The circle of trust

the circle of trust

(by Melissa L. Schlimm)

Spoiler Alert! If you planned to watch Shrek The Third, here comes a spoiler and you should stop reading now. Dreamwork launched the movie over ten years ago and it is a great example of why we need to enlist allies around ourselves. In a nutshell, Princess Fiona is locked in a tower with the Queen Mum and her ladies – the ladies are the fairy tale characters Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White. Throughout the movie, the characters show little commonalities, but to fight the villains, they all pitch in with their special skills and the ladies transform to some sort of ‘Charlie’s Angels’. Fiona whistles the sign for the attack after which Snow White starts singing a high tone to charm the animals and then screaming to command the animals to attack. After Snow White gets them all into the castle, Cinderella hurls her glass slipper like a boomerang, knocking the guards out and Sleeping Beauty manages the rest of the guards by yawning and falling to the ground, causing the knights to trip over her and fall… So different but the perfect team for the attack!

Having differences maybe one of the main reasons why we fail to enlist allies: if people are different to us, we may find it difficult to connect.

Let us start though by thinking about allies. Who are allies and how would one qualify as an ally? Unless we are freelancers or solopreneurs, our everyday workplace means that we are either part of a team or we lead a team of different individuals. Are these allies? Formal allies maybe as they all come together for one purpose and their mutual benefit. The allies that are discussed in this article though are referring more to informal allies and these are the people who are on your side and maybe even connect themselves with your cause or purpose.

A case study of the habit of failing to enlist allies is Dianna, who is a Trademark litigator for a mineral conglomerate headquartered in Melbourne. She is sent to an assignment in Singapore through a sponsor of hers within the Maritime law, which is outside her expertise and an overly complex industry. On her arrival, Dianna feels overwhelmed and tells her new boss, that she will spend every waking hour on getting up to speed. Her boss reminds her that she was not brought onboard to be another lawyer and rather as a strong leader of a team that was known to squabble amongst themselves and withhold information. Her team was also resenting her for being an unqualified outsider who had taken a promotion away from them, so the tip her boss gave her, made all the difference in her approach. Dianna focused on forging relationships with people in operations, customers, and suppliers instead of her team and starts to realize that connections from Australia were a valuable currency in the shipping world as well. She becomes a visible ambassador for the company in Singapore and the moment Dianna starts sharing her web of resources and connections with her team, she won the trust of her team, not because of her legal knowledge, but because of the favors she was able to pull and the connections she was able to make that added enormous value to her team.

Sally Helgesen shares this case study in her book “How Women Rise” and whilst reading it, your thoughts may have already gone down to thinking “Have I ever had that experience myself, that I was able to pull resources?” Whether you have or have not, let’s build a roadmap to move towards becoming an “Active Allies Engager”!

Three steps to become a person who actively engages allies, just as Sally suggests in her book.

Step No. 1 – The circle of trust

You may come up with people who are in your corner and that is step number one! If you are not there yet, let’s establish allies’ criteria to identify them and add to your list of people you may already have in your corner.

Your Allies web should be a diverse group of people. To visualize this step, you can simply draw your very own circle of trust, halve it and name one side ‘similar’ and the other ‘complementary’. Just like in the story of Shrek The Third, Fiona’s group of Ladies would probably be ranked on the complementary side – they are different from her and at first sight, don’t have a lot in common. This is where the power of diversity kicks in through surrounding oneself with people of the same know-how such as the case of Dianna bringing in an additional and opposite skills.

When you look at your circle and aim at increasing the number of people, ask yourself:

  • Who is someone who I can easily get lost in conversations with? (add that name to your circle half named ‘similar’)
  • Who is someone who is the opposite of yourself or whose skillset you admire? (add that name to your circle half named ‘complementary’)
  • Who was there for me when I needed support and who is someone I have always been there for?

Step No. 2 – Organize your circle of trust with intent

Now that you have a list of people in your circle of trust, it is time to evaluate how intentional you are in forging that relationship. You can approach this through the groundbreaking studies of Adam Grant. In his book “Give and Take” he has examined the three operation modes of people as takers, matchers, or givers. Grant places givers and takers on two opposite ends of the spectrum and that is because they differ strongly in their preference for reciprocity. Takers belief in reciprocity for the own benefit and believe in putting their own interests ahead of others’ needs, which makes them competitive and requires them to self-promote and make sure they get plenty of credit for their efforts. Givers on the opposite tilt reciprocity in the other persons direction and prefer to give more than to receive striving generously to share their time, energy, knowledge, and connections with other people who may benefit from it. The third style, matchers, are in the middle of the spectrum, describing the people who operate on the principle of ‘tit for tat’ seeking a fair exchange of favors. The studies of Adam Grant revealed that these three styles have a dramatic impact on success, which increasingly depends on the ability to interact with others. His book is a tremendous read for everyone who likes the concept and wants to adopt it in its true form.

Based on the principles of Adam Grant the questions to ask yourself with the people in your circle of trust is:

  • Have you ever done something for them?
  • When was the last time you just called to hear how they are doing?
  • Who could you help today?

If any answer is “no clue”, your first task is to research your circle of trust and start thinking of them with the mindset of a giver and not a taker. Not to worry, this is all ok, we are here to make a difference and not to judge! Let’s get right to it and take the names of your circle of trust and arrange them in a three-column table as per the below. Being intentional, means to check in with two questions, which are:

  • How could he/she support you? and
  • How could you support him/her?

Step No. 3 – Activation

Do not go here without completing Step 2! Whoever is in your circle of trust and you want to engage actively as a true ally, make sure, you have spent time on building a relationship based on trust, empathy, and honesty. It’s like a freebie offered with no expectation of compensation and just the sincere intent to help. Your allies need to feel that you are genuinely interested in helping them and fostering your relationships.

You should also not think that this is a one-stop approach. Engaging your allies is an attitude and not meant as a short-term strategy. Your allies will be your life-time-companions and you win if you didn’t need to engage them.

To activate your allies, you may want to consider the following questions:

  • Whose ability do I need?
  • Where has that person proven that ability?
  • If I observe or ask that person ‘What would you do?’ Will that already help me?

One note on the longevity of your circle of trust. Having said, that this is a long-term strategy, when you join a new organization assess the people whom you need in your corner from day one. Follow the below principles to successfully apply the three steps that make you an Active Ally Engager:

  1. Be honest with your interest in connecting with your future ally.
  2. Prove yourself to your ally as a good person with the right intentions.
  3. Stay authentic and remember the phrase “Better under promise and overdeliver, than the other way around.”

No one should ever storm a castle alone because everybody needs someone to provide hope or a break. If you feel just that, then you know, that you are welcome to get in touch with me.

Get the downloadable template to build your circle of trust by clicking the below button.

Time to pull in the favors

time to pull in the favors

(by Simone Lawrence)

One of the greatest strengths of women in all settings and communities is their ability to build rapport with people. Rapport is the foundation of trust within a relationship, this naturally leads to the conclusion that it is highly probable that many women have many professional relationships in place that have a high level of trust at their core.

This results in building a strong connection with a wide variety of people, positioning them with very strong communities of support, which they have been very supportive of throughout the relationship.

This was certainly the case for Amanda, a product coordinator for a manufacturer of medical devices, the company whom she had recently joined. Previously she had worked at one of the top hospitals as an administrator, which was common knowledge to her new colleagues at the medical devices firm. The company’s top salesman approached her to ask her for an introduction to some of her former colleagues so he could connect with them about some of their products.

This made Amanda feel uncomfortable as she viewed her ex colleagues as friends and didn’t want them to feel hustled.

Not leveraging her relationships, Amanda was making assumptions on her ex colleagues’ behalf and that they would not be interested in the introduction based on her own concern that she would be unjustly pressuring people. Amanda overlooked that helping the salesman to connect with prospective buyers she could inadvertently benefit from helping her new company gain new clients as well as helping her former colleagues upgrade their equipment.

This over protectiveness comes from a place of empathy. Women in the workplace have a reputation for being very empathetic which translates into behaviors that you may recognize within yourself:

  • Pro-actively reaching out to show support for people, particularly in challenging times.
  • Providing a listening ear when needed.
  • Being very cognizant of what is happening with people around them.

Empathy is a very tangible and admirable skill to have, whether it is an attribute that is actively acknowledged within themselves or unconsciously overlooked it is often present for many women. It can also hold women back from career progress when there is favors to be asked in service of themselves. Let’s explore what some potential actions to help overcome this could look like:

Create a bi-focal view

Reposition how you view your network. Start seeing these people in your community as a resource from which you can also receive from and not only give to. Appreciate for a moment the value that you have given to the relationship and the role you have played to create connection and trust and nurture the relationship over time.

Identify the help you need and match the resource

Analyze what support you require and do some matchmaking between what you need and who can help. Spending time to consider who is right there at your fingertips that are not being leveraged for the benefit of your own career goals and how this person can be a resource for them.

Be the S-word to harness your network power

Leverage the quality of your network through becoming adept at asking for the specific help from them that will support the needs and goals you have identified. The call is to put it something out there that may not sit comfortable for lots of us, the S word that is often shied away from and considered a bit of a NO-NO. Dare I say it? You need to be more selfish. Becoming more selfish will result in becoming more selfless because you will be working smarter by tapping into the full remit of your resource rather than trying to do it all alone which may be causing feelings of stress, frustration and resentment to build. These are not desirable states to stay in for prolonged periods, it is much better to be in a resourceful state.

Analyze your current network and examine what you have provided for your current network versus what they have provided for you. Many will find that they have been of service to your community and yet they may not have been of service to you. They cannot be blamed for this, it is the fault of the women for not asking, because ladies, people cannot read our mind. We need to ask for the help we need.

This can be a stretch for women to ask for the help they need, it could even be quite stressful for some women because it goes so against the natural grain. We need to build up new habits in order to make this the norm. We don’t suggest for one moment that we give up the giving and nurturing side of our relationship building skills, because the giving is already present and is working well, what the suggestion is here is that we balance that with more asking and more receiving.

Spill the beans on your dreams

If asking for help seems like too much of a stretch, take a smaller step first. This can happen through talking openly about your aspirations in the presence of the right people. Talking about what your dreams are, what you hope to achieve. For example, when in the presence of the most senior leaders some women may have a tendency to talk less, for their dutiful side comes out more in respect of the leadership hierarchy and they would not dare to talk about their dreams to somebody of that caliber in the belief they are they are too busy doing their own thing and it would not be of interest to them. Right? Resonating?

Well no, this is not right, instead be daring and bold enough to talk briefly about something you are passionate about and hoping to achieve. In this way you are not asking outright you are embarking on an education campaign to let important people know what is important to you so that they see you in a different light. By being more vocal, this helps bring visibility and exposure to those around you to let them think for themselves and have their own ideas on how they may be able to help you.

Accept that some will, and some won’t and that’s ok

People are naturally curious and genuinely willing to support other human beings by nature and will readily come up with their own ways in which they can do that, but we need to provide them with some fodder, some food for thought. Especially when you have been talking from the heart about what you are passionate about. By keeping our aspirations to ourselves we are not leveraging our most valuable resources-people. And if we are brave enough, taking this bold step to talk about our aspirations we may build enough confidence and know how to take the additional step to ask for the help we need, without any fear, obligation or guilt getting in our way.

Also accept that sometimes this won’t work. Although most people will be naturally curious and naturally helpful not everybody will be and that is ok too. We can’t win them all, but if we can activate 70-80% of our network then how much resource have we put into play for ourselves that was not activated before.

Stay out of the FOG

A helpful acronym that can guide your decision making on who, what and how to ask for the help is FOG.

If the answer is yes to any of the below mentioned questions, know that FOG gets in way unnecessarily let go of the fear, the obligations and the guilt! Move through the FOG and take the action you need to take and deserve to serve your future success.

F-ear- Ask yourself is there any fear holding me back from asking the support I need?

O-Obligation-Ask yourself are there any obligations to others that are getting in the way of asking for the support I need?

G-Guilt-Do I feel guilty about asking for the support that I need.

Get the downloadable template by clicking the below button.

Next time you are asked for support give it and know that you have given so you are well positioned to ask somebody else for something in return.

Redefine what we do

Redefine what we do

(by Melissa L. Schlimm)

What is the expertise? The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as a high level of knowledge or skill. When do you reach expertise? After you have spent a certain number of hours on a subject? After you have written a paper within your field? After you have gained more knowledge than your peers on a topic? The definition is somewhat clear and, at the same time, hard to attain because what does ‘high level of knowledge’ really mean?

Nonetheless, expertise is what we aim to attain when we study a subject matter of choice, when we develop a skill to work in a specific industry or when we simply position ourselves amongst other peers. Are we genuine experts in our area?

You may nod now and consider yourself an expert if you have spent years developing a specific skill. Maybe others are seeking your advice. That does not matter, though, if people don’t know of your expertise.

You may have shaken your head and not consider yourself an expert because you either think that there are better people out there than yourself, or you are not good enough to call yourself an expert and so on.

Whether you are part of the first or the second group, you are predestined to fall into the habit of “overvaluing expertise”, because, in the end, expertise won’t get the job done. What gets the job done is the ability to communicate, collaborate, and apply the knowledge available.

How Women Rise Habit 3

Let’s explore these thoughts more and imagine Ana, who is a software designer with Latin roots and entered the male-dominated tech world because the company she applied for was seeking higher female numbers at that time. In her eyes, she didn’t secure the position because she was the best person for the job. Since she was a woman and at that moment, she decided to demonstrate to everybody around her, that she was the right person for the job. She focused all her efforts on outperforming her work assignments and being the most reliable workhorse on the team. Sadly, her husband passes away, leaving her as the sole breadwinner for her three children, which meant that Ana needed to fast track into a more senior role. She successfully secures a position in a different industry, the legal profession, and finds herself not able to showcase her expertise as before. Instead, Ana needed to learn through her team and clients by asking questions and understanding their way of thinking. She also needed to start having the courage for gaps and relying on the fact that other people within her team would have the experience she was lacking. Sally Helgesen shares this case study in her book “How Women Rise” and if you are curious to find out how Ana deals with this situation, you will find it in the book. It is an example Sally has encountered many times in her three decades of working with successful women.

Sally calls this a “way of asserting your value regardless of what others perceive or think” and “one source of satisfaction that is controllable”. It is the best strategy for keeping the job and staying relevant, while it doesn’t allow you to step up the career ladder as this requires a different ability: the ability to do the job well enough. Improvement doesn’t mean to do a sloppy job altogether; it means to spend less time on the expert outcome and instead allow a good enough result. Pareto principle confirms that you achieve 80% of the result in 20% of the time. What if you spend the remaining 80% of your time on building your work result with the help of your colleagues? Spending time consulting them, rather than overvaluing your expertise and falling into the trap of doing it all alone with a less impactful result could serve all.

Pareto could be one lens through which we can prioritize our focus instead of following our automatic response on overvaluing expertise. Prioritization based on a clear personal goal definition connected to the goals of your organization, boss, or team defines the specific tasks you focus on for setting the time frame. Scheduling is the tip from Sally Helgesen, whereas she states that if your goal is to join your company’s executive committee, you will have a broad portfolio of responsibility, which requires you to be comfortable in leaving the mastery of the details to others.

The tooltip to know when to do what

Based on the idea of Pareto, it is vital to start by assessing where you currently spend your time. Before that, though, let us find out when is the best time for you to work on your top tasks. Following these principles, you will find two tables below to assess your actual work efforts during the week. (In a separate download attached to this article, you will find a template to download the daily work efforts table.)

How to use it:

  1. Look at the “Interruption curve” section and tick the percentage of interruptions you experience. (e.g., tick the cell below 80% if you experience a lot of disturbance on Sundays or tick the table cell below 20% if you experience little interruptions on Sundays) Once you reach Saturday, you can connect your ticks with a line – this is your interruption curve.
  2. Look at the “Performance curve” section and tick your level of performance for each day. (e.g., tick 20% if your effort is low on Sundays or 80% whether your capacity is right on Sundays) Once you reach Saturday, connect your ticks with a line – this is your performance curve.

Keep the tables with you for a week and refer back to it, to see whether your ticks are set correct or whether you want to make changes to your first reflection.

Let’s explore these thoughts more and imagine Ana, who is a software designer with Latin roots and entered the male-dominated tech world because the company she applied for was seeking higher female numbers at that time. In her eyes, she didn’t secure the position because she was the best person for the job. Since she was a woman and at that moment, she decided to demonstrate to everybody around her, that she was the right person for the job. She focused all her efforts on outperforming her work assignments and being the most reliable workhorse on the team. Sadly, her husband passes away, leaving her as the sole breadwinner for her three children, which meant that Ana needed to fast track into a more senior role. She successfully secures a position in a different industry, the legal profession, and finds herself not able to showcase her expertise as before. Instead, Ana needed to learn through her team and clients by asking questions and understanding their way of thinking. She also needed to start having the courage for gaps and relying on the fact that other people within her team would have the experience she was lacking. Sally Helgesen shares this case study in her book “How Women Rise” and if you are curious to find out how Ana deals with this situation, you will find it in the book. It is an example Sally has encountered many times in her three decades of working with successful women.

Sally calls this a “way of asserting your value regardless of what others perceive or think” and “one source of satisfaction that is controllable”. It is the best strategy for keeping the job and staying relevant, while it doesn’t allow you to step up the career ladder as this requires a different ability: the ability to do the job well enough. Improvement doesn’t mean to do a sloppy job altogether; it means to spend less time on the expert outcome and instead allow a good enough result. Pareto principle confirms that you achieve 80% of the result in 20% of the time. What if you spend the remaining 80% of your time on building your work result with the help of your colleagues? Spending time consulting them, rather than overvaluing your expertise and falling into the trap of doing it all alone with a less impactful result could serve all.

Pareto could be one lens through which we can prioritize our focus instead of following our automatic response on overvaluing expertise. Prioritization based on a clear personal goal definition connected to the goals of your organization, boss, or team defines the specific tasks you focus on for setting the time frame. Scheduling is the tip from Sally Helgesen, whereas she states that if your goal is to join your company’s executive committee, you will have a broad portfolio of responsibility, which requires you to be comfortable in leaving the mastery of the details to others.

 

The tooltip to know when to do what

Based on the idea of Pareto, it is vital to start by assessing where you currently spend your time. Before that, though, let us find out when is the best time for you to work on your top tasks. Following these principles, you will find two tables below to assess your actual work efforts during the week. (In a separate download attached to this article, you will find a template to download the daily work efforts table.)

How to use it:

  1. Look at the “Interruption curve” section and tick the percentage of interruptions you experience. (e.g., tick the cell below 80% if you experience a lot of disturbance on Sundays or tick the table cell below 20% if you experience little interruptions on Sundays) Once you reach Saturday, you can connect your ticks with a line – this is your interruption curve.
  2. Look at the “Performance curve” section and tick your level of performance for each day. (e.g., tick 20% if your effort is low on Sundays or 80% whether your capacity is right on Sundays) Once you reach Saturday, connect your ticks with a line – this is your performance curve.

Keep the tables with you for a week and refer back to it, to see whether your ticks are set correct or whether you want to make changes to your first reflection.

Pareto for Overvaluing Expertise

Get the downloadable table by clicking the below button.

Next steps:

After you identified your interruption peaks, compare them with your maximum performance value, to find out your most resourceful times. Bear in mind that low performance may require more time to get something done, and a lot of interruptions are not wise moments for your high impact results.

The tooltip to know what to focus on

Now it is about identifying all the opportunities you must showcase your contributions. When focused on your expertise, you are focused on business and method skills. These skills are based on knowledge acquired through university or the experience gained through learning on the job from peers and superiors. These skills complement personal and relationship skills, which are called social and systems thinking skills.

Get the downloadable template by clicking the below button.

Clustering these skills will create awareness that there is more to your skill-set than your expertise. There is an additional ability you can focus on that enables you to work through people instead of only through your knowledge. Mutual support is where the magic of teamwork and collaboration kicks in.

In the attached download to this article, you will find a template that helps you to create a clear picture of where you are heading, to see whether focusing on your expertise is right what you should continue targeting. After all, this habit is rooted in healthy respect for your role and the commitment to hard work.

Speak up on behalf of your own contributions

Speak up on behalf of your own contributions

(by Simone Lawrence)

There is no surprise that women are often the preferred foot soldiers when there is a job that needs to be driven across the line efficiently and effectively. Do you find yourself being the foot soldier on the ground?

Often, being a very enthusiastic contributor with a broad spectrum of talent, you may find yourself putting your hand up for multiple projects and getting involved in a variety of professional pursuits that are typically geared towards benefitting the project, helping other people or the organization. Without sparing a thought as to how what you are working on could also benefit yourself.

Moving through your career with this unconscious conscientiousness can bring about a lot of success and yet there is a fundamental action that is often totally overlooked or deprioritized. This fundamental action could bring more attention and recognition to the value you bring and help advance your career.

The action that is missing

The fundamental action is to simply communicate openly and regularly to the right people about what you are working on. Well, it sounds simple and yet can actually be quite hard, especially for women who have been raised under the notion that doing a good job and not drawing attention to yourself is preferable.

Typical actions are:

  • Moving through your workload and actions,
  • Ticking things off and being solely focused on moving through your to do list
  • Getting things done without letting anybody know about your progress along the way
How Women Rise Habit 2

Do you resonate with some of these typical actions? If that has been your mode of operation that has got you to where you are today, be aware that if that were to continue it may be a risk factor in creating more future success.

Your own contributions may seem small or unimportant to you, not noteworthy enough to make noise about. Perhaps you tell yourself things like “I am just doing my job” or “I don’t see what I do on a day to day basis as special or noteworthy” or “I  don’t think anybody would be interested in hearing about it” or “that’s just what I do, I get things done, I don’t have time to talk about it”.

Sometimes, after years of this diligent approach and self-effacing thinking women can start to feel resentful or exasperated about the lack of recognition they are receiving. Starting to question why is my hard work and achievements not noticed? Why are other people in the organization surpassing me and getting noticed more when they actually do less?

What are the signs that this might be happening to you?

One sign might be when you are having a performance review with your supervisor or a conversation with a potential business partner or supplier or customer and you realize in those discussions that something that you believe you are contributing to the organization isn’t necessarily being recognized or appreciated. Another sign is when you see people that aren’t necessarily contributing at the level you are getting promoted ahead of you or in business this may be causing you frustration when others are not pulling their weight.

If you recognize yourself here, you may suffer from the habit of “Expecting others to spontaneously notice and reward your contributions”. This is habit 2 from How Women Rise -12 habits that hold women back from your next raise, promotion or job book written by Sally Helgesen. This habit means to decline to take responsibility for getting noticed by failing to communicate what you are doing or the value of what you contribute. Bearing in mind that limiting behaviors can also be strengths, it is not about changing the way you operate because your diligence is working for you, rather it is about adding to it and starting to bring more visibility to your contributions. With the knowledge that the only person who truly knows what you are doing is you.

What can you do to overcome this?

Take responsibility for yourself

Once it is understood that it is your individual responsibility to bring awareness to the work you are doing then you can make that a regular part of the working week to decide who needs to know and share appropriately.

Reflect and get ready to articulate

Book regular self-reflection meetings with yourself. This involves creating a regular time for reflection, perhaps recording notes or journaling and identifying exactly what your contributions have been and planning out your communication strategy.

See what you do as important news

Notice during your reflection whether you immediately diminish your works importance as trivial or normal and challenge yourself to think differently. Remember, what is normal or trivial to you because you accomplish it readily and easily may be very impressive for others.

Something to think about

In any case, how would you know how well the information can be received by others if you are not speaking up about it. Time to test it out and start challenging yourself to talk about your contributions on a regular basis to those that need to know.

I am Statement

Get the downloadable tool by clicking the below button.

A claim to rise

A claim to rise

(by Melissa L. Schlimm)

Imagine your boss comes to you and says one of the following statements: “Your attention to detail and creativity that you have applied for this project was outstanding.” or “I’m impressed by your work results in the last few months and how you managed the challenging times” or “How do you always get it right at the first time and I never have anything to criticize?”

Did you cringe a little bit when reading these statements, blushed, brushed it off or thought that this wouldn’t be something somebody would say about you? If you did not react this way, it would be interesting to know if you are male or female?

Whilst not all women would have reacted as described, it is a fact, according to Marshall Goldsmith, that women are likely to deflect praise when singled out instead of accepting compliments and owning their wins. Of course, not all women are alike, nor are all men and this is simply one factor that determines how people respond.

If you read the statements and cringed that is ok as well, because you just learned a valuable lesson, which is: you are reluctant to claim your achievements. What is important now, is to question, whether this is working well for you or rather hindering your progress as a working professional. Some might think “I’m quite happy to be ignored for my achievements as I have no desire to behave like a jerk and celebrate myself publicly”. Taking this conscious approach will work for you if you are happy where you are, you are appreciated by your peers or boss or if you are getting recognition in other ways. There are two problems though with this approach: one, your qualities are potentially not used as much as possible and two you hinder your own development as you are settling in your comfort zone.

How Women Rise Habit 1

Let’s explore that a little bit more and imagine Amy, who is a senior project manager working at an arts foundation. She has worked tirelessly together with her co-chair Mitch on a fundraising project and after exceeding everyone’s expectation on the amount raised both are separately interviewed. Mitch talks about his great part in the project, whilst Amy highlights all the other members of the team and misses out her own part in the fundraising success. This story is from Sally Helgesen’s book “How Women Rise” and without continuing it, this is the scenario that happens to many successful women. Failing to speak up about your individual contribution and detailing why, in this case Amy, was a crucial puzzle piece in the team. Would she be offered the co-chair next time? Maybe they will rather consider one the team members or Mitch to manage the project on his own. How would any decision maker know of Amy’s contribution, if she doesn’t share it? And secondly, how will she challenge herself and her contribution if no one can attribute responsibilities to her and provide her with feedback?

You may now feel that it is beneficial to talk about your achievements and wonder how to start. The good news is that starting to talk about your achievement is a behavior, that lies within your control as it requires you to start paying attention to how you to about yourself to others and yourself. Here are some tips for you to explore a new habit of talking about your achievements:

Tip No. 1:

Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen suggest in their book to simply start by saying “Thank you”. Gratitude is one of Marshall’s favorite piece of advice to his clients, which is “to be radical fundamentalists when it comes to thanking”. Very important though, after thanking the person make sure to not add deflecting comments such as “it was easy” or “I was lucky” or other minimizing comments. If you feel awkward not adding something else to your ‘thank you’, try to elaborate on your contribution to success. This could be anything from “it was a lot of fun to be involved in managing the whole fundraising process” or “I’m pleased to see that huge amount of cash being contributed to a very good cause”.

Tip No. 2:

In executive coachings as well as workshops for teams, leaders and women in the workplace delivered from the ameliorate group a common statement to change a thinking that is not helpful is “How else can you look at this situation?” or “What would change your thinking?” The idea is, to understand what leads you to the belief, that you shouldn’t claim your achievements? Do you want to share the success with others? Do you feel that your part was not important? Do you think you are more liked if you share your own success? What motivates this habit of not claiming your own achievements? Understanding your motivations, often provides you with a strong check-in on your drivers and maybe this ends up you realize, that the habit really suits your personally.

Tip No. 3:

Learn to talk about yourself and practice, practice, practice with this tool from the ameliorate group: ‘Reality Check’.

Get the downloadable Reality Check Stairs by clicking the below button.

Introducing the 12 habits concept: Career Seasonality

Introducing the 12 habits concept: Career Seasonality

(by Simone Lawrence)

Women in the workplace can get to a point in their careers where they have achieved a certain level of success and have a feeling that they want more. This career success to date has often been built on hard work, diligence, and the demonstration of behaviors and habits that have served as strengths to drive success to this point.

What happens next can be surprising. Often women can feel they reach a plateau, feeling kind of stuck, in the level of their position, their salary scale or a general feeling that they are not creating the impact and progression that they had felt previously.

Think of this as the end of a season, the transition from summer to autumn where we may need to get used to take a jacket along. It is a time to stop and take stock of what we may require to be different to move into the next season. There are many, many different “seasons” as women progress in their careers that will require an intentional commitment to doing things differently. Such as, when first starting out in careers there is tendency to work very, very hard to prove oneself and get ahead, returning to the workplace after becoming a mother is a different season, discovering your strengths and applying them in a new totally different role could be another season. Applying conscious effort to thinking, acting, and communicating differently for each season is integral to success.

Particularly, when entering the world of leadership, the very same behaviors and traits that have been successful in one season are not the same ones entirely that will be needed in the next season. Habits and behaviors that have previously served career success need to be unlearned and new habits need to be formed.

seasonality

What are some indicators that a person might be stuck?

One sign to look out for is staying in a position longer than some of your colleagues do or wanting to start your own business but making excuses about the timing not being right etc. How about when you are having a performance review with your manager or a conversation with a colleague, a potential business partner or supplier or customer and you realize in those discussions that something that you believe you are contributing to the organization isn’t necessarily being recognized or appreciated? You find yourself in the position of not representing what your full value is, which can keep you stuck. Another sign is when you see people progressing that aren’t necessarily contributing at the level you are, sometimes they are getting promoted ahead of you or in business this may be causing you frustration when others are not pulling their weight. All of these can be indicators of stuckness.

What is required is to create awareness around what habits are getting in the way of progress and move forward into a new season where rewiring the focus to an inward perspective and take action towards creating new habits. Things like challenging the way we work, optimizing our connections, taking more risks, doing things imperfectly, asking for the help we need, accepting that we need more help, getting creatively resourceful, letting go of things that may have previously been super important, getting better at self-care.

 

Enter here our new blog series on the typical female habits that hold women back from being successful in their careers. Drawn from the book called “How Women Rise” by Sally Helgesen-12 habits that hold women back from being successful in their careers-as well as our own experience as executive coaches when coaching women in the workplace. Each month we will bring you insights and awareness into one of the key habits including tips on how to overcome the habit, get unstuck and move forward to enter a new career season filled with more of the success that you deserve.

SUPERPOWERING THROUGH BOTH – COACHING AND MENTORING​

SUPERPOWERING THROUGH BOTH - COACHING AND MENTORING

(by Melissa L. Schlimm)

First of all, let’s look at what Coaching is and how to differentiate it from Mentoring to use it as a superpower.

Once upon a time

To do that, let’s go back in time, to a time before we had a car and relied on real horsepower to move around. That is where the origin of the word ‘Coach’ has its roots, as early as the 1550 in Europe – Germans called it kotsche, Hungarians kocsi and French coche and it was literally a horse carriage. Although it didn’t have the meaning it has today, it had one sole purpose:

carry people from where they are to where they want to get to, as comfortable as possible.

The other option would have been to walk, which is doable as well, but it is harder, takes longer and reaching the destination took a lot of energy. In the 16th century not everyone was able to afford a coach, or kotsche, and the ones who could were always a step ahead of the rest, dressed clean and ready to take over the world as opposed to the one walking, who arrived covered in dust from the kotsche and tired.

The meaning for a coach referring to a person was first introduced around 1830s at the renowned Oxford University and was slang for a tutor who ‘carries’ a student through assessments. It was then introduced in the sports field around 1861 and is probably most commonly today used when referring to football coaches such as Jose Mourinho. By the way the most successful football coach of all times and worth looking at what made him the best at a different occasion.

The Coach

Football coaching has little to do with coaching for personal development except that it has the same basic goal a ‘coach’: getting a person from where they are to where they want to be.

Let’s look at the most common misperceptions a coach awakens in people’s heads:

  1. A Coach provides you solutions
  2. A Coach solves your problems
  3. A Coach is your guide to manage your personal or work life

Sounds like a superhero for all matters of life and couldn’t be further from reality. A coach is neither a subject expert of life matters nor for work related matters. A coach works with individuals based on the belief, that the individual has the answers to his/her problems within himself/herself. That means, that the coach supports the individual to unlock their own potential solely by focusing on the individual and the latent potential. Although anyone can take a coaching approach when managing teams or families, not everyone is a coach. They may just use an element of coaching practice, such as mirroring behavior or asking questions. And that is one of the key skills of a coach: asking questions and providing feedback that help the individual work through their own issues and leaving the own perceptions, experiences or bias out of the conversation.

Differentiating the word ‘Coach’

The word coach is used in many different contexts, because the term is open for interpretation and a role that has developed over time. There is no job profile attached to neither of them, hence anyone can claim to be a coach and the term definition presents a challenge. For example, when a personal trainer calls himself a coach, this is not always accurate, because a personal trainer gives quite clear instructions as to what to eat, drink and how to exercise. Taking a look at a nutritionist calling herself a coach, it is strictly speaking also not accurate, again it is rarely about what we like to eat and more about what we should eat.

The Mentor

A mentor is a guide who helps someone to learn or develop faster than they might on their own through providing experience and best practice approaches. A personal trainer accelerates better physical fitness or flexibility and a nutritionist provides a meal plan to follow and weight loss is secured. A mentor usually has considerable experience as a subject matter expert within the industry or role and the expertise of the mentor is what the learner wants to tap into.

Superpowering through both rather than splitting them

Coaching and Mentoring both aim at improving skills, adapting behaviours and challenging habits and patterns. A mentoring process though is a much more designed process with specific components that will guide the relationship. The need of separating the chaff from the wheat, coaching from mentoring, may not be necessary and probably is more helpful to keep the term undefined. That is, to ensure, that both best parts stay accessible to the learner. As an example, if you have worked in Sales and end up coaching sales people, there are many rich experiences and tips worthwhile sharing with your coachee, if you are open to swop the hat and become a mentor for your coachee. During a mentoring process a coaching approach may be helpful to understand the mentees goal setting and action planning, to understand how the goals will be implemented. A mentor may be wearing the hat of a coach as the coach may be wearing the hat of a mentor throughout the coaching journey. It is crucial for both though, to get the approval from their learner. The reason is, that the coach acting as a mentor may assume capabilities that are not available to the person or on the contrary, the mentor may confuse the person asking them suddenly to find their own solution.

Use it without separating the chaff from the wheat

Coaching is different to different people and mainly about helping individuals to grow and unlock the power from within. There is no harm in confusing the term and yet important to understand what one signs up for when tapping into the coaching experience.

As a learner you want to ensure that your supporter, be it a coach or a mentor, will provide the best approach to your development, so it is worth checking the following in the beginning and throughout the process:

  1. What is the background of the person who coaches/mentors me? (Answer the question for yourself, whether the person in front of you is someone you would actually want to be receiving input from.)
  2. What is the process of the development intervention provided by the coach/mentor? (If it is a requirement for you to work with someone who wears both hats, ensure, that the coach/mentor is aware of that.)
  3. What do you actually want to take out of the coaching/mentoring?

As coach you want to ensure, that you are willing to tap into both worlds at times. A career coach for example automatically wears the hat of a mentor during the coaching process, whilst a business coach needs to consciously step into the realms of a mentor and ensure two main rules:

ONE – get the ok from the coachee to support their development with own experiences and ideas.

TWO – explain the different approach to the coachee and ensure that it is a suggestion and advice, that needs to ultimately sit well with them.

Whether you are a coach or a mentor your goal is to help out the person who seeks support and that means, what works for one may not work for the other. Calibrating the person in front of you and always following their lead will lead you to deciding what hat is the best fit and choose accordingly.

Do you know where you are going as a woman in the workplace?

Do you know where you are going as a woman in the workplace?

(by Simone Lawrence)

Your unique value is your superpower

This topic keeps coming up for me in workshops and discussions with leading ladies. How well do working women know and appreciate their unique value in the workplace? Let’s pause for a moment to consider one perspective of looking at this.

As an executive coach with a focus on developing female leaders, I notice that women in the workplace are generally so busy with day to day requirements to be conscious of what their unique value is. A typical working style that a lot of women share seems “to do more and more and more” in an effort to demonstrate their value without really knowing what their value is. Instead, they follow their belief that working hard, achieving a lot and being focused on high standards will get them noticed.

Don’t go down that rabbit hole

While this approach may sometimes reap rewards, the opposite effect, being under recognised seems to be more the common feeling amongst women in the workforce. Being so busy and involved in the job can result in not being fully seen, heard or understood. Many efforts and achievements can be largely unnoticed or not acknowledged and career progress can be limited. This approach can keep them bogged down with tasks and deliverables that may not be feeding into the overall career goals. Through understanding where you are going, what is the bigger purpose you are serving and taking conscious actions to get there it can drastically accelerate career growth.

Let’s start with getting clear on where you are going. This is 100% essential. It sounds simple and yet it is not always easy for busy working women to be more aware and create new habits around this. They often benefit from having support to think things through and consider what could be done differently. It is important to consider, in the words of Cheshire Cat, the fictional cat popularised by Lewis Caroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ‘If you don’t know where you are going then it really doesn’t matter which way you go.’

Combine this way of working without a clear direction with some of the other female tendencies I have observed, such as working endlessly until things are perfect. Caring too much about the tasks and the quality of the deliverables, keeping involvement in projects on a much deeper level than what may be needed and for a much longer time than is required. This can stall the ability to pivot and start something new which limits opportunities for growth. The combination of doing too much, for too long in pursuit of excellence without really understanding the direction can mean be a recipe for another Alice in Wonderland moment of going “down the rabbit hole” and staying there for longer than is needed. Often it may not have even been necessary to go down rabbit hole in the first place in order to get to where you want to go. Zoom out and let go Alice!

Of course, these traits are not exclusively demonstrated by women in the workplace, many men fall trap to the same path. So, let’s imagine you are clear on where you are going and let’s start the chain of thoughts with the following questions:

Do you know your unique value?

Is just knowing your unique value enough?

How can your unique value be communicated and demonstrated more?

How often do you connect with it and celebrate what is going right for you versus focusing on what you have not yet done?

What could be possible if your unique value was put to work more to accelerate more career success?

 

Reflection + Clarity = Intentional Pursuit of Career Goals

Often doing less can create the right conditions, space and thinking time for understanding oneself better. Only then can you become more intentional with the right aligned actions you need to take to demonstrate your unique value. By taking a step back from your day to day job from time to time, spending a few minutes a day thinking about what has gone well, what have you achieved and connecting that to you career aspirations for the future can help you ensure you are busy doing the right things that are aligned directly to your aspirational vision. These are the moments, when you become very clear about your unique value. Once you know your unique value, you are in the right head space to think about how you should be communicating and demonstrating your unique value more. Because to answer the question, whether just knowing your unique value is enough: no, it is not. You need to create your brand visible to people around you, otherwise no one will know of the jewel they own.

 

What’s in it for you and your organisation?

  • Gaining more momentum towards where you want to be, leading the way and role modelling the right behaviours for others to follow-creating a pipeline of effective leadership behaviours
  • Reducing the effort and time required to get your job done as you feel a stronger pull towards your future, conserving energy which can be applied where it can make a bigger difference to what matters-more impact and faster progress.
  • Experiencing more enjoyment in day to day tasks which can be energising and motivating, increasing job satisfaction-reducing stress and contributing to a happier engaged workforce.
  • Positioning yourself as a game change- a mover and a shaker, somebody that can’t be unnoticed.

If workplaces proactively created the right environment and initiatives to help their employees take time out to reflect and realign towards their future goals it could truly transform human capabilities. Through providing support to individuals to understand their specific challenges and transform the habits and behaviours that are not serving their career growth it could help everybody progress whilst also contributing to gender diversity goals through getting more women into senior roles much faster.

 

Say it out loud

Women in the workplace can drive this forward through getting clear on where they are going, understanding and communicating their unique value and aligning their daily actions towards their goals. Being seen, heard and understood. Sharing the success, they are having with others and asking for the support that they need.

Talking about success is something most women don’t get across the finishing line, as they don’t want to appear as braggers, so as a result success is seldom celebrated. One solution to change this is to ensure you celebrate yourself daily and even if it is a small achievement – getting into the habit of doing it, will create a routine for you to continue doing it.

Your unique value is your superpower. It is your strength that can empower teams, get more sales, influence change or whatever it is that you are working to achieve. Why would you not make more intentional use of it?

 

Make accelerating female talent your mission too

With International Women’s Day just around the corner, what are you doing in your organisation to support the growth and acceleration of your female talent? Supporting and encouraging them to leverage their unique potential in an effort to get more women into senior roles and ultimately bringing you better business results.

WiiFM PitcH

WiiFM – “what’s in it for me”

WiiFM stands for “what’s in it for me”, which is the question that drives decisions we make. This is the question that needs to be answered in the persons head when you are pitching an idea, product, service or yourself (in an interview).

What do you think? Leave your comments below!

Control your mindset

Control your mindset

My four key tips, if things don’t go according to your plan and you need to take control over your mindset!

What do you think? Leave your comments below!