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When Progress Stalls, Think Bold

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When Progress Stalls, Think Bold

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There is a lot to be said for persistence . . . that ability to work your plan with one logical step after another. Except when it’s not working.

When the results aren’t coming, or progress is so slow it’s almost hard to measure, it’s time to replace reliable, quiet persistence with something bolder. Maybe something a little out of the ordinary. Because we all know that cliché about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Going bold can mean taking things up a notch but it can also mean going in a whole new direction. One of the first things I ask myself when I’m stuck is whether there’s a chance the exact opposite approach could work.

If you are getting nowhere micromanaging a team member, spouse or trying teenager, would providing general guidelines for the desired result and leaving the execution open to the individual work better?

In terms of your own progress, if you have been keeping your head down and patiently waiting your turn, maybe it’s time to get a little more demanding. That’s the challenge I see many women facing today on the job.

We are fortunate to have rich and varied data that clearly shows having more women in leadership drives greater business performance and profits. Unfortunately, it also shows women’s advancement at work has stalled. Sure, we can all point to a few high-profile women who have done exceptionally well, but, on the whole, women are no better represented today in leadership than we were five years ago.

Women have earned more college degrees than men for more than 35 years. We ask for promotions and negotiate salaries at the same rates as men. And we stay in the workforce at the same rate. We are working the plan. But it’s not working for us. Not even for young women.

From the very first promotion, 100 men are moved up for every 79 women, according to the latest research from McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org.

This is why I’ve been thinking that women (and men) need to go bolder. Otherwise, we’ll leave money (opportunity, contribution and progress) on the table in organizations that could be made stronger and richer with the unique perspectives and skills women bring to the mix.

How do you go bold? If you have the power to hire, mentor and promote, pull women up! We’ve been giving men a chance to prove themselves on the job for years. Give women the same opportunity.

Women, vote with your feet. Find out how many women occupy senior roles in an organization before you join. Or move to one with better opportunities for women.

Men, champion the women in your life. You are far more likely to hold a position of power that enables you to help high-potential women advance.

Parents, teach your daughters to be bold. Help them learn to raise their hands for leadership roles in sixth grade, college and the workforce. Research shows that, on average, women will not apply for a position until they meet all of the qualifications. Men apply when they meet only 50%. That leaves them room to grow. It leaves us working below our potential.

As Emily Dickinson once said, “Fortune befriends the bold.” When progress stalls, I like to take a page from her book and go bold. 

Hattie Hill is President & CEO of the nonprofit Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF).

This essay was featured in the Jan. 27th edition of The Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter for people with passion and purpose. To get inspiring and informative content like this piece delivered straight to your inbox each Sunday morning, click here to subscribe.

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