Once while I was negotiating a compensation package for myself, my husband asked, “Would you want me to accept that offer if I had the same exact qualifications as you?” He went on to say, “Make believe you’re negotiating on my behalf.”
His suggestion completely changed my approach. I was now negotiating for my family, and even for other women who might follow. I should feel more comfortable advocating for myself, but the truth is, making it about others has made me a stronger advocate. I promote my team and the great work they’re doing, share lessons learned from projects that have gone awry, and advocate passionately on behalf of customers. What I’ve noticed is this: The better I advocate on behalf of others or the business, the more positive attention I seem to attract to myself. Here are some other ways I’d suggest for standing out at work, internally and externally:
• Focus on developing yourself, but expose that process, too. Every leader needs self-awareness, and it shows maturity when you’re able to demonstrate that you are willing to take ownership for your development areas.
• Volunteer for the tough jobs, particularly if they have the potential to be “high profile.” Even if you fail, you will learn more than you would have otherwise, and you’ll get points for courage in the process.
• Be magnanimous. Don’t worry about “owning” things. Worry about doing the right thing for the business and model that behavior, not just for your own team, but for superiors too. You’re more likely to gain more responsibility this way, than simply asking for it.
• Join external organizations in your industry or area of expertise. These provide great networking possibilities, as well as invitations to speak at conferences or write in industry publications.
On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
I work at the nexus of publishing, digital product development, and healthcare. Each of these areas is experiencing seismic shifts in terms of how value is created, delivered, and captured. Leaders who excel in this space are comfortable not knowing the answer, and often lead by way of inquiry. They take an approach that encourages flexibility and experimentation, while remaining focused on meeting the goals of customers.
Diane’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
My advice to young women is to take every opportunity to learn about yourself. Learn what motivates you, what you truly enjoy doing, and in which areas you are extraordinary. I would stress that it’s possible to be “extraordinary” in seemingly ordinary ways. It may be your ability to manage difficult stakeholders sensitively, to see the big picture, or fill in the details. When you know yourself well, not only do you learn what you want, but also how to achieve it. So, take positions that give you an opportunity to test your theories about what you love or don’t love, or force you outside your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to fail. It’s through experiences like these that you begin to really learn and appreciate who you are and what you can offer.