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Create a Different Filter for Workplace Interactions

If you’re someone who Is easily put-off, feels you’re being criticized, overwhelmed or picked-on at work, maybe it’s time for you to learn how to not take things so personally in the workplace.  To be blunt, it’s time to grow a thicker skin and grow up!  Put your big girl pants on!

I’ve seen this issue surface with coaching clients many times, and once you realize how to have a thicker skin, the benefits are huge.  When you can be pragmatic and less emotional, you will be seen as more of a professional, as someone who is tougher in the workplace and capable of playing with the big dogs.

A certain toughness will make you less vulnerable to the constant changes that can simply be part of everyday office politics and workplace changes.  For example, if you’re used to doing a project a certain way and parameters change, there’s less stress on you as the individual if you can roll with the changes.

Taking things too personally also takes a toll on your productivity.  For example, you are more creative and productive when you take things less personally.  The reality is, it takes mental and sometimes physical energy just to get through the day when you take things too personally.

And, the risks are too great, when you outwardly display your inability to put your big girl pants on.  When you respond to perceived slights and show that you’ve taken something personally, you’re seen as someone who is defensive at best and worst case, you’re perceived as a whiner.  Unfortunately, you can be seen as someone who is not willing and ready to grow in your professional development.

Bottom line, you live in intense fear and stress, maybe to the point of paranoia, when you take things personally in the workplace.  To help you learn how to deflect these unnecessary and sometimes harmful reactions in the workplace, remember some of these important realizations in your everyday dealings at work:

  • People want what they want and you may be an obstacle to what they want — this is not about you, you may simply be getting in the way
  • Workplace is the business of business and getting a good result — if you’re there to do a job and you’re not performing or producing, you’re obstructing business
  • It’s everywhere — you’re not going to move to a new position, a new job, a new state, a new country and find a place that’s different

When taking things personally, a common first instinct is to get a new job.  You need to manage that response and simply learn to own your behaviors and take things less personally.  I’m here to tell you this isn’t easy — we are who we are, flawed and growing all the time.

For example, I had a coaching client come to me, because she felt persecuted at work.  She reported crying about everything and left in tears every day.  One of the first things she said was, “I’m constantly being criticized by my boss.”  Her issues showed up right away in her interactions with me, making this criticism seem justified.

Unfortunately, she was late for coaching calls and didn’t complete her assessments.  She would agree to everything I suggested, then she didn’t have it done.  These were the exact same things she was hearing from her boss.  She was always late, didn’t get work done, and always had an excuse.  Yes, she would always agree and say, “Yes, I can get that done.”

When we uncovered what was happening, I think it was one of the longest pregnant pauses I’ve ever experienced.  She said, “You’re right, I’m taking things personally because these are personal problems.”  So, if this is you or you have some growing up to do, you’re not a bad person, just put your big girl pants on and move on!

Look at everything from a very pragmatic, business perspective.  Ask yourself, what will it take to do this?  If you’re making errors, do you need to slow down?  Maybe you need more technical skills to sharpen your performance.  Maybe there are areas where you actually need to say, okay fine, take the next step and don’t think about it too much.  Sometimes, it simply is what it is.

If you are struggling to have a more professional focus at work and know you need to take challenges less personally, coaching may be your answer.  Call Kay at 513-561-4288 or email kay@highheeledsuccess.com.

Shift Your Perspective, Make Yourself the Priority

It’s the middle of February.  The days are getting a bit longer, but not long enough.  Unfortunately, it’s too early for spring fever.  It’s at this time of year, we try even harder to maintain healthy habits and relationships to stay productive and keep from finding ourselves in a slump.

As we think about our self-care, let’s flip the script and make the workplace the first place you think about taking care of you.  Rather than self-care being something that happens outside of work in the evenings and on the weekends, self-care can become a natural part of your workday.

There’s always more that can be done and, even if you’re the CEO, work brings pressure and demands.  I’m here to help you remember that YOU COUNT and sometimes you need to put yourself first.

Setting boundaries at the office will help you avoid doing your colleague’s work.  Even if you have to practice saying the word “no” out loud, then practice and apply the skill at work.  Do not worry about whether you’re being nice or not.  You do not have to be a friend to everyone.

If you say “yes” to everything, the workload adds more stress.  This slippery slope could cause you to take work home at night.  For example, one client is so susceptible to not setting boundaries and taking work home, which then cuts into time with her daughter at home.  Her solution is to have a photo of her daughter right by her computer as a constant reminder.

There’s a clear line between wanting to be valuable and having positive work relationships vs. allowing others to take advantage of your good nature.  Think about where the line is and set parameters for yourself and your relationships with co-workers.

Always remember your own priorities.  If you allow others to derail you with their issues, you will allow someone else’s negative perspective to throw off your own game.  Even worse, if you allow other people’s priorities to take over, you will relinquish your own work goals and priorities.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
– Anne Lamott

As with so many issues and opportunities in life, you need to be your own advocate in the workplace.  If you need to put a post-it on your computer, do it.  Always be asking yourself what you want and need in the workplace.

As an example, conferences, continuing education and leadership training are vital to your growth and advancement on the job.  You don’t get to go, if you don’t ask.  Even if there have been budget cuts, ask and make the case for why you, why now.  Another example, I have a client who has back issues.  She has not yet asked for a better ergonomic chair, because she thinks it will “seem selfish.”

The problem with not speaking up for yourself is that you could be reducing your own productivity.  The last thing you need or want is for something so simple to keep you from being a good or even a great member of the work team.  There’s no skirting around this one – you have to be your own self advocate at work.

If you’re having trouble being the best you can be at work, you could be neglecting some of these basic self-care principles.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve your goals.

Boss Requires Relationship Management Too

While you probably think of management as the relationship you have with the people who work for you, management is a two-way street and your boss requires some relationship management too.  Even if you’re an entrepreneur, you may have a similar relationship with a board chair or someone else in your sphere of influence.

First of all, it’s important to understand that managing the boss is not selling out or acquiescing to anything.  Managing the boss and thinking about how best to do that does not mean you love everything she/he does.  This is like so many other issues we discuss in career coaching.  There’s a balance, so be smart!

Let’s start with an easy one.  You have a responsibility to try to make your boss look good.  When you do your job well, she has an opportunity to shine with her boss.  You can also go beyond doing your job well to taking something off the boss’s plate – something that she doesn’t particularly like to do – and making her look good.

Don’t become indispensable to your boss.  In other words, it’s nice to take the occasional task off boss’s plate; however, not so much that you become indispensable.  If you do that, you could become someone, he will not promote because he couldn’t bear to lose you.

Think about managing your boss as finessing the boss.  Ask yourself what does he/she value, how does she think or what motivates him?  If you have an understanding of what makes her tick, you’ll be better able to manage and finesse your relationship with the boss.

A very important way to advance at work is to demonstrate that you have ideas for change and solutions to problems.  These ideas, however, are only as good as the ability to sell them and get them implemented to prove your value.  Think about your boss, what is her communication style or workplace lingo.  Talk to her in a way that speaks to her communication style as the best way to sell your ideas.

I have always found that keeping one step ahead of the boss at work is a great way to be recognized and rewarded.  Everybody has a full plate; everybody is busy.  If you can stay a step ahead of your boss, anticipating his/her needs, then you are more likely to please the boss and get ahead.

So you see, it’s all about relationship, like so many things.  Management is not just for your subordinates; management also applies to your coworkers, colleagues and your boss.  Regardless of whether your boss is a man or a woman, these basic rules for relationship management apply.

Employees and bosses both have their issues, because we’re human and certain personality chemistry clicks while other personalities might clash.  At work, this is not about being friends, this is about learning to examine the situation, how you can lead within your team and manage your relationship with your boss.

Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

Risk-Taking 101: Find Balance

 “You can’t be successful in business without taking risks.  It’s really that simple.” 

–Adena Friedman, President and CEO of Nasdaq

Taking risks is necessary in business; however, you don’t want to be the one who jumps into anything or the one who lags behind and misses an opportunity.  Hopefully, after thinking this through with me, you’ll be able to find your sweet spot – being both confident and completely aware as you make a risky decision.  If you have any questions, after reading this, I’m always here to coach and support you!

First of all, there are three types of risk-takers:  jumpers, ruminators and sweet spot riskers.  Jumpers don’t exercise due diligence.  Jumpers are unrealistic about the circumstances, their resources and possibly time management.  Jumpers might be unrealistic about the potential revenue, haven’t thought about how time consuming something is and generally have blinders on.

For example, I had a client who was starting a business.  She chose to spend an excessive amount of money for website, rent office space hired an expensive staff member.  She has been working overtime just to cover her expenses and has not been able to turn a profit.

Ruminators tend to go over and over information, stalling and failing to make a decision.  Ruminators are driven by fear.  The numbers make sense, yet they do more research and more research.

Sweet spot riskers – that’s where you want to land by finding balance between facilitating the necessary due diligence and moving forward because the facts present themselves.  You have what you need to make a clear, reasoned and thoughtful decision.

When you have an opportunity that requires risk and are trying to follow a process that will help you find the correct level of risk, think QCAT as the acronym to find your sweet spot.

Q for Quick – be quick but not hasty and set a timeline for decision making

C for Committed – be committed, but not rigid, and if new data presents itself that suggests a change of direction, be ready to change

A for Analytical – be analytical, but do not over analyze and use data to push through fear

T for Thoughtful – be thoughtful, but not obsessive

Personally, I tend to be more of a ruminator.  When I first started my own business; however, I was a “jumper.”  So I’ve experienced the extremes and have used these exact same techniques over the years to find my own sweet spot for risk-taking.

If you would like to walk through these steps with someone who has been there and are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

Emotional Intelligence is a Critical Factor for Success

Self-Awareness, Emotions, Empathy at Work

While you might not think much about the topic of emotional intelligence, it’s an issue that comes up frequently during my individual client sessions.  Putting your best foot forward as an emotionally intelligent boss and co-worker is a need in the workplace, a need for anyone who manages people.

By definition, emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of your feelings, being in control of them and able to express them.  For example, if you’re going to succeed with challenging employees, the administrator needs to set the tone.  The administrator needs to serve as the model for what you want others to emulate.

Historically, the foundation of emotional intelligence was laid when Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., wrote his 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books), which helped to explain the differences between traditional IQ (intelligence quotient) and EI.  The book was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year-and-a-half and is available around the world in 40 languages.

The next major resource to come along was the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, written by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, Ph.D., which provides case studies, tools and techniques to improve your emotional intelligence.  In fact, Dr. Greaves is co-founder and CEO of TalentSmart, Inc., and the website talentsmart.com is a great resource to learn more.

Now, emotional intelligence is very much part of the fabric and conversation in any workplace.  If you work in a large company, you could probably talk to the human resources department to find out if you have taken or could take a formalized EI assessment.  When assessing EI, you’ll be looking at overall social awareness, relationship management and your ability to empathize with others.

If you find an area is lacking in yourself or your employees, there are strategies for improvement and some people can benefit from identifying an EI mentor – someone who seems to get along and understand others.  A mentor can be responsible for queuing you if you talk too long or if you misread communication.

For example, if an employee has negative reactions to someone else’s behavior and there is emotional fallout due to low self-awareness, this situation needs to be managed.  Or if you find employees want to leave a department because they don’t want to work with her, or headaches and stomach problems are being caused by a difficult co-worker, these situations need to be managed too.

5 Components of Emotional Intelligence

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation or emotional control
  • Motivators
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

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When it comes to social and relationship skills, we’re not just talking about charm.  As human beings interact with each other, we need to be able to interpret voice, facial expressions and body language.

Certain careers, such as information technology, engineering and research, require a high IQ; however, without emotional intelligence, success can hit a certain ceiling.  Both qualities are needed to be successful.  From Abraham Lincoln to Temple Grandin and Bill Gates, there have been many recognizable people who have lacked relationship skills.

Whether you decide to take a self-assessment or talk to a colleague for mentorship, it’s critical to identify where you have strengths or where you might need some emotional intelligence work to do.  A perfect opportunity to dig in on this topic is during your next job review.  Is there a tool or can your boss provide some guidance in this area?  A performance review is a gift to both the employee and the employer, so be smart and take advantage to help you put your best foot forward!

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

©Copyright 2018.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Sexual Harassment and Navigating Workplace Holiday Get-Togethers

Each week brings the announcement of another man or even multiple men who have taken advantage of their power and influence to sexually harass someone in the workplace.  While there have historically been times when this issue has been in the spotlight, many are hopeful that this will be a watershed moment for women’s claims to be taken seriously and men’s actions to have consequences.

From Hollywood to the boardroom and beyond, what’s happening is nothing new.  These stories about newsworthy men behaving badly represent everyday reality for some women in the workplace.  Clients share their struggles regularly during our coaching calls and, particularly during the holiday season, they share concerns about how to navigate the upcoming holiday work party.

The office party provides an extra layer of networking on the job – the key words are “on the job.”  Remember, you are at work, so be aware of your surroundings, watch what you say and how much you drink.  While sexual harassment is not the victim’s fault, you have the power to control circumstances that can keep you safe.  Unfortunately, the office holiday party can bring out the very worst of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviors.

Then there’s the after party, which is like playing golf with your boss and can be the most advantageous networking opportunity, as long as you stay smart and stay safe.  Please do not buy into the conference syndrome where you’re offsite, so you rationalize an isolated incident.  This is work, not Las Vegas.

Regardless of whether you’re at the office or elsewhere with co-workers, you cannot control what others do.  If you are the victim of sexual harassment, inappropriate advances or worse, you need to feel empowered to speak up right away.

I always recommend that you speak up and say something to the perpetrator first and keep ongoing documentation of what’s happened.  Say something to the individual a maximum of three times before taking the situation to your superior or the human resources department.  If you’re not satisfied with action taken at this point, it’s time for you to engage an attorney.

Whatever you do, do not be silent.  I understand there’s a fear-factor with speaking up and speaking out against someone, most likely someone who is higher on the corporate ladder, in the workplace.  There’s a reason for the fear – women have been demoted, fired and passed over for promotions based on what they do or don’t do in these very unseemly circumstances.

With everything that’s been in the news lately, I’m hopeful that women will continue to feel empowered by the #MeToo movement.  So, please, go to your office holiday party, enjoy yourself and network.  If something happens there or any other time, speak up, because having no voice is the greatest risk of all.

In speaking up, you are joining with other women who also refuse to continue to permit such behaviors.  Further, your voice helps forge a new path for the younger generation of women who will hopefully one day be able to collaborate and work in environments free of fear and harassment.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

©Copyright 2017.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Fall Focus with New School Year Excitement

No matter what the season or the stage of your career, balancing work and life successfully can always be challenging.  With the start of the new school year and fall just around the corner, this can be the season to renew and refresh your career goals.  At the start of the summer, we focused on the need to find your high-heeled equilibrium during the summer months when attitudes relax.

As July and August come to a close, work, school, volunteer and really everything seems to rev up to get back to business.  This new attitude allows for a fresh start; however, you now have opportunity to hang onto the summer balance tools that may have worked especially well for you.

For example, if being in nature was something you discovered as restorative this summer, make it a priority to continue to enjoy the outdoors.  Maybe you found that being less tethered to your electronics was a new discovery that allowed you to switch gears, enjoy the moment and even sleep better.  If you found that worked for you, keep it up!  Summer often forces us to find ways to simplify.  If you managed to feel positive effects from simplification, keep doing whatever worked for you.

In short, let’s approach your career guide for fall, like you would approach the excitement of starting the school year.  Remember what it was like to go back to school in the fall – everything was fresh and new.  You might have been excited about your new school shoes or excited about making new friends, either way, remember what excited you about this time of year.

If you were like me, you would wonder what new information you might learn in the coming year.  Just writing this column, I’m reminded of that feeling.  I’m challenging myself and challenging you to think about what new, exciting opportunities and challenges might be facing you in your career and in your life.  Is there a new technology you want to learn?  Do you need to be more assertive in the workplace?

If new friends are something you looked forward to in the new school year, think about your workplace relationships, both internal and external.  Take this opportunity to focus on new goals with your relationships.  Maybe you’ll decide to take lunch with a work friend or set your sights on developing a new mentor.  Whatever the goal, fall can be the time to refresh your plans.

When I was a kid going back to school in the fall, my parents took me to St. Louis to go shopping for new school clothes.  The brief family trip was full of tradition.  We went to the zoo and a baseball game.  The ritual provided the reset I needed.

As an adult, you can decide that a fall refresh involves reinventing your image and/or your wardrobe, deciding you need to update your style or sharpen your focus.  As a professional woman, monitoring your body language and the signals you send could be the reset you need.  (Watch for a more extensive conversation about body language and what it transmits in a future issue.)

As the regular school/academic year calendar pace picks back up, whether you have children at home or not, take advantage of this opportunity to renew and refresh with the same excitement you had as the new school year started in the fall.  Whether you’re wearing your high-heels or your fuzzy slippers, take time to keep what worked for you in the summer and sharpen your career focus to best suit your own personal needs.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

©Copyright 2017.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Finding Balance When You Want to Wear Flip-Flops

Successfully balancing work and life are always challenging, yet finding your equilibrium in high heels can be even more challenging as attitudes shift during the summer months.  The entire work world seems to redirect a certain amount of focus toward summer life style and vacation, and you might find you want to swap your high heels for your flip-flops.

There are unique circumstances to consider in the summer as you plan to take vacation, do more at work while someone else is on vacation and possibly juggle out-of-school children while maintaining your normal work schedule.  Let’s dig our toes into the sand and ponder how you can take advantage of this time to improve your work-life balance.

It’s summer, so the pace at work will likely slow down a bit.  At the same time, there will likely be fewer people pulling the weight at the office.  You and your co-workers will renegotiate the office work load to be sure everything is covered and your client needs are being met.

Nothing is more frustrating for a customer or client to find out that a deliverable is on hold while their primary contact is on vacation.  With planning, a team can cover for each other and allow everyone to go on vacation with peace of mind to enjoy a complete break from the office.

As the pace slows, take this time to assess how well you are balancing your busy work and home life.  Seriously take stock and ask yourself if you tend to overschedule, find it hard to ask for help or let go of control at work and at home.  Self-awareness will go a long way toward helping you find your work-life balance.

As the pace slows, you can also time to assess your own schedule, everything you do and why, and start to dream about the life design you want.  Life is too short to do something just because you were asked or you have a hard time saying no.  If everything seems important, you need to learn how to identify the real priorities and be satisfied with your achievements.

Your day-to-day mental health is paramount.  If you begin experiencing increased fatigue, headaches, stomach problems, anxiety, anger or insomnia, it’s time to make yourself the highest priority.  When it comes to taking care of yourself, you need to take time to connect with others.  Ask yourself if you’re spending time with people and doing the activities that provide support or that undermine support, then do what’s needed to invest in yourself and create more relationships and situations that support you.

To take more time for yourself, you will need to take something off your plate.  Realistically, ask yourself what would you be willing to take off your plate?  If you took that thing off your plate, what would you be willing to do for yourself?  This is the only way to take actionable steps toward assessing your work-life balance and creating change.

Finding equilibrium and knowing when to take off your high heels and put on your flip-flops is best achieved when you avoid being the martyr or sacrificing yourself when you need to be delegating and asking for help.  When you do for others that which they can rightly do for themselves, you rob them of opportunities to raise their self-esteem and sense of competence.

In addition to your colleagues at work, use this strategy at home with the kids.  Think about having a summer chore list – having a family plan for everyday household tasks will teach your children a great life lesson.  We all need to feel needed – even kids need to know that they are contributing.  By not doing everything for them and having them contribute in age appropriate ways, your children will have their own sense of accomplishment.

The regular school/academic year calendar has a faster pace for everyone, whether you have children at home or not, so take advantage of this opportunity to slow down your pace.  If you do have children at home, it’s beneficial for you to slow down the pace with them.  Remember work will always be there tomorrow.  In the meantime, life is waiting.  Whether you’re wearing your high heels or your flip-flops, take time to enjoy the summer — reflect, vacation and spend time with the people and doing the activities that give you pleasure.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

©Copyright 2017.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Don’t Underestimate The Power of One

We’ve been talking and posting on social media about #WomensHistoryMonth throughout March to celebrate the women who have blazed new trails throughout history and to increase awareness for the work that still needs to be done for each of us to reach our full potential.  This includes leveraging the experience of those who have gone before us through mentorship and support for other women.  When one of us wins, we all win!

Everyone is familiar with the “old boys network”.  If women are going to be successful, we need each other – we need to create the “new women’s network”.  While some women achieve success, and then want other women to have to “work as hard as they did”, it’s the true leaders that will encourage other women and help pull their chairs to the table.

We still have a lot of ground to make-up to reach C-Suite positions, upper level management and pay equity, so we must learn from each other along the way.  Take the time to seek advice from the one woman who has a seat at the boardroom table – she knows the players and the culture.  Men network and help each other, so women should do the same.

Most importantly, a woman boss or colleague who steps into that important mentor role for you could be the person that changes everything.  A good mentor can have many roles.  She (or he) can:

  • Advocate for you and open doors for you internally.
  • Introduce you to key people.
  • Provide inside information and help you learn the politics of your company or industry.
  • Help push you to the next level by shining a light on what you might not know about yourself.
  • Believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself.

When you’ve found that person, listen to her, appreciate her, because you might remember her for the rest of your life.  Personally, I met the mentor who would change the course of my life when there was a gap between my career in the mental health field and starting my own business.

During this period, I managed to land a position with the Flint River Girl Scout Council as a field director, and a woman named Gail Kirocofe was my direct supervisor.  I believed myself to be completely out of my element, with no experience hiring staff and managing the many details associated with being a camp director.

Every day, Gail reassured me that she knew I had the ability, strength and smarts to do the job.  She let me know that she wasn’t going to do it for me, but that she had the belief in me that I was fully capable of doing it myself.

In my effort to not disappoint her, I was able to dig deep and find what she saw in me.  I literally credit her with having a thumbprint on my success, which changed the course of my life.  Even though I was only with the Girl Scouts for two years, this story illustrates my conviction of the power of one mentor.  Gail believed in me, which gave me the confidence to raise my expectations for myself.  While I have had many mentors over the years, Gail was the one that touched my career at that pivotal moment.  When I left the Girl Scouts, I moved on to start my own business.

In 2015, the awareness of the impact Gail had on my life was particularly striking.  I was featured on an electronic billboard as a conference speaker in Pennsylvania.  Realizing how far I had come, I found Gail to let her know I would not have been on that billboard without her.  In her 80s, Gail became a children’s book author and was enjoying her next chapter of success.

When we talk about Women’s History Month and mentorship, don’t ever underestimate the power of one – that one mentor can have an astonishing impact on your life, your success and who you ultimately become.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career and be a game-changer, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

Read Kay’s Corner in the March newsletter to find practical tips for mentoring.

©Copyright 2017.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Asking for What You Want in the Workplace

Childhood experiences can affect us for a lifetime, whether for good or for bad.  I share one such memory with you as it relates to this month’s topic.  I call it my Lemon Drop Story:

It’s a lazy July afternoon when my grandmother and I strolled into Neibur’s grocery store, in the tiny town of Cobden, Illinois, population 500.  Time has forgotten Cobden and Neibur’s; the store could have easily been a set for a movie set in 1904.  It has wooden floors, baskets of fruit, burlap bags with potatoes and barrels of hard candy.  To my 8-year-old eye, the most important barrel is the lemon drop barrel, I LOVE lemon drops.  Tiny and shy, I stand close to my grandmother and eye the lemon drops.  I am just about ready to summon the courage to ask for some lemon drops, when Mrs. Neibur comments, “Helen you are so lucky to have such a quiet and well-behaved granddaughter, she isn’t like most of the children that come in here throwing a fit for candy!”  My grandmother replies, “Yes, Ethel, we are so fortunate, Kay never asks for anything.”  Those words were like a knife, a reminder that good little girls never ask for anything.  I swallowed my request, as usual, and left the store with only visions of lemon drops.

That day is etched in my memory and behavior.  It has taken me a lifetime to ask for what I want, and it is still an ongoing battle.  The good news is, deep-seated thoughts and behaviors can change!

In my experience coaching women, I have identified the top five reasons why women don’t ask for what they want.  Interestingly, the barriers that block women for asking for what they want are the same for women in traditional workplaces and women entrepreneurs.  The number one culprit is thinking you shouldn’t have to ask for what they want because others should already know their wants and needs.  This thinking is flawed for several reasons.

First and foremost: no one is a mind reader.  You and you alone are responsible for communicating your wants and needs simply because you are the only one who knows.  Even though this basic truth is so simple, I can’t tell you how many times women raise it as the main reason they will not ask for a raise, promotion, or more time off.  Second, your manager likely has a lot on their plate and many other employees in their organization.  If you don’t speak up, it is reasonable for them to assume you are good with the status quo.  Lastly, if you allow others to decide what you want and need, you are yielding your power to control your career path to someone else other than you.

Fear of seeming too greedy also tops the list.  The underlying issue with this feeling is not valuing your work contribution enough.  If this fear plagues you, think about how much time, effort, talent and attention you pour into your work.  Communicating your wants and needs to be fairly compensated or recognized for your competence is not greed.  It is simply logical and reasonable.

Some women are concerned about appearing too needy if they ask for what they want.  This fear is similar to feeling greedy, but centers around personal self-esteem versus competence.  Your relationship history can play into this fear more than you may realize.  Have significant others downplayed your desires as too needy or ‘high-maintenance’ in the past?  Over time, such collective messages build up and can block out the truth; you have every right to ask for what you want and need.  Notice I did not say you are ‘entitled’ to your every want and need, but asking for what you desire in and of itself is not needy.  The key here is discretion.  Repeatedly asking for unrealistic desires will definitely garner a reputation of being needy.  If your request is fair and reasonable given what you do, or are willing to do, in return, then it is not needy.

Some women feel they should wait their turn for reward, recognition or favor.  Perhaps because they came from a large family, are ‘others’ focused, or feel that the wants and needs of others are more important than their own.  Newsflash: if you wait around in the workplace for your turn, you’ll be sitting alone in the same cubicle for a very long time.  Fulfilling your wants and needs is an independent function relative to the timing of when others’ have theirs met.  Being considerate of others is a courtesy issue, always putting the needs of others before your own is an issue of low self-worth.  You are worthy of having your wants and needs met.  Asking, not waiting, is the first step.

A less common, but also not rare barrier some women encounter is that they only speak when spoken to.  The reasons for this can be complex and varied, but overcoming this hurdle is more important than identifying why it’s a problem.  You are not a child of the 50’s!  Rather, you are a grown, capable woman in a career or position with responsibilities who delivers outcomes for your company.  Whether this is in an entry, mid- or upper-level job is irrelevant.  Speaking up and advocating for yourself is a core competency that any employee must possess for their own protection and advancement in the workplace.

You may have identified with one or more of these hurdles, and feel they are legitimate reasons for not asking for what you want.  The reality is that asking for what you want and engaging in self-advocacy actually garners respect.  That’s right, respect.  When you speak up for yourself, you demonstrate confidence to others and send a message that your contributions are worthy.  You may ask, ‘But Kay, how do I do that?’  The answer is to focus on the outcome rather than the process.

Focus on the benefit, not just to you, but to the person you are asking.  Just like any relationship, those in the workplace, or with a client, are give and take.  Before you ask for what you want, consider what benefit the person in a position of power, or your customer, will receive from your request.  For example, your promotion may take a significant amount of work off her plate.  Additional time off may enable you to recharge your batteries or restructure your life a bit to enable a more efficient work process.  With a raise request or fee increase, you could offer to take on additional responsibilities.  Each scenario provides something of significance to the person who has the power to grant your request.

How can you move past your own barrier, and into a state of mind that enables you to be strong in your communication and self-advocacy?  I can help!  Call me today to set up an appointment, and we can work toward a solution together.

©Copyright 2016.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.