President & CEO, WOMEN Unlimited, Inc.
This is the last in our series of blogs focusing on our cornerstone programs, IMpower and LEAD, from the perspective of their program managers. Carey Albertine, LEAD Program Manager, answers some frequently asked questions.
NJ Program Manager, LEAD (Learn Engage Achieve Deliver)
What are the main challenges women coming into LEAD need to address?
These women have been highly successful as tactical middle managers. Their challenge is to take on new behaviors that will help them transform to senior executives including:
- a better understanding of how they fit into the larger scope of the organization
- broadening their networks and their relationships
- becoming more strategic
- communicating precisely and clearly to senior leadership and focusing conversations on ROI
Overlaying all of these challenges is the reality that mid-career women are overtaxed and triple booked. How can they create the time and space to make needed shifts?
What are managers expecting from the LEAD program?
Managers want their LEAD participants to develop an executive presence and a willingness and ability to advocate for their point of view. They want their women team members to come up with recommendations, rather than data. They are looking for their women to be more ready to take on larger projects with greater organization-wide impact.
What are the two or three biggest changes you see as women make their way through the program?
Pretty much, the women respond to and overcome the challenges I outlined above. They transform into strong, strategic leaders who make their voices heard. They have increased confidence and executive presence that shows up in how they compose themselves, how they approach projects and how they handle risk.
They broaden their networks; gain mentors, and often become one themselves.
They begin to ask for big projects and often get promoted. For example, one program participant began to really engage her manager and her senior leadership. She took on a big, visible project. At the end of the program, she skipped two levels and is now a mentor to WOMEN Unlimited participants.
What are the 2 or 3 biggest benefits women attribute to their participation?
I would say women often have a very pleasant surprise, one they didn’t expect at the beginning of the program. They discover they are getting more done in less time. They create more time for themselves by becoming more intentional about what they do and what they don’t take on. It improves the quality of their life both inside and outside the office.
They also understand their own growth. They see that they are different and they leverage those differences.
What do you hear from managers about the organizational benefits from their team member attending?
The number one thing managers talk about is the ROI from the program…the leveraging of the benefits to the teams and to the managers themselves. Managers tell us they have the opportunity to think more and do more because they are getting more from the women who participated in the program. We like to call it “Amplifying the impact.”
In your experience, how can women and their managers maximize their participation in the program?
This program is experiential…not knowledge-based. It’s about being willing to show up and be vulnerable, even if you don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen. You ride a bike by doing, not reading about it. The women who dive in are the ones who see great results.
Manager engagement is critical with a direct correlation to success: the higher the manager’s engagement, the more powerful the transformation in the program participant.
What impact do you see the program having – immediate and long term – on achieving gender parity at all organizational levels?
When women enter the program, often they see themselves as saying “no” to senior management positions. It’s not lack of ambition. They just can’t imagine taking on more; so they dismiss the C-suite from their future. However, as they become more strategic and less tactical, their mindset shifts.
Also, women start to act more authentically and to show up as themselves, rather than imitating men. This authenticity broadens the perspectives of male managers and is an important stepping stone to shifting corporate culture.