President & CEO, WOMEN Unlimited, Inc.
This is the second in our series of blogs focusing on the impact of our programs on high potential women and their organizations. Program Manager, Claudia Montgomery, shares her insights on how IMpower works and its transformational effects on early career women and their managers.
Program Manager, IMpower Chicago
It’s hard to describe the excitement that comes over me on the first day of an IMpower program. When I meet a room full of high-potential, early-career women, I am energized by the challenge of helping each participant imagine a new path forward. I understand better than they do, their incredible potential to become the catalyst for their own career success –and the success of their organizations. It’s a thrill to witness each participant’s transformation.
Challenges and Expectations
As they come into the program, these women are in many ways maxed-out. Because of their talents and drive as high potentials, they are running at a ridiculous pace both personally and professionally. They have little or no bandwidth left. They can find neither the time nor the energy to stop, think, and plan “how to get from here to there.”
IMpower provides participants with a necessary “time out” to focus on advancing their careers and the specific strategies needed to make advancement happen. Through the program, they create a personal roadmap for career growth and development, learning critical skills and behaviors needed for success.
During the six program sessions, the women begin to transform. They become: more intentional about developing the skills they need to reach their goals… more willing to let go of behaviors that may have been effective until now, but may not be in the future…more agile learners, able to adapt to new challenges… and less risk averse.
The “power of IMpower” so to speak, is that it is grounded in experiential learning. Anyone can learn new concepts. The key question is: will they apply it to behavioral change? IMpower participants immediately apply each session’s learning, working out the kinks with the help of their Program Manager, mentors and the other talented women from a cross-section of organizations and functions. Participants return to their companies and put their new skills to the test with the support of their managers, who have been briefed on the program topic and materials. As a result, the learning sticks; behavioral changes are sustainable and confidence is based on real-world success.
By taking ownership of their careers, participants begin to show up differently and more confidently. While they are clearly competent, the vast majority identify confidence as a developmental need at the start of the program. IMpower helps to align competence and confidence, allowing participants to become more vocal and more visible to high-level decision makers.
In Their Own Words
No one pinpoints the benefits of the program better than the women themselves. Here are a few examples:
- “Self-awareness and confidence have been the most impactful outcomes of the Women Unlimited program for me.”
- “Through this experience, I have learned to be more intentional in my actions at work and at home and to ask for what I want.”
- “This program has given me “street cred” to approach senior leaders…and the confidence to know I belong in the same room with them.”
Benefits to Managers
In our post-program discussions with managers of participants, they pinpoint reasons the program exceeded their expectations:
- As a result of the increased competencies of their participants, managers feel more confident in giving them greater responsibility, and easing their own workload
- Often managers become better leaders as a result of participants sharing strategies and techniques they’ve learned during the program
- Managers often get a better handle on their own attitudes and behaviors that may unintentionally be holding back the high potential women on their team.
As women graduate from the program and return to their organizations, the learning continues and the benefits become more widespread, more viral. The impact of their participation is amplified not only among their immediate team, but in wider circles of the organization. Participants have an increased awareness of how men and women see the corporate landscape differently and how the potential for gender bias exists, often bringing these issues more front and center within the organization.
Overall, IMpower provides critical navigational tools that enable both individuals and organizations to experience significantly greater success with situations that were formerly challenging.