Women In Management: Knowing Where To Go
Anna Ranieri MBA, PhD, a career counselor and executive coach, psychologist, and author, believes that we all deserve to be happy and fulfilled in our lives and our work. Anna is also an Advisor to Savitude.
I enjoy coaching, teaching and writing about the issues involved in achieving and being effective in management roles. In the current season, when a certain American woman may well break the ultimate glass ceiling, it’s a good time to re-visit how women are effectively moving into management roles in their careers.
As I set out to write about this topic for Savitude, I was fortunate to be introduced to a millennial-era manager who is insightful and successful in identifying and reaching her management goals. We had a lot to talk about.
Shir Genish’s parents immigrated to the U.S. and brought their values around education and business success along with them. Her father had worked his way up, and, over time, had started several companies. In Shir’s childhood surroundings, she saw other people successfully working their way up the ladder. Perhaps that helps explain why Shir double-majored in Economics and Entrepreneurial Leadership in college. She interned in a major financial company and moved into an international marketing role when she graduated.
That first job was in an established company that didn’t have many women in positions like the one she held or the others that she aspired to. When Shir then joined SoulCycle, she not only had many more women colleagues, but she moved right into management. With a staff of 20 people, she was tasked with opening new locations and managing people in a variety of roles. She was pleased that SoulCycle offered management coaching; she observed women who were in positions above hers and gained their mentorship. Over time, she was glad to be able to coach others based on her training and experience.
Shir has just moved from the East Coast to the Bay Area, and is considering what her next management role will be. We talked about how she’ll make sure to demonstrate her readiness for a new position, and about what she has learned that she wants to share with other women seeking and gaining jobs in management. Here are a few important points we discussed:
Seeking and Learning:
As Shir started her career, she actively sought the roles that she wanted, and worked to learn the skills and the understanding that her next steps would require. She looked for mentors and realized that she had to find the mentors who were right for her, whether they were at her current workplace or not. She was direct about wanting to manage and lead people and knew that, in a new organization, that meant learning the culture and successfully moving up through it. She was frank about sharing her capabilities and came to learn that the “people issues” are the ones you need to know. “Every job has a learning curve”, she says, and you have to be willing to try to gain the knowledge and experience you need.
To learn her way in a new organization or a new role, Shir asked questions about anything she hadn’t experienced before. Then, having learned the ropes and understood the objectives of the business, she made sure to actively give suggestions about what she saw could be done differently. You can’t do that before you’ve taken the time and made the effort to understand your surroundings, but once you have, you can demonstrate your ability to make things happen and to move the organization forward. That said, Shir recommends trying to learn early on whether that organization is a good fit for you for the present and the future. Consider whether to start working there or not, and consider when to leave if you’ve found out that there you can only go so far in reaching your management objectives.
How to be Viewed as a Manager:
There’s a lot of work to be done as you seek the roles and responsibilities you want and learn how best to be successful. Shir and I talked about the ways that one is viewed as ready for management or ready for additional management responsibility. We agreed that it’s important to:
1. Communicate in a way that demonstrates your confidence
- Be direct, don’t be tentative, and don’t apologize when making a request
- Take credit for what you’ve done, and give credit to others for their contributions
- Speaking up isn’t offensive; don’t miss the opportunity to share your views, but demonstrate that you’re ready to listen to others’ views as well
- Let your body language and what you wear give additional signs of your confidence in yourself
2. Demonstrate how you build and maintain relationships
- Manage up, down and across the organization to keep good communication in all directions, showing that you care about what you’re doing and that you’re capable of moving upward
- Be kind to people, but avoid people-pleasing just to keep everyone perpetually happy. As a manager, you have to help people develop in their own roles, and that can include some growing pains. You have to speak up to people at levels above yours in order to put forward the best ideas for the benefit of the whole organization.
Connecting the Dots:
I often emphasize, as I engage in career counseling and executive coaching, teaching and writing, the importance of “connecting the dots”. By this I mean being able to tell your career narrative effectively and have others understand how your particular trajectory in life and work have brought you the skills and experience that are essential in your next job. This is particularly important in moving into management, or upward through the levels of management, and that’s something I’ve emphasized in a couple of Harvard Business Review articles this year. They can easily be found online if you search for Anna Ranieri HBR.
I was glad to learn that Shir also resonates to this issue. She has already seen in her career, for example, how gaining skills in one setting, such as a small company, can give you confidence in seeking a different kind of position. When you interview for a management position in a larger firm, confidently tell the hiring manager how your swift progression upward within the smaller company helps you know that you can take the next step, into leading a larger team.
You have to translate for your listener or reader the meaning of what you did, say, in a health and wellness company, and how it qualifies you for work in a tech company. In one such setting, Shir gained experience in Operations and Project Managementthat she could demonstrate were relevant to those functions in a different industry. If you focus on what you’ve done, rather than just where you’ve done it, others can more easily see the connection between your prior experience and the job or title you want now.
Finding your management role in a corporate culture:
Shir mentioned a good example of connecting the dots when seeking a management role in a particular industry. As she came to Silicon Valley and began to interview for a job in the technology sector, she saw that learning the culture and expectations -- from friends who worked in similar companies-- she could more effectively express the qualifications that made her a good candidate for a tech-related job. She determined not to rush this process; to prepare for opportunities by looking around the valley and learning about what was of interest to her. As she looked and learned, recognized the challenge of being able to do the job and to have a life outside of work, and the importance of negotiating up front for what she needed in that regard.
I know that Shir will continue to be successful in her management career; best wishes to you, too!