Pro golfer and winning 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger
The best career advice I ever got was, “If you want to be CEO, then act like the CEO!” Leadership starts with a mindset, and it’s in your control.
A recent study from The Wall Street Journal’s Executive Task Force for Women in the Economy* delivers a clear message: Diverse leadership generates stronger business results. Appropriately titled, “Unlocking the Full Potential Potential of Women at Work,” the study points to four barriers that impede women from advancing through the corporate pipeline.
- Structural obstacles
- Lifestyle choices
- Institutional mindsets
- Individual mindsets
This reminds me of a conversation I facilitated with pro golfer and winning U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger. When he agreed to lead the underdog 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup squad, Paul told our group of global Chief Human Resource Officers that he immediately set out to “control the controllables.” Paul’s meticulous attention to detail freed his golfers of distractions and put them at ease, allowing them to focus on playing to win. With the controllables controlled, the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team triumphantly ended a decade of European dominance. Of the four factors listed in The Wall Street Journal’s study, individual mindset stands out as the one controllable. As one successful woman executive interviewed in the study put it, “The minute I became directive about what I wanted, my career went on the fast track.” She was playing to win. I read all kinds of studies and articles on how women unwillingly create barriers for themselves. We must learn to say no, to ask for help and to regularly seek out candid feedback. We need to find the right sponsors to communicate on our behalf. We must project confidence, seek out fresh insights from outside our companies and take risks. Perhaps you’ve been passed up for a promotion because you simply never fully articulated that you wanted that job! My best advice is to:
- Start at the top and create a vision for yourself
- Write it down
- List the reasons you should have the bigger job
- Practice saying the vision
- Sign it
- Post it where you can regularly see it
- Communicate it to others and enroll your internal and external sponsors in your vision
The power of intent can give us new vision. And possibilities are now in our thinking. But remember this… “No one has all the knowledge or skill needed for the next role, nor will they develop all they need when they are in the role.” Just don’t apologize for your shortcomings. Once you have created your vision, play to win. Or, as that wise colleague said to me, “If you want the CEO job, then act like a CEO!” Now that’s a mindset. * Produced in partnership with McKinsey Consultants and the Wall Street Journal’s Executive Task Force for Women in the Economy, 2011.