It’s hard to teach an “old-schooled” dog new tricks…or so Tara Sophia Mohr was noticing when she began coaching new entrepreneurs. Many of the women coming to her were relying on methods they learned in school to succeed and were not finding them helpful in their new business ventures. Today, Tara is sharing how some of those school-taught concepts may be doing more harm than good for your business and how you can reassess your skills to put them to better use. And you can read even more about Tara’s tactics and tips for creating the life and career you want in her new book Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message, which launches October 14. –Stephanie
Read the full post after the jump…
You’d think that those of us that did well in school would be well prepared to succeed as biz ladies. It turns out, that’s not the case.
When I began coaching creative, entrepreneurial women, I noticed an interesting pattern: many of the women who had succeeded in school were hitting major walls in their careers. As I learned why they were getting stuck, I started to see a theme. The ways of working that had been most effective in school weren’t so helpful in their careers. These women needed a new set of skills.
Over time I saw that not just “good student” types but all women—since we were all conditioned by almost two decades in school—could benefit from looking at how they might be using old, school-based ways of working that weren’t benefiting them any longer.
Here are three of the changes many women need to make as they shift from the skill set that brought success in school to the skill set needed so they can thrive in their careers;
Preparation vs. Improvisation. In school, the critical ingredient for success is preparation. We study in preparation for the test, do the reading in preparation for the next day’s class discussion, and so on. But in our careers, we need to improvise just as much as we need to prepare. There will be countless unpredictable situations or situations where preparation really isn’t a great use of our time – because we already know more than enough to do well acting on our feet. Every creative entrepreneur can benefit from asking herself: Do I tend to over-prepare? What fears lead me to do that? If I embraced improvisation, what new opportunities would I pursue?
Do Good Work vs. Do Good Work and Make it Visible. When I began blogging in 2008, I believed that if I just wrote quality posts, my traffic would grow. For a year and half, I did that, but my readership numbers didn’t budge. Then I finally followed the conventional advice and started guest blogging at other sites. Nothing about the quality of my product had changed, but my work had become visible. My readership began to grow, rapidly.
I had gotten stuck in the model I’d learned in school, where for the most part I’d never needed to promote or advocate for my work. In school, doing good work is enough. In our careers, we have to do good work and make it visible. This can be particularly tricky for women, since we tend to be more worried about coming across as arrogant or self-promoting (and because, sadly, we are more likely than our male counterparts to be perceived that way). And yet we still need to find graceful ways to make our good work visible.
Some questions to ask yourself about this: Is my work visible to the influencers relevant to my business – potential customers, desired partners, relevant media outlets and influencers? What could I do to make it more visible? What fears or concerns come up for me when I think about being more active in making sure my good work is known about and seen by others?
Adapting to Authority vs. Challenging Authority. At school, in every class, there’s an authority figure – the teacher. Over our decade or two as students, we learn how to perceive and understand the teacher’s expectations and adapt our work accordingly. We’re never asked to challenge or influence the teachers’ ideas and are graded on how well we do that! But in our careers, we need that skill – not just adapting to authority figures, but challenging and influencing them so that our individual voices and ideas have greater impact.
In our careers, we also need to develop a second new skill vis-à–vis authority, one that we very likely weren’t taught in school: how to stand in our own authority.
Some good questions to ask yourself here are: What insecurities or limiting beliefs come up when I imagine thinking of myself as an authority or expert in my area of expertise? How would I or my business benefit if I more frequently challenged the rules, the established way, or the authority figures in my midst?
Good Student Skill
- Diligent preparation
- Doing good work
- Adapting to authority
- Comfort with improvisation
- Doing good work AND making it visible
- Challenging authority and standing in your own authority
How are old “good student” habits holding you back in your business? What would it give you – and your business – to have more comfort with improvisation, with challenging authority, with standing in your own authority, and with making your work highly visible?
To get started, pick one of those new skills you’d like to cultivate first, and think of one action you can take this week to start practicing it. Maybe you’ll pick one kind of meeting that you usually nervously over-prepare for, and try improvising in the moment more instead. Or maybe you’ll write an email highlighting your good work in a way that feels a little uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Now that your attention is on these new skills, you’ll begin noticing many opportunities to practice them.
Tara Mohr is the author of the new book Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message. Learn more here.