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What NEW (and Walmart) know about women’s leadership

Thursday, May 28, 2015  
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In January NEW unveiled the NEW Career Accelerator Model™, created in partnership the Center for Creative Leadership. The Model outlines the traits that women in the retail and consumer goods industry need to develop — or overcome — to realize their career goals and help their companies succeed.

Based on insights from more than 1,200 NEW members, the Model identifies eight critical leadership competencies: Results orientation, inspiring commitment; leading change; communication; strategic planning; political skill; develops and empowers groups and teams; and develops and empowers individuals. The Model also identifies five career "derailers” that can sink a career: Does not effectively take risks; has difficulty changing or adapting; does not manage career; has problems with relationships; has a narrow functional orientation.

The NEW Career Accelerator is the foundation of all of the Network's learning programs, including three webinar series, on-site Career Accelerator Workshops, and the six-month NEW Rising Stars and 12-month NEW Executive Institute leadership development programs.

NEW Board Vice Chair Karen Stuckey, senior vice president, softlines and general merchandise sourcing at Walmart, calls the NEW Career Accelerator Model "game-changing." We asked her how the Model can create more women leaders and help companies leverage their talent.

Why should women — and the companies they work for — focus on the success factors outlined in the NEW Career Accelerator Model?

We're all in a war for top talent. We need to develop and keep high-potential talent to compete in tomorrow's workplace. The NEW Career Accelerator competencies are about women leading themselves, leading others and leading their organizations. When women at every level of their career grow these executive-level competencies, they grow their influence to drive change in their organization.

Are some competencies more critical than others?

"Results orientation" is especially critical for women. Women often confuse effort and activity with delivering results. If we are going to advance women and reach our vision of a workplace with no limits, we have to demonstrate that women can and do grow business.

But the whole bundle of competencies creates a sweet spot that grows influence. If you want to be viewed as a leader within your company, you must develop an authentic means of influencing others. Change agents must be able to inspire commitment and lead change. They must be strategic, but without clear, powerful communication that motivates and inspires and the ability to overcome resistance to change, a person can't advance her career.

Do any derailers need special attention?

"Does not effectively take risks" is derailer for any leader, male or female. If you don't take risks that could lead to higher rewards or do take risks without thinking through the consequences, you won't reach the executive level. Some women are afraid of failure. But if you are going to have a fear, it should be the fear of losing because you didn't take a risk.

The NEW Career Accelerator Workshops include a self-assessment and a 360-degree assessment from others. What advice do you have for women who receive frank feedback?

It's critically important to receive feedback without taking it personally and to see it for what it is — constructive advice on areas to improve to be a better leader and get better results. That feedback is valuable. The NEW Career Accelerator Workshops and NEW Executive Institute and NEW Rising Stars programs offer safe havens for self-assessment and feedback from others.

Armed with feedback, you can begin to engage others in your leadership development and career plan. Simply sharing with people you work with the fact you are working on a leadership competency helps you close that gap. People give you more feedback about yourself and how the leadership trait comes into play in your own corporate culture. Sometimes the feedback doesn’t feel good, but it's like physical therapy, you have to stretch to get to optimal performance.

Most of us work for companies with their own leadership development program and the NEW Career Accelerator Model™ Workshops and other NEW learning programs and events can work along with or enhance your organization's program, and act as an impetus for reinvention and retooling.

What’s the key to staying professionally and personally satisfied in your career?

Think about when you are most passionate and most engaged and feel the most valued. It's usually not when you are in your comfort zone and everything is going calmly and you have everything down pat. It's more often than not when your work is most challenging to you and it becomes fun and you feel like you are accomplishing something and you are growing.

If you feel you are not growing or the passion stops, it's time to assess whether you have allowed yourself to stay too much in your comfort zone and if it's time to move on to another role in your organization — maybe a lateral move — to learn a new competency or discipline or to engage in another company in the industry or outside the industry. But when you stop feeling that passion, it may be your inner compass telling you need to grow more.

Download the NEW special report "Accelerators: Critical Competencies for Women Leaders in Retail and Consumer Goods" for a deeper dive into how the competencies and derailers effect women at every level in the retail and consumer goods industry.

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