Being a female CEO is hard. In fact, every CEO job I’ve had has been really tough. But just because something is difficult doesn’t make it unsatisfying.
To the contrary, it’s incredibly rewarding to be at the helm of a company, particularly as it undergoes a transformation.
As a result of such experiences, I’ve been fortunate to be recognised with global CEO awards and other leadership accolades. I believe this is a direct reflection on my professional decisions to take on tough jobs.
Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way.
SING YOUR OWN PRAISES, AND BUILD THAT NETWORK
One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in my career was at a time when I was the CEO of Thomson Financial, and we were merging with Reuters. The CEO of the other company was appointed as the new CEO.
On paper I was more experienced and a credible operator. I had thought that if I put my head down and worked hard the results would speak for themselves. But, as women, the reality is that we need to make time to focus on how we are being experienced in the broader environment.
In hindsight, I realise that I hadn’t invested enough of my time and energy into building my image or networking up and out of the company. I learned that while it’s important to be an effective operator and a good CEO, sometimes you need to spend some time managing up and around you.
KNOW YOUR WEAKNESSES
Nobody is perfect: I’m certainly not. I process things very quickly which can sometimes be perceived as not listening to people, so I need to work very hard to make sure that people are experiencing me in a positive way. This means being careful not to ‘bulldoze’ others or be too overpowering, which is my natural inclination.
You have to act the way that you want to be experienced. I am aware of this and make sure I step back and really, completely listen to others. As a fast-paced thinker and decision-maker, this is something I am always striving to get better at.
It is also easy to get impatient. Be cautious to manage your patience carefully because sometimes you can be so impatient for everything that you might miss a few things.
BE A GAME PLAYER
A boss once told me, “You are ready to be the CEO of a company but there is just one thing you’re missing, you don’t play golf.” He said, “Once you learn to play golf, you can then be a CEO.”
I wasn’t too impressed by that comment. In fact, I was angered by it. But I decided to do whatever I had to do. It turns out a lot of business gets done on the golf course. So I picked up the clubs, gave it a shot and discovered that I loved the game. Now golf is a big part of my life and, business benefits aside, it gives me a huge amount of pleasure.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
A couple of years ago I did some research with a colleague of mine and one of the stand out findings was that women are unlikely to put themselves forward for a job unless they feel they tick every box. By contrast, a man might only tick two of the requirements but will still go for it, whereas women will hold themselves back.
This was validated for me on a recent trip to our Melbourne office, when I was speaking with a young woman who is just getting her first experience of being a manager and coach.
I asked this woman what her aspirations were and her response was along the lines of, “Oh, I don’t know, to be a leader… but I could never be somebody like you”, to which I said “yes you can. But you’ve got to believe it, if you don’t believe it you won’t achieve it.”
It’s so important to encourage more women to be ambitious and to stretch themselves. Quite frankly, I believe women leaders have a responsibility to be role models and encourage and support other women.
I’m incredibly grateful to be able to use my role as global CEO at ReachLocal to help women leaders and businesses across the globe succeed.