I work daily with women who aim to join the C-Suite of their organization or a different company and become its next CEO. When I talk to these women, the same frustration shows up over and over again: I am ready. How can I grow faster in my career when the board is full of people who are there to stay?
In time I noticed the answer to that question came from three smart strategies that talented and ambitious women can apply to accelerate their career growth. Let’s take a look at them one by one.
EXPLORE YOUR WIDER COMPANY ECOSYSTEM
One of my corporate clients in Prague had a massive second arm – their entire global logistics organization was also based in the Czech Republic. Yet, when I asked my clients how the logistics arm worked and who was their head of HR, they couldn’t even tell me the address of their sister company.
When you are good at what you do and you want to grow faster in your career, it’s really important to take in not just your current company and its existing options, but your entire company and business ecosystem. This can include your subsidiaries – it’s better to be the CEO of a branch than a B-3 expert at the headquarters; it can also include the sister companies in your holding; but it can also include your clients, suppliers, and all the other organizations whom you would normally place on your stakeholder map.
Ask yourself: given who I am and what I know, from what role can I make the greatest difference and biggest impact in the world right now?
Then start exploring. Your ecosystem is always so much wider and richer than you would expect. Step out of the comfort zone of the company you know, so you can discover the company you could contribute to reinventing once you enter its C-Suite.
DESIGN YOUR NEW ROLE.
This is perhaps one of the most overlooked smart strategies for career growth for women leaders I have ever encountered.
Because it’s so much easier to stick with what we already have and try to fit in, rather than activate your inner leadership and bring something new to life. Which is a paradox, given the fact that we are looking for a higher leadership position, which is not about fitting in, but about piercing through.
New C-Suite roles are being (re)invented every day. Chief Sustainability Officer. Chief trust Officer (SAP). Chief Health & Well-Being Officer. Chief Cybersecurity Officer. Chief Remote / Flexible Work Officer. Chief Purpose Officer. And, more recently, Chief AI Officer.
There is a flow of C-Suite fresh and flavorsome roles that are coming our way; all we need is – again – to ask ourselves the question: given who I am and what I know, from which role exactly can I serve my company and our stakeholders best? Then just go for it.
Note on the side: all these new roles come with a caveat. Usually, they are cross-functional all stakeholder-encompassing roles. Which means that, if you want to be successful, you need to be or to become darn good at bringing everyone together on the same page and aligned around the same goal. If you dislike complex stakeholder management, you might fight it quite challenging to master the innovation you have just designed for yourself and your company.
Yup. It’s as simple as that.
Very often our departures are the highest triggers of systemic relationship transformation we could ever imagine.
One of my teachers once said: “Women deal with relationships when they’re still in the relationship. Men deal with them afterwards, when it’s usually too late.”
I feel that, somehow, the same could be said about companies as well.
So, don’t hesitate. If you feel that your potential is being stifled because your boss is hanging on to their role and your growth might threaten their influence, if you feel trapped and undervalued – just leave.
Here is the juicy part: I have seen countless women leaving their organizations and joining new ones, only to return to their old employer in 9-12 months down the road in a higher leadership position.
There are many reasons for this: the company can all of a sudden realize they lost a good employee, you get to prove yourself on the market by joining a different company, restructuring leads to new C-Suite role openings, and – and this is really important – you don’t have to bother with your old company hierarchy anymore. You don’t have to waste time wondering what your boss would say if you applied for a role higher than his. Now you come from the outside, PLUS you come with a thorough understanding of the company. So you’re in pole position for massive success.
I have seen this strategy bearing fruit over and over again. So why not more women use it more often?
Because we are good girls. We are loyal and warm and friendly and we care about an employer even when the company, actually, rather sucks.
In order to drive systemic transformation, we sometimes need to become the opposite of a good girl. We need to activate our inner Kali, take the sword, and cut through the weeds of unnecessary attachment to see the reality for what it is. Under these circumstances leaving is usually a good step, helping us to gain wonderful critical distance.
And after leaving we can stay away. Or we can come back. And join the C-Suite.
How about you? What smart strategy do you intend to apply to grow in your career within the next six months?
Drop me an email at Cristina.email@example.com and let’s talk. Better yet, follow the next steps below and let’s see how we can work together so you can shine with your all might from a role that does honor to you and your potential.
YOUR NEXT STEPS:
- NEVER WALK ALONE. Hire my 1-1 executive coaching and mentoring services to discuss your future career steps. Book your personal exploratory call with me directly here: https://calendly.com/cristinamuntean/30-minute-never-walk-alone-exploration-call.
- THE CEO ELEVATION CIRCLE. Join our community of practice in leadership development and career acceleration for smart, talented, and ambitious women leaders. We can continue the conversation on strategic career management in our dedicated spaces ON TRACK TO THE BOARD and ON TRACK TO CEO.