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Women Used These 5 Power Strategies to Win 2018 Elections – Try Them at Work

The just-released McKinsey & Company/LeanIn.Org Women in the Workplace 2018 report indicates that progress on advancing women in the workplace remains stalled. Despite continued talk about diversity and gender balance, the researchers discovered that less than 5% progress has occurred in improving women’s leadership representation in corporate America since the study began in 2015. Contrast that poor track record to the sizeable gains made by women in this week’s U.S. elections, where a record number of female candidates made history by winning Congressional seats.

Why were so many women able to be elected in politics at a time when advancement of women into corporate leadership has stagnated? The answer is that politics offers a different playing field from the professional workplace. While political candidates appeal directly to voters, corporate power is placed in the hands of a few designated decision-makers—often men. This makes the corporate promotion process more black box than ballot booth. In an election, the “job description” responsibility of each office is clear. Candidates are coached, championed, and encouraged to persist even when the chips are down. Polls give candidates insight into the minds of their decision makers (the voters) and what’s important to them.

In contrast, it’s often unclear exactly what women need to do to advance in the workplace. Unless a high-potential woman identifies and enrolls a Sponsor to support her promotion, she is likely to be the sole advocate for her own advancement.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though.  If you borrow a page from the playbook of successful female political candidates—you have more control than you think, you just have to know how to use it.

Here are five Power Strategies from politics that you can apply in your workplace:

  • Raise your hand. Research shows that women have traditionally had to be asked multiple times to run for office before deciding to do it, but this year, thousands decided on their own to run. In this mid-term election, around 20,000 women signed up to be trained as candidates, 256 won their primaries, and 118 won seats in Congress. In the past, many of these successful women may have questioned the value they could bring if they lacked prior experience, but these candidates didn’t hesitate to jump in. They pursued a next-level contribution and stepped beyond their comfort zone because they had a strong sense of purpose. The lesson for women in business? Proactively raise your hand for opportunities. Figure out who you want to help, and why. The stronger your “why” the more motivated you will be to take action to find the ‘how’.
  • Focus on a clear outcome. Women candidates benefitted from having a single-minded focus: winning their campaign race. Corporate women may know they want something “more”, but the desired outcomes can seem murky. Women don’t receive as much constructive feedback as men do, putting women at a disadvantage to know exactly what they can do to be considered for a promotion. So the first step to create a pathway for advancement is to specify what your next level looks like. Then, just like a political candidate who envisions victory on election day, set an intention to reverse-engineer the outcome you want. Make an action plan that details what key decision makers need to know about your abilities and how you will create visibility to them.
  • Act on behalf of others. Zig Ziglar has said: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” This tenet is at the heart of all effective political campaigns, and it can help guide you in the corporate world as well. A known bias in many organizations is that there’s a proven social cost for women who ask or negotiate for more: Women who ask can be perceived as “aggressive” or out for personal gain, which can make asking for yourself fraught with risk. This is why it may be easier for female political candidates than corporate ones, since acting on behalf of others is built into the role of elected officials. Women in workplaces can model this effective strategy by framing their “Ask” in terms of how their request will help their managers, teams, colleagues, department, and/or company. Instead of asking for a next-level opportunity because you want to grow your career, focus on explaining “what’s in it for them.” It eliminates bias and strengthens your request.
  • Leverage support from women. Female donors were a game-changer in this election—they set new records for giving funds as well as involvement at the grassroots level. Women’s support of their female peers has also grown in the wake of the #MeToo Movement. You can leverage these recent trends of women supporting other women to get ahead in the workplace. Join a women’s leadership network to meet senior leaders, step into a business resource group leadership opportunity, and/or support other women by amplifying what they say in meetings. Be a woman who other women want to work for and work with. Create “karma” in your network so other women will support you back.
  • Display an authentically powerful personal brand. Women face a tightrope bias that boxes them into figuring out how to strike a balance between being “not too aggressive” and “not too nice.” The recently elected women broke out of these limiting constrictions on the ways that women have been expected to show up. They were able to authentically tell their “story” in a way that allowed them to set the terms. This new brand of feminine power integrated women’s true abilities to “take charge” and “take care”. In contrast to the Maternal Wall in the workplace (which pressures women to play down parenthood out of fear of being seen as “not as committed” to face time in the office), some female candidates played up their “Mom” role as a key component of their personal brand, even introducing their children as part of their ads.  Others found authentic ways to display their toughness to fight for their constituents (e.g., Kansas Congresswoman Sharice David’s ad of her history as a martial artist). With this in mind, display your strengths and incorporate the most authentically powerful aspects of your personality to help you reach your professional goals.

Get inspired by the successes of the record-breaking number of newly elected women, and leverage their winning strategies in your own career. By chipping away at the fallback image of leaders as white males, these political powerhouses are clearing obstacles on your path to corporate leadership. When you tether yourself to your boldest sense of purpose—clarifying to yourself and others who you want to help and why, understanding the contribution you truly want to make, and communicating that through a personal brand they can’t ignore—you can make a truly next-level impact on your organization and the world.

How to Counteract the Likability Penalty Leadership Bias

Most professional women I talk with want to be at a next level of leadership. They want to make an even bigger impact and they seek more say and more influence over the business. Our cultural meme is if you are a woman, “Now is your time girlfriend!”

Yet women face the Likability Penalty when they act like a leader.

This common gender bias goes as follows: To be a leader you must act “Agentic”. That means you take charge. You are solution oriented and direct people what to do.

Because the inherited collective image of a ‘leader’ has a masculine association, when women act like a leader they can be perceived as ‘incongruent’ with their gender.

Yet, when women don’t act like a leader they are accused of not having potential to lead.  They are seen as erring on the side of ‘taking care’ rather than ‘taking charge’.  They may even be given feedback they are ‘not confident enough’ or ‘too nice’.

This is the “double bind” women experience.

Men are expected to be confident and assertive in order to get things done, but women are deemed ‘less likable’ when they carry out these same behaviors. Sometimes the feedback to women is direct (e.g., ‘she’s too bossy’, or called the other ‘b-word’) other times the feedback is more coded (e.g., she’s ‘not a good fit).

Women are ‘damned if we do, damned if we don’t.’ It may create a constant stress of self-scrutiny as you try to strike that ‘goldilocks’ chord of just right in their leadership.

Until we can get enough women into leadership that we successfully create a mental association of “leader” with a wide variety of schemas, there are ways to get out of the double bind so you can be authentic to you AND have more control over the perception you create. 

Research shows that leaders are evaluated based on two dimensions: warmth and competence.  For men the combination of these traits has little effect. Yet women have to be seen as warm in order for their competence to be taken seriously.

What works for women is to balance these dimensions of ‘warmth’ and ‘competence’:

Here are three strategies to to balance ‘warmth’ and ‘competence’ so you can counteract the Likability bias and step up as a leader:

1.Act to Match the Context:  Research shows that women who “self-monitor” (who are versatile to show more or less of these dimensions according to the situation) can reduce the effect of the likability bias.  In fact, when women who are strong leaders  can show this flexibility across situations they receive even more promotions and are seen as more confident and influential than women who display competence alone. Women’s native emotional intelligence abilities can serve thus as a strength.

This idea of balance has practical application in daily duties of a leader, such as behavior in meetings.  If a meeting has a distinct goal and needs a linear process to get there, using more ‘competence’ based language will be a good match to the task.  Use language that is clear, concise, and directive.  Be comfortable using your voice to help the participants get over the finish line of a decision.

On the other hand if the intent of the meeting is brainstorming or building consensus, then a more empathic and inclusive approach is called for.   Your language here would be more about coming up with a process and leading a group based discussion.

Self monitoring enables you to be attuned to the context – even as it might fluidly change within a meeting – so you can show up according to the ‘tone’ of the meeting.

2. Sequence warmth and competence:  Think of building the relationship first before you start to engage in leadership behaviors that are more direct. This might play out in a meeting by inviting others to share or weigh in. Then be the decisive leader who forms the information into a decision and provides a clear way forward.   Many women are natural relationship builders and this approach can seem common sense networking etiquette – to build a connection with the person before you make an Ask about a business need.

3. Negotiate on behalf of others. For decades women’s leadership advocates have encouraged more women to “Ask” but gender based conditioning discouraged women from asking or feeling worthy of asking. Now many more women are Asking (for next level roles, for equal salary) yet when women make these Asks they face a social cost. They may be labeled as (too) ‘aggressive’.

Because I encourage (insist!) that you keep asking, an easy way to counteract this bias is to negotiate on behalf of others.  The part of the Asking that was perceived as incongruent for women was the aspect of ‘acting on her own behalf’, i.e., being selfish.  It comes naturally for women to negotiate on behalf of others because of the way women are oriented to protect or provide for their families/tribes/teams. This approach to negotiating is associated with women as “Mama Bear” and  can eliminate the likability penalty of Asking.

It also helps give you courage to make your Ask, women are often willing to make an even bigger Ask on behalf of others than you might ask on your own behalf.  (Just like we might get out of bed to meet a morning workout buddy to not disappoint them or go the extra mile to do for our children where we might not do so for ourselves).

Picture this: when you walk into a room to ask for a salary raise or propose a big idea, bring with you (in your mind) all the people you are acting on behalf of.  Is it your team (to get needed resources)?  Your family members (to earn more salary for their schooling or summer vacation?).  Is it your ancestors (to speak up and call out something that was unjust?)

Use these approaches to be bold as a leader, ask for what you need, and lead like a boss.  Until we as a society can chip away at collective unconscious bias, these strategies will help you increase your leadership impact and bypasss the possible counterforces of bias.

One of the best ways to change an unconscious bias is for the biased person to see new images and have them become the norm and congruent with their perception of a leader.  Each of you as women can use these strategies to counteract gender bias that may thwart your own advancement, and in so doing you is also contributing to a change in our collective unconscious for you own generation and those behind you.

Everyday women are stepping up to become leaders, be one of them!

3 Ways to Instantly Get Love

You deserve love.

Especially on this Valentine’s Day, I want to make sure you Get Love! Yet too often, I hear things people do in order to Get Love:

Like say yes when you want to say no. Do favors in the hopes of being complimented or appreciated. Say what others want to hear instead of your truth.

Be Perfect, and don’t disappoint others’ expectations. Dress or act or eat so others like you, instead of as who you really are.

Pressure others to love you or blame them if they don’t treat you the way you want to be treated.

What’s the problem with trying to Get Love?

These approaches try to control other people in order to get their love. You are ‘giving to others in order to get their love’.

Its putting your ability to feel loved in the hands of other people. When others are limited then you can’t get what YOU need.

It makes relationships feel demanding and pressured – where each of you ‘needs’ the other person to act a certain way in order for the other person to feel ok about themselves.

Instead, try these three shifts that will help you instantly Get the Love you want without trying to get it:

1.From Get Love to Be Love

Don’t wait for other people to show you love. Be someone who radiates with love. Do loving actions. Give love. Do it because it makes YOU feel on purpose and showing up as the best version of yourself.

Don’t “give to get.” Just give. And don’t worry, you will get. Whenever you bring love to other people, good things come back to you – it may not always be from the same people you showed that kindness to, but it will come back to you.

Love is the highest form of ‘vibration’. The electromagnetic field around the heart is 300 times stronger than the one around the head – that means your loving heart can raise up those who are stuck in their head.

Instead of chasing after someone else’s love, be someone who is so connected to your own source of self love that it is inspiring to others.

Loving yourself is the strongest form of protection from being hurt by others who are not capable of loving you the way you deserve.

2. From Get Love to Feel Loveable

When you feel loveable you are tapped into your source of self love. You can ‘feel loveable’ and filled up with love no matter what is going on with the people around you – even if they are limited, even if they are incapable, even if they are having a bad day or caught up in their own stress.

Focus on ‘feeling loveable’. That is in your control. You can be tapped into your self-love 24/7/365, even when you aren’t actively being shown love. It will make you attractive in your personal and professional life.

3. From Get Love to Choose Love

Just as Michelle Obama said in the 2016 campaign, ‘when they go low, we go high’.

Choose to be compassionate. Choose your response with the understanding that most people ‘act badly’ because of their own shame and insecurities – they don’t feel they know enough or they are worried you will see their flaws.

Or they are revealing that they are not capable of the kind of emotional connection you are capable of. Yet you always have a choice whether you want to choose that person to be the one you make a loving relationship with.

Always start by asking “What is the outcome I want here”? Then act in the service of that outcome. Make the first move toward it.

Yesterday, my client who is the head of a venture capital firm told me the following story: as she used the tools we discussed to be more confident and detached, and less reactive to the people who aggravated her in her office she was able to show up as someone who was much more gracious and generous at work, and more loving at home. She was astonished at the extent to which when she ‘went first’ being more loving, she got a noticeable response of cooperation at work and appreciation at home.

Notice where are YOU trying to “Get Love”? Instead, choose love.

Here’s to you feeling loveable this Valentine’s Day,

Sharon

P.S. If you notice you are someone who is trying to Get Love, it’s a confidence issue. I show you how to work it out in my Confidence when it Counts program and book.

How to deal with difficult family members on the holidays

Will you be interacting with a difficult family member as we celebrate Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S.?   (Or do you face a difficult person in your workplace?)

Do you have a pit of dread having to deal with that difficult person?  Do you react and fall back into old patterns? Are you doing the silent scream: “Why can’t they just be normal?!”

Make a pledge to yourself that TODAY is the day you free yourself from difficult people and unresolved patterns that drag you down and block your potential.

Here are 10 meaty ‘mantras’ for freedom – keep them in mind as you drive up to that family dinner or welcome people into your home…

[Read more…] about How to deal with difficult family members on the holidays

How to deal with emotions from the #MeToo campaign

#MeToo is revealing the true number of people – women and men – who have faced experiences ranging from inappropriate indignities and abuses of power, to outright sexual violence.

These viral stories are everywhere and may remind you of incidents in your past you might have tried to bury.

Hearing others stories and sharing your own can lead to a re-experiencing of feelings of shame, and/or deep anger at those who committed those acts and those who might have been in a position to do something about it but didn’t.

It might help you see clearly why you cut off an important part of yourself or gave up on something that was important to you or someone you know. For myself in High School, after being the only girl percussionist, and one who was selected as the All-State tympanist for NY state, I discontinued a promising music career after a series of unwanted advances from my long time drum teacher.

I didn’t even make the connection until years later when I did research at Harvard Medical School on how we develop the patterns we keep with us until today. (Which led to me developing exercises that helped free me and many others from them.)

If you have been reading and listening to these stories and notice an emotional response in yourself, it could be because:

1. You are getting triggered – You are re-experiencing painful feelings or memories of things you experienced in the past that were out of your control.

and/or

2. Vicarious traumatization – You get overwhelmed from empathically feeling the feelings of people who actually experienced the trauma, leading you to similarly feel a sense of lack of control. You might be experiencing this if you feel burned out on the topic, overfocus on the negative, or feel a loss of hope.

Any and all good self care practices are called for in these times. Sharing with friends. Journaling. Walking in nature. Exercise. Trauma therapies. Tools from my book Success under Stress….

It can be helpful for you to use the opportunity to build awareness between experiences you’ve had and patterns you still have today so you can grow into the best version of yourself.

For many of us, the ‘negative voice’ you have about yourself comes originally from ‘explaining’ experiences you had growing up in terms of how it was your ‘fault’ or because you are ‘not worthy’. If looking back its obvious that adult or person in power was in the wrong, you might ask why would YOU take on the blame and think you are not good enough?

We usually develop our negative voice to

1) Have a semblance of control – If you tell yourself you are ‘not good enough’ it gives you the semblance of control that if you could only become ‘good enough’ then you’d get what you need and wouldn’t be treated with disrespect.

2) Maintain Hope – As children we’ll generally choose to internalize what parents and important authorities say about us because we have to keep them ‘right’ in order to maintain hope that they will take care of us. If we recognized their limitations we’d realize there is no hope to be seen for who we are. And that would lead to despair. So we ‘buy in’ to messages shown to us in order to maintain hope.

3) Protect you – That voice is often “trying to help” you be the best version of yourself but its quite outdated at this point and isn’t able to see the resources you currently would have if it didn’t keep criticizing you.

(In September before the Harvey Weinstein revelations, I was asked to write an article for an international women’s blog about why we don’t leave abusive relationships – at home or at work. It gives you a psychological understanding of some of these dynamics so I’ve reposted it on my blog for you.)

If YOUR ‘negative voice’ is significantly holding you back professionally or personally, there is definitely hope for you. If you want me to help you break free from your negative voice, I have developed some exercises that will help you immediately and permanently be free of that ‘negative voice’ and finally live up to your potential with less angst. Just reply to this email and I’ll send you information about what the process is.

The world is changing and I want you to be in your power so you can contribute to that change. Thank you

Sharon

P.S. Please feel free to leave comments on the blog or write to me directly with questions that I can answer for you in a future blog.

P.P.S. If you want to support someone who has #MeToo experiences, listen to them.

Believe them.

Support their efforts to take their power back.

Encourage them to do a form of counseling that helps them reframe their experiences and rise above their continued negative self perception.

Educate your offspring and friends that they have the power to get themselves out of situations that feel uncomfortable.

Teach them self defense skills to ward off violence.

Tell your friends or colleagues to knock it off if they are saying things that are or abuse power.

Encourage them to go for a position for leadership in which they can change and role model the rules. Report people who harass to authorities at work or in your community.

7 Reasons You Stay in Abusive Relationship & How to get the MOJO to go

You have the instinct that the partner relationship, family situation, or the job is unhealthy for you.  Your friends and family members have told you to ‘leave’…but you just feel like you ‘can’t’, at least not yet.  Why?

1. You Don’t Realize it’s Abusive 

People can hide their abusive nature by also having positive traits. Some might be successful or upstanding citizens in the community (like a leader, priest, or teacher). Sometimes they are generous, helpful, or vulnerable, which endeared you to them and makes you want to be close to or take care of them. This behavior pattern – being ‘nice sometimes’ and ‘controlling, mean, or inappropriate’ at other times – is called ‘Crazy-Making’.  Why? you keep flip flopping whether you think they are ‘nice’ or ‘controlling’ and it makes you feel like you can’t figure them out. It’s also called ‘Crazy-Making’ because the abusive person highlights all the ways they are ‘good to you’ and denies the ways they control you.  Even though you know inside something doesn’t feel right, you ‘feel bad’ saying negative things about them and there is no external validation to ‘know what you know.’

2.You Think it’s your Fault– You might explain the situation as your fault even it’s not.  Abusive people usually explain situations by blaming you or external conditions, or suggesting that you are ‘not enough’. They never point to the effect of their own behavior.  And if you have a history of people blaming you for their limitations, it might seem familiar to ‘buy into’ this view.  It’s possible that you have done things you regret in an effort to try to get that person to change, so you might have things you feel bad about yourself for.  Thinking its ‘your fault’ keeps you involved  to ‘try to make it better.

3.You Have Hope it will Change– After their behavior is particularly inappropriate or hurtful, you might start seeing their behavior as abusive – then feel empowered to create distance or not continue to give them the attention they seek.  The abusive person will sense this distance, and apologize or otherwise indicate they will not continue their behavior.  Seeming genuine, you might be tempted to believe them, giving you hope that the situation will change. However, someone who is capable of being abusive is someone who is split between their ‘good side’ and ‘bad side’ – by definition they are not well self managed.  Its can be hard for you to remember that they are not capable of reliably keeping their promises.

4. You Need the Money – You might need the money you get from that job or that person to support yourself  – but only for the short term. YOU are the one who is capable of being the source of your income, it doesn’t have to come from any particular job or person.  Today can be the first day you plan out how to make money for your talents in another situation. Then you won’t be dependent on them.

5. Feeling like a Victim is Familiar – You may have grown up with role models who were also controlled by someone, and/or with an important person who controlled you. With this history, the picture you develop is that relationships always involve someone who is controlling and someone who is controlled. That feels familiar to recreate.  And there might be people in your current life who give you sympathy for being in such a hard situation – then it might seem like a way of getting positive attention you’re not getting in your adult life.  You deserve attention for being someone who is talented and loving, that’s the kind of attention you deserve and want to seek out.

6. You’re still developing Confidence and Courage – As a child and young person, it’s normal and adaptive to look to parents, teachers, peers, and bosses to grow self esteem and evaluate our abilities. This is how we get our ‘emotional oxygen’ (e.g., love, praise, attention) growing up.  As we develop, we shift to get that self-regard from within.  You might still be involving others to get a feeling you are worthy, it might look like: seeking other’s approval,  preventing their criticism and rejection, or pressuring yourself to be perfect – these behaviors make you focus on how others are treating you and keep your attention away from taking a stand for YOUR life. In this scenario, you care too much what they think of you, or keep trying harder to get them to treat you with respect. As you can source confidence from within you’ll have the courage to say “I don’t need you in order to feel powerful in myself, in fact being around you is keeping me from living MY life purpose”. And it will be easier to leave.

7. You are Afraid of Being Alone – There might be reasons it’s hard to leave: You may have a sense of loss to give up the fun times or the way the person has been helpful. Or the opposite, you might be concerned you will face violence (that might be a real and valid concern, if so, you should seek legal help and get an order of protection) or the person might pester you emotionally as you start to remove yourself from their life. Finally, if things are calm and you don’t have to constantly react or resent the other person all the time, it might even feel boring or lonely.  Yet when you firmly make a decision and have faith you can have all good things you want once you are on your own, it will help you stay strong in your boundaries.

If you recognize that you are staying in an abusive situation because of any of these reasons, know that you can decide to leave. You got this!