Work is tough. Femsy did not get her latest proposal approved in the MT, and she is making long hours.

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A great leader:

  • Comprehends how the organization works; both the formal and informal networks, where the power actually resides and how to get things done;
  • Appreciates the organizational climate and culture and the right time to push her proposals through;
  • Builds strong relationships with key stakeholders so that she understands their motives, concerns and personal agendas, in addition to what they are trying to achieve for the organization;
  • Uses a range of influencing styles that appeal to her target audience, individually and collectively, to persuade them to her point of view.

How to best handle the situation:

It is important to recognize that inputs are less important than outputs and that delivering results is what really counts.  Women, more often than men, believe that hard work will be recognized and pay off and do not do enough to network with their organization and self-publicize their achievements.

You need to understand the reasons why your proposal was unsuccessful; what are the members of MT looking for?  What was approved and why?  There are often a number of proposals competing for a limited budget, so you need to make yours as attractive as possible.  Ensure that you understand the business priorities and make an explicit connection between those and your proposal: what will your initiative deliver to the organization?  Also, consider the likely impact of your ideas on all areas of the business, and in particular, to each member of the MT.  Anticipate their reactions and consider, in advance, how you will respond to any concerns that they have; appeal to their motives and drivers.

Also, consider why you are working long hours.  Are you spending your time productively on value-adding tasks?  Do you block time in your agenda to work on important projects without distractions?  Do you respond to emails, ad hoc requests as they arise or save them for a specific time during the day?

Learning suggestions:

  • Create a stakeholder map of the key people with whom you need to build and maintain relationships.  Analyse your map to determine the importance and strength of each relationship so that you can prioritize your efforts at internal networking.
  • Analyse a number of proposals that have been presented to your leadership team/approval body.  What characterizes the ones that were successful?  How are these different from the proposals that were rejected?  Identify the key lessons from this exercise and apply this to your next proposal.
  • Use storytelling techniques to build up your key messages, for example, describe the situation the complication, and the solution, to present your ideas in a powerful way.
  • Prior to an important decision, establish who the decision-makers are.  Consider how well you know them and how they like to receive information.  If you are unsure, tap into your internal network to talk to someone who does know the decision-maker(s) well.  As far as possible present your arguments in a way that will resonate with your target audience.
  • Spend time talking to key individuals about your ideas to test them; do they make sense? Is the time right to suggest these changes? What questions do you still need to answer?  Who is on board with you and can act as an advocate on your behalf?  Use the knowledge and insights you gain from these conversations to refine your propositions.
  • Make time for social interactions with your colleagues to help you build an understanding of what makes them tick and how you can best work with them to achieve your desired outcomes.
  • At the end of each day, spend 10-15 minutes thinking about your accomplishments.  These can be as simple as, ‘spoke with someone I hardly know’, ‘I made time to exercise today’, to ‘I finished a big report’.  Over time you create a collection of things that you are proud of and can choose, which of these to share/publicize within the organization.
  • Evaluate how you spend your time over a 2-week period.  When are you most productive?  Allocate those periods/times of day for your most important tasks.  What activities and intrusions distract you from your key assignments?  Make changes so that you take control of your agenda and have blocks of uninterrupted time to concentrate your critical and important activities?

Femcommunity tips:

We welcome your thoughts, experiences and comments on how you would deal with such a situation.

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