commanding presence and style includes speaking with confidence, and without apologizing, or asking for permission to speak.  Speaking with confidence also means waiting for the right moment, and to speak with an authority that doesn’t intimidate.  Aim for a communication style that inspires and provides a cohesiveness that encourages active participation and a feeling of ‘we are all in this together’.

Inspiring communication invites collaboration.  Likewise being inclusive by asking others their opinion or to help brainstorm a solution builds collaboration within a group.  Further, you can encourage people to collaborate by sharing a past example of success and asking for input from the responsible individual.  For example, if building out a project timeline, highlighting Jane’s successful management and delivery of a global marketing program, and then asking her to share her strategies with the group both encourages Jane and prompts collaboration with the group.

Without a doubt, leadership has its challenges and rewards.  If you would like more guidance in these or other areas of leadership in your organization, please give me a call today to start an exploratory conversation of how we can work together to your success.

©Copyright 2015.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.