At Central Comm we make it a part of our culture to encourage every one in our company to strive for their very best every day. Granted, some days are better than others, but we never stop in our quest to be better. In that search for improvement, we often find help from publications, both in print and online. We want to share this advice with all of you today, and while there’s nothing groundbreaking in this post, it’s kind of a back to basics one that we can all use from time to time.
Speaking at American University’s Key Executive Leadership program’s FedTalks Speaker Series recently – presented by the School of Public Affairs as “Women and the Future, Revisited” – Gwendolyn Sykes and Zina B. Sutch, Ph.D. shared stories of the winding roads that took them to positions of authority and influence in the federal government. Both have leveraged their various senior-level roles in government and education to affect genuine cultural change.
Some of the tips that they gave women and men alike include the following:
Strengthen your self-awareness every day. Be conscious of what you say, how you sound, how other people respond to you, and what you wear. Are you carrying yourself with executive presence? If not, what can you do to do so? Learn what your fears and triggers are and face them; find a way to not let them stop you.
Be conscious of your self-talk. What you say to yourself drives your attitude, behavior, perspectives and performance, more than you think. “Pay attention to the voices in your head,” Sutch implored the audience, adding, “What are you telling yourself that you need to stop telling yourself?”
Show you are a leader who is open to learning new things. Every job can teach you something. Get educated, with both degrees and certifications. Participate in training courses and attend seminars. Always be reading something you’ll learn from and get coaching if you can. Sutch did the Key Leadership program, for example, to “prove” she was qualified for a Senior Executive Service job in the federal government.
Ask, ask ask! I call this strategy leveraging “mini-mentoring moments.” Ask someone whose opinion you value for 15 minutes of their time if there is some specific issue you want advice on. Ask them a specific question right there in the elevator or at the conference, or wherever you happen to meet them. Ask your boss or other leaders, what it would take for you to get a certain job, or a raise, or to be put on a specific task force, committee or board. Do not assume they know you want it. Ask!
Pay attention! When you are meeting with people, even if they begin a discussion of something you know nothing about, listen. There is always something new to be learned, and you never know when something will come in handy as you are out meeting new people.
Remember, if you are working with a customer who is frustrated and grumpy, always try your best to maintain your composure and be helpful. You never know what led up to the frustration they are displaying.