One of the most frustrating scenarios for the women that we coach here at The Colin James Method® is the difficulty they face getting approval to move forward with projects. It’s hard to demonstrate your leadership capacity if you can’t even get projects off the ground! So what leadership skills do you need to get that cut-through with time-poor executives in the senior management team?
This week I attended a session run by the Women in Banking and Finance group. We were there to hear some of Yasmin Allen’s secrets to succeeding in a corporate environment. Yasmin is a non-executive director with more than 15 years’ experience on boards of major listed companies including Santos, ASX and Cochlear. Prior to her directorships, she had an illustrious executive career as vice president of Deutsche Bank Australia, director of ANZ Bank and associate director of HSBC in London. In short, Yasmin has had a stellar executive and non-executive career, despite the fact that women are still very under-represented in senior positions.
Having witnessed executives pitching to boards on a weekly basis, it’s fair to say that this talented director knows a thing or two about how to get projects approved. And having been involved in the decisions to hire new CEOs for companies, she also knows what leadership skills really make a candidate stand apart.
A couple of the pieces of advice she shared really resonated with me as being relevant for any woman seeking a senior leadership position or seeking to influence senior leaders more effectively – though they may initially sound counter-intuitive …
1. Demonstrate a lack of ego
This may sound surprising without context. After all, aren’t we always suggesting to women that they (to quote Sheryl Sandberg) “lean in”?
Demonstrating a lack of ego does not mean being backward in coming forward. On the contrary, we know that you will not be persuasive if you do not have full conviction and confidence in your idea. In our coaching of senior leaders, we frequently refer to the need for a physiology of excellence and strong energetic intent whenever you are seeking to influence a decision-maker.
What Yasmin was acknowledging was that gaining input from others, and demonstrating that you have done so, is critical for success. This generally means a collaborative approach is required during the formative stages of designing a project. Now, there have been some articles published recently that claim that the outcome from collaborative environments is potentially mediocre. However, on balance, Yasmin argued that a lack of collaboration (which can arise when there is an overly strong ego at play) can lead to future roadblocks on projects that are impossible to overcome.
In the majority of situations, the best way to get a project approved is to consider the issue from the viewpoint of everyone who will be impacted by the decision, and seeking feedback from stakeholders is the best way to make sure you are addressing their concerns. In our communications training at The Colin James Method®, we frequently refer to the need to design your content with the audience’s perspective in mind (or, in other words, in terms of the impact this project will have on all stakeholders).
2. Foster curiosity
Yasmin believes that curiosity is the single thing that has contributed most to her success. It has resulted in the ongoing pursuit of knowledge and the desire to constantly ask why we do things the way we do them.
A healthy curiosity can lead to the generation of ideas that are outside of the traditional ways of doing business, and cause you to revisit your original premise again and again to see if there may be a better way – both qualities of a strong thought leader. And strong thought leaders are much more likely to get green lights on projects.
Constant focus on how to better present your ideas will assist with project approval too.
If you would like more information on how to develop your leadership skills, our cheat sheet on 4 key steps to owning your confidence has some more great tips.
The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their leadership skills with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.
Alison Carter is a facilitator and coach at The Colin James Method® and Inner Profit Pty Ltd, a vibrant leadership development company in Australia. She is a qualified Chartered Accountant who has spent over 15 years in senior financial and communication roles. She now loves to share her passion for the design and delivery of effective and engaging communications.