Daily habits, if practised regularly, can boost your professional life at work. Here are some handy tips for every woman

boost professional life

In journalist Shweta Punj’s book Why I Failed: Lessons from Leaders, Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw recalls how financiers refused her a working capital loan when she was 25 years old because, back then, she lacked credibility. However, they were willing to consider if her father, the brewmaster at United Breweries, stood guarantor.

That she refused to hide behind daddy is not relevant to this discussion; what is relevant is the lesson that Mazumdar-Shaw, one of India’s most respected entrepreneurs, draws from that experience. “You must understand why you’re failing. You’re failing because your credibility is at stake. You’ve got to make credibility to ensure people trust you,” she told the author, whose book details how prominent personalities, including the Biocon cofounder, achieved success despite their initial failures.

The ‘credibility’ that Mazumdar-Shaw talks of applies to most people at the workplace, whether male or female: if you have credibility, you are trusted by your workmates and bosses to deliver.

The 12 traits theory

So how does one begin building this credibility at work? Perhaps a few tips from celebrated leadership experts Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith could be a starting point. In the jointly-authored book How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job, which was released recently, Helgesen and Goldsmith identify a dozen traits that hold women back in their careers.

The two argue that what worked for women in the past – such as maintaining a low profile – now could actually sabotage their progress. 

boost professional life

To Helgesen and Goldsmith, the first two points are very important, and they say what women have to do is ‘actively bring attention’ to the value they provide. In this connection, they cite the case of a female software engineer from Silicon Valley identified only as ‘Ellen’, who builds ‘unusually broad connections’. She emerges as the go-to person during her stay in her company, but whose social skills went unnoticed by her boss. She was seen as someone who ‘needs to get better known in the organisation, have more of a presence, and more actively promote what our division is doing’.

Ellen was devastated initially, but months later realised that her boss knew nothing of what she had achieved. “There was a very simple reason he had overlooked my role as a connector: I had never told him what I was doing. I’d never mentioned all the people I connected with in the course of the day or week or month. I just somehow expected him to know,” she told the authors.

In the Forbes interview, Helgesen also says women should ‘enlist help’ to ensure they stay on course when they are trying to get rid of self-defeating habits. “To me, this is the most important point we make in How Women Rise. Bring other people on board in your attempt to change. Ask them to hold you accountable. Check with them to see how you are doing. It’s also really important to work on one habit, or even one part of a habit, at a time. If you’re engaging others, you want them to have a very clear idea of what to look for as they find ways to help and give you feedback and support.”

Some more tips

There are some more areas that women should work hard to gain credibility, such as:

Be punctual : Being late is a signal to colleagues (and worse, your boss) that you don’t care enough about your job to be on time; being punctual strengthens and reveals your integrity, shows you are disciplined, hence dependable, and also reflects your humility;

Avoid tanutrms : Stay calm at your workplace, and never throw tantrums, even if you feel overwhelmed by personal problems: if you don’t control your emotions, you will be labelled as someone who lacks balance;

Know your job : It is important to have a clear understanding of what you have to deliver – ask and double-check. This will help you set realistic goals, plan better, and deliver as per expectations;

Meet deadlines: One of the surest ways to gain trust and credibility is to complete your work before the deadline and never procrastinate: let your work speak for you and show that you are serious about your job;

No social media : Another way to show you take your work seriously is by exercising self-control through the day by keeping all social media windows closed: if you can eliminate the distraction of email, social media, and phone calls, you can enhance your productivity;

Speak up : This is an extension of what Helgesen and Goldsmith said about being reluctant to seek kudos – don’t feel shy about asking for what you think you deserve; it’s not wrong. Be polite about it, but firm;

Be cordial : It is important to be polite with everyone, not only those who have a higher designation than you – avoid being gracious with your superiors while ill-behaving with your juniors: this leaves a bad impression.

Last words

In the end, women should remember one thing: despite all the self-improvement measures, they may take to avoid what Helgesen and Goldsmith call the ‘self-limiting’ behaviour of female workers, it all comes to naught if they stop believing in themselves. Workplace experience shapes behaviour and women workers may find their suggestions and ideas repeatedly ignored. Do not let this influence how you respond; make yourself heard. 

Over time, people will begin to listen to you seriously. And that is proof of your credibility.