Archive for Gender Equity

Exuding Calm Like a Duck Gliding on Water

My recent Tip Tuesday social media post read “To have a great professional reputation as confident, on top of things, and unflappable — be a duck!  Yep, be a duck!  You may be peddling like the very devil underwater but on top you look like you are gliding over water.  Bosses, employees, clients, and co-workers think highly of individuals who have their act together.  Craft your reputation by being a duck.”  After I posted it, three clients reached out to me asking me to do a deeper dive into how this applies to leaders.  I realized they were likely not the only ones who could benefit from this information.  So here you go, leaders take heed.  However, this information can apply to anyone in the workplace, whether you are in a leadership position or are a newbie to the workforce. 

In a previous article, I wrote about the way so many American women have adopted the mantle of stress as a Badge of Courage!  Many women equate stress to being a hard worker and successful.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  If you want a great reputation and to have others benefit from your demeanor, exude calm. 

Every day can be stressful in the workplace for leaders.  There are deadlines to meet, budgets to create, feedback to give, etc.  Remember, you set the tone for others.  When you are calm, keep your emotions in check, and appear to have situations under control, staff members feel safe and secure.  You create an environment of stability that people pick up on. In an LA Times article by Joyce E.A. Russell, she reports that according to a study by TalentSmart, 90% of top performers demonstrate the ability to manage their emotions and stay calm during stressful times.  Leaders make better decisions and think more clearly when calm.  During times of crisis, it’s even more important to show calm.  When leaders become emotionally overwrought, so do their teams.  Look around, in a workplace where the leader often “loses it” you will see low morale, low creativity, team conflicts and errors made. 

Recently, one of my clients sent me feedback she had received about her leadership style from her team.  One of the consistent themes was how much they respected and appreciated her ability to keep calm during challenging and stressful times.  You can see how important it is to the team for the leader to remain calm but what about the leader herself? If the leader doesn’t keep calm under fire, Harvard Business School’s Online Blog reports:

  • 53% of leaders become more closed-minded and controlling during times of stress
  • 43% become angry and over-heated

Does that sound like the type of leader you would want to follow?  Does that sound like the type of leader who would have a great reputation?  Does that sound like the type of leader who would continue to be promoted? Unlikely, you would say “YES” to those three questions.  In my coaching business, I have encountered clients who say being rattled during stressful times is just their personality and emotional makeup.  Perhaps that has been your style in the past, but you can make headway toward becoming a duck.  Here are three important ways you can develop that critical calm, not just as a façade, but as a legitimate part of your leadership style.

  • Stop.  Don’t act quickly.  Give yourself time to really assess the situation.  If you jump in an over-heated state, you are apt to show up frenzied, rattled, and driven by emotion.  This doesn’t mean you won’t be emotional but take time to become more in control of your emotions.  When you are in this agitated state you are apt to take unwise actions and speak in unwise ways.  This may be a perfect time to recite the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The Courage to change the things I can, and
The Wisdom to know the difference.

Knowing what you can and cannot change will enable you to focus and take more appropriate action.

  • Gather Support.  This is the time to call in the troops!  Hopefully, you have a support system that you can call on.  It’s during times of calm waters that you develop your leader support system.  I cannot state strongly enough that this is NOT your work team!!!  If you attempt to use your employees as your support system, you do them and yourself a huge disservice.  You do not need to be dumping on them, they are looking to you to be the oasis of calm.  Plus, you may lose their respect if they see you out of control.  This is the very reason my clients have Emergency Calls as part of their coaching package.  I am a critical part of their support system.  Sometimes we don’t even talk, they just send me an email and vent!  I am the safe place for them to do that without repercussions.  Sometimes all you need is an outlet, other times you need some perspective, and in some situations, you need advice. 

  • Gather History.  Unless you were promoted to leadership yesterday, you have been in similar situations before.  At the very least, you have other leadership challenges that you can pull from as a good self-role model.  Perhaps, you didn’t handle difficult situations like a duck in the past.  Consider what didn’t work then and do something significantly different now.  If you don’t have a written log of situations you have overcome, now would be a great time to start this history.  My log goes back decades.  I have used that history more times than I can count to talk myself off the edge!  This is an action I encourage many of my clients to develop for themselves.

Are you aware you are less like a gliding duck, and more like a flailing goose?  Is your style holding back your career?  Do you react versus respond wisely during difficult work situations?  I may be able to offer some guidance.  Let’s at least talk.  High-Heeled Success offers 45-minute complimentary telephone consulting.  Email Kay@hhighheeledsuccess.com or call 513-561-4288 to set a time for us to chat.

Understanding Career Fears

It’s that scary time of year, Halloween, when fear is actually fun!  But the rest of the time, the Hobgoblins of fear, regarding your career, are anything but fun.  Overwhelming fear in your career can render you stuck, discontented, and even paralyzed.  If you are expecting this article to tell you not to be afraid, stop reading now.  That is lousy advice!  If you are feeling fearful, that is a legitimate feeling that you deserve to have validated.  Feeling your fear allows you to acknowledge and use tools to cope with that fear.  There is no magic wand to make it go away but you do not have to let fear rule you.  You will likely have to face fear throughout your career and life at each new stage. 

This quote by Nancy Anderson, author of Work with Passion, is key:Courage is not the absence of fear: rather, it is the ability to take action in the face of fear.”  Keep in mind, the way you think about, and address fear is often a gender issue.  Men are taught that fear is a signal to push through.  They aren’t supposed to be afraid and certainly should not show it.  And don’t cry!  In sports, men and boys are taught to look their opponent in the eye and be fearless.  The watch word men are taught is: Do Something!  Women are more frequently taught that fear is a sign to stop.  There is an ongoing message to women that “It’s dangerous out there!”  There is some truth to that, especially for women.  Sexual predators, domestic violence, and sexual harassment are just a few of the risks for women.  I can remember, visiting my mother once in the hospital after her serious surgery, as I left her parting words were, “Be careful.”  Throughout my entire life my parents admonished me to be careful!  Is it any wonder that I have spent a lifetime having to manage my fear, especially in the workplace?

Here are some of the workplace fears that often come to light with my clients:

  • Fear of being laid off or terminated.
  • Fear of being harassed.
  • Fear of making a major mistake.
  • Fear of not getting a promotion.
  • Fear of wage stagnation.
  • Fear of asking for a raise. 
  • Fear of being left out of the circle of influence.
  • Fear of going back to school.
  • Fear of interviews.
  • Fear of changing careers.
  • Fear of business networking.
  • Fear of giving presentations.
  • Fear of retiring from the workforce.

Keep in mind there are two types of fears in this list, those things that happen TO US and those things that WE MUST INITIATE.  Both fears have at their core one antidote — ACTION.  Without action the risk is a fear spiral.  Fear followed by inaction results in a sense of helplessness, hopelessness, depression, and paralysis. 

You may be thinking, there is nothing I can do about my company deciding to lay employees off.  True, you can’t control that corporate decision but there are several actions you CAN take.  Always have your resume up to date and be adding new skills, certifications, and education.  Plus, having a good Financial Planner or a Financial Coach will help you save money, create a cushion, and reduce debt should a layoff occur.  Additionally, you always need to be networking and nurturing your network.  I have two family members who had career doors open for them because of my networking contacts. 

Maybe, you are terrified by interviewing!  Develop a strong list of expected questions and have answers, stories, and examples for each.  Do multiple mock interviews.  This is a step I frequently take with clients, even those individuals that are not freaked out by interviews.

Right now, go through the list in this article and circle a couple of career fears you have.  Identify one action you can take for each one.  This will show you that there IS something you can do.  With every action you take, fear diminishes.

Perhaps your career Hobgoblins are keeping you from the success you strive for in your career and you need more in-depth information and assistance.  Don’t let those fear Hobgoblins win!  I have guided terrified and stuck women to a point where they are in charge of fear, not the other way around.  Do we need to talk?  High-Heeled Success offers a 45-minute complimentary telephone consultation. Email Kay@highheeledsuccess.com or call (513) 561-4288 to set a time to determine our game plan for locking up those career fear Hobgoblins. 

Career Comparisons, the Road to Discontent

“Frequent social comparisons may, in the short-term, provide reassurance.  But in the long-term they may reinforce a need to judge the self against external standards.”  Judith White, Ph.D.

It starts early, the comparison trap.  You are on top one minute and are on the bottom the next.  You are the shortest kid in your class; the tallest; the kid struggling most with math; the player who hasn’t made a basket in any game, on and on and on!  Teenage years come and you KNOW what kind of judgment we place on ourselves.  Fast forward to the world of work and it continues to ramp up.  The fastest route to career discontent is the game of comparison.  This tendency to compare ourselves to others is called social comparison, and it is a natural way for us to evaluate how we are doing.  Unfortunately, it can be quite destructive, make you feel dissatisfied and maybe even sabotage your career!

I currently have a client who is struggling with this issue, and it has almost derailed her career.  We are going to call her Marti.  Marti came to me for career rehabbing because her sister saw the self-sabotaging path she was taking.  She was consistently complaining to her boss that she hadn’t received a raise, a promotion or a conference speaking opportunity like a colleague had.  Her boss was getting a negative impression of her.  Now don’t misunderstand me, I consistently prod clients to advocate those very things.  However, Marti did not have the evidence needed to self-advocate for any of those.  All Marti could see was she was BEHIND her work friend.  As we began to explore, I was to learn the colleague had been at the company longer, with stellar performance reviews, she had far more experience in the industry, and she consistently worked 60 hours a week!

The first insight Marti had was she has a family history of intense comparisons.  Her parents had consistently compared Marti to her siblings:  academically, socially, and physically.  She began to realize how automatic this response was for her.  Together we began the process of self-career definition, evaluation, and development.

If you are a coaching client of mine, have attended a keynote I have presented, have participated in a training of mine, or just read my articles, you have likely heard me use the phrase, “This is your game, and you get to play it any way you like!”  Not only in your career, but the game of life is more satisfying playing by your rules.  The first step for Marti was to remember a couple of important rules of HER game. 

  1.  She had taken a year off between high school and college.  As a result, in comparison to her friend, she would always be somewhat behind time wise.  This was set in stone, there was nothing Marti could do about this.  It had been the smart thing for her to do, as she just wasn’t ready socially or academically for college.
  2. It had taken her six years to graduate because of changing her major twice and she had worked full-time to afford her schooling.  Once again, in comparison to her friend, she was behind.  Marti was quick to affirm her final choice of a major was what was right for her.  Plus, working was necessary to augment her financial package.  She said the skills she learned while working were essential to the success of her college career. 
  3. Marti acknowledged she had health issues that made extremely long hours not wise for her.  She also commented that her buddy was having health problems because of the struggle for work/life balance.

What about you?  Have you slipped into the comparison game and come up short?  Are you feeling very dissatisfied with your career as a result?  Are you making a position that you could possibly love a miserable one because you are playing by some else’s rules?  You are unique, you and only you can determine how a successful career is defined.  Using standard rules of the game will likely result in a sub-standard career!

Are you perplexed by both how you got to this career dilemma and even more perplexed as to how you are going to get out?  Don’t resign yourself to being in a career that is not satisfying.  Remember, we work an average of 55,000 hours in the average career, that’s a great deal of misery if you are in comparison mode.  Time for a chat?  High-Heeled Success offers 45-minute complimentary telephone consulting, email Kay@highheeledsuccess.com or call (513) 561-4288 to set a time to see how you can get out of the comparison game and into loving your career.

Capitalizing on Your Strengths at Work

Strengths and Weaknesses

Do you often feel like you are pushing a rock up a mountain at work?  Perhaps you are not working in your talents and strengths.  In 1993, I experienced several life-changing moments and events.  I was dissatisfied with my career at Mental Health Services North Central and had the screaming sense that I was being under-utilized and wasn’t fulfilling my potential.  I stood in the stacks at the Madeira Public Library, scanning the titles for help and direction.  My eyes seemed to be magically pulled to the book titled, Soar with Your Strengths, by Donald O. Clifton, Ph. D., and Paula Nelson.  I read that book from cover to cover in one day! To say it was an epiphany was to put it mildly, it changed my life!  It led me to starting my business and the rest is history, as they say.  Clifton started the strength-based development movement upon returning from WWII and empowered millions to be their best self. He asked, “What would happen if we studied what was right with people versus what’s wrong with people?”  Since that time, Tom Rath, wrote the book Strengths Finder 2.0 and he and Marcus Buckingham, of the Gallup Organization, have shepherded the Strengths Movement into a global phenomenon.  There is an easy and inexpensive assessment to take online, the link is here:

https://www.gallup.com/cliftonstrengths/en/254033/strengthsfinder.aspx

You may have taken the assessment at work or independently but are you using the information?  Are you working in your talents and strengths daily?  From the time most of us are born, someone is telling us to “fix” ourselves!  Fix your weaknesses!  It comes from our parents, teachers, and coaches during our youth.  Then our workplace takes over in the form of feedback, conferences, and performance reviews.  Have you noticed how exhausting, frustrating, and unsatisfying fixing your weaknesses happens to be?  Many people beat themselves up daily for their weaknesses.  I am a recipient of this message and unfortunately, a perpetrator of it, as well.  In my own defense, these messages are so foundational for most of us, it’s hard to shake.  However, on the days that I stay focused on my talents and strengths, those are the days that fly by, I know I’ve made a profound difference and I feel THE most satisfied.  When you are not working in your strengths you likely:

  • Hate going to work
  • Have more negative than positive interactions with your colleagues
  • Treat your customers pretty lousy
  • Tell your friends what a terrible company you work for
  • Achieve less on any given day
  • Have a low number of positive and creative ideas

Just as a reminder, for those who are well versed in the concepts of Strengths Finder, and as information for those new to the concept, talents are innate, you are born with these. Early on my talents for empathy, influencing others, and seeing the uniqueness is people emerged.  The recipe looks like this:  talent + knowledge + practice = strengths.  It’s only when talents are given the opportunity to develop that they become strengths.  My talents morphed into my top five strengths:

  • Significance
  • Empathy
  • Individuation
  • Developer
  • Discipline

But you don’t care about my strengths, unless you are one of my clients, a future client, or a meeting planner.  YOU DO CARE about finding and using your strengths.

Consider the importance of working in your strengths, some of the benefits are:

  • Your work satisfaction
  • Satisfaction with your performance from managers, customers, and colleagues
  • Career advancement
  • Higher career compensation
  • A personal sense of a life well lived

Perhaps you know this information already and are not putting it to work, keep reading to Kay’s Corner. I will give you some simple steps in making this information come to life.  In this one life we get to live, use yours to the hilt!

Does this entire process seem formidable to you?  What might happen if we spent 45 minutes on a complimentary consultation call to discuss this.  It’s easy to make that happen, email Kay@highheeledsuccess.com or call the office at (513) 561-4288 to set up a complimentary 45-minute consultation.

Understanding Attribution Theory for Success

It is critical that you see your thumbprint on your success.  Without owning and internalizing your successes, it’s challenging to raise your self-esteem, feel confident, believe you are worthy of higher pay, promotions, respect, great opportunities, etc.  There is an entire field of study around what you attribute your successes and failures to at work and in life.  Drumroll, please, we are talking about Attribution Theory.  Research has found that gender strongly impacts the way in which we explain our successes and failures.  Many studies have found that men tend to blame external forces for their failures and women assume the failure lies within them.  Men may say they were terminated because of the economy, a non-appreciative boss, or office politics.  Women are more prone to say it’s because they were not smart enough, skilled enough, or savvy enough.  Just NOT ENOUGH!  An interesting study was conducted at the Center for Creative Leadership in North Carolina. Program participants were asked to respond to the statement, “Tell me about a time you tried something and failed.”  All the women responded in detail, but half of the men said they could not come up with a single example.

What about successes?  Gender plays a role here, as well.  Often men own their successes, their result is great because they are smart, skilled, and savvy. Women frequently will attribute the success to luck, help, or hard work.  Hard work is a slippery slope. On the surface hard work would seem like a positive attribute but compare it to being smart, skilled, or savvy and you will see the difference.  I currently have a client who is a perfect example of not seeing her thumbprint on her success.  Let’s call her Lindsey.  Lindsey works for a large Fortune 500 corporation.  She has been performing the role of the leader in her department, without any perks.  She had not received a raise, the title of the leader, or any authority.  Together we have been positioning her successes to increase her credibility, increase her visibility, and increase her clout.  She emailed recently, she was overjoyed to report that she had landed the raise, the title, and the accompanying authority.  When I congratulated her, her response was, “It’s all thanks to my boss, he advocated for me.”  Where is her thumbprint?  Yes, he did advocate for her but without her skills, leadership, and smarts he would have had nothing to “sell” about Lindsey.

If you wonder, how did we end up in this success/failure gender discrepancy?  One origin can be found in our education system.  Groundbreaking work by Dr. Myra Sadker and Dr. David Sadker shows teachers often explain away boys’ poor performance by suggesting they were tired, distracted, or having a tough day, etc.  Rarely did the researchers find the teachers excused the behavior of girls in the same way. This is just the tip of the iceberg in the gender research done by this pair.  For an eye-opening read, get your hands on the book Failing at Fairness:  How Our Schools Cheat Girls.

Does all this mean we should never be appreciative of the efforts of our employees, team members, colleagues, bosses, sponsors, mentors, or coaches?  Of course not, but we certainly deserve at least equal ownership of having our thumbprint on successes. The belief that we have efficacy, that ability to produce a desired or intended result, gives us confidence in creating outcomes in the world. Outcomes not just once, but over and over.

Don’t stop reading here.  Kay’s Corner will give you a step-by-step plan for impacting the negative effects of gender-skewed Attribution Theory. 

To what you attribute your successes and failures can make and break your career.  These tendencies are deeply rooted and if you fear changing this may be daunting, perhaps guidance in this area would be impactful for you.  Let’s do a complementary 45-minute phone consultation and determine if coaching could change the tide for you!  Email Kay@highheeledsuccess.com or call the office at (513) 561-4288 to set up a complementary 45-minute consultation.

Using Reflection for Career Success

Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away.” Author Barbara De Angelis.

You may find that you are always the last on your list and you consistently have far too much to do!  You need to create a presentation for the board on Tuesday; your son has a basketball game tonight you want to attend; you realized this morning you are down to your last pair of panties; and your parents are coming for dinner Tuesday night AND it is only Monday morning.  Now you are telling me, Kay, I need to pause to self-reflect!  What kind of world are you living in?  The world where you take care of your needs and your career.

Reflection is an impactful tool for your professional growth.  Without self-reflection you are on career auto pilot.  Being on auto pilot is a sure-fire path to hating your job; not using your strengths and experiencing burnout.  Reflecting can help you learn what changes you want to make in your career in an intentional way, instead of just cruising along.  Besides being busy, why don’t you ever get around to career reflection?  I would propose to you that often it is because you are scared to death, scared of what you might hear!  If you get quiet, you may have thoughts and feeling come to the surface.  Pushing thoughts and feelings down are often our way of coping, just putting one foot in front of another.  If you got quiet, you might hear:

  • I have really made a ton of mistakes lately
  • I was a jerk today with Tony
  • I have not had a raise in six years
  • My boss dumps work on me and always get the credit
  • I am not moving up in this organization
  • There is not another position here I aspire to
  • I have been here too long

Or

  • I have never felt more respected in my career
  • My talents and strengths are being used every day
  • My manager really cares about my professional growth
  • I love my team
  • I see a clear path for promotion here
  • My employees are the best
  • Every project I work on is creating growth

Who knows what you might hear!  Indeed, the #1 job site in the world, proposes the following as possible benefits of quiet self-reflection:

  • Reducing negative thoughts
  • Increasing understanding of yourself and your coworkers
  • Emphasizing your strengths and improving your weaknesses
  • Clarifying your intentions for your time and talents
  • Defining professional goals and being strategic with opportunities for growth
  • Developing creative thinking skills
  • Encouraging engagement in work processes
  • Building confidence

I am not proposing you just get quiet and hope a lightening bolt of new awareness hits you.  Instead getting skilled at asking yourself great questions is the key.  Open-ended questions starting with the words: what, how, when, why, who, which, etc. will get you reflecting. Included below are some great questions to get you started.

  • What steps do I need to take now to advance in my career?
  • What professional changes do I want to see in my future?
  • Which of my work relationships need improvement?  What steps do I need to take to make them better?
  • What achievements am I most proud of this year?
  • How can I better reach my goals this year?
  • When will I take the first step to get those goals moving?
  • Who is the key person for me to get in my corner now?
  • How would I feel if every day were like today?

It’s time to move from auto pilot to planned, intentional, strategic career enjoyment.  You certainly deserve to have the career that fulfills you, uses your skills and talents, and makes an impact.  Self-reflection is a powerful tool in digging up the answers you need for your professional journey. 

If this self-reflection journey feels horribly daunting, you are not alone.  Many of my clients initially didn’t know the questions to ask or how to implement the answers when they did get answers, that’s where I come in.  My career maximizing coaching is based on asking the right questions at the right time to right you on your right course.  Unsure if this would make a difference?  Let’s find out by doing a complementary 45-minute phone consultation to see if coaching could maximize your career.  Email Kay@highheeledsuccess.com or call 513-561-4288 to get the ball rolling.   

Breaking the Rules for Success

At my core, due to my upbringing, I am a rule follower. I can hear my mother now, “Good little girls are polite, look pretty, wait their turn.”  Can you hear your own mother, father, grandmother, schoolteacher? It’s a common lament of women, we have been taught to follow the rules. I am not proposing anarchy. Or am I? I love the quote from Katharine Hepburn, “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.”  I was always considered a “Goody Two Shoes”! In 6th grade, we were allowed to walk home for lunch but not go anywhere else.  One day a group of kids decided to walk to a local café for lunch, strictly forbidden, and I summoned all my courage and went.  Someone ratted us out and we were to be punished. I was giddy to be part of the rebel group. However, when the time came time for the punishment, our principal didn’t put me in detention because she couldn’t believe I would be part of the insurrection. I was devastated and begged to get detention like all the rest of the gang. This shows how entrenched I was in following the rules. It has been a lifelong battle to resist this upbringing, as it can be such a career obstacle.

If you want to maximize your career, you must learn to break some rules for success. I would love to tell you I can do this blithely, but not so. I still feel some anxiety and queasiness, but I do it anyway! Sometimes I break a rule just to prove to myself that I still have it in me. Here are examples from my speaking career:

  • I always advise, in advance, how a room is to be arranged. If you ever train or speak you know that this is essential. The seating can make or break a training. When real life sets in, the seating is often wrong. When I can find staff to fix the problem, I direct them in how to make changes. Sometimes, I change it myself. When I comment on this to others, they often express concern that I haven’t asked permission. My ultimate responsibility is to assure the event is successful, if it means breaking some rules, so be it.
  • Meeting planners will sometimes request I speak on the stage and behind the lectern. That can be the kiss of death in connecting with an audience. I now will not even agree to it. In the past, there have been situations where I agreed but invaded the audience space anyway. That’s a rule I love to break.
  • Have you noticed that conference participants often spread throughout a meeting room? For energy, connection, and activities it’s important for an audience to stay together. Consequently, I direct participants where to sit. In my traveling bag, I carry caution tape. Think of the type you see at construction sites. Taping off seats that I do not want occupied is common for me. I have had people shadow me to learn speaking and training techniques. It’s not uncommon to have someone ask, “Did THEY say this is ok?”  I didn’t ask permission and don’t intend to. However, I will explain why it was necessary.

What are some of the rules that it makes sense to break?

  1.  “You must pay your dues.”  Just because you are new or young, doesn’t mean you have to wait to rise to the top or ask for the plum opportunities. Are you great at what you do? Then jump over everyone else. Might you hack people off? Yep! Might people say, “Who does she think she is?” Yep! Do it anyway. 
  2. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”  There’s a proven way to ensure mediocrity! Shake things up, break that rule. Try new things, that’s how organizations evolve, stay ahead of the competition, and innovate.
  3. “Wait your turn.”  Most recently, I have a couple of clients that have held back on asking to go to conferences because no one in their organization was sent during the pandemic. This seemed pushy to them. Push away! All that can happen is you hear, “No.”
  4. “Newbies keep your thoughts to yourself.”  Diversity of age and tenure are smart ways companies are hiring. Organizations desperately need latest ideas, thoughts, and perspectives. Break that rule soon. You do not need to wait. In fact, when coaching women in their first professional position, I nudge them to speak up early in their career. Don’t wait until an arbitrary amount of time has passed. Make your mark from the beginning.
  5. “Work and play don’t mix.”  Men have figured out this is ludicrous! It is the essence of the “Ole Boys Club”.  Making business contacts and deals on the golf course isn’t just a story, it’s real.  Some of my best opportunities and clients have come from conversations in social settings. I recently struck up a conversation at the nail salon with the woman next to me and it looks like an article for a magazine will be the result. 

These are just a few of the rules that are worth breaking. You will think of more rules that apply to your situation. These obviously are not ethical violations or legal issues. These are perspectives, traditions, unwritten rules. Frequently, they are sexist at the foundation. If we didn’t eventually break the rules, women would still be wearing hats, gloves and dresses every day when they left their home. I think of Amelia Earhart, the stir she caused in breaking the rules of attire. She wore PANTS! She flew airplanes!  She was a rule breaker! Thank you, Amelia and all the other women who have gone before us breaking rules so we could thrive in life and in the workplace.

Are you sabotaging your career as a rule follower? It’s not your fault, you are just following the rules, LOL! If your career is being held back due to adherence to some unwritten, arbitrary set of rules, or other behaviors, there is help. Let’s talk. Did you know that High-Heeled Success offers 45-minute complimentary telephone consulting? Email Kay@highheeledsuccess.com or call 513-561-4288 to set a time to assess your situation. 

Sounding Powerful and Professional

Some of you may react to this article with a shrug of your shoulders.  You may be thinking, “As long as I do a good job and know my stuff, I will succeed.”  Though doing a good job and knowing your area of expertise is critical, how you express your knowledge can be a game changer.  Let’s face it, women have a disadvantage in the workplace.  Period.  It is in your best interest to have everything possible working for you.  That is what I strongly recommend that you start paying close attention to your language.  If you recorded yourself today, would you hear a woman who sounds assertive, confident, and powerful?  Maybe not.  In the media, I have been quoted saying, “Every time you open your mouth it’s a speaking opportunity.”  When YOU open your mouth, are your words advancing your career or undermining it?  You likely are presenting department reports, or pitching to a potential client, or speaking on a podcast. Unfortunately, you may have learned verbal habits that undercut your power in each of those situations.  They are so entrenched you don’t notice you are using them.  Sometimes you use these phrases intentionally, in an effort to be accepted, soften the blow, or seem less aggressive.  Regardless of the foundational reason, it’s still causing you to shoot yourself in your High-Heeled foot. 

There are many power-robbing phrases that I hear women use.  The focus is going to be on three in this article:  hedges, add-ons, and the indecisive “I”.  Curb your inclination to be defense about this, I am not scolding or berating you, instead guiding you.  We need every tool in our career tool belt.   

  • Eliminate hedges:  By the time you are presenting at a meeting, to a client, or are on a Podcast, you have thought things through.  You have a stance, perspective, or recommendation to make.  You see it as the right direction.  You have crunched the numbers, done research, or conferred with others.  It’s not mere opinion.   You may sound unsure, subjective, or tentative if you use hedges.  Hedging may be your attempt at reducing rejection, but it has the opposite result.  Consider these hedge statements:
    • “This may not be important, but…”
    • “I just wanted to say…”
    • “In my opinion…”
    • “This may not be right, but…”

“This may not be right, but I think shifting the marketing plan to a new target audience could be beneficial.”  No doubt you recognize how the hedge under sells your well thought out direction.  

  • Eliminate add-ons:  Add-ons, phrases added at the end of sentences, are frequently reflective of female learned behavior growing up.  Keep the peace, don’t ruffle feathers, get along!  Add-ons may be a sign of your leadership style.   If you have a more collaborative than commanding leadership style, you are apt to use these phrases.  If you are seeking collaboration, there are better verbal tools to use then add-ons.  Your add-ons may be more a sign of easing your discomfort with taking a position.  If you seek changing the marketing strategy, own it.  This is the time to be persuasive, impactful, and convincing.  You will recognize these add-ons:
    • “don’t you think?”
    • “right?”
    • “okay?”
    • “isn’t it?

“Changing the target market is aligned with the company vision, right?”  This add-on opens the door for controversy and dissent.  Your collaborative efforts, fact-finding, and alternate perspectives need to come well before you take a stance.

  • Eliminate I think and I feel:  One of the disadvantages women have had for decades is the belief by many men that women are too emotional in the workplace.  You see it in every industry, companies small and large, and in politics.  In 2019, an analysis by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found 1 in 8 Americans believe women are not as emotionally suited as men to serve in elected office.  This presents a significant barrier for women.  We don’t want to do anything that reinforces this bias.  Starting our sentences with the words “I think…” or “I feel…” is self-sabotaging.  You can readily see the issue.  By using this verbal habit, you are suggesting to others that this is merely an opinion, or you are speaking from an emotional response.  Sometimes we DO have an emotional response to and issue and that may need to be expressed.  But by starting every other sentence with I think, or I feel can be disastrous. 

“I feel changing the target market will be align it with the company vision.”  Are you convinced this is a valuable direction?  If you are, say so.  Surely, this is not just your gut talking.  You’ve done your homework, say so.  Followers of my articles, keynotes, workshops, and books will recognize tis quote from author and Pediatrician, Sally E. Shaywitz, MD, “To be someone, a woman doesn’t have to be more like a man, but she does have to be more of a woman.”  Women are strong and powerful, let your language reflect that strength and power.

Are you concerned that you are undercutting your career with your speaking style?  Many women face this problem, and it can be solved.  If these and other challenges are preventing you from your goals in the workplace, guidance is only a click or a phone call away.  Email Kay@highheeledsuccess.com or call (513) 561-4288 and we will set up a time for a complimentary 45-minute telephone consultation.