High-achieving women accomplish their goals, are highly skilled, and get the most out of themselves and their experiences; whatever they may be. They approach their careers and their lives with five key themes: agency, authenticity, connection, self-clarity, and wholeness (according to research from the Center for Creative Leadership).
Agency is fundamentally about us being the captain of our own ship and shaping our lives (and our jobs). Ruth Mahoney, President of KeyBank Hudson Valley / Metro NY District, who is responsible for dozens of regional banks suggests being specific and focused in developing our careers. She believes it is important to make our aspirations known, and asking for and being open to feedback – and then actually doing something with that feedback.
Authenticity is about being genuine – showing up in all areas of our lives as who we really are. We can see this in Kathleen Tierney, Executive Vice President and COO of Chubb Insurance, in how she deals with a mistake. She recommends owning up and acknowledging the mistake and considering what we can do with the information we glean. Authenticity requires vulnerability and curiosity – and these are great tools to deal with our mistakes. When we are living authentically, mistakes do not destroy our view of ourselves, rather mistakes are information to consider. Because mistakes are necessary in achieving or learning almost anything, managing mistakes is critically important to achievement.
The study also found that connection with other humans is a characteristic of high-achieving women – both professionally and personally. Tierney tells us that personal relationships have been key to her success in the workplace, and we know from the study that relationships outside actually support us inside the workplace.
The study refers to this as self-clarity. Self-clarity comes from understanding our values, motivations, and behaviors. It’s the desire to have a greater sense of self. Stacy Musi, a black belt in karate and managing director of Chadick Ellig Executive Search Firm, believes that establishing credibility is key to achieving our goals. To be credible, we really need to understand ourselves. Musi’s advice on credibility is an interesting mix of self-clarity and authenticity.
The last aspect of high-achievement the study points out is wholeness – which is the desire for experiences beyond work and the integration of those experiences with our work lives. It turns out high-achieving women value multiple roles, life beyond work, and a broader definition of success. The study notes that high-achieving women can feel fractured and are sometimes concerned about whether they are living in the wholeness, but it is nonetheless of great importance. This is encouraging because it tells us that there is a path to having wholeness in our life, which may in the end be the definition of “having it all.”
These five characteristics of high-achievement show up as tenacity, competence, results driven, vision, a focus on strengths, understanding the power of failure and apologies, not sweating the small stuff, stress tolerance, and emotional intelligence.
As we create our own definitions of achievement and work towards whatever that is, these five characteristics are important tools as we build lives that create an opportunity for ease, meaning and joy.
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