One reason why more female leaders don’t advance to top management jobs is their lack of access to informal business and industry networks. Unconscious bias is often blamed – after all high-ranking men tend to connect more easily with other men. Others reasons can include, professional and personal obligations, from office housekeeping to child-rearing, that disproportionately fall to women, leaving them less time to develop professional relationships.
But some female leaders do establish strong networks – and they win greater influence and more-senior positions as a result. So what are they doing differently?
A new study has shed some light on their strategies. Recent research studies have identified four characteristics that distinguish the networking behaviours of more-successful women from those of their peers. In some cases those matched the behaviours of high-performing men; in others there were subtle but important differences.
When shaping their professional networks, top women were:
Women generally take on more collaborative demands in the workplace than their male peers do. But the female managers with the strongest networks, recognise that every ‘yes’ means a ‘no’ to something else, They remove non-essential appointments from their calendars, deflect low-priority decisions and requests, run streamlined meetings, insist on efficient email norms, and set aside time for reflection and high-level thinking. At the same time, they make the most of their collaborative strengths by working with others in a way that establishes or enhances key relationships and ups their visibility.
At every level in companies, women are more likely to be sought out for advice, but the downsides of saying no, can be it makes you feel bad. The female executives who rise to the top are “more strategic and thoughtful” about how they spend their time.
Most women’s relationships, particularly those with female peers, are stickier than men’s, growing stronger, more mutual, and more interwoven over time. This can occasionally be a positive – for example, an old contact might offer a new opportunity or employment prospect. But if you work in a dynamic company that requires rapid adjustments to changing demands (and who doesn’t nowadays?), always relying on the same people doesn’t always work – Successful female networks are more fluid, and successful networkers try to prioritise the right contacts at the right time!
Networking far and wide!
The highest-ranking, best-networked women connect with people in a wide variety of functions, geographies, and business units. Research has shown, less successful female networkers tend to shy away from the tactic because it feels uncomfortable or overly promotional. Women like their own communities,- spanning boundaries made them worry about “backlash” or becoming “stressed out.” But that behaviour is critical to accessing new information, leading innovation, and pursuing advancement, for both women and men. Periodically consider the leaders in your company and ask yourself, “Who isn’t in my network but should be?” Try and approach them with a ‘Could we grab a coffee and explore ways of working together?’
More than two decades’ worth of research shows, perhaps not surprisingly, that the highest performers are seen as the most energising people in their networks—as the type of colleague who makes the work more engaging, which then drives better performance. But men and women are expected to bring different energy to relationships, and this is where effective female networkers set themselves apart from less successful women: They demonstrate both competence and warmth, both intelligence and emotional intelligence, to build trust. The most successful women don’t downplay their knowledge, skills, and accomplishments; they show evidence that they can do things. But they also use humour, presence, and small gestures to signal caring and positivity, and they employ active listening skills to spur creative thinking among their colleagues.
For many women in business, the term networking makes them think of the superficial, soulless exchange of cards that rarely leads to genuine new connections — or business. Yet, being a senior female leader or business owner can be lonely, and we all know getting out there is crucial to your company’s growth and success.
This is why I created Leading Ladies.
So many of my coaching clients often expressed similar challenges and concerns . It made me realise, there would be real benefit in coming together and having deeper connections, more so than just a traditional meet greet and quick business card exchange. So in Leading Ladies we meet in teams of up to 15 talented ladies, in our virtual boardroom once a month, to share experiences, challenges and wins. To support each other and to learn a bit too.
Then if you want to meet the wider network, we have the online Leading Ladies Lounge, where we have lives, webinars and so much more. Finally there is the virtual training room, where you can pick up self development tips and techniques in bite sized chunks to help you sky rocket your career or business.
Doors are opening September if you are looking for your go to network of amazing ladies. You can register here to be first in the queue … https://promotions.primepersona.co.uk/leadingladiesseptwaitlist
For all ladies who register you will receive a FREE copy of my Live your Dream Life guide – sadly this wont turn you into a 7 or 8 figure genius overnight – but it does help you ask the right questions to work out which way is next! Please feel free to download a copy – It’s FREE and you have nothing to lose and much to gain!