Be Business Savvy Conscious & Use Business Savvy Consciously

#bebusinesssavvy career advancement Mar 13, 2024

TL;DR: Many senior and executive women can't mentor you on Business Savvy (in person or virtually) because they aren't conscious of how they've developed it. If you aspire to greater heights, don't let their blindness keep you from consciously working on yours.

Good morning from the sleepy little village of El Rompido in Andalusia, Spain. About as close to the Portuguese border as I could be. 

This morning I'm musing on the consciousness of successful women about having developed business, financial and strategic acumen.

They Just Don't See It

I have interviewed dozens of women CEOs, some from Fortune 500 companies, And even more women who hold senior positions - mostly in  Fortune 500 or Global 1000 companies.

When I've asked them, "What did you do? Or how did it happen? Or what did it take for you to develop Business Savvy (meaning business  financial and strategic acumen)? it has consistently surprised me that they have difficulty answering that question. Because it's totally outside their frame of reference about what it takes to succeed in business.

They will often fall back to answers like, "Well, I achieved my success because I developed an extensive network," or  "Because I relied on my strong team members." Occasionally, they will talk about having developed an in depth understanding of a function - for example, sales.

Rarely do they talk about having received mentorship, or coaching, or education or experiences that help them gain a deeper understanding of the business, where it was headed and their role in taking it there, or a deeper understanding of the financials beyond the budget they managed.  Some will occasionally talk about gaining experience managing a budget. And virtually none of them talk about any concrete experiences or exposure that help them develop strategic acumen.

Clearly in the case of the Fortune 500 women CEOs I've interviewed and whose books I've read, they have all three. They could not have gotten to the top without being known for having business, financial, and strategic acumen.

I'm having a hard time understanding why they can't easily my question. The only explanation I can attach to this is the fact that they have bought into the incomplete conventional wisdom about what it takes to be a leader, which is, you have to be a wonderful person with excellent interpersonal and team skills, and you have to have a network of people inside and outside of the organization.

Why You Must See It

It continues to be my mission in life to expand your understanding of what it takes to be successful inside of organizations, to build far beyond the personal greatness aspects and the engaging others aspects  and to hone in on the kinds of knowledge and experiences you also need to be recognized as a partner in the business and to be seen as a viable candidate for advancement.

So, here's the foundation. 

  1. First of all, you have to get your results. If you don't get results, you aren't even on the table as a prospect or as a candidate.
  2. You have to show that you have business, financial and strategic acumen appropriate to your level. All of that looks different as you move up inside the organization. And in a field of candidates where everyone is there because they've achieved results, the first disqualifier would be if you aren't seen as having business, financial, and strategic acumen,  then you're off the table.
  3. If you are known for Business Savvy, then your team and interpersonal skills and your personal attributes will become the differentiators as to whether you move ahead.

The implications of this are inside your organization when you're being considered for promotion is that you have to consistently develop your leadership brand. If you've taken Build Business Acumen, you know that I have very strong and specific clarity about what a leadership brand is and isn't.

What this means if you're applying for positions outside of your organization is you have to put your business impact - concrete and measurable - and demonstrations of your business, financial, and strategic acumen, top of mind in your resume, cover letter, and well augmented by proven examples of your interpersonal and team skills.

Let's Recap

There are four things that will represent you as a viable candidate, as a viable candidate for advancement.

  1. One are the results that you have achieved. 
  2. The second known business, financial, and strategic acumen. 
  3. The third is your known capacity for engaging the greatness in others, including a broad network inside and outside of your company.
  4. And the fourth are your personal attributes.

Whether you're applying for a position inside or outside, these four will matter.

  • Inside the company, it's all about reputation, so it's important to begin to work on your leadership brand.
  • Outside, opportunities require that you showcase front and center your outcomes, your business financial and strategic acumen and both strongly supported by your engagement skills and attributes.

I hope that someday in the future, when you're a CEO, or a senior executive and an interviewer asks you, "How did you go about developing your business financial and strategic acumen?"  You will say, "Well, I was exposed to the idea in <insert concrete examples> and these are the concrete steps I took and/or the ways mentors and helped me take in order to extend my skills."

Catch you next time,


photo from the boardwalk/nature trail in El Rompido

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