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Some days, it feels like you’re going backwards. You’ve pushed as much as you can, yet you’re at a standstill. It’s like Groundhog Day.

You may have been working for several years in an organisation or for yourself. You have been running for what feels like a long time. You are good at what you do, but you feel unappreciated and unrewarded for your work.

You may be asking yourself, “How do I level up at work? How do I step up? I don’t even know what that means. How do I work out what I’m doing well that I can leverage? What skills do I need to build?”

It feels like there’s never enough time …

Women who have their own businesses or are in leadership positions do not seem to have enough time in the day to get everything done – let alone the time to step up and progress their career.

They don’t make the money they know they deserve. They’re juggling family and business, feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what the next steps are. Many women in these positions feel busy but not productive. Everything feels so hard.

So, what do you do if your career comes to a grinding halt?

You may be asking yourself, “How can I do work that I love?” Or, “How can I make money out of this business idea?”

The Harvard Business Review did a study of finalists who were in the running for C-suite roles but got turned down in the final round. The analysis uncovered four main topics or themes that stopped people from progressing to C-suite positions. These were:

1. Executive presence

I hate this term. I think it’s a cop-out and a catch-all for people who can’t quite put their finger on why they don’t want to promote you. It’s when you may be highly skilled and intelligent, yet you come across as “understated” and meek.

2. Communication style

This relates to how you communicate and speak up (or don’t speak up). It can leave a lasting impression that has a significant impact on your career.

3. Peer relationships

Peer relationships are always tricky to navigate. You could be doing great things in your division or team, but at a peer-group level, for some reason, you just haven’t nailed it.

4. Excessive optimism and perfectionism

Apparently, excessive optimism and perfectionism can hinder career progression!

Sometimes, we need to hustle!

The word “hustle” has grown to have negative connotations. But the truth is, success requires a little hustle. Even more, it requires you to get a bit uncomfortable.

As humans, we are neurologically wired to find our comfort zone and do whatever we can to protect it. But growth and comfort cannot coexist. To grow, we need to do things we have not done before, in ways we have not used before, which feels uncomfortable.

The most successful women have someone in their corner, expanding their limitations on what is possible, and helping them identify areas of discomfort worth leaning into. Stepping out of our comfort zone, although scary, reaps amazing benefits.

This reminds me of a time when I pitched a story to a client. I went to the client, who wanted to disrupt the professional services industry, and they asked me to pitch a leadership development program to them.

I threw myself into the pitch. I prepared for days. I made sure I knew the industry inside out. And the creme de la crème was when I walked into their office in a judo suit to do my pitch, because it was all about mindset – and yes, I wore a black belt!

I didn’t get that work

It occurred to me that I didn’t get that work because I was too disruptive, even though that’s what they wanted. But, as one of my mentors said to me a couple of weeks later, when he saw this client in the news: “You know what, Emma? People lie. People lie about what it is they want.”

If I had stayed in my comfort zone, I would have pitched like every other person out there. But I didn’t. It didn’t pay off that time, but it has paid off many, many more times.

So, no, it shouldn’t always be this hard. But the fact is, it often is hard. And to deal with it, you need to lean outside your comfort zone. That’s where the growth happens!

I’m Emma, and I’m a business and executive coach who believes wholeheartedly in the potential of women. My coaching philosophy is simple- taking action leads to results- and I love working with women in business and in corporate roles to take their passion and drive and transform their professional and personal lives.

Be enthusiastic, optimistic and energetic, every day.