The Science of People

Can You Hear What You’re Telling Yourself About Your Career?

woman listening

Lessons in Female Leadership

Guest blog by Carol Stein

Note: This is the first in a guest blogger series: “Lessons in Female Leadership” about perspectives in moving women from competence to confidence in business leadership roles.


From the time I was 10 years old, I dreamed of a career in medicine.

I thought that would mean becoming a physician, but the pre-med program I attended — heavily geared toward math— delivered me the first of many lessons in my own course correction. At the recommendation of my neurological psych professor, I pivoted to psychology for my graduate studies.

It was in these graduate classes where I began to have a sense of how leadership might fit into my career. I became aware of the possibilities of being a change agent – not only with individual clients, but also in and with the larger community.

Hard work, continuing education, goal setting and determination all are elements of leadership. They also put one on a solid track of empowerment – sometimes in new and different arenas.

Power can be a nice feeling at times, but valid only when backed up by ever-increasing self-awareness, competence and growth.


Women and the Competence Conundrum

As a kid who excelled at baseball, but denied the opportunity to join the boys’ baseball team, I’ve long understood the female conundrum of how to “deal with” one’s competence. Do we abandon strengths to better fit in, be less threatening; or do we risk putting ourselves out there with confidence and competence?

In my work over the decades I’ve seen that, for many women, business success often means chasing something or having something chase them. Often these situations are unclear as to their origins or meanings. Letting up for one second may risk that moment of opportunity being gobbled up by someone else. Keeping track of more, assuming nothing and staying constantly vigilant are just a few of the ongoing stressors motivated women typically face. And so often there is a niggling fear of not being good enough.

Organizational cultures often exacerbate these issues. Many clients have expressed to me that they encountered much greater push back on ideas promoted by women versus those from men. In my experience, this seems particularly true for women in banking and finance.

Sadly, we tend to limit ourselves and our career potential by how well we’ve dealt with complex sets of business, cultural, societal and personal experiences.


Can You Hear Yourself?

People frequently learn about themselves through their experiences—especially the ones that didn’t work out. But we don’t really “listen” to all of the behavioral components that make us who we are—and make us happiest. By combining collective insight on what makes us tick —how we uniquely prefer to solve problems; get feedback; prioritize our lifestyle; manage our careers; connect with other people; pursue a purpose – we can determine a path to be successful on our own terms.

This is where SuccessFinder is uniquely useful.

With over 300 questions and layered A or B answers, SuccessFinder gives people the opportunity to answer the same type of career context question several times, and answer the same way. If you are brutally honest with your answers, you are painting a precise picture with those choices: clearly expressing your behavioral traits, preferences, style and how you experience the content. You can even access a part of yourself that you might not be aware of on a day-to-day basis.

I started using SuccessFinder 20 years ago when I became concerned about the number of my clients who were unhappy in their careers. I’d seen many tests come and go and was guarded about subjecting my clients to them. So, I took the test myself and was floored with the incredibly thorough, extensive and impressive report. I realized the potential this had to help my clients make more objective decisions for changing their circumstances.

Change, whether personal or organizational, doesn’t happen without effort. But once you understand your own behavioral DNA, you get an indicator of where you can start, and a much better sense of what you need to do to reach your goals. What one can learn from the SuccessFinder experience supports a familiar quote: “Knowledge is power.”

My clients at companies like HP, Apple, Intel and more, have been able to acknowledge what they were saying about themselves with their behavioral traits, and then own this information in very effective ways. Today, they apply that insight to either make more out of their current roles and career paths, or to change course to find something —or somewhere—more satisfying.

Need to make a change in your circumstance? First, listen to what your specific behaviors are telling you about who you are, and your true potential for success and satisfaction.


To learn more about programs to help find and develop women in leadership positions, click here.

About the author: Carol Stein is a certified SuccessFinder practitioner, and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker whose career has included roles in substance abuse counseling, private practice, Employee Assistance Program support for leading tech companies, motherhood and even spokesperson stints on radio and television. She can be reached through or at:



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