Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Women in Leadership: Jo Miller

I recently interviewed Jo Miller, CEO Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc. to talk about women in leadership. Today, women make up over 50% of the workforce, are entrepreneurs, hold key leadership positions and serve on board of directors. Miller will give us her insight into the challenges women face in the workplace, how to overcome these obstacles and become a more empowered leader.

Miller is founding editor of BeLeaderly.com, keynote speaker at the upcoming ProjectWorld & World Congress for Business Analysts 2014 conference in Seattle. She will be a keynote for session entitled, “Become a Person of Influence" and you find her website here at www.womensleadershipcoaching.com.

Check out what Miller had to say:

IIR: Jo, exciting to have you at ProjectWorld! How would you define a person of influence in today’s organization?

Jo: An influencer is someone who has a goal or a vision that they’d like to achieve that is bigger than they can accomplish alone — meaning they must engage, motivate and inspire others to collaborate and help out in order for that goal to be achieved. To be an influencer you don’t need a leadership job title or a team who report to you, in fact, I would volunteer that no-one gets promoted into leadership without first showing that they can positively influence others.

IIR: You’ve interviewed women worldwide; what do these up and coming leaders tell you are their top three leadership challenges in business? 

Jo: By far the biggest frustration that emerging leaders tell me they deal with is office politics. Most leadership books won’t tell you this, but it is one of the biggest career-killers if you don’t find a positively way to navigate it. Ignoring it is not an option, because you’ll get passed over for career opportunities if you don’t “play the game.”

Next, for women especially, making their value visible and not being the best kept secret in the organization. Women have a tendency to work hard, deliver outstanding work, then go on to the next task without pausing to make sure their work was visible to higher-ups.

And finally, in a world where promotions are increasingly rare and everyone needs to collaborate cross-functionally to get stuff done, I would say that influencing without authority is a big challenge many up and coming leaders need to figure out.

IIR: What was the impetus for you to start your coaching business and focus specifically on women leaders?

Jo:   Coming from the corporate world, where I had tried unsuccessfully to find a roadmap or guide on how to advance up the corporate ladder, I knew there was a need. I also met too many women with leadership potential that outshone their current positions, and saw the talent pool that was not being tapped. I realized that companies would be better off if they had a way to connect with that untapped potential, so I started creating coaching programs and workshops that gave women a roadmap to break into management and leadership positions.

IIR: Tell us about your new book “She’s Got Clout; How to Become a Rising Woman of Influence. How can we get a copy of your book?

Jo: I’m still working on it! The book will focus on the topics I teach in my one-day Poised for Leadership workshop. It’s a set of core competencies for employees who want to break out and establish themselves as emerging leaders in their organizations. Topics include how to gain visibility and reward for your accomplishments, navigate organizational politics with savvy, and build a reputation as a leader or expert.

IIR: Project Managers are making the shift to become project leaders leading global teams. What are your top three leadership tips for these project leaders?

Jo: 1. Don’t wait for positional authority: look for opportunities to act, identify leadership gaps, and take the lead. 

2. If you want to increase your influence, start by building a network of relationships with people that support you in your career and leadership goals. When people know you and trust you, you don’t need to cajole or persuade them to help you out: they are happy to collaborate and help out a friend.

3. Enlist senior-level sponsors inside and outside your direct management chain. Sometimes all it takes to influence something is having a highly influential individual give it their blessing.

IIR: Projects and politics are like oil and water; they don’t always mix. Give us a little insight on your workshop you’re facilitating at ProjectWorld about Office Politics. 

Jo: In my workshop, we will talk about why you should not ignore office politics (even though most people really, really don’t like it). There are some compelling career advantages enjoyed by people who have the skill of being “positively politically savvy”, like being more promotable and less likely to derail. I will define that skill, and share some very practical tools that help participants build their political savvy, from understanding the dynamics of power and influence in their organization to understanding the unwritten ‘rules of the game.’

IIR: Women have the skill sets, integrity, character and experience to lead; what is holding some women back from breaking through the glass ceiling? 

Jo: That’s a big question! And perhaps one not answerable in a short blog post, but we are lucky to live in a time when a lot of research is being done. Why aren’t women breaking into leadership in larger numbers? For one, our corporate workplaces are rife with unconscious bias that sets women at a disadvantage. And our workplaces are not always female-friendly at that critical point when employees start getting promoted into management ranks, meanwhile their home lives become very complex. Thirdly, there are some simple, practical skills that don’t always come naturally, but that women can develop in order to make their value visible for consideration for higher-level assignments.

IIR: What is the AHA moment for women after they take your training and use your leadership coaching system? 

Jo: One such aha moment is not to let their management make career choices for them! That they can be the driver of their career, and take charge of their career trajectory.

IIR: What advice would you give to women who are looking to take the next step to advance in their careers? Are there networks or associations you would recommend women join to network and help gain an advantage to move forward in their careers?

Jo: I recommend not just joining the relevant associations in your professional area, but being an active participant. Take a leadership role! You will get to meet and speak with the movers and shakers in your industry, and if you play your cards right, they will become your mentors, sponsors. You will develop a world-class personal board of directors.

Want to learn more about this topic and network with PM and BA professionals like yourself? Don’t miss ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts 2014 in Seattle this fall. For more information about this event, click here: http://www.iirusa.com/projectworld/pricing-info.xml

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