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The Missing 33%

I recently watched the inspiring TED video from Susan Colantuono on ‘The Missing 33%’. It made so much sense to the work I do as a coach to women leaders.

Let me explain.

The missing 33% refers to the commercial acumen women leaders are missing in their quest to get to the top. Typically what happens in organisations is that women are given career advice  and feedback that focuses on their leadership, their confidence and their behaviours. And that’s what they look to develop as part of the leadership development plans.

Men, on the other hand, are more actively encouraged to develop their commercial acumen, such as managing a large p&l account; an international assignment; etc. Susan’s research also found that men are more likely to informally mentor other men on the missing 33%. In fact this was a given. And in her research, men were surprised at the question because it is such a part of their ongoing development as a leader.

When I’ve shared this insights with colleagues and friends, there’s been a resounding “Oh yes” or “Gosh, I’d not realised that before and it’s so true”.

What can you do, if you think this has happened to you?

Here are my three top tips:

  1. Start talking the language of business

Firstly, it’s essential you share your commercial achievements. Don’t assume your boss will have them, or know the detail behind what you / your team have achieved. Share data such as the impact you’ve had on revenue growth; bottom line; employee engagement; customer satisfaction and project delivery. It’s then just as useful to talk about any gaps you feel you have in your knowledge or ask your line manager for their view. What is it that you don’t know or you struggle with? What specific support and practical development are you looking for?

2. Get a Mentor

Next, I’d advise you to get a mentor. Find someone (ideally in your organisation) who can give you that advice and guidance. Someone you can trust and someone who can challenge your thinking. Be brave. I know of a HR Director who became best of friends with the Finance Director as she was struggling to understand the numbers and, more importantly, what lay behind the numbers. This helped her to significantly increase her impact. Not only was she now asking great questions, she was also better able to demonstrate her value add and challenge common assumptions in the boardroom.

3. Ask these questions every week

Here’s some excellent questions (adopted from Dan Kennedy’s No BS Time Management for Entrepreneurs) that will really help you to stand out from the crowd. Answering these questions (each week – and that’s important) will help you to create a much stronger presence:

What do you now know, that you didn’t one week ago about:

  • An important news item that will affect you, your team, your organisation, your sector?
  • A key competitor – perhaps a new programme, service or strategy they are taking?
  • Economic and market trends, for example do you know the current £ against the $ and Euro? What impact is the fluctuating market having on the organisation?
  • An idea for increasing productivity, either for yourself or for others you work with

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2 comments

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    These are all good ideas, to find out about each week, and can affect most sectors although market trends might be less relevant to socially orientated projects in my case… But there’s always a new strategy or idea to increase productivity!

    Thanks Emma! Yes, it’s more a matter of remembering to review progress each week….

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