By Kirsten Blakemore Edwards (@KirstenBeMe), MA CPCC, Consultant at Partners In Leadership
At some point in their careers, most women have asked themselves, "How do I compete in a male-dominated organization?" Some women vie with men for leadership roles while attempting to climb the ladder of success. Others become disenchanted by the struggle and disengage. Women tend to assume that they need to compete on the same playing field as men. But this line of thinking is a trap.
There are challenges unique to being a woman and mother in business. While coworkers may stay late and bond after hours, you might be shuttling children to activities, keeping up with daily household chores, and managing pediatric appointments. Regardless of how much you love being a mom, constantly juggling being an effective employee and a mother can be a challenge.
Following a recent lecture to a women's group, one woman said of her experience, "I love the guys I work with, but only a woman or mother understands me when I come to a meeting with baby food on the lapel of my suit jacket."
Many women (and men) view these experiences as weaknesses. They compare themselves to the high-performing men in the room and feel they come up short. However, by focusing on the strengths of others, women may be overlooking their own competencies and missing valuable opportunities to build their personal brand.
Our brand is how people perceive us. When a woman maximizes her strengths and finds her unique voice, she builds her brand. She may have a strong eye for detail or be a skillful negotiator. When others recognize her confidence in these areas, they buy into her brand.
So, rather than ask, "How can I compete with men?" it's time to start asking, "What is my brand? And how can I enhance it?" Here are three tips to building your unique brand based on your personal strengths.
1. Develop a baseline. Assessments like StrengthsFinder and StandOut can help you identify your strengths and establish a foundation on which to build your brand. Some women find it challenging to assess themselves honestly and embrace their inner power. These third-party tools can provide unbiased perspective that may otherwise be difficult to see.
2. Seek feedback from your colleagues. Given the amount of time you spend together, your co-workers have significant insight into your work habits and performance on the job. Over the past two decades, Partners In Leadership has studied the extraordinary power associated with asking a co-worker you trust for appreciative and constructive feedback: "Where do I perform well, and where could I continue to build?" A colleague may provide perspective that you cannot see, and common themes may begin to emerge. Keep a record of the feedback for frequent review.
3. Track your progress through journaling. At the end of each week, jot down both your accomplishments and your disappointments. Be sure to reflect on why certain tasks or projects came more easily than others, and commit to improving on past performance. As you track your strengths, you will start to recognize them in your daily work. This practice of internal recognition of your talents and mastery will enhance your confidence and allow your unique brand to unfold.
You can't build a brand when you're busy measuring your successes against those of other people. Your experience is different, and so are your talents. By learning where you shine and striving for continual improvement, you can start to build a platform from which to compete in the world. Truly, your competition is with yourself--no one else.
Kirsten Blakemore Edwards, MA CPCC, is a Consultant for Partners in Leadership, helping companies create accountable cultures, while improving employee engagement and effective communication. She is an executive coach and facilitator.