Are there certain tools, strategies, or mindsets you’ve been told you need to adopt in order to advance your career…but they just never sat right with you?
I’m going to let you in on a little secret 🤫
…they don’t actually work.
(Especially for female corporate leaders like YOU.)
There are five pieces of career advice that I hear over and over (and over) again, but are completely wrong for my clients.
And when you do follow these pieces of “advice”, you’ll end up playing small or getting your career completely off track.
In today’s episode of Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer, I’m going to share each of these five pieces of bad career advice so you can avoid them at all costs.
I’ll also break down exactly why this career advice is holding you back from landing a promotion and building a career (and life) you love, AND I’ll show you what to do instead.
What You'll Learn:
- Why you don’t need to “speak up” more (and what to do instead)
- The difference between being willing to sacrifice VS. being willing to create the career and life you want
- Why you don’t need to uproot your family in order to climb the corporate ladder
- Why you need to take strategic risks (not “big” ones)
- The differences between what I teach and what traditional leadership programs offer
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
Hello everyone, welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Career. I'm your host, Stacy Mayer, super excited, as always, to be here with you again this week.
This week has been an incredibly emotional week for me. I submitted the manuscript of my first book to my publisher. And, while this is an incredible milestone and I'm super-duper proud of what I have accomplished, I am also incredibly nervous. And what I mean by that is, of course, I'm nervous to put my work out there and to have other people reading it and evaluating it and getting feedback about it.
But I'm also nervous because once I receive their feedback and the book gets into the final publishing stages, it takes about four to five months before the book even comes out. And so, there's this incredible waiting process where you can't really do anything else. You have already written the book. You've submitted it to them. They've gone through. We've approved it. We've got all the check marks, everything seems okay, and then you just wait until it comes out and you share little tidbits like this with my audience. But other than that, it's a heck of a lot of waiting. And while it's exciting, it's also very nerve wracking to feel like, well, I can't really do anything else. So, I just wanted to share that experience with you as I'm going through it in real time.
But I'm also really, really excited to get this book out to you guys, because I know how impactful it's going to be for you to be able to go through this book, to listen to the skills that I'm teaching and sharing on this podcast; everything that I teach inside of all of my programs - Executive Ahead of Time and The Promotion Accelerator (my advanced mastermind program for corporate leaders) and really be able to have it in a tangible form.
I'm holding my hands out in front of me so that you can actually hold the book, walk through that step-by-step process, get all of your questions answered and really start to implement this right away. And the other thing I'm super excited about is share it with other people. So, we get to spread this message and really help me on my mission to get a thousand powerhouse corporate women promoted into senior executive leadership positions each and every year worldwide.
So, this book, this podcast, my programs, everything is going to help make that happen. And I'm just really thrilled and excited about that opportunity.
And as I was writing the book, I was doing the introduction for the book and I was thinking about how I got into what I teach today, How I really came up with my methodology and everything that I share with you on this podcast.
And I thought, oh, my goodness, I really need to share this with you all because I don't know if I have ever said it out loud and the exact same way that I put it into this introduction inside of my book.
So let me just give you a little bit of background about me. I've been coaching corporate leaders for about seven years now. When I first started out my career, I was what I would consider to be a cookie cutter corporate coach. I coached management skills - leadership traits - to help you become a better leader. And it worked. You know, people became better managers for their team. They learned how to have difficult conversations. I was a certified emotional intelligence instructor, so they were able to better manage their emotions at work.
But what I quickly noticed is that becoming a better manager or even a better leader at your organization didn't necessarily lead to a promotion. And so, this just kept standing out to me and it really didn't sit with me well. I would end contracts with my corporate leaders, and I was like, you know, I'm glad that you are a better manager but now it just seems like you have a ton more work. You just take on more and more responsibility, but you don't actually have the title to go along with it.
And so that's when I started to investigate and create the process that I teach with you guys today which is less about becoming an incredible leader.
Most of the people who come to me are actually pretty darn great leaders and their teams really respect them. They're getting great performance reviews, but they're not actually getting the title to back it up. They don't actually have that higher level of authority. Or, they do have that higher level of authority, and they were able to get the title to back it up but they're so far into the weeds, they still don't have that voice at the table that they really wanted to have all along the way,
So, my process is a little bit different than the cookie cutter corporate leadership process of becoming a better leader, becoming a better manager. And what I really teach you is how to deliberately manage your career and your life.
And this goes into today's podcast episode where I'm going to be showing you those differences in today's episode as well. But for now, I just want you to kind of understand that basic difference where it's like, on one side, which is completely valid and definitely very necessary, there's leadership coaching. And then we have this other side, which is career coaching. Which is ‘am I in the right field’? Am I doing what I love? All of those things. What am I doing with my life? Everything that you want to do to really maximize your career, like on my podcast.
And then there's the place in the middle, which is how do we both deliberately manage our careers and our lives to advance in our leadership, and then in turn, we also become better leaders. We could become that executive ahead of time. We really start to understand our own executive leadership.
I want to tell you a little bit of story about one of my students inside of my Promotion Accelerator advanced training program. She came in through executive ahead of time at the beginning of 2021, and she was doing lots and lots of leadership courses at the time. And this was incredibly beneficial for her. She felt like she was growing as a leader, but at some point, I think she was like, 'I'm really good, I'm good. I'm great at my job.' She's managing a team of 200 people. It's like, you know, things are working out. She's really good, but she's not getting the title to go along with it. She doesn't have that level of impact that she's really wanting to be making at her organization. And so, then she joined Executive Ahead of Time as a way to really figure that out. And what she has learned in the process is a better understanding of what she wants in terms of an organization. She is really starting to realize that perhaps it's not her - it's her company - perhaps her values aren't aligned,
It doesn't have to be the company as a whole, it could be your team. But when you're having difficulty, especially as a woman growing in your career, what we tend to do is we tend to look at ourselves and we say, 'Oh, it's my leadership. I'm not a good enough leader. I need this training. I need to understand how it could be a better manager for my team. I need to understand leadership, leadership, leadership.'
And we do all of this work to become better leaders. But in reality, we need to learn how to manage our freaking career. We need to understand how to really work for an organization that works for us, that's aligned with our culture and our values.
Now, I'm going to show you the flip side of this, because every single one of you who are listening to this podcast were in your 20s - 20 years old - at some point in your career. So, when we first start out our career, we are very focused on our passions and our drive in finding the perfect company that has the best fit in someplace where we can really thrive.
And we're so passionate about that in our 20s. And then, sometimes we find it, sometimes we don't. But we'll end up getting ourselves into a little bit of a career and we'll climb, and we'll climb, and then we forget to re-engage with that level of enthusiasm.
And the way that it works so well once we get closer to the midpoint in our career - closer to our 40s - is that we are really good at our craft. We're really good as leaders. And now we just have to find the best fit. We have earned the right to be picky.
So, my client has earned the right to be picky. She is an incredible, incredible leader. And now she just has to claim her authority and go out and create that role for herself and really understand what that looks like for her. And so, I'm super excited about that.
But I wanted to share with you guys that process and why, working with me and my process - if you're starting to notice that it feels a little bit different than what you've done in the past - it's because we're operating from the basic assumption that you're an exceptional leader. And yes, of course, you can go out and you can learn some core management traits and skills, but I'm going to assume that you know how to figure that out, that you know how to get those skills. But what you might not know is how to navigate your career in terms of thinking and communicating like a senior executive leader so that you can get promoted into those higher-level executive positions.
So that's what my whole life work has been about since then, since I made that transition is about how do we actually get these women - these corporate leaders - into those positions of influence and power. And I also added in managing your life, because I'm not going to do it at the expense of other things. Other things like our family or our core values. It's not just about climbing the ladder; it's about doing both. That we're getting ourselves into those positions of influence and power at an organization that's aligned with our values, that truly cares about us, where we're able to really thrive, that cares about diversity and inclusion, that really respects and honors the right people, that is aligned with us. So that is the work that I do. And so, you'll start to notice that shift as well within yourself as you start to do this work.
So, in today's episode I'm talking about those differences in between what I teach and what traditional leadership programs offer.
And the reason why I think this episode is so important is because if you find that there are certain things that you are doing to advance your career that don't sit well with you, here is why. Here's what you're actually doing that's not working for you. And so, I want you to be able to do something different. So that's what I'm going to show you today.
So, I have five different things that I tend to hear a lot, Especially, now, some of this stuff is going to apply specifically to corporate women. But I know I have a lot of male listeners and if you're listening to this, I encourage you to keep listening because there's going to be something in here that you're doing right now that also applies to you. But I'm going to be specifically focusing on women and what are traditional roles are and what we've been trying that just doesn't really work for us as corporate women. It doesn't work for us from our place of values. And it doesn't work for us in terms of actually being able to land that promotion.
So, the first thing that I want to point out that most corporate women are told at some point in their career is that they need to 'speak up' more. And in a lot of ways this is true. Like I actually tell my clients this as well, 'you need to speak up'. And what I mean by that is you'll have a woman that's surrounded by a bunch of men in a room and she's the only woman in the room. And the men start talking very loudly and they're engaging and they're (a lot of times they call it) debating. They're getting bigger and louder. And they're sort of off topic and my corporate woman that I'm working with, she's like, 'I don't even feel like engaging in this conversation. This is not me.' So, you have to remember who you're getting this advice from- you're getting this advice from perhaps a male leader that saying, 'Hey, speak up more, we need to hear from you'. Or maybe it's a female leader, I suppose that doesn't even really matter.
But if you feel like you're taking this advice and you're like, 'you know what, I don't want to; This room is annoying. I don't want to engage in this.' And then if you do engage, you have to take a masculine approach to engaging. And so, then you feel like you have to get in there and speak louder and harder and stronger and more forceful. And you're like, 'that's just not me', then that's okay. So, we're not going to do it that way. So, my approach to speaking up is a little bit different.
Now remember, I am not teaching you how to be a better manager so that you're speaking up and you're like sharing your ideas - Click, click, click - so that more people, you get respect or whatever like that.
I am teaching you how to manage your career. So, when I am talking about speaking up, what I am saying to you is by not speaking up, nobody notices that you're in the room. Literally. And this happens to my clients. I have one woman who's like, 'Yeah, they were like you were in that meeting?' She's like, 'What?' And this isn't just because of Zoom. She could physically be in the room, and they don't even know she's in the room. This is a problem. So, I don't want her to speak louder, to engage, to argue, to engage in that way.
But what I do want her to do is to have her face in the room be known. I want her to be a part of the conversation so that people know that her ideas are valuable. And we can do that in many, many different ways. And I'll probably do a whole another podcast episode on this so that I can really dig into all the different ways that you can start to speak up. But what I want you to start to do, is, ignore the advice of 'speak up' because it's sort of like, 'speak up' to me, just means louder, bigger, stronger, faster. It's like I have to get in there.
I would rather you take the approach of 'be heard'. And just start to say, how can I be heard in this conversation? And it looks a little bit different. You might actually be quieter. But, when you do speak, and you make sure you do, you say, 'Excuse me'. You stop the whole conversation and then you say what you need to say. It might happen before the meeting. Whenever that happens for you, I really want you to take the advice of being heard versus just 'speaking up', which would be the traditional advice that we're given as corporate women that we need to 'speak up'.
Maybe it looks like scheduling 15-minute ally meetings. Maybe it looks like asking your boss to start the next meeting so that you're actually the first voice that's heard.
Again, I'll do a whole podcast episode on this, but I wanted to just start to share with you the opposite of what speaking up is, it's not really the opposite. It's really just what is the crux of it. And when you can start to truly be heard in meetings, that's when you're going to start to be seen as that executive leader. You're going to have that calming presence. You're going to be different than the rest of the room. We don't want you to look and act like the rest of the room. We want you to be unique so that they start to value you for your own uniqueness. And that is what people get paid for - that is what transitions you into that higher level leadership position.
So, the second thing that I - a piece of advice - that I want you to start ignoring is 'be willing to sacrifice'. And, as a woman - a lot of this advice is counterintuitive to our core nature, which is, yes, we are willing to sacrifice. We sacrifice every single day for our family. It's very common to have women put the needs of other people before the needs of themselves. That is extremely common. And, at work we start to draw the line and we're like, 'Okay, I'm not willing to sacrifice my career if climbing the corporate ladder means that I have to sacrifice, then I'm happy staying at middle management. Because I want to be able to spend time with my family. I want to be able to prioritize, and life isn't all about work'. And I think many of the corporate leaders that I work with, that's where they're starting from, that place, that life isn't all about work. And so, they understand that.
But what I teach is, I teach you how to be able to make that impact - that influence - at your organization; but also, to have the energy to do it along the way. So, by not taking the advice of 'be willing to sacrifice', which us as women - Come on, I know how to sacrifice. I do it all day, every day. At work, I'm not willing to do it anymore. So, stop worrying about that advice and this is what I want you to do instead. Instead of being willing to sacrifice, I want you to be willing to create the life and the job that you want. So, this is an engaging approach.
So, the other one is you hear 'be willing to sacrifice' and you disengage. And so, you're like, 'Okay, well, I'm not willing to sacrifice, so I'm just going to stop climbing the corporate ladder.' And instead, what you're going to do is you're going to be willing to create the career that you want - that you desire. And so, what you're going to do is you're still going to climb that corporate ladder. You're going to follow everything I teach to get yourself promoted. But what you're also going to notice is the higher up you get, the more time and space you get on your calendar. You're the actual one leaving those meetings so you can schedule them whatever the heck you want.
You stop having to ask for permission to leave on Fridays at four o'clock so that you can be with your family. Because you are getting paid for your ideas and not the hours that you put in at work. So, you're starting to craft that career for yourself.
So that is what I want you to be willing to do. I want you to be willing to create the career and the life that you love. One where you're able to make that impact that you really want to be able to make at your organization, and you have that influence at the top; but you also have the energy to thrive and to be with your family and to travel, and to take time off and to do whatever it is that you want to do for yourself as well. So don't be willing to sacrifice. Be willing to create the career of your dreams and keep going, because we need you in that higher level position.
The third thing, actually, this came from a client of mine also in the promotion accelerator because she was recently told that if she wanted to move up in leadership, she had to be flexible, which meant she had to relocate. And I've heard this before. You need to be flexible. You need to be able to travel. And a lot of us don't want to do that. We don't want to uproot our family. And so, it feels like an either/or - either I climb in my career or I'm flexible. So, I have to move away. I have to be away from my family. I have to travel a lot. I have to uproot. Nope, no more. You don't need to be flexible in order to grow in your career.
Actually, I'll share this with you, because I was like, holy crap. They said - my client in the program - she said that they actually told her that in order to remain a high potential leader, that she had to be flexible. So, it was almost like they were going to take her off the list.
And this is just so fricking ridiculous to me because I was like, oh, it sounds like not the company you need to be at first of all. But I don't even want you to be a high potential. I don't want you to be on the high potential list. Being a high potential is not even that great. It means that you're not an executive leader. And usually, high potential means you have the potential to become a senior manager. I'm talking about I want you to be a VP, SVP in the C suite. Those aren't high potential leaders. Those are leaders. Those are executives. I want you to be the executives. So, if you're hearing high potential language a lot, that means you're thinking a little bit too low.
And I want you to start hearing the language of 'you're the executive'. We just need to get you in those higher-level positions. So, instead of being flexible, in terms of being willing to relocate, being willing to spend less time with your family, uprooting your entire life - I want you to be stubborn. I want you to want both. I could stay right where I am. And, you know, my goodness, this summer has been so fascinating as I know we're not out of Covid yet. And there are a lot of countries that are still suffering right now. But in The United States and North America, there is this really big thing where people are quitting their jobs and I talked about this in the Summer Exodus episode. And it's telling us that companies and organizations are going to have to be flexible to us. They're going to need to be flexible, not, we need to be flexible. We can start to be stubborn. I want to see that a little bit in you. So, I want to see you find the job and the role and the boss that is like, 'You know what? I value you in a higher-level position. So, I'm going to be flexible'. Yeah, that's what I want to see.
Another piece of advice that I want you to start ignoring is 'be willing to take risks, you have to take big risks'. And this is a very masculine advice because that is how they have climbed the corporate ladder. Actually, I do stakeholder interviews for my clients where I'll interview either someone in the C Suite or their boss and they'll always say, 'you know, she needs to take bigger risks, bigger risk, be willing to take big risks.'
And the problem with this advice is, as women, is that we are... we need to be able to... we're the caretakers. So, it's kind of the opposite of risk. We're wanting to keep everybody together. We're wanting people to feel safe. We have this desire for control in a way, which is the opposite of taking these big willy nilly risks - which might be uprooting my entire family and moving to another country for a little while in order to advance my career. And what I want to suggest for you, instead of thinking about it as taking risks, because, again, this is very similar to that idea of being willing to sacrifice, which kind of like goes against your intuition, which is like, 'No, I can't take big risks', is that we shut down and we take no risks.
And that is not the approach that I want you to take where we don't put ourselves out there. We don't ask for what we need. We don't challenge the situation. We're not asking our organization to be flexible for us. We're not understanding our value and really owning our leadership value that we bring to the organization.
So, I don't want you to do the opposite, which is take no risks; but I want you to take more strategic risks. And I think that that's actually what they mean when they're giving this advice, is to take bigger strategic risks. But you need to really understand that that's an option. So, a risk doesn't automatically mean that you're jumping out off the diving board to the deep end, but you've never had a swimming lesson. A risk just means that you're pushing that fear envelope. That you're actually leaning and you're like, 'Okay, this feels uncomfortable to have a conversation to schedule 15-minute ally meetings with my CEO'. It feels totally uncomfortable to me. It feels risky in some ways. But I'm going to look at the risks and I'm going to say, 'OK, what's the worst thing that could happen through this conversation?' Same way with an opportunity. If you're given an opportunity to take another job or something, you're asking yourself, 'OK, what is the worst possible outcome? And can I handle that?'
So, you're taking these strategic risks. You don't necessarily have to uproot your family and move to another country, but you can start to push that edge a little bit and be risky. You can start to say no. You can create boundaries. You can NOT go to a meeting. You can go to a meeting, but only stay for 15 minutes. These are all risks. These are big risks, and they feel big to you. But what you're going to do is you're going to start to create the strategy around the risk so that it doesn't just feel like you're jumping into the deep end, but you've never had swimming lessons. So, you're taking these strategic risks along the way.
And the final thing that I want to leave you with today, that I want you to start to ignore is 'Title doesn't matter'. Okay, so here's what I mean. And this is a story that you might be actually giving this advice to yourself, And I want you to stop it. And the other thing is, is that if you've been given this advice by a male counterpart at your work and they've said, 'you know, you just have to be passionate about what you do, and title doesn't matter, and you have to show up and take big risks and speak up and be willing to sacrifice' and things like that. And they're trying to redirect you into these skills, these other skills that I've mentioned today, so that you don't focus on the title itself. That is not the best way to approach the situation. And what I would prefer to see you do is to really own that title does matter. Now, we're not going to go for that title in the same way that other people that we see who really know and understand that title does matter, and they're climbing that corporate ladder. So, they're doing all of this career leadership advice that I've been sharing with you, which is 'speak up'. They're sacrificing. They're flexible. They take big risks. All of those things. And they're climbing the corporate ladder and they're having success and they're getting that corner office and they're rising in their career and all of those things because 'title, title, title matters'.
For you, I want you to first - number one - stop telling yourself the title doesn't matter because it does. I want you to get yourself into a position of influence and power at your organization so that you can start to make the change that you want to see your organization or in the world. If you can't do that in your organization, you're going to do it somewhere else. But you're going to really focus on the title and the compensation - that you are getting paid for your ideas and not for the hours that you work. And so, the theme of today's episode is that we're basically taking this masculine approach to rising the corporate ladder, which is - speak up, be willing to sacrifice, be flexible, take big risks, focus on the title - so that part's going to stay the same.
But now what I want you to do is I want you to be heard. I want you to NOT be willing to sacrifice. I want you to be strong, I want you to be set in your ways. I want you to ask your organizations to be flexible. I want you to understand that you can work for a flexible organization. I want you to take strategic risks so that you're challenging yourself so that you're growing, but it's not just for the sake of taking a risk; and all of these are going to point to owning the fact that your title does matter, that you do need to be promoted into a senior executive leadership position.
And if you go about it this way in this approach that is actually really aligned with you and does support what you're already so fricking good at; If you really understand your leadership, if you know that you are meant to do more at your organization and you really just lean into that, you own that side of yourself. Then you are going to see yourself end up in that position of power and influence with that title, with that compensation. You're no longer going to be worried about speaking up because you are going to be heard. You're no longer going to feel like you constantly have to sacrifice because you have created that balance, that life that you want, where you are so incredibly powerful and open and get to spend even more time with the things that matter to you in your life. Your organizations bend over backwards for you. You no longer have to be flexible to them. They bend over backwards for you. You're able to take strategic risks. You challenge yourself. You challenge your organization. You challenge your team.
All of those things come together into you being able to make that impact, to have that influence that you want your organization and to have all the energy along the way. I am so fricking proud of you for doing this work. It's not easy, but it's totally possible. And thank you. Thank you. Thank you for letting me help you get there. Alright. Take care and I'll see you next week. Bye.
About Your Host
Hi! I'm Stacy Mayer, a Certified Executive Coach and Promotion Strategist on a mission to bring more diversity to the leadership table by getting 1000 underrepresented corporate managers promoted into senior executive positions each year worldwide.
I help undervalued executives scale to the C-Suite using repositioning strategies that build your confidence and visibility, so you can earn the recognition and support you need from key stakeholders while embodying your unique leadership style.
My podcast “Women Changing Leadership with Stacy Mayer” tackles topics like executive communication, getting more respect in the workplace from challenging bosses and team members, and avoiding the common mistakes that sabotage career advancement.