Ten Tips for Women for Getting Ahead at Work


Nobody knows how to make it like those who have. Which of these top ten tips from top women business leaders will make the difference for your career this year?

1. Don't sit on your hands/ Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook. To be heard, you have to speak up, and often that means pushing past that little voice in your head that tells you to be polite and let others go first. Think assertive, not aggressive, to make your point in meetings. If you don't make your point, somebody else might, and that makes it his point, not yours.

2. Promote your wins/ Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook. Women often assume that their work will speak for itself. It won't. Go beyond documenting your results; make sure your boss and other influencers are aware of your individual contributions. It's common for women to couch their success in terms of their team. Balance your self-promotion, taking credit for your specific decisions and actions while stressing the collaboration and group effort that added up to a major gain in sales, revenues, profits or other metrics key to your employer.

3. Personality + profits = platform/ Lynn Tilton, CEO, Patriarch Partners. Ms. Tilton is infamous in her industry -- buying and turning around distressed manufacturers -- because she's earthy, forthright, and assertive to everyone, from plant workers to politicians. Tilton has no apologies for being a control freak; if she wasn't, she wouldn't be successful at converting moneylosing manufacturers to profitable enterprises. Tilton's results and consistent approach give her the authority to push for policy changes. She's an emerging force in business-related policymaking.

4. Set a vision, not just goals/ Ellen Kullman, CEO, DuPont. Shortly after Kullman took over Dupont, the recession hit. She made the tough decisions to cut staff and trim product lines, but explained the pain to staffers in terms of her vision for the company's return to growth. She was right. Inspiring employees' trust in the big picture appears to be a trait shared by many of the dozen women who are CEO's of Fortune 500 companies. Translation for women middle managers: leadership is about achieving something bigger than the sum of your team's to-do list. 

5. Work the numbers/ Cathinka Wahlstrom, Managing Patner, Accenture.
Managing profits and losses -- the business of making money-- is core to advancing. P&L isn’t your enemy. She told The Glass Hammer, “When your contributions are very clear, you can make changes and improvements a bit faster.”

6. Cultivate advocates/Maura Markus, president and COO, Bank of the West. Give people something to talk about -- something good -- and they will build your reputation for you, says Markus. As you work on various teams, look for ways to gain cross-functional experience -- even experience that could translate to a lateral move that would enable you to pick up tangential skills that could translate to a lateral career move. Stay long enough in each position to deliver documented results, but always be looking for your next move.

7. See the universal in yourself/Mari Baker, CEO, Playfirst. The company’s most successful game, Diner Dash, plays on the dream of every multitasking mom to ditch the corporate world and start her own company, ostensibly gaining work-life balance in the process. Who would have thought of making multitasking, the bane of the working mom, a game unto itself? We all share experiences with other women. Recognizing those can give you insight into how consumers use your products, choose your products and might even spark a business idea of your own.

8. Lead with your sense of humor/Nancy Juneau, CEO, Juneau Construction Co.
When Juneau started in the construction industry, rapidly moving up to project manager, she was typically mistaken by clients for a secretary. “I would be the only woman at a lot of the meetings. I was taking notes at one meeting and someone asked me if I would get him some coffee. I said no, but if he were getting some for himself that I took cream and sugar in mine,” she told the Atlanta Constitution-Journal. A gaffe like that is embarrassing for everyone. You have the power to defuse it with a dash of charm -- much more likely to win you fans than getting offended.

9. Know that rights are not guarantees./Nancy Juneau, CEO, Juneau Construction Co. Juneau says that the company has never received any contract solely because it’s woman-owned. Traditional growth strategies, especially partnering with other construction-related companies, have propelled Juneau to its spot as the largest woman-owned construction companies in Atlanta.

10. Helping other women helps you/Marie Wilson, founder and President, The White House Project. Wilson rose in the ranks of corporate America and non-profit advocacy and politics, including running the Ms. Foundation for Women (and founding Take Our Daughters to Work Day). Now she’s running the White House-based project to advance women in corporate leadership, which kicked off with a sweeping study of how many women are in key corporate positions (18%). In the process of all these efforts, Wilson has come to learn that women uniquely understand what innovations, changes and advocacy resonates with other women. The White House Project has trained 10,000 women in community and political leadership, filling the pipeline with qualified leaders eager to advocate for all women.

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