6 Career Tips for Women in Leadership

On April 4, 2017, Fawn Germer presented a webinar titled “Women in Leadership: 10 Tips On Getting to the Top.” The global leadership speaker and the best-selling, Oprah-featured author of eight books, Germer is also a four-time, Pulitzer-nominated investigative reporter. She has written for The Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report.

Germer was not able to answer all of the questions posed to her while speaking live. She graciously addresses some of the unanswered questions below.

If you missed the free webinar or would like to access it again, here is the link.

Germer Answers Webinar Questions

How do you suggest navigating through competition with other female coworkers?

We have to stop fighting each other once and for all. It used to be that opportunity was so limited for women that it was easy to resent another woman’s success because her win was your loss. When we work together to help other women succeed, there is more opportunity for all of us. In my first life, I was an investigative reporter who competed against another female investigative reporter. There was a lot of jealousy and posturing. One day, I realized how ridiculous it was and stopped competing with her. I asked her to work on a project with me. Guess what? We were 10 times as powerful working together as we were working solo. We were a great team, and we never would have discovered that had I not realized how stupid it was to compete against “the other woman.” So, my advice is simple: Turn rivals into allies. Make the first move.

As a new employee, how should I handle a situation with a male supervisor who will not consider my ideas for a conference? 

I have interviewed a lot of male leaders about this, and they say women get upset about not being heard or having their ideas stolen. They claim the people who complain about this aren’t presenting ideas that have been fully developed. I am not sure they are as hard on men, but they advise that you present a written proposal with bullet points. If that doesn’t work with your boss, ask him for coaching on how to best present ideas to him because you want to be a go-to member of the team. If that still doesn’t work, you have to decide whether you will outlast him or pack up your talent and go where it is recognized and appreciated.

What is the best way to find a mentor and build a relationship with them?

I am a fan of having less formal mentoring relationships and connections with multiple people who will all help you grow in different ways. All of the best mentoring I got was accidental—with successful people I lunched with at the right time, saying something in conversation that changed my life forever. They didn’t even know they were doing it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, be clear about what you want and connect on a human level. Don’t seem desperate or clingy, but always, always follow up. Be authentic and seek wisdom and insight.

Also, remember that mentors and sponsors are very different things—and you need both. A sponsor will take you on as a project and will tell you what to do to expand your success, help you plan what you will do and when, and actually make the phone calls to make things happen. A sponsor uses his or her own clout and influence to move you forward.

How can you be assertive without being aggressive in regard to career advancement?

You have to be aggressive with career advancement. Be assertive in dealing with people, but be aggressive about focusing on what you want and what you need to do to make it happen. You have to take power over your career—and own it. Don’t wait for others to notice your talents. Make sure they know what you are working on, what you are good at and what you want to do next. Seek feedback and set goals and informal timelines.

What are some common misconceptions women have that can hold them back in the workplace?

Well, the number one mistake is assuming that hard work will be recognized and rewarded. Not true! Your bosses are usually worrying about their problems and their problem people, not focusing on what is going well. So make sure they know what you are succeeding at by sending e-mails telling brief stories about what is going on or describing something good that just happened. Another mistake is assuming that the company will be loyal to you if you are loyal to your company. It is business. If there is a financial crunch, companies will usually abandon loyalty and slash and burn. The way to create security is to always be on the front end of change. Be a solution person and volunteer to solve problems without asking for a promotion. If you create authority and influence, the title will follow. I have multiple other ideas on this, and that should probably be another keynote!

What are some problems employees and employers often encounter when trying to communicate, and how can they be overcome?

Number one is the unintended tone that is relayed via text and email. You may be joking, but the other person hears an insult. You may be serious, but the other person hears a joke. The best way to communicate is to have a verbal conversation, then follow up with an email restating what you think you heard. Make sure that what you communicated is what you meant to communicate, and that what you heard is what was really said.


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