From Elizabeth: Many years ago, a Hindu philosophy teacher who’s a friend of mine first shared with me the idea that we become the company we keep—that those who surround us reflect back to us our best and worst, and that as a result, it’s critically important that we keep great company.
This advice applies to everyone in every walk of life, but particularly, in my experience, to the lives of working women.
Here’s a few ways to make sure you’re keeping good company on your rise to the top.
Surround yourself with women who believe in you
This goes for friends, colleagues and bosses. We all need allies who want us to succeed—women who believe in the power of other women and seek to work with us rather than against us. Having great supportive female friends and colleagues is as important on the good days as on the bad. We need friends and workmates who aren’t threatened by our success and will tout our wins to others, as well as give us pep talks when we need them. If, perchance, you find yourself surrounded instead by women who compete with you, subtly tear you down, or take credit for your successes, it’s time to start looking for new company to keep.
Don’t try to fix an abusive or hostile work environment
If you happen to find yourself working in an environment—or for a boss—where you are put down, insulted or discriminated against, take the advice of Maya Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them—the first time.” Time and again I have coached women who have experienced abuse in the workplace, and have tried to “fix” an abusive boss or otherwise internalized the idea that there was something wrong with them or their work that was causing hostility or outright discrimination. After months or years of effort, these women land on my doorstep traumatized, depleted and even physically ill. If you are surrounded by toxic people, that toxicity will rub off on you one way or another. Your best strategy if you find yourself in this circumstance is to plot your exit, and quick. New and better company awaits you.
Find sponsors and mentors who model wild success
It’s a well-known truth that success begets success and wealth begets wealth. Why? Because when we’re around people who have made it, we’re necessarily challenged to up our game. For that reason, finding sponsors and mentors in your workplace who have risen to the top, want to teach you to succeed on your own two feet, and are willing to put their own capital on the line to get you there is critical. Seek out powerful leaders on your team, in your department and in your company, and cultivate solid working relationships with each. If you ever have the chance to speak with leaders of your industry at a corporate event or networking dinner, take it. Ask hard questions about how they got to where they are. Ask for follow-up. Ask for their best advice for someone like you who wants to get to where they are, and take it. Make a memorable impression, and don’t forget to hand over your card. The best leaders are both generous and kind, and if you seek out their company, you will exponentially accelerate your path to success.
Choose a partner who adores you at your most powerful
This is perhaps the most critical aspect of the company we keep: our intimate partnerships. Nothing can destroy one’s focus, ambition, or joy like coming home every night to a partner who cuts us down rather than lifting us up. We all want to be loved for who we are at our most authentic and our most powerful. A great partner can multiply our confidence, cheer us on in the most difficult moments, and honor us for all that we are. Inevitably, we take in the energy, intent and perspectives of those around us. The company we keep at home, at work and in the world impacts us in every way as we seek to rise. Choose wisely, and your success will be inevitable.