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I had lunch last week with an amazingly talented woman. Deborah has an analytical mind and deep knowledge about her large public company’s finances. She also has a keen ability to connect seemingly disparate dots to see the big picture and to anticipate opportunities.

As an example, early in her career in a financial analyst role, she drew the attention of the CEO by providing a view of the data that she knew he needed, even though he didn’t know it himself. He was astounded with how simple she had made the complex and how well she understood the business issues.

We talked about where she was going in her career and she said that she felt stuck. She’d progressed through a series of analyst positions and had taken the lead on several projects, but she felt bored and underutilized.

When I asked what she’d really like to do, Deborah hesitated and then timidly said that there was a position coming open soon that she’d love to apply for, but was sure she wouldn’t get it because it was with a different group.

In a soft and almost resigned voice she described her fear that the company saw her as a one-dimensional player, on a slow career path, and that she was stuck.

While our companies have miles to go to be gender neutral, we also have miles to go to get out of our own way. We’re principals in both efforts.

You’re not stuck. You must try your very hardest to get to where you want to be. Never, ever give up!

“Dreams are lovely, but they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.”

Shonda Rhimes

Do these three things to unleash your power for next success:

Take a Leap and Speak Up!

Don’t wait for an opening to start working toward your next career move. Speak up! Who knows where you want to grow? Deborah was reluctant to share stories of her past success in other groups because she didn’t want to appear to be bragging. If we don’t shine in our power, no one’s going to do it for us. Your male counterparts are quite happy to tell their stories. Be bold and let them see how great you are.

Don’t be shy at meetings. Call attention to yourself by speaking directly to the leader with your comments. Come prepared with new ideas that you’ve thought about in advance. Get noticed. Wear your confident clothes and be totally present. Being the nice, supportive girl isn’t going to get you the attention that you want or put you on a promotion track. Keep your eyes open for opportunities. Look for a mentor. Get an executive coach. Practice your power. Speak up earlier without thinking so much.

Act as If You’re Already There

Seek out chances to shine with your potential team. What do you see from your vantage point that would help them to achieve something new? Do your homework on the people–manager, team, business partners, formal and informal leaders. Who do you know? How can you get connected right now? By the time the job’s posted, the leading candidate’s already vetted. Think two chess moves ahead, be interested, be interesting, and break out of your box.

“Say yes. You’ll figure it out afterward.”

Tina Fey

Be Bold and Fearless

Step out of your comfort zone. Ask for what you want. Try new things. Celebrate your Belly Flops and make sure that people notice. Unless you want to stay where you are–in your box–you need to punch through to a new level. Along the way, of course, you’ll have some bloopers–that’s how you learn!

And finally, be sure to support the other women and men around you who want to see women move into more leadership positions. Celebrate successes, find alternatives to the roadblocks and KNOW that together you can make it happen. It’s not a competition. It’s a team sport where everyone wins with a diverse leadership team. A cultural change is happening–jump in and lead!


An Executive Leadership Coach can be your best ally as you step into your power. A partner by your side, pushing you, supporting you and telling you truths you’ll hear from no one else. For more ideas on Bold and Fearless Leadership, please contact me at k[email protected] and visit

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