Essential Question for the New Year

Because studies indicate that women's careers are often motivated by a drive for meaningful work and because in most companies successful careers are built on leadership skills, I offer an important question for you to consider as you begin the New Year.

Let me put the question in context. As I define it in No Ceiling, No Walls, leadership is:

  1. using the greatness in you to
  2. achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes by
  3. engaging the greatness in others.

If you're like most women, you've received career advice that over-focuses on elements 1 and 3: knowing and cultivating your strengths (74%) and developing the skills to effectively engage others (24%). Advice about what it means to deliver key outcomes is sadly missing - only 2%.

Chance are that you haven't received career-success advice such as that received by Merrill Sherman, CEO of Bank RI. She was told, "Be for the business." It's this guidance that is at the heart of the question I invite you to ask yourself as you begin another year of work:

Is my employer an organization that does work and delivers products/services in which I believe?

If your answer is "no", you might have a hard time wholeheartedly committing yourself to delivering key outcomes. This means that the chances of achieving your career goals will be lessened because you won't be seen as "being for the business."

If you answer "yes" to this question, it will be easy for you to engage your heart (passion), head (creativity and innovation) and hands (execution) to achieve and sustain key outcomes in service of your organization's strategy. You will substantially increase your chances of being seen as having potential. You will leave work each day feeling as though you've done something important - and that sense is the difference between distress that leaves you exhausted and eustress (positive stress) that energizes you.

So, take a few minutes at the start of the year to courageously ask yourself if you believe in the organization that employs you. If you find that your answer is "no", develop a strategy to move to an organization in which you can believe. If your honest answer is "yes", there are still steps you must take to build a career with no ceiling and no walls. Make sure that you are able to climb the ladder on rungs of leadership by ensuring that you get high marks on all 3 parts of the leadership definition.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls. She blogs on networking for PINK Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.
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