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Know Thyself and Thy Sticky Floors

by Rebecca Shambaugh
By identifying our individual sticky floors we can break through fears, obstacles and assumptions—and ultimately embrace our own power. The following define the seven sticky floors and proven strategies and techniques to apply for avoiding or overcoming them.

Balancing Your Work and Life

Are you wired to be a good multi-tasker? If so, this can backfire and not only leave you over-tasked but can cause you to lose sight of your priorities. To balance work and life, it is important to have priorities, know where you get your enjoyment and fulfillment, and then commit to a set of goals to make sure you are on the right track.

• Define what success, happiness and fulfillment mean to you, personally and professionally, now and in the future.

• Get focused: Establish commitments and boundaries that will allow you to pay adequate attention to your values and life goals. If your day to day activities are not supporting them, consider taking them off your “to do” list.

• For those high achievers, remember to build your strategic life plan and not to try and do everything at once.

Staying In One Place Too Long–Making the Break

Staying in one place too long can be based on the “boss-centric syndrome” where you have developed a long term and close relationship with a boss who has been your strong supporter. It can also be due to our assumption that if we just continue to do a good job, people will see and recognize our great contributions. It can stall personal growth, feed into self-doubt, and brand us as an expert in a certain area, causing people not to consider us for other opportunities.

• Lay the groundwork for future moves by networking and making your work/accomplishments, skills, and interests known to others.

• Continually check your marketability. Are you in line with others that are within your level of responsibility and experience?

• Write down what you truly want to do. Then, map out what kinds of experiences, training, and exposure it will take to get there.

• Be willing to take a risk. If an opportunity comes along that may be a stretch, ask yourself what is the worst thing that can happen?

Embracing Good Enough: Perfectionism versus Excellence
Perfectionism is always placing the same high standard for performance on everything. It can be a virtue but when overused can limit our greater capabilities, and we can lose sight of the priorities, important expectations of our key stakeholders as well as drive ourselves to burnout or stress. Signs of perfectionism show up in being a micro-manager, seeming too mired in the details, being viewed as a doer versus a leader, or not delegating those detailed tasks to others.

• Learn what the most critical tasks are and put your energy there. Most importantly, learn when a job has been done “good enough”—and move on.

• Seek feedback and use it to calibrate your own performance standards. Knowing the difference will allow you to manage your work better.

Forming Your Own Board of Directors

As you move into more visible senior leadership roles, your technical competence becomes more of a commodity. Relationships become even more important when achieving your goals, working cross functionally or influencing others.

• Identify a goal that is important to you, and then look to those individuals who can help you achieve it rather than trying to do it all on your own.

• Pursue relationships with integrity, intention and authenticity.

• Remember “Six Degrees of Separation” and ask for referrals. Consider the Law of Reciprocity: How can you help the other person?

Capitalizing on Your Political Savvy

Having political savvy and social intelligence can help you to navigate important issues across the organization, allowing you to know how to get the right information, learn how decisions are made and “read the tea leaves” (which means knowing what people are really saying and feeling).

• Learn who needs to know about you, your value or how you can help them.

• Determine the best mechanisms for knowing what’s happening, so you can bring value to situations, rather than just hoping that information will come to you.

• Know how to anticipate resistance in the organization and prepare to address it proactively.

Making Your Words Count

Your credibility and power as a leader depend greatly on how others perceive you and much of that is determined by how well you communicate. Making your words count is not only about what you say but how you say it.

• Be prepared with the message you want to deliver–present relevant facts and information so that your message resonates with the audience.

• Avoid filling the room with words, rather provide a clear and concise message and own that message.
• Be aware of and capitalize on the nonverbal aspect of communications such as body language, eye contact, how we dress, listening with intention, and posture.

• If you have something important to say, speak up. Act confident, balance emotion with logic, time your contribution and have good information at your fingertips to back up your perspective.

Asking for What You Want

Some women are still waiting for that raise or promotion they deserve. Knowing and asking for what you want is something we are entitled to and others expect us to do. The only thing that holds us back from getting what we want is simply not asking for it.

• Research your request or worth. Don’t just assume you are worth it or that someone will take you seriously. Consider multiple sources such as industry standards/trends, internal and external market salaries, and other best practices.

• Don’t jump to assumptions about how the other party views your request. Make it a win–win by creating a bridge between their concerns and your interests.

About the author

Rebecca Shambaugh is a nationally-known leadership strategist, Shambaugh has over twenty years of experience helping organizations and executives respond to critical leadership challenges and opportunities in today’s business environment. She is president and CEO of SHAMBAUGH, where she founded Women In Leadership and Learning (WILL), an organization dedicated to the research, advancement, and retention of women leaders and executives. She is the author of It’s Not A Glass Ceiling, It’s A Sticky Floor (McGraw-Hill, 2007).