Twenty-five years ago, I hit a fork in the road of my thriving career as the founder of a business consultancy. Problem was, I didn’t like either tine.

I had a choice: go global or become a guru.  I was too young and too female to become a guru — and too pregnant to consider the personal cost and professional administrative drag of global expansion. So I sold my business.

Since then, my career has included high profile consulting and leadership roles at companies like A.T. Kearney, and The Office of the Future at McDonald’s, where I’ve provided strategic, brand, sales, marketing and organizational design counsel and analysis to some of the world’s leading businesses.  I know my business. What I didn’t know well enough was myself.

Sure, I know I am happiest pushing the envelope on ideas, vs. pushing up against politics in a big firm. But I hadn’t really recognized the toll that my business success had taken on my career happiness.

That is, until I got that results of my SuccessFinder behavioral assessment two years ago.

The behavioral DNA psychometric test reinforced the positives that I have built my career upon: intellectual curiosity, high problem-solving ability, decisiveness, leadership and good old-fashioned “stick-to-itiveness.”

But it was my low scores —connoting the areas I was least interested in— that literally brought me to tears with an “ah-ha” about myself. Behaviorally, I have abysmal street sense, political acumen and competitiveness.  Oh, and one more biggie: I chafe at constraints.  These are all ingredients of a successful executive at a big corporation.  Sure, I could play the game, but the rewards were not worth the personal cost.

If I had better read myself, I may not have sold my business then.

But that insight has not gone unleveraged: I am thrilled to be leading a boutique consulting business again. This time, with a more deliberate focus on the intellectual capital development I thrive on, and with seasoned, supportive colleagues who are also passionate about delivering McKinsey-quality, high-impact work, at a fraction of the cost.

And now I also use the SuccessFinder tool to help my clients build better, more predictably successful teams to deliver on their business missions.  One example of this is the work we did with Serta Simons Bedding Company when they were working with us to chart a course towards a successful integration of two historically separate businesses.

SuccessFinder helps me find, coach and connect high-performing and high-potential individuals within organizations to best fit with scientifically proven potential for success. And I use it in my own firm to ensure alignment of the best, more powerful teams with complementary behavioral competencies and strengths — this in turn helps us drive meaningful dialogue about business and team development.

Getting the right people in the right roles is equally important to getting them in the right corporate cultures to help them truly thrive.

Choose Your Culture, Change Your Confidence

I love being a business counselor. I am equally comfortable at the front of the room, the head of the table and the front on the pack because I always do the work and deliver the insight to earn that position.

As a business woman though, I understand how even the most competent women can doubt themselves from time to time.  Many times, it boils down to one thing: culture. To me, culture is how the company behaves and how it holds its management and team accountable.

In many leadership settings women get undermined and interrupted, and see our best ideas co-opted by our males peers. And worse. Certainly recent headlines have been filled with a litany of broadcast and tech industry leaders losing their jobs due to perpetuating cultures of sexual harassment and overall “creepy” behavior.

As I’ve become older, built my career and confidence, I simply don’t tolerate being interrupted or undermined any longer.  I don’t think it is just a seniority thing that women push back, or exude better confidence —nor should it be.

In my roles as CEO at L&C Strategic Advisory Consultants and as a participant in Adrenalys, an accelerator for mid-sized businesses in Montreal, I mentor a number of younger women and I see differences in confidence. They run a gamut from not having much confidence to having a ton of it. And I also see millennial men collaborating very differently with women than their predecessors, which is encouraging for the next generation of leaders.

My counsel to all of them is to become good enough at what you do that you choose the job in the business environment and culture that you deserve.  Work on things that are important to you.  If you are good at what you do, you can always find smart, nice people to work with.

And my counsel to the business leaders across my client portfolio:

In order to build thriving business, ensure your strategy, leadership   and culture are working in sync. How you do what you do matters.

Nice guys (and girls) don’t finish last — if they are smart about who they are and what they need to be happiest.

This post was originally published on the SuccessFinder blog.

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