I'd like to spread the word to women that no matter where we are in the workplace hierarchy — we don't have to sacrifice our feminine nature to be effective leaders. According to a January 2010 article in The Economist, "Women now make up almost half of American workers (49.9% in October). They run some of the world's best companies, such as PepsiCo, Archer Daniels Midland and W.L. Gore. They earn almost 60% of university degrees in America and Europe."
But getting in the door is just one step on the road to success and satisfaction; it's far from the end of the journey. Dealing with adversity without sacrificing our feminine nature is a very important part of development for women executives. Business Week’s article How Women Leaders Find Success And Happiness points out that, "Much psychological research underscores that women tend to experience emotions more at the extreme than men do, with the result that adversity can lead to feelings of failure. But it's possible to stop that emotional downward spiral consciously and address whatever the problem really is" (Business Week Special Report: Oct 23, 2009).
In this article and my next one, I will offer several action steps to help women get beyond the LIES that limit™ — those self-imposed barriers — and be true to ourselves while claiming our place in a space historically male territory. LIES are Labels, Illusions, Excuses and Stories that often stand between us and our desired goals. I invite women — and men who are confident enough to join them — to benefit from the softer side of communicating with confidence, collaborating continuously and coaching consciously.
Let's start with communicating with confidence. Don't be afraid of vulnerability and openness. What does that mean?
- Listen More Than You Talk: This takes a fair amount of self-discipline for most of us. If you do, you'll learn a lot about what others are really thinking and feeling. You'll gain insight into their mindset, their feelings and beliefs that may give you just what you need to position your ideas and projects effectively. You'll also be able to develop a winning strategy and overcome their objections.
- Speak Truthfully Without Blaming Anyone Or Making Them Wrong: Use phrases like, "Based on ___ and ___, I think." or "I feel strongly about this because" or "Our current plan concerns me because." Ask questions like, "What are you basing your judgment on? What did you consider?" Realize that what you're thinking and saying is your truth, and what the other is saying is his or her truth. Neither is wrong, even when you differ. What you may find is that you're looking at different information, or interpreting the same information differently.
- Don't Take It Personally When You Feel Attacked, Dismissed, Overlooked Or Unheard: Taking it personally means you're emotionally entangled. When emotions lead the way, most often, you're victimizing yourself based on someone else's behavior. Feeling like a victim — "they did it to me" — gives away your power. You place the other person in control of your feelings and reaction to a situation that you should control.
- If You're Hurt, Cry Later: Crying is good; it's cleansing. But in the heat of the moment, take 3 deep breaths, tell yourself not to take it personally, and get right back to the issue at hand.
Find more career tips for women in my next article.
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