• Mel Butcher

Book Club Guide: No Ceiling, No Walls by Susan Colantuono

Copy of book titled No Ceiling, No Walls - on Mel Butcher's blog

Whether internal to your company or with a small cohort of folks from your industry, a book club is a great way to build relationships and learn.

As a gift to you, I will be sharing some of the questions I've developed that correspond to various career and personal development books here on my blog, starting with No Ceiling, No Walls by Susan Colantuono.

No Ceiling, No Walls is based on years of research and work done by Susan Colantuono and the Leading Women team. They have dedicated years to understanding what has held women back from reaching the highest echelons of leadership, while also helping companies close the leadership gender gap at the top.

Who's it for?

This book is ideal for ambitious women who want to advance to any level in their careers. This is also a good book for male allies seeking to better understand how they might create the support framework and mentorship necessary within their organizations to close leadership gender gaps.


In my book group, we chose to break this book up into four sections and hold four respective deep-dive calls.

1) The Foundation pp1-60

  • Leader vs. Manager: Take a moment and think of a manager or PM whom you really enjoyed working with. Once you have them in your mind, think about their strengths. What made them great to work with?

  • What else did you take away from the leader/manager discussion?

  • Leadership: Susan developed a definition based on research for Leadership that is as follows: “Using the greatness in you to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes by engaging the greatness in others.” What did you think about the breaking down of other leadership definitions of the past? What were your main takeaways?

  • Being for the Business: “Wearing the mantle of leadership in business means that you understand and act on the fact that you are for the company and by extension for the customer.” Share what this passage means to you?

  • How might we positively instill this type of ownership in team members, particularly younger team members?

  • How do the distinctions of the 3 pillars of leadership help you see where you need to grow?

  • What did you learn from doing the self assessment?

  • What did you learn about where your {women} staff or younger colleagues might need additional guidance so they are not missing the 33%?

  • Discuss: Inputs, Activities, Results, Outcomes

2) Achieve and Sustain Extraordinary Outcomes pp61-116

  • What realizations did you have after reading about the distinction between Results (e.g. completed project on time and on budget) versus Outcomes (e.g. exceeding revenue targets)?

  • Growth - Within our/your organization, what has been the growth model? What positives and negatives stand out to you in the different approaches (between organic versus mergers/acquisitions or other)?

  • Profitable Growth - The author described the CEO of Xerox opting to not cut R&D - forgoing short term gain for maintaining the company trajectory long-term as a tech innovator. What lessons did you garner from this? What lessons might your organization garner from this?

  • Strategic Acumen

  • What organizational change have you been through in business? What made it difficult? Who made it easier on you/your team and what did their actions look like?

  • Have you heard of the "glass cliff" (p83) before? What did you think when you learned about this phenomenon?

  • Financial Acumen

  • Did you have any "Aha" moments about your organization or perhaps clients in this section - particularly around the contents of the four reports (P&L Statement, Equity Statement, Balance Sheet, Cash Flow Statement)?

  • What questions do you have now for your CFO?

  • Do you have something on the horizon that you need help making the business case for internally?

  • What have you struggled to make the business case on for clients (specific)?

  • (p103) Looking back in time, do you now recognize any specific strategic moves that your employer (current or past) or a competitor made to move one of the financial indicators?

  • Language of Power

  • In what ways are you good at using the language of power?

  • What's a specific example where you have not used the language of power when you should have?

  • What holds you back from speaking about your accomplishments? What would make you more comfortable?

3) Engage the Greatness in Others pp117-152

  • Think of your own experience with past managers. What stands out about the managers who made you feel you had to comply? Versus the managers who made you feel engaged?

  • p121 “Engaging the greatness in others means first believing that everyone has greatness in them and then being willing to look for it.” Think about a time you’ve struggled to see the greatness in a colleague or direct report. How did you overcome this and tap into their greatness?

  • Think about something your team is currently struggling with. What is one action you could take to aid in ensuring team members at all levels understand: the problem, the strategy to address it, and/or what they can do to help? How can this grroup support you in your effort?

  • Did anyone in our group stand out to you as being particularly strong in one of the 5-C engagement strategies? Which one are you particularly strong in?

  • Charismatic visionary

  • Compelling leveler

  • Champion

  • Connector

  • Conductor

  • p134 Table: Using all of the 5-C Engagement Strategies – In the top box next to Charismatic Visionary, Susan gives an example to illustrate the difference between a vision and a goal. What is a goal your team has now (or you)? How would you describe the company’s vision of where they want to be in the market in the future? Can you see how achieving the goal contributes to achieving the vision? Do your team members?

  • Aligning Others (directly from the book) "If someone observed your actions over the course of a week, would they see your greatest time invested on your most important outcomes?”

  • “If you analyzed your staff meetings, do you spend the most time on key outcomes?”

  • “Based on the topics you’ve discussed with them, would your staff know which are the most important outcomes they contribute?”

  • How might we, as leaders, make our impact on outcomes more visible?

  • Building Strategic Relationships

  • Consider the subsequent types of people in your network identified by Bonnie Marcus in the book - The Politics of Promotion. Think about if you’re strong in one area (with many contacts) and weak in another. How might this cohort help you if you decide you want to build strategic relationships in a currently weak area?

  • “Operational – The people who fall into this category are the people you work with every day. They help you get your job done. They may be on your team, in your department, or in support roles in the company. Such support roles might be sales, marketing, IT, or HR. In other words, you don’t necessarily work directly with them all the time.”

  • “Developmental (Decision Makers, Influencers) – These contacts can serve as role models, potential mentors, or sponsors. They have power and influence over decisions that affect your career. They are decision makers and are often key stakeholders in that business. You may not have a strong enough relationship with some of these contacts to know for sure if they are willing to be your sponsor or mentor, but identifying them and placing them in your network plan is important.”

  • “Strategic (Connectors) – Your strategic contacts serve as sources of information and connection. They can also provide operational and developmental support. These people open up doors for you and provide introductions to other people in all categories.”

4) Use the Greatness in You pp153-fin

  • From the Attributes and Strengths Inventory (p 165), what strength did you identify that you'd like to develop? Is there someone in the group strong in that area that could be a guide or accountability partner?

  • What were the results of the Values exercise (p166) for you? Did it surprise you?

  • Who would be willing to share their Legacy Exercise with the group (page 176)

  • Susan described Leadership Presence as: The Language of Power; The Power of Language; and Non-verbal Messages. What did you think about this? Do you see these used adeptly by leaders whom you admire?

  • Tap the Power of Non-Verbals: "When there's a disconnect between what you say and how you appear, people believe what they see over what they hear. So, if you're verbalizing great ideas, but your posture, eye contact and gestures are self-protective and/or unsure, people won't take you seriously. That's why effective leaders align confident words with a confident non-verbal presence." What do you think about this

  • How would you describe the double bind and can you describe an instance where you have experienced or witnessed it?


No Ceiling, No Walls has meant a lot to my career growth. The teachings within are also at the core of what is taught inside A Career that Soars! (a growth community for ambitious women), and in the Lead to Soar podcast. We hope you'll check those out, too!

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