Six Tips To Support Women Leaders

Post written by

Karen Dee

Karen is a certified executive coach, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Accendo Leadership Advisory Group.

There are lots of great executives who want to do everything they can to help women leaders grow and succeed in their careers. They know and respect the fact that women are often strong problem-solvers and collaborators. They also know that having more female executives can lead to increased profitability. In fact, as cited in a recent report from Morgan Stanley, “more gender diversity, particularly in corporate settings, can translate to increased productivity, greater innovation, better decision-making, and higher employee retention and satisfaction.”

So, what can be done to help women succeed in leadership? Climbing the corporate ladder to become a female senior bank executive, along with coaching dozens of high-potential woman leaders, has led me to some clear strategies that, when implemented, can help women as they strive to reach the senior leadership ranks. To that end, try implementing these six tips:

1. Appreciate, but don’t give in to the need for perfection. Help women master the 80/20 rule by coaching them to pay attention to and perfect only the 20% needed to attain 80% of the goal/objective. Nature (e.g., differences in hormone levels) and nurture (differences in how men and women are raised) can support the tendency of some women to take less risk, thereby encouraging this need for perfection. Helping women fight this urge leads to their becoming more productive with less effort, thus increasing their effectiveness.

2. Encourage women to raise their hand even if they don’t meet all the qualifications. Women, even when highly competent, often struggle with confidence. This lack of confidence can lead them to believe they must check all of the boxes and/or have 100% of the necessary qualifications before moving forward. Gently pushing women to take those risks and providing a safety net for failure allows them to increase their confidence. Over time, this comfort level enables them to stretch and volunteer for the bigger assignments and jobs that can pole vault their career.

3. Leverage women's social awareness and relationship management skills. As discussed in Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves's book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, there is significant support related to emotional intelligence (EI) being a predictor of professional success, and there are also fascinating findings showing that “women score higher in social awareness and relationship management” EI skills. Therefore, inviting women into situations requiring the ability to read the mood of the room and/or deepen relationships can allow them to excel and get noticed. It also can pay big dividends for the company.

4. Teach and talk to women about the business, strategy and financials. Leaders help women move from middle to senior management by mentoring them in and exposing them to these three areas of the organization. In her TedTalk, “The Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get,” Susan Colantuono refers to business, strategic and financial acumen as “the missing 33%” that is needed to close the gender gap in executive leadership positions. In her talk, Colantuono explains that a door opener into senior leadership is understanding where the business is headed, what the financial targets are and how to help the company reach those goals. Although this may seem obvious, most women have never been told this, and thus may remain unaware of the importance of gaining critical experience in these areas.

5. Invite women into the conversation. Some women will hesitate to interrupt and challenge because their social upbringing may discourage this behavior. Executives can help women when they realize and understand this and encourage women to speak up and be heard. Identify when someone else takes credit, or is recognized, for something a woman has just said or done. When noticed, an effective response is to simply say something like, “I believe Jane said that moments ago. Jane, would you elaborate on that idea?” This acknowledges that she’s been heard and invites her back into the conversation.

6. Encourage and support work-life balance. Professional women, especially those raising families, sometimes struggle with feeling guilty. It goes back to the need to be perfect. This guilt can eat them alive and contribute to their exiting the workplace. Support women by simply asking what is needed to help them excel in both areas of work and life. Asking, listening and working together to find ways to integrate work and family can go a long way toward showing support and helping women thrive in the workplace.

Women occupying senior leadership positions can be a competitive advantage in business. Implement these six tips now to help accelerate your high-potential women leaders and add to the bottom line of your company.

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?
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There are lots of great executives who want to do everything they can to help women leaders grow and succeed in their careers. They know and respect the fact that women are often strong problem-solvers and collaborators. They also know that having more female executives can lead to increased profitability. In fact, as cited in a recent report from Morgan Stanley, “more gender diversity, particularly in corporate settings, can translate to increased productivity, greater innovation, better decision-making, and higher employee retention and satisfaction.”

So, what can be done to help women succeed in leadership? Climbing the corporate ladder to become a female senior bank executive, along with coaching dozens of high-potential woman leaders, has led me to some clear strategies that, when implemented, can help women as they strive to reach the senior leadership ranks. To that end, try implementing these six tips:

1. Appreciate, but don’t give in to the need for perfection. Help women master the 80/20 rule by coaching them to pay attention to and perfect only the 20% needed to attain 80% of the goal/objective. Nature (e.g., differences in hormone levels) and nurture (differences in how men and women are raised) can support the tendency of some women to take less risk, thereby encouraging this need for perfection. Helping women fight this urge leads to their becoming more productive with less effort, thus increasing their effectiveness.

2. Encourage women to raise their hand even if they don’t meet all the qualifications. Women, even when highly competent, often struggle with confidence. This lack of confidence can lead them to believe they must check all of the boxes and/or have 100% of the necessary qualifications before moving forward. Gently pushing women to take those risks and providing a safety net for failure allows them to increase their confidence. Over time, this comfort level enables them to stretch and volunteer for the bigger assignments and jobs that can pole vault their career.

3. Leverage women's social awareness and relationship management skills. As discussed in Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves's book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, there is significant support related to emotional intelligence (EI) being a predictor of professional success, and there are also fascinating findings showing that “women score higher in social awareness and relationship management” EI skills. Therefore, inviting women into situations requiring the ability to read the mood of the room and/or deepen relationships can allow them to excel and get noticed. It also can pay big dividends for the company.

4. Teach and talk to women about the business, strategy and financials. Leaders help women move from middle to senior management by mentoring them in and exposing them to these three areas of the organization. In her TedTalk, “The Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get,” Susan Colantuono refers to business, strategic and financial acumen as “the missing 33%” that is needed to close the gender gap in executive leadership positions. In her talk, Colantuono explains that a door opener into senior leadership is understanding where the business is headed, what the financial targets are and how to help the company reach those goals. Although this may seem obvious, most women have never been told this, and thus may remain unaware of the importance of gaining critical experience in these areas.

5. Invite women into the conversation. Some women will hesitate to interrupt and challenge because their social upbringing may discourage this behavior. Executives can help women when they realize and understand this and encourage women to speak up and be heard. Identify when someone else takes credit, or is recognized, for something a woman has just said or done. When noticed, an effective response is to simply say something like, “I believe Jane said that moments ago. Jane, would you elaborate on that idea?” This acknowledges that she’s been heard and invites her back into the conversation.

6. Encourage and support work-life balance. Professional women, especially those raising families, sometimes struggle with feeling guilty. It goes back to the need to be perfect. This guilt can eat them alive and contribute to their exiting the workplace. Support women by simply asking what is needed to help them excel in both areas of work and life. Asking, listening and working together to find ways to integrate work and family can go a long way toward showing support and helping women thrive in the workplace.

Women occupying senior leadership positions can be a competitive advantage in business. Implement these six tips now to help accelerate your high-potential women leaders and add to the bottom line of your company.

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

Karen is a certified executive coach, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Accendo Leadership Advisory Group.