Wednesday, July 9, 2014

4 Times You Should Say No to Additional Responsibilities

If you’re like most professionals, you’ll eventually reach a point in your career when you realize that you can’t advance to the next level without being able to show that you have relevant experience—a lot of it. 

One way to demonstrate that you have potential to grow beyond your current role is to take on “stretch” assignments. But how? How can you say “no” to stretch assignments without also saying “no” to furthering your career?

Read Jo Miller's article for The Daily Muse.  

Image courtesy of Idea go/  

Friday, June 27, 2014

4 Things Your Boss Won’t Tell You About Advancing Your Career

A vice president of a financial company once told me, “Make a plan—or someone else will make one for you.” And this advice is never truer than when it comes to taking charge of your career.

If you’ve worked hard, fulfilled your responsibilities, and received positive performance reviews, then you’ve successfully followed what most people would call a career development plan. Unfortunately, that’s a far cry from what I call a career advancement plan. To make significant forward movement, you’ll need to go beyond being great at your current job—but, as I often tell clients in my leadership coaching practice, if you’re waiting on advice from your boss about how to do that, you’d be wise not to hold your breath.

Read Jo Miller's article for The Daily Muse.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ 

A Perfect Come-back to Matt Lauer’s Dumb, Sexist Interview Question

On Thursday, Today Show host Matt Lauer asked GM CEO Mary Barra this question about her suitability to be both a mom and a CEO:

“Given the pressures of this job at General Motors, can you do both well?”

There is, of course, no record of Lauer having asked a similarly-ranked dude the same question.

Barra replied with perfect poise, “You know, I think I can” and went on to describe the support she receives from her team and family. But just imagine the backlash she would have been subjected to had she declined to answer, or even worse, called him out.

As the topic trended on Twitter, hands down the best tweet came from @Jezebel who asked “Can Matt Lauer be both a sexist _____ and a good dad?”

When you’re asked a dumb, sexist question, is there ever any good way to respond?

Years ago, a coaching client who was going for a senior-level position was asked the same question in a large group town-hall style job interview. Someone in the audience yelled “You can’t ask that. It’s illegal!”

She smiled innocently, answering the question with a question. “How did (the other candidates) Mr. X and Mr. Y answer that?”

People cheered. She got the job, and became one of the highest-ranked women in her profession.

What’s your favorite come-back to a dumb, sexist question?

Jo Miller is CEO of Women's Leadership Coaching, Inc. Follow her on Twitter at @jo_miller

Thursday, June 12, 2014

6 Secrets of Women Who Get Promoted (slideshow)

Are you capable of more than the job you are doing today? Here are 6 things you need to know about how to get a promotion. 

Jo Miller is CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching, Inc. and a leading authority on women’s leadership. Are you a rising women of influence? To have leadership articles and advice delivered to your inbox, sign up for Jo's newsletter. Or follow Jo on Twitter at @womensleadershp

4 Ways to Build Instant Influence at Your New Job

 Congratulations. You got the job! Now the real challenge begins: hitting the ground running.

I once interviewed a C-level leader from the retail industry about the importance of quickly getting the lay of the land when coming into a new role. “The first step I take when taking on a new assignment or project is what I call ‘surveying the landscape,’” she said. “I study my surroundings, and I try to understand the people and processes that drive value in that particular area.”

Read Jo Miller’s article for The Daily Muse.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Emerging Leader Spotlight: Monica Bajaj

Every month we ask an emerging leader we admire to share what she is doing to take the lead in her career. We invite her to share how she achieved her current position, what obstacles she encountered on her climb, as well as tips for how to be a rising woman of influence. This month we shine the Emerging Leader Spotlight on Monica Bajaj, Senior Engineering Manager with  NetApp.

What key steps did you take to get to the role you are in today?
I believe that a good education is the first step towards the door of opportunity. The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you. While going to school to enhance my career, there was one fact that has rang true consistently; education is the core foundation that will lead to many opportunities for me, anywhere in the world.

I grew up and studied in India but I always had the desire to experience new opportunities. After finishing with my grad school degree in engineering, I taught as an assistant professor at an engineering institute. Later, I decided to work in the technology industry, which led me to make the decision to come to the United States, where I saw the promise of new experiences and a way to create my own future.

I began my journey over 20 years ago, and at that time my new opportunity was considered quite a challenge because it was not common for women in my culture to travel alone to a strange country; however, during this transition, my parents and brother were fully supportive and continued to keep my morale up and support me. Despite all the hurdles living in an alien country, I did not want to give up and I landed a job in a high tech firm and I have never looked back! I am grateful that I had the support of my family and I don’t think I would be the successful individual that I am today without their encouragement.

As the years have passed and I have created a family of my own, this is still true. Whenever I have the urge to try new things, my spouse and children have supported me tremendously in keeping a balance across my personal and professional life.

“I believe in taking the lead and making things happen.”

What steps are you currently taking to improve yourself, professionally?
I believe in taking the lead and making things happen, rather than waiting for someone to tell me or ask me. I also feel that leading by example motivates other folks around you to also be a part of any given initiative. While going for higher studies or growing in my professional career, I never limited myself to any given role or team. I started my career in engineering as a developer and decided to move into management role after nine years. While working in various startups for almost nine years, I got an opportunity to perform roles in product management and engineering management for onsite and remote teams. Such opportunities in turn gave me a great insight about building the entire product from scratch and manage multiple teams.

“I am a big supporter for women to emerge as successful leaders and not shy away from showing their strengths.”

What is the next step you plan to take in your career to develop your leadership skills?
I would like to take over more strategic and tactical roles which align with the current business and company needs. I strongly believe that it is important to be self-aware, leverage your own strengths, and work on the areas where you need to excel.

Currently, my role at NetApp covers two facets; the technology side where I am the face for the overall software quality of the protocol/product I deliver; I am equally responsible to be seen as a strong leader in the software quality community across NetApp. In order for me to be influential and ensure that I am well known across the board, I have been able to lead and drive opportunities, as they approach. I work closely with senior leaders at NetApp to represent my group across multiple forums.

Outside NetApp, I have also been a panelist for the “When She Speaks” Women in Leadership Series event, presented by Fountain Blue Organization. I am a big supporter for women to emerge as successful leaders and not shy away from showing their strengths.

“Use your strengths as your brand.”

You attended Jo Miller’s Poised for Leadership workshop in April. Would you mind sharing a few takeaways from the session?
First of all, I would like to thank Jo for giving me an opportunity to introduce her when she led this workshop at NetApp. 

I learned never to shy away from sharing your accomplishments with data, to use your strengths as your brand, and to always have a mentor and a sponsor.

Want to reach out to Monica directly? Connect with her via LinkedIn.

Office Politics: Women balk, but they need to know how to play the game to land leadership roles

Many women may cringe at the mere thought of office politics, but experts say businesswomen who aspire to executive posts avoid workplace dynamics at their own career peril.

Ignoring office politics “can be one of the biggest career killers,” said Jo Miller, CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc. of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She conducts workshops and other programs for women aspiring to career leadership positions. In a survey of 100 emerging female professionals in the high-tech industry, she found that only 2 percent strongly felt they knew how to handle office politics in a positive and effective way. Miller, speaking with SHRM Online, also cited a 2013 LinkedIn and Citi survey (Today’s Professional Woman Report) of 954 professional women, which found office.

Read more in HR Magazine.

The Top Five Most-Read Articles This Month

In case you didn’t get a chance to browse the blog in the past month, here are the top five most-read articles

1.  Know Your Niche: 5 Leadership Quotes about Finding Your Career Sweet Spot (850 views)

2. 5 Ways to Motivate Yourself (and Everyone Around You) (442 views)

3.  8 Ways to Stay Motivated and Engaged at Work (slide show) (165 views)

4. Emerging Leader Spotlight: Andrea Bond, Southwestern Energy (133 views)

5. Why Avoiding Office Politics Could Hurt You More Than You Know (108 views)

Thanks for reading; see you next month!! 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Leadership: The Feminine Way Forward

Image courtesy of Keerati/

Leadership is no longer a man’s game. Despite the statistics suggesting that women are still the second sex in boardrooms and senior positions across the world, it seems that the leaders that are succeeding have embraced the female way of ruling

The Leadership Communication Monitor 2014 surveyed 6,500 people in 13 countries across 5 continents on the subjects of effective leadership and communication, finding that although “the world may look more to male leaders, female leaders top the charts in all the areas that matter most”.

Jo Miller, one of the foremost career coaches in the US with her company Women’s Leadership Coaching, highlights similar studies done several years ago, which yielded equally promising results…

Jo advises career women and executives all across the world on how to be become a leader and she is adamant that leadership, like confidence, is about authenticity.

Read the article at Business O Feminin.

Influencing Upward: The Skill You Need to Get Ahead

Image courtesy of sumetho/

Have you ever been in a situation where you feel like you just can’t get through to your boss?

Maybe you had what you thought was a breakthrough business idea get shot down before you could even really get into the details.

Read Jo Miller’s article for The Daily Muse.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Know Your Niche: 5 Leadership Quotes about Finding Your Career Sweet Spot

Have you ever asked yourself What's my career superpower? Okay, maybe not, but before you roll your eyes at the suggestion, heres something I have discovered: seasoned leaders are able to succinctly articulate what they do well, why their skills are uniquely valuable, and how this differentiates them from their peers. It is one reason why they are where they are today.

So before climbing the career ladder, it can be helpful to ask yourself, “Is my ladder propped against the right building?” In other words, what is your niche? Don’t just focus on getting the next job. Sustainable, long-term advancement comes more easily when you set out on the right career trajectory in the first place.

Instead of committing yourself to simply “getting ahead,” do some serious self-reflection and identify a career “sweet spot,” or niche, that fits your passions, values, and strengths—and is sought after by your company or industry.

To help you find your sweet spot, I’ve corralled some of my favorite leadership quotes and gathered them here to help you systematically drill down to find the secret ingredient in your professional awesomesauce.

1. Know your vision, values, and goals

Romea Smith is the Senior Vice President of Customer Support for CA Technologies. Romea suggests that you, Establish your personal vision, values, and goals because if you have those, you know where you want to go. It helps you to see when there are opportunities that fit in with that vision. It keeps you from going on a path that is not consistent with what you believe in.”

Romea continues, “If we have a clear idea of what our personal values are, then we don’t take on things that cause us to sacrifice our self-esteem or integrity. We know exactly what we need to sustain us and to fulfill the goals that we have set out to achieve, and we apologize to no one for that. Knowing our own personal values allows us to understand how the organizational values align with our own.”

2. Identify your passion and where it fits

Sharell Sandvoss is the Vice President and Finance Director Europe for Brown-Forman Beverages, whose portfolio includes such brands as Jack Daniels, Canadian Mist and Southern Comfort. With a passion for fine spirits and bold leadership, Sharell is a perfect fit for the organizational vision of her company.

But what about you? What is your niche and how can it help you and your company grow together? To find out, Sharell suggests, “Know your passion and evaluate how it fits with your role, your company, and the strategy of the company. Make sure you’re comfortable doing what it is that you want to do. It’s the best for you, your company, and your career in general.”

3. Develop your own style

As the Territory Services Leader for IBM, Debra Aerne knows both the value of leadership and of crafting one’s own style while moving up the corporate ladder. Indeed, that’s her advice for emerging leaders: “Develop your own style,” she recommends. “Figure out what works for you and mold the process to match your strengths. Building on that style, be thoughtful and define what success means to you. Don’t look at how other people do it and try to emulate that because if it’s not genuine, it won’t be true, and it won’t reflect well on you.”

4. Know what you’re not good at

Jill Jones is Executive Vice President and President, North America and Latin America for the Brown-Forman Corporation. Jill believes strongly that you should, “Know what you are good at and what you are not good at. Before you take a job,” she warns, “sit down and ask yourself, ‘What am I really, really good at and what do I need to develop?’ Then ask, ‘What does the job call for, and am I a good match for that? Can I be successful?’ If it is not a good match, will you be able to develop that skill set? That is the first hurdle.”

5. Know yourself and be authentic

Dara Bazzano Jones, VP of Finance, Controller, GAP Inc., has the final word when it comes to identifying your career sweet spot, and it’s a fitting message for any stage of your career.

“Know yourself and be authentic,” she says. “People know when you’re a fake, and they’re not going to trust or respect you if that’s the case. So, be who it is that you are. You’ll be amazed at how much further you’ll get within an organization when you embrace being yourself.”

This starts with being real about the job, the opportunity it presents, and whether or not it’s the right fit. Finally, Dara suggests, “If your skill sets match up to the job, then ask yourself, ‘Is this someone I want to work for?’ Even if you have everything worked out, even if it’s a promotion, if you don’t want to work for this person, in the end, it either breaks your spirit, or you don’t succeed.”

The Takeaway: Whats Your Sweet Spot?

Now put it all together to identify your ideal career niche. Ask yourself: What could you be doing more of in your career that aligns your passions and strengths? Is there something youre great at, that you could do in your own authentic style? Would it be possible to maneuver into a role or career path where you get to do all of that, while delivering a service to your company or industry that will have you be sought after and highly valued?

Once you find it, Kieth Cockrell, Divestiture Executive with Bank of America would encourage you to stick with it, and make a difference. “Do your best to stay in your leadership sweet spot,” he urges, “because its not work; its not hard for you; it just comes very naturally and you have the opportunity to be impactful.” 

So before you take your next step up the corporate ladder, make sure it’s in the direction of your sweet spot!

Jo Miller is CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching, Inc. and a leading authority on women’s leadership.

Are you a rising women of influence? To have leadership articles and advice delivered to your inbox, sign up for Jo’s newsletter. Or follow Jo on Twitter at @womensleadershp.

Emerging Leader Spotlight: Andrea Bond, Southwestern Energy

Name: Andrea Bond
Current title: Community Relations Manager
Company: Southwestern Energy
Favorite leadership quote: “Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.”–John C. Maxwell

Editor’s note: While serving in Iraq, Captain Andrea Bond earned her place in history as part of the first all-female Blackhawk mission. Read all the details here.

What key steps did you take to get to the role you are in today?
I took an opportunity and ran with it! Southwestern Energy (SWN) is my first “real job” outside of the military. I have worked for the military for so many years that the thought of working in a corporate environment was intimidating to me. I was excited but nervous at the same time.

Taking this position required me to relocate from Minnesota to Texas. It was a difficult decision for me to move away from family but I believe in living my life with the concept that I would rather try and fail, than live with the regret of not trying at all.

I remain focused and dedicated to achieving my personal and professional goals by believing in myself and knowing that I have a great deal to offer SWN and the industry. Plus the companys environment is supportive and encouraging of its employees, in regard to personal and professional development, which makes it a great place to work.

Image credit: Eric Bowen



What is your leadership style?
I am an involved leader. When I was deployed to Iraq, my soldiers addressed me as Ma’am or Mom (depending on the circumstances) which was an honor. It confirmed that they respected my leadership abilities and trusted me to be a supportive confidante.

Image credit: Eric Bowen

 “ parents instilled the value of teamwork, hard work, getting the job done right, being creative and innovative and caring about others...

What tools or resources have you used that have been crucial to your success?

My upbringing taught me the most about success. I grew up on a dairy farm in Southwest Minnesota where my parents instilled the value of teamwork, hard work, getting the job done right, being creative and innovative and caring about others along the way.

Also, my military background has been crucial to my success. Being in the service, trained me to trust and challenge myself, as well as, to make decisions and execute them in various levels and situations.

What is the next step you plan to take in your career to develop your leadership skills?
Due to the fact that I am just starting out in the oil and gas industry, my main goal is to educate myself on topics that are important to the business. I plan to do this by researching and studying on my own but also through networking and professional education events and courses, which has enabled me to learn more about industry and the company.

I am energized by the thought that no one can take better care of yourself or your career than YOU!!!

Recently, you attended Jo Miller’s session, Take Charge of Your Career Trajectory, hosted by Southwestern Energy in Houston, TX. What did you gain from the class that you will use moving forward in your career?
By attending Jo’s session I am reminded that networking is so important and that I should never stop communicating or collaborating!

Also, it was great to see people in attendance become inspired and motivated and I believe they are both vital to personal and team victories.

Finally, I am energized by the thought that no one can take better care of yourself or your career than YOU!!!”