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Authors: Helene Lerner

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BOOK: The Confidence Myth
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See yourself as your sponsor sees you

Sometimes a sponsor's vision of where you fit in an organization is different from what you see for yourself. If your sponsor sees you taking on more responsibility, but you are unsure of your abilities, trust her estimation of you. She is putting herself on the line for a reason.

When Lisa Quiroz recruited Jackie Hernández to take over as publisher of
People en Español
, Jackie felt somewhat shaky about stepping up. She told me, “I was filling some really big shoes. I thought,
Oh my God, this is a huge job; can I handle it?
” But she trusted Lisa's assessment of her, coupled with the confidence her parents had instilled in her. And, of course, she took the job. She was right to do so because the magazine thrived under her leadership.

You may not understand why a job is the right fit, but if your sponsor is suggesting it, give it a try. Kathy Murphy of Fidelity Personal Investing did exactly that when she was at ING. Tom McInerney, former CEO, was her sponsor, and he challenged her to take an assignment that initially was not of much interest to her. She had been deputy general counsel, and he asked her to be the chief compliance officer. “My response was, ‘Are you kidding me?'” she related. “But taking that job was a turning point—it got me closer to the business.”

If your sponsor thinks you are ready to move to a higher level, then you are. Even if you feel a little nervous, take
the next step, as Kim Lubel of CST Brands did—more than once. Coming from a small town in Ohio, Kim's role models were nurses, teachers, or stay-at-home moms. She herself came from a long line of teachers; her grandmother, mom, and older sister worked in the classroom. Kim assumed that she would follow in their footsteps.

“In college I majored in Spanish and international studies, so I planned to either teach, go to grad school, or get a job in government,” she shared. One of her professors, who helped her get a scholarship to earn a master's degree, thought that she would be successful in a different career. “Later on he encouraged me to pursue a law degree, something I had never thought of doing,” Kim said. “He saw something in me I hadn't seen in myself.” Sure enough, Kim was an asset to the legal profession.

Then in the summer of 2009 when Kim was general counsel at Valero Energy, her sponsor, CEO Bill Klesse, sent her to an executive management program at Stanford Business School. The classes showed her that she had an intuitive sense of how to manage.

“When I came back from that program, Bill asked me if I could be CEO one day and I responded yes. Before I went to Stanford, I probably would have said no,” Kim told me. By having a high-powered executive support her growth and help her to acknowledge her strengths, Kim realized that she could tackle bigger challenges, and she did.

As you move up in the organization, paying it forward is important. Acknowledge those that are starting out who are delivering results. Take time to extend yourself and figure out a way they can increase value for the company and support your visions. Be available as a sponsor, and encourage other leaders to do the same.

What would you do?


Hold yourself back

Succeed with sponsors

You are assigned to a project with a leader whom you've identified as a potential sponsor.

You keep a low profile as you do the work. You don't want to look like you're showing off or sucking up.

You are instrumental to the project's success, and you make it your business to touch base with the leader on several occasions.

You are at a company event and see a power player you would like to meet.

You want to approach him, but too many people are vying for his attention. You don't get your chance.

You've done your homework and know where he is taking the company. You've thought about how you can help him get it there. Even though a group of people is surrounding him, you don't leave until you make initial contact.

Your sponsor says she's going to suggest you for a high level job.

You are hesitant because you don't think you're ready for that level of responsibility.

You say yes because you trust her judgment. You assess your strengths relative to the job and ask her for feedback for dealing with areas where you don't have experience.

Power tools

Deliver good work
consistently, and let others know what you are doing. Word spreads quickly, and you may get on the radar of a potential sponsor.

Ask yourself
what you can uniquely contribute to your organization. Identify a few senior people who can help you accomplish this objective, and be clear on ways you can advance their agenda and yours.

Identify someone
as a potential sponsor, and then seek out a way to interact with her informally. Slip into the conversation your desire to support her initiatives.

Build relationships
with more than one person as a good career investment. Strong alliances grow and change. People retire or take on assignments that can make it difficult to stay in touch.

Trust Your Inner Compass


When I am under pressure, I can't tap into my intuitive insight.


I always have access to my intuition and the ability to use it.

Here is what successful people have had to say about trusting your inner compass:

Oprah Winfrey
: “Follow your instincts. That's where true wisdom manifests itself.”

Albert Einstein
: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

Gisele Bündchen
: “The more you trust your intuition, the more empowered you become, the stronger you become, and the happier you become.”

Steve Jobs
: “Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

How do leaders reach their positions of power? How did they know when to take the smart risks that led to their success? What fueled their decision-making processes? Often, you will hear them say that in the end, they relied on their intuition.

Research shows a positive correlation between intuition and business success. In a 1976 article in the
Harvard Business Review
, management guru Henry Mintzberg notes that the use of intuition “may be more important at the top of an organization.”
Perhaps higher-level managers have less time to make decisions and more leadership experience to draw on.

You may have already noticed my many references to intuition throughout the book. I believe that listening to your inner voice is key to making the right decisions for your career. Tara Mohr talks about the “inner mentor”—“an imagined version of an older, wiser you” that you can access for guidance.
With discipline and practice, we can learn to connect with our intuition more, no matter our age or position. And as we begin to follow the direction of our inner compass, we will feel more ready to take the smart risks necessary to advance professionally.

Make intuition your business edge

I've gone over the many ways that gender biases make the workplace a more challenging environment for women. At times we can find ourselves being swayed by prejudices that we know aren't true. And when that happens, we may
doubt our abilities. Intuition, a faculty that I believe women are underutilizing, can get us back on track.

Although intuition is often thought of as a feminine trait, research from Hayes, Allinson, and Armstrong, as well as others, shows that women are not necessarily using their intuition more than men at work.
Hayes and Allinson also found that using intuition has more to do with job level and position than gender.
Women may also be trying to avoid being judged by the female stereotypes of being “too emotional” or “irrational.”

When we ignore our inner voice, we are shortchanging ourselves. Your inner voice is a compass always giving you signals about which way to turn—it is your unique professional edge. Careful and judicious use of this kind of emotional intelligence is a plus, helping us make the right decisions and boosting our confidence in our choices. In the Women and Confidence Survey, we asked respondents: “What would your adult self say to your younger self to inspire her to have more confidence?” The answers underscored the importance of listening to your intuition with responses like, “You are smart. Trust your gut instincts!”

Take this example: As a baby boomer, I really prize the opinions of millennials when it comes to social media. They grew up using these tools, so I usually trust their judgment. When a young woman whom I respect advised against a new form of graphic posts I was considering for our business Facebook page, I began to question the merit of my idea. At the same time, my gut sense was to give it a shot anyway. I'm glad I listened to my inner voice because those graphic posts were a huge success. My years of experience and my wide knowledge of our audience fed into my instinctive decision, leading me to make the right choice,
and now we reach millions of people around the world who are inspired by our page.

Most of the women leaders I interviewed told me that they listened to their inner compass when making important decisions. Sandra Dewey of Turner Entertainment and Cartoon Network, shared that she believes intuition helps us to become effective, confident decision makers.

Debbie Storey of AT&T has her own take on intuition. She uses her intuitive ability to make business decisions, but explained that intuition is not some unrefined, magical gut instinct. Rather, it stems from a rapid processing of data points that come from years of experience.

This view of intuition is backed up by journalist and noted author Malcolm Gladwell. In
Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking
, he argues that what people perceive as intuition is simply rapid cognition.
He explained in a Q and A on his website that rapid cognition is “thinking that moves a little faster and operates a little more mysteriously than the kind of deliberate, conscious decision-making that we usually associate with ‘thinking.'”
Gladwell writes that in the first two seconds of appraising a situation, you bring to bear all of your beliefs, attitudes, values, and knowledge of similar past experiences. He calls this process “thin-slicing,” which is “the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience.”

A gut feeling is a compilation of all your knowledge distilled into a simple impulse. Your intuitive sense stems from the rapid processing of everything you already know, everything you have learned and experienced. We can trust in our vast stores of life experiences to help us take the next professional leap.

Even those in the most analytical positions can benefit from intuition, as Charisse Lillie of Comcast shared. “I'm a lawyer, so I'm trained to be logical. You collect the facts, analyze the data, and come up with a few solutions. From this you try to figure out which one is going to get you to your goal, wreaking the least amount of havoc. But intuition is at play for me too—following my gut.”

Charisse gave an example of how she followed her intuition at a previous job. She had to develop a book of business for the law firm. Her mentor questioned the value of her bar association work and encouraged her to focus only on getting her name out to general counsels who could give her business. However, her gut told her to stay with it. She followed her instincts and eventually served as chair of the American Bar Association's Commission on Diversity, something she was very passionate about. Ultimately, this position was an important platform that helped her develop a great deal of business.

I believe that intuition is a higher form of knowledge. When we get still enough to connect with it, we know which actions are the right ones to take. Several of the survey respondents agreed that a connection to something greater helps them make the best decisions. One woman wrote, “Believing in a power greater than myself keeps me grounded, focused, and invigorated, thus allowing me to be the best I can be.”

However you define it—gut instinct, intuition, inner compass, or inner voice—when we veer away from it, we are vulnerable to making bad choices. As Jacqueline Hernández of Telemundo put it, “Intuition is core to who we are. When we question it, we start to question the truth.”

Using your intuition to make better choices is a process. It consists of considering your options and listening to your
inner guidance to choose the right one. As we begin to trust our intuition and see how it helps us make better business decisions, we will find that relying on our instincts for all sorts of choices will get easier.

Confidence spark

BOOK: The Confidence Myth
2.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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