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Never assume if you want to advance

This morning, I moderated a panel discussion at Women Executive Leadership's (WEL) Corporate Salute. It was a candid dialogue about a the group's new Census report that looked at public companies in Florida. The findings were harsh. About 75 percent of Florida's public companies have no women in their executive suites.

Judy_SchmelingI asked panelist Judy Schmeling, CFO of HSN (formerly known as Home Shopping Network) for her thoughts on the findings. Judy believes women assume too much. We assume we are going to get recognized for our work. We assume we are going to get raises. We assume our company is going to do its best to help us manage work and family when we come back from maternity leave.

Judy's message: Don't assume. Seek high visibility projects that get you recognized throughout the company for your talent. Ask for raises. Ask for flexibility. Ask for advancement. Ask to be championed.

Judy told a story about the first time she had to make a presentation with disappointing financial results to the CEO. She was coached by a male: "Don't apologize. Hold you head up high and deliver the information."

Roy Krause, CEO of SFN Group, told us about the best advice he has received: When you are a leader, you are always on stage. (The hidden message, don't assume that people aren't watching how you conduct yourself in business.)

Roy-pic-2-04-bio_photoKrause also mentioned that as an exercise, he has written his retirement speech. That's a great exercise for all of us. It's sure to make us differentiate between what we assume our path will be and what we need to do to put ourselves on that path.