Over the years I’ve had a lot of candid conversations about what is holding people back from the C-suite.
I help clients discover their barriers. I undertake 360 reviews which highlight barriers (some real, and some that are put there by others, but all that are barriers nonetheless that we need to move through or take down). And I've pushed through these barriers myself on my own C-Suite journey.
So I thought it was time to put together the top 5 barriers I frequently find are between someone and their Executive Level aspirations - many of which we struggle to notice in ourselves until we are (hopefully lovingly) called out on. The people above you will rarely tell you this, but they've been through it themselves!
The 5 things between you and the C-suite
1. You are too busy (or you appear to be too busy!)
Western culture tells us that if we are important we are busy. If we are doing a good job we are busy. The only way to say no is to be so important that you are already so snowed under, that you simply have to say no.
And it has probably served you well. Up until this point in your career, working harder has probably pretty reliably got you ahead. If you are an entrepreneur - you might already have that C-Suite title, and you may well be working crazy hours, working evenings, weekends and sacrificing that all important family time and self care hasn’t been heard of since you started.
If you feel that the harder you work the more accomplished you are and the faster you will get promoted, I’m here to tear down that myth. Pushing harder will only get you so far. And it doesn’t work for the C-Suite, or for that matter scaling a startup.
And the decision makers who will put you in the C-Suite know that.
The responsibilities of the C-level executive require time and space to think, to plan, to strategise. You need to be recognising market trends early, delivering on results as promised, and setting strategic direction for the next 1-5 years. This requires thinking space. You can’t pack this into 30 minutes on a Friday afternoon.
So remember: being too busy will always hold you back
👉It stops you doing what you need to do as a C-level executive.
👉Those who are already there, the decision makers who will open doors, know how hard it is to step outside that 'busy' mode of operation.
👉You will have resistance to up-levelling if you have even an unconscious acceptance that the C-Suite means even longer hours.
2. You don’t empower others enough
To achieve high-performance and to focus on the C-level activities you need to be showcasing, you need a team.
But not just any old team.
Not a team that you need to actively manage and spend all your time managing.
This needs to be a team that doesn't need managing, provides you the chance to really lead (because leadership is all about giving people the framework to manage themselves). When you do this, and do it well… you get time back.
3. You are seen as a problem person not a solutions person
This was me for so many years. I saw pitfalls, missteps and opportunities for improvement everywhere, and I was the only one bringing them up. But it gave me a reputation as the person who always saw problems.
Shifting to being the person who has analysed, understood WHAT needs to be changed, WHY it needs to change and what to do, moves you from the person who gets all her stuff done, but also has a list of things that aren't good enough, to the woman who gets everything done AND moves the needle more than anyone else in the person.
So switch on a filter. Bring up the stuff that really matters, not everything. Drop the perfectionism. And bring solutions to the table instead of problems.
4. You aren’t showing up as a visible thought leader
So many women I work with are resistant to an online presence or being the one to speak in public. They don’t believe it is part of their job. They believe their experience and work will speak for itself.
A C-level executive represents the company. To do that you need to be on stage, you need to be talking the talk, you need to have that presence in the community.
Get comfortable with being visible and being a thought leader to open those Executive doors.
5. You aren’t networking enough or in the right way
Ever notice how C-level executives, and even many VPs and SVPs don’t have time for social media. But the one platform they are on is LinkedIn?
Networking is key.
In the same way that your thought leadership is essential, so is your network.
Your network is what will get you to the C-level and is the network that you bring to the table.
Obviously the list goes on, but this is what you NEED to know and tackle, raise your own self-awareness of, and get comfortable with realising if you want to accelerate your career.