The 6 Distinctions of Highly Successful Women

Over the past decade I have had the privilege of working with thousands of women all over the world in seminars, workshops and through coaching.  I noticed common themes coming though and in 2003 we ran our first survey called, Women Leaders Speak Out.

This level of exposure to highly successful women meant that we were able to identify certain competencies that successful women share, and it was through these observations that we were able to create benchmarks.

For the benchmarks we identified 5 common leadership themes as follows:

  • Leading Performance
  • Leading Change
  • Leading People
  • Building Relationships
  • Developing Self

It is the latter category that I want to discuss in detail as it is the most under-developed skill and yet, in my view, the most critical.

The most successful women that I have coached have all been highly-skilled in each of the following areas of distinction.

Distinction 1:  The ability to remain open to feedback and learning

The pace of life has increased. Clients are under increasing pressure and we are all paddling away trying to keep up with work pressures and the demands of family life.

Because of this we are giving our own personal development less attention and this, in turn, impacts our effectiveness and becomes a crazy loop where we lurch from stress to exhaustion.

It is vital to take the time out to reflect. How many times have you had feedback where you have chosen to take offence rather than learn? Growth isn’t possible when you have a closed mind and there is nothing to learn in taking fixed positions. It is the most adaptable people who succeed and the only difference between the adaptable person and the stubborn person is the willingness to learn and remain inquisitive.

Here is a quick and helpful strategy for staying open to feedback and learning:

  • Listen to what the person is saying
  • Reflect on their motive (love, anger, jealousy, stress)
  • Be honest with yourself… is there a nugget of truth? (look for the Gold)
  • Apply the learning or dismiss if the person was talking from anger or jealousy and there is genuinely no truth in the feedback

Distinction 2:  The ability to ask why and what for

Whatever your goals are, at one time or another, you will hit the wall. In other words you will come across a major challenge that looks like a deal breaker.

What do you normally do when you hit a wall? Most of us simply give up and do something else instead. But what makes some people find a way over the wall, under the wall or around the wall? People who succeed generally do so because those people know why they are doing something.

Consider this:

Scenario 1: I am working in a large corporation and its OK because it pays my bills. It’s not my dream job but it’s better than most I guess. I work to live. My real life is outside of work.

Scenario 2: I have a dream to take a sabbatical and sail around the world and my partner shares this dream. We are currently on track to start making concrete plans in 2012. I love getting out of bed every morning and doing my absolute best at work because I know every day is taking me one step closer to my dream.

Which person do you believe will make the effort to get over the wall somehow? What is your mission? Why are you going to work every day? Why do you do what you do every day?

Take the time for critical thinking so that when you hit the challenges you know that you are making the extra effort to achieve a personal goal or for the love of family or friends.

Distinction 3:  The ability to see the future and remain on track

Only 5 % of women set goals. Why? The reasons are usually because we prefer to be in flow, to trust our intuition or we simply don’t think about doing it.

I have developed a system specifically for women called SAW (Strengths and Weaknesses analysis) What most people do in goal setting is look for what they can do and not what they can’t do. I turned this on its head because it didn’t work for me. For instance, I wanted to be a speaker but I was scared of speaking in public. If I hadn’t used my own system I would have discounted speaking as a career choice because I lacked the skills. However, armed with the knowledge that I had a skills-gap I was able to set a goal to get training which led to a career that has, so far, lasted a decade!

Meanwhile, write down some lofty goals or dreams, chunk them down into manageable pieces, and each chunk into tasks. Put the tasks in your planner and take small steps every day.

Distinction 4:  The ability to use right brain as well as left brain processes

We are all focused on left brain process and rightly so. Most our work is of an analytical and intellectual nature.

However, it always amazes me how little we use our creative and, some would argue, the most powerful part of our brains in our daily interactions and in our work. As Einstein said, “imagination is more important than knowledge”.

Your right brain will empower you to utilize the tools of mind-mapping and speed-reading. If you haven’t yet heard about or don’t yet use these skills then please do look up a good training provider and go and learn!

Successful people value their time and use it wisely. It doesn’t make sense to use lots of time to take notes and it certainly doesn’t make sense, in this day of information overload, to read the long way!

Distinction 5:  The ability to be flexible and adapt quickly to change

Distinction number one was about remaining ‘open to feedback and learning’ and I know that the only thing that stops people from learning and growing is fear. Fear will keep people in their comfort zones and stop them from adapting to change.

Those of us who are most resistant to change and least flexible are less likely to build mutually beneficial relationships, least likely to see the opportunity and least likely to take the opportunity when it is offered – and it is usually fear that keeps us in our place.

Earlier in this article I mentioned that I had attended a speakers’ training course. What I didn’t share is that I was so afraid of speaking that I couldn’t even say my name in front of a group of people. One of the things I believe in is ‘learn from the best’ and so I attended a professional speaker’s bootcamp in Colorado, USA. I went through a lot of embarrassment and a lot of fear in those 5 days but I knew ‘why’ (Distinction 2 ) and I had a timeline and a goal (Distinction 3 ). I had used right brain processes to create my vision and my goals (Distinction 4) and I was calming my nerves using inner resources (Distinction 6).

Distinction:  6 The ability to rely on inner resources to respond with precision

This might be the most critical distinction of all. So many people seem to be resorting to unproductive behavior because of stress. People tell me that they don’t have time for the gym or to use relaxation techniques. Then because their bodies are running on acid they crave junk food and alcohol to – supposedly – help them relax.

One of the most important things you can do for your success is, take care of yourself first. Make time for exercise, drink at least two litres of water every day, eat healthy food and find some way to relax. The more stress and tiredness you are experiencing, the more out of balance you are.

Sharpen the saw if you want to cut the tree down quickly. You know it makes sense!

Make one change at a time. Make this one change into a habit and then apply another. Repeat until your life is transformed and you have Developed into the Self you want to be!



3Plus, Leadership, Personal & Professional Development
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Tracey Carr is a Speaker, Coach and CEO with a passion for advancing women in the workplace.

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