"Not everybody has to like me." This statement is a solution to the first of seven deadly sins of career management, as explained during a keynote at the Forum for Women in Accounting, a three-day confab that has attracted approximately 250 participants.
The first sin, according to Kathleen Grace, founder of Grace Consulting Services, a professional services firm specializing in executive assessment, executive coaching and strategic succession planning, is "wanting to be liked vs. respected."
"I see this with a lot of female leaders," Grace said during her keynote on Tuesday. "In corporate terms, popularity has no value. There is no prom queen."
The second sin in career development is a failure to take risks early and often. She said many women don't take risks for fear of hitting a point of no return and making a mistake they can't correct. Men, on the other hand, aren't as afraid to take risks and are respected - despite the outcome- for their gutsy action.
Taking risks gives people valuable "career bonus points," distinguishing them from others and attracting valuable resources. Fear can be overcome, according to Grace, by pursuing "stretch assignments," or those projects that are 50 percent new and challenging, and accepting that lessons learned are very valuable and not "mistakes."
Those who are uncomfortable or unskilled in dealing with conflict are exhibiting sin three. To tackle this, Grace recommended understanding why they are trying to avoid conflict.
"Don't just roll over," she said, adding that reframing a conflict can lead to deeper understanding, creativity and, ultimately, a resolution.
Settling for recognition instead of holding out for a reward is sin four. Grace said there are two types of rewards: zero sum, in which people are apt to get "pats on the back" and compliments, and non-zero sum, which equates to a pay increase or a promotion.
Sin five is being unskilled at bragging. Grace said that, because bragging has a negative connotation in our culture, many people tend to bypass selling themselves when they should. Audience members suggested ideas such as creating a "feel-good file," a folder of compliments, e-mails or thank-you letters collected for a job well done, which can be shown to a supervisor during a compensation evaluation. Others suggested bragging about other women to help pave the way for others to brag about them.
The sixth sin of career management is failing to achieve a balance between team play and self-advocacy. This can be illustrated by the person at the job who isn't a go-getter, yet consistently does the work well and on-time, but doesn't ask for any challenging projects from the supervisor and keeps to themselves. This archetype can be compared to another, usually a man, who is in the office of the supervisor every day asking for new assignments. The difference in the two employees comes down to the second's ability to be the initiator and be in the supervisor's face, ready to take on more work.
"It's good to be happy for a colleague, when he gets a plum assignment or a promotion," Grace said. "But there is a balance. It's a balance between team players and expressing what you want."
Grace recommended identifying unconscious messages (e.g., a good woman is selfless, nurturing, or puts others first) that may be holding a person back and to self-advocate for what is wanted even if it might be uncomfortable.
"Bosses are not mind-readers," she said.
The last sin is a lack of focus. When Grace asked who felt overworked and underappreciated, nearly everyone in the room raised their hand.
"Lack of focus is at the root," she said. "You have to decide what you are passionate about," she added. "Be clear about what you want to be great at and how you are going to leave your mark on your firm."
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