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March 4, 2011

The Right Balance

A new report has found that women cite work life balance as the biggest block succeeding in senior roles According to a report by gender campaign Opportunity Now, balancing work and family responsibilities is the biggest barrier to women getting senior jobs.

From the 857 company directors polled, 82 per cent of female managers and 54 per cent of male managers see this as the major issue, with childcare concerns being the second biggest barrier.

Women’s success in business remains a topical issue. Last month Radio 4’s Women’s Hour launched a new business mentoring programme, which takes three business women and gives them a female mentor for a year to see how their business develops. The Financial Times recently reported that between 2009 and 2010 the growth of women at board level in business stalled at around 12.5%, with FTSE 250 companies the worst offenders, with less than 8% of women on boards. At the same time a report by Opinium Research found that 46 per cent of females consider themselves the main earners in their family; and 71 per cent of working women are taking on more financial responsibilities and budgeting in UK households.

While there is still a long way to go, many women are getting top positions at board level. We have prepared our own top tips for succeeding in these leadership roles.

1. Know your business: successful leaders clearly understand their businesses and the organisations they are involved in. Ensure you have a deep understanding of the commercial side of the business especially the financial measures.

2. Build a good support network: this can be either internal to your organisation or external but is often essential for providing you with an objective perspective on key business issues.

3. Build a good team around you: successful leaders need to extend themselves through others and develop leadership skills across the organisation. Truly effective leadership teams are often diverse in their gender, skill base, experience and ethnicity.

4. Demonstrate your knowledge – It is often said that ‘knowledge is like milk if you don’t use it, it goes sour.’ If you have good business knowledge use it and most importantly share it – all of which will help to increase your personal credibility.

5. Treat people as you would like to be treated yourself: respect the knowledge and experience of others. It may be different than yours but you can often gain new and interesting perspectives from listening to and questioning people at all levels within an organisation.

6. Take pride in what you do: always ensure that you are personally happy with the quality of work you deliver, if you’re not satisfied with it, it is unlikely others will be.

7. Value feedback: constantly ask for feedback on your self, what you did well, what didn’t work so well, what could be done better. Also be prepared to give it to others – ensure that it is constructive but don’t avoid the difficult conversations especially when it affects the quality of work or customer service levels. Use your internal support network and mentors to help you practice how to give effective and constructive feedback.

8. Be self-aware: recognise your own individual strengths and try and overcome your areas of weakness through training, development or by receiving some formal or informal mentoring.

9. Be visible: actively network both internally and externally. If you know and believe you are good, make sure that others do too.

10. Keep learning and evaluating: successful business leaders are constantly questioning both others and themselves. They also evaluate situations and opportunities effectively after the event – e.g. why did we win that piece of work, why didn’t I get that promotion, what could I have done differently?
For more information on any of the above points or for executive coaching please call Sue Higgins at Inspira on 01923 823512

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