HR Corner

How to Develop Women Leaders

Pavitra Ciavardone identifies skills for up-and-coming females.

By Lori Johnston June 22, 2016 Published in the June 2016 issue of Sarasota Magazine

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Pavitra Ciavardone of Pausitive Living is a Sarasota leadership coach, consultant and speaker who specializes in stress management, public speaking and mindfulness training.

Q. My company has a young woman we have promoted into a leadership position. What sort of executive coaching and skills should we be thinking about giving her? 

A. If people are moving into a new leadership position, especially women, you don’t want them to be in a position where they’re treading water. Providing coaching and leadership skills training yields long-term benefits. What is important, especially for women, is to cultivate more of the soft skills—personal resiliency, adaptability, effective communication, learning to manage stress—that translate into sustainability and longevity for the company. If a company is not looking to the future, they may neglect investing in these.

This young woman must cultivate resiliency—being able to flow into the next change with less stress and more ease. The first part is learning how to manage stress. If we perceive stress as a threat, we react one way to it. If we perceive it as a challenge, we act another way. Leadership is learning how to “pause and respond” with purpose to change, rather than coming from a knee-jerk reaction.

Women—and men—also need to learn to trust, tap into and strengthen their intuition. It will allow them to make decisions with more focus, more clarity.

Effective communication is important. Learning to tune in and actively listen to someone is the most important part of effective communication. Without learning the art of listening, we don’t tap into empathy. Our ability to fully be present with another person is that same skill you would use to “pause and respond.” They’re not separate. The ability to recognize and facilitate communication within a team, with respect and tolerance and being able to see other peoples’ perspectives, is also key. If you’re leading a team, you’re able to inspire them. You can’t inspire them if you’re not able to connect with them on a human level.

Really the true power of a woman is that balance between strength and assertiveness. That ability to feel compassion is part of our strength, not a weakness. When women try to be like men, it comes across as bullying. We’ve had to be strong historically to have a voice and to be heard and to be valued in a world that was male dominated. The danger again is if we’re not embracing our femininity as part of our power—embracing the power of vulnerability and authenticity—we lose our compassion. We lose our ability to connect. That’s when we come across as harsh or too assertive or as bullies.

I am of the strong opinion that investing in mindfulness training—a practice that relates to how leaders pay attention and focus their attention, emotions and thoughts—as an essential part of any new leader’s transition to a promoted role, is invaluable and will have a direct bearing on the bottom line and sustainability of the business. Cultivating this one skill is vital to developing the other key leadership qualities and attributes: resilience, effective communication, emotional intelligence, adaptability to change, authenticity, confidence, teamwork and executive decision-making ability. When you have coaches, trainers and facilitators who themselves practice and have firsthand experience of the relationship between mindfulness and how to practically apply it to the leadership role, it's a highly effective combination.

The value of investing in that young woman at that right time to give her the coaching, the training and the mentoring she needs is vital. When a leader can tap into her personal motivation and goals and align hers with the personal vision of the company, then it’s a win-win. Then she can translate that to the people she leads. 

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