Everybody knows the job market is a bear, which is why lots of people decide to stay put in go-nowhere jobs. Better the devil you know is how the thinking goes. But is that really true? For women, a number of studies now support what many strongly suspected — that real barriers exist that slow or prevent women from advancing into the upper echelons of corporate America— the places where long-term strategic decisions get made, you know, the power circle. Related: The Entrepreneur’s Checklist: 7 Things You Need To Start A Business While we’ve seen some well known examples of women breaking through to lead big corporations, think Kraft, General Motors or Yahoo. Many more are left by the wayside and told to “lean in.” Nothing can be quite as demoralizing as not receiving your due advancement or compensation based on the work you perform. A recent study showed that women are underrepresented at all levels of American corporations; they’re less likely to advance than men and face more barriers to senior leadership. The 2015 study by McKinsey and LeanIn.org showed that at the current rate of progress, it would take a century for women to achieve gender parity in the executive suite. The truth is that for many people, the very best way to test your mettle is to start a business of your own. By taking the reins for yourself, you can see how high your hard work and ingenuity can take you. The good news is you don’t have to invent the wheel to make a go of it. There’s a perfectly wonderful time-tested method for starting out on your own, that is, with a good franchise. Instead of fighting ingrained, systematic conditions that might repress or even crush your growth, you can learn from a network of experts and backroom expertise and grow with a franchise business. The opportunities go way beyond fast food and cars. Lots of great franchises are thriving in business services that tap expertise acquired in corporate America. I tell my clients that a six-figure income is within reach and the upside can be considerably higher. The most important part of the entire process comes before you sign any contract and put up your sign. The key is to make a selection to match your expertise and skills and find a good franchise operation that can help get you where you want to go. This is where talking to a franchise coach or two is well worth your while. They’ve already done significant vetting and can help steer you toward operations that help new franchisees succeed and away from those that exist merely to milk their franchisees dry. Sometimes, it seems these clunkers get all the press, but lots of good franchisees are growing their earnings and achieving the work-life balance everyone craves. In fact, jobs in the franchise sector are growing faster than in the economy overall. So take charge of your career and start investigating starting a business today.
A leader inspires and motivates others to do and be better. It’s about being a servant leader who focuses on the growth and well-being of others, regardless of title, bringing out the best in who they are.
Anyone can be a leader if they choose to develop the right skills. I know! I’ve made many mistakes along the way by focusing on the wrong things (i.e. micromanagement, poor communication, lack of flexibility, you get it). Once I realized that leadership requires being able to connect, motivate, inspire, and be present, I began to make a real difference in the companies and people I worked with.
Here are four things I do to earn my leadership every day.
Strong communication skills include being a good listener as well as customizing your communication style to suit each situation and team member. This is an area I’m continuously working on. I have written down the following and keep it visible in my work area so that when I interact with anyone, I am conscious of my communication style:
- Present, Attentive, & In The Moment
- Ensure Active Listening
- Ask Questions (Open-Ended, Clarifying, Probing) That Engage My Audience
- Not Interrupting
- Withhold Judgment
- Share Information That Is Helpful
- Brainstorm With My Team
- Summarize My Understanding
A leader who has strong communication skills will build trust and improve morale across the organization.
I grew up in the “kill or be killed” era of business and I’m glad it’s changed to a focus of connecting with people to form lasting relationships. I’ve learned to be a more empathetic leader who is able to understand the needs of others, their point of view, what they are feeling, and why they act the way they do. That said, I still have more to learn as empathy is an emotional and thinking muscle that becomes stronger with use. What I try to do with my daily interactions is:
- Be Authentic
- Show Genuine Interest In Others
- Help Others Wherever I Can
- Be Self Aware
- Pay Attention To Body Language
- Be Open To Feedback
Empathy is a key element of servant leadership and leaders who are able to show compassion tend to be the most admired and are also able to drive significant business results.
Change is accelerating and at an unprecedented pace. In order to be successful, leaders need to embrace change in this constantly evolving global environment. I for one love change. While it can be somewhat scary at times, it can also bring about many opportunities. I’ve worked hard to embrace change and lean into the unknown by focusing on the following in my work and personal life:
- Being open to seeking and seizing new opportunities
- Have a clear purpose, develop a plan and prioritize new opportunities
- Remove obstacles that inhibit the path of progress to create quick wins
- Seek continuous learning and feedback
- Embrace risk-taking and the possibility of failure
- Take action quickly
Leaders who embrace change tend to be more adaptable, flexible, innovative, strategic, and have engaged employees. Change creates transformation and growth.
Develop Your Team
I was taught how to do my job but not how to be a leader who manages and develops teams. So when I first started managing teams, I struggled with continuing to do things myself vs. learning how to develop and inspire people. Along the way, I’ve made a number of mistakes, but through that, I’ve had some amazing nuggets of success that I work hard to put into practice all the time.
- Set clear goals and expectations
- Focus on serving, teaching, & mentoring
- Allow team members to problem solve
- Invest in people: resources, training, education
- Give direct feedback and ask for feedback
- Celebrate the wins and be quick to praise
- Foster collaboration and open communication
- HAVE FUN!
I’ve found that to earn my leadership every day requires a continuous journey of personal development and grace. Great leaders inspire others, bringing out the best in them while also leading by example. I hope these tips motivate you to earn your leadership. You’ve got this!