Create Career Buzz!

Lately, I have fielded a lot of questions about how invisible people feel in their career due to the pandemic.  If you are working remotely, this is probably even more of a concern.  You are not being dramatic, jumping to conclusions, or being paranoid.  When you are out of the office, “out of sight, out of mind” is a legitimate concern.  You may go back to your physical workplace in the future and some of you are going to work remotely going forward.  This invisibility does not have to be your fate.  YOU can take the helm of your career, guide it out of choppy waters and into calmer seas.  There are so many things you can’t control right now.  That is one of the many frightening things about the pandemic, the world is unpredictable!  When humans are faced with chaos, having some things they can control can really improve your mental health and your career. 

One of my favorite books is by Pam Lontos, published in 2013, I See Your Name Everywhere.  I was familiar with Pam because her company PR/PR always ran ads in the National Speaker’s Association magazine.  Her book became one of my “go to” guides for my business.  She was THE guru in my estimation.  You should have seen and heard me the day she called me!  Out of the blue, Pam called me and told me she had seen my name recently several times.  Wow!  I was speechless and for those of you that know me well, that doesn’t happen very often.  After some discussion, I found out that she had sold the business and as part of her semi-retirement she was doing consulting.  I could not sign up fast enough. The words Pam consistently drummed into my ears were: leverage and buzz.  You may work in a corporate position, in a non-profit, or in a small business and think creating career buzz does not apply to you.  Hold on, my friend, YES it does.  It’s where, why, and how you create the buzz.

Your first step could likely be making peace with the concept of creating buzz about yourself.  Some of you can hear your mother saying, “Don’t brag, don’t sound conceited, don’t toot your own horn.”  It’s time to tell mother to “zip it!”  You likely didn’t just get this message at home.  You may have gotten this same message in your schooling, church, community, media, or society at large.  If you don’t leverage your successes, accomplishments and awards you are missing great opportunities to advance your career.  Replacing that message with that of the great humorist, Will Rogers, is powerful.  Good ole Will said, “If you done it, it ain’t bragging.”  This is different from seeming needy, screaming for affirmation isn’t career enhancing, either.  

With whom could you highlight your successes, accomplishments, awards, etc.?  Here are a few to get you rolling:

  • Your former bosses
  • Your former co-workers
  • Your former mentors
  • Your alma mater
  • Your professional associations
  • Your networking groups
  • Your closer professional network
  • Your social media connections
  • Your current boss
  • Your next level up
  • Your current mentor
  • Your current sponsor (people who have opened doors and opportunities for you)
  • Your sorority
  • Your community
  • Volunteer causes that you participate in

One of my clients is a dynamo.  I know it and she is realizing it.  On our coaching calls we often start the session with celebration of her current successes.   I acknowledge her successes, the talent it took and the effort it took to achieve it.  Next, I ask, “How are you going to leverage that?”  At first, she was resistant, as she had been socialized to be very humble about her successes.  Then she got to the point where she would beat me to the punch and say, “I know, how am I going to leverage that?”  Now she leads with, “Here is what I have done to leverage that.”  It’s a process. 

One of the most effective steps I have taken is to create a “Buzz Buddy System”.  You can give a shout out on social media, inter-office message boards, company online newsletters about your buddy’s success!  You can say laudatory statements about them that they might be uncomfortable saying about themselves.  Make sure this is reciprocal. It feels great to know that you are assisting a co-worker, colleague, or friend advance their career.   It is possible to leverage your successes and create buzz about you!

Perhaps this entire article makes your skin crawl, but you know it would be valuable to create some “buzz”.  You don’t have to jump over this career hurdle alone.  Call me at (513) 561-4288 or email me at Kay@highheeledsuccess.com.  We can schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss this and other steps to your High-Heeled Success.

Making and Owning Choices That are YOURS

Doesn’t every aspect of your world, both personally and professionally, seem to be driven by the pandemic these days?  Considering that, a friend commented that she was struggling with holiday decorating.  She lives alone and will have no one in her home for the holidays due to the pandemic.  What to do?  Tradition, habit, and other people’s opinion of whether or how she should decorate appeared to be muddling the decision-making process. She really does have choices:  she could go full-out in decorating, just because she loves the way it looks.  She could choose just to decorate the rooms she will most frequent.  Holy cow, she could do nothing at all!  This is such a metaphor for choice and the age-old question, “Whose life is this, anyway?”  To truly “own” our decisions and choices may be one of the earmarks that we have reached adulthood, regardless of our age.  I’m not recommending ignoring the needs of others when they are impacted by your choices, but this may be a great time to reflect on how you make choices, personally and professionally. 

If you are being honest with yourself, you may find that decisions and choices are being run out of habit or “The way I’ve always done it.”  Life changes, you get divorced, you move out-of-state, you are terminated.  Seasons of life change, you get your master’s degree, you have a child, you near retirement age.  You don’t have to keep doing things the same way, especially if you have never really considered YOUR wants and needs.  Perhaps it is time to move out of rote and into intentionality.  The ability to choose differently at home may give you the skill and confidence to translate this into your career.  

I was an advocate for women to “lean in” to their career long before Sheryl Sandberg wrote the book Lean In and coined the phrase “lean in”.  With that said, we are all vastly different, with different skills, temperament, and aspirations.  Choosing for yourself can be tough, especially if you have spent your entire life pleasing others.  It’s time to ask, “WHY?”  Why am I making this choice?  Are you living the career your parents wanted for you?  Are you in the job that seems to be the usual for your circle of friends?  Have you chosen to step up into leadership because a professor or mentor saw that as an opportunity for you?  Have you succumbed to the influence of media as to what you should be aspiring? 

Perhaps you are considering a major choice like changing careers.  The Career Foundry identifies 5 reasons to make a career change:

  1. You need a new challenge
  2. Your values have changed
  3. You want to focus on other things
  4. Your passion lies elsewhere
  5. You’re not happy

I work with many women who are exploring this stage of choice.  However, your choices don’t have to be that dramatic.  One of my clients felt the “itch” to have a higher income and switch her focus from a customer service role to a sales role.  Another client, given the option of a promotion that would have put her in charge of a large team, turned it down.  With some guidance, she came to the realization that “herding cats”, her term for managing others, would make her life miserable.  She wanted to be responsible for HER work only.  She came to me with her husband’s comment, “Are you nuts?  Of course, you will say yes to a management position.”  She was finally able to remind him, he was not the one that would be “herding the cats”!  It isn’t easy bucking the perspective of others, even when they are well-meaning. 

Your choices may seem less dramatic than these but still will make a difference in your life.  Recently, I had a client say “No” to serving on a committee that would have an impact on the diversity and inclusion policies of her company.  Though she was passionate about the power of diversity and inclusion, with small children and the iffy nature of the pandemic and childcare, she declined.  It was all about the season of her life. 

Where in the world do you start with taking the reins of your own career?  A good first step will be to go through the steps in Kay’s Consulting Corner.  Perhaps that is not nearly enough assistance.  If you are struggling with career choices and need someone without a “dog in that fight” to guide you, I might just be the woman for you.  Call me at 513-561-4288 or email me at Kay@highheeledsuccess.com.  We can arrange a complimentary consultation to talk about your situation.

Alert: COVID-19 Could Derail Your Career Permanently, Unless…

COVID-19 may be the worst experience of your lifetime!  That is not lost on me, my business has been turned upside down and we are shattered to be unable to interact with our family as we normally would.  I am grateful that my husband and I have each other in our home, we haven’t driven each other crazy — yet!  In my business I have talked with women who live alone who have found it to be painful beyond words.  We look at our own adult children trying to work, cope with fears of the disease, economics, and now homeschooling their children, it’s so overwhelming.  My clients are struggling, too, with the same issues.

As you know, my mission in life is to enable women to reach their potential in the workplace and unlearn gender behaviors that put them at a disadvantage in the workplace.  Though equity in the workplace is an ongoing challenge, women have been making strides, then COVID hit.  Hit like a Tsunami!

Women have always had at least two jobs, the one in the workplace and the one at home.  Females have consistently done most of the housework, childcare, and eldercare.  Even with a spouse that contributes a great deal, women still have a disproportionate share of work at home.  NOW with the virus, mothers are spending more hours a week on housework and childcare.  Boston Consulting Group found women are spending 15 more hours a week on domestic labor during the pandemic than men.  Catalyst, a nonprofit focused on helping companies better serve women, report women are twice as likely than men to be responsible for homeschooling.  I know many of my clients, friends and family members are at their breaking point.  Heaven help the women who are healthcare workers or are teachers.  Perhaps YOU are at your breaking point!  As a result, many women who are not sole supporters of their families or themselves, are considering leaving the workplace.

Before you make the decision to leave, please slow down and consider the long-term ramifications.  In her article for CNBC, Courtney Connley reported, “1 in 4 women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce due to the coronavirus.”  An entire generation of women may never fully recover in economics or in career trajectory. 

Author Stephanie M.H. Moore, PhD., who is a Lecturer of Business Law and Ethics at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business suggests steps companies can take to prevent their female employees from leaving.

  • Survey your female employees and find out what they need
  • Give flexibility of remote work and avoid scheduling meetings during peak drop-off and pickup times for children for both fathers and mothers
  • Record meetings for those that can’t attend
  • Assist with subsidies for childcare
  • During the pandemic consider adjusting unrealistic productivity expectations

Remember, there is strength in numbers.  If you have employee resource groups within your company, harness the power of those numbers to make these and other recommendations to management.  Companies need their best and brightest women to thrive and stay.  These recommendations are just the beginning, start brainstorming and get the support you need.

Don’t miss Kay’s Corner for what YOU can do personally to avoid opting out and negatively effecting your career permanently.  If you need additional help in maximizing your career, please call me at (513) 561-4288 or email me at Kay@highheeledsuccess.com.

Speaking Strategies to Create Memorability While Working Remotely

A Forbes article cites a survey done by Prezi, the cloud-based presentation platform company, that 70% of employed Americans, who give presentations, agree that presentation skills are critical to their success at work.  Even though employees acknowledge the career boost great speaking skills afford, few love to present.  In fact, the Book of Lists cites fear of public speaking as the #1 fear people have, ahead of snakes, heights, and death!  Perhaps you have developed some skills around speaking but now with department meetings, quarterly meetings and conferences going virtual, you have not translated those skills on to Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other platforms.

As many of you know, in my career, I have given over 3,000 presentations and spoken to over 100,000 women.  I know what it takes to create pizzazz in a presentation and how to impact your listeners.  You must learn how to morph those same skills online to create the same pizzazz.  One of the bizarre behaviors I have observed in watching virtual presentations over the last six months is the belief that because they are online, the standards of excellence have changed.  Yes, working from home can give you the illusion that everything is casual.  Smart women know that is NOT TRUE!  In fact, smart career women know that they must fight that perspective.  Preparation, practice, and pizzazz are even more important now.  It is so easy to disappear from the forefront of your career when working remotely.  You must seek every opportunity to make an impact on your career trajectory. 

Clean up your act!  Looking like you just rolled out of bed for a presentation is a career killer. Even though your commute is from your bedroom to your basement doesn’t mean you can have the luxury of rolling out of bed 5 minutes before a meeting.  You still need to do the same readying for your day that you did before the pandemic.  Plus, you often do not have the other trappings of success when you are presenting online.  You are not speaking from the front of the room, on stage or standing.  All three of those behaviors give you some instant credibility.  However, if you can give your virtual presentation standing, do it. You will have more tools to seem forceful, credible, and confident.  Pay attention to what your viewers will see of you on a screen.  Whether it is the jacket you wear, the necklace that frames your face, or the hairstyle that looks kept, this attention to detail will make an impact.  Even if you have ratty jeans on your bottom half, the part of you the world sees will send a message of confidence, credibility, and command. 

Make your voice an asset.  Online presenting demands that your voice convey seriousness, lightness, and variety of other tones.  It has been obvious lately, that many people have forgotten their voice is key in conveying their message.  Practice ahead of time by recording yourself.  If you could not be seen, would your voice send your intent?  This is even more critical when you are screen sharing.  Slides can get old fast if your voice does not keep things lively.

We know that your listeners have more distractions to their attention span at home than they ever did in a conference room.  Your “audience” members have kids, barking dogs, crazed cats, partners, dishwashers, doorbells from delivery drivers, chirping birds, just to name a few.  You must be different, interesting and attention getting.  Make sure you check out Kay’s Consulting Corner for some specific steps you can take to put some pizzazz in your delivery.  Whether you will be presenting from home for the duration or just until we kick the pandemic to the curb, remember, presenting online can be your asset or your albatross. 

If you know that your online presentations could be more impactful, but you are just not sure how to get there, remember for September and October you can get presentation coaching at a 10% discount.  Call me at (513)561-4188 or email Kay@highheeledsuccess.com to get this process rolling.

Taking Steps for Erasing Racism for Women in the Workplace

This article is not the one originally planned for this newsletter.  With the events that have unfolded over the last month regarding racism in America, I knew the plan needed to be changed.  This article is going to be more personal than most, while still focusing on women in the workplace.  I am a white woman and with that goes white privilege, that is not lost on me.  I was born in 1950, when in my hometown you would see water fountains, bathrooms and pools marked “colored” or “white”.  There were two black kids in my elementary school. That was my foundational environment. Fast forward twenty plus years later, I took a position as a Field and Camp Director with the Girl Scout Council in Southwest Georgia. Initially I met with black and white volunteers in my cities separately, because that was the way it had always been done.  It was my goal to change that, and that was accomplished.  It was also part of my mandate to have black girls and white girls occupy the same tents and cabins, without parents jerking their daughters out of camp.  That was also accomplished.  I have spent the last month asking myself what have I done lately, given it is 40 years later.  Yes, I participated in some diversity and inclusion committees in the 80’s and 90’s and have offered programming at Dress for Success and sponsored seats at my workshops to DFS participants, many of whom are black.  It is with a great deal of regret, shame and sadness that I can say, clearly, I have done nothing dramatic.  This article starts with the premise, too little, too late.

This article is focused on racism for women in the workplace, not systemic racism in America.  This is the focus because women in the workplace is my area of expertise and I do not see myself as qualified to address wider issues.  Let’s take a look at some of the current startling statistics.  We know women average 82 cents to a man’s dollar in wages in the workplace.  For Black women, that number plummets to an average of 62 cents compared to a man’s dollar.  In the 25 states with the largest numbers of Black women working full time, year-round, pay for Black women ranges from 47 to 67 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men in those states.  The disparity is shocking.

In times of turmoil and struggle I have always looked to my heroes for leadership.  As a proud graduate of the University of Tennessee, one of my heroes was legendary basketball coach, Pat Head Summitt.  She was an outspoken voice for Black athletes.  Recently, I read an article about what she did and would do if she were still alive.  Here is a quote from that article:

“As the women’s basketball world marks the four-year anniversary of Summitt’s death from Alzheimer’s disease on Sunday, Summitt’s former players believe her leadership would be valued now more than ever given the current climate of the country.”

You can read the article here.

What could your workplace be doing?  Here is a list of action areas your company could consider:

  • Create a statement of the company stance on racism, as the starting point.
  • Create safe spaces for difficult conversations by an objective facilitator.  It may be necessary to hire an outside consulting firm.
  • Advise managers to be careful about putting employees on the spot in a public setting, when asking how they are.  These types of intimate conversations must be private.
  • Watch out for retaliation toward employees for speaking out about racism at work.  It is hard enough to speak up, negative consequences are unacceptable. 
  • Give employees paid time off to take care of themselves, see a doctor or therapist during these very stressful times.
  • Review performance evaluations for bias and needed language change.
  • Review hiring practices for racial bias.
  • Review every level of the organization for racial equity.
  • Review the composition of the board of directors for racial equity.

When you see an area that is lacking: stand up, speak up, and band together!  The stronger your privilege, the heavier your burden for responsibility.  Do not miss Kay’s Corner for what you can do on a daily basis to combat racism in your workplace.  If you already have ideas of how you want to be part of the solution but are a little uneasy about how to proceed, please call me a (513) 561-4288 or email me  at Kay@highheeledsuccess.com

Taking a Contrarian Stance for Workplace Impact

It’s rather comical that I am writing this article, as I grew up as the poster child for rule following.  My memory goes back to the sixth grade when a group of us walked to a classmate’s house for lunch.  Back in the day, we could walk home for lunch but it was forbidden to go to a classmate’s house without written permission from a parent.  When the group got caught I did not get any punishment because the principal didn’t believe little Kay Jones could have possibly done anything wrong.  I can remember being devastated because I wasn’t getting detention along with the rest of the “outlaws”!  It has taken me a lifetime to be gutsy enough to be different, to be a contrarian, to take a different stance on anything.  A few years ago a colleague told me “I figure I am not being innovative if I have not irritated someone every day!”

The first time this paid off in my business was in an article I wrote for the Cincinnati Business Courier on September 13, 2002.  It focused on women forgetting the glass ceiling and instead looking at one’s own internal ceiling. Though later in the article I acknowledged that the glass ceiling was alive and well, that contrarian stance grabbed the attention of the Courier. 

Am I advocating being a pain in the backside just for kicks? Certainly not. What I am advocating is to look at your values and your innovative spirit to use them as a springboard for taking a stance in the workplace that may be contrary to what others are thinking.  This could likely buy you some positive attention in the workplace.  Think about people who have been different or contrarian in your lifetime.  The first that pops up for me is Ralph Nader, political activist noted for his involvement in consumer protection, environmentalism and government reform.  Fast forward from 1965 when Nader first came to prominence to 2019 when climate change activist Greta Thunberg came into wide recognition.  You don’t need to be splashed all over the nightly news to be effective. 

Perhaps you have an idea that is different from others in your workplace and you strongly believe in it and contend that it could be valuable.  Taking that stance might be a bit scary for you or uncomfortable.  You do not have to stand alone.  I currently have a client who is new to her job but has a long history of expertise in her industry.  She knows they need to be doing some things radically different.  Being the new kid on the block, she is unsure if her viewpoint will be accepted.  In our coaching, we discussed using industry standards and revered industry gurus as credibility backups.  For you, it might be a Standard Operating Procedure from another company or industry, a legal precedent, or industry best practices.  You can see that you do not have to stand totally alone.  Your thought or idea doesn’t have to be 100% never tried; it just may be outside of what has been done at your place of work.

Where to start if your innovative juices have gone dry?  Your values will likely hold the key.  There is a step by step guide to getting started in Kay’s Corner this month.  If you already have an idea but are a little queasy about floating it or you just need some guidance on this career step, please call me a 513-561-4288 or email me Kay@highheeledsuccess.com and we can discuss coaching options. 

Assessing Your Professional Identity

Years ago a client asked me, “How will I know when I am SOMEBODY?” It was such a well-phrased and poignant question.  It emanated from a place of pain and struggle for her.  It was clear she was not alone, as many of my clients expressed similar dilemmas.  In fact, it is just part of the human condition.  You want to know that you matter.  If you think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow about human motivation, that quest is identified as Self-actualization.  If you are unfamiliar with Maslow’s work, check this out: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  It was such a compelling question that I created a workshop entitled “Kick Up Your Self-Esteem:  How Do You Know When You Are Somebody?” ™

My actual answer to my client was, “You won’t know if you are SOMEBODY unless you do two things: 1) Identify success for yourself and 2) Pay rapt attention to your progress.  What does being a professional mean to you?  Your definition of success will likely change over time.  Your goal as you entered the workforce will probably be quite different from your goal now if you have been in the workplace 5, 10, 20 plus years.  This is YOUR goal, not one that your boss or employer identifies for you.  If you are a business owner, it’s not necessarily what your professional association or industry considers successful.  This is all about YOU!  Plus, life is busy, your career is busy and you likely have made strides but they have gotten lost in the busy. 

For decades I have done a process at the beginning of every year to reevaluate the age old question, “Who am I?”  This is a process that I recommend to all of my clients.  This is a pause, a time for self-assessment, for reflection.  I do not have a gambling bone in my body but I’d still bet you will surprise yourself with this endeavor.  What you will be doing is writing, at the beginning of the year, a statement of who you are as a professional.  If you have never done this before it may seem daunting.  Take a deep breathe and relax, you will not be graded.  This is not about right or wrong.  You don’t have to show it to a darned soul.  This is an opportunity for you to acknowledge, celebrate, revise, and revamp.  It’s a great time to look at the gap.  Huh?  What gap?  Take an assessment of who you see yourself to be today and compare it to who you really want to be. 

Reinvention is possible!  I dedicate this article to my Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority Big Sister, Kathleen Clarkson Frey.  On February 20, 2020, after a brief stay in Hospice, she transitioned out of this life as we know it.  I watched Kathy reinvent herself as a young woman in an extraordinary way.  What a role model of possibility she was for me.  Can you reconfirm or reinvent yourself?  Yes you can!  Need more help?  Please read Kay’s Corner for some action steps.  If you would like some professional guidance, please call me at 513-561-4288 or email me at Kay@highheeledsuccess.com.  It just so happens, that’s what I do for a living.

Silencing the Inner Critic for Career Success

Is your career being driven by that nasty little voice in your head?  Much has been written about how negative self-talk is damaging to your self-esteem.  A stronger light needs to be shown on the career damage you can do.  You may call these behaviors cognitive distortions, stinking thinking, or negative self-talk. Regardless, the result is the same – career self-sabotage.  Here is my promise: these behaviors can be managed and you can experience a career boost as a result!  Is that enough of a promise to keep on reading?

What kind of distorted thinking are we talking about here?  Check out the short list below and ask yourself if you are in the habit of thinking or saying any of these:

  1. All-or-nothing thinking: You look at things as either black or white.  You are either the most skilled marketing professional in the world or an incompetent who should have never been hired. 
  2. Negative filtering:  You remember and focus on your mistakes, the things that go wrong or your weaknesses to the exclusion of any positives.  There was one typo in your report and you can only remember this.  Never mind that your boss praised you for the insights and pragmatic action plan.
  3. Jumping to conclusions:  You try to mind read others or predict the future around which you have little information.  You were not on a list for an upcoming meeting and you are sure that means your department does not see you as valuable. 
  4. Catastrophizing:  You take the smallest problem and follow the potential consequences to the worst possible outcome.  After you were not on the list for the meeting, you assume not only do they not value you; firing is in your future, probably by the end of the day. 

P.S. This is a short list; there are many more distortions that may be your undoing. 

If you don’t manage these behaviors, “Danger, danger, Will Robinson.”  (If you are too young to recognize this TV reference,  Google it) Here are just a few of the possible rotten ramifications:

  • Blowing mistakes out of proportion
  • Creating an environment where you limit your necessary risk-taking
  • Taking responsibility for events that are not your fault
  • A focus on your weaknesses versus your strengths
  • Intense procrastination

Does this sound like a prescription for success?  No, I don’t think so either.  You need a perspective of positivity that impacts your risk-taking, creativity, timeliness, innovation, and confidence.  In your defense, these behaviors are often an attempt to protect oneself.  One assumes this type of thinking prepares you for the worst.  The bad news is this does not work!  Instead of preparing you for the worst, it adds stress to your life and work.

One of my clients, we are going to call her Marti, came to me initially to work on getting a new job she was seeking.  She had been working on her resume for over a year, because in her eyes it would either have to be perfect or don’t put anything out there.  If she did not get an interview from a particular application she would quit for months, as it was apparent NO ONE would ever hire her and she would be stuck in her current job for the rest of her life!  It became clear quickly that cognitive distortions had been holding her back. In our coaching, she began with the simple four steps you will see in Kay’s Corner and then we ramped up with additional techniques.  In three months she was on to a new job.  This is feasible!

If you know this behavior is like an anchor around your neck, here are some quick life rings to catch:

Check out the book:  Self-Esteem:  A Proven Program of Cognitive Techniques for Assessing, Improving, and Maintaining Your Self-Esteem by Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning.

Then read the four steps in Kay’s Corner.  If you recognize that Cognitive Distortions and other negative learned behaviors are making career advancement like sailing in rough waters, please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com.

Commanding Leadership More Important Than Likability

Most of us want to be liked as we go through our day – it’s more pleasant, even more comfortable.  Being liked in the workplace, however, isn’t the most advantageous quality for your career advancement and can even be a trap for women as they navigate a balance between traditionally masculine and feminine traits or characteristics.

I got the idea to write about this topic after reading the opinion piece, “How Women Escape the Likability Trap,” by Joan C. Williams, a professor of law and director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, published in The New York Times on August 18, 2019.

“There has been a lot of talk recently in the political arena about the likability trap for women:  Women who behave in authoritative ways risk being disliked as insufferable prima donnas, pedantic schoolmarms or witchy women,” writes Williams.

Williams goes on to write about how successful women overcome this form of gender bias.  It was enlightening for me to read her take on this important topic.

In my many years of career coaching and mentoring women to overcome challenges in the workplace, I have found three of the most common traps women can fall into.  We call them likability traps, and these are the most common:

  • Being the office mom is the worst direction you can possibly go.  This is such a common trap for women, because we’re care givers in so many other aspects of our lives.  When you bring this to the office, however, a nurturing demeanor with a willingness to take care of everyone puts you in a subordinate role.  While this is most common for women, it can be a serious dilemma for both men and women.
  • Depending on traditional feminine style is too easy.  Most women find that they rely on using 90% traditional feminine style and 10% more traditionally masculine style to navigate at the office.  When you spend most of the time trying to use traditional female techniques to win people over, you give up the strength and power that should be part of your leadership style.  Unless we have the courage to do something differently, we will continue to maintain a system where we let men take the lead and the system will not change.
  • Avoid gender displays.  Sometimes called anthropologic displays, gender displays include examples such as always wearing pink lipstick or always wearing a skirt to attempt to counterbalance a more commanding leadership style.  This is so dangerous when you fall into this likability trap.  When a woman resorts to gender displays, she continues to propagate viewing a woman as an object, usually without even realizing what she’s doing.  This can be very distressing.

Now that we know what to watch for, what can we do about these likability traps?  First, delete from your vocabulary (and your way of thinking) terms like femininity and masculinity.  Instead think in terms of the appropriate tools to use for the circumstances, such as collaboration or even command.

Collaboration and consensus-building are vital when you’re seeking input from others.  It’s always a good idea to solicit additional ideas from others when you’re trying to brainstorm or bring creativity into your workplace.  These skills – collaboration and consensus-building – are absolutely essential to certain situations.  That is not about being feminine or masculine – that is simply smart!

Take each situation for what it is and ask yourself “What works situationally?”  Go another step and ask, “What gives me the outcome I’m looking for?”  When we want input, creative ideas and buy-in to build consensus, use your smart skills and avoid relying on a gender crutch.

On the other hand, there are many occasions when you need a commanding style.  When someone needs to step up and take the lead, when no one else is stepping up or when time is of the essence, being the team member who can take command and lead a group to a resolution is incredibly valuable.

As you’re assessing the situation, be ready for the times when you can’t go down the collaborative, consensus building road, because you need to make a decision.  If you recognize the opportunity, you will shine!

If you recognize any of these likability traps in your workplace relationships and need help developing a strategy to overcome them, please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com.

Oh Yes, She Can! Performance Bias Unchained

Bias!  The four-letter word identifies cultural prejudice that’s rampant throughout our society and the workplace.  Today, most people in the workplace are more aware of unconscious or implicit bias, which is defined as prejudice or unsupported judgments in favor of or against one thing, person or group as compared to another, in a way that is usually considered unfair.

If we take that notion just a half-step further, it’s easy to see how performance bias is a very serious issue for women in the workplace.  Performance bias is based on deep-rooted assumptions about women’s and men’s abilities.  Bottom line, we tend to overestimate men’s performance and underestimate women’s performance.  Watch this 2-minute online video from Lean In to digest the seriousness of the issue.

Studies show that women are often hired based on past accomplishments and job experience, men are more likely hired based on future potential to achieve.  Insidious performance bias affects everything at work – from hiring, to performance reviews and ultimately to promotions and upward mobility.

When you remove gender from decision-making, however, the odds for women’s advancement go up.  Regardless of the criteria outlined for a position, the selection process bends to favor the male candidate every time.  There’s no question that women have to accomplish more to show they are equally as competent as men – I’ve experienced it, coached women through it and watched it happen for decades in the workplace.

Once we recognize performance bias for what it is, what do we do about it?  First ask yourself, what are the expectations and realities at your workplace?  Are women being promoted based on their potential or are they being promoted only after they’ve proven they can do the job and have a track-record of success?

How about you, could you be part of the problem?  Do you expect to be promoted based on your potential or your own past performance?  There’s not just bias in the workplace, we have also been conditioned to develop our own self-bias.

If you are the manager and the one who has the power to address performance bias in your workplace, it’s critical to examine your own bias.  Whether you’re interviewing, hiring or deciding who gets the next promotion, be deliberate and intentional in making these important decisions.

Each of us has a responsibility to learn specific ways performance bias shows up in the workplace and what we can do about it going forward.  If we don’t, we’re part of the problem.  If you’re experiencing performance bias and need help developing a strategy to overcome it, please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com.