Finding inspiration (kind of)
What’s one thing every woman should know about climbing the corporate ladder? This was a question CEO of Ruder Finn, Kathy Bloomgarden, responded to recently for Fortune Magazine. Clearly an educated and powerful woman, whom I look up to professionally, I was eager to read her advice for women and thoughts on striving towards the c-suite.
Or so I thought.
Less than we bargained for
As I began reading, I felt my heart sinking a bit. This smart, accomplished professional wrote a fluffy article full of advice that left a lot to be desired. It felt typical, and quite frankly, something I’d be more likely to see in Cosmopolitan than Fortune.
The piece begins by setting the stage with a statistic regarding millennials and the frequency in which they change jobs in hopes to rise to the top more quickly. This transitioned into something that’s been written a dozen times before and doesn’t actually provide any solid business advice whatsoever.
The recommendations are generic and the advice passive, and frankly quite diminishing. Hell, the article itself is named “Why Striving for the C-Suite Isn’t Always the Best Idea”.
Who are you talking to here, exactly? When is striving for the the highest position not the best idea?
Difference between realism and giving up
Granted, I am realistic. I understand why it would seem like a leap for the valet to start thinking like the executive chef, but if that’s a dream, then there’s a path to reality. This path may not be easy, or quick, but there’s a path.
There is no negative to striving towards a goal.
But this article, written by such an influential CEO, is beyond condescending. I can’t imagine she’d give the same advice to friends or family – make an emotional connection with a leader, look in the mirror and make sure you’re working hard, be sure to raise your hand and declare your passion — also known as “things most people don’t need to tell themselves when they’re working hard .”
Guys, she’s smart. Kathy Bloomgarden has over 30 years of experience, speaks 5 languages, and she has five degrees. Surely she knows there’s more to attaining the a C-level position than simply working hard and making sure you ask your boss how her weekend was when you walk in Monday morning.
How about this for advice:
You’re going to need to work hard and work smart. You’re going to need keen organizational skills and laser-sculpted time blocking in order to get things done. Prioritize your time, and be sure to avoid distractions that often come in the form of people – new ideas, tasks, and emails.
Surround yourself with the right people. Network, form genuine relationships. Look for people who can help you be better and never stop learning.
Be flexible and adaptable, but unapologetic where your passions lie.
Give before you get. Listen before you speak. Plan before you run.
Go to sleep hungry for the next day. Celebrate small victories. Never stop moving, learning, growing.
Striving for the C-Suite has less to do with ability, knowledge, or intelligence, and instead has everything to do with grit, determination, and perseverance. The old adage is true – you can do anything you put your mind to… as long as you’re willing to work for it. And ladies, the bottom line is that your path to leadership is the same as a man’s – this advice above is for all genders, because we are equals.
So, those are my suggestions for women striving towards the C-Suite, although I’d still love to have a drink with Kathy Bloomgarden and get her real advice. Because something tells me she has more valuable things to say.