Recent studies have revealed something that many savvy women have known all along: women are good for business. With so many women-run startups cropping up and more companies looking to create diverse boardrooms, women are proving to deliver tangible and intangible advantages. A recent analysis by Fortune revealed that Fortune 1000 companies with female CEOs earn higher stock market returns than those with male CEOs.
In spite of the evidence that women are a tremendous asset to businesses, many women find themselves struggling to cement their roles as leaders while managing the social complexities of the workplace. I know first hand what it’s like to watch a male peer effortlessly receive and keep the respect of a team while I invest a significant amount of time and energy building relationships and proving my capabilities.
The good news is that women continue to rise through the ranks to sit on boards, run companies and launch successful startups. With the right mindset and the proper approach to execution and leadership, women can rise to higher posts and endure less gender bias over time.
I tapped four of my favourite female executives to get their thoughts on the best approach to leading in the workplace as a woman. Here’s what they had to say.
Invest time upfront in finding the right hires
Following the successful launch and sale of her first startup, Stacey Ferreira, co-founder of AdMoar, is using her leadership skills to build a new disruptive company. As a leader in a male-dominated industry, her perspective centers on proper team building.
“I think that success in leading a team comes first and foremost from making the right hiring decisions. As a founder, one of the best ways you can spend your time is finding the right people to hire who will contribute to expanding the company vision, executing to make that vision happen and contribute to a positive company culture. If you invest the time upfront, find the right hires and onboard them effectively, then you won’t run into many problems leading the team. Once you’ve found those people, giving them the responsibility and freedom to create and execute with regular check-ins works well for small-to-medium-sized companies.”
Look for complementary skill sets
Knowing where your blind spots are is one of the best way to properly fill in those areas before they become problematic.
“Be keenly aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and build your team to complement those things,” says Sian Morson, founder and CEO of Kollective Mobile.
Communication is key
After working for mega personalities and brands such as Magic Johnson and Starbucks, Nikkole Denson-Randolph, vice-president of special and alternative content for AMC, learned the most critical aspects of successfully leading teams.
“Be approachable. The more welcoming you are, the more communication you will have so there’s much less confusion on your team and fewer unwelcome surprises. Don’t be hesitant to deal with individuals as soon as a problem presents itself. Address it right away, be clear about what the issue is and most of all be constructive. Address the issue, and provide context or an example of how it should have been prepared/handled/etc., and the end result should benefit the both of you. Set an example. There should be consistency between your actions and what you’re asking your team to do. Reward the right work ethic, and address actions that don’t support the company values/philosophy. Encourage developmental growth. Assign tough, but fair tasks, learn about their career goals and share as much relevant information as you can to support their growth.”
Put your people ahead of yourself
She calls herself the Michael Bay of business and for good reason: Cindy Gallop, founder of IfWeRanTheWorld and Make Love, Not Porn, runs two game-changing startups and continues to blaze trails for women who want to launch and scale enterprises.
“Hire the very best people you can find, give them an inspiring, compelling vision of what you want them to achieve for the business, free them up and empower them to achieve that vision any way they choose to using their own skills and talents, constantly demonstrate how much you value them (with words and deeds as well as compensation), and enable them to share in the profit they help to create. And always put your people ahead of yourself.”
As you can see, having the right mix of people is a common thread, but it’s also important to properly manage them. Beyond that, it’s important to stay focused on the goals you’ve set for your team. Remember that every interaction doesn’t have to be a battle. Sometimes being at odds with a team member means getting creative with how you approach influence and negotiation. Studying topics such as communication differences between men and women will also aid you as you adapt your style of leadership to various settings.
By Lisa Nicole Bell