Making It While Female — Career Advice from Best-Selling Author, Speaker and Executive Coach Peggy Klaus

theBoardlist interviews the dynamic, no-holds-barred Peggy Klaus

Peggy Klaus

1. Based on your experience working with so many women in leadership roles, what do you think is the #1 thing women struggle against in their careers?

Peggy Klaus: There are several things that women struggle with so it’s difficult to choose just one. But, if I have to, I would say it’s the imposter syndrome: the feeling that you are bluffing your way up the ladder because you really aren’t good enough or smart enough to be in this role, have this much responsibility and/or make this much money. The imposter syndrome is rampant among women, regardless of the type of work or success in their career. And, although I have heard men voice these sentiments, women are far more vocal about expressing their self-doubt.

2. How would you advise a client who doesn’t feel like they’re achieving their specific career goals as quickly as they’d like?

PK: First, I’d advise her to take a step back and assess why she feels that way. What does the data show? What exactly has been happening (and/or not happening) in her career to make her conclude this? As she looks at her initial goals, how far off is she from meeting these targets and was she realistic in thinking she should have achieved these goals by now? What could she be doing differently to accomplish her goals and what would be an acceptable pace and ideal date for meeting those targets going forward? I’d also suggest that she talk to people whose business acumen she trusts to provide feedback, ideas and support.

3. What are your tips for someone who is earlier in their career, as a Sr. Manager or Director, who is working to become more confident and take the next step to the executive team?

PK: Because of cultural norms and biases, women struggle with the basic concepts of self-confidence and self-promotion. And because of that, women find it difficult to go after the next position in their careers. When that happens with my clients, I begin our coaching with what I call a personality, communication and leadership PLUS DELTA: A Plus is what you believe to be a strength (e.g. analytical, friendly, politically savvy). Delta is what you would like to improve (e.g. impatience, arrogance, negative attitude). After doing this exercise — which is not easy by the way — professionals have a much clearer picture of their value, skills and talents, making it is much easier to move ahead and ask for that stretch assignment, new job, title, bonus or promotion.

4. How important is personal branding for executive women who want to get on their first (or next) board?

PK: Your personal brand is everything: it is the way people know and think about you. In today’s competitive environment, self-branding is an essential element of establishing your reputation and distinguishing yourself from the pack. Your brand conveys to a board what you can bring to them in terms of your expertise, talents, experience and core values.

5. Your recent New York Times article tackled women-only events and the necessity for men to be involved in the conversation about workplace equality. Were you surprised by any feedback on the article?

PK: I had a feeling that the topic and my take on it would garner a lot of attention but I was truly shocked — and thrilled — at just how much attention it got. I heard from Fortune 500 CEOs, as well as entrepreneurs, diversity and HR professionals along with “regular business folks” — men and women — who thanked me for bringing this subject out into the open and giving them a way to start the conversation in their companies so that they could do things differently and more effectively.

6. If a client came to you and said they only had 10 minutes a day to devote to their career growth journey, what would you tell them to do every day to reach their goals?

PK: A lot can be done in just 10 minutes. Taking the time to reflect on the following is extremely helpful:

· What did I do today to get me nearer to my goals?
· Could I have done anything else (in relation to these particular things) to have moved this along?
· What can I do tomorrow?
· Is there anything else I need to be doing?
· Is there anyone else, and if so who, that I could reach out to for help?

7. What do you find difficult to brag about?

PK: While I’ve been nicknamed “The Brag Lady,” I probably have the hardest time talking about BRAG CONNECTIONS — a program I created years ago which reaches thousands of aspiring teens and disadvantaged women. These are roughly two-hour, highly-interactive events where professional women (and sometimes men) from one or several companies team up with teens or disadvantaged women from schools or special programs and learn the essential soft skills so crucial for success both in school and the workplace. Many participants have told me the skills acquired during a BRAG CONNECTIONS event are life-transforming. My dream is for several companies to sponsor these events throughout the country for a year.

8. What’s in your five-year plan?

PK: A vacation, for sure, and I’d love to do more coaching and training work with women and men leaders, girls, students and politicians around the world.


In cooperation with our Sponsor, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich Rosati, Peggy Klaus will be delivering her insights and practical advice to candidates from theBoardlist on September 12 in San Francisco. We’ll post highlights from the event next week!