I’ve been working with a number of women clients who’ve achieved considerable success in their careers. Most want to take control of their career. Yet, these women are still thinking and behaving with a mindset similar to the one I had in the 90’s and early 2000’s.
It’s the “I can’t” attitude.
Let me explain.
Prospects for women, especially in business and the workplace are still far from being on par with men. Yes we’ve made significant gains in the past 100 years. But it hasn’t been a consistent upward trajectory. It’s been more like moments of truth along the way.
Arguably the most impactful “moment” occurred in the late 60’s early 70’s highlighted by 50,000 women marching in New York City demanding legal abortion, universal childcare, and equal pay. While these demands haven’t been met in most parts of the Western World, awareness and tireless activism by many has resulted in greater parity. But not full equality.
We’re nearing the 2020’s and once again we’re in a “moment”. #MeToo has risen to directly take on sexual harassment in the workplace. This is busting open the glass ceiling for a better view of women in power, or rather of not enough women in power, and the slippery path it takes to get there.
I don’t subscribe to the “us versus them” approach to change. Instead, the time has come for women to exercise our rights and ambitions.
What if we shift our narrative from I can’t to I can? We can start by individually doing 3 simple actions relating to the most common complaints or mindsets I hear from clients:
Let go of “if I just work harder” as your measure for success
Create your tribe
Ask for what you want
As a leader in a large organization I took great pride in knowing I was a high producer. When stress kicked in I latched on to the idea that if I just worked harder I would be more successful and more likely to get promoted?
I was wrong. Working that hard eventually wore me down. Long hours aren’t the elixir for success and happiness. Buying into the “if I just work harder” is counter productive.
In Hive’s recent State of the Workplace Report, they note that women produce 10% more work than men. What’s more, they’re given 55% of all work, compared to 45% assigned to men.
The real question is, “working harder at what?” How meaningful is that additional work? When assigned a task, women ought to consider whether the task is promotable or non-promotable (beneficial to the organization, but doesn’t contribute to career advancement). If there’s a pattern of being asked to take on non-promotable tasks, it’s time to say no and rethink your measure of success.
The second shift comes by consciously surrounding yourself with and holding up other women leaders. Whether they’re in your own company or industry, so much can be gained from sharing ideas, talking through challenges and celebrating successes.
I’ve heard clients complain they simply don’t have access to critical business information – the kind shared on the golf course. Little desire or time to spend on male preferred social activities results in less opportunities to build relationships that lead to inside information and connections that can give them an edge.
There’s lots of ways to build your tribe. Start by hosting a breakfast or lunch with the intention of inviting women to support women. Organizations like Lean In offer local circle groups where women talk openly about their ambitions and encourage each other to take on new challenges. Join an established network like WXN or industry-focused networks like WNET or WIA.
Finally, and perhaps the most important shift you can make is to ASK. This sounds really simple. But according to several studies, women are less likely to negotiate their salary and benefits.
Knowing it’s your responsibility to understand what you can ask for, and asserting yourself is key to negotiation.
Companies expect you’ll negotiate your salary and benefits. Depending on your position and industry, here are some additional benefits to ask for:
Health benefits and wellness program
Flexibility in work schedule and location
Tuition reimbursement and professional dues
Conference attendance at the organization’s expense
Your job title
Your reporting relationships
One-time signing bonus
An executive coach to support on-boarding
The more you’re prepared to negotiate, the more likely you’ll be confident in asking for what you believe you’re worth when the time comes. Think of it this way, you’ll be doing the right thing for you and creating a better culture for all women.
Let’s use the current “moment” to confidently step forward and take action to match what we believe, need, want and deserve. The moment of “we can” is here.
It’s that time of year again. The pressure’s on to buy buy and buy more. On the heels of Black Friday (whoever came up with that name was cheekily brilliant), we now have Cyber Week! Everywhere we look there’s some corporate giant waiting to pounce on our wallets.
This mass media marketing is, of course, designed to make us think we must have that new electronic, or fancy pair of shoes. But do we really need it?
The same thing happens in our careers. We’re told we must develop our leadership competencies so we can climb that ladder that beckons us to the top. Managers tell us we must directly supervise employees to become a Director. And the message is, everyone must aim to be a leader.
If you’re an entrepreneur you’re hearing so many “must” do’s to earn multiple figures or market to our target niche. Business mentors are ripe with recipes for that one path to success.
Like the pre-Christmas mass marketing that dupes us into thinking we must have the toys, gadgets and latest of the latest, so do the manager, mentors, leadership books and business publications demand we need to be and act a certain way.
But are they right? Or are they really telling us how to reach their goals and their vision of success?
I’ve recently had the privilege of coaching a large number of rising stars in a sizeable organization. Their managers tapped them on the shoulder to attend an intensive leadership program. While some of them truly do have the goal of making it up the ladder, others are confused and feeling pressured.
What I find most interesting is when we peel the layers off their onion we find that their own career goals are in contrast to what they believe they’re “supposed” to do as defined by their manager, organization or business mentor.
This is when the confusion sets in. Questions invariably come up:
Will the company still value me if I don’t want to move up?
Will I be passed over for interesting projects?
How will my colleagues view me?
What value do I bring to the company?
If you own your business, your questions are likely:
Why do I have to follow what everyone else is doing?
Will I be a failure if I don’t make 6+ figures?
Why does my sales funnel have to look like B-School’s?
These are natural responses and reactions. But what if I asked you, “What’s your definition of your purpose and the legacy you want to share with your organization or business?”
That changes everything!
I know this may seem obvious, but it bares saying: it’s unlikely you’ll ever be happy following what others do or what they expect you to do.
So now what?
While having a coach guide you forward is an asset in gaining clarity and perspective, you can start by tossing aside the previous questions and focus on uncovering your true goals and a path to achieving them. Start by asking yourself:
Who is responsible for my career?
How important is my work/life balance?
Am I passionate about the work I do?
Do I like being an expert in my field?
Do I crave greater responsibility for and interest in leading others or the bigger picture?
Is financial achievement my primary motivation?
Am I open to moving laterally versus up, in the organization?
Do I actually care what others think of my career direction and me?
The next step is getting clear on your beliefs. Try writing down 5 beliefs you hold regarding work and career. Compare these with your answers to the questions above. Do they align or are there disconnects? These disconnects are critical holes that need your attention; this is the vacancy between what you believe and what you desire. The idea here is to go into this space and honestly ask yourself which is your truth – your so-called belief or your so-called answers to the questions.
Please know there is no right or wrong answer. You’re entitled to your own career goals and a path to reach them. You’re also entitled to question your beliefs.
There are no musts or rigid rules in your career – only your ability to discover what is right for you. Like the catalogue full of enticing trinkets guaranteed to bring you joy and happiness, so too are your managers’ or mentors’ expectations for you – illusions painted by someone else.
The bottom line is – you get to decide. You actually need to decide. Getting clear and forging your true path is no doubt the most important career development step you can take.
My general rule when writing my posts is to not dip into political waters. And this post is no exception. But every time I read the news or open social media I’m bombarded with political updates that test my belief in political culture – or at least the culture behind it in many countries.
The current election season in America is a case in point. Although I don’t live in the US, my proximity means I’m not immune to the influence it assumes on North America. We share many, but not all values and viewpoints.
My nature is to look beyond rhetoric and mudslinging to what lies underneath as a way of understanding the values and behaviors of society, where we’re lacking and where there’s possibility. When there’s an earthquake of fear and distrust pushing then it is time to pay serious attention.
If there’s one potentially good thing that could come out of the American election, it is this: to shine a light on the shadow women continue to experience despite great gains towards equality.
It’s a shadow of haziness where subtle sexual aggression that is often passed of as “it’s just him”, “he doesn’t mean it” or “it’s nothing” slam up against “it’s because you’re pretty”, “you encourage it” or “keep quiet”. And so we learn early on in our lives to keep such behaviors in the shadows out of fear, confusion and safety.
I’m talking about unwanted advances and unsolicited judgments by men toward women who still believe such behavior is perfectly okay. These are the behaviors that don’t leave a physical mark or make it into the courtroom. These are the everyday actions that women endure, put up with and perhaps pretend didn’t happen. And it still goes on.
I could write a page of examples I’ve experienced in school or workplace during my lifetime, not to mention times I’ve been heckled, groped or harassed socially. I could tell you how dis-empowering it feels being chased around a desk by a boss or be cornered at a family event by a male in-law relative with an unexpected and unwanted tongue kiss.
What I’d rather do is have an open conversation about how this kind of behavior still exists and what we can do about it going forward. The events and behaviors around the US election have given us a huge opportunity to take this can of worms and really examine it for what it truly is.
The truth is the oppression and objectification of women is alive and well and not relegated to a few men in a locker room. It exists in the boardroom, the lunchroom and down the hall by the water cooler.
So what if we all started by suspending judgment on whether or not it exists and start asking each other and ourselves simple questions to help create awareness and understanding of this critical issue:
1. What exists within the shadow of subtle sexual aggression, unwanted advances and unsolicited judgments by men toward women? What does it look like?
2. What do women feel when they experience the shadow?
3. Why do women not call out the perpetrator as an aggression occurs?
4. How have experiences of the shadow gone on to influence women’s lives?
5. What do men feel when they engage in subtle sexual aggression, unwanted advances and unsolicited judgments?
6. What do men feel and do when they witness another man engaging in this behavior?
7. How does the current culture of your workplace support, deny, ignore or disallow shadow behavior?
8. In what ways are we culturally enabling this behavior to perpetuate?
9. In what ways can we let go of blame and collaborate to educate each other of the danger and damage of shadow behavior?
10. What will it take for you to become part of the solution of shedding light on the shadow?
You may be thinking this is a simplistic way of addressing a complex issue of long-held beliefs and behaviors. And that is exactly the point.
Yes it’s shameful treatment of girls and women. Yes it’s unacceptable. And yes it has to end. But until we talk about it and try to understand all the perspectives involved, it will continue unchecked.
Whether it’s at the dinner table or at work, let’s use the opportunity of shedding light on the shadow of sometimes subtle and often upfront sexually intimidating or unwanted behavior that has too long been pervasive in our society.
My question is why do you need to ask such a question? Glib perhaps and we could end the blog right there, but let’s talk about this.
I heard this question from a friend in a large corporate company. Apparently it’s stuck with me.
The way this question is posed makes it seem like the asker is looking to someone else (or the universe) for the answer. If that’s the case, then I’d say you probably have less than 10% chance it is this year, or any year.
A while ago I wrote a blog, Your Career, Your Responsibility. If there’s one thing I learned as a senior manager, it’s that no one is going to hand you a promotion or dream job, nor does the company owe you a thing.
So let’s pretend I’m coaching a client and we’ll call her Clare. She asks, “Is this the year for my promotion?” I let the silence hang for a moment and I repeat the question back to her. Only this time I phrase it, “Is this the year of your promotion?” – with an emphasis on “is”.
Taken aback, she spews a laundry list of why it’s her turn, how she deserves this and that so-and-so got promoted last year. I let her rant for a moment. Silence again.
“What will it take YOU to be promoted?”
It was so quiet I heard the light bulb go on in Clare’s head. In that moment she realized if anyone was going to boost her on the career ladder, it could only be her.
Okay, by now you’re likely wondering where is this all going? We’re into the new fiscal by several months and chances are if you work in government or corporate, this is when the yearly planning happens. Performance plans are laid, budgets set and re-organizations planned.
This is also the time for the Clares of the business world to reset their career path. If a promotion is the desired objective, then here are the key things Clare and others must do for themselves:
Take an environmental scan of the business and industry. Is it growing or stagnant? What are the corporate priorities? Where are the job growth opportunities? Understand the current and five year context.
Ask for informal chat sessions with a senior leader and/or HR Director within your organization. Take an interviewing approach to mine their perspectives on current needs and culture of the organization. Focus on them, not you. It will give you good insights, and let them know you are committed and invested in the organization.
Pull out your past performance reviews and any psychometric personality assessments you’ve done. Start doing research on yourself. Take a dispassionate look and ask: What are this person’s strengths? Do these and their skills match their current position? What would they need to do to develop gaps in their leadership? Are there potential new areas of work they could evolve into?
Mind map all the information gathered so far. Grab an empty sheet of paper and get scribbling. See what comes up – a straight path upward, a lateral detour to get new insights and experience, or a run for the elevator?
Decision time. Is there likely to be openings in your current organization that match your path? If so, then stay close to home and jump on job postings when they’re published. If opportunities are stagnant, the decision to look farther afield is obvious. So get networking and suss out where the lights in the cracks are. This means reaching out to friends, former colleagues and even cold calling people in organizations that just may be expanding.
Don’t just dust off the old resume – re-craft it! Nothing smells like an old running shoe than a resume written for your current job. Let’s face it, with the onset of social media, how we write about who we are and what special talents we have has changed. Google resume writing and click only on blogs written since 2016. Follow the recipe.
Like the running shoe says –just do it! The bottom line is (in case you haven’t figured this out yet) you are responsible for your next career move. Promotions don’t come to those who wait; promotions come to those who go after them. So what’s stopping you?
There you have my seven steps to getting your promotion. But wait, there’s one more. Be really honest with yourself; do you have what it takes for the next step? Not sure? Then go back to step two for feedback from those who see your current performance, and ask for what you need to develop to move ahead. Listen carefully and act upon what they tell you.
The paradox is that just because you want the promotion, doesn’t mean you’re ready for it. But if you know you are, it’s up to you to make it happen!
There are very few of us who can create and build a thriving business completely on our own. I admire those who can.
I don’t know about you, but I have a small list of go-to women (okay, plus one man) whose expertise and encouragement enables me to grow and prosper in my business.
Each person has some piece of the “must have” information, perspective or expertise that I don’t have. For example, my pal in Toronto is a marketing whiz. I have my content strategist who always steps in and grabs the details out from under me at just the right moment (in case you didn’t know I’m a big picture kind of girl). There’s my techie guru across the continent and my mastermind American coach/entrepreneur buddies who help me wrestle down my next big idea. And not to forget my own executive coach – she’s always got my back.
Grateful is an understatement.
Naturally, we all come with unique skills, experiences, and viewpoints so no two businesses will ever look alike. I’ve taken courses and bought the books; learned the winning formulas for this and that; tested and failed; adapted and flourished. And my truth from these experiences is that, yes, I can learn the logistics but I will never succeed to my own standard of achievement if I don’t bring ME to the business equation.
Let me explain.
I’m driven by my values of uniqueness and professionalism. Therefore, I believe that for me to be successful, I must bring my distinctive thinking and way of being to my business. And I must do that by using my expertise to provide my clients with a respectful, encouraging and authentic experience.
My differentiator in business is me.
I’m super clear on what strengths I bring to the equation. I’m also well aware of where I fall short.
I’ve always placed a high value on self-development and I’ve done tons to understand who I am and what makes me – well, me.
When I started my business I relied heavily on my strengths, and I still do. Unlike many people, I didn’t have fear or doubts. I didn’t have sleepless nights of worry and panic.
What I did have is a deep belief in myself.
And that, my friends, has come from being really committed to working on my personal and professional development.
Doing the work includes time, curiosity, coaching and a deep-seeded focus on the process. And now I bring a similar process to my business.
The best part is that I’ve created flow in how I run my business. I know what I’m good at and what causes me sheer havoc. I know how to shift things around to draw on natural strengths that minimize my stress when my computer crashes!
Why am I telling you all this? Because I believe we all have the capacity to succeed. And the truth is, we just need to understand our uniqueness and our qualities and capitalize on them to create our own flow.
I quickly became tired of the “formulas to success” – other people’s methods. I’m sure they work wonders for them, but not for me. Having my business isn’t about cutting corners. It’s hard work. And when I use my strengths and fill the gaps by hiring others who have those talents, I can move mountains and I am happy!
I tell my husband that my quality-of-life-meter when up 50% the day I hired a graphic designer, brand strategist and technologist. And it zoomed higher when I added my content strategist to the mix. You see I’m a knucklehead when it comes to labouring over details. Ask me to create the vision and I’m good.
By now you may be wondering why I’m focused on my business and what it takes to run it. Here’s the thing, this same approach, no matter what you do or where you do it is key to your career. Know yourself, understand your own process that works for you and surround yourself with top-notch people who are better than you at what they do!
My team gets me and I give them space to do what they’re great at. With them, I’ve created my own specific, unique and successful process for my business.
You get to where you want to be by knowing exactly who you are. (Tweet It!)
But what about responsibility for your self? I’m not talking about family, children, partner, close friends, bills etc. I’m talking your very own life. The one held together by your beautiful body and your mind that seeks to understand.
Since the dawn of time we women have borne responsibility for the health, safety and well being of others. Naturally we are wired to support and give first.
So who’s being responsible for you? And who should be responsible? Of course the answer is obvious – YOU.
But are you really taking it?
Last night at a professional meet-up, women were lamenting the trouble they have fitting in time for fitness, ridding extra Christmas season pounds and reading a good book. I noticed the husband/partner in their stories would come up as if somehow they’re responsible for these laments. And while the “guilt” word wasn’t spoken, how people spoke their stories was laced with tinges of shame – as if putting oneself first isn’t okay.
A small light bulb flashed in my mind (only small because there were no major
ah-a’s or solution discovered). I blurted out the question, “why is it that we as women give our energy to being responsible for others without being responsible and accountable to ourselves FIRST?”
Now I know I’m not the first person to think about this let alone talk about it, but I believe it bares bringing up yet again. This repeating pattern in each of us, as well as the long line of females before us, just seems so darn ironic.
What if we flipped this idea over, shook it up and tried looking at it from a different perspective?
What if this new perspective means starting from the place of your own personal responsibility and accountability? How might your world be different?
Let me tell you how it is for me. You may know I left my senior position with a large organization a couple of years ago. That was catalytic in forcing me to take charge of me. No one else could figure out what my next step would be. No one else could make me get up and dressed each morning that long winter. And no one else could peace.
The result was a brand new feeling of openness. I was ready to move ahead – my way. Fast-forward to last fall when I started feeling I just wasn’t my best; a few extra pounds, a few more glasses of wine, and a few too many sweets (I’m not perfect either). I know if I’m to take my business to the next level in 2016, I’ve got to take full responsibility for making some changes – changes that would open up space and energy to reach my goals.
The whole idea of making certain changes was scary and I felt a tad guilty for making it all about me (my ever-supporting family was waiting for the plank to hit my head once again). But, and here’s the big but, if I’m to serve others to the best of my ability then I must take 100% responsibility for putting myself first!
I threw out the sugar, poured out the wine and deep sixed the grains. To make it even easier, I reflected back on what it took for me to rise up from the ashes of gloom following my job loss. I knew from that experience the only way I would be successful in every way is to step up and own my life. And this means saying my mantra everyday “I have everything I need inside me. I am responsible”.
Ok, so I know this is all pretty revealing stuff. But I’m open to telling you because from one woman to another, life is so much better when we learn once and for all to take responsibility for ourselves with compassion and joy – unfettered by guilt.
Just like me, you owe it to yourself and those around you to make yourself THE priority. Be it heading to the gym, daily meditation, weekly massages, or just saying no to the barrage of requests for your time, the responsibility is yours and yours alone.
Sure, you may have to boldly ask your partner or family member to take over one of “your” chores or drop your kids off with grandparents. But that’s okay. In fact it’s more than okay. How can you possibly be the best version of yourself for everyone else if you don’t get your own needs met (kind of like when the flight attendant tells you to put your oxygen mask on before putting one on your child)?
Just like me, I know for certain you can do this. So open the window and shoo away the guilt once and for all. I give you permission.
(But hey, responsibility is just the first step. Next up is accountability and staying with the changes you’ll make!)
Not long ago, I was chatting with a colleague about what it’s like to lose a job. With a big smile and chuckle she said “everyone should get fired at least once in their life.” I laughed back, realizing she’s absolutely right!
Sure, getting fired is lousy and can be devastating. Not having control to make the decision to leave or stay in your job can be a hard pill to swallow. Whether it was due to restructuring or it wasn’t the right fit. But (yes there’s a big But), it can provide an enormous opportunity if you let it.
Here are 5 ways to get the best out of getting fired:
1. Learn from your experience – What will you take with you and what can you discard? This takes deep reflection on understanding what worked well in your job and what didn’t. Is it your perception on your performance, your relationship with your superior, colleagues or your staff? Or could it be your work habits or skill set and if they was used to potential? And what are your values? Did they line up with the organization you were in?
2. Learn not to give all of yourself away –Many of us go through our days knowing things may not be perfect but fall into the trap of, “if I just work harder.” Do you tend to give work your absolute and leave nothing on the table other parts of your life? Remind yourself that you are not your work – it’s just one aspect of your abundant life. This is an opportunity to evaluate how you spend your time and energy, including how you prioritize family, friends, interests and even yourself.
3. Take time to discover exactly what you’re meant to do with your life – Deeply reflect on what brings you passion and rediscover the gifts you bring to the world. It may not come instantly, so notice when you’re happiest. What little things that bring you joy? Ask yourself what situations, events or jobs have given you meaning and opportunities to express your passion?
4. Take back the control to make your own decisions – The decision to leave your job wasn’t yours. Now you have the chance to choose your next step. It may be researching and choosing companies that you want to work with. It could be deciding to start your own business or perhaps taking time-out. The important thing is that you get to decide. Redefining your goals and direction goes a long way in building your confidence and starting you on your right path.
5. Learn what’s important to you and what isn’t – When we’re in a job that’s taking up our energy the tendency is to focus entirely on that. Now’s the time to reassess your values. These guideposts are critical in helping you figure out your next step. If being of service takes precedence over making money, your next venture should align with that value. If you value optimum time with family, a job that requires your availability 24/7 may not be best. It’s all about getting the right fit, so ensure you have clarity on what’s essential for you.
These are opportunities to take back your power, be in charge and make your own decisions. The best advice I got when I was let go from my job was to take time to sort through all my feelings and thoughts so I could be open to change and new opportunities. Be compassionate with yourself as healing needs to happen before you can move forward.
The challenge of failure is truly where we gain our greatest advantage.
Getting fired is no picnic, but it does provide a huge opportunity for personal and professional growth. And yes, everyone should go through it once in their career.
Let us know in the comments below how you turned this adversity into success.