Goal Setting Sets the Genders Apart

goal settingThere are some obvious differences between men and women at work, but one difference sets the genders apart and propels more men in to leadership positions: Goal setting.

This is critical for career success, according to Karen McCormick, VP of HR for Kellogg Europe. Men will say things like “my goals were…” whereas women can sound more unsure by saying, “I was thinking of…”, she said.

McCormick was speaking at the NCI, Dublin’s (@ncirl) continuing series of Cornflakes & Commerce breakfast talks. Although the topic was on women in business, McCormick said her observations and tips for success applied equally to men.

Asked when she started career goal setting, McCormick said it was after the birth of her first child. She knew she didn’t want to be an accountant for ever, so she set herself the goal of becoming a chief executive, she said.

Setting and reaching goals requires some self-inventory and analysis, McCormick said. But by doing this work, writing it down and setting time frames, goals are more likely to be achieved because priorities become clearer. “If everything’s about a journey or a goal, conflicts disappear,” she said.

Other factors:


What do you want to be? McCormick asked. “I had no idea what I wanted to be or what I could be,” she said. But she knew she was “passionate about business.”

Her career started as an accountant, and while most of the men in her class felt comfortable saying they wanted to be a CEO, McCormick still did not have that self-belief. She built it up by taking whatever opportunities came her way, she said.


Closely aligned with belief, self-confidence is also important, McCormick said. But this is not to be confused with arrogance or a “lack of humility,” she said. People working in supportive organizations where teamwork is valued can excel. Those in “macho organizations” will suffer, she said. “People get depressed in negative environments.”


Those companies suit neither men nor women, McCormick said. “We can choose where we participate, we can choose where we want to work,” she said. But in a disrespectful company, people realize that their “sense of self-worth, their sense of I can make a difference [becomes] but not in a culture like this.”

Family / Maternity

Although some women may lose confidence in their professional abilities after maternity leave, McCormick the opposite should be the case. Women “develop exponentially” to what they were before the birth of their first child, she said. “Women who had children and come back to work can prioritize like they couldn’t do before,” she said.

Image courtesy of angietorres on Flickr.