Picture Of Success

I am back after a short break. I had to deal with matters that needed my undivided attention.

In my last blog I had promised to do a series on personal branding.  I will continue on that in the next few days. Today I would like to talking about success.

The name of this blog is Journey To The Top. The question that needs to be answered is what the top is for you and how do you know when you have arrived there. In other words what is your picture of success?

The answer to this differs from person to person. For some it is being part of the ultimate decision making entity of a corporate, for others it is the CEO title for a stock exchange listed company and still for others it’s the liberty to set their own title and rules as they run their own business as entrepreneurs. What is important is to have a picture of success so that you know when you arrive.

I must however also hasten in the same breathe to let you know that when you do get to the top, wherever that is for you, you are going to discover that you can still go higher. In his book “Long Walk To Freedom “, Nelson Mandela said at this stage enjoy the view but bear in mind there are still more mountains to climb.

Paint your picture of success, enjoy the view when you get to the top and make a decision on whether you take a rest there or you carry on with your journey!

What I am Known For

This week I would like to talk about how you can distinguish yourself from others and set yourself for the top. The general term for this is personal branding and we will explore very simple and practical ways to do this without becoming too technical.

If I mention certain brand names, there are certain words that come to your mind. Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Coco Channel, Hitler, etc. To make this exciting, please go to the comments section of this post and write just one word that you believe best describes the names above.

The one word that people write to describe you should not be left to chance. You need to intentionally build your personal brand and determine what you want to be known for.

The truth is there are many excellent people out there. Gone are the days when a degree set a person apart. In our part of the world even a masters degree does not do it. So what gives you the edge over the next person? There are practical steps that you need to take. Start by writing what you would like to be known for. Then ask a colleague to describe you in.terms of your work.  Sometimes there is a gap between what you would want to be known for and what you are known for currently.  Take this as a challenge to work on closing the gap.

Someone at work recently said to me  “everything you touch just turns to gold”   For me this was good feedback that my personal brand building efforts are now bearing fruit. I do not have a magic wand that turns my projects into gold. I just made a decision that I wanted to be known as one who delivers on their promise.  Infact a brand that claims to be something it isn’t will soon be exposed and forgotten.

Now you know what I am known for. What are you known for? Does it help you get to the top?

Borrow with pride

In my second year of employment as a brand manager, I was asked to submit my ten year plan for my brand. This included the way I saw the brand evolving, what renovations I was proposing in order for it to remain relevant to the target market, the evolution of sales in value and volume and any additional investment I would need in order to achieve growth etc. This exercise is done every two years in light of the changing environment.

I have remained with the same company and it has been amazing for me to see my brand plan come to life and each milestone being achieved, sometimes ahead of schedule  and sometimes way behind. Some projects have had to be dropped completely because they were no longer relevant and others have had to be modified

I then decided to borrow this concept and also apply it to my personal life. So I wrote my ten year plan. I review it every year and it has been interesting to see the written plan come to life. Just like my brand plan, sometimes i am ahead of schedule. Other times I am behind.

I know as a child in some cultures, you are told never to borrow other people ‘s things and to be satisfied with what you have. You know what, this is one of the few exceptions where borrowing is ok.

Go ahead and write your 5 or 10 year career plan. How will things have changed between now and then? Where would you want to be and what skills do you need to get there?

You do know that a written down goal is more likely to be achieved compared to the one in your head. So borrow with pride, so we can be together at the top!!

Go Far With Others

There is an African proverb that
says if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go with others.

In the corporate world, far is better than fast. We could rephrase this to say if you want to get to the top, go with others. Why? Because it is not only about getting to the top. It is about getting there and staying there. Anyone can get to the top but as women it is important to stay once we get there. This is where you need others.

Dr Sam Chand talks about ladder holders. These are people who will hold your ladder in place so that you do not fall off. Your ladder holders have to be trustworthy and reliable. That is why I recommend you have these people with you from the onset of your journey.

I know there is a school of thought that promotes individual achievements and ‘lone rangers ‘ who can make it on their own. For women this does not work at all. If you are going to go far, take others with you.

Just a word of caution. It is not simply about having anyone go with you. These have to be people  adding value to your journey and you doing the same to theirs. Share your goals, encourage and hold each other accountable.

As homework for the week, list the people who are with you on your journey to the top. What value are they adding?  Do you trust them to hold your ladder once you are at the top? Whose ladder are you holding? Are you giving them the kind of support you would want to receive if you were the one at the top?

Remember to go far, you need others. So who is accompanying you on your journey to the top?

Deepening Versus Widening

Marketing is my passion. I have an Honours degree in marketing. It’s something I love to do. I have a lot of accolades to show for my marketing expertise. Before I realised it I had been in the same position in the same company  for seven years!

This is a problem common with many women. They stay too long in positions. This is detrimental to career progress. Men on the other hand will dare to venture into something new every so often.

When it comes to the corporate world, you can either ‘deepen’ or ‘widen’. I will explain this.

Deepening is all about specialisation and becoming a guru in one area. If I have to give an example, one could chose to specialise in brand management and know all there is to know about the field of brand management. It would also mean in terms of career advancement, options are limited to the area of specialisation.

Widening on the other hand involves broadening and being involved in other areas of the business. So instead of specialising in brand management only, one could broaden their scope and also work in supply chain management, sales or even finance. The advantage of broadening is that one also widens the pool of opportunities available to them.

In order to get to the top and stay there, women should seriously consider broadening versus deepening. After all at the top you need a helicopter view of the whole organization and it would be much better if one has practical experience with as many areas of the business as possible.

So after seven years in marketing, I got out of my comfort zone. The opportunities this move opened for me made me wish I had made the move earlier and I had to share this with others in order for them to avoid the same pitfalls.

So get out of your comfort zone and widen your scope. It’s necessary for where we are going,  the top.

Speak Out

I have seen many well qualified women being passed for promotions they deserved. The main reason being they are waiting for someone usually their boss to offer them the position. It is very important for women especially to manage their career development actively not passively. Speaking out and expressing our career goals is very important. Waiting to be noticed rarely works.

A few years ago a senior position arose in the organization I worked for. I was by far the most qualified of all the in-house candidates. Infact my boss had already started asking me yo assist with some of the roles of the new position. In my mind this was definitely my position so. I waited for my appointment letter. Three months down they line nothing had happened

One day during a meeting, the boss announced that he was looking to fill the position and had already started looking at CVs. Later on a male colleague who had just joined the company told me he would also apply for that job. That day I got home and did some serious thinking. I needed to take charge of my own career and actively drive it to where I wanted. Speaking out and expressing one ‘s desires might not come naturally for some. I have found practicing my lines before approaching my boss does really help. I try and think of the possible responses I could get from him and also my own answers. It is also important to ensure one’s achievements are showcased so that when you do speak out about your career goals, you have the evidence to back you up.Remember we are on a journey to the top. So speak out.

Feel the fear and do it anyway

Susan Jeffers wrote a book titled “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. This I must say is the inspiration behind this blog. This is something I have always wanted to do but was too afraid to start. It has taken me two years from the time I had planned to start. I am still nervous but I have started.
Enough of that now.
I am a professional married woman with children. I am on a journey that I would like to take accompanied by fellow women in similar circumstances similar to mine. We would like to go as far as possible career wise. Follow me on these pages on my journey to the top!!