Women in business are a growing occurrence. Once relegated to the roles of caretakers more women are stepping up to bat in recent years and discovering that we are not only excellent caretakers and tenders but also exceptional providers and business minds. Savvy women in business often follow the path of least resistance and that is done my cultivating a team of trusted partners, friends and allies.
Women continue to enter the workforce in record numbers. In fact, almost 47% of the workforce is comprised of women. Yet, despite this fact, very few women hold the top slots.
Take one stroll past the executive suite in your organisation and there will probably be a noticeable lack of women to be found, particularly if you exclude the support staff. Perhaps you never took the time to consider this or to even ask the question, but given the number of women in the workforce, does it seem rather odd that there aren’t more women ensconced in the executive suites in business? I think so.
I’ve talked with many women leaders to try to identify the barriers that preclude more women from reaching the corner office. Here’s what I’ve learned.
First, life-balance and family tradeoffs continue to plague women who want to build successful careers.
As has long been the case, the bulk of family and household responsibilities still fall on women’s shoulders. How each woman, her family, and her place of employment choose to manage and negotiate around this issue will clearly have an impact on a woman’s ability to take advantage of those business opportunities that lead to long-term personal and professional success.
Another surprising deterrent is the perception that women lack key business credentials.
As a woman with degree in business under her belt, this one makes me chafe a little. However, having the right business credentials means more than having the right degree. Rather, it means being able to demonstrate in measurable ways a clear understanding of those business practices and the financial aspects that are important for an organisations success. This is what is commonly referred to as business acumen. Women don’t lack key business credentials, they just need to do a better job of getting the credit and recognition for using them.
Women continue to lack representation at senior levels simply because they just don’t have visible positions.
Many women typically follow career paths that lead them into the more traditional female roles such as marketing or operations. The lack of coveted profit and loss responsibility will often preclude them from consideration when the top jobs do become available.
Corporations need to make the case for developing women leaders within their organisations. They must stop overlooking the fact that women have good instincts about business and that they are good managers, delegates, collaborators, and team players. Since most businesses are built on relationships, these are crucial assets to an organisations long-term success.
Organisations need to put in place a culture of growth. In a recent researched done it showed that 19 % of the men workforce have a work mentor or a senior who engages with some kind of work mentorship and only 13% of women have the same.
What does this say about the lack of culture in organisations and businesses when it comes to fostering a culture of growth and even more damning when it comes to us as women.
Why is the percentage so low for us women? My believe is that if we are to be honest that we as women don’t really have a culture of cultivating great business and work relationships. I will be wiling to go further that a lot of us don’t even know how where to start in building solid business relationships.
Selectivity, consistency and engagement are essential for finding great people and growing relationships with them.
Here are ways to build lasting business relationships in today’s professional world.
1. Be Authentic
This might sound pretty simple right? But you’l be surprised how many of us don’t really know what that means. Be who you are and accept others as they are. It’s easy to create a false persona, especially online, I know we don’t mean to do it on purpose, we just sometimes feel the per-pressure to play the part, but that is not the way to start a relationship and short lived when we start qualifying people and companies. Find people and companies you feel a natural connection and ease of communication with and things you both have in common. The authenticity of connecting personality, beliefs and point of view can accelerate relationships.
2. Identify Shared Goals and Values
It’s a natural thing to seek out people in life we like, share similar goals and values with, that is the journey of be human. Ask yourself some questions about what you are looking for from the other person.
- Are they honest, kind, knowledgeable, helpful?
- How do they treat others? This is about moral character.
- Do we respect them?
Sadly I’ve seen too many people present themselves one way only to take advantage of people, once they have their trust and gotten all they wanted out of that person. We may not always share the same point of view with everyone, but the shared values are a must.
3. Develop Mutual Respect
I find for me this this takes time, unless someone is referred to you by a trusted connection. We prove ourselves over time and through different activities and experiences. Join a chamber, professional group, or online community which are all great environments to develop relationships. Be patient, selective and watch people in action. Building mutual respect is a great foundation to begin with and it’s the essential for growing relationships.
4. Open The Door For Some Vulnerability
Okay wait! Sharing vulnerability should be very selective. Vulnerability is good but should only be done with those we feel we close with. We are human and sometimes that means sharing and supporting people through difficulties, challenges and changes. Showing vulnerability is a great part of our journey to authenticity.
5. “I’ve Got Your Back”
When cultivating relationships for win, win, growth, people want to know from you if you’re here for the long haul at least at the beginning stages. Letting people know that you have their back is a way of showing loyalty to them. We’ve all seen to often the damage women gossiping about another woman can do to someone moral and confidence. If we want to build a culture of unity and growth amongst us as women we have to learn to say more often I’ve got your Back.
6. Allow The Space for People to Network with Each Other Meaningfully
The greatest compliment in business is a referral. We should be thoughtful, have the right motives and be connecting people for the right reasons. Not all referrals work out. It takes two to make it happen and work, so don’t be doing all the work.
7. Be Willing To Get More Personal
Even though we are in the information age and advancements are being made every single day in the way of new innovations in technology. This should not take away from the importance of human raw connection. If you really want to get to know someone, take out the time to ask them to go for coffee so that you can get to know them deeper while talking and sharing more personally about yourself, one on one. Be willing to share experiences, ideas, points of view and simply learn more about each other’s story, journey, family and professional history.
8. Think Out Side Of Business And Plan Something Fun Together
When it come to building meaningful and lasting relationships that encourage win, win, growth, think creative is needed. You’ve heard the saying “All work and no play makes Jack or Sue dull Person.” Well I added to it a little, but you get my point. Do something fun together that may not have anything to do with work. Travel to an event, Music, art, entertainment, meet ups and community events are all fun things to do to see different sides of people. Not to mention some random and memorable conversations and laughs that can come out of it.
9. Let Go of Expectations
One of the things I’ve learnt of the years on my wonderful experiences of cultivating meaningful relationships online and off-line is letting go of all expectations. Going into a relationships with an open mind is a more freeing way to do so. with an open mind, you can be realistic, relaxed and confident. One of the most beautiful advice I received from my 85 year old aunt who just recently passed said to me:
“First accept yourself just the way you are and then give that gift of acceptance to someone else.”
If we have preconceived expectations of people, then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.
10. Offer Something Before Asking for Something
I get a lot of emails every single day over at rachaelacademy.com and a lot of them are for people asking me something for nothing.
Here are just one example:
- Can we add this guide to your site, we believe your audience will benefit from it?
This email would have been appealing to me if it was written this way:
- Can we add this guide to your site, we believe your audience will benefit from it. For this favour we’ll be happy to pay you a fee, or we would be happy to invite you as a post guest to write for us or share one of your guides on our site?
In any relationship we are going into especially those that we want to cultivate a culture of win, win, growth, a relationship where we support one another and lift each other up as women, we first need to say to ourselves, What value can I bring into this relationship? How can I add in a way of knowledge, time, expertise that will encourage a win, win relationship and growth.
This goes the same when we are working online and wanting to build relationships online. When we educate, help and inspire others with our experience and expertise, we are building the foundation for trust that underlies relationships that endure. When we blog, create content, speak, do a workshop, webinar, write an e-book, go to events, we are serving and helping.
When we get more serious and engaged on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter Instagram and other social media platforms where community gathers and exchanges ideas, we are serving and helping . Serving and helping builds trust like nothing else.
While there are other reasons why organisations should focus on developing more women leaders, the primary reason, simply put, is that it just makes good business sense. Those organisations that want to reap the kind of financial returns so critical to their long-term success, should begin seeking out and supporting executive women leaders. Over the long haul, that’s something that we can all bank on.
Don’t you agree?