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The Messy Middle to Success

Updated: Mar 7, 2021

As a female who owns a business, and with the approach of International Women’s Day, I’ve been thinking about what my role is in helping women’s success. Do I need to be a voice? Do I need to take action?

Opportunity, ambition and success look very different for every individual and often comes in unexpected personas. Some of us may associate success with results like the company size, brand reputation, quality, leadership or growth, while others may associate it with the leader’s presence, public profile or perhaps how the leader may have inspired them.

When you think of successful people, who are the top 3-5 business leaders that come to mind? Take a moment to write them down.

How many women business leaders are on that list? My guess is not many, if any.

The fact of the matter is that women continue to be a rising force in business. EY’s research on women-lead businesses found “that they are not only founding more business than ever before but doing so at twice the rate of men.” Women-lead businesses are targeting higher growth than male-lead businesses with diversity being shown to be a competitive advantage. It’s also important to note that business performance is being realized despite barriers to early stage funding.

The question is: If the existence of these factors shouldn’t hold this group of business back from success, why do we not see more women leaders at the top of everyone’s successful leaders list?

The Current State

The data speaks for itself about the gender parity gap that exists in our business network. International Women’s Day isn’t all about women; it’s about marking the social, economic, cultural, and political accomplishments that are happening around women in the world. For pioneering organizations, realizing inclusiveness is fundamental to enhance results in financial performance. IWD is a moment to check in on a long path to change and success.

It will take engaged communities and strong business networks to create change for the diversity and inclusion gaps faced within our business community; it will take all of us to create the momentum for meaningful and sustainable change. Overall, employees with a low perception of inclusiveness within their workplace have given up on career opportunities due to their environment – and this is particularly true for women. So, how can we realize more diversity? What are attributes women can adopt to contribute to their success and changing the statistics?

The System for Success

Effective change is ongoing through every business owner, leader, and professional. We each need a system to realize our success. Today there is research that show us the formula for reaching success. Albert-László Barabási’s The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success took the enigmatic concept of success, researched it, and derived 5 laws that contribute to the Systems of Success. The 5 Laws can be summarized as:

1) Performance drives success and when not measurable, networks drive success; 2) While you have a peak to performance, your success does not have a peak; 3) Success breeds success and success can be influenced by others; 4) It takes a team to be successful yet one person gets the credit for success; and 5) Age won’t be detrimental to success if you are willing to put in the effort.

Putting this into the context of the way you work means working on your potential until you reach your peak. It means leveraging your networks to support your success, investing time with mentors, advisors, and successful leaders, and disciplined hard work will always support your success at any age.

We’ve Got Work to Do

While we are on this long journey to create a diverse and inclusive business community, often, it’s the uncomfortable act of practicing new habits and skills that move us forward to new results. As a leader, leadership is the most demanding part and the path to mastery means practicing until you find what works for you, your team, and those around you.

The Roadmap to Success:

Pivotal Coaching Inc Success Roadmap
© 2020 Pivotal Coaching Inc - All Rights Reserved

Own your leadership persona: We each have the ownership of leadership. Leadership is not defined by a title. Your self-knowledge, self-awareness and skills practice fuels the path to success.

Have the right attitude: The essential component is always to embrace your growth mindset and taming yours’, and those around you, fixed mindset.

Build a strategy: Have and execute a strategy and work toward a future vision.

Set big goals: For businesses, it’s breaking that million-dollar revenue and then the five-million revenue and for corporate leaders, it’s the stretch and unconventional roles. Use a system to manage your goals.

Be bold: Make bold decisions, ask openly for support and take action. Do this knowing it won’t always work and it won’t be perfect. You won’t know your performance potential without trial and error (See Universal Laws of Success #2).

Communicate effectively: Be able to engage diverse people and teams through a flexible communication style. Being interpersonally savvy is essential.

Networks: Know your community. Consider who can help you AND who you can help. Proactively plan your engagement in your network.

Focus on growth: Focus on growing yourself, your company and who you champion for growth. Distractions will eat away at your energy, cognitive capacity, your time and ultimately your results.

The Messy Middle

Performance needs to be powered by opportunity - Albert-László Barabási

So, to circle back on the question asked earlier in this article, "if the existence of these factors shouldn't hold this group of business back from success, why do we not see more women leaders at the top of everyone's list." It becomes a bigger problem when this perceived lack of inclusive can cause a women’s career progress to stall and even stagnate.

Inclusion is a key factor to retain and develop all talents on their way to the top. This means that organizations need to build a culture that allows everyone to thrive. What’s the action YOU can contribute? What can YOU inspire in yourself and in others?

We’ve still got work to do. Work on ourselves, our companies and for creating leadership diversity. Such transformations require time and sustained effort. It’s a little messy in the short term but know that working on systems and processes can help organizations make a leap towards true diversity.

If you want to augment your insights, here are our recommendations:

Albert-László Barabási. The Formula. The Universal Laws of Success. Little, Brown and Company, 2018


About Lisa W. Haydon Lisa W. Haydon founded Pivotal Coaching three years ago. She left her prestigious corporate career to pursue her vision of the opportunity for strategic coaching as the mechanism to drive higher performance in leaders, teams and companies. She’s successfully making her mark on the highly competitive coaching industry and is capably working with large corporate clients. Lisa’s been an early adopter of coaching trends in her development of holistic leadership development coaching programs, data enable insights and coaching platform technologies.

Pivotal Coaching specializes in strategic programs for Leadership Development and Sales Effectiveness.

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