July 1, 2014

Being a AAA rated leader

Ladies, this one's for you. But some of you guys may also gain some insights...

I recently spoke to a group of amazing, talented and successful women in finance about how to lift their game as leaders. In framing my thoughts I summed up the key areas in three A's: Attitude; Actions; and Advocates.

You may be great at getting the job done, but not being recognised for your efforts. Why is that so?

It's because doing good work is not good enough any more!

You also need to bring a belief in yourself and your potential - you need to bring an Attitude to work. 

That Attitude is not something we naturally wake up to. What usually wakes up with us in the morning is something like "not enough sleep, too much to do and time to get going!"

Some of us even check the weather report to find out what our mood should be.

 Whether we create it or not, we bring an Attitude with us to every moment. It becomes the unconscious communication that is delivered along with the words we speak. More than the words we say, it's the context for what we say that people remember. It's our Attitude.

Anytime you deliver a communication - whether it is spoken, written or non-verbal - people experience your Attitude first, then everything else. That attitude also becomes a filter through which the brain perceives and understands the world. What you hear, see, feel and experience is all an interpretation that is strongly influenced by your Attitude. 

For instance, think about time when you needed to take a risk such as:

Standing in front of the board, presenting your ideas.
Rallying your team to get take on a new project.
Asking your boss for a raise or the chance for a promotion.
Standing up for an idea you believe in.

What makes the difference in that moment? Your Attitude! 

This isn't about being arrogant or egotistical, which actually mask insecurity and are about force, not power. Attitude is grounded in self-belief and personal power. It's quiet, solid and authentic.

One last word here. Attitude is not dependent on your circumstances. It's something you make up and take on. Think of putting on your Attitude when you put on your suit for the day. Come up with a ritual each morning for putting on your Attitude before you walk out your front door.

Our body language tells us and the world who we are just as much as our Attitude does. 

Think of a great and inspiring speaker or leader. How do they stand? What is their body language? 

How we move and take Action broadcasts to the world how we feel about ourselves, projecting our thoughts and emotions even before we speak. Our body language also reinforces our emotional state, informing the brain how we should feel about a situation.

Recently, at the ASTD global conference in Washington, I watched a speaker standing with their hands grasped in front of them, knuckles going from red to white. Granted they were in front of nearly 11,000 people - no mean feat. But, I have to wonder if what kept them from settling in and finding their confidence on stage was their body Actions reinforcing nervousness. 

Try this on: 

Stand up with your shoulders rolled forward and your back hunched. How strong and confident do you feel?

Now stand tall, lift your torso with your core abdominal muscles, look up towards the horizon and let your arms relax by your sides. Feels much better!

Think about how you want to be perceived, how you need to stand and move to project yourself as a strong and confident professional. Yes, sometimes you do have to fake it 'til you make it. But always take your Attitude and Actions to work with you.

It takes a village to raise a leader. Building a career isn't something you can do on your own. 

Women, much more than men though struggle with the idea of raising their hand for support. I know that is a very broad statement to make but in 20 years of coaching and training, I have consistently noticed many, if not the majority of women focus their energy on getting the job done well first and managing their own career second, if at all.

This is crazy!  

Think of Cathy Freeman or Dawn Fraser and the team that helped them achieve their goals. 

You need both internal mentors and advisers to support your career progression, as well as an external coach to give you that clarity of distance and partnership, enabling you to have conversations you can't have with anyone else.

Think like an elite sports person and take on the mentality that you can't do it all on your own. Actually, you can't see your own blind spots and what's missing in your game. None of us can. 

You need others around you who have your back and will tell you what you need to hear. It won't always be what you want to hear but who really needs that?

The idea of building a team of Advocates may go against what is natural or comfortable for you. But, what kind of career do you actually want? A comfortable one or rewarding one? They rarely go hand-in-hand. 

If this still doesn't convince you, think of a time when you helped someone else. How did it feel? That's what it's like for your Advocates. 

I recently participated in a Sydney-based volunteer mentoring programme and had the privilege of working with an extraordinary woman, helping her with her thinking around how to take her business to the next level. There was no money involved and the programme happened during one of the busiest times in my career.  I had every good reason to say no to the request but jumped at the offer in a second. Why?

Because one of the most rewarding aspects of my work is to witness someone thrive and know I had a hand in it. It's a privilege and a thrill. I also know I'm not alone in this.

According to UCLA Social Researcher Matthew Lieberman, we are social creatures - our brains are wired to connect. If Facebook were a religion, it would be the third largest in the world. 

When we volunteer, we experience a reward that is similar to receiving a salary increase of $20,000 to $70,000 a year.

Think of how it feels when you help others and then think about the reward people will experience helping you. 

Bring your Attitude to work, make sure your Actions project positive, powerful and authentic leadership and ensure you Advocates have your back. That's how you'll be a Triple A rated leader!

Want to learn more about being an empowered and empowering leader? Join me for my Empowered Women Leaders Workshop! Find out more at http://www.thehpinstitute.com


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