• March 2010

Women's Management Skills: A Holistic Approach

By Dr. Alice Waagen
President and Founder
Workforce Learning LLC

Women business leaders bring a powerful perspective to the world of work. Why? Because women tend to view life as an ongoing matrix of interconnected relationships that can be leveraged to achieve results.

I believe this constant outward focus is unique to women, and results in a rich environment that focuses on much more than the financial side of the business.

And yet this constant outward focus can be overplayed and become a liability.

For women business leaders to succeed, they need to also focus inward on what brings them success, and what causes them to stumble. This inward focus can then be used to create a development plan to consciously grow success factors and mitigate those things that can be limiting.

Here’s how:

1. Make a plan

I am a huge proponent of strategically planning personal development. By plan, I mean more than just attending a sporadic conference or seminar. Start by writing a clear and succinct development goal that should be future oriented and closely linked with business goals.

The link between your goal and your business should be strong and clear. Why? Because when tempted to focus on work and ignore development, the business impact of not completing your development activities will become abundantly clear.

2. Identify those tasks and activities you will schedule and attend to address the goal.

Don’t limit learning to the standard classes and seminars for which we all sign up. Try to build a plan that involves active learning, like forming a mentor relationship with someone who is an expert in your area. And try this:

• Look for volunteer work that lets you try “dry running” skill sets.

• Free or low-cost webinars are prolific these days. Many of these come with reference lists and tips for increasing learning.

• Be creative. Try to come up with at least two or three tasks or activities per quarter to help you grow and learn.

3. Ask for help.

I am a big fan of business coaches and also see the value of identifying a “learning coach.” This person need not be a professional coach. He or she can simply be a supportive colleague who will meet with you, hear your goals, and keep you accountable and on track.

4. Embrace your support system.

I have a small group of “development buddies.” We meet every four to six weeks to report progress on our learning, and to challenge each other to stay on track. Some of my best overall learning comes from this group.

I not only share my accomplishments; I also learn from their successes and benefit from hearing how they’ve overcome challenges. Ask questions and learn from someone who has been there, done that.

5. Start today. Begin your development planning exercise by answering this question: What did I learn last year that had a positive effect on helping me meet my business goals?

Use the answer as the springboard for your 2010 development plan. If you are struggling to come up with an answer, then start today to plan your personal learning to support your 2010 business goals.


About Alice Waagen

Alice Waagen, Ph.D., is president and founder of WORKFORCE LEARNING LLC, a leadership development company she founded in 1997. In the past three years alone, more than 125 leaders from 24 different organizations have graduated from Alice’s unique leadership-development workshop series.

Previously, Alice served as senior director of corporate training for Amtrak in Washington, D.C., and director of education, training and development for Freddie Mac in McLean, Va. In both of those positions, Alice created and implemented workplace development programs that served clients from the shop floor to the executive suite.

For more information, contact Alice at alice@workforcelearning.com

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