Jo Miller has some very definite ideas.
For one, Miller believes you’re not alone if you’ve had it to somewhere above the eyebrows with being told to “lean in” or to take one for the team. Or, for goodness sake, to just be patient for your turn at a promotion — as if that “turn” were the next city bus, about to pull up any time now.
She also thinks it’s not outrageous to expect to develop a career that’s both rewarding and suited to your skill set — one that, as she says in her book, “Woman of Influence: Nine Steps to Build Your Brand, Establish Your Legacy and Thrive,” makes your heart sing.
“It’s not,” she writes, “too much to ask.” And she’s right.
But that message has been Miller’s mission, after all, for some 20 years — to guide women to figure out how to identify and articulate their own skills and develop — there’s that word again — their careers.
She’s been doing this through Be Leaderly, her consulting company based here in Cedar Rapids; her webinars that, as of last count, have reached some 30 nations; her presentations in, so far, five continents; at corporate events that include Verizon, eBay, Bank of America and Microsoft as clients; and through her monthly Sunday guest columns in The Gazette’s Business 380 section. (“Emerging Leaders” ran for several years until Miller took a break to write “Woman of Influence.” That’s why you’ve not seen it lately.)
Oh, and she co-authored a study to quantify all this, titled “Out of the Comfort Zone: How Women and Men Size up Stretch Assignments — and Why Leaders Should Care.” You can read about the findings at https://bit.ly/2DdCYjd.
She’s the real deal.
One of the key points in her book, to be released by McGraw Hill Dec. 13 and already into a second printing due to advance orders, speaks to the need to herald your talents. Because, as Miller writes, “It’s a myth that work speaks for itself.”
To move up, she advocates for identifying unmet needs within your organization and for tackling stretch assignments. Those are the projects that require you to — temporarily — take on a demanding new task that indeed might show off some previously lesser-known abilities of yours.
But you shouldn’t have to reel in all this by yourself.
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Miller emphasizes the need to round up a crew — collaborators and allies who can help you achieve more. Remember, she notes, “People don’t follow a title. They follow someone they trust.”
And to step to the other side of that often-closed corporate door, you’ll need advocates, too, Miller urges. The help of an influential sponsor, she writes, “can make all the difference.”
Another value-added component to Miller’s book is she brings in voices of experience — insights from a Morgan Stanley managing director, for example, and MetLife’s global diversity and inclusion chief.
But here’s the thing, and not bury the lede: Back when Miller and I first spoke about her writing a monthly column for The Gazette, I suggested a few possible titles for the column. All were along the lines of workplace guidance for women.
But Jo said she preferred “Emerging Leaders.” Because, she noted, what she had to say about professional development wasn’t solely for women.
And she’s right. We all could use advice on how to determine what she calls our “standout strengths,” and how to move within the headwinds of change and bring to the front our personal brands.
We have to “teach people how to treat us,” Miller writes. This is the handbook for exactly how to accomplish that.
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