The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: “How do you excel in a male-dominated industry?” is written by Gail Mandel, president and CEO of Wyndham Destination Network.
As one of only a few women CEOs in the hospitality industry, there have been many times that I’ve been the only woman at the table. And while this may seem intimidating at first, I’ve always chosen to focus on the things that are within my control: working hard and producing results that matter. This business-first approach has ensured that being a woman is a footnote to my career accomplishments— not what ultimately defines me. Here are six strategies that have served me well along the way:
Kill them with competence
We’re used to hearing this about kindness—which is equally important—but I’ve found that the best way to advance your career is to use your skills, knowledge, and work ethic to demonstrate day in and day out that you’re highly competent. Know your material thoroughly, and remember the facts are your friends.
Emulate great people
Find leaders you admire and study their behaviors, the way they communicate, and the way they make decisions. You can learn so much from watching others who have succeeded before you. I’m also a huge proponent of mentoring, both formally and informally. During my career, I have been fortunate to learn from many great leaders—both men and women.
Portray an image of confidence at all times. For me, part of feeling confident is knowing I’m prepared. It’s also important that you speak, dress, and act the part. I still remember the anxiety I felt at age 25 when I had to present to the audit committee for the first time. I went out and bought the nicest business suit I could afford. Portraying yourself in a positive, professional, and confident manner will help you overcome any skepticism that you may encounter.
Be the one who listens and you will stand out. I have found that one of the most convincing ways to show your worth is to first listen to others. Learn what others need as well as their pain points, and then see how you can help them through some of their challenges. Listen to the questions that are asked and then answer them directly.
Always be authentic
Embrace and understand your own strengths and personality traits. Do not try to be someone else. By being genuine, your true passions and competence will come through.
Take strategic risks
To do something new and stand out, you naturally need to take some risks. Do not fear them; people need to take targeted risks in order to reach their full potential. Prepare yourself, do your research so that you are stacking the odds in your favor for success, make sure it is a strategic risk worth taking, and then go for it. If you succeed, it will pay off in major ways. If not, learn from it and try again.
Remember the keys to success are the same for women and men alike. Demonstrate your personal effectiveness, illustrate a willingness to collaborate toward the pursuit of shared goals with others, and continually seek out opportunities to improve and grow your capabilities. Do this and you will excel—regardless of how many men are in your industry.