Taking control, working women often think about it, but being brave enough to do it is a different story. Women’s Day has to be a good time to change all that.
Perhaps the most crucial realisation is that you can’t control your work environment and others in it unless you first control yourself.
You take charge the moment you take a good look at yourself and decide what your strengths and weaknesses are and what needs to improve.
In recent years, an industry has grown out of that yearning for a better you. The process is called ‘personal branding’. You can buy books on it, download how-to information on it or pay motivational speakers to talk you into it.
Tips, steps and suggestions change depending on the ‘expert’. But common themes are apparent.
One is the need to put things down in writing.
Wishing won’t make it so. Striving will. First you need to know what you’re striving for. Write it down. Formalise the vision. Spell out your great expectations.
Brand-building techniques help you reach the dream by giving you a step-by-step method of making a new start.
I’ve watched women in leadership roles embrace the personal branding process (or something very much like it) and make it work.
Individual styles differ, but without exception these women are smart enough to realise knowledge is power. They therefore set out to become extremely knowledgeable.
They never stop learning. They read constantly. They complement in-depth industry, product and professional knowledge with general knowledge.
These women know their stuff.
Willingness to share is another characteristic of this type of personal brand.
Successful women executives don’t hog knowledge. They share it around.
They give their time as well as their insights. They encourage others. They remain approachable.
These women are solution-givers. Some are known as great mentors as well. Even when they don’t have a formal mentor-mentee relationship with a subordinate, they still take time to encourage and help.
The successful personal brand-builder is also courageous.
Bravery is not monopolised by the young. I’ve seen middle-aged female executives and women approaching the retirement years who still stand up for themselves and what they believe in.
They don’t try to be ‘one of the boys’ by joining in the jokes about hormonal or emotional women. They know being in touch with your emotions means you’re in touch with your market. Because most buying decisions involve emotional reactions.
In fact, emotion influences most decision-making. Emotion shows you care. You’re not cynical. You believe in what you do.
These women are not afraid to show empathy. It doesn’t stop them contributing to solutions and meeting corporate objectives.
The pay-off for these methodical personal brand-builders is the image they create of someone who delivers and makes a difference … on the factory floor, at the strategy sessions and in the boardroom.
These women live the image. Their behaviour is consistent. Not just for weeks, but years.
This takes control.
Personal control of your actions and your career gives you control of your destiny. Not just on Women’s Day, but for the rest of your life.
*By Mosima Selekisho is a Director at Signium Africa (previously Talent Africa), a leading South African-based executive search and talent management company servicing sub-Saharan Africa.