When bravery and positive power coalesce, we are able to embark on what I call the 7 Brave Pathways To Career Bliss which are: Brave Sight, Brave Speak, Brave Ask, Brave Connection, Brave Challenge, Brave Service and Brave Healing.

The result of embarking on these brave pathways is transformational for both individuals and organizations, including an expanded experience of success, collaboration, psychological safety, fulfillment, impact, growth and engagement.

What happens when professionals “find brave” and begin closing their power gaps?

They experience power-enhancing transformational change that includes:

  • Engaging in work that is personally meaningful, fulfilling and impactful.
  • Achieving the respect, appreciation and influence they want, and earning the financial compensation they deserve.
  • Using their talents and gifts in service of others and the organization and overcoming the crippling “imposter syndrome,” which impacts 75% of executive women
  • Building heart-connected relationships with colleagues, teammates, and others that build a culture of belonging, trust and connection (which dramatically improves engagement and retention).
  • Negotiating and advocating powerfully for themselves and others in ways that bring forth more successful outcomes.
  • Achieving supportive mentors, sponsors and ambassadors who can elevate them.
  • Contributing at the highest levels possible in their work, careers and organizations.

Below are key descriptions of the three most prevalent power gaps, along with suggested strategies that leaders and team managers can employ today to help professionals close these gaps:

  • Power Gap 3: Reluctance to Ask For What You Want and Deserve
    (77% of professionals surveyed are experiencing this gap).

What professionals with this gap often tell themselves: “I need and want more success and recognition in my work, teams and in what I’m focusing on in my role, but I’m afraid to ask for it and don’t know how to achieve it.”

The majority of professional women I work with are stymied as to how to ask for “more,” whether that’s a plum assignment, and new leadership experience, a deserved raise or promotion, or even how to determine the very first step to figuring out what they should be asking for to contribute at a deeper level.

In terms of salary and compensation, for example, one study conducted by Linda Babcock for her book with Sara Laschever, “Women Don’t Ask,” revealed that right out of business school, while 57% of men negotiated their first salary, only about 7% of women did, which creates an enormous inequity from the very first step in our careers. And current processes for evaluating raises and promotions are still fraught with a myriad of biases including gender, age and racial bias.

Here’s what leaders and managers can do:

Build a Structural Process That Encourages Employees To Ask For What They Want and Deserve

Provide employees numerous opportunities throughout each year to explore with their managers what they want to do and create, not only in their current jobs, but in their careers as a whole. Help them find avenues to ask for, and achieve, new growth and success in ways that will expand their value and their skills and contribution.

In your teams, encourage team members to share more clearly and specifically what they need and want in order to successfully complete the important projects they are tasked with in the best way possible. Create an environment where asking for what you want is encouraged.

  • Power Gap 4: Isolating From Influential Support
    (71% of professionals surveyed have this gap)

What professionals with this gap often tell themselves: “I know I need some support, mentoring and advising but I don’t know how to get it and I’m embarrassed to ask.”

This year alone, I’ve heard from hundreds of professionals who self-report as “introverted” and shared their belief that their introversion is perceived negatively by their bosses and colleagues. They also feel that their introversion has gotten in the way of their networking and expanding their sphere of influence.

All professionals — introverts and extroverts alike — need access to mentors and sponsors, both at their organizations and outside of them, who can provide guidance and advice and can open doors for them when they’re not in the room.

Here’s what leaders and managers can do:

Forge Avenues For Influential Mentorship and Sponsorship Support

Build a strong mentoring community within your organization and outside of it, for instance through online mentoring platforms, and provide new opportunities for professionals to obtain influential guidance, support and help inside and outside the organization.

  • Power Gap 6: Losing Sight of Your Thrilling Vision for Your Career
    (76% of professionals surveyed have this gap)

What professionals with this gap tell themselves: “I’m not where I dreamed to be professionally but I have no idea what would make me happier or how I would even get there. I’m so stuck.”

Many professionals I hear from know what they don’t want in their jobs and roles but can’t name what they do want. That’s a challenge that will keep you trapped in an unsatisfying (and unproductive) role or situation for years. If you can’t name what you want, or what your special talents and accomplishments are, and if you’ve lost sight of a big dream that used to excite you for your career from your earlier life, then you won’t muster the bravery or power to make the necessary changes to leverage your talents and skills in new, rewarding ways.

Here’s what leaders and managers can do:

Help Employees Reconnect To Their Thrilling Dreams for the Future

Give employees important, regular opportunities to identify and reconnect to their biggest professional goals and dreams. Explore new pathways for them to achieve those dreams right there in your organization and on you teams. Help them understand what their special talents and abilities are and how their contributions matter and how to use their talents in new and exciting ways. Engagement, retention and productivity will soar when you do.

How to Close Your Power Gaps

The strongest bravery-boosting step one can take is to review the seven gaps and recognize those that generate the most internal challenge, fear or shame for you. Then, begin to take small, doable micro steps every week that address the gap so that it’s no longer hidden, frightening or ignored.

As a leader or team manager, it’s essential to understand these gaps deeply within yourself and address them personally first, then help your teams recognize and close their gaps. After all, how you lead your own life is exactly how you will lead your enterprise and teams. Leadership is influence, and without sufficient bravery and positive power, your influence and impact will falter.

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