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How to make a good impression as a female CEO

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

Very few people are lucky enough to get their dream job. Whether that’s owning your own business or being the leader of a large organisation, few have got what it takes to get there. Women are still outnumbered by men on executive boards by 4 to 1.

You’ve achieved the dizzy heights of CEO...

First things first; it’s time to celebrate your success! It feels like you’ve been working your whole life towards this moment, it’s what kept you going through Uni. All of those late nights studying for your MBA, days out you missed with the kids and nights out cancelled with the girls, you knew it would all be worth it one day.

Now that day has arrived and all of a sudden you’re terrified!

You’ve never done this before.

Why on earth did you think you think you could be a CEO?

Now you’ve got no buffer, no role model, no one to go to to help you make important decisions.

All eyes are on you and the pressure is on. It took you years to get this job you don’t want to lose it!

Don’t worry it’s not just you. You’re not going crazy and you haven’t made a mistake.

What's wrong then?

You’re experiencing imposter syndrome and it can and does happen to the greatest leaders.

In his book Happy Sexy Millionaire, Steven Bartlett talks about how taking his company private and becoming CEO of a multi million dollar company didn’t quite give him the buzz he expected.

Many high achievers are so focused on the goal they don’t consider what they will do when they get there.

I remember years ago I went to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers live in Manchester. I’d always wanted to see them in concert, I’d been counting down the days for months, hardly slept a wink the night before. Then on the day it rained, we were stood right at the back and we could hardly hear them. I was gutted 😞

How do you make sure you don’t let everyone down?

People think I’m crazy when I tell them I coach CEOs and senior executives to improve their performance as a leader. They look at me like I’ve lost my mind when I tell them it can be a lonely place at the top and these high achievers need to keep growing and investing in their personal development so they can be a role model to inspire and motivate their people.

It’s so important when you reach the top to not start sliding back down. Clarity and focus are key.

What’s your next goal?

At this stage you’ve got 2 choices when it comes to setting your next goal.

1. You might choose not to set any goals, be happy where you are for a while and give yourself chance to get settled in your new job.

2. Maybe you feel a bit lost now you don’t have a goal to work towards. If you need some focus and direction consider setting some short term goals to implement that bold vision.

How will you keep yourself motivated?

For years you’ve been working towards this goal, it’s what got you out of bed in the morning and now you’re feeling a bit flat. You’re someone who is motivated by achievement, you want to feel like you’re making progress. So set a vision for yourself, for the type of leader you are going to be. What impact do you want to make on your business? Share that vision with your leadership team and wider if you’re feeling bold.

Give yourself a fine reputation to live up to. If that doesn’t get you out of bed in the morning I don’t know what will.

How do you make an impact?

Now that you’re the CEO you are the face of the organisation. All eyes are on you to see how you’ll perform as a leader.

Will you be making any significant changes?

Can people relate to you?

Will you be as good as their last boss?

There are 3 key areas to bear in mind when it comes to making an impact:

1. Connection - make sure you are visible. Whether that’s IRL or remotely via a screen, allow people to see you so they can see you’re a real person and start to connect with you. Make a briefing as quickly as possible ensuring that you are keeping your energy high to engage and inspire with your vision.

2. Vulnerability - admit that you don’t know everything, because you don’t. Most people fear asking for help when they get to a senior position because they think it makes them appear weak. Not so. People will trust and respect you much more if you seek help and advice on the things you don’t know rather than winging it. It gives them a boost too to know they’ve helped the boss.

3. Recognition - praise and feedback is multiplied by about a thousand when it comes from the top. Ask your managers to be kept in the loop about successes in the businesses. This means you can then drop a quick note or say a few words to someone who you know has gone above and beyond. You’ll make their day, their month, their year!

How do you keep calm under pressure?

When you make a bold career move to senior or exec level you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and diving head first into the fear zone! You suddenly realise the pressure is on you to deliver and you’re straight into fight or flight mode.

Your chimp is mouthing off, putting all of those doubts and fears in your head and you start wondering if you’ve made a mistake. You might begin to feel overwhelmed and struggle to maintain focus.

Each day a new challenge comes your way and you no longer feel confident that you can handle it. If you’re working evenings and weekends desperately trying to keep up then something needs to change. You need an Executive Coach.

What is executive coaching?

Executive coaching is essentially personal development for Leaders in high powered positions to enable them to continue to improve their performance. Look at all of the top sports people and athletes, they all perform at a high level and they have coaching to help them identify areas where they can achieve marginal gains.

Think of it like formula one racing drivers like Lewis Hamilton, making a small improvement could mean finishing a fraction of his lap time which might make the difference in whether he wins or loses the race.

How does it work?

In leadership, looking at ways to improve how you communicate your vision, being more open and honest to give feedback to your leadership team, can and will impact how engaged they are in your business and whether they decide to stay or leave.

So Executive Coaching focuses on you and your performance as a leader in two different ways:

Macro - taking a step back to view the bigger picture and look at your business from a different perspective. When you are ‘in’ the business day to day you get drawn into the weeds and you can’t see what’s happening. When we take a macro view of the business you start to see where improvements need to be made and plan to make them happen.

Micro - we dive deep into the detail of what is the root cause of a problem and you walk away with a clear solution. The important point to remember is that you’ve come up with the solution yourself so you feel empowered to take action and make the necessary change.

Executive coaching can mean working one to one with a coach or as part of a group of like minded professionals with similar goals and challenges.

Most importantly it’s a chance for you to have a completely confidential conversation about your fears and concerns in a safe space. A good coach will listen, challenge, encourage and empower you to find the solutions to your own problems. Not to mention holding you accountable for making the necessary changes so you can see yourself moving forward.

All in all, executive leadership is a completely different ball game. It can be exciting, challenging and incredibly rewarding if you’re prepared to keep on pushing those boundaries.

If you’ve recently taken on an executive role how would you like to join a group of other women in your exact position who are working on their personal development too? Message me for details of my exclusive Executive Excellence group coaching programme.


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