Executive Coach and Consultant Liz Bentley here describes her six-step method for personal growth, leading towards that elusive seven-figure salary. Much of what Bentley describes as holding women back is centered on the different ways in which boys and girls are brought up, the expectations put upon them, and the behaviors that are considered appropriate.
Barriers exist both within women and in society, but both can be overcome with the right mindset and approach.
The first stage is a process of self-examination. Female executives need to investigate their upbringing and understand how it shaped their present-day expectations. When they demonstrated their power as a child, was it celebrated or quashed?
Emotional and Mental Imprinting takes place from birth until age 10. It is irreversible but can be understood and dealt with. One example is the different ways in which boys and girls are treated when they have accidents – boys encouraged to dust themselves off and try again, girls over-protected and encouraged to be avoidant. Girls are also warned against initiating relationships, which can be unhelpful when it comes to learning the sales and negotiating skills a good CEO needs.
Girls are often taught to believe their looks are their main asset and that they must work harder than boys, who are more commonly praised for innate ability. Step one is to override these imprinted instincts. This includes learning to be more risk-taking and never to say “the money isn’t important” out loud.
Procrastinating, making excuses and putting off the difficult tasks in favor of the easy ones means you don’t learn by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Learn to relish the big challenges and seek them out. Delegating and ceding control to others might be necessary, taking on the things you are less good at, in order to improve.
Women can tend to over prepare. Perhaps they believe they aren’t ready to take on challenges, whereas men tend to leap in feet first. For instance, you may be wary of selling a software product you haven’t yet built, even though this is now an established and successful SaaS strategy.
Boundaries are important. Beware of offering too much help to others when it means dropping what you’re doing. There are two types of givers – those who are the least effective workers in a company, and those who are the most effective. This seems paradoxical at first, but the latter type of giver actually maintains effective boundaries while supporting and promoting colleagues.
In step five, Bentley advises taking a lesson from athletes, who can only improve through repeated failure. Their failures motivate them to improve, and they become used to changing quickly and adopting new strategies to achieve eventual success.
CEOs, similarly, take big risks daily. You need to appreciate this as a fun part of the job.
By “feedback” here Bentley is not talking about formal feedback sessions from superiors within an organization, but more the general sense of the feedback we’re given by the universe. This comes in many forms, but usually begins as a whisper, becoming a tap on the shoulder, then a slap on the back and finally, if we’re still not listening, a frying pan in the face.
Bentley stresses that it pays to develop an instinct for listening to the feedback when it’s a whisper or a tap on the shoulder. This gives you time to stop, take stock, and pivot to a new strategy. It involves not immediately going on the defensive, making excuses, or assigning blame to others for failings.
Learning this skill will help you lead a company very effectively, since you will tend to react ahead of the market, rather than merely being reactive to the changes that rivals are making.
Once you build trust within a team, your colleagues will challenge and second-guess you when it’s appropriate to do so. They will not be shy about voicing concerns, but nor will they undermine you.
When giving feedback to subordinates, do so helpfully, directly, and honestly. Take emotion and judgement off the table and demonstrate what success would look like. Give deadlines for change but be prepared to let a team member go if they do not demonstrate a willingness or ability to improve.
Bentley concludes by pointing out that you only have to answer to yourself, and that self-improvement should remain an ongoing process. Another key tendency to avoid is to focus too much on things you cannot change, particularly in a crisis. To do so is to avoiding working on those factors you can influence and change.
It is also vital to celebrate all that you have achieved to date as you progress.
Recommended Podcast: Brene Brown: https://brenebrown.com/podcasts/