Jill Griffin Reveals The Secrets To Getting Ahead In Your Career
Jill Griffin is on a mission: “My purpose and passion in life is to increase diversity in corporate boardrooms and to help women advance in their careers,” she said about her new book Women Make Great Leaders.
“The last chapter of my book Earn Your Seat on a Corporate Board was called ‘women make great leaders,’” Griffin said. “I realized I had more to offer. I needed to get in front of high ranking women who had made it to the top levels, get their stories and turn their stories into lessons.”
The book is divided into 24 lessons that women — and everyone — can use as a template for their own roadmap to the top.
One core lesson in the book is that often you have to take a career risk. That’s what Becky Bialock did to propel herself forward. Bialock was building her career in finance when she realized it was not the best fit for the long term. She wanted to move to a business development role. Since she had no experience in that she took a position that brought her two rungs down in the career ladder. For months she wondered if she had made a big mistake, but she kept plugging away at it, learning the business and doing her job as well as she could. In the end she got on the CEO’s radar screen and ended up running the department. As Griffin says, sometimes you have to take the risk to move back in your career so you can move forward.
The inevitable outcome of taking risks, of course, is experiencing fear. According to Griffin, you have to “face down fear. People call it nerves or stress but when you look at it it’s about fear and about how you personally deal with fear.”
She has her personal story of facing down fear. Griffin grew up with post-depression parents who transferred their fears of money to her. She carried that “black circle of fear” around with her for years until finally one day her own inner voice told her not to run away but to step inside of the circle. She stayed with the pain and the fear for a long time until finally it lifted. “I did a gut check and realized I was no longer afraid. That’s when I knew with certainly: I am stronger than my greatest fear.”
You can practice this, according to Griffin, by making a conscious effort to get out of your comfort zone regularly. Make cold calls, learn a brand new skill like music or drawing, put yourself into public speaking opportunities. Doing anything that is outside of your regular circle of people and activities can quality as a risk. Taking risks repeatedly and managing your fear will help desensitize you to allow you to take more risks over time.
When you take risks and invest in managing your fear the path opens up to practice another core element of getting ahead: being tenacious. The story of Sheila Hooda epitomizes this. Hooda, a native of Pune in Western India, grew up fast when her father died and her mother became a young widow. Hooda stepped in to help and, through that experience, developed tremendous drive and tenacity. That drive took her to get her MBA from University of Chicago, to McKinsey, to Wall Street, and ultimately to founding and leading her own financial strategy firm. She was named a “Director to Watch 2016” by Directors and Boards Magazine. Hooda was able to walk this path by being persistent and resourceful and, as she says in the book, “leaving no stone unturned.”
And of course, don’t forget to measure your results. “In my interview with Build-A-Bear Workshop founder Maxine Clark,” Griffin said, “she advised women to take jobs where their accomplishments and results could be quantitatively measured. That way, you can better prove your worth.” In other words, put yourself in situations where results can be measured, and make sure to highlight that impact you create. That way you eliminate any confusion about what you are capable of. “You can’t speed up years of experience,” Griffin said, “but you can focus on making the years you do have specifically measurable to help you get ahead.”
Why are these lessons just for women? They’re not, Griffin agrees. “Every one of these lessons a man could apply; but I am looking at the middle pipeline — that’s where woman are stuck. We need to help get more women into the C-Suite and ultimately onto the corporate board.”
Any last words? “I grew up in a town that’s a lot like the TV show Mayberry,” Griffin said. “So those formed my values. I think work is noble, people are kind and generous. I am relentlessly glass half full and I think when that’s your frame on the world you are more likely to be successful.”
Alisa Cohn is an Executive Coach and speaker who works with startup CEOs and executives and Fortune 50 executives. Follow her @AlisaCohn; find out more and sign up for her newsletter at www.AlisaCohn.com.
Originally published at www.forbes.com on August 6, 2017.