Friday, January 27, 2023

Choose Courage Over Confidence

Jonathan Kirn/Getty Images

Summary: Self-doubt is a pervasive and often paralyzing concern, and research has repeatedly shown that it impacts women more than men. So what makes high-achieving women power through their self-doubt? According to the author’s research, they focus on building up their courage, not their confidence. She offers three strategies to help women take bold actions in the face of self-doubt and fear: 1) Don’t underestimate the impact of small, yet significant, acts of courage; 2) Practice courageous acts in all areas of your life; and 3) Try again tomorrow.

Have you ever shied away from taking on a role or opportunity because you didn’t feel confident enough? Perhaps your inner critic told you that you weren’t yet ready, weren’t capable enough, or didn’t have enough experience. Perhaps the voice in your head asked: “Why me?”

If you can relate, you’re among the majority of women with whom I’ve worked. I recently asked more than 120 women, from areas including the U.S., UK, Australia, Georgia, Italy, India, Jamaica, and Bermuda: If you’ve ever avoided risks, what factors and reasons contributed to this? More than 70% reported that self-doubt, or not having enough belief in themselves, their capabilities, or their skills, was a driving factor.

As one high-profile executive told me: “Every day I doubt myself. I doubt that I am good enough to be where I am.”

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. We know self-doubt is a pervasive and often paralyzing concern, particularly for women. A study by psychologists at Cornell and Washington State highlighted higher levels of self-doubt in women. Research has also shown that women will apply for a job only if they meet all of the qualifications, while men will apply when they fulfill only 60%. Another recent study identified a substantial gender gap when it comes to self-promotion, with women systematically providing less favorable assessments of their own past performance and potential future ability. Ultimately, men take more chances on themselves, and that pays dividends in the long run.

Focus on Courage, Not Confidence

While this pattern of self-doubt emerged again and again in studies, my interactions, and my client work, I also noticed another commonality: These women’s self-doubts weren’t sabotaging their success. The vast majority of successful women leaders I’ve interviewed and coached have built vibrant and fulfilling careers even while facing self-doubt.

What these women also had in common is courage in the absence of confidence — a trait that is often weaponized against women and used to explain why they fail to achieve career goals. My work has found that successful women take decisive action to move forward even while grappling with fears and doubts and questioning their own “readiness.”

“As women, we often feel like we have to be 100% ready in order to move forward. But, if you are 50% or 75% there, jump. Just do it,” said Megan Costello, former executive director of the Boston Mayor’s Office for Women’s Advancement.

An added bonus? Confidence is the byproduct of courage. The executives I’ve spoken with shared that with each challenge accepted and conquered, they gained confidence. “Gaining more responsibility has given me reason to believe in myself. Now, I’m the president of a brand,” said Julie Hauser-Blanner, former president of Brioche Dorée, a Canadian bakery chain.

By refocusing our internal narratives on courage instead of confidence, women can take bold actions in the face of self-doubt and fear. Here are three strategies to get you started.

Don’t underestimate the impact of small, yet significant, acts of courage.

Micro acts of courage — seemingly small-scale acts that have incremental impacts over time and long-term returns — are key to unlocking a courageous mindset. As Su-Mei Thompson, CEO of Media Trust, shared: “It is not just about taking a few big risks but about pushing yourself each day to get outside of your comfort zone.”

Early in her career at Unilever, Leena Nair often found herself in rooms with few other women, where it felt intimidating to speak up. She came up with a method to encourage her own micro acts of courage. “I used to have a little book in which every time I spoke up, I would draw a star,” she told me during our discussion at the Global Unilever Headquarters in London. “If I opened my mouth five times, then I would draw five stars. If I made a point that really resonated, I gave myself double stars. By doing this, I kept myself accountable.” These micro acts led to long-term rewards — Nair rose to become the first female, first Asian, and youngest-ever CHRO of Unilever, and then went on to become CEO of Chanel.

Courage begets courage. It’s a muscle that gets stronger each time you use it, no matter how small the act.

Practice courageous acts in all areas of your life.

Nervous to start in your working environment? Start with courageous acts outside work. Courage is a transferable mindset that then permeates all aspects of your life.

One woman with whom I worked made a goal of going on a dinner or date or lunch with someone new every week so that she could expand her friendships and dating prospects in a new city, while becoming more connected. Others will go out of their comfort zone and join a gym or fitness class that they previously would have shied away from. Others started saying no more often and protecting time for themselves, rather than trying to please others.

DEI executive Karen Brown shared that she pushes herself outside of her comfort zone in her personal life by “constantly stretching myself to learn, especially that which is unfamiliar to me. This could range from traveling to countries with cultures that are completely opposite of what I’m accustomed to, attending an event, listening to and/or reading content outside my area of expertise.”

Try again tomorrow.

A strategy used by Dr. Elizabeth O’Day, who founded Olaris, Inc., a precision diagnostics company working to change how diseases are treated, is to continue to make a daily commitment to going beyond her comfort zone, even when met with resistance. Now in her 30s, O’Day serves as the company’s CEO, co-chairs the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Biotechnology, and is a member of Scientific American’s steering committee for the publication’s “Top 10 Emerging Technologies.” However, her impressive résumé doesn’t tell the full story of the challenges she has overcome.

“Every day as a young female scientist CEO in biotech, there are challenges, and it takes a lot of courage to face these challenges,” she said. When her company was in the startup phase, O’Day often faced investors who would ask “ridiculous or sometimes insulting” questions, and even challenge her expertise and achievements. “Every time that I was asked to derive mathematical equations or list a dozen metabolic pathways and their links to disease, I would do it without error. Yet, rarely did it translate into the investment that I was seeing male counterparts with far less data or degrees receive.” O’Day’s experience tracks with the numerous studies showing that women receive more scrutiny, including doubt-generating statements, than their male counterparts.

Does O’Day always feel confident? No. As she shares, “I often remember the quote by Mary Anne Radmacher, ‘Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow.’”
. . .

As Anaïs Nin, a twentieth-century French-Cuban-American diarist and writer, said: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Your career is no different. It’s time to refocus your efforts from seeking an elusive feeling of confidence to taking decisive action with courage.

About the author: 

Christie Hunter Arscott is an award-winning advisor, speaker, and author of the book Begin Boldly: How Women Can Reimagine Risk, Embrace Uncertainty, and Launch A Brilliant Career. A Rhodes Scholar, Christie has been named by Thinkers50 as one of the top management thinkers likely to shape the future of business.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Don’t leave money on the table: Start the year with a financial review


Written by:  Nicole Watson

Conducting a financial review as you start a new year is an intentional, comprehensive effort that will help you understand your current financial state. During the review, you can see the progress you’ve made over the course of last year and it also ensures you make the most out of your financial accounts.

Review health benefits

The beginning of the year is always a busy time, but in many cases, it’s also your best opportunity to make financial decisions that still count toward the last year, and set yourself up for financial success in the new year. You don’t want to unknowingly leave any money on the table.

Make sure to review your benefit elections. Some company health insurance plans refresh on Jan. 1 and others might start over in July. Either way, taking a few minutes to understand what benefits will be available to you in the new year is a great way to set up your financial success. If you have a health savings account (HSA), you can contribute up to $3,850 for self-only overage or up to $7,750 for family coverage in 2023. Unlike flexible spending accounts (FSA), unused money in an HSA rolls over into the next year.

Confirm tax withholding elections

It’s also important to check your tax withholding elections and visit the IRS website‡ to figure out how much you should be withholding from each paycheck. This will help you determine if you will owe the government in April or if you will get money back as a refund.

Max out tax-deferred retirement accounts

There are a few important deposit deadlines to keep in mind as we enter the new year to maximize your savings and retirement investments.

In 2023, the 401(k) contribution limit increases from to $22,500. It’s always a good idea to check your investment choices, allocations and scheduled contributions to make sure you are making the most out of your 401(k)-retirement account. If you have an individual retirement account (IRA) and have extra cash, try to reach the 2023 maximum contribution of $6,500. Remember, you have until April 15, 2023, to contribute to an IRA that can be realized on your 2022 tax return; however, contributions to your 401(k) start over January 1.

Also, the beginning of the year is a good time to update your beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and insurance policies and be aware of upcoming milestones. If you are older than 50, you are eligible for “catch-up contributions” to your IRAs and some qualified 401(k)s. If you are older than 59 ½,you are eligible to take IRA distributions without a penalty.

If the new year will bring a new addition to your family, you can create or contribute to a 529 account, which is used to cover qualified education costs.

Set new goals

Completing a financial review can be overwhelming as you get started, but it can reveal small actions you can take to better prepare for the future. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a banker if you have questions about how you can adjust your accounts and make contributions to benefit your family and financial picture.

About the Author: Nicole Watson

Nicole is senior vice president and territory director for consumer services in the personal banking division. She leads the eastern region's banking centers, including small business banking and benefits banking. She also serves on UMB Financial Corporation's senior leadership team. Nicole joined UMB in 2006 and has 29 years of experience in the financial services industry.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

8 Business Goals To Focus On For Q1 Of 2023


Writen by: Evelyn Hiew

As 2022 is nearing its end, business leaders are beginning to prepare for the start of 2023 by focusing on business goals that will lead to the company's success. From expanding online to enhancing company culture, employers must leverage their past experiences to set goals and expectations to keep the organization thriving in Quarter 1 and beyond.

To set the company up for success, here are several ways you can focus on right now to kick in the new year.

#1 Focus on your employees' well-being

It goes without saying that your employees are your best assets. Hence, it is only natural that taking care of their well-being should be your top priority for the new year.

Today, employee well-being has expanded beyond physical factors to a culture of comprehensive well-being, which includes physical, emotional, social, career, financial, purpose, and community. At the heart of this is the increasing need for flexibility in how, where, and when employees work.

When leaders prioritize employees' well-being, they create an engaging and happy workforce that significantly reduces stress and contributes to the company's overall goals.

#2 Improve your workplace culture

Company culture remains a critical factor that every business should strive to improve in 2023. All HR professionals and employers know that culture is vital for improving employee engagement and attracting and retaining top performers. This is because employees who feel closely aligned with their organization's culture are more likely to enjoy work and feel happier.

For starters, you could set up activities like implementing monthly team-building hangouts or providing more employee development opportunities.

#3 Increase your online presence

Since the pandemic started, businesses have moved into the online scene as the market evolved from conventional brick-and-mortar stores. If you still need to establish your online presence, it's high time you consider it for 2023. This could include strategies like creating more engaging social media postings or developing an official website. Your online presence is crucial for attracting new customers and increasing brand awareness. This is vital if you want to experience growth in the new year.

#4 Increase efficiency in systems

The goal of any employer is for their company to be efficient and robust to maximize its full potential. Focusing on improving your operational systems and processes is also vital as the market continues to operate in times of uncertainty.

Nevertheless, giving your current systems an upgrade could also incur huge costs. It is good to determine which systems or processes produce the most results and strive to improve them to optimize your budget and resources.

#5 Allow for strategic flexibility

Another top business goal to focus on is strategic flexibility in processes, programs, and recruitment. Take the time to screen through a company design exercise to truly gauge the delta between where you are as a company now vs where you want to be in the next year and beyond. Remember to be realistic about the organization's ability to get to the ideal place, given the constraints and uncertainties in the future market.

#6 Focus on your leaders

Companies should train and develop every management level on how to lead their team members. Today's managers are expected to lead with empathy, form concise expectations and balanced workloads, have regular check-ins with employees, and at the same time, support employees' professional goals. Employees who feel they are appreciated and cared for by their supervisors are more likely to be productive and engaged at work.

#7 Review and refresh your company's strategy

As 2022 comes to an end, it's good to have a refresh of strategy, pinpointing of operational metrics, and clear KPIs and objectives at both individual and organizational levels. This means one needs to begin planning and reviewing now, as most companies need help to start how they want to operate during Q1. Be it company growth, cost reduction, or business profitability. You must set your strategy now better than later.

#8 Focus on what truly brings results

Companies should focus on cutting down on things that are not as relevant and emphasize what brings results. For instance, it could be adding features that get the most value to customers, selecting suitable social media platforms with the most reach, establishing the best sales strategies, or investing in tools that help team members collaborate better.

Beyond Q1: Leading your company to its success

If you have yet to develop a quarterly action plan, it can be challenging to know where to begin. Many companies are so used to setting big yearly goals that they often need to remember how to break them into smaller chunks - which is the key to quarterly planning.