For Incoming I.B.M. Chief, Self-Confidence Rewarded - NYTimes.com.
Virgina Rometty is a successful and experienced executive at IBM. So successful, in fact, that she will take over the position of CEO on January 1, 2012. Named one of the "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" for seven years straight, Ms. Rometty will also be the first woman to take over IBM. If you are familiar with her path to success, this may appear as the story of a woman reaping the rewards of hard work and preparation. However, Claire Cain Miller, of the New York Times, writes about Rometty's own journey, which includes embracing the fact that she has not always felt like the incredibly capable and confident executive that one may imagine.
Ms. Rometty succeeds, despite living and working in a world that often discourages women from pursuing careers in science and technology, or becoming CEO, for that matter. However, her success was quite intentional, especially when one considers what it took for her to break ground on new opportunities and the shedding of stereotypes for all women, not just herself.
“What it taught me was you have to be very confident, even though you’re so self-critical inside about what it is you may or may not know,” she said at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit this month. “And that, to me, leads to taking risks.”
Ms. Rometty promotes the taking of risks, thinking outside the restrictions we impose on ourselves and keeping self-doubt in proportion to our understanding of our abilities. I believe that this approach can be very helpful. It is easy to get overwhelmed with self-doubt and introspection about what faults or weaknesses we possess. However, even the greatest leaders have moments of great doubt and uncertainty.
There is a consequence to every action and risk is inherent in everything we do. It is inescapable. We are usually unaware of all consequences, desirable or not. Therefore, we must learn how to build upon the faith that we do have in ourselves, available opportunities and the vast resources around us. Like Ms. Rometty, women must embrace risk. Keeping things "safe" may be comfortable, uneventful and possibly enjoyable, but it won't quell the desire of those women who truly want to explore their limits. So how does one deal with their fear while reckon with their hunger for growth, success and overcoming challenges?
Among the strategies I find integral in promoting professional success and the ability to take risks, I find the following recommendations the most important in keeping people moving forward, maintaining their feet on the ground and removing some of the fear.
- Set Your Agenda. It is important for you to work hard and be the best team member you can be. However, setting the agenda is not about your loyalty to a company. It is all about your loyalty to yourself. It is critical for you to know what is important for you as a person and as a professional. You are ultimately the only one responsible for yourself and your well-being. Don't be afraid to draw a line when it needs to be drawn. Know your moral and professional code. It may be difficult to defend at times, but many will seek you because of it in the long run. Know the values and ethical codes that will guide your life, not just your career.
- Embrace Discomfort. Seek what makes you uncomfortable. Face your fears. Acknowledge your shortcomings. Willingly put yourself in a position that will challenge your abilities. Begin slowly and assess the experience. Be mindful of your response, both in how the initial stress made you feel and in how you felt afterwards. Slowly building a positive record in successfully handling challenges will provide a great learning experience and heighten your confidence. Growth is a product of learning about oneself and the skills we need to succeed during moments of adversity. Ms.Rometty, like many other successful women, probably remember several keys moments when they had to cross that bridge.
- Be Flexible. Part of taking risks is being open to doing things that you may have never considered. Challenges have a way with being unexpected, often inconvenient and possibly unsettling. However, if we aware of ourselves and open to taking some healthy risk, then flexibility will be key in developing the malleability and resilience needed to lead.
- Be Honest. You must acknowledge the many great skills, experiences and results that have manifested as a result of your effort, dedication and consistency. Your success is not an accident! Make sure to create two resumes. The first should be a comprehensive resume that Includes every piece of education, training, certification, published material or recognition of note throughout your career. Did you recently attend a training? Put it down! The second should be a resume suitable for applying to jobs within your field. Work on it and keep it polished. When you go to networking events, have it ready. You may feel a little doubtful at times, but your resume speaks the truth. It speaks to your abilities, strengths, passion and your value as a future part of a team. As you begin to develop new skills, your resume will reflect it. When you're feeling a little doubtful, let your resume remind you of the gradual and intentional path you have taken.
- The Success Ladder. You are not the first person to experience the "ups and downs" of the journey towards success. Nurture relationships with people you admire, people you think excel and represent "the best" on the rungs above you, below you and in between. First, people on the rung above will know what it is like to be in your shoes. They will impart wisdom and support, as well as help keep your self-doubt in check. These people will also help you determine your next step. Next, find those who are the same rung you are. They will help you realize that you are not alone, in both victory and defeat. Finally, mentor those on the rung below you. Not only will you do good for others, but you will reinforce your position as a valuable and knowledgeable resource. This will help you learn to see yourself in a new light, with greater confidence and self-appreciation.
- Network and Explore. Having your finger on the pulse of the job market within your particular field can help you accurately assess where you are, determine areas for improvement and recognize the ways in which you stand out from the others. The opportunity to participate in an overall assessment will help you feel more secure and develop greater understanding about your value. People often feel more doubtful when they place themselves in the corner, failing to acknowledge the options they may have in front of them. Work diligently towards developing the connections that can help you learn of available opportunities, as well as help you keep tabs on your own progress. Assess your situation and your level of satisfaction. Often times, doing so will either inspire us to make a change or develop gratitude for where we are. However, seeing what is available in the job market affords us the opportunity to asses our situation. We can always speak and perform at higher levels if we possess confidence, enjoyment of the daily challenges and appreciation of where we are. It is important to see the horizon up ahead, while enjoying the spot providing the opportunity to see the bright future awaiting us.
- Be Inspired. Develop a list of goals that you would like to accomplish within the short-term, long-term and in between. Include goals that are reasonable and represent your expected progression. However, be ambitious and think of goals that are possibly a little out of reach, exciting and really interesting. Think out of the box! Don't set any limits! Brainstorm a healthy list of goals and then narrow them down to a list that you can tackle in the appropriate length of time. Regardless of the ups and downs you face in your career, you can always focus energy on improving yourself personally and professionally. This continued effort will pay off in every area of life.
- Take it Slow. Successful people have always told me that success takes time. Think of it like your favorite recipe that takes gobs of patience, skill, and time. Your life is like that recipe. Actually, it is far more precious! It is hard to remember that we must be very patient in a world that rewards instant gratification. People want results now. However, a successful career is the product of gradual and intentional victories, hard lessons, failures, surprises, hard knocks, memories and the sweet nectar of fulfillment. Your most important asset is your education, training and the skills, strengths and characteristics you bring to the table. Invest in yourself and become the best person you can be. Read. Share. Help others. Challenge your thinking. Find ways to grow. Ultimately, think of rise to the top as a 20 year journey. The only one setting limits is you. The only one imposing artificial measures of success is you. Create a plan, work hard, allow things to evolve, adjust, and you will find your way!
Like Virginia Rometty, you may one day find yourself at the pinnacle of achievement. However, remember that it is all a matter of strategy, tenacity and gumption. Greatness never happens by accident. Genius is not a prerequisite for success. Perfection is not a required characteristic; however, self-awareness, vision and the ability to dive into the ocean of opportunity are necessary. I believe the answer is simple: get your stuff together, check your equipment, get a good night's rest, eat a lean breakfast and jump into the water! Good luck and remember the first day you set off to achieve your dream.