I’m sharing this insightful post by Sarah Donahue, CPA, who is a presenter at the April 17, 2015, “Maximize Your Career – Business Tools for Women over 50” conference that I am producing. It first appeared on http://www.bizwomenover50conference.com/blog.html
You are a woman over 50 working with and for people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. You have incredible experience, both in the workplace and in life, which may enable you to see the strategies and tactics that will succeed and the ones with more obstacles and challenges. You know that you willingly share what you know, but those making decisions do not always seem to listen to you. Why doesn’t everyone recognize the wisdom of your words?
You may inadvertently be showcasing your age instead of your wisdom. Make sure that your wisdom is not overlooked by how you show up. Be the person everyone consults on new initiatives. Be a real voice of reason. To do so, you must be heard. To be heard you must understand how you show-up to those who are younger and how to most effectively share your valuable experience.
Do your colleagues see you as someone reluctant to change or embrace new ideas and approaches? Do they hear you saying “we tried it years ago and it did not work”? Do you appear to shut down possibilities or be somewhat stubborn and stuck in the “the way it has always been done”? How do people feel when you share your expertise? Are you having a real dialogue or are you more focused on telling people your opinion? Do you sound out of touch with today’s world?
Make your experience valuable and appreciated.
First, be truly open to ideas. Facts and circumstances change, something may work today that did not in the past. Don’t assume that past experience gives you all the answers. Focus on achieving results, there are many ways to get there.
Check your tone, facial expressions and body language—do you look and sound like a parent, an old-timer or a contemporary colleague?
Stay current and be relevant. Technology is changing on an exponential time scale. Use of big data and analytics is advancing rapidly. New communication tools and social media have changed the way we work and interface with our customers. This does not negate the value of past experience. Your ability to marry what is learned from the past with current capabilities is extremely valuable. And, if you are not current, you will be viewed as not relevant and not worth being heard.
Use your experience to ask thoughtful, probing questions. Bring unbiased facts to the table. Raise important considerations in a non-judgmental way. Asking good questions, while being open and objective, will drive deeper thinking and more collaboration. Oftentimes others will get to the answer you instinctively knew, and your unbiased thought leadership will be appreciated. And, you will be surprised that a new idea does have merit and your thought leadership will be recognized for the inevitable improvements that come from powerful, insightful questions.
Finally, know when to stop asking questions. Even after you have brought forth facts and asked good questions, decisions will be made with which you do not agree. Get over it. It is fair to state your opinion, but then just let it go. You appear to be a stubborn barrier if you continue to question the merits after the decision is made. Use your wisdom to drive a successful outcome. And, if it does not succeed—don’t say or imply “I told your so”. Your wise counsel will be remembered in the future. Now use your experience to help others learn constructively from the failure.
Being known as an open and engaged thought leader will benefit your career and bring you much personal satisfaction. You will be pleased by what happens when you showcase your wisdom not your age.
Sarah Donahue recently retired from a successful career as vice president with Allstate Life and Retirement. She is known for her practical and decisive business approach and collaborative style. She is also recognized for developing leaders and has been a mentor with MENTTIUM and Step Up Women’s Network