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Women — Break the Glass Ceiling Within

Categories: Women in Business

Glass-CeilingTime Magazine recently ran a fascinating interview with Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and undoubtedly one of the most successful and influential female corporate executives of all time. The piece was timed to coincide with the release of Sandberg’s new book, Lean In.

In the article, Sandberg addresses the fact that although women make up 50% of all college graduates in the U.S., and have for the past 30 years, “men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives.”

However, rather than blame all of the usual suspects, Sandberg acknowledges that discrimination against women (and particularly against women who are deemed “powerful”) still exists, but she claims that a main part of the problem lies in women’s own attitudes. In other words, our own limitations and what’s inside our heads are what are keeping us down.

Let’s put aside for a moment the question of whether or not most women even want to rise to uber-powerful corporate heights. Obviously, it’s not possible to generalize such a thing. Some do, and some don’t. But for those women who do have lofty goals, how can they break through their own limitations and learn the mind-set and skill-set necessary to achieve their dreams?

How can they find out and quash what hidden inner limitations are lurking within, self-sabotaging the big paycheck?

Sheryl Sandberg is trying to start a movement, and I applaud her loudly. But any movement is made up of individuals, each with their own beliefs, programming, and personal issues. Are yours getting in the way of your professional advancement? Do you believe you can go only so far, and no farther? Are you afraid of shattering the glass ceiling?

If you’d like a head start on breaking your own internal glass ceilings, I’d like to recommend a book I wrote specifically for women: Career MAGIC: A Woman's Guide to Reward and Recognition. This book contains the exact strategies that worked for more than 30 highly successful female executives in a variety of industries.

Here's a quick overview of my MAGIC formula for self-marketing success:

M: Manner

The first aspect of marketing your MAGIC relates to your manner, the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you meet people, the way you treat people. Do you project the body language of a winner? Do you walk with purpose? Do you look people in the eye and smile? Do you attract others to you? Do you project the image of success?

Are you the type of person people want to do business with? Can they count on you? Can they trust you? Do you treat them respectfully? Are you the consummate professional? No one wants to do business with – or work with --people who treat them poorly. Your manner can open or shut doors. What does your manner say about you?

A: Advocates

Creating an advocate system is another great way to market your MAGIC. These are the people who create “buzz” about you and your company or services. Consider them your unpaid salesforce. Advocates don’t just happen. You need to meet as many people in as many places as possible -- at work, within professional associations and groups, and in your daily life. Being a good networker helps with the first step in creating advocates.

There are four things you need in order to make the most of your networking opportunities: a good self-introduction, business cards (carry them with you at all times), an effective handshake (firm, not bone crushing or wimpy), and, of course, an interest in helping others.

Advocate relationships in your life often evolve and grow over time as you get to know each other better. It’s all about creating, building and maintaining the relationship.

G: Grow

The third part of my MAGIC formula for success is to grow. Strive to grow in knowledge in three areas:

  • Craft: What you do. The skills/information to do your job.
  • Market: Your field. What are the trends? What do you need to know so you don’t become obsolete?
  • Self: Take risks; try new things.

How do you grow? Continue your education and get advanced degrees or certifications in your industry. Training programs, mentoring, and mastermind groups also provide opportunities for growth.

Taking risks is necessary for growth. Whenever you evaluate a risk, ask yourself the following two questions:

  1. What’s the worst that can happen?
  2. Then what?

Once you’ve identified the worst possible outcome of taking a risk, think about how you would cope with potential failure. Do you have a good backup plan? Would you have opportunities or resources to fall back on? If so, then what do you have to lose? When you look at risk and how you would handle the possible outcomes, it’s no longer frightening or overwhelming. Besides, growth occurs even when things don’t turn out the way you hoped they would. We learn not only through our successes, but through our failures, as well.

I: Involvement

The “I” in the MAGIC formula relates to getting involved. Get involved in the things that winners you are involved with are involved with, and winners you would like to be involved with are involved with.

Where to get involved:

  • Mastermind Groups (aka “think tanks” or “dream teams”) – trusted advisors with whom business ideas can be shared, dissected and fine-tuned – all in a noncompetitive, nurturing environment
  • Associations and other professional/community groups
  • Life (country clubs, synagogues, churches, your childrens’ activities, etc.)

Involvement means take leadership roles, get involved training others, become a mentor, serve on a board, do something! Pick and choose strategically. Where will you learn the most? How can you contribute? Who will you meet? Weigh your personal satisfaction against potential payback and visibility. A majority of referral business comes from people we are involved with outside of our immediate work environment.

C: Commentary

The last part of the MAGIC mix is to be perceived as an expert. You need to give commentary in order to do this. Get your name out there. Become an expert resource. And, if you’ve already achieved some level of media exposure, aim higher for national and international exposure. Unless you’re talking about the sun, too much exposure never hurt anyone!

There are two aspects to creating commentary:

  • Write
    • articles
    • newsletters
    • books
    • letters to the editor

Get your name in print. Once you are published, send articles to your advocates and to others in your network and industry. Or, send out news releases in order to secure media interviews – radio, TV, print (magazines and newspapers), and Internet sites.

  • Speak
    • at meetings, conferences and conventions
    • teach a course
    • do radio and television interviews
    • present papers
    • introduce speakers

So, if your dream is to be a stay-at-home mom, I support you! And if your dream is to rise through the corporate ranks to dizzying heights, BRODY Professional Development can do more than just support you — we can actively assist you.

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