Archive for Leadership

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.

Obama vs. Sandburg: Embracing Both Perspectives

Following a recent interview with Michelle Obama regarding her new memoir, “Becoming,” there was a news cycle firestorm regarding her comments on the ‘Lean In’ movement that began when Sheryl Sandberg authored the book with the same title.

What struck me most about the controversy was the intense backlash surrounding who is right and who is wrong – Sheryl Sandberg or Michelle Obama.

Unfortunately, this is a reflection of the all or nothing thinking that typically permeates the human condition, yet is exacerbated by our polarization around every issue these days.  As politics becomes more polarized, we see the same intense approach to taking sides in every segment of our society.

Rather than thinking in terms of Either/Or, we need to move toward embracing the concept of Both/And.  For example, a very well known quote from Alcoholics Anonymous summarizes Both/And thinking beautifully:  Take what you need and leave the rest.”

Obama is recognizing the reality of the struggle.  Sometimes, it’s just not feasible to lean in.  There may be personal or family health issues, divorce or concerns with the kids – all are possible among the myriad of life crises that we endure.  On top of the additional stress these life issues manifest, it’s critical to reduce our own personal self-shaming during these periods.  It’s okay to say to yourself, “Right now, it’s just not realistic or feasible to be all-in for a promotion at work.”

Let me be clear, this does not mean that during the other times, when your personal life is chugging along smoothly, that we embrace some of the concepts that Sandburg addresses in her book, “Lean In.”  Once again, polarity causes us to think in terms of Either/Or, such as changes need to be made at a policy level OR we need to take personal responsibility and change our own actions.

“The most common way people give up their power is by believing they don’t have any.”

–Alice Walker

One of my favorite quotes by Alice Walker is very appropriate when talking about personal responsibility.  In other words, if we don’t assess our own behavior, possibly we have abdicated control of our own life.

The Lean In movement doesn’t promote that we can always have it all.  The reality is that we can’t have it all at the same time.  The myth of being a superwoman is not just unrealistic, it’s ridiculous.  Often, we can’t have it all; however, rather than shaming yourself, learn to recognize when now is not the time and don’t use bad timing as an excuse to tell yourself “I can’t.”

In other words, let’s figure out what you can do, when you can do it and have a plan.

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.

 

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.

Who do you need supporting your voice?

When it comes to career development, and really so many other things in life, you can’t do it alone, and because you can’t do it alone, neither can others.  Once you realize the power of your own voice, look around you and figure out who you need supporting your voice, who will be your greatest advocate, who will you talk to first when you have a ground-breaking idea?

While discovering and embracing your own power is important, the “Power of Us” can be the game-changer.  Men support each other all the time – where do you think the phrase the “good, old boys club” comes from?  If women employ some of the same techniques used by men to work together, support each other and lift while they climb, career support can be transformational.

As with everything, it’s important to find the power balance, a balance of mentor and mentee.  When you identify a woman boss or colleague who will help amplify your voice at work, you may have also found a mentor who could become a huge advocate for you.  A good mentor will support your voice and help transform your ability to speak out and speak up.  She (or he) can:

  • Advocate for you and open doors to resources.
  • Make strategic introductions.
  • Recommend you serve on boards, committees of the organization.
  • 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.

If you’re the one in this scenario who has become the mentor, the work colleague who is ready, willing and able to lift while she climbs, make sure you’re not mentoring others to the detriment of your own career.  There’s a mentor for everyone.  Even if you need to look outside your department, company or industry, you need a mentor to help create visibility and open doors for you.

Internal and external mentors serve different roles.  An internal mentor is someone within your own organization, workplace or industry.  This person understands the culture of your workplace or industry.  A mentor who knows these intricate details can provide advice and insights that no one else can.  If you work directly with the person, she/he can also provide a unique perspective of how you are perceived in the workplace.

External mentors come from other companies, and different areas of business.  The balance of having an internal/external mentor, similar to the male/female balance, will help provide a holistic approach to the self-improvement process that takes place in a mentoring relationship.

Early in my career, I was more inclined to take a quick lunch at my desk.  I didn’t fully understand the value of having lunch with my co-workers, learning the players and gaining support for my ideas and my work.  Getting to know people and supporting each other is also more enjoyable, so don’t miss the opportunity.  It’s good for your career and good for your mental health!

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.

Politics is a Mirror of Our Society

It’s election season and early voting is available in most states.  As I continue my life’s work to mentor women and guide each to achieve her own personal “High Heeled Success,” I’m hearing about more and more women running for office and engaging in the political process.  This inspires me!

This year is the 97th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage – women’s right to vote in the United States of America.  Women, it has not been that long, which is why it’s no surprise that women hold roughly 20 percent of elected positions at the federal, state and local levels.  And now, women are running for public office in record numbers.

Politics and women in public office is a mirror of the workplace and the rest of society.  There is definitely a gender bias when women run for office.  Women are not asked as frequently as men if they would consider taking on the challenge.  Women tend to think they’re not qualified enough, which is a problem men rarely have.  It’s harder for women to raise the funds needed to run a campaign.  These issues are the same, whether we’re talking about politics or the workplace.

Just as you face challenges in the workplace, you will experience similar challenges as you take on the political process.  Remember, however, the risks are worth the rewards.  At any given time, reassess your risk for seeking a political appointment or running for election.  In other words, what do you have to lose?

Please don’t be afraid of rocking the boat.  Remember, the women rocking the boat nearly 100 years ago were the ones who earned us the right to vote in this country.  When you stand up for yourself in traditionally male-dominated groups, you run the risk of being perceived as overbearing or nasty.  As long as you assess your risk and think it all through, you’ll be in good shape.

I also encourage you to support each other in political endeavors.  Men certainly support each other and help each other all the time.  Just like in the workplace, we need to do also do that in the political realm.

For example, help amplify other women and lift them up.  When another woman puts an idea out there by writing an op-ed or communicating with a political group, join the conversation and share your thoughts.  Just by responding, you validate her and make sure our place at the table doesn’t get lost.

Just like in the workplace, you need to call out blatant sexism in the political arena.  Women will be judged by different standards when they are running for office or succeeding in the workplace.  Be aware of it and don’t be afraid to speak up.

Being aware of these challenges is important, yet you still need to be both collaborative and competitive at the same time.  We can’t get anything done without learning how to do both.

To all the women running for office right now, I’m inspired by you and I’m proud of you.  In some ways, you’re taking on the most difficult glass ceiling to break.  I’m with you.  Now, don’t forget to vote on November 7 and let your voice be heard!

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.

Think Strategy Before You Say ‘Yes’

April was National Volunteer Month – a time to honor all the volunteers that contribute of themselves to improve our communities.  The month also brings attention to volunteer recruitment, so maybe you’ve been thinking more about how you might contribute your time and talent.  Our time is our most valuable gift, so I encourage you to differentiate strategic volunteerism that provides leadership enhancement opportunities vs. other volunteerism for altruistic reasons.

Volunteerism for altruistic reasons is personal and leads you to a cause that provides pure personal satisfaction, such as serving in a soup kitchen.  While this is very important too, I’ll focus on strategic volunteerism to help you choose volunteer positions with visibility in mind.

The most obvious and accessible path is to choose opportunities within your industry or field of expertise, such as a professional association.  An example would be women in commercial real estate getting involved with Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW).  Stepping up to serve in professional organizations is especially important if you’re working in a male dominated field, such as engineering.

Once you’re settled in a volunteer position, don’t be shy about it.  Broadcast your volunteer leadership roles in emails to the boss, at annual review time and even in social media.  Unfortunately, women are less willing to toot their own horns, yet we absolutely must to be recognized and advance.

Look around your community, read the news about accomplished business leaders and the organizations they serve.  If you are more thoughtful about determining who in a volunteer position is a powerful leader, then you can go after opportunities to lead with them.  Think about the leaders you want to know, and find a volunteer situation that meets your other parameters.

Some volunteer positions can help you advance professionally and gain certifications.  Toastmasters is the volunteer experience that provided this opportunity for me.  I was already a seasoned presenter when I joined Toastmasters 20 years ago; however, I was joining to further develop my leadership skills.

I believe I have held every office in our club, serving several terms as president.  Additionally, I served as an area director for our district.  My volunteer job was a perfect match for the skills I wanted to hone – to develop leadership in others.  In a volunteer organization, there are no bonuses or raises, so you must find ways to inspire your colleagues.

In my business, I wanted to become a leader of leaders, a developer of talent.  The goal to be able to recognize the spark, then fuel that spark into greater leadership.  Gradually, I developed step-by-step ways to hone in on the spark and groom the right person for leadership succession.

As I moved up to take more responsibility within Toastmasters, I became a more skilled delegator.  Eventually, I was an area director, overseeing several clubs, coaching and developing other leaders.  I had successfully leveraged my volunteer role with Toastmasters into one that provided exactly what I needed professionally.  I developed better delegation skills, better meeting planning and execution skills, effective talent search and development in creating a succession plan both as a president and as an area director.

While I was taking my own skills to a higher level, I was also helping others, which is the pure essence of volunteerism.  The opportunities with Toastmasters provided both the feel-good opportunity to volunteer and serve others at the same time I was growing my own skills and taking my leadership abilities to the next level.

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.

Be Smart When Taking Risks

We all know that taking risks – the kind that will pull you into the C-suite or grow your business or simply change your outlook on risk-taking as a woman – is a defining characteristic for those who are successful.  When deciding whether this risk or that risk is the right thing to do, you should be aware of some basic concepts to help you examine your options and ask yourself the most important question, “Is this a Smart Risk?”

The risk can potentially be the kind that will give you the courage to jump to new levels, to go beyond what you thought was possible.  Many women tend to be cautious by taking baby steps, yet jumping levels is exciting.  Picture grasping the brass ring, the position you’ve always dreamed of having.  At this stage, ask yourself:

  1. “Do I have the skill set behind me to do the job?”
  2. “Can I gain the skills to do the job?”

If either answer is yes, it’s time to take the big step.

Men have no trouble thinking and believing that they are qualified for the next level.  In fact, a man will often believe he’s competent enough to advance having acquired one or some of the skills necessary for the next level.  While a woman will believe she’s qualified or ready to advance, if she has mastered ALL the skills in the job description.

For example, a woman often needs to be invited, and sometimes more than once, to take on a new and unfamiliar role, whether it’s being committee chair, advancing to the chief level at work or running for public office.  Have you ever heard a man say, “Oh, I couldn’t do that?”  Well, women, you shouldn’t either!

As a woman, whatever risk you’re considering will likely be a challenge to the way things have always been done.  Women have had to buck history for centuries, so don’t let the way things have been done in the past be your albatross for taking a risk.  Women also suffer from wanting to be liked, so please put that need on a shelf and look at your situation with new perspective.  When you do, you’ll realize you’re probably ready to take the risk.

Unfortunately, risk-taking has been suppressed in women since they were girls.  Think about it this way.  Parents, family members and school teachers more commonly discourage girls from taking risks, both academic and physical.

Personally, I was an only child and my parents were terrified something bad would happen to me.  My mom was always telling me to “be careful, be careful!”  Thus, I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 12 years old, taught by my best friend in secret.  This issue requires consideration from two angles, how it affects our own decision-making and risk-taking as an adult professional, as well as how we may be doing our own daughters a disservice if we’re telling them to be careful all the time.

You will take smart risks when you have made sure your self-esteem is not wanting.  If you believe you’re struggling with low self-esteem, I have a must-read for you: Women and Self-Esteem: Understanding and Improving the Way We Think and Feel About Ourselves, by Linda Tschirhart Sanford and Mary Ellen Donovan.  Many women worry that they don’t deserve success; harbor fears that they are not bright enough, not talented enough, just not good enough.  This book examines how women’s harmful attitudes about themselves are shaped and offers concrete help to help build higher self-esteem.

When deciding whether to take a risk, assess the reality of the situation.  Remember, there continues to be a double standard for men and women in the workplace.  Failure is perceived differently for a man vs. a woman.  When a man fails, the failure is viewed as something that will be fixed and he is given another chance.  Unfortunately, when a woman fails, that failure hangs with her and she might be judged by it for much longer.  Like so many things, failure is viewed through a different lens for a man, than it is for a woman.

Risk-taking doesn’t always have to be in the workplace to empower you.  It’s possible to take a risk that helps you overcome a fear in your personal life.  With a lifelong fear of swimming, snorkeling in Jamaica made me feel incredibly empowered to take risks to advance my business.  Every time I look at the t-shirt, “I snorkeled the Cali wreck,” it empowers me to take additional risks!  Taking a step forward in terms of risk doesn’t always mean a workplace risk.  Anything that helps you flex your muscles will move you in the right risk-taking direction.

Read Kay’s Corner to find practical tips for SMART risk-taking.

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