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Emerging Female Leaders Community of Practice

We continuously strive to identify and develop Leaders for What's Next across all areas of our business, and in going so, have committed to developing an Emerging Female Leaders' Community of Practice which launches in Autumn 2017 through a series of speaker-led events. Our Community of Practice supports the continuing professional development of emerging female leaders in Ireland.

As we look forward to the first of our speaker-led events as part of our Community of Practice for Emerging Female Leaders on 21st September in the RDS, Dearbhalla Baviera of Clearbird Consulting examines "What Stepping Up Really Means" in the first of three pillars we will explore over the coming weeks.

Deirdre O'Shaughnessy, Partner, Amrop 


Breaking Down What Stepping Up Really Means

“I'm being asked to 'step up' by the leadership team but I just don't know what else I can do and what exactly they want.”

“I'm working hard. I know that I'm good at what I do. I manage my team well or as well as I can do given time constraints. I'm a solid performer.  I just don’t know what to do differently to progress further to the next level in my career.”

Does this resonate with you? I hear this and similar narratives frequently from male and female clients but more often from women - women at management and senior management level who are keeping their head down, working hard, getting the job done, getting through the To Do list. 

They are staying focused on the tactical side of the job and their functional expertise. This approach has worked for them for a large part of their career. But at a certain point it can start to get in their way. Meeting and exceeding targets and performance objectives is a given but what else is involved in ‘stepping up’?

They don’t understand why others are advancing around them and they can’t figure what they need to do to step up. And more often than not, it is just not explained to them and it is a Blind Spot. In my experience, there are many managers and leaders who naturally know what others don’t see and progress accordingly. These leaders think it is so obvious, it is inherent to them, that they don’t know how to articulate it to others or they don’t even know that they have to.

But if you are at Management/Senior Management and are feeling a little bit stuck and not sure where to go next, let me break it down into three pillars. 

First pillar: Shift From The Tactical

Second Pillar: Engage Differently

Third Pillar: Lead From The Front.

Over the next three weeks we will examine each pillar in turn. These are three areas that you can bring your conscious awareness to and observe how you are behaving and performing. Examine what you can change, how you can engage differently.

The First Pillar: Shift From The Tactical

Delegate more: This can be a challenge as it often means ‘doing less’. But this is a crucial step in doing more of what is important as a leader. When you look at leaders around you, are they stuck in the detail? In most cases the answer is no. 

Delegating more to your team means that you are freeing up both headspace and time, to allow yourself to engage differently, to influence upwards, to think strategically and to shift to leading rather than just managing.

Control less: Delegating more, very often means controlling less. It means empowering your team to also step up. The chances are that with your experience and expertise, you know how you want things done, to a certain standard, and if you are not involved, it won’t be done your way. 

This is the challenge - to step away. It will mean that issues arise and you will spend time managing those issues. But you will be managing them through influencing, supporting the team, managing stakeholders and upward management rather than getting stuck in and ‘fixing.

Empowering talent: Controlling less means allocating more time to supporting and coaching which will seem slower and more time consuming. But letting your team learn and fail and learn some more is part of the role of a leader. 

It’s about identifying and focusing on the talent within your team and prioritising time to support them in their growth and development. 

It will also mean having, and not avoiding the difficult conversations with poor performers. That is unfortunately a necessary, if unwelcome part, of leading effectively and growing as a leader.

Manage your time: Managing that shift to leadership means re-focusing on how you are spending your time, taking the above points into account especially delegating and prioritising.

You require a laser-like focus on the demands on your time. If you are firefighting or in crisis mode all of the time, something is wrong. It is likely that you will not have the time or make the time to focus on the important things. It often means really looking at all of the meetings that you are attending and really questioning if you need to be there. What value are you adding by being there? If your presence is not required or not bringing value, then don’t go or think about how you can engage differently and bring all of yourself.

The key to actively managing the shift from functional expert and management to leadership and stepping up is, owning it. Own the discussions. Own how you are coming across. Own your own growth. Seek out mentors and support. Seek out opportunities. Don’t wait for it to happen. Don’t wait for the recognition to come because you deserve it and are working hard. Take the reins on your own career and navigate forward with purpose.

Dearbhalla Baviera, founder of Clearbird Coaching and Consulting is an Executive Coach, Speaker and Consultant who focuses on Feeding the Female Leadership Pipeline.