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Career Coaches: Men Mentoring and Coaching Women

Men mentoring and coaching women - Career Coaches

Men mentoring and coaching women – Career Coaches

Men Mentoring and Coaching Women

Many of the powerful women I interviewed for my book Find Your Inner Red Shoes shared that they had received most of their mentoring and coaching from men. Some had early male career coaches or mentors who made a big impact in their journeys. Some sought out male mentoring and coaching as they moved through the ranks and became these men’s protégés. Regardless of the industry these women were in, they all found men who saw the value in helping them become leaders in their desired field.

The Real Role of Career Coaches

When you look for potential mentors to coach your female employees up the organizational ladder, it’s easy to settle for the more common role of a career coach: Helping people advance in their careers by refining their strengths and overcoming their weaknesses. What is harder to find are career coaches who guide your employees through a process of self-discovery that eventually leads to a better alignment between their inner strengths and passions, and their career track. Someone who functions as a catalyst for your employees’ ambitions and who guides them in the path to self-fulfillment which is the surest way to heightened career engagement and productivity. This is exactly the type of mentor that the successful women I interviewed had!

The Real Role of Career Coaches: Having a Career

The Real Role of Career Coaches

As you look for potential career coaches to match with females on the fast track, keep in mind that mentors don’t need to look like their mentees. For good mentoring and coaching to occur, it’s less important for it to be delivered by someone with the same background/gender as the mentee than by someone with the ability to unleash their mentees’ interests. In addition, what makes a mentor/coach most valuable is the ability to help mentees crack the code for career advancement in the organization—who to approach for what, what strategies will land them a seat at the table, best ways to leverage their background, and so on. In the best-case scenario, as the relationship progresses, mentors become sponsors introducing their mentees to key players and becoming conduits to bigger and better career advancement opportunities.

The Advantage of Men Mentoring and Coaching Women

When the goal is to promote more women to leadership positions and the dominant demographic in power is men, it’s important that men do some of the mentoring and coaching of the high potential women (particularly women from diverse backgrounds) to create a succession plan that includes both genders.

There are many advantages for your company to have men as career coaches for women:

  • Men can help women decipher the unwritten rules of the organization, the ignorance of which can affect women and other groups negatively.
  • Men can become powerful sponsors of the women they are mentoring and coaching, vouching for their abilities and integrity when a desirable position becomes available.
  • The exposure to women’s thought process, collaborative style, and approach to problem-solving can help men see the value of including more women at higher decision-making levels.
  • The positive impact of working with smart women who are advancing through the ranks can help change the perception that they are a threat to men’s power and elicit more support for women in the organization.
Career coaches

Career coaches

Potential Disadvantages of Men Mentoring and Coaching Women

Because men and women have very different management and leadership styles and because in most companies the top echelon of the organization is highly male, when you assign men as career coaches for women there is a  risk of perpetuating the stereotypes that have created the disparity in the first place. So it behooves you to identify the right men for the job.  Men who embrace change and welcome different approaches and ideas. Those who feel comfortable sharing knowledge and power because they understand that in the end the strategy will benefit the entire organization.

Finally, to achieve your goals of promoting more women to the highest decision-making positions, you might need to assign both a male and a female career coach to your fast track employees. The first one will share insights on the way men climb the ladder and the second will hopefully offer the tweaks necessary to succeed as a woman in your particular company.

Do you have Executive Presence? Take our Quiz and Find Out!

Do you have Executive Presence? Take our Quiz and Find Out!

Do you have Executive Presence?

Right now, the buzzword for female advancement in the workplace is executive presence, a desired trait for certain leadership positions. But for many women, that concept brings up a good deal of questions. What does executive presence mean exactly? Are you born with it or can you acquire it if you don’t have it? Who determines if you have executive presence or not?

The fact is that executive presence is itself a pretty elusive concept, one that is more in the eye of the beholder than anyone would admit. At its worst, it’s used in the expression, “He/she doesn’t have executive presence” when selecting a candidate for a top executive position, which is code for, “The candidate doesn’t look like the executives currently serving in our organization,” which in turn is often code for, “The candidate is not a middle-aged white man.”  So saying that someone lacks executive presence is often nothing more than a way of saying that they don’t fit the leadership mold in that company.

In this situation, the first question you should ask yourself is how much you need or even want to fit the mold before you go about changing your style. In some cases, not fitting the mold is actually good. If the organization is looking for someone with a different experience and perspective, having a diverse background or a style that’s unlike that of the reigning executive pool works to your advantage. The next question you must ask yourself is if executive presence is a requirement for the type of role you’re interested in —for example in finance or human resources. Continue Reading the Article

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But if, at critical points in your career, you’ve heard the feedback that you lack executive presence, you might want to consult with trusted advisors on ways you could develop a bit more. The truth is, no one is born with executive presence, but there are some basic traits on which to build the executive presence required to lead. Some things you can learn – such as maintaining eye contact, speaking with clarity, controlling your body language. But others – such as inspiring confidence, intelligence, and making snap decisions that are consistently good ones – may be more a function of your psychological makeup and not something you can pick up from a coach.

If you want to be a leader in your organization, however, it’s critical to hone your executive presence to attract the attention of those who can offer you the right opportunities.  So take this quiz and find out if you already have the kind of executive presence needed to be promoted to the highest levels of a company, and what else you could do to refine what you’ve got.

Should you find out that you lack some of the characteristics that are inherent requirements of a person in a leadership role, you can redirect your career path towards one that better aligns with your internal assets.  And if you still want to pursue a leadership role, one option might be to seek a leadership role outside of a large corporation where certain rules apply. There are many successful women making a huge impact in all sorts of organizations where they can channel their interests and valuable talents.

Photo Credit: landofart.ru

Developing Effective Leadership Traits with Training for Latinas

Teaching effective leadership traits at McDonald's Women Career Development training - Hilda Gonzalez McDonald's Facilitator

Teaching effective leadership traits at McDonald’s Women Career Development training

Take a peek into the McDonald’s Women Career Development program that teaches effective leadership skills to Latinas to help them move up the ladder!

It was arctic cold at the Hyatt Lodge in Oakbrook, IL, when a group of forty Latinas came together for a full day of leadership training organized for them exclusively by McDonald’s. The frigid temperature (single digits Fahrenheit!) continued outside, but inside it was all excitement and warm camaraderie.

Handpicked by their supervisors, these restaurant managers spent a day away from running multimillion-dollar businesses and identified effective leadership traits and skills that could help them continue to grow in their careers. With the help of a professional facilitator and five “Big Sisters” (senior women in the organization) they spent eight hours bonding with each other while discussing high impact topics.  You could ask why would people who are already so successful need to be made aware of effective leadership traits. Shouldn’t they already have those leadership traits in order to manage multimillion-dollar restaurants?

The truth is that these powerful Latinas are extremely talented managers who have proven to be invaluable to the organization and who posses many of the typical leadership traits you’d expect in people in their positions. But the corporation believes it would benefit even more if these leaders continued to climb the corporate ladder and to do so, they need to expand their skillset. So McDonald’s is set on helping them achieve their full potential and, in the process, continue to develop the pipeline of outstanding women leaders.

Appreciating specific and effective leadership traits

Through engaging small-group discussions followed by larger group sharing, participants discovered a host of leadership traits that they had in common as women and, particularly, as Latinas.  Among them:

Forty restaurant managers meet to identify effective leadership traits that can help them grow even further within the organization

Forty restaurant managers meet to identify effective leadership traits that can help them grow even further within the organization

"Big sisters", senior women within the organization collaborate with professional facilitator to carry out leadership development program

“Big sisters”, senior women within the organization collaborate with professional facilitator to carry out leadership development program

  • Ability to listen to their customers
  • Family orientation that extends to the way they treat employees
  • Ability to multitask and get things done
  • Strength while able to show emotion
  • A focus on getting their target goals accomplished
  • Supportive of other women’s career advancement
  • Focus on the bottom line
  • Excellent communication skills— Many of them are able to speak two or more languages
  • Courage —In many cases as part of their family’s immigrant history
  • Strong ability to work with teams
The Women Career Development program that McDonald's tailored to Latinas teaches them leadership traits needed to move up the ladder

The Women Career Development program that McDonald’s tailored to Latinas teaches them leadership traits needed to move up the ladder

Focusing on areas of opportunity

The setting of the day, a leadership training program exclusively created for Latinas, was a safe backdrop for a candid conversation where participants could openly admit to cultural elements often responsible for holding them back in their careers. These included:

  • Too much emphasis on overcoming weaknesses rather than on becoming better at one’s strengths
  • Fear of asking for feedback
  • Fear of disappointing one’s family by failing
  • Dealing with different family expectations of a woman’s role than participants’ own expectations for themselves (Families that expect women to be home and take care of their families, husbands who may resent their spouses for making more money than they do, etc.)
  • Lack of confidence in one’s leadership abilities even when the evidence points to strong leadership traits
  • Lack of strong written communication skills needed to move to next level
Discussing key concepts in small groups and reporting back to the group at large helps to build confidence in effective leadership traits

Discussing key concepts in small groups and reporting back to the group at large helps to build confidence in effective leadership traits

By admitting to these cultural characteristics (or baggage, as the group decided to call those Latino traits that may get in the way of career growth) and by learning ways to deal with these characteristics, participants felt a sense of relief and possibility. They also opened themselves to being mentored by more senior women in order to take full advantage of the opportunities available to them at their company.

The resounding success of the leadership-training day underscored how programs designed with a specific demographic in mind and delivered by a sensitive team can positively impact employees. McDonald’s made these Latinas feel valued by offering a space to share culturally relevant insights and by making them feel part of a larger network of women ready to support their career success.

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”13″ size_format=”px” ]What is your company doing to engage Latinas in the workplace and to promote them up the ranks?[/typography]

 

Empowering Women: Asking Tough Questions

Empowering Women for Career Success

Empowering Women for Career Success

Even the best intentions sometimes fall short. This is often the case when it comes to empowering women. There are plenty of programs out there focused on empowering women that unwittingly play against their own missions.  Just recently, one of my clients brought into her company a three-day training program where participants where repeatedly told in no uncertain terms that they needed to wear jackets to project executive presence. There was no room left for individual self-expression, nor any in-depth discussion of what executive presence really means and the various ways in which it is projected. No, during this particular program, participants were strongly encouraged to adapt to the reigning style of the corporation set in place and upheld by the executive-majority – middle-aged white males — if they hoped to grow beyond middle management.

How are you empowering women in your organization?

Undoubtedly, that’s the antithesis of empowering women. It’s common knowledge that you take people’s power away when you ask them to check their style and personality at the door and adopt someone else’s style – be that the dress code, the way they express themselves, the way they think, or the way they relate to others.  Equally important as allowing women to bring their style and personality to work is providing an environment where women feel comfortable asking tough questions. Yet, when women are asked to leave their uniqueness at home, it’s unlikely that they’ll feel comfortable asking colleagues questions that can help them understand unspoken rules that can open doors to better opportunities.

There’s has to be a clear connection between your words and specific actions or the culture of your organization is unlikely to change and promoting women to higher positions becomes harder.

There’s has to be a clear connection between your words and specific actions or the culture of your organization is unlikely to change and promoting women to higher positions becomes harder.

Questions that relate to the salary range others are making for similar positions, what packages their male counterparts have received to move for a long-term assignment, how to break into a certain powerful clique within the company, and so on. Questions that you don’t ask when you don’t feel empowered.

So you could be talking about empowering women from here until 2050, but unless there’s a clear connection between your words and specific actions, the culture of your organization is unlikely to change and years from now you’ll still be wondering why is it so hard to promote more women to higher positions.

Empowering Women with Actions

Here are a few things you can start looking into right away, if your goal is to prepare more women for career success.

    • Understand your internal hiring and promotion processes. How do you define executive presence? What are the unwritten expectations of someone with executive presence? Can that definition be expanded to include more women? Do your executive positions all involve a lifestyle few women can adjust to? Are there any areas of flexibility? Do you pass over women for promotions assuming they won’t be up to a job that demands travel?
    • Evaluate openness to employee input. How open is your organization’s management to listening and implementing ideas from women at lower levels? How do you reward those ideas?
Understand your internal hiring and promotion processes. How do you define executive presence? What are the unwritten expectations of someone with executive presence?

Understand your internal hiring and promotion processes. How do you define executive presence? What are the unwritten expectations of someone with executive presence?

  • Create circles of trust. Do you offer opportunities for your employees to meet in smaller groups and discuss honestly critical career issues? Are they structured in a way that elicits mutual trust?
  • Review your unwritten dress code. Are you upholding codes initially established by and for men in the workplace? How can they be adjusted to embrace different styles for women?

If empowering women is a top priority for you, you may find yourself analyzing the core culture of your company to identify areas that need small tweaks and others that require a complete make over. Start somewhere, anywhere. Any step, even a small one, is a step in the right direction.

Want to Develop Effective Female Leaders? Turn on the Executive Leadership Switch

Qualities of successful female leaders

Whenever the question comes up of what are the most common qualities of a leader research seems to agree with one particular trait: Internal locus of control. In other words, most successful female leaders share the notion that they can exert control over their circumstances rather than being controlled by them. Much like their male counterparts, these female leaders feel they can make decisions to affect their environment and change what they don’t like in order to move forward with their vision.

The most common qualities of a leader research seems to agree with one particular trait: Internal locus of control

The most common qualities of a leader research seems to agree with one particular trait: Internal locus of control

To me, that sense of internal control goes hand in hand with trusting yourself instead of relying on others to make decisions for you.  Unfortunately, many women were raised to rely on others rather than trusting themselves. Let me explain.

Turning on the Executive Leadership Switch

Children naturally place all their trust in their parents to make decisions.  But as children grow up and become adults, that trust should be transferred internally so they can make their own decisions that align with what’s best for them.  Many women never develop that sense of self trust to make decisions, most likely because they have traditionally moved from their parents’ home to a husband’s or partner’s home without developing the independence to trust themselves. They keep on seeking permission or approval from someone else before they make up their minds.  So it seems that, although women may become independent from their parents as they move away, they frequently may not become completely autonomous. They may not be exercising their decision-making skills as much as needed in order to graduate to executive leadership positions at work.

There are probably more, but I remember very clearly two occasions when I transferred the responsibility for making a decision to someone else.  First, when I was trying to get divorced and kept hoping that my husband would give me permission to do it. It took me several years to recognize that he didn’t agree with me, and he would never make that decision for me. It was I who needed to make the decision, take the risk, and face the consequences.

The second was when I was about to publish the Spanish edition of my latest book Find Your Inner Red Shoes, and my publisher sent me a series of unappealing cover options. I kept asking for something more powerful, more in line with the topic of the book, and hoping that he would decide on a cover that I could live with. My agent (another man) even warned me that were I to suggest exactly what the cover should look like I would carry the responsibility if the book didn’t sell well.

And here’s where we reach the crux of the problem. When you make decisions, you have to face the consequences of the decisions you make. That’s exactly what executive leadership is all about. Unfortunately, many women have not shaken off their childhood fear of these consequences. But as long as women seek permission from others who they trust more than themselves, as long as they expect others to make the decisions for them, they will continue to live in the past. They will continue to be dragged down by old mandates that subconsciously interfere with their career growth.

How to Turn Your Managers into Female Leaders?

By helping women locate and turn on their executive leadership switch you can shine a light on the path away from the past and into the future. It’s about making visible what’s under the surface by naming it and openly discussing the effect that not trusting yourself to know what’s best for you will have on your career.

Find out how to turn your managers into female leaders

Find out how to turn your managers into female leaders

A great way to elicit internal trust is to celebrate autonomous decision making in your employees. By resisting punishment of calculated risk-taking, you can send a strong message that this kind of behavior is welcome. Invite your female managers and high potentials to embrace their autonomy and feel comfortable with making their own decisions without having to check with their supervisors every step of the way. Encourage them to trust themselves to know what’s best for their teams and for your business, and you’ll see how fast a new group of female leaders emerges from the shadows of fear.