Tag Archive for succcess

Who do you need supporting your voice?

When it comes to career development, and really so many other things in life, you can’t do it alone, and because you can’t do it alone, neither can others.  Once you realize the power of your own voice, look around you and figure out who you need supporting your voice, who will be your greatest advocate, who will you talk to first when you have a ground-breaking idea?

While discovering and embracing your own power is important, the “Power of Us” can be the game-changer.  Men support each other all the time – where do you think the phrase the “good, old boys club” comes from?  If women employ some of the same techniques used by men to work together, support each other and lift while they climb, career support can be transformational.

As with everything, it’s important to find the power balance, a balance of mentor and mentee.  When you identify a woman boss or colleague who will help amplify your voice at work, you may have also found a mentor who could become a huge advocate for you.  A good mentor will support your voice and help transform your ability to speak out and speak up.  She (or he) can:

  • Advocate for you and open doors to resources.
  • Make strategic introductions.
  • Recommend you serve on boards, committees of the organization.
  • Provide inside information and help you learn the politics of your company or industry.
  • Help push you to the next level by shining a light on what you might not know about yourself.
  • Believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself.

If you’re the one in this scenario who has become the mentor, the work colleague who is ready, willing and able to lift while she climbs, make sure you’re not mentoring others to the detriment of your own career.  There’s a mentor for everyone.  Even if you need to look outside your department, company or industry, you need a mentor to help create visibility and open doors for you.

Internal and external mentors serve different roles.  An internal mentor is someone within your own organization, workplace or industry.  This person understands the culture of your workplace or industry.  A mentor who knows these intricate details can provide advice and insights that no one else can.  If you work directly with the person, she/he can also provide a unique perspective of how you are perceived in the workplace.

External mentors come from other companies, and different areas of business.  The balance of having an internal/external mentor, similar to the male/female balance, will help provide a holistic approach to the self-improvement process that takes place in a mentoring relationship.

Early in my career, I was more inclined to take a quick lunch at my desk.  I didn’t fully understand the value of having lunch with my co-workers, learning the players and gaining support for my ideas and my work.  Getting to know people and supporting each other is also more enjoyable, so don’t miss the opportunity.  It’s good for your career and good for your mental health!

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 2018.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Don’t Underestimate The Power of One

We’ve been talking and posting on social media about #WomensHistoryMonth throughout March to celebrate the women who have blazed new trails throughout history and to increase awareness for the work that still needs to be done for each of us to reach our full potential.  This includes leveraging the experience of those who have gone before us through mentorship and support for other women.  When one of us wins, we all win!

Everyone is familiar with the “old boys network”.  If women are going to be successful, we need each other – we need to create the “new women’s network”.  While some women achieve success, and then want other women to have to “work as hard as they did”, it’s the true leaders that will encourage other women and help pull their chairs to the table.

We still have a lot of ground to make-up to reach C-Suite positions, upper level management and pay equity, so we must learn from each other along the way.  Take the time to seek advice from the one woman who has a seat at the boardroom table – she knows the players and the culture.  Men network and help each other, so women should do the same.

Most importantly, a woman boss or colleague who steps into that important mentor role for you could be the person that changes everything.  A good mentor can have many roles.  She (or he) can:

  • Advocate for you and open doors for you internally.
  • Introduce you to key people.
  • Provide inside information and help you learn the politics of your company or industry.
  • Help push you to the next level by shining a light on what you might not know about yourself.
  • Believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself.

When you’ve found that person, listen to her, appreciate her, because you might remember her for the rest of your life.  Personally, I met the mentor who would change the course of my life when there was a gap between my career in the mental health field and starting my own business.

During this period, I managed to land a position with the Flint River Girl Scout Council as a field director, and a woman named Gail Kirocofe was my direct supervisor.  I believed myself to be completely out of my element, with no experience hiring staff and managing the many details associated with being a camp director.

Every day, Gail reassured me that she knew I had the ability, strength and smarts to do the job.  She let me know that she wasn’t going to do it for me, but that she had the belief in me that I was fully capable of doing it myself.

In my effort to not disappoint her, I was able to dig deep and find what she saw in me.  I literally credit her with having a thumbprint on my success, which changed the course of my life.  Even though I was only with the Girl Scouts for two years, this story illustrates my conviction of the power of one mentor.  Gail believed in me, which gave me the confidence to raise my expectations for myself.  While I have had many mentors over the years, Gail was the one that touched my career at that pivotal moment.  When I left the Girl Scouts, I moved on to start my own business.

In 2015, the awareness of the impact Gail had on my life was particularly striking.  I was featured on an electronic billboard as a conference speaker in Pennsylvania.  Realizing how far I had come, I found Gail to let her know I would not have been on that billboard without her.  In her 80s, Gail became a children’s book author and was enjoying her next chapter of success.

When we talk about Women’s History Month and mentorship, don’t ever underestimate the power of one – that one mentor can have an astonishing impact on your life, your success and who you ultimately become.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career and be a game-changer, 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.

Read Kay’s Corner in the March newsletter to find practical tips for mentoring.

©Copyright 2017.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Promoting Yourself Inside and Outside of the Workplace

You’re good at what you do, great in fact, and you know it. But, who else knows it? Further, do the right people know how good you are at your job, or about your excellent skills and abilities? If not, you could be at risk of being the best-kept secret in town. One of the top challenges for women in the workplace is that many work hard, keep their nose to the grindstone and no one knows about their outstanding work. Do you fall into this category? Your co-worker and manager might be aware of your capabilities, but how much farther are your successes being publicized?

If your manager or company doesn’t provide opportunities for you to create awareness for yourself as an employee or grant your position exposure to the levels where you think it needs to be, you may want to invest in some self-promotion strategies.

If you are new or not well-known within your department, company or industry, you can start small and build your strategy outward. Taking the first step can be challenging, but well worth the investment. In this article, I offer three ways to engage with your company on a larger scale, as well as three ideas that tie in with the holidays.

Special Projects – If you work in a mid- to large-sized organization, search your company’s website for news about special projects, or upcoming event or conferences. If your company is smaller, approach your manager or the person who hired you to inquire about special opportunities. Find one that aligns with your interest or skill set and determine how you can become involved. Avoid thinking things like ‘that’s not my style’, or ‘I’m too busy’. Step out of your comfort zone, and carve out the time in your schedule to get involved. Working on a collaborative short-term project could open your world to new people, ideas, and processes and, in turn, provide the perfect platform to showcase your talents.

Philanthropy – If your company is aligned with a charitable cause – get involved! Attend a philanthropy-related meeting with the intent of taking an active part in an upcoming event. Prior to attending, educate yourself on the cause and be ready to discuss it or ask questions should the opportunity arise. Volunteer for a role that either shows your skill set or allows for the most visibility or opportunity to interact with many co-workers.

If your company does not have an association with an organization or cause, be the catalyst. Research different causes that naturally align with your company’s service or product, and identify the best fit. Discover ways your company could help the organization as well as ways your company could benefit from becoming involved. Present the idea to your manager or your HR manager, and be ready with a first step suggestion. People working together for a cause builds community, and if you head up the cause, you will be viewed as a leader. If the idea is rejected, you will, at least, have demonstrated initiative, creative thinking and gained exposure as someone who has fresh ideas and the energy to do work.

Publicize and Promote – How do people in your company, or those in the community become well-known? Public speaking, blogging, networking at community events, or having the ear of the people in their company or industry are some of the most effective ways to build your ‘personal brand’ and become well-known. Pick one activity based on your comfort level and expertise and simply begin to build. Sharing your business expertise or experiences on a blog is a solid way to begin. WordPress, LinkedIn or Blogger are all simple and easy tools to use to begin a blog. Creating an inventory of content on your blog, and sharing it on social media will reach large audiences over time. Networking opportunities abound through local Chambers of Commerce, or larger city business organizations which offer mixers or events for meeting local and regional business owners. Invite a friend to join you during networking events so you can introduce each other to other attendees and assuage any potential nerves.

Over time, these incremental activities will build on themselves as your arsenal of knowledge. Eventually, you will have built up enough experience and content to compile and e-book, conduct a workshop, or give a small talk at a conference or networking event. Publishing, leading seminars, and public speaking will definitely build your personal brand and gain the attention of the upper management in your company.

Seasonal Ideas

This time of year provides a unique opportunity to engage with people on a more personal level. Try any one of the following ideas depending on the size and culture of your company and/or department.

Holiday Gathering – Organize a holiday get together. This doesn’t have to be at your home, extravagant or the picture perfect event. People enjoy the opportunity to gather during the holidays, especially when someone else does the planning. Reserve a conference room for a lunchtime event (which can be a potluck), select a local restaurant for a casual dinner party, or designate a day for a short after work happy hour event in a location suitable for everyone to mingle. Plan a fun activity that joins the group together for a while to make sure all attendees are included at one point during the evening. Ideas include a quick game of Left, Right, Center; White Elephant Game or a Christmas trivia game.

Use a printed invitation as the way to promote yourself with this idea. After the event details, include your name, title and contact information as the hostess. Whether people attend or not, you will have made an impression of someone who takes initiative and has creativity.

Holiday Giving – Organize a soup kitchen Saturday event, Toys for Tots collection or canned food drive for your office. Create a simple one-page flyer with the details of the event Include your name, title and contact information as the hostess. Distribute the flyer to each co-worker, and hang in a central place for high visibility. This method demonstrates the same characteristics as the invitation, as well as an ‘others-focused’ outlook, which translates into leadership skills.

Gifts of Thanks – Are you an independent contractor or freelance service provider? The holiday season is a unique opportunity to thank your clients (past and current) for their business. Gift ideas range from homemade goodies and packaged gifts of food to calendars or other business tools for the New Year. Personalize the latter with your company info, and enclose a handwritten note expressing your gratitude for their business. You could also include a quick list of accomplishments for 2015 and some business ideas or opportunities for 2016.

Gift giving to potential clients during the holiday season is also an effective way to promote your business and create awareness. In this category, personalized business gifts are more appropriate since they communicate your company name and services. A follow-up visit or note in the New Year is another great touch point in the process of promoting yourself and your business.

To Summarize…….

Whichever method you choose to create awareness of your skills and publicize your capabilities, do so with intention. Have the end-goal in mind when you begin, whether it’s a promotion, in-place salary increase, or job change. Build a plan of the activities and events so each one exemplifies a skill or capability that is a prerequisite of your end goal. If you need help building this strategy, give me a call and we can create a game plan together through one on one coaching (call me about the special pricing running this month on the Fast Start coaching package!). Attending my January workshop, “Kick Start Your High-Heeled Success™” will also arm you with a toolbox of ideas to help your career soar.

©Copyright 2015.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

How to Thrive and Advance in a Male-Dominated Workplace

From day one, male babies are dressed and swaddled in blue, females in pink.  Boys play with trucks and like to wrestle, girls play with dolls and learn proper manners.  Young men play to win on sports teams, young women do things in groups where everyone tries to get along.  Yes, there are exceptions to these generalities like girls who play sports, or young men who focus on academics or the arts.  Even in these scenarios, there are learned behaviors that carry through to adulthood and the workplace that shape the way males and females interact; and it can be confusing, because they are vastly different.

If you work in a male-dominated setting, you must understand the environment in order to thrive in it.  Similar to adapting to a new culture in a different country, or learning a new language, we have to understand the world around us before we can fully engage and participate.  This is not to say that after a year of living in France (for example), or learning their language, that we become French!  However; we would learn how to get along with and interact with the French better than if you held onto your American ways.  Similarly, if you work in a male-dominated company, and that is still the construct of most American workplaces, to learn the customs, manners and speech that goes with the culture will not only help you be a part of it, but even lead within it.  If your hard work is going unnoticed or unrewarded, if you are frustrated because your voice or ideas are not heard, or worse, if you find yourself complaining about your situation, it’s time to learn some strategies and get in the game.  It’s not about relinquishing yourself or your feminine side, rather, it’s about using what you have and what you know to successfully survive, strive and thrive.

It is important to remember that, just like the French were the first people in France, men and the male culture of the workplace have been in business for centuries. Globally.  It surprises me sometimes that women are miffed or incredulous that we haven’t changed this culture in the last 50 years, when the rules and behaviors of men in business date back to the days of barter and trade, and when you had to sometimes fight and even kill to survive.  Think about history.  Shifts in civilizations and cultures take centuries if not millenniums before change occurs.  If we are to succeed in a male-dominant culture (workplace), we need to shift our efforts from changing it, to improving our circumstance within it.  Indeed, the optimal outcome is that equality in the workplace prevails, but for now, we need to focus on this point in time and our place within the grand shift.   If we pursue success with this mindset, rather than the thought that we aren’t being granted a fair shake, we will get a lot farther a lot more quickly.  The three keys to success lie within adapting these styles to survive, strive and thrive within the world around you:

  • Communication
  • Behavior
  • Leadership

Communication Approach

Imagine you are in a business meeting in Paris.  Speaking in English will not get your point across (I know many are bilingual, but stay with the example).  Of course you are frustrated because English is all you know.  Similar to speaking to someone hard of hearing, perhaps you shout in English to get your point across.  This accomplishes not your goal, but instead succeeds in irritating those around you, and worse, their disdain or disregard for you.  In essence, you are a nuisance, even if you have a meaningful or even life-saving point to make.  You’ll never get your point across with this approach.  What do you do?  Learn French and try again.

At this point, I know you’re wondering ‘what is the language of men in business, the language that they hear, understand and respond to?’  Well, it’s not so much a language, as it is a communication style.  Whereas women are masters of rapport building, men want to get straight to the point.  Women are congenial conversationalists, men report and declare information and ideas.  Generally, women speak in turn, whereas research has shown that men interrupt and dominate the floor.  Tone and intonation matter also matter.  In your business communication, stick to facts, steer away from feelings.  Keep on topic, and by all means avoid drama at all costs.  You might be cringing at this point, thinking back to certain communications gone bad.  You can change and move forward.  It is possible.  Communicate as if you are on a mission, with a limited amount of time to accomplish a very important task, and that it’s imperative that everyone understand your vision.  Because, in fact, you are.  Your mission is that of staking your professional ground and advancement.

Communication – Survival Strategies:

  • Avoid chit chat and rapport building.
  • Get straight to the point and stick to it.
  • Declare your points versus posing them as questions or ideas for pondering.
  • Avoid your high-pitch voice, and drama.  Communicate with a strong even tone that exudes confidence.

Behavior Modification

Using France as an example again, the culture has a certain set of values and etiquette that apply in all situations.  To immerse into the culture, you must strive to understand your environment, and adapt in order to be a part of it.  It’s not about abandoning who you are, or changing your ways completely.  It’s about gaining knowledge of how things work in the world around you, making adjustments to become a part of it, and ultimately effectively contribute to its betterment.  The goal is to change how you are perceived and understood, so that you will assimilate into and be accepted into the culture.

In this case, adapting to your environment means being a team player, but according to the male definition of ‘team’.  From a young age, boys learn that to be a team player you must sacrifice for the good of the team, sometimes break the rules, and not take things personally.  You don’t necessarily like all the players on the team, but get along with them anyway because they allhave the same goal, which is to win with an organized strategy.  These learned behaviors are engrained and come into play again in the business world.  Conversely, from girlhood, females like to be friends with everyone on the team, make sure the outcome is best for everyone involved, and work to support the team by following the rules.  These concepts are at odds with each other.  If you find yourself in a male-dominant business team as a minority, it’s necessary to play by their accepted rules – whether or not you agree with or like them.

Following on the communication style differences, relationships men have with co-workers is quite different than those of women.  For starters, and in most cases, discussion of interpersonal topics are not for the office.  When someone (male or female) is friendly at a given point in time, it doesn’t mean they are your friend.  You can get along well in a meeting, or on a team, but understand that it doesn’t mean you now have a buddy, or that someone that has your back.  You have to have your own back.  Period.  Know your boundaries and act accordingly.  These rules are not true for every office, or every company, but if you’re reading this and experiencing an ‘ah ha’ moment, it is probably true for your office, and you are now aware of it.

Behavior – Strive Strategies

  • Get to know and understand the rules in your office.
  • Play by the rules, and understand you might lose a ‘friend’ in the process.
  • Get along with everyone, even if it hurts.
  • Fair is not always in the playbook.  Realize this, and accept it, but not to the point of compromising integrity.
  • Make frequent, meaningful contributions to the team, always with the end-goal in mind.

Leadership Style

There is no one or right way to lead, but there is a wrong way, which is trying to reach unanimous consensus among the team, or worse, sharing an idea and asking everyone’s opinion before making a move.  Some women try to apply their social rules of female relationships when in a leadership role; play nice, get along, everybody’s happy.  That’s doesn’t work in the office.  Not everyone is, nor can they be, on equal ground.  As a leader, it is inevitable that some decisions you make won’t be popular or liked by some members of your team.  How you react could be the linchpin in gaining the respect of your team.  If you have a high need to be liked by all, or want to assuage any and all dissonance within your team, it will be your downfall.  In sum, you will lose the respect of your team.

Many men, especially those who played team sports, inherently understand and operate this way by default.  They lead with their head.  Heart rarely plays a role at the office.  This is not to say that men are insensitive, it’s just that they are conditioned to compartmentalize emotions in the decision making process.  The higher up you go, or want to go, this type of strategic decision and action tends to get more intense.

Leadership – Thrive Strategies

  • Review the facts, formulate a strategy or decision, and be direct with your delivery.
  • Don’t agonize, assuage or apologize.
  • Stick to your guns. Backtracking is perceived as being weak or inconsistent.
  • Accept some dissension as normal and move on.  Eventually employees will too.
  • Understand that people want a leader to lead and coach.  Act accordingly.

These male-focused strategies of communication, behavior and leadership may seem cold and without regard to relationships.  Cultivation of relationships as a team player, or leader is a fundamentally important part of team building.  This observation may seem to fly in the face of the strategies I’ve outlined, but let me assure you, it does not.  Acting as the Lone Ranger won’t get you very far.  Workplace relationship cultivation has the goals and objectives of the business or organization are at the heart.  In a friendship outside of work, seeing a movie, shopping or chatting over coffee is appropriate.  At work, activities and behaviors that strengthen and further both the individual and the company are the core activities that cultivate relationships.  Examples include mentoring a younger employee, picking up a project for someone in dire need of help (not chronic need), showing up to all meetings (even the boring ones), or recognizing someone’s contributions or praising their work in front of a group.  These actions will gain the respect of your co-workers, set an example for others to follow, and in most cases, benefit you in some way.

Adapting your communication, behavior and leadership style, using the methods outlined within will help you survive, strive and thrive not only in a male-dominated culture, they will take you far in an all-female, or equally mixed environment as well.  I liken these methods to the environment one would expect in a higher-education classroom setting;

  • Direct, no nonsense, fact-driven, communication.
  • Appropriate, calm and participatory behavior.
  • Principle-based, direct and unwavering leadership

Has any of this advice struck a chord with you?  Did you find yourself identifying or struggling with some of these areas in your work life?  I’ve coached hundreds of women through challenging situations, freeing them of encumbered beliefs or behaviors, setting them on a path to success.  I can help you too.  Please contact me for an initial consultation to explore the possibilities of working together.

©Copyright 2015.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.