By Sabina Nawaz, CEO, Nawaz Consulting LLC
We all have amazing strengths! In what way are you truly world-class? What is your super power? How can you bring your super-power to the forefront?
I help leaders identify their powers, develop a “signature”, and enhance their unique value add to their organizations.
Identifying their signature helps them further increase their impact and reach. It is particularly impactful when an organization invests in its senior technical women through coaching. When the company or university hires me to coach some of these women, we work together one-on-one on several topics. My goal is to help this leader further stand out and reach out. We collaborate to raise her awareness of who she is as a leader, what her impact is on her organization and the world around her, and where she’s headed. She then delivers on a concrete action plan aimed at increasing her impact and progress towards her long-term goals.
There are many challenges senior leaders face in their highly complex, fast-paced, and ever-changing jobs. However, there is one challenge that starts from the inside. It is how to be yourself even when you’re in the minority. How to confidently articulate your value add and bring it to everything you do. When women leaders are able to shine that light from the inside out, they stand out. And by doing so, they reach out to others, sometimes implicitly, and give them permission to do the same. This helps these women achieve what they want at a faster pace. Others often start to notice their contributions in a different way. Ideas that they bring forth are attributed to them vs. someone else who brought it up 15 minutes later.
As a coach, I spend dedicated time with each of my clients so their signature strengths and their impact can stand out. However, you don’t have to be a coach to make an impact along these lines. Here are some questions to consider for raising your impact and bringing others along with you:
* What are you truly world-class at? Or what’s your “super-heroine” power? Your signature strength? For Mia, a director at a high-tech firm, her capacity to listen deeply and understand varied points of view was her signature strength.
* What is one new way you can bring your super-power to the forefront? Mia didn’t want to “compete” with her colleagues by simply speaking louder or more frequently to have her ideas noticed. Instead she took notes of what she’d heard and spoke up about halfway through the meeting. At that point, she clearly summarized the key themes that had emerged. Her insightful summaries frequently became the pivotal point in a meeting where overlapping and disjointed statements were now clarified and focused on a few key themes and actions.
* How can you use your super-power to coach someone else? Mia mentored a new college graduate who had recently started working in a different group. Mia’s honed listening skills helped her understand the root cause underneath her mentee’s frustrations. Together they were then able to brainstorm a solution so that after only eight months her mentee operated at the next level.
As a woman in high-tech, you may sometimes find yourself feeling a bit different from your colleagues. There aren’t as many women around. Or you might have a different point of view. I remember early in my career, I was the only technical woman in the building. As a result I thought I already stood out enough. I didn’t want to rock the boat or stand out in any other way. I realized I was pursuing the wrong goal when, after a few years on the job, a male colleague said he wouldn’t hesitate to share a joke in front of me because, ‘you are one of us.’ All these years, I had sought to be one of them, to belong. But the fact was that I wasn’t exactly like them. While I didn’t easily get offended by jokes, I didn’t always agree with many business solutions either. I realized I was ready to find my own “signature.” I made a conscious choice to stand out in my own way.
Instead of working to blend in I invite you to pause and consider how you might stand out – so that your uniquely outstanding qualities and signature can have a broader impact on the world around you. And then consider how you might reach out – and help someone else multiply her impact by identifying her signature.