Makeup, gemstones and Jimmy Choo aren’t enough to advance you in your corporate career. Nor is useful, but insufficient, advice on work/life balance, resilience or authenticity. And even interpersonal skills, though necessary, are insufficient.
So, what’s the secret that women aren’t being told about career success?
It’s this: To advance, women need the “Missing 33%” – business savvy.
For years, conventional wisdom has delivered to women a two-part career success equation that goes something like this: Interpersonal skills plus personal/professional excellence equals career success.
While this pretty much holds true for men, it isn’t the equation that moves women
up the ladder.
In reality, the career success equation is a three-part equation: Personal excellence plus interpersonal skills plus business acumen equals career success.
And it has the same elements as this definition of leadership: Leadership is using the greatness in you to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes by engaging the greatness in others.
Because the traditional success equation is missing 33 percent, many corporate leadership development programs overfocus on teaching interpersonal skills and personal attributes. But these are the areas where women are consistently rated as outperforming men.
Sadly, these programs underemphasize (or completely ignore) the most important career driver: business acumen.
This works to your disadvantage because study after study shows that men who make decisions about advancement expect that men have business acumen and women don’t.
Being unable to present evidence to the contrary is a significant career derailer for you, but one that you can easily overcome.
To fill in the Missing 33% of the career success equation, there are four important things to learn and do.
1. Learn the business of your business. Understand how what you do
contributes to cash, growth, return and customer service and
2. Develop strategic acumen. Understand how external forces, internal
capability and financial and other outcome goals drive your organization’s strategy.
3. Develop financial acumen. Know the story behind the numbers and the
actions needed to deliver on financial goals.
4. Speak the language of outcomes. Don’t focus on how hard you work or what you’ve done. Instead, speak the language of cash, growth, return and customer – and the ways you’ve significantly impacted your organizations goals in these areas.
These are easy concepts to grasp, but executing them isn’t simple. It takes tremendous discipline when you are faced with the overabundance of messages from women’s media about how important it is to focus on how you look, what you wear, and how to be a good and happy person.
Leading Women recently surveyed 2,000 women and asked them the most useful career advice they’ve received. Here, again, the Missing 33% was glaringly absent.
• Seventy-four percent of the advice was on how to be a good person, e.g. set goals, be
confident, be authentic, be trustworthy. Great advice, but highly overweighted.
• Twenty-four percent of the advice was on the importance of interpersonal relationships: advice such as treat others with respect, develop strong networks and self-promote effectively. Again, great advice, but out of balance.
• Two percent – only 2 percent! – had anything to do with learning the business of business, being for the business, developing business acumen or speaking the language of business. And, not surprisingly, many of the women who featured this advice were the most senior!
Indeed, makeup, gemstones and Jimmy Choo aren’t enough. If you want to get ahead in your company, you need to fill in the Missing 33%.
Susan Colantuono is best known as the CEO and founder of Leading Women. She is also the author of “No Ceiling, No Walls: What women haven’t been told about leadership from career-start to the corporate boardroom (January, 2010).