Hey there, goal-getters! Hard-workers and life-long learners! This month we’re focusing on making it to the C-suite (aka the SHEsuite), and it couldn’t be more appropriate. I’ve never thought of fall and winter as hibernation time, but time for reflection and growth. As we get closer to Thanksgiving, let’s be grateful for the opportunity for self-development both personally and professionally. To do these questions justice, I asked for some help! I’ll let the C-suite ladies who answered my bat call take it from here.
Q: How do you know if you’re “good enough” to be CEO?
A: When I was first made CEO in the first company I was in (not my own company), I was not sure I was ready. I learned quickly that I did know what I was doing and was so excited to learn and grow. That is the key: to keep growing and learning. If you aren’t bettering yourself you don’t belong in that kind of position. – Danielle Ralston, Be Boss Girl
Q: What are the obstacles keeping women out of top jobs?
A: I actually found a really great article from Fortune which I’ll link to here, but there are three key comments I’ll summarize. First, men tend to get promoted based on perceived potential, while women get promoted after “Challenge yourself to place high-potential women on succession plans…at equal rates to…female talent one level down.” – Fortunedemonstrating results and achievement. Second, women need more career sponsors and mentors to help fill in the gaps in their experience and provide new opportunity. Lastly, women should be integrated into leadership roles more easily, including timely checkups after being promoted, having moderated but open dialogue with team members, and ensuring resources for learning and success are available.
Q: Is there a certain skill set that makes it more likely to become CEO or COO?
A: I think the top skills that can get women in c-suite positions (at the Enterprise level) are finance and operations skills. For an enterprise level company you need to understand how to manage large numbers of often highly dispersed people. Those people are often managing many complex projects at any given time, and to be able to make decisions you need to understand both the long term high level vision, while also understanding a bit about all of the pieces that are making up the whole (that’s the operations piece). You also have to be able to read, and understand the numbers of the company. For someone in the C-suite their main responsibility is often to keep the board of directors, or to the shareholders informed – so anyone in the c-suite should be able to read basic accounting documents and understand where those numbers are coming from.
It’s very important to be able to both make decisions and then to deal with the consequences of those decisions with grit.
From my perspective those are the big “technical” skills you need. As far as soft skills – a high emotional IQ is important, but I also think that resilience and grit is also important. in the c-suite you are making decisions that could have a huge impact on the entire company. and those decisions could have a positive or negative impact. The higher you get up in leadership, the harder the conversations and decisions become and it’s important not to shy away from those conversations/decisions.
I’ve worked with quite a few VPs, and a few c-suite folks in large tech companies and those are the skills that I’ve seen them possess. – Kasie Lenz, PayPal
Have a question that you want to #askAbbyLee? Email us at youngbosSHE@gmail.com with your question and first name and last initial and you could be featured in the next AskSHE column!
About the Author: Abby Lee Hood is a queer sci-fi/fantasy writer and full-time social media manager in Nashville, TN. She loves stories that make the hard days a little easier, whether it’s telling a joke while presenting a social media workshop, writing a short story or tweeting about a cause her client supports. Ask her about her love for Chicago and adopting senior dogs.