I remember years ago eating lunch and reading while sitting at the counter of the downtown Los Angeles’ Hamburger Hamlet with a lump in my throat and a tear forming in my eye.
As a first-level manager, I had just discovered research telling me women leaders emerge from a healthy parental partnership. The study described a marriage with a strong mother who embraces her abilities and a father who supports both his wife and daughter’s desired pathway no matter how steep or improbable it is.
Do I need to tell you this didn’t describe my parents? I was blessed to have them. They just weren’t into preparing their daughter for leadership prominence.
This memory popped up recently as I was reading KPMG Women’s Leadership Study 40 plus years later, where their research says much the same thing. Women who were encouraged to be leaders growing up are more likely to aspire to be a senior leader of a company or organization (74 percent vs. 48 percent) and to aspire to be on a board of a company in the future (66 percent vs. 39 percent) than those who did not receive that encouragement growing up.
What’s a woman to do if she didn’t have a family creating the foundation to leap into a bright, bold future, and yet, as was true for me, she longs for it?
This question caused me to scratch my head a bit. How did I get where I am today that others can follow?
Pursue Your Passion… With Your Eyes Open: I share in many of my leadership classes a childhood story. As a youth in third grade, I diligently wove potholders on my little loom every night, gifting one or more to friends and family. Pretty soon, I had more hot-pads then family, so spread my reach further afield, and began selling to neighbors. With more orders in hand than I could handle, the first mass-production potholder line in the area was kicked-off as I persuaded, trained, and mentored three friends. They received a salary. I retained the bulk of the profits for starting the business as well as being the sales force. After all, the income side of the business garners more prestige and earnings than does the expense side.
Is it any wonder that as an adult, I’m happiest as an entrepreneur, and love building others to generate rewarding results for themselves as well?
Once I began my career, I always leaned into my passion. I also kept my eyes open for skills that may not light me up but built knowledge along the way.
One Example: I never was keen on writing. When called upon to compose a document for others to read, I cringed being much more verbal by nature. I took on my Achilles’ heel. Frustrating practice and unsatisfying results, along with more practice, practice led to something I quite enjoy doing now. Career progress is often not a straight road yet well worth the effort.
WISDOM IS SUPPORTABLE: It looks as though during my formative years, I was onto something. Stanford University research found:
- Focusing on following a single passion made people less likely to consider new potential areas of interest….
- If you are overly narrow and committed to one area [your passion], that could prevent you from developing interests and expertise that you need to do….
- Instead of thinking of your career as an opportunity to follow your passion, the researchers suggest thinking of life as a series of opportunities to develop several passions.
I pursued passion trails in my career as well as actively took on failings wherever and whenever they became apparent. Especially when they were barriers to or competencies to add to my career arsenal. How? Through reading books on the topic, taking relevant classes, hiring a coach, asking for mentors, or volunteering for projects in disciplines of interest. I PURSUED!
Did you receive an “Aha” moment as you read this blog? Please take immediate action. I can’t tell you all the “Aha’s” I’ve experienced in my career then got too busy to execute. It’s an embarrassing number! Only to run amuck months or years later because I hadn’t followed up with any action behind the “Aha.” I unknowingly completely disregarded my intuitive voice, telling me this may soon become critical to your advancement!
Don’t let that be you, please! What’s shared wisdom for if not to shorten the learning curve for others?
Look for Part Two of the series coming in the next month.