According to the Center for American Progress, women hold 52 percent of professional jobs but only 14.6 percent of women reach CEO status.
I asked Shirley Weis, recently retired from her position as the Chief Administrative Officer at Mayo Clinic, how she was able to make the leap into the CAO position of an organization with 60,000-employees and a budget of more than $9 billion.
Weis says that many women have been unaware of the rules of business success.
She offers these nine “playing to win” principles for advancing in the workplace.
1. The workplace is a big game
Work is a game. Before jumping in and committing mistakes, take some time to watch the action with these questions in mind: What are the rules? What is the strategy? What does it take to succeed at this game?
2. Know thyself
Take inventory of your strengths, weaknesses and skill set. Ask yourself, “Is this going to be satisfying for me? Am I willing to do what it takes to win?” There are no right or wrong answers here, but you need to know what will, and won’t, work for you.
3. Learn the rules
The Rules — with a capital “R” — are easy to find in a policy manual. The unspoken rules are trickier. They have to do with the informal or cultural rules. What is (and isn’t) shared in meetings? How do others interact with the boss? In order to be successful, you not only have to learn what the rules are, but also follow them or pay a penalty.
4. Who’s winning?
Define “winning.” Landing that big promotion? Developing work/life balance? What do you want out of life and your career? People who look to external sources to determine whether they are winning or losing are often unhappy. What are you willing to give in order to get your “wins” out of life?
5. Develop grit and perseverance
Take on assignments that no one else wants. Be seen as someone who is willing to take on tough projects and get them done. You may not be successful at all of them, but you will be seen as someone who is willing to try. Grit and perseverance make the difference between winners and losers.
6. Become an expert
In some workplaces there is a bias that assumes men are more capable than women. Becoming an expert removes this bias. What are you most passionate about? Become an expert on it. When a crisis arises (as they inevitably do), people look for the person who knows the most about the issue and who can address the problem: you.
7. Manage your losses
The road to success is paved with losses, and you must learn to deal with them. Admit the loss and move on. If you remember that this is a game, it helps you keep your perspective. In any game, there are mistakes made, and setbacks and obstacles to overcome. How we deal with the losses and learn from them is critical to our long-term success.
8. Keep the naysayers at bay
Some will criticize without understanding or caring about what you’re trying to do, saying, “I’m just being real and authentic.” Don’t let them get to you. Put on your game face. Connect with people who are supportive and who help you to become stronger without any personal attacks.
9. Know when it’s time to quit
Some think quitting is bad, but there are times when quitting is exactly the right thing to do. Maybe you don’t want to play this game anymore. Then it is time to leave. Learn to do this gracefully and with class. Always let your supervisor know about your plans before you share with subordinates and colleagues.
For more insights, check out Weis’ new book, Playing to Win in Business, which helps women (and men) navigate the sometimes-confusing waters of the workplace. Treating it like a game, learning and understanding the rules and playing well can lead you to great success.