Sunday, October 17, 2010

Resiliency: Female leaderships Secret Sauce

What will end up mattering more to my career - ace'ing academic courses or mastering the art of bouncing back quickly when things go wrong?

When I finished Stanford undergrad last year, I, like many young people, focused my attention on things like finding a good job and building my professional skills.

But I just read a great new book that makes me think there's another place to look, a more important source of long-term career success: My personal resilience.

Authors and McKinsey consultants Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston, have interviewed hundreds of successful women to figure out what really differentiates women who get what they want from their careers.

In "How Remarkable Women Lead," Barsh and Cranston focus on five factors that inspiring women leaders tend to have - and that we can all cultivate in ourselves:

1. Meaning - making the effort to find meaning in out jobs.
2. Framing - being able to re-frame difficult moments, to replace negative emotions with useful ones quickly.
3. Connecting - actively reaching out to others, building strong networks we can turn to for advice, camaraderie, and a sense of belonging.
4. Engaging - jumping into the fray, taking the risks that make us stronger.
5. Energizing - taking the time to take care of themselves through sleep and exercise so they don't burn out.

The authors say that what really sets great women leaders apart is not their wins, but their ability to respond positively to failure. Each female leader in the book recounts a balanced set of stories -- both highs and humbling lows -- that women of any age can relate to (rejection, lay offs and cancer).

What's remarkable about these women is how they have taught themselves to shake off disappointment and pick themselves up without losing too much focus, perspective or time. The reality is, setbacks, roadblocks and failures happen to everyone. And there are some simple things that help women leaders (and all of us) stay on track:

  • Ample restorative time: sleep, exercise and anything else that works for you.
  • Engaging with supportive family and friends, and pals at work who canget you out of your funk.
  • Taking the time to diagnose what caused the set back: soliciting feedback no matter how painful : -)
  • Focusing on next steps to get you going in the right directions.
  • Pals at work who you can rely on to get you out of our funk.
  • Taking control of your schedule to make blocks of time for important work (no email or phone!) with regular restorative intervals.
I loved this book because it's making me see a new way my friends and I can build the futures we want: sharing tips for getting up, not just sympathy when we're down.

So what do you do? How do you get up when things go wrong and life's showing you little mercy? What do you focus on to get psyched and going again? Please share!

- Mary Liz McCurdy