Fast-Tracking Women’s Careers, Influence, And Impact With Sabine Gedeon

Despite the progress being made in the women’s movement, we are still undeniably far from completely removing the barriers that keep women from advancing their careers. Aside from systemic, we also have to contend with the personal barriers we instill in ourselves. Joining Rosie Zilinskas to take a deep dive into the challenges women face in the corporate world is Sabine Gedeon. Sabine is a Transformational Speaker, Author, and Coach. She is also a Founder of She Leads Network, and host of She Leads Now – a top-rated podcast centered around women in leadership and business. Bringing her expertise and experience to the show, Sabine shares the four questions she found women need to ask themselves in order to fast-track their careers. She also breaks down the acronym, DOTS, and talks about social capital—what it means and how to use it. Speaking to women in leadership positions, Sabine then discusses how to discover your leadership operating system. Tune in to this great conversation to learn more about elevating your influence and impact.

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Fast-Tracking Women’s Careers, Influence, And Impact With Sabine Gedeon

This conversation is going to be quite insightful. Sabine Gedeon is going to be talking to us about the four questions that you need to ask yourself to fast-track your career. She’s also going to address what social capital is and how to use that term. I love an acronym that she’s going to talk about, which is called DOTS and then she’s going to be talking about discovering your leadership operating system. Sabine Gedeon serves as a transformational speaker, author and coach. She is also the Founder of She Leads Network and the host of She Leads Now, which is a top-rated podcast centered on women in leadership and business. She’s known for her ability to connect with people at the deepest levels of their beings to reveal their unique brilliance. She helps her clients break through their mental limits to lead with confidence and elevate their influence and impact. Sabine is the author of Transformed: The Journey to Becoming. Stay tuned for this amazing conversation.

Before we go into this episode, I wanted to remind you that there is a free quiz that you can take on the NoWomanLeftBehind.com website. If you log onto the homepage and scroll down slightly, you’re going to see a section that says, Let’s Find Out Where You Are In Your Career. If you click on the radio button that’s called Take the Quiz, there will be a popup that comes up and it says, “What’s the Key Blocker in Your Career Path?” There are three key blockers that you may be operating under and you may not even know it. If you click on Take the Quiz, it’s going to be about ten questions. It shouldn’t take you more than three minutes and then you’re going to be able to get some additional resources by taking the quiz. Go to NoWomanLeftBehind.com to take the free quiz.

Sabine, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate your time. Sabine, when you and I started conversing, I asked you if you thought that women had more barriers in their careers than men and your answer was yes. What came to mind for you when you were answering that question?   Thank you for asking that. A couple of things come to mind. We know structurally in organizations in Corporate America, there are very few women who sit at the top. That’s a normal barrier right there. As I’ve grown through my career, my background being in HR with traditional financial services, corporate and aerospace, it was very structured. A couple of things that I’ve noticed are that the barriers that exist are both barriers that exist in Corporate America as the structure that’s been built, as well as the barriers that we as women put in our way to advance. We could talk about the pay gap and all these pieces. We know they exist and we’re making progress to an extent. Maybe not quick progress but we’re making progress. I think about it from the standpoint of agency, accountability and what those barriers are that maybe perhaps we have put in our way or maybe in most cases don’t know how to break past, simple things like salary negotiation. I’m sure you’ve read the statistics. Sixty-something percent of women don’t even ask if there’s any flexibility in the salary when it comes to applying for jobs. A huge percentage, around 70% of women won’t even apply for a job if they don’t meet 100% of the job descriptions. Meanwhile, Bob, Jim and everyone else are like, “30%? Yeah, I’m in this. I got this.” It’s things like that. When we get into organizations, thinking about it from the mindset perspective, we’re overwhelmed with the amount of work that we have and not feeling comfortable always asking, “Is there anyone else who can help me or can you help me reprioritize?” I’ll give you a perfect example. I was talking to this prospective client who’s been in her career for twenty-something years and very successful. She has been climbing up the ladder and when we’re having the conversation, my first question is, “What do you want to do next?” She was like, “There aren’t a lot of women in executive seats above me. There are maybe 2 or 3 in the space.” She was in the tech space. We all know that that’s a challenging space already. She was like, “While I would love to move up the bladder, I don’t want to because I know that that means that there’s going to be a target on my back.” That created a space for us to have a conversation around, “What does that mean? What evidence do you have around that?” There are things that we’ve witnessed that we’ve seen that create these beliefs that the higher you go, the harder it gets. Especially if you’ve been in corporate, you know that climb, male, female or whoever is hard enough as it is. However, the fact that there are well-qualified women who have the capability, who have the business acumen, who has proven to be successful and can move forward feel like, “I should probably stop right here because any higher means that I then have this target on my back or the expectations are ten times worse.” When I say that, yes, there are barriers, there are structural institutional barriers but then there are barriers that we’ve also created for ourselves and within that environment as well. There are structural institutional barriers, but then there are the barriers that we've also created for ourselves and within that environment as well. – Sabine Gedeon Click To Tweet That was a perfect answer because I love that you differentiated between the systemic barriers and the personal barriers that we instill in yourselves. We talk a lot about the pay gap and not applying for jobs on the show here but I had not realized that some women purposefully didn’t apply because they feel that they have that target on their back, which is so irritating that they would be made to feel that way.   One of the things that the corporate world needs to do better is create programs specifically for women in the corporate world to encourage them to learn to negotiate and apply for jobs, even if they don’t have the skills. They apply heavily with 30% or 50% of the skills. Thank you so much for answering that question. I saw that and I was so curious to learn about the barriers that you know of. You’ve been a transformational speaker, an author and a coach. You also lead or created the She Leads Network. Tell me a little bit about what She Leads does and how you even got started in the She Leads Network.   The idealist in me wants to solve all the problems that women experience in corporate. Taking a step back, my career started in talent acquisition. I was on the other side of recruiting. Those statistics around not negotiating salary and not having a pipeline of enough women in certain roles, I’ve seen and witnessed that. One of the things that I remember witnessing earlier in my career as I was supporting leaders is you get a leader who came in a relatively early career and within a couple of years if that, they were the senior vice president of this particular division. I observed that happen long enough that I was like, “I don’t get it.” For me, I am an immigrant. I am first-generation everything. I was coming into Corporate America and the messages that I had had from my parents, well-meaning were, “You get in. You work hard. You get the respect of your bosses and all this other stuff.” I came in with the mindset of, “I’m going to work hard and put my head down. I’m going to sign up for all the DOTS.” That’s our Development Opportunities That Suck. One of my former managers shared that and I have been holding onto that since. I realized that people were coming in with less experience or maybe less education and they were advancing. Also, because I was in HR, I rationalized, “It’s because they’re in the business and HR is a little slower.” That wasn’t true. I then started having conversations like, “Help me understand how to advance and move up.” I always call him Bob. If there’s a Bob reading, please don’t take offense. What I recognize about Bob was that Bob came into the organization. He was able to assess the organization, identify who the key players were, start to build relationships with those individuals and let them know what he was looking to do next. They became the advocates, the mentors and the sponsors. When opportunities became available and conversations were happening behind closed doors, guess whose name rolls to the top? It’s Bob. Meanwhile, I and dozens of other women who had taken on the work and who were playing and sitting in interim roles and all these other things, we had a lot of work. One of the things that I’ve learned throughout this process, especially when it comes to Corporate America is if you’re asking yourself the question, “How can I be successful? How can I advance? How can I accelerate?” For a lot of women, we think, “Let me take on the DOTS and more work. Let me do all the things that no one else is willing to do because that’s what we’re told and that’s what how society grooms us,” let’s be honest. However, taking a page out of Bob’s book is looking at it from the standpoint of what I want to do. Who needs to know my name in this organization? Who needs to understand what my goals are? Who is likely to be that advocate for me? Build that relationship with them, let them know that this is what it is that I want to do so that they can be your advocate when you’re not in the room. It was the salary negotiations and the leadership development skills.
NWB 59 | Women’s Careers
Women’s Careers: Build that relationship with those who are likely to be that advocate for you. Let them know what you want to do so that they can be your advocate when you’re not in the room.
There was a time before the pandemic when even though they were in the top twenty competencies, they weren’t the ones that most organizations rewarded their leaders for. Your empathy, compassion, emotional intelligence and ability to communicate or diffuse conflict were always key competencies but they weren’t the ones that rose to the top. What rose to the top was your business acumen, financial acumen and even executive presence, whatever that means. Those were all the things that were rewarded. It created this narrative that who women are, the things that they bring to the table naturally around empathy, courage, compassion and all those things didn’t matter as much. We’re seeing the shift where that’s what the requirement is in this new normal. Leaders need to be compassionate and emotionally intelligent. They need to be plugged into the people side of things. That is my long way of sharing. She Leads Network is meant to help women build those core leadership competencies and strengthen or elevate the ones that they already have while also teaching some of those unwritten rules about how you build your network. How do you build your success circle within the organization? How do you build political capital? How do you build social capital? These are things that I know I wasn’t taught while I was in corporate and I know it’s not widely taught. I wanted to create it as this external thing where for the women and the organizations who are willing to support their women in advancing, there’s a space for them to get these core things. I love the Developmental Opportunities That Suck. That is pure gold right there. You said something so key because you were describing it as, “How is so moving up the ladder and I’m doing here all the work?” I’m sure that happens to 95% of us but you said something very key. Those people that move up quickly identify who the decision-makers are and the key people that will help them. They go and have conversations with them. They inform them what they want next and then they depend on them to advocate for them.   The way you outlined it is so well explained. It’s almost like when you are seeking that job promotion, you have to be your advocate. You have to lobby and it’s essentially what those people are and they’re doing it. It’s a great and smart strategy but you’re correct. We do not talk enough about how that stepping stone process is done for women in the corporate world. I am so excited to be having this conversation with you, Sabine, because this is good tangible information that women can apply to their jobs right away.   I can appreciate you sharing with us. You talk about discovering the leadership operating system. When you talk about a leadership operating system, we have women that are individual contributors that are trying to advance in their careers and we also have women that are in leadership roles. They have to look out for their career plus their team’s development. Let’s talk a little bit about what you mean by that leadership operating system.   The good thing about this is the LOS and we’ll call it that for sure. It levels the playing field. I’m of the philosophy that leadership is not only attached to a role, a position or a level in an organization. I do believe that every one of us has a sphere of influence that we come into the earth with and that there are innate abilities that allow us to demonstrate leadership. You can be a leader in your home or community. You can be a leader in an organization or not. Regardless of where you sit in the organization, look at it from the standpoint of leadership being an identity. If you start with the foundation of, “We’re all leaders,” we all have the capacity to use our gifts and talents to create something, help build something or push something forward. We’re all starting at the same place. Within the leadership operating system, there are three areas of focus. The first one starts with you and then it’s to the organization and your team. When I work with clients around the leadership operating system, I spent a lot of time on you because what I’ve noticed in these last few years, I feel like the cover has been lifted. We know that there is an absence of real leadership. When I say real leadership, I mean good moral character and integrity of all the things that we attach to leadership. Part of that starts with you understanding who you are. What are your values? What are your beliefs? What’s important to you? What are the things that you’re going to use to determine what’s a non-negotiable? What is that scale that you’re going to tap into that says, “This isn’t the vendor that I want to work with because we’re not aligned. This isn’t the behavior that I want to model or see modeled in my team?” We can’t make decisions around what that looks like until we first look at ourselves. As people who are sitting in leadership roles or any capacity at all, who we are is what we’re projecting in any space that we’re in. I spend a lot of time on the you part. The two questions that I always ask people that they either love me or hate me for it is, “Who are you? What do you want?” The reality is a lot of us, regardless of where we are, have such difficulty answering the question, “Who am I?” We’re so conditioned to attach our identities to the roles that we play. “I’m a mom. I’m a daughter. I’m a wife. I’m this and that.” You then get into, “I’m lovable and playful.” You keep on layering. What I’ve found over the last couple of years in challenging individuals with that question is I would say 98% can’t answer that question. It’s not even a bad thing that they can’t answer that question because it’s the realization when they get to the point of realizing, “I don’t know.” That’s when we can begin to build. That’s when you get to define who you want to be if you haven’t had the opportunity to do it. Once we get through you and define who you are, what your vision is and what your values are, then we look at the broader organization. What are you building? Essentially, if you’re sitting in a leadership spot or you desire to sit in a leadership spot, there’s a vision that you have. That vision can be part of the larger organizational vision but there has to be a vision or else you’re only leading people blindly at that point. Looking at the organization, does the organization reflect who I am and what I want to build or even my team? If it’s three of us, does that reflect it? We’ve had all this conversation in the last couple of years around creating inclusive cultures and cultures where people feel like they can be their whole person and self. We won’t know how to create those cultures if people don’t know who their whole self is. What does that look like? Once you’ve identified what the vision is and what we are working towards, there’s the tactical piece around what are the processes, who are our customers and all those pieces. You then start to look at the team. “I know what I want to build. I know who I am. I know what I want to work towards or innovate. Whom do I need to fill the puzzle pieces?” That’s another area. Going back to the question of the barrier around where women hold themselves back, we put on the cape quickly. We have to figure it all out and it’s not meant to work that way. To be an effective leader, you have to be that person who is above the ditch looking ahead. What are the challenges? What are some of the market situations that are going to happen? You build a team of experts around you who can do the work, that you can influence to do the work and who you can provide support to.
NWB 59 | Women’s Careers
Women’s Careers: In order to be an effective leader, you have to be that person who is above the ditch, looking ahead.
It’s looking at you, your strengths, weaknesses, values and all of that stuff. How does that play into the broader vision of where you’re headed? Who are the people who are coming alongside you to do the work to bring that to pass? It’s a full circle and holistic. It goes beyond, “What’s the budget? What’s the bottom line,” at that point. That’s a great way to set everything up because a lot of times, most people don’t even know what they want. When you finally work with them to figure out what is it that you want, how do they get there? That’s a whole other thing. I like that you talk about your core values because one of the core values that I use as an example is if you’re into health and you’re looking at your core values, you’re not going to go apply at a tobacco company. Health is not in their core values. After all, they know their product causes cancer and that’s not in line with health.   I like that you go through the whole you process first and then the organization. Lastly, who do you bring along? We can’t do everything by ourselves. We need to surround ourselves with key people that can help us meet our goals so that we can make that impact. You also talk about redefining, reimagining and rehumanizing leadership. Is that separate from what you talked about or does that fit into that second piece?   It does fit into it. I feel like in 2020 and I know people are tired of hearing about the pandemic and they want to get past it but there are so many things that you could take away from it. It gave people an opportunity to look at themselves and look at what was important to them and their lives. Nothing motivates us more than fear. It taught us nothing else. Identify what was at the core. Nothing motivates us more than fear. – Sabine Gedeon Click To Tweet What I saw over the last few years is that we were okay, maybe even complacent with believing that this group, these people or this style was different. We had a moment in time in which everyone saw themselves in everyone else. The level of compassion and caring that naturally came out of us as a human race, I’ve never seen in my lifetime. I can’t get out the image of when the nurses would go to work at 8:00 or they would change shifts. All across the world, people would be banging and celebrating them as heroes. No one said, “This is what you need to do.” No one prompted us. God did not come from the sky and say, “This is how you need to be.” It innately came out of all of us. We had compassion and love and caring from people whom we’d never even met. It’s created this space where what once separated us. You’re in Chicago. I’m in San Diego. We are so connected. Looking at that from that perspective if we could hold on to that belief and understanding that we’re all connected, we’re all one and we all need each other, how much different would we show up in our organizations? How much different would we make decisions that impact other people’s lives, the environment or the communities if we understood that this decision impacts another human being? I feel like we had gotten to a point of being so desensitized to each other or the human experience where we have this space. We don’t have to walk away from it just because the pandemic has ended. We can still feel our brothers or our sisters’ pain, empathize, make decisions and lead in organizations that reflect that. I love putting the human component back into whether it’s a personal relationship or more than anything that work relationship. Prior to the pandemic, corporations still only saw the employee as an employee. We’ve incorporated that human component of seeing the employee as both a person and an employee. We’re trying to fold in all the different ways that a person’s life is part of their day-to-day because, before the pandemic, we all drove to work.   I drove to work twice a week and then that’s four hours of commute, gas, tolls and all that stuff. Now, it’s nice to be able to work from home. There’s a trade-off between making it a point to connect with people versus staying home by myself and my computer all day every day. There’s that component. You talk about the next generation of leaders. This is what I want to talk about because one of the things that I am constantly worried about is how are things going to be for the next generation.   The Gen Z community or population is unapologetic about things. I love that about them because they’re so brave. I’m a Gen X-er so I’m old school. The same thing is for your parents. I’m a first-time college graduate and my parents were like, “Work hard and do everything that you need to do.” I read an article because I’m also 100% Mexican. They were saying how Latina parents were like, “You have to behave, do everything right and take care of people,” and stuff like that.   I vividly remember my dad and he meant well. He never did it mean or anything but every time I’d come to him and I say, “Dad, I got an A,” he’s like, “Why not an A-plus?” “I got a job.” He’s like, “Did you ask for a raise on the first day?” “I got a promotion.” He’s like, “When are you going to be the boss?” What I realized when I got old is that my dad gave me a complex of I’m not good enough because everything that I said to him like, “I did this great thing,” he’s like, “Why not this much more?” What is your experience with the next generation of leaders, specifically the younger Millennials and the Gen Zs? I’m interested to learn about what you think about this generation.   Thank you for sharing that. I had a similar thought. I’m an immigrant from Haiti. I tell people all the time, “If you got an A-minus, it was like an F.” There’s a lot of striver in me as well. When I came into Corporate America, I’m technically a Millennial, what they call the geriatric Millennials. It’s so disrespectful but it’s catchy so I still use it. When I came into Corporate America, I came under the leadership of a lot of Boomers. There are a lot of rules. It was more so like, “Leave your problems at the door.” FaceTime was huge. It was like, “Be the first one to come in and the last one to leave.” It was all of these things that had nothing to do with real performance but I understood coming into Corporate America, being led by Boomers that when I’m here, they own me. When I leave or decide to leave, then I get to live a life. As time has gone on, I’ve noticed that even with the younger Millennials or going through the generation there, they were coming into the organization and starting to ask why. “Why is this like this?” That’s where you started to hear the commentary around, “These Millennials are so entitled. They want everything and so on.” They thought we were bad. Let’s enter in Gen Z. Gen Z was like, “I showed up 3 days for the last 2 months. Where’s my promotion? Where’s my raise? Where’s my title bump? Please and thank you.” We’re not even a sandwich but it’s been very interesting to see the process and where they are now. I remember when I first came into Corporate America, the statistic was in 2020, 50% of the Boomers would be eligible for retirement. We’re in 2023. A significant amount of them have retired. As a matter of fact, it’s been accelerated because, during the pandemic when organizations were doing cost-cutting measures, they were offering all of these early severance and retirement packages. We’ll talk about how that comes back to bite them in the butt. You had Boomers leaving the organization. You have Gen X, which was a smaller population and then you have the Millennials, which are the largest population. They’re about 43% of the workforce and then you have Gen Z who by nature of their age, they’re about 5%. Although we’re coming up on a graduation year, that number’s going to go up. The good thing and the challenge are that the Millennials were already questioning why and wanting to do things differently. They are wanting to innovate and wanting to create spaces where work was fun. “Work was a place that I wanted to be at.” We spent so much of our time at work. I feel like the Millennials started to shift the narrative around, “If I got to be here for 10 or 12 hours, at least let it be a place that I enjoy being at.” You get your Google, Facebook and all that other stuff. Gen Z’s mindset is, “I’m only here for the paycheck and skillsets.” They have huge amounts of student loans. If you look at them from a demographic perspective, a lot of them still live at home. A lot of the financial responsibilities that many of us had to figure out, they don’t have. They get the luxury and I say that loosely. That’s not from a judgmental perspective but they want to be able to work, get the money and then use it to spend the time to enjoy life. It’s the very thing that we are working so hard to do. They’re like, “Let’s do this now. Who said we have to wait until we’re 65?” I’ve never seen it as one generation wanting anything different than the previous generation. I’ve seen that as time has evolved, these generations are getting more vocal in wanting to redefine themselves and the environment, “What is life to me? How do I want to spend my life?” It’s less about the Baby Boomers who were like, “I’m in this for 65 years. You got me however you need me,” to where it’s like, “I can go on TikTok, make a couple of videos and become an influencer. I don’t need to sit in anybody’s cubicle. I can drive Uber. I can do Instacart.”
NWB 59 | Women’s Careers
Women’s Careers: As time has evolved, these generations are getting more vocal in wanting to redefine for themselves and the environment what life is to them.
There are a million different things. They’re looking at work as a means to get money. I’m generalizing here so this is not everybody but it’s not this long-term like, “I’m going to be tied to this thing forever.” For leaders and individuals who are in the corporate space who are managing Gen Z or even the younger Millennials, it’s looking at it from that perspective. The other thing that I’ll add to that is Millennials and Gen Z, historically with 2008, 2009 and 2010, had been fed this narrative around company loyalty. If you hopped around, that was a bad thing. We saw the impact on our parents and grandparents and how they worked all these years to save up all this 401(k). Almost instantly, it was gone. Pensions were gone. The jig is up, the story and the narrative that you shared. You have these people who are coming into the workforce where they know good and well, at any given time, their name is going to be on the list and there is no loyalty anymore. Their mindset isn’t, “How can I come here and make the most impact for the longest period?” It’s, “How can I come here, learn what I need to learn, make an impact and then when I’m over it, I’m going to the next.” It’s us as older people looking at it from the standpoint of, “Their value is no longer in hard work.” I’m not saying that they’re not willing to work hard. I’m saying the value that we were given around, “It’s all about hard work,” isn’t their value. It’s truly understanding what their values are and what matters to them and then building work around that. I agree with everything that you said. I want to mention the Gen Z people. My daughter, son, nieces and nephews in that age range are so passionate about social issues and boundaries, specifically time boundaries between work and home. At first, I was like, “Oh my gosh.” After I thought about it, I was like, “Wait a minute. I wish I had that kind of mindset.” I’m old school compared to them. It’s good for them that they’re setting those boundaries and saying, “I’m here for work. I’m willing to work hard to make an impact and then move on to bigger and better things.” Good for them.   They’re reflecting to us all of the things that we wanted. I won’t even lie. Having been in a position at one point where I was managing Gen Z, I was like, “I don’t know if I can do this.” It was not in a bad way but it is hard, especially when you have structures that are set up to support the old model and then you have these individuals. It is challenging for the leader to think, “How do I show up differently? How do I let go of some of the things that no longer serve me to be able to be who I am now and support who’s coming up versus still trying to fit into the model that I was taught previously?” The new generations are reflecting back to us all of the things that we wanted. – Sabine Gedeon Click To Tweet I’ve been in the corporate role for many years. It’s to shed those old paradigms that we were spoon-fed like work hard, put your head down and you’ll be promoted when I know for a fact that’s not true. A little bit about my story is that when I was 40 years old, I was still an individual contributor. Mind you, part of my story is because I had a bad divorce and that set me back a few years. I was thinking, “Somebody’s going to notice my hard work and they’re going to be like, ‘Rosie, do you want to be a manager?’”   It wasn’t until I said something and then once I said something, things started happening quickly. I’m like, “Why didn’t I say something earlier?” This is why I do the work that I do because I don’t want women in their cubicles when they’re 40 if they could have done it much sooner in their careers. When it comes to coaching the Gen Z population, what have you noticed? Are they open to coaching or not?   They’re open to coaching. It’s an interesting dynamic. The Millennials are the ones who were very demanding when it came to, “Give me feedback. I want feedback. I want to know if I’m doing well.” That was too much. The difference with Gen Z is it’s not that they don’t want feedback. The feedback has to have some weight to it. I remember when I first got taught how to coach, especially when I was in Corporate America and the model was bread and butter or peanut butter jelly. You give the good thing, sneak in the development opportunity and then close it out with something nice. The person walks away feeling great but then when there’s no change in behavior, you’re like, “What happened here?” It doesn’t work the same. We’re generalizing here but you need to be a little bit more literal, candid and flat-out. I’ve adapted the Center for Creative Leadership’s Model, the SBI™, Situation-Behavior-Impact. You’re laying it out of, “This is what happened. This is what I observe. This is the impact,” so that it’s very clear on, “Tell me what not to do or tell me what to do.” I don’t think this is a generational thing but I’m seeing it more. They’d want to know, “What do I need to do to get here?” If I’m here at point A, what do I need to do to get to point B? Tell me. That’s the challenge that a lot of leaders have, especially if there aren’t clearly defined processes in an organization around how you determine who gets promoted or who doesn’t. How do you determine who gets on projects? It can be a very frustrating space for them because they want to be told what it is that we need to do. The advice that I would give here is for those who are reading as you’re thinking about your population, leading them and supporting them in their development, first and foremost ask, “What’s next?” Let’s start there. Let’s not assume that we know what people want to do. Let’s ask. “What do you want to do next?” From there, work with them. Co-create whatever that career pathing looks like to help them get to that.
NWB 59 | Women’s Careers
Women’s Careers: As you’re thinking about your population and leading and supporting them in their development, first and foremost, ask what’s next. Let’s not assume that we know what people want to do.
I don’t know if you’ve experienced this but I had where it was like, “This is the development roadmap.” At the time, the leader thought, “This is fluid. We’re going to go through this and see.” It was like, “I checked off this box and this box. Where’s my promotion?” Understanding that it’s the mindset, you want to make sure that if it is a more fluid environment within your organization, you’re also communicating that and you’re giving timeframes. One of the things that I’ve been helping organizations with, is because believe it or not, a lot of them don’t have it in place, a lot of organizations have performance reviews or in some capacity, maybe they don’t have ratings but performance reviews are not enough. I don’t know that performance reviews ever did anything. We know that. We’ve been doing it just because. However, take it a step further and look at how we look at our entire organization and pipelines and be proactive through succession planning and talent reviews. Succession planning historically has been like, “We’re only looking at the top. Who’s the top two levels for the CEO,” but the advice is, “No. You need to look at it across your entire organization.” Asking your team to complete forms and asking, “What do you want to do next? Where do you see yourself?” Many times, you’ve probably seen this too. Someone’s good in a technical role and the next thing you know, they’re getting promoted to a management role. They don’t want to be managers. They just think that’s the only path to move up. They fail because they didn’t want it and you didn’t give them the tools and the resources. As organizations or leaders, start with, “Let’s have a conversation on what is it that you want.” From there, we can look at the organization as a whole and say, “Based on what you want and the needs of the organization, where might there be a fit?” This is the real challenge for leaders because oftentimes, they get the mindset of, “My people are my people.” They’re not your people or the organization’s people. This requires leaders to have a real open mind and say, “Sally is a subject matter expert and she is pivotal to our department’s success.” To be honest, as a leader, we haven’t done the work to groom or train anyone else to take her spot. She’s telling us that she wants to be in a different department. Rather than ignoring it or finding ways to keep Sally busy under projects, let’s look at, “What other departments could I partner with? What cross-functional projects could I have her work on while she’s still here so that she gets the skills, she feels like she’s heard, she’s being developed and engaged?” The succession planning and the talent reviews are the tools to leverage but it also takes a different mindset for leadership for them to look outside of their silos and departments to say, “How can I support this person in their growth and development in this organization?” However, if you keep them restricted or you’re not even conscious of it, they’ll leave. It will take you three times as long to get somebody up and running up to the space so they could be as effective as Sally was. You said a lot of great information there but the biggest takeaway that I got from you right there is that companies are not doing a good job at assessing their staff and having that succession plan. Before you know it, corporations are shooting themselves in the foot because by not being proactive, then someone leads and then they turn to be reactive. They have to then start figuring out how they’re going to backfill that position.   It’s worse for the people that remain at the organization because then they get more work. They’re more overworked and overwhelmed. Succession planning with that skill evaluation for each individual is so critical for corporations to do and bring the human into it too. What do you like to do? What are your strengths? There are a million different types of assessments that we could use.   Kolbe is one of them or you can assess individual strengths and pair them up with the particular job. I also like that you said that it’s not the manager’s team or the company’s team. These are resources that the entire company has and we need to partner with other departments so that we can place the individuals in the proper jobs that they feel that they’re enjoying and thriving.   We know that when someone is happy at work, their productivity goes up between 12% and 14%. It’s crucial that companies realize that they have to take the time to be proactive and get those succession plans going. As far as building your dream for accelerated impact, what components of what we have talked about already fit into that topic for you?   It goes back to the career pathing and everything that we talked about. I had gotten to a place and maybe you can relate to this and the audience can relate to this too. Sometimes when we come into an organization or we start our career, there’s this vision. Most people have it. How do I get to the C-Suite the fastest? That seems to be the holy grail of a particular department. Some people don’t have that mindset but many of us do. I remember at the beginning of my career, when I first got into Corporate America, I used to work with the HR business partners. I felt like they had influence and authority and that they were able to shape how leaders are taught. I remember in my first year, I was like, “I’m going to be an HR business partner. That’s going to be my role.” One of my managers looked at me and was like, “You got about twenty years before that can be an option.” I was like, “Challenge accepted. I’m on it.” I did what I need to do. I worked hard. I even went back to school. I got my Masters. Finally, the door opened up. It was in ten years. I cut it by 50% and got into the HR business partner role but it didn’t take long for me to realize, “I don’t want to do this. This is not what I want to do.” At the time, I had so much of my life invested in this particular path. At that point, I was like, “I didn’t have a plan B. This was it.” Once I got here, it was straight to the top for me. One of the things that I think about having had that experience is that I had to go through a mid-career crisis to figure out what I wanted to do next. That’s the piece for women in particular. Sometimes, we’re so busy heads down and trying to climb. If you go on a hike, at some point, you should look up and be like, “How much further do I have? I want to go down this path. Are there other paths that could be easier? Am I still the same person that I was when I made the decision?” That was the biggest learning lesson for me. At the time, maybe I was 34, I was like, “I had outgrown the 22-year-old version of myself. This was no longer fulfillment and where I wanted to be. I had to reconcile that within myself but also I had to figure out what is plan B.” The encouragement that I would give here is that no matter how much you love what you’re doing, no matter how much you can see the mountain in your climbing, always have a plan B. Start to think through because our skillsets, regardless of what we’re doing, are transferrable. I think about HR work. With all the HR functions, I’m doing a lot of that same work sitting outside of that function. Give yourself the space to say, “If I wasn’t doing this and moving down this linear path, what else might I want to do? What other things am I passionate about?” The beautiful part is if you’re part of an organization, as I mentioned with the succession planning and talent, you don’t have to wait for your manager to box you into something or do that. You can say, “I’m in customer success but I want to learn marketing. I want to understand a little piece of that.” Raise your hands to be on a cross-functional project or ask if you can take a course or something like that that allows you to dip your toe and see what that would look like. We’ll probably talk about the networking piece but part of building that social capital and all those things, that are important. Look at that as part of the work but also look at your career development as part of your job. I remember when I first got into Corporate America, they were like, “You own your development.” I was like, “I don’t know what that means but okay, I own it.” I took ownership of it. I took the mindset that if I want something to happen, I’m going to have to be the one to make it happen. What pains me, especially at the time of this recording, we have a lot of companies who are letting people go because of the economy, fear, overhiring or overstaffing during the pandemic. That’s a horrible place for people to be where they’re like, “I didn’t have a plan B.” As a way to protect yourself and not have to fall victim to a system in our environment, start to figure out what your plan B is. While you’re there in the organization, work on what you’re working on. Make the impact that you’re going to make in the space that you have but also give yourself the gift of exploring what 2.0 look like. I love that you said that you own your career or professional development. A lot of times, we as leaders tell the younger staff but we don’t explain it specifically. It is so important for us as the leadership team to take ownership and say, “This is what it means exactly.” There are no gaps or assumptions. A lot of Gen Z-ers may already know what that means but a lot of them don’t.   With my 20-somethings, sometimes I’m surprised that they don’t know how to do something but then I assumed that they would know how to do something and they’re like, “I’ve never dealt with auto insurance,” for example or getting their auto insurance. There are so many assumptions that we can make incorrectly that impact someone’s career.   Once they know, “You need to take action in your career, ask for what you need, set boundaries,” and all that stuff, that’s when they start thinking, “I own this process.” That’s what makes a difference in someone’s knowledge. I didn’t know or realize and now, I’m making sure that I tell people, “If you’re interested in a job, apply for it anyway even if you don’t have all of the job requirements on the listing. You never know if you are going to be the right fit or not.” Let’s talk a little bit about networking. What does She Leads Network do? How do you help some of your clients?   The purpose of the She Leads Network is to pretty much take all these things that we’ve talked about and put them in the one-stop shop. It’s focused on core areas if you look at it from the perspective of building leadership competencies, the core leadership competencies, assessing individuals where they are and then identifying where they can work. I have a curriculum that’s built out that allows you to move through that process. The other piece that I focus on is social capital building, your social capital. As they say, your network equals your net worth. No true words have ever been spoken. Take the time to think about what we talked about in the beginning. Who needs to know my name? Who needs to know what I want to do next? Whom do I need to build that relationship with to be that advocate for me? The other piece is about mental fitness. That encompasses a lot of things. You talk about Imposter syndrome and all these things that we are challenged with in addition to the work in the day-to-day, especially if you’re a newer manager questioning, “Can I do this? Do I have what it takes?” It’s all of these things. How do you get to a place where you can make decisions from a place of worthiness and knowing this is my zone of genius and a place of trusting and recognizing that yes, I’ve built a team of people around me who can help and support me? The last piece is around communications and building what I call win-win outcomes. It shows up in salary negotiations and promotions but that also shows up in asking for resources. That also shows up in saying, “I have a lot on my plate. I need your support or I could use your support in reprioritizing this work.” What does that look like to influence and get other people excited about work that might be a DOTS? It’s about how we communicate with each other. One thing that I’ve known, seen and witnessed and I know a lot of this is generalizations but we have difficulty asking. We will convince ourselves before we even utter the word that the answer is going to be no. We will go down the path of all of the worst-case scenarios, tell ourselves the answer is going to be no and then never ask. We then grow resentful, angry, get overwhelmed, burnt out and all of that stuff. We have difficulty just asking. We will convince ourselves before we even utter the word that the answer is going to be no. – Sabine Gedeon Click To Tweet We need to stop doing that to ourselves because the worst thing that can happen at the end of that sentence of asking is hearing no. No does not always mean no. What I’ve learned, especially coming into entrepreneurship, is no also means not right now. No means yes and or let’s figure this out. Let’s be creative about this or be creative in our win-wins. For women, knowing that no does not always mean no or just means no. It means other things. Those are the four components in which I partner with the women to talk through and that’s within She Leads. That’s been my coaching and certainly with working with organizations who want to invest in developing their women and emerging leaders. I wanted to ask you to define something. You work with women to find their zone of genius. I want to make sure that we define it for the readers thinking, “My zone of genius, what is that?” Can you explain that?   That’s the coaching terminology right there. Your zone of genius is the thing that you do so naturally that you don’t even think about it. If you’re still wondering, “What is that,” what do people come to you for the most? Think about what does your team recognize you for? What have your managers over the course of your career recognized you for? When you get pulled into projects, what is the feedback that you’re hearing like, “You do this so well?” It’s probably reflected in how you show up at home or in your community as well. It’s not only limited to the workplace. For many women, especially the women with kids, you’re probably organized. I’m not saying that every woman with kids is organized but that is a common skill. That may show up as, “I’m able to see a vision and break down all of the pieces that need to happen.” Maybe you’ve fallen into project management not even realizing, “It’s because I can connect the dots or the pieces that I enjoy this work in project management.” Think back to some of that feedback. The other way to find this is the two questions that I asked myself when I had my mid-career crisis. When do I feel like I’m making the biggest impact? When do I feel the most fulfilled? That fulfillment means in the space you feel super energized. You could do it for hours and not even think about it. That’s your zone of genius. I love your explanation. Just so that everybody can compare, in my zone of genius, I am the happiest when I am helping a woman in the corporate world being able to advance in their career. I help them uncover their earning potential by them learning to articulate their worth with massive confidence, conviction and clarity. I love doing it. I love helping women. I am most fulfilled when I’m working on my business and podcast. Having conversations like this with you energizes me. I love this. Let me ask you, what is your zone of genius, Sabine?   We are very similar. My zone of genius is being able to listen to someone, whether that’s an executive that I’m working with or a leader or anything saying, “Sabine, we’re trying to get here.” As long as I can see what here is, I can fill in the pieces on how to get there. When I went back to that question when I was having my mid-year crisis, I love when I’m sitting down with an internal candidate or an internal employee and they’re like, “Sabine, I want to get here and I can’t figure it out.” I could help them reverse engineer. The best way to describe it is reverse engineer what needs to happen for them to get there. The beauty is if I can see it, believe it and create the pathway towards it. Then comes execution and implementation but that’s a different story. That’s not my zone of genius. That’s why I would bring on other people to fill that part out. I loved this conversation because you have given us such great strategic ways in which women can continue to advance in their corporate careers. I’m going to ask you and it could be from the conversation that we’ve already had but do you have two concrete actionable items that women can do pretty much immediately that will move the needle in their careers?   You’ve probably heard me say social capital 30 times during this conversation. If you’re wondering what social capital is or building your social capital, it’s the creative way of me saying networking. I’ve learned over the last couple of years that some people have real visceral reactions to the word networking just because of what it was. Women in particular feel very icky and uncomfortable when it comes to networking. Social capital is my way of disguising that. Why is that important? It goes back to what we said from the beginning. When you observe Bob, Jim or whoever, they’re moving towards the pathway that they are and at the pace that they are because they’re adding this component. At the time of this recording in 2023, we’re seeing the constrictions on financial capital and all this other stuff. This is the time to build your social capital. You should always be building it but this is the time. What does that look like? I have this thing that I call the success circle. I’m going to tell you the roles of the success circle and then the tip here is if you haven’t already identified people who sit in those roles, that is your assignment. You want to make sure that you have at least 2 to 3 mentors inside and outside the organization. These are people who maybe sat in the same seat that you’ve sat in, maybe people you admire or people that you can go to and ask for sound career advice who will guide you in whom you trust. You want to identify as a sponsor and advocate in the organization. This is someone very influential. It could be your manager’s manager or someone else in a different department but this person has influence. This person is someone that you know is sitting behind closed doors that if they say, “This is what I want,” it’s going to happen. Start to build relationships with that person. This is not always easy but you want to make sure that your manager knows what you want to do next. I get it. Not everyone has that type of manager that they have that trust with. If that’s not there, that’s fine. Find another manager who is at their peer level, someone whom you can share, someone who would be the advocate and someone who can give you some guidance. The other piece is you want to identify 2 to 3 peers. They could be peers that are in your team or across the organization who are at the same level. However, if you’re an ambitious person and you have your site set on moving, find people who are operating at that same level and people that will help push you. It’s a little healthy competition so to speak but there will also be individuals who can help support you and then you want to find a super-connector. The super-connector is the person in the organization who knows everybody and everything. Usually, that is the executive admin or chief of staff. That’s that person.
NWB 59 | Women’s Careers
Women’s Careers: The super-connector is the person in the organization who knows everybody and everything.
Build a relationship with that person because they will know everything that’s happening. If you have a question, you want to know who you need to connect with or you want to get by on someone’s calendar, they’re going to be the person to support you. Once you’ve identified these people if you haven’t already, then you need to reach out to them and say, “I admire this about you. I’ve been thinking about this. I would love to get your thoughts or learn a little bit more about you.” People love to talk about themselves. Ask for informational or skip-level meetings for 30 minutes. Let them tell you about their journey. Start to build that relationship on a quarterly cadence, maybe a monthly cadence and then let them know but maybe not in that first conversation because, in that first conversation, you’re still getting to know them. At some point, if you decide that you want that person to sit in one of these seats, let them know. “We’ve been talking for a while. I admire what you’ve done. You’ve been supportive of me. I would love for you to be my mentor, my sponsor and this person. This is how I can see you helping me.” That’s the other thing. They have to know how they can help you. Otherwise, you’re just meeting with them every quarter. That’s not a bad thing but that doesn’t move you ahead. The 3 steps here, I know you asked for 2 tips but there are a whole bunch rolled up in 1, are identify these individuals, meet with them, ask to meet with them and let them know what it is that you need from them in terms of support and then continue to build that relationship. What you don’t want is to wait. When you’re in a space where you’re desperate or if something is happening, it’s going to be disingenuous. We’re all talking about human connection and everything else. Start building it now and then watch how you’re able to accelerate past where you would’ve been naturally by putting your head down and doing the work. Start building that human connection now and then watch how you're able to accelerate past where you would have been naturally by just putting your head down and doing the work. – Sabine Gedeon Click To Tweet Thank you for explaining that human capital is the equivalent of networking and more importantly, explaining how to do it well. We’ve had that tip before on the show but the way you explain it is strategic. I love that because that’s what I’m all about. I am good at giving someone the strategy that they need. Interestingly enough, I have a quiz that boxes people as to where they fall in and 60% of my client and readers fall into not having a focus strategy to continue to advance in their career.   They know they want to advance and they’re stuck. They don’t know how to do it. A lot of the conversation that we’ve already talked about has to do with having a focus strategy. This has been a wonderful conversation, Sabine. You have given us such concrete information and very well laid out. I encourage anyone. If you’re looking for a networking group, check out She Leads Network.

This conversation is so incredibly important because Sabine gave us some very concrete information on a variety of things. The thing that I took away from this conversation was the four questions that you need to ask yourself to fast-track your career. The first question was, “What do I want to do?” Question number two is, “Who needs to know my name in the organization?” Question number three is, “Who needs to understand what my goals are?” Finally, the last and fourth question is, “Who is likely to be my advocate?”   She was saying that those four questions will fast-track your career, which is what she noticed throughout her career. The people that were advancing answered those four questions for themselves. Sabine left us with three good tips. First of all, you need to build your social capital. The way you do that is by identifying some key people, which is the second tip. You’re going to identify two mentors inside and outside of the organization. You’re going to identify a sponsor and an advocate.   You’re going to make sure that your manager knows what it is that you want to do and identify 2 to 3 peers. The reason why you’re identifying these individuals is so that you can build a relationship with all of them so that they can help you advance in your career. Finally, find a super-connector within the organization, whether it’s the chief of staff or the administrative assistant.   Build a relationship with this individual because they could help you when there are some key decisions to be made. Sabine’s said to go ahead and connect with her on LinkedIn and the She Leads Network as well. This was such an insightful and amazing conversation with Sabine. I hope that you take some good takeaways from this. Remember to be brave, be bold and take action.

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About Sabine Gedeon

NWB 59 | Women’s CareersSabine Gedeon serves as a Transformational Speaker, Author, and Coach. She is also the Founder of She Leads Network, and host of She Leads Now – a top-rated podcast centered around women in leadership and business. Known for her ability to connect with people at the deepest levels of their beings, to reveal their unique brilliance, she helps clients break through their own mental limits to lead with confidence and elevate their influence and impact. Sabine is the author of Transformed, The Journey to Becoming.