By Kelli Kiemle, AIF®, Managing Director of Growth and Client Experience as featured in Kiplinger
Attitude is everything? You bet it is when it comes to making it to the top ranks of any company. These tips from a woman in the C-suite are for ambitious women in any industry.
As I embark on my 16th anniversary at our firm while closing in on my 40th birthday, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on who I was right out of college, who I am now and who I want to become. When you live your life with a growth mindset, you must always be looking forward and understand that the learning is never done.
Like many women executives, I had a drive and desire from an early age to be successful, and I always set the bar high for myself. But even with all the motivation in the world, women still struggle to excel to leadership positions in equal numbers to men. According to BoardEx, only 5% of CEOs are women, and only 19% of corporate leadership team members are female. With the odds and challenges stacked against women in the workplace, I found myself not only lucky, but grateful for the lessons I’ve learned along the way as a woman in the C-suite.
My career path wasn’t linear by any means, and it has certainly been a roller-coaster journey filled with lots of highs and lows. But I ended up finding “my place” in the C-suite of a wealth management firm, a place where only 11% of C-suite executives were women a decade ago. It’s only fitting that these big milestones are also culminating during Women’s History Month, the perfect time to look back at the lessons I have learned during my journey to the C-suite and help inspire any other women who are looking to ascend the ladder.
1. Attitude Is Everything.
There is an inspirational quote from my dad that I have taped to my desk in my office: “Attitude is everything.” There were times in my life and career when I did not believe those words. It felt like people with natural talent or better connections were winning. But then I worked hard to create a mindset that a positive attitude does win.
It’s easy to get sucked into a rut and focus on others, but if you focus on negativity, then you are wasting time. When you are focused on the good, you are happier, more engaged, a better manager/friend/partner/etc., and people want to be part of your team. Others will take notice of your attitude, and it can help open doors for you down the road.
It’s not just me who’s noticed this phenomenon. There have been multiple studies about the link between positive mental health and success, one of which examines the “build hypothesis,” which states that over time, positive emotions enable people to build personal social, physical and intellectual capital. You might already be familiar with this concept via the Law of Attraction, but it’s something I can personally say is beneficial to not only your mental well-being, but a healthy work environment
2. It’s Less About the Job and More About the People.
When I talk to our graduating interns, this is something I always tell them: Focus on working for a good company and less about the specific role. My own experience post-graduation taught me that you may not always know your perfect-fit job right off the bat and that those you work with have a huge impact on your happiness within that role.
While I have always disliked anything math-related and thought I wouldn’t work in finance or accounting, I could have never been more wrong. Even though math wasn’t my strong suit, I found my people at Halbert Hargrove, where I interviewed for a client service manager position. My now boss of 16 years had created such a welcoming and hardworking team that I connected with. I knew I wanted to be a part of the growth and would also be given the opportunity to have my talents shine.
Finding a company that honors your talent and helps you thrive will help give longevity to your career. For any woman seeking a leadership role, this is essential.
3. Challenge Yourself to Keep Growing.
Everyone says to keep learning, and while I wholeheartedly agree, you must also make sure you are challenging yourself, too. Like many other high-achieving females, I need to be challenged by my work and have metrics to try to hit. Throughout my career, some of the hardest projects to implement have been my biggest headaches, but also my greatest joys.
During a period of deep self-reflection in my career, I discovered just how important challenges were to me and my personal success, and I know I’m not alone in that. Challenges create opportunities for growth, and with those sometimes painful lessons, come knowledge and experience that drive your value as an employee.
For women looking to reach the C-suite, you are bound to come across many challenges, like it or not. But if you learn to thrive in that space and accept that type of growth for what it is, you will become more likely to succeed in your goals.