There are a lot of challenges that women in management face on a daily basis but some of the toughest to master relate to managing themselves, the culture and their employees. The so-called soft business challenges. Through our experiences working with women leaders, we have placed them into three categories – risk taking, lack of growth and decisions around firing someone.
Women in management are often encouraged to take risks. Easier for some; harder for others. But it’s impossible to grow a business yet along a career, without taking some chances. The issue is the perception in taking risks and fearing failure. If however, failure in this context is seen as growth, gaining important experience and not labeled as a failure, then more women CEOs as well as men would be inclined to take more calculated risks.
The challenge is to remove this stigma of failure from those who are willing to try. In order to make it more likely that others will take risks when they see that the positives far outweigh the negatives. The key is to focus on the lessons that result from the mistake. The biggest impediments for women in management, goes back to beliefs and experience and how they are embedded within the culture of the work group or organization.
One of the real benefits of hiring a diverse group of employees from different backgrounds is that it may enable you to gradually build a business culture that is less punitive about risk. People of different backgrounds will approach success and failure differently. By hiring people with different levels of risk aversive attitudes, you are maximizing your chance for positive results. It just needs to be embedded into the culture. It’s a constant challenge and learning process that fortunately becomes easier with practice.
The second challenge that women leaders face is hitting a career plateau where the current job does not provide the energy and passion to drive success. This applies to individuals as well as organizations. Many women may hit a brick wall and struggle with maintaining the energy to keep driving results. Without this energy and passion, both your career and organization could suffer.
Women in management can overcome this plateau by understanding that all leaders, from CEO to entry-level, need to continue to learn, train and reinvent themselves. Likewise, the business itself also needs to grow and change. What got you to the first 100 million in sales may not get you to the 200 million. Focus on growth is the key to get unstuck Accepting and dealing with change is important because their competition will also be growing and changing as well.
Typically a new business begins by being outwardly focused on the markets and customers. Then as success develops, volume and stuff increase and the leaders will then look inwards to concentrate on the systems and infrastructure to maintain the growth and not have things fall through the cracks. When competition comes along, it is then necessary for women leaders to switch focus back to the outside. This whole process of reinventing yourself and your organization by assessing and changing your internal and external focus is critical.
Finally, women in management positions often face difficult hiring and firing issues as the organization grows. People who were right for certain positions may not be any more as the company evolves. One of the most difficult situations is, knowing when to get rid of someone who is marginal. The textbook answer suggests that, hedging the bet for too long is not beneficial to anyone. Though these situations seem uncomfortable, it is generally the case that your employee knows she is not succeeding. In fact, the change often becomes a turning point for them.
There is also the case in which an employee is excellent at her job, but does not fit in with the culture. Though it is an extremely difficult act for women leaders to get rid of a good, income-producing employee, it is generally more important to maintain a positive work culture.
All of these issues impact women in management’s ability to achieve personal and business success. How you deal and interact to these challenges on a regular basis will determine how successful you will be. It is important for women in management to keep in mind, however that, like anything else, running a company is a learning process and you are sure to improve as time goes on.
Presuming you will not blame yourself for failures but look at them as learning opportunities and chances to improve.