Rebecca Shambaugh is president and CEO of Shambaugh Leadership Institute, an organization she founded 20 years ago. She’s known worldwide for her expertise in coaching companies of all sizes to develop an inclusive and diverse culture. She’s especially interested in women’s leadership and programs dedicated to advancing women in leadership positions, gender studies and organizational best practices for harnessing underutilized talent.
Rebecca works with thousands of women every year to drill down into what is really holding them back. And often, she says, what holds women back is not the glass ceiling, but our own sticky feet! (She wrote a book about it).
“Women need to get clear about how to champion their own goals in life,” she explained. “We build our own narrative.”
Of course, there’s been a lot written about what holds women back—and where it all starts. Recent studies demonstrate that men, across many cultures, have higher self-esteem than women. Women are harder on themselves—and they tend to think a lot less of themselves. Women have reported less confidence in the workplace, saying they feel less supported by their managers and peers and generally hesitant toward reaching the top. And these issues start at a very young age: women are taught to be nice to others (rather than take the lead).
Make this the year you crush your leadership goals and recognize your potential. Rebecca advises women start with the following:
- Uncover your own sticky floor.
By sticky floor, Rebecca is referring to all that is holding you back, real or imagined. What are the lessons you’ve learned in the past, and the beliefs and assumptions that you carry that hold you back? Take the time to look inward and evaluate yourself and give yourself credit for your strengths.
“Once you know your strengths, it’s time to throttle up and get more exposure. You need to build your professional brand,” Rebecca said.
Many times, women assume that others will notice what great workers they are, Rebecca pointed out, but that’s not necessarily true. Women need to champion their strengths and learn to confidently promote themselves.
In a Tedx talk Rebecca reflected on her own encounters with setbacks in life. “One day a mentor pulled me aside. He said, you probably have a lot of good reasons why you’re feeling frustrated and why you’re being passed by. But have you ever thought about asking yourself what you’re doing or not doing that is causing you to get passed by for opportunities, or not taken seriously?”
That lesson made Rebecca realize that “much of life’s destiny lies under our own two feet.”
- Build an informed network.
Building relationship capital can help women pave the path forward. Yes, this involves mentors, but what’s most important are sponsors, those leaders above you who open doors for you and give you the critical opportunities you need to move forward and up in your career; things such as promotions, connections to new job interviews, references, key contacts.
To build a better network,
- “Be intentional about relationships,” Rebecca said. “Consider it a part of your job.” Make time to connect with others. Think about who can help get you more exposure. Make time for it—this is part of your career.
- Diversify your connections! Avoid your comfort zone of simply networking with those you already know. Think of who can help you from an operational perspective, a strategic perspective and at a personal level.
- Focus on sponsorships. “Women are over-mentored and under-sponsored,” Rebecca said. Sponsors are those folks who will put themselves on the line for you; there’s a high degree of trust in your ability to succeed.
- Harness a growth mindset.
Ditch the negative talk: “No, I can’t do that…”, “What if…” or “I’m probably not able to…” These negative thoughts lock you into place and prevent you from reaching your true potential.
“Find your narrative. And reprogram your narrative.”
Shambaugh defines growth mindset as, “A growth mindset refers to people who believe that they have the power to develop their own talents, using strategies like working hard or incorporating input from others.”
In other words: remember, you’re in charge.
Now, make it happen. What’s holding you back and what can you do today to elevate your path to leadership? What is your sticky floor?