Thursday, December 1, 2011

From the Article Archive: Selling Your Technical Idea to Management, with Sophie Vandebroek, CTO, Xerox

Question: I have a great technical idea. How should I go about influencing it, and selling it to senior leaders?

Jo Miller answers:

I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Sophie Vandebroek, Xerox’s Chief Technology Officer, at the Grace Hopper Celebration. As we discussed the skills that technical women need to be successful, Sophie seized on the importance of influencing, and explained her philosophy of what it really takes to influence a technical idea and gain buy-in from management.

Her philosophy: if you have a great technical idea that you want to bring to your leaders, don’t just try to explain it to them! You first need to do your homework.

In Sophie’s experience, “it is not good enough to have a bright technical idea”. As a researcher or a technical person, you alone won’t have the necessary credibility to influence all aspects of the business plan that you must produce for management that would ultimately get your technology into the hands of a satisfied customer:

Step 1. Prove your technology will work
“Number one, you have to prove that the idea will work, by building a little prototype or building your code and showing what you can do”, she explained.

Step 2. Partner with people who have credibility
The next critical step is to use your network to accomplish what you can’t do alone.

Sophie said “I have seen too many projects led by great, passionate people fail because they tried to be a lone influence. You have to get all the right people in the boat with you.

There are many technical researchers and engineers who will write their own business plan. But when it comes to areas like financial, marketing, and understanding what the customer really wants, the plan will lack credibility.
“You might be right, but the most important thing is to get those people who have credibility around the business plan and the market, from all the divisions, to say that your idea is really great and set it to your management.”

“You need to bring together the entire human fabric”.

Sophie Vandebroek was interviewed on this topic by Ed Donahue & Ashley Myers at the Grace Hopper Celebration. Watch the interview on YouTube.

Jo Miller is CEO of Women's Leadership Coaching, Inc. Through leadership workshops, coaching programs and webinars, Jo helps women create their roadmap into leadership positions in business.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

In our latest newsletter: A key to senior-level career advancement

In the latest issue:

A Key to Senior-Level Career Advancement

Get a Coach!

Poised For Leadership workshop in Minneapolis

Nominate a Webinar Guest Speaker

Article Archive: How do I recession-proof my career?

Favorite Quote: The nerve for failure

Read it here . . .

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

From the Article Archive: How Do I Find My Niche

Question: Eleven years after entering the workforce, I still haven’t figured out what I want to become “when I grow up.” How can I know the best career direction to take?

Jo Miller answers:
One of the tactics I covered in my “Recession-Proof Your Career” session at the 2008 Grace Hopper Celebration is to know your personal brand.

One senior executive in charge of a multi-million dollar technology business unit that I interviewed recently shared that one of the best pieces of career advice she had received from a mentor was to know her career niche. Her mentor had advised her to “be famous for something” and to know her claim to fame. For this senior-level woman, it meant focusing her career around her greatest strength – sales – which led to an outstanding career.

In Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great,” he describes the parable of the fox and the hedgehog. A fox is a true multi-tasker with many talents. It is fast, stealthy, clever, and an excellent hunter. In contrast, a hedgehog has only one skill: it curls into a ball and pokes out its spines. Yet, the hedgehog does this one thing so well that the fox can’t beat it.

Collins discovered companies that consistently outperform competitors know what their “hedgehog” concept is and focus with laser-like clarity on being great at it. A similar principle works when identifying your niche and creating a powerful personal brand. It begins with giving up the temptation to be good at many things, but being famous for none of them.

But how do you choose what your focus should be?

Building from Collins’ concept, when considering what you want to carve a reputation for in your career, start by drawing a Venn diagram with three overlapping circles.

Name each circle for one of the three essential elements of a great personal brand:

Step 1. Talents
What are your greatest strengths, skills, and talents? (Or, which new ones could you easily learn?)

Step 2. Passions
What are your passions? (For example, what subject matter areas could you remain endlessly fascinated with for the rest of your life?)

Step 3. Market
What does your company, industry or market need, want, and reward? (Something for which you can be paid handsomely.)

Your challenge is to identify a niche where all three elements overlap for you – and one for which you could become synonymous with in your career.

Too many women try focus on their talents and passions without first investigating whether there is a market that will reward them. It is vital that all three conditions are met, but when they are, you can build an outstanding brand and a rewarding career.

What will you be famous for?

Jo Miller is CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc. Through leadership workshops, coaching programs and webinars, Jo helps women create their roadmap into leadership positions in business.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

From the Article Archive: How Do I Recession-Proof My Career?

Question: I am concerned about the economic downturn affecting my industry. What are steps I can take now to minimize the effects on my career?

Jo Miller answers:
Take the three following steps:

Step 1: Identify your personal brand.
Women who have outstanding careers are known for doing something well. They have found a career niche that combines their talents and passions. This is something that their company or industry needs and wants badly enough that they are sought after and highly valued.

One career-threatening mistake many women make is choosing a niche that fulfills their passions and uses their talents, but does not have the highest relevance to the marketplace.

Identify what you want your name to be synonymous with and aim to carve out a reputation for yourself as the go-to person in that area of focus. Select projects and roles that reinforce the brand and make your accomplishments visible.

Step 2: Analyze your network.
You can learn to navigate your profession or industry with savvy by understanding the dynamics of the network that surrounds you. Start by listing or mapping out your existing professional network by identifying all the different groups of which you are a part.

Make sure to include:

  • Your workplace team, department, and organization.
  • Your industry-wide network from school and past jobs.
  • Experts and others you have met through conferences industry events and miscellaneous networking.
  • And anyone else who could be considered part of your professional network.

Now identify the gaps: who are the key people you would like to include in your network? Who can connect you with opportunities, resources, and information, and to whom you can provide the same?

Step 3: Create your strategic networking plan.
After reviewing your existing network, and noticing the gaps, create a plan to build a broad network of authentic relationships.

The best networkers take time on a weekly, or even daily, basis to reach out and connect with new and old contacts with the goal of building and strengthening life-long relationships. I recommend setting a quota for lunches, coffee meetings, calls or email re-connects, and sticking to it.

As you do, educate others about your brand and learn about theirs so that you can connect each other with the right people and opportunities in future. Over time, as those relationships mature, you will be able to leverage these to gain access to hidden knowledge and opportunities and contribute the same in return.

Masterful net-workers do this with the knowledge that they will never need to seek out a job again: it will find them. This is the recession proof career.

Jo Miller is CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc. Through leadership workshops, coaching programs and webinars, Jo helps women create their roadmap into leadership positions in business.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Poised for Leadership workshop on October 27 in Germantown, MD

Poised for Leadership is a workshop for women who want to create a roadmap into positions of responsibility, influence and leadership in corporations.

In this one-day workshop led by Jo Miller, CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching, Inc, you will discover what it really takes to advance into leadership, including how to:

-Project a seasoned, credible leadership presence
-Gain visibility and reward for your accomplishments
-Build a reputation as a leader, expert or go-to person
-Understand the dynamics of power in your organization -Navigate organizational politics with savvy
-Build your sphere of influence
-Leverage your network to gain access to hidden resources, information and opportunities -Cultivate influence and get buy-in for ideas and initiatives
-Create, envision and lead high-profile projects.

Companies that have utilized Poised for Leadership to develop women employees include Apple, eBay, Bank of America, Intel, JDSU, Medtronic, Microsoft,, Siemens, Symantec, and numerous others.

Poised for Leadership has received rave reviews from women across the US and Canada.
Past participants have said:

"This was the best, most beneficial training I've attended in years."

"This seminar is one of the best I've ever attended. You'll walk away with a new inspiration and determination."

"Every point Jo made was relevant. We walked out with strategies for being a leader-not just in our workplace but in our daily lives."

Cost: $289 per person (or $269 per person for groups of three or more).
Date: October 27, 2011, 9:00 am to 4:45 pm

Location: JDSU, One Milestone Center Court, Germantown, MD 20876

Sponsored by: JDSU

Register now or learn more, at

Friday, September 23, 2011

Kim Zilliox brings the Leadership Academy to the Network of Executive Women (NEW) annual Leadership Summit

Following her success delivering a year-long Leadership Academy webinar series for the Network of Executive Women (NEW), Kim Zilliox, Vice President of Leadership Development with Women’s Leadership Coaching, Inc. was invited to bring the Leadership Academy to conference participants at NEW's annual Leadership Summit.

Kim's sessions on Negotiating and Influencing were enjoyed by over 300 women in the consumer packaged goods and retail sectors, who learned how to expand their professional networks, strengthen their negotiation and influencing skills, and gain new inspiration to be an effective leader.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

From the Article Archive: Building a Presence in a Global Virtual Workplace

Question: I read your recent column on self-promotion, however since I work remotely from most of my group and cannot present in meetings or catch people in the hallway, it is harder for me to be visible to management. Can you help?

Jo Miller answers:
I recently coached a woman with a similar issue. Perhaps her story can help you.

Ingrid was senior manager of a marketing communications team. She and her team had been well-known as the “go-to people” for the support services they provided to other groups within her company.

After a re-org, Ingrid’s team was moved into a different business unit, reporting in to a new leader. As a result, nobody knew who she was, or what she was responsible for. Ingrid’s new manager quickly recognized her as a star performer, worthy of a promotion, but this required selling the idea to a general manager who had no knowledge of Ingrid or her track record.
To make things even more complicated, Ingrid worked from home, managed a small global team, and rarely traveled to corporate headquarters.

Ingrid’s goal was to become visible to her team’s internal stakeholders and senior leaders, even though she worked remotely from them. Here are the five steps she took:

Step 1. Work less.
Too many women make the mistake of thinking that if they just worked harder, they would get recognized. Unfortunately, their reputation gets buried under a thankless pile of work. To remedy this, Ingrid allocated a couple hours per week, not to work, but to activities that made her more visible.

Step 2. Know your personal brand.
Ingrid thought deeply about what she wanted her name to be synonymous with, and created a 30-second introduction: “My name is Ingrid, and I am the Senior Manager of Marketing Communications. I am responsible for a, b, and c. You should come directly to me if you need x, y, or z.” She used this to reinforce her brand every time she was introduced to a new person or group.

Step 3. Know who’s who in the organization.
With help from her mentor, Ingrid reviewed her business unit’s org chart and identified the key players and teams that she needed to get to know.

Step 4. Create a strategic networking plan.
For every key person on her list, Ingrid identified a way to connect with them and build an authentic relationship. To do this, she arrived to teleconferences early to have time to small talk, made sure to prepare talking points and speak up during every teleconference, set up 20 minute phone calls with people she needed to get to know, scheduled ongoing check-in calls to strengthen working relationships, invited other managers to present in her staff conference calls (and vice versa), and created a team newsletter to update their stakeholders on monthly milestones. On the rare occasion that she visited HQ, Ingrid leveraged that time by using every available meal or coffee break to meet with key people.

Step 5. Make your accomplishments visible.
Ingrid did not want to overdo the self-promotion and make it seem like she was always bragging. As her coach, I pointed out that many women use this excuse to hold back from self-promoting at all and that it was time to strike an appropriate balance. To achieve that balance, Ingrid prepared short “soundbytes” describing her recent accomplishments and included those soundbytes in conversations at every appropriate opportunity: she publicly acknowledged her team (using both “we” and “I” statements), forwarded kudos emails from stakeholders to her leaders to read, showcased team accomplishments in a monthly newsletter, and proactively asked her manager and mentors to champion her accomplishments to senior leaders.

Five months after embarking on her plan to become more visible, every stakeholder in the department knew who Ingrid was and came directly to her for her expertise. The GM commented on how lucky they were to have gained Ingrid in the re-org and approved her promotion.

Jo Miller is CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc. Through leadership workshops, coaching programs and webinars, Jo helps women create their roadmap into leadership positions in business.

Monday, August 29, 2011

3 Tips to Becoming a Visionary Leader

By Jo Miller, CEO, Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc., Cedar Rapids

Are you a visionary? Most people wouldn’t answer yes.

Being visionary sounds like a lofty designation reserved for the rarest of business gurus. To anyone tending to the day-to-day running of a business, being a visionary can seem like an indulgence for which there simply is not time.

Though she would not refer to herself a visionary, Elizabeth Iversen, a vice president and general manager for Northrop Grumman Corp., was referred to me by employees who nominated her as an authority on this topic.

Read the full article at Business 380 Magazine . . .

Thursday, August 11, 2011

From the Article Archive: Five Key People You Need in Your Network

Question: As a program manager, I rely heavily on influencing without authority to get my job done. As part of my development plan, my manager suggested I expand my network among our internal business partners so I can be more influential; however, I don’t want to be seen spending too much time unnecessarily schmoozing. Where should I start?
Jo Miller answers:
Wise advice from your manager! Having a network of strong working relationships across your organization can connect you with hidden information, resources, and opportunities. Having a great network makes it easier to get your job done, influence outcomes, and gain buy-in more easily.
If you spend a lot of time building relationships with an agenda, people will be used to seeing you only when you need something from them. This trains them not to look forward to seeing you. My recommendation is to set aside a couple hours per week, to build relationships with people at times when you don’t need anything from them.
To maximize your time while you expand your network, consider starting first with these five key types of people:

Step 1. The Connector
The connector is a true “people person” who knows — and has great relationships with — everyone. They put others at ease. This person loves to open doors and make introductions. Watch them and learn!
Step 2. The Informational Powerhouse
This person is like a human grapevine. They love to keep a finger on the pulse and stay current on organizational issues. They filter useful information from gossip or noise and know about changes before they occur. Seek them out when you need to know about new trends, ideas, projects, opportunities, and so on, before they become official.
Step 3. The Influencer
The influencer is not necessarily a high-level or high profile leader, but they have a natural ability to make things happen. They get people on board with ideas and initiatives, gain agreement and collaboration from teams, and they have a voice with senior leadership. Their early support can guarantee the success of your initiatives and their advocacy can get you noticed.
Step 4. The Senior Leader Sponsor
These are your manager’s peers (and those ranked above them) and they have the power to dramatically accelerate your career. Interacting with them frequently can help you align your work effort with your organization’s strategic goals. They have the ability to single you out for recognition and connect you to special projects, task forces and committees, and new opportunities for growth
Step 5. The Mentor
Need I say more?
Many of the senior-level women I coach can trace their career advancement back to a turning point, where a mentor advised them on something they needed to be doing differently.
I often observe men using their mentors differently than women do — they are more proactive about asking their mentor to sponsor them. Consider asking your mentor to actively open doors and connect you with opportunities.
Jo Miller is CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc. Through leadership workshops, coaching programs and webinars, Jo helps women create their roadmap into leadership positions in business.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Registration is open for Poised for Leadership workshop in Burbank, September 29

The next Poised for Leadership workshop will take place in Burbank, California on September 29 2011, hosted by Yahoo! Women in Tech.

Poised for Leadership is ideal for early-career and mid-level women who want to create a roadmap for career advancement into positions of leadership and influence in business.

Here's what some past attendees had to say:

"I really like the section on influence and the examples given. It was an "Aha" moment for me."

"I wish I had this information early in my career. What an impact this will have on everybody's career and lives!"

"This seminar is one of the best I've ever attended. You'll walk away with a new inspiration and determination."

"Every point Jo made was relevant. We walked out with strategies for being a leader--not just in our workplace but in our daily lives."

The cost for this full-day workshop is $279 per person, or $259 if attending in a group of three or more.

Learn more, review the agenda, or register now

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Would I make a good leader?

When we talk about being a leader, it often sounds as though you need to dwell on gigantic, lofty issues — it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and not know where to begin.

From the many career-related questions people send me, one that stood out came from a woman in a midlevel role at a large corporation. She emailed: “My question comes in two parts. 1) How do I know if I would make a good leader? 2) Can you learn to be a good leader?”

Early in my career, I turned down an offer to take my dream job — my first true management position. Despite working hard to position myself as the ideal candidate, I felt the stakes were too high if I failed. I didn’t know if I had the chops to succeed...

Read the article by Jo Miller at Business 380 >>

Friday, July 1, 2011

From the article archive: Learning the Fine Art of Self Promotion

Question: What are ways to make my accomplishments visible without being seen as bragging?

Jo Miller answers:
I know far too many women who hold back from promoting their accomplishments, for fear of being seen as someone who brags too much. We’ve all known a colleague who overdid the bragging to the extent that they became a strutting, self-promoting peacock.

Many of the women I speak to say that their fear of becoming like that person holds them back from self- promoting at all — even when appropriate or necessary.

If you fall into this category, your finely tuned “B.S. detector” will prevent you from turning into an obnoxious over-promoter. You do need to seek out a healthy level of recognition, because in today’s corporate culture, that’s what gets rewarded.

Many women fall into the trap of thinking that getting recognized at work is like doing well in school, where working hard and getting good grades will guarantee recognition. But when you take this approach in the workplace, you’ll only get buried from view under a pile of work. Worse, your reputation as a “hard worker” will only attract more hard work!

As an example, I once coached a woman who was hired into her team just before an 18-month hiring freeze. For those 18 months, she was viewed by others as "the junior" on the team, or, as she put it in her own words "I was low man on the totem pole". Being an eager team player, she quickly built a reputation as “the fixer”, the one willing to dive in and address any problems that arose. Being somewhat humble, she never bragged or called attention to what she was achieving. And because she was so good at accomplishing her work effortlessly, no-one else was aware of the sophisticated problem-solving and change management skills she was using.

After toiling away un-noticed for those 18 months, she realized that she wasn’t building a brand as an achiever or leader or expert. In her own words, she was known only as “the pooper-scooper.”
Every time there was a sticky problem that no one else wanted to deal with, she was called in to fix it.

The solution was to reflect on her recent accomplishments, select those that best positioned her as a leader, then get the word out. Here are the steps she used:

Step 1
She listed out all of her accomplishments.

Step 2
From the list, she selected the ones that reinforced the brand she wanted to build. (Leaving out the pooper-scooping!)

Step 3
She promoted those accomplishments.

And, here are three ways she promoted her accomplishments and ways you can do the same without feeling sleazy.

Create a “soundbyte” or concise one-sentence description for each accomplishment. When someone asks “How are you doing?” don’t just tell them you’re fine. Take that opportunity to include a soundbyte: “I’m doing great. I just got nominated for the customer service award!”

When a customer or colleague sends an email praising you, forward it on to your leaders. All you need to add to the message is “FYI.”

When a significant project or milestone is accomplished, ask to present a report in your staff meeting and to other groups that may benefit from what you’ve learned. Volunteering to present brown bags works well, too.

Jo Miller is CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc. Through leadership workshops, coaching programs and webinars, Jo helps women create their roadmap into leadership positions in business.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Job opening: Administrative Professional

Women's Leadership Coaching, Inc. is hiring!

We are a small, boutique corporate training firm located in downtown Cedar Rapids, IA, and serving national Fortune 500 and global corporate clients. Due to growth in business, we have an opening for an experienced administrative professional.

This is a fast-paced, detail-oriented job. Our ideal candidate is a dedicated administrative professional, with experience as an administrative assistant, training coordinator, executive assistant, office manager or similar. Must be able to self-manage and be mindful of confidentiality. We have a creative, entrepreneurial atmosphere and can offer flexible or family-friendly hours.

Read the job description and apply here . . .

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Book recommendation: The Happiest Mom

The Happiest Mom is a beautifully designed book full of practical advice for busy professional Moms.

Edited by the very smart and wonderful Elizabeth Dougherty at Weldon Owen, this will make a lovely gift for yourself or a girlfriend.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Read the latest edition of our newsletter: Managing Former Peers

In this issue:
  • Managing Former Peers
  • Jo Miller interviewed by Business 380 Mag for the Biz Quiz
  • From the Article Archive: Getting Credit For Your Ideas
  • Poised For Leadership workshops in Cedar Rapids, IA and Burbank, CA
Read it here . . .

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

From the article archive: How Do I Delegate without Micromanaging?

Question: As the newly promoted manager of a small team, how can I delegate effectively? I need to ensure they are meeting critical deliverables without seeming like I am micromanaging them.

Jo Miller answers:
I recently met with a manager who is transitioning into a new role (fantastic!) and is training her replacement.

We were discussing the difficulties of handing over her work to the new hire, so just for fun I role played how delegation usually works:

Step 1
DELEGATE: Give the new hire a task.

Step 2
PROD: Follow up a few days later and ask, “Did you get it done?” (accompanied by a wild finger-jabbing gesture).

Step 3
Wake up to the fact that you’ve just become your worst nightmare: A MICROMANAGER.

After my demonstration, the manager burst out laughing and asked if I had been reading her mind.

The TASK->PROD style of delegating makes you guilty of “helicopter management,” hovering over someone, sending them the message that you don’t trust them to take ownership of their work. Or, if your style tends more toward conflict avoidance, you are left to guess at whether they will complete the task, and hope that a few passive-aggressive glances will guilt them into producing the goods.

Is there a better way? Well, yes! In a nutshell, the model for effective delegating goes like this:

Step 1
Describe the overall vision or objective. And check for their buy-in.

Step 2
Co-create clear expectations. Instead of telling them what needs to be done, ask what they would need to do, and fill in gaps as necessary to collaboratively create a set of action items.

Step 3
Co-create accountability. This is the part most managers leave out, leading directly down the path to micromanagement. Co-creating accountability means asking them how they want to be accountable. For example, ask, “How shall we check in?” Now as their leader, you must track accountabilities to provide a model for taking these important commitments seriously.

Step 4
Positively challenge them to deliver a high standard of excellence. Remind your team that they are smart, talented, and that you challenge them to deliver a high standard of excellence. Dare them to go for it!

Step 5
Give frequent feedback. Provide frequent feedback on where people are doing well and re-direct them immediately if things go off course.

Step 6
Celebrate their success! Now the most important step: acknowledge their success.

If you have caught yourself behaving a bit like a micromanager recently, your assignment is to review the six steps above and identify which one you need to do more of.

Jo Miller is CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc. Through leadership workshops, coaching programs and webinars, Jo helps women create their roadmap into leadership positions in business.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Jo Miller takes the Business 380 Magazine ‘Biz Quiz’

Jo Miller was interviewed by Business 380 Magazine for the ‘Biz Quiz’. Read her answers to questions including:

  • What’s the best day of the week to be in a meeting?

  • What do you always have close at hand at your desk?

  • Did you start out in this line of work? What did you think you’d be doing when you “grew up”?

  • How did you happen to come to live and work in Eastern Iowa?
Read it here . . .

Monday, May 16, 2011

Top 3 reasons to attend Poised For Leadership in Cedar Rapids on June 17

Why should you consider attending? Here are the top three reasons:

Reason #3:
Expand your network by meeting a terrific group of high-energy, high-potential up-and-coming women leaders (who, like yourself, are actively engaged in advancing their careers).

Reason #2:
Find out why women across the US and Canada are giving this workshop rave reviews, and consistently rate the facilitation and content at a satisfaction level of over 90%.

Reason #1:
De-mystify the career advancement process with our step-by-step roadmap to break into leadership, including how to:

-Project a seasoned, credible leadership presence
-Gain visibility and reward for your accomplishments
-Build a reputation as a leader, expert or go-to person
-Understand the dynamics of power in your organization
-Navigate organizational politics with savvy
-Build an influential network, and use it to access hidden resources, information and opportunities
-Cultivate influence and get buy-in for ideas and initiatives
-Create, envision and lead high-profile projects.

So, what are you waiting for? Make this your year to break out and establish yourself as an up-and-coming leader by attending Poised For Leadership! Register now