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Business Insight: Women, here’s how to take charge of you

Have a vision, strategy and work your plan, successful exec advises.

First Published Sep 21 2012 07:21 am • Last Updated Jan 07 2013 11:31 pm

Susan Bulkeley Butler is the first female partner at what is now known as Accenture (a management consultant firm), and author of the newly revised "Become the CEO of You, Inc.: A Pioneering Executive Shares Her Secrets for Career Success." She says women can advance their careers by developing key strategies and sticking to them.

At a glance

Susan Bulkeley Butler, author, executive

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How do you start becoming a CEO?

Set a clear vision, deciding what you want to have accomplished in five years and every three to five years after that. Create your board of directors or your team. These are supporters who will help you get to where you want to be. Develop interim goals, every six to 12 months, with a clear plan to achieve them. And work your plan every day. Doing your daily activities determines how you develop the new skills, capabilities and experiences you will need to get to where you want to go.

Discuss setting a clear vision.

When I ask people to define their clear vision, many begin with "I think I want to be doing…" I ask them to begin with something like this: "I am a manager in XYZ company, in the human resources department." I ask them to define what they are doing, the skills they are developing and how they are marketing themselves. With this type of clear vision a person can begin to put a plan together to achieve their goals. Once you are committed to making this clear vision happen, you will begin talking to others about where you want to go, asking for opportunities to get you there and building your team to make it happen. In addition, write an email to your mentor dated three years from now, describing what you are doing. You will now have the beginnings of a vision of where you want to go with your life, which will be refined again and again over the years.

Why is it important to think of yourself as a product?

Every company has products that need to be marketed. Your product is you — defined by your education, skills, capabilities and experiences, along with your roles, responsibilities and relationships. To achieve your goals, the product you have today will need to change in order to attain the skills and capabilities to perform in the position you desire. Additionally, as part of your product, your packaging needs to be pleasing to the eye, to be appropriate for the position you want to have. Your packaging will also change as your position changes. You need to be packaged for the position you want. Think about how you will make a positive, lasting impression. Lastly, it is important to market yourself to others so they will know all about your product. Your marketing will include speaking engagements, using your voice in meetings and networking. This is the way others will experience who you are and better understand the value you bring to your position.

Explain how one can create an executive presence.

First impressions matter. For instance, someone may decide to hire you — or not — based on a 30-second encounter. You need to look, act and feel like the best person for the position. How you are perceived is more than 90 percent based on how you look and sound. About 7 percent is based on what you say. Establish yourself as an authority and leader. Take hold of a room to make quick, personal connections. Show that you’re a team player. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Ask for feedback on your presence and how others perceive you. For instance, at one point of my career I was perceived as being too negative. I needed to correct that perception. For me, I focused on handshakes, eye contact, how to sit in a chair, voice and how to use it, and etiquette.


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