The Sum: When Did You Know?

One of the most intriguing questions I ask in speeches and training is “When did you know you had the power TO _____?”

You fill in the blank. There is no right or wrong answer. Think about it. When did you know? Where were you? What did it feel like, look like, sound like?

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Just like when I delivered a mini-workshop this week to women who are managing directors and directors from two prestigious financial institutions, RBC and BlackRock, the answers are varied, individual, and often quite touching. “When I was 11 and I won a dancing contest and my father called me a ‘little winner.’” “When I learned I had diabetes and decided I would take charge of my life rather than let the disease control me.” “When I was given a challenge I didn’t know how to do but I did it.”

Right this minute, many women are experiencing a collective “Power TO moment.” Fired up by the Women’s March, #metoo, and #timesup, women are taking a hard look at the cost of waiting for gender parity and doing something about it. A record number of women have signed up to run for office in 2018, and women are asserting their right to workplace change from pay equity to respect and freedom from sexual harassment.

The unifying thread is like the activist classic sung by Aretha Franklin, “Sisters are Doing It for Themselves.”

It’s all DYI these days. No waiting for anyone else to do it for us.

As I gear up for Take The Lead’s first online self-study course, Power to Lead designed for individual women ready to “do it for themselves” and starting this Sunday, February 4, I’ve been thinking about the changing landscape women are working in now.

This article by Carter Cast brings it home: “We are now in the era of do-it-yourself career development. Companies less frequently offer formal training… This may be because employees change jobs so frequently (job tenure now averages about four years) that firms don’t see the value in investing in people who are likely to leave. This is a sharp contrast with the investment that senior leaders used to make in employees [when] “personal development” was treated as a major company initiative.”

He goes on to illustrate the consequences: “Unfortunately, organizations today are unknowingly leaving employees with skill gaps and blind spots that can derail careers and organizational effectiveness. And managers aren’t helping. Too worried about their own hides, most managers don’t have time or energy to focus on anyone else’s. In fact, Korn Ferry found that when managers rated themselves on 67 managerial skills, “developing others” came in dead last.”

So, where does that leave us as we put aside our placards and return to work? It leaves us with this: We cannot afford to leave our futures in other people’s hands. We must use our power to do it for ourselves.

What we can do is to do an inventory of our skills, set our goals, and make our own plans. Women moving forward and pushing gender parity forward with each simple step they take to improve their standing changes the game for all — including men.

Nicholas Kristof’s stirring op-ed this week in The New York Times said it well: “The most important trend in the world, I believe, is the empowerment of women. This is transforming society and the global economy (although researchers believe that the world would still be $28 trillion richer if gender gaps were bridged).”

But the reason I don’t use the word “empower” is that I know you already have the power — you just have to see it and use it.

Maybe you are lucky like I was to be blessed with a mentor or sponsor (this week I spoke about my experience with Women@Forbes). But if mentors do not come to every aspiring woman, you can make an intentional effort to connect with the right mentor for you.

Now is the time to be creative, to put your DIY talent to work and see your life as a project you have the power to lead and define as you choose.

There are many ways to fill in the gaps around what you know and what you need to upgrade your skills to match your goals. It may not require an MBA or other advanced degrees as I wrote about here in Fast Company. You can volunteer at organizations that allow you to learn valuable skills in another sector. The rise of online courses like Power to Lead makes it possible to create your own opportunities to advance your career.

In a Harvard Business Review article, Mike Kehoe lists the four habits of people who are always learning new skills and touts the value of online learning. “In one survey of more than 50,000 learners who completed MOOCs on Coursera, 72% reported career benefits such as doing their current job more effectively, finding a new job, or receiving a raise.” That’s an amazing success rate — 72% saw real change accrue from taking a single course.

That’s why I’m so excited about Power to Lead. an online course you do at your own pace. It’s a game-changer that will give you the tools that will give you a new way to transform how you see and use power, how to negotiate more effectively, my “life-changing” 9 Leadership Power Tools, and a strategic leadership action plan that helps you identify exactly what you want to accomplish and map out how you’ll get there.

And though you’re able to do this on your own time and from anywhere, you’ll be in a community of women on a private Facebook page to support each other as the course progresses. And I’ll be there as well answering your questions.

I want you to be one of the women who knows and uses her Power TO. Put that promise to do it for yourself on the top of your list this year.

TAKETHE LEAD prepares, develops, inspires and propels women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. It’s today’s women’s movement — a unique catalyst for women to embrace power and reach leadership parity. Join us online, sign up for our newsletter and have insightful news and advice delivered weekly, and check out our Virtual Happy Hour, our leadership programs and other offerings including our new online course set up to be done on your schedule, in your own time: Here’s how to register: Power to Lead: 9 Leadership Power Tool to Advance your Career for a life-changing 2018.

About the Author

Gloria Feldt,Co-Founder and President of Take The Lead, is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. She teaches "Women, Power, and Leadership" at Arizona State University and was named to Vanity Fair's Top 200 women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers.