Sheryl Sandberg

The burden of guilt for executive women - and how it's keeping us playing small if we let it

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Working Women Guilt is a thing. It's well documented and not just limited to working mothers. Executive women the globe over, whether they are parents or not, talk about feeling guilty. A lot.

Anne Marie Slaughter (Why Women Still Can't Have it All) and Sheryl Sandberg (Lean In) have both written about guilt and women. Feeling guilty has become a way of life for many. 

Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they’re big, flashing signs that something needs to change.
— Gretchen Rubin

Things women tell me they feel guilty about:

  • Sleeping in and not getting a workout in before work

  • Not getting up at 5am to start work early

  • Earning more than male peers or partners (if lucky enough!) 

  • Leaving the office before others  

  • Not being there for kids while working

  • Working out, when you should be at home doing something for the kids

  • Asking working mothers to stay back late at the office

  • Making mistakes at work 

  • Not being thin enough / well dressed enough / good enough - full stop

  • Eating/drinking too much

  • Under/over performing 

  • Choosing to take a significant career break whether you are a parent or not

  • Choosing not to take a significant career break as a parent (working mother guilt)

  • Not having a career strategy

  • Not being ambitious enough

  • Being too ambitious

  • Speaking or laughing too loudly in the office

  • Not cooking proper home cooked meals for the family

And the list goes on .....

Guilt can be contradictory, convoluted and complicated. Lots of examples in the list above of damned when we do, and doomed when we don't. And then you feel guilty, or possibly even stupid, for having these contradictory feelings of guilt!

But importantly it's a huge list - hence the burden.

Brené Brown said

“Guilt is just as powerful, but its influence is positive, while shame's is destructive. Shame erodes our courage and fuels disengagement.”

But I suggest that when we are overwhelmed with guilty feelings for too many items, that it leads to feelings of shame. That too much guilt might be the thing that moves the needle on the dial into the danger zone where executive women head back into the realm of underestimating themselves, downplaying their achievements and leaning out, not in or up.

The Stereotype Effect is alive and well for executive women and stronger for women than men. Studies suggest that when we're reminded of our femininity we are more prone to performing to the stereotype, or feel guilty if/when we don't. 

IT'S NOT ALL BAD

There are benefits in feeling guilty. Research tells us that despite what you might imagine, the reward centres in our brain light up when we feel guilt and shame (weird, I know! But at least you are doing something about your problems, not ignoring them).

Then even more research demonstrates that guilt helps with empathy and building and maintaining relationships, with one study finding that while shame was linked to personal distress, guilt was linked to perspective taking.  Is this then why "the feminine" is said to be better at emotional intelligence and relationships? 

But when the burden of guilt becomes overwhelming and possibly even for contradictory issues, it runs the risk of becoming a Catch 22 and a waste of energy. It's distracting, draining and keeps us playing small.

BE LIKE TEFLON

Have you heard the expression "like water off a ducks back" - where hurts and infractions slide right off?  Perhaps we need to embrace that more fully. 

Much easier to do when you are deeply connected to your sense of purpose and why, or have your eyes on the prize. We know that the modesty effect is depressed when you are deeply connected to your sense of purpose, so why not the stereotype effect as well?

So next time you start to berate yourself for eating that extra Tim Tam, instead of feeling guilty, keep your eyes on the prize and practice being like Teflon.

Then remind yourself of the benefits of feeling guilty and then simply get on with the business of being great again!

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► I'm a speaker, mentor and writer on all things self promotion for executive women

► I challenge the status quo to help women carve new pathways for themselves

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

16 Quotes by Women to Inspire Women

Some of you might remember an article I wrote some months back about the importance of Balanced Voice.  What's this?  The representing of both men AND women in literature, art, entertainment etc.  The reality is that most of the quotes about success, achievement and endeavour are by men!

I promised to make a start to redress the balance with a quote bank of inspirational quotes by women for humanity.  In the next few months I'd like to see this become the go to place for students, bloggers and anyone looking for a little inspiration to source quotes by women that inspire. 

My mission in life is to help women to play a much bigger game – change the world if you will – and do so with big ideas, big vision and big, audacious bucket loads of confidence.   These particular quotes inspired and fueled this mission. Starting here - 16 quotes by women, to inspire women - these are the messages that fired up my own journey back in 2014.

Eleanor-Roosevelt

 

 

“You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realised how seldom they do.”  - Eleanor Roosavelt

 

 

 

 

Oprah

 

 

“It is confidence in our bodies, minds & spirits that allows us to keep looking for new adventures” - Oprah Winfrey

 

 

 

 

Golda-Meir

 

 

 

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.” - Golda Meir

 

 

Katy-Perry

 

 

“If you're presenting yourself with confidence, you can pull off pretty much anything.”  - Katy Perry

 

 

 

Elizabeth-Gilbert

 

 

 

“I was not rescued by a prince; I was the administrator of my own rescue.”  - Elizabeth Gilbert 

 

 

 

Gail-Blanks

 

 

“Don’t just stand for the success of other women – insist on it.” - Gail Blanke

 

 

Sheryl-Sandberg

 

 

 

"
 
And anyway, who wears a tiara on a jungle gym?" Sheryl Sandberg

 

 

MaryBeard

 

Action without study is fatal. Study without action is futile.” - Mary Beard

 

AmeliaEarhart

 

 

 

 
 
 
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” - Amelia Earhart

 

 

 
 
 
“Fortune does favor the bold and you’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try.” - Sheryl Sandberg

 

Motivation
 
 
 
 
“Motivation comes from working on things we care about & working with people we care about” - Sheryl Sandberg

 

 
 
“Success correlates more closely with confidence than with competence, but confidence is something you can rewire your brain to activate.” - Claire Shipman & - Katty Kay

 

 

 

 

 
 
“Every thing changes when you start to emit your own frequency rather than absorbing the frequencies around you.”  - Barbara Marciniak
 

 

Mirror
 
“Men look in the mirror and see a senator, and women look in and see somebody who needs more experience.” Anne E Korblut

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
“The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.” - Roseanne Barr 

 

 

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“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.” - Carol Dweck
 
 
 

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  •  I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 
  • I mentor busy professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game. 

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Eight practical win win strategies to help you negotiate a raise

“Work out what you’d like, double it, then add 20%.  That’s your asking price.”

I heard this line recently in an online forum.  It’s obviously a throw away line and not exactly science. But I wonder if every now and then we shouldn’t revisit our own perception of what we’re worth through the above lens? 

Certainly I use this formula as a discussion starting point with female clients as they start working on “levelling up” in their career.  Their reaction to the statement is probably the biggest window into what motivates them, their current perception of their own value and worth, along with where to focus next.

This is the third article in a series to help women negotiate better outcomes for themselves. 

  • The first was all about being able to articulate your own value. The reality is that people who “get ahead more easily” are far more likely to be great at speaking in language of value.
  • The second article brought together a range of pieces of research about women and negotiation and the issue of likeability (or lack there of).
  • And this third article is your “how to” guide – specifically how to prepare.  So instead of;
    • avoiding because you don’t want to rock the boat, or
    • giving up because you can’t deal with the thought of disappointment, or even
    • going in combatively and upsetting yourself and the other party,
      you simply go in with a plan, some options and a clear understanding a range of strategies that have worked for others.

The reality is though when we are negotiating our own salary or raise there are a bunch of assumptions, perceived and real, that we need to work around including:

  • Biases both conscious and unconscious including likeability or lack there of
  • Salary banding
  • Previous incumbent in the role
  • Industry standards
  • Recent financial performance of the organisation as a whole
  • Directives from the C-suite
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And when you are a fair minded individual who likes to consider the well being of others, it’s difficult to know whether or not to challenge these assumptions when you go in to negotiate on our own behalf.  So this particular article is a combination of the different strategies that I’ve learned from negotiation experts and researchers around the globe to help you negotiate more easily, and successfully, on your own behalf.

1.     Why not adopt a growth mindset?  Growth mindset – when you believe you can learn to do just about anything. You’ll just need to note the three provisos:

  • You’ll definitely feel uncomfortable,
  • You might even get it wrong or make mistakes along the way, and
  • You’ll probably have to do some work. 
“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.”
— Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

If you understand the growth mindset then it somehow makes each negotiation conversation part of a learning curve, just part and parcel of getting ahead, rather than a personal slight or affront when you it doesn’t all go your way.  My suggestion? Win some, lose some, keep a cool head, then have another go.

2.     Reframe the conversation from a fight or justification conversation to a collaboration and problem solving activity.  You are helping your manager solve the problem of remunerating you as you would like, plus meet organisational objectives! When we do this it becomes more of a win win. It’s really hard to think that someone is “hard nosed” and “greedy” when you are helping them solve their problems.

3.     It’s not all about the dollar value:  In speaking with recruiters they tell me that sometimes people get hung up on the Big Number when in fact they might be better off emotionally and/or financially with asking for flexibility in working from home or starting/finishing late, or an extra week’s leave per year or additional training/mentoring or coaching included in their package. Flexibility around your thinking about these things might be more rewarding for both men and women all around.  I’m not advocating for women to accept less money than men doing the same role. Instead I’m advocating an honest analysis of your current situation. It may in fact be worth more to you to ask instead for other solutions.

4.     Do your research and align yourself with others:  Find out what industry benchmarks and standards there are, how you compare, what else is going on in industry and other case studies where things have been successful. According to Sheryl Sandberg of Lean In fame – if you refer to other perspectives it somehow lends legitimacy to your argument and demonstrates that you’ve thought this through.  When you refer to “we” it somehow adds credibility – you are part of a bigger picture.

5.     Cite Sheryl Sandberg: yes there is such a thing as a “Sheryl Sandberg effect”.  Apparently after the release of her “Lean In” book women were hitting up their boss for raises with lines such as “Sheryl Sandberg would be disappointed in me if I didn’t ask for a raise”.  Fact or fiction? I don’t know, but it does point to the fact that you’ve done your homework, you’re taking your career seriously as well as aligning yourself to a cause (the success of women everywhere).  It certainty can't hurt.

6.     Do it all at once: When you do negotiate (or renegotiate) do so all at once, not in dribs and drabs throughout the year.  Sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it?  When you are asking for things throughout the year you are trying to “win each battle” one issue at a time.  Apparently when you negotiate a package all at once you are more likely to be able to come to a solution that meets the needs of both parties.

7.     Make a plan and test it: Work out what your non negotiable items are and test your thinking as well, then document a range of scenarios in case they say yes to this item but no to that item. How might you respond?  How might you counter? How might they respond? How might they counter?  Negotiation expert, Carrie Gallant has a great template you can use.

Dan Pink in his book To Sell Is Human uses the term buoyancy and how important it is in remaining optimistic and agile in a sales environment. Well negotiating for yourself is in part a sales environment – you are influencing others to your way of thinking.  We an learn from this as we approach forming our plan.

“Ask yourself questions beforehand (“Can I succeed?”) rather than pumping yourself up (“I am the best”); they encourage your brain to come up with answers, reasons, and intrinsic motivation.”

8.     Eat, sleep, rehearse, repeat: Yes, you heard me, rehearse/roleplay/practice. 

Thinking about an apple, and planning what will happen when we eat the apple, is EXTREMELY different to actually eating the apple. 

You need to rehearse saying these things out loud. 

Long story short – many years ago when I was making my first foray into asking for a six figure salary my coach asked me to role play that “asking”.  She gave me the language and invited me to say it out loud.  I baulked!!  Then squeaked it out with a high pitched voice and an upward inflection which undermined my credibility immediately

Don’t assume you’ll be fine on the day. Find a trusted friend, coach or mentor and say these words out loud. Get feedback and say them again until you are comfortable and agile around the language.  Eat, sleep, rehearse, repeat.

I love Carol Dweck’s growth mindset work. She has inspired me so much when it comes to tackling goals and ambitions that are well outside of my comfort zone.  And I reckon her ideas on the growth mindset become almost like a self fulfilling prophecy – the more you believe you can make yourself extraordinary – the more you in fact become extraordinary.

So when it comes to tackling salary package negotiations for ourselves, which many people find uncomfortable, it's probably better to do it with a growth mindset and an understanding that you’ll simply keep on getting better at it the more you do it.

Vive la révolution!  #ambitionrevolution

 

 If you missed it - The F Word that Keeps Us Playing Small

  •  I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 
  • I mentor busy professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game. 

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Language Warning! Four bad habits that undermine your credibility

The gender diversity (or gender equality) debate has been going on for years and seems to have gathered a new and welcome momentum.  Some of the issues we face include unconscious bias, conscious bias and downright discrimination.  However sometimes there is a piece of the pie that we women need to own. Sheryl Sandberg talks about “leaning in”.  I call it stepping up, speaking out and taking charge. 

When it comes to gender politics in the office, just like dressing appropriately, we also need to pay attention to our language and speech habits. If we want a seat at the “big table” then we need to speak like grown ups and “own that sh*t”.  And the following four habits that we women frequently demonstrate undermine our credibility and authority all in one - without us even knowing.

“And anyway, who wears a tiara on a jungle gym?”
— Sheryl Sandberg

1. Just – the most recent culprit  in the language debate is the use of “just”. Earlier in 2015 Ellen Petry Leanse, founder, Karmahacks; strategist, advisor, online pioneer was published in Business Insider calling women out on it.

I was delighted and couldn't agree more, because the word is a pet peeve of mine.  I hear this word all the time and mostly from women. Let’s be honest, frequently there is no just about it. At the very least the word is redundant – and at the most it diminishes the opinion, status or impact of the request by the initiator/asker.

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  • “I just wanted to find out …..”
  • “I was just booking for …..”
  • “ I am just enquiring about …..”
  • “Just following up …”
  • “Just checking in …."

My own research (sample size of about six close personal female friends for brunch) determined that the use of the word is part of our feminine socialisation – not to big note ourselves, not to stand out, not to offend, not to challenge, to be safe and (let’s own the negative impact of fashion magazines, dieting and body image too) to be diminutive, small and not a bother.

So check your emails before you hit send.  Listen to your own speech patterns. Then remove “just”. This one small change makes your communications far more powerful. Try it. You may be surprised at how confident you sound and the results that you get with this one simple change.

2. Deflecting compliments . Oh boy. And most of us think we are simply doing the right thing!

You know when someone pays you a compliment and you say;

 “Oh, it was nothing, it was just my job, in fact the team did most of the work and … the reality is the project didn’t go so well. We hit a few speed bumps, we crashed into a few hurdles ………..” ? 

Sound familiar?

It’s okay to accept a compliment as it is and simply say thank you.  It makes the giver feel good, it boosts your own confidence plus it helps with your own credibility. Repeat after me -

“Deflecting compliments undermines credibility.
Accepting compliments boosts it.”

As women we’ve been taught time and time again not to big note ourselves, not to take credit unless its totally ours, and not to stand out . Why? Because it's allegedly “unladylike”. 

Well in a future where women are leading equally with men it’s totally unprofessional (non gender specific) to not accept a compliment.  So own it, accept it and maybe dish out a few compliments of your own as you see how they boosts the confidence of both the giver and the receiver.

3. Apologising for strong opinions

"Women are 37%* more likely than men to identify their own behavior as worthy of an apology, which leads to women apologizing more frequently than men do ... which in turn, unfortunately, fuels the double standard that women who aren’t “apologetic enough” are bossy (or worse)."  Upworthy July 2014

All true and correct according to a 2010 study by Karina Schuman and Michael Ross entitled Why Women Apologize More Than Men; Gender Differences in Thresholds for Perceiving Offensive Behavior.

However what’s more concerning is that as women we sometimes apologise for having strong opinions.  You’ve probably heard it in meetings or in strong discussions where sometimes, if a woman lands a contrary opinion, she apologises.

“If you set out to be liked, you will accomplish nothing.”
— Margaret Thatcher

Learn to accept responsibility for your own thoughts, ideas and opinions. They are just that; thoughts, ideas and opinions, not "truths".   These thoughts, ideas and opinions are based on the evidence you have access to at that time. 

As women we apologise even when its not our fault – when we bump elbows with someone on the plane next to us, when we are startled and when we talk over someone. Sheryl Sandberg says its because have been told we are too bossy since we were little girls. Sound familiar?  

It’s ingrained into us and a hard pattern to break.  But if you want to see evidence of what a difference it makes then check out this powerful campaign by Pantene – demonstrating the power of turning off your “automatic” sorry response.  

4. And finally - Uptalk – more commonly known as ending a sentence that is not a question with an upward inflection .

If you have any ambitions to head up a team, lead an organisation or influence others to join you in your new venture you’ll want to knock this one on the head - immediately.

Linguistic experts don’t really know where it came from but it’s fairly wide spread and, unfortunately Australians and New Zealanders are rather expert at it.  In a 2014 BBC article they call attention to the rise of the upward inflection (pun intended) and how it sounds like we are asking for permission all the time. This in turn diminishes your power,  your credibility and authority. 

Picture this - you are a high performer, possibly even a perfectionist, with an eye for your next big promotion.  You go in for your performance appraisal and you are totally and awesomely prepared.  In outlining your work, your input and the key measurable outcomes, every second statement you make ends with a upward inflection - which make it sound like a question.  

  • Where is the power in this conversation?
  • How credible do you think it sounds?

More importantly it sounds like you are seeking permission - rather than making statements - therefore undermining your best attempts at negotiating that extra pay rise or next big promotion.

The fix for it all?

The ego’s deep, ingrained need for approval is hard to fix - so you’ll need to be vigilant. 

  • Next time you have a conversation I challenge you to record yourself and listen for the tone and melody of your conversation.  Listen out also for apologies, the word just and also compliment deflection. Determine whether or not they were necessary - or simply ingrained patterning, people pleasing or seeking approval behaviours.
  • Ask a trusted colleague, coach or mentor to give you feedback next time you are in a meeting or in a situation where you feel stressed or uncertain.
  • Rehearse a few times and then record yourself again so you can hear what's really going on.  Fake it till you make it is probably great advice in this instance.
  • I've even heard of a manager using this as a teaching point with the entire team to ensure the department operated more efficiently and effectively - supporting each other and getting better results as a result.

So why is this important?

We're in interesting times right now.  As women we want to lead but frequently find the journey there is not easy at the best of times and downright challenging at the worst.  You want to make sure that your ambition "tool kit" is fitted out with the best of the best, sharpest, high quality tools that help you get ahead more easily.  Credibility, authority and expertise are great tools  - and we need to make sure that we don't accidentally undermine ourselves despite best efforts and intentions.

Vive la révolution! 

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—    If you missed it - 3 Signs Your LinkedIn Profile Sucks

  • I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 

  • I mentor busy professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game. 

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so.

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months