As a coach, I hear the disappointment so many executive women experience. It’s frustrating to set yourself in front of your computer every workday, whether from home or in the office, to give your company the best you have. Yet, you, a talented, skilled woman, rarely feel you receive commensurate benefits for all your efforts.

Let me offer a visual to help us wade through this topic.

Consider those breathtaking, massive redwood trees soaring into the sky. Imagine a seed from the world’s tallest trees, left to stifle in a small pot. Would it ever achieve all its latent power alive in that seed?

No! Forever, it’s stunted. And only when someone notices potential and transplants it to a space where it can grow will that ever be changed.

This axiom is true of you too! You can’t grow in a pot too small.

Perhaps through unconscious bias or simply not recognizing the talent and giftedness of their executive women, bosses and senior leaders are planting all the potential of these women in a pot way too small for them to achieve their highest, and mightiest prospects.

What is my evidence? Well, for sure, the subjective career experiences of my clients.

Research to my mind slams it home as it dots the ‘i’s’ and crosses the ‘t’s.’

It establishes the underrepresentation of women as statistics confirm that only 35 percent of women are in senior leadership positions. Especially when research by Zenger and Folkman results from 360-degree performance evaluations reveal that women outscore men in 15 of the top 16 leadership competencies.

Then, according to IBM’s “Women in Leadership” report, the gloomy assessment is: At this pace, how long will it take before organizations achieve gender parity in leadership? It’s certainly not 10 years, as our respondents hope. At the current rate of change for the C-suite, we calculate it will be more like three decades. And, for the leadership roles where growth has been flat or even dipped? Sadly, the answer is never. 

If you play it safe in your small pot and fix your mind on the apparent inequity allowing it to snuff out your aspirations, you lose. Or you can take charge of your career. I know what I hope you’ll do!

To take the reins of your career, start with these three career expanders.

Network: Let’s take a moment to return to our redwood tree metaphor. Did you know these trees have very shallow roots?

Isn’t this shocking when you consider that these towering trees can live longer than 2,000 years? What holds them robust and lofty?

Well, its shallow root systems extend over one hundred feet from the base, intertwining with the roots of other redwoods. This interweaving increases their stability against the challenges of strong winds and floods. A powerful, diverse, influential connection of relationships will have the same impact on your career, enabling you to soar as you effortlessly add years to your professional life.

Transform Your Focus: Through the years, enumerable clients have come to me after the disappointment of being passed over for a promotion.

I remember one talented woman who we’ll use as a case study. Her boss was leaving when Cathy learned she wasn’t a candidate as successor. Mind you, Cathy had won awards for her work. She consistently was complimented for the results her projects had received by the highest-ranking leaders. Her performance evaluations were stellar, yet with all of this, she was still not considered for the position.

After working with her for a brief period, I had a sneaking suspicion about what the problem was.

You see, all her talking points regarding her achievement concentrated on her tactical skills and achievement. Unfortunately, that isn’t the arena of leadership.

So, while she was working hard at proving her worthiness, the decision-makers determined she was a valued employee, just not a candidate for leadership.

Once she stopped centering her attention on all the low-level detail of projects and began aligning her work to strategy and the organization’s future, she was golden. After a few months, even she could see the shift in value her organization placed on her opinions.

Cathy is now invited to strategy meetings never open to her before—a signal of her new status. She is now on the list of high-potential at her company.

Model Inspiration and Optimism: A significant aspect of leadership isn’t about how you feel. It is about how you help others get through the tough patches that occur in everyone’s career.

Yes, you need to be able to look through and around and over barriers that pop up with hope and positive anticipation for yourself. And you strive to do the same for those around you. That’s a leader’s mind.

After all, being successful in the workplace isn’t about everything always being hunky-dory. You shine when you motivate and inspire those around you. It’s about helping others become better than they ever imagined they could be…that’s the attitude companies seek in their leaders.

Are you ready to stimulate the success of your career by tapping into one or all three career expanders?

Practicing these three will change the perspective your organization has of you. You’ll find them natural and easy because you implement them with integrity as you advance in the organization.


 Thrive@Work MasterMind program accelerates a woman’s career. It’s a dynamic community of like-minded professional women holding one another accountable and committed to excellence. Ready to accelerate your career? If you’re excited about joining a MasterMind group, your timing couldn’t be better. We have a SPECIAL—the first month FREE!

 Click here for an overview of the program. 

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