To the women in the room: Claim your successes

  • Posted on February 26, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
To the women in the room: Claim your successes

This article is excerpted from Thrive Global, which interviewed Stella Goulet, Avanade’s chief marketing officer, as part of its series about powerful women. The excerpt below focuses on challenges and advice for women executives.


Thrive Global: In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?


Women still struggle to have their ideas heard and considered, particularly in a group setting.


And there are still occasions where, as a woman, you need to demonstrate your credibility. I think almost all women have had that experience of having a male co-worker repeat her ideas minutes later as though they were his own. I’m no exception. The first time it happened to me, I was actually already fairly senior. I realized that I could sit there and say nothing, or I could speak up, which would be incredibly uncomfortable. But I knew if I didn’t say anything, it would foster a dynamic where my ideas weren’t recognized and allow that dynamic to continue indefinitely. So I said something, and everyone was surprised because they didn’t realize it was happening.


Of course, not everyone will feel comfortable being so direct. But I would remind every woman in that situation that it only takes 20 seconds of bravery to speak up and start to make a change happen. But if you truly don’t feel you’d be able to do that, find some allies in the room. Can someone on the team say, “I’m not sure everyone heard what Amy said,” or “I think that builds really well on Paige’s idea from earlier”? If you’re in the room when it happens, even if it doesn’t happen to you directly, you can be the person to say something on someone else’s behalf. Find opportunities to be an ally to others. This helps reinforce inclusive team behavior, builds confidence and increases share of voice for women — or anyone else who struggles to be heard.


Second, I find that many women aren’t good about claiming and talking about their successes. Remember, if we claim our successes, others can’t claim them instead. We hold ourselves back and tend to focus on our failures. A man will raise his hand for something, even if he’s only got 50% to 60% of the requested skills. A woman is much less likely to raise her hand if she doesn’t have 100% of the skills mentioned. Put your hand up! Find ways to build your own job and bring the ideas that are unique to you to that job.


And, finally, there still aren’t as many female role models in business as I’d like to see. I hope that’s changing and I, and Avanade, certainly aim to be a part of that.


What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?


My advice is the same as I would give to any leader. Inclusion is key — making sure you have people with differing points of view, that you’re supportive and that everyone is heard.


It’s about being able to effectively delegate and adapt your management style to different types of people on the team. Delegation is about more than getting things off your plate. It’s about asking the right people to do the right thing at the right time. It’s also a way to help them develop. Everyone has different skill sets, strengths and weaknesses, and you have to find ways to manage to those different needs.


A few years ago, I was speaking about this at our leadership training and it made me think about the dog walking I was doing at our local shelter. Some dogs were really good walkers and would trot along happily beside me, constantly moving forward. Other dogs were more reactive — I had to help keep them going in the right direction, providing lots of course corrections, ensuring that they didn’t become overly excited and going all over the place. And there was one dog who could suddenly become catatonic and wouldn’t move for love nor money. I had to watch her closely and become a cheerleader in a split second if she looked like she might be thinking about lying down.


Just as different dogs’ personalities come out in their different walking styles, different people’s personalities respond best to different management styles. Some just need someone to point them in the right direction, while others need a lot of guidance and help to focus. Still others need a cheerleader to build their confidence and motivate them to help themselves. It’s important to adapt your management style to the needs of your team members so that you’re giving them the best chance of success.


At the same time, consistency is essential. Consistency in the way you treat people and teams, how you behave, how you operate, the way you make decisions. I can’t ask my teams to trust me and approach me with their challenges if they don’t know whether they’re going to get someone who will help them or shout at them. Your team needs to know what to expect; it’s hard to follow a leader who’s constantly changing.

Debra Ryan

I could not agree with you more on every point in this article. You are spot on. It is music to my ears.

December 1, 2020

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