Take Charge

The day my first book was published

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Two years ago, in March, my first book was published!

I remember how excited I was and overwhelmed with how close it was to International Women's Day #IWD

Since then I've sold almost 1000 copies and still love getting notes from readers telling me how much they enjoyed it.

"Hey Amanda, I couldn't wait to tell you how great your book it is! I couldn't put it down all weekend and I want to buy a copy for all my girlfriends" said one happy reader 😎

With #IWD2019 just past, why not buy a copy to inspire a smart ’n savvy career minded woman in your life?

Step Up, Speak Out, Take Charge - A woman's guide to getting ahead in your career

Available to purchase from Amazon, Koby, Booktopia, Dymocks and even Walmart!

And keep your eye out for book #2 - From Invisible to Invincible - a self promotion handbook for executive women

Available from May 2019 ☺️

#LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #womenofimpact #invisibletoinvincible

My mission is to help women play a much bigger game – change the world if you will – with big ideas, big vision and big, audacious bucket loads of confidence.

 
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

From Zero to Hero in Five Easy Tactics

I was recently interviewed by LinkedIn blogger Tony J Hughes. He asked me to reflect on what drives me to encourage women into the C-suite (Step Up, Speak Out, Take Charge),. He asked me what sparked my initial interest in the topic, and also my top tactics or advice for women who think they are ready to take the lead.  Here's what I told him - plus a few extra tidbits that came up after his publishing date.

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.
— Amanda Blesing


My mission is pretty clear and it started well before anyone might imagine. Yes, you may already know that I observed the different ways that men and women tackled ambitious goals and projects while working alongside various professions during my time in the Association sector.

But in fact it probably started in high school as I headed to boarding school at a newly co-ed school (at the time) that was still predominantly male.  There was a pretty clear distinction in who dominated the power base at the school and ...... I didn't enjoy being relegated to playing second fiddle purely based on my gender, one little bit. Yet I wasn't quite "ready" to challenge the status quo either.

While I didn't know what to do about it then, it certainly sparked an interest in seeing women tackle exciting and meaningful work - with strategies to work through those roadblocks, brick walls and glass ceilings of bias, discrimination or even leaning out behaviours, that sometimes get in the way.

I immersed herself in the works of Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In; Tara Mohr, Think Big; Katty Kay & Claire Shipman, The Confidence Code and Carol Dweck's Mindset as a starting point.  I also drew upon the latest research and findings in neuroscience to try and understand exactly what is it that keeps women "mired in middle management".

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And finally, I examined the more unsettling research around gender bias and unconscious bias that keeps women out of leadership despite concerted efforts by women, business and governments to meet gender diversity targets.

Then voilà!  The Ambition Revolution was born - one-on-one mentoring for professional women – to assist them with confidence, to help them remain strategic and focused on the end goal – elevating themselves more easily to “expert status” and enabling them to more easily execute those bold, audacious moves required.  

It's your turn now

So if you're thinking about tackling something big, bold and audacious in the new year - maybe a promotion, maybe a career change, or maybe you want to head out on your own in a new venture - here are my top five tips for both men and women.

1. Stop being busy and start being strategic: As women we derive a lot of value in being busy. I suspect that sometimes being busy helps us see that we’re adding value and makes us feel less like a fraud. So we’ve polished up “busily doing the job well” to within an inch of it’s life and we imagine that it’s a sure-fire track to success. One of the key learnings is that being busy is going to make you miss the woods for the trees. Being busy keeps you side tracked. Being busy also wears you out. Work out ways of delegating, automating and systematising so that you can create time for strategy. And not just strategy in your work but being strategic about your career and leadership journey.

2. Put your hand up BEFORE you feel ready: The reality is that by the time we feel ready, it’s frequently too late.

  • We know statistically that there are more women undertaking post graduate education than men, and yet it’s not translating to more women in leadership or increased salary for women. And the studying is just one aspect of where we over prepare.
  • Remember the old Hewlett Packard internal research where women will only apply when they meet 100% of the criteria where as men are more likely to apply even if they only meet 60%? Yep, there it is again.  
  • We also know that, on average, women ask four times less frequently than men for a raise!! Yep, there it is yet again.
  • Remember back in primary school in year 1 or 2, when the teacher would ask a question of the group? The boys in the class would all shoot their hand up to get the teacher’s attention even if they didn’t know the answer. Somehow they knew even then, that it made you look better to be proactive and have your hand up, rather than wait around until you thought you knew the answer. Perhaps they realised that by the time the teacher got around to asking them for the answer, they might have had the chance to puzzle it out or even if they got it wrong, there were no serious consequences. They might have looked a little silly (to the girls) but they actually didn’t really care about that either.

So volunteer for projects and roles slightly beyond your comfort zone and expertise. Just in time learning is equally valid as any other form of education and sometimes far more relevant. The entire discovery learning model is predicated on it! Don’t dismiss it.

3. Get comfortable with discomfort: We know from the science of training for any athletic challenge, that the training will be hard work and will possibly hurt. Whether you like “Biggest Loser” or not, it’s a great example that if you want to achieve great results you need to not only do the work, but put yourself out there.

Is it that the female risk brain is more sensitive and finely tuned? Is it that young girls are protected and nurtured, where as young boys are (figuratively) thrown out into the wilderness to fend for themselves? Or is it something else entirely?

Get comfortable with discomfort because it’s from that discomfort that you will learn a heap about yourself and grow.  And the reality? Our brains light up like a Christmas tree when we achieve great results that we’ve had to strive for.

4. Learn the language of value: When many women describe their professional performance they frequently use language such as “loyal”, “hard working”, “thorough” and “diligent” – even at a senior level. Remember how we like to think in terms of doing good work and doing it well? The reality is if you can’t communicate in language that the C-suite understands, connecting with overall results, drawing parallels and linkages to the organisation's overall strategy, or even as to what keeps your CEO awake at nights, then you’ll be bypassed. This means thinking in terms of big picture and context and helping people to see how what you do contributes in those big picture ways.

Susan Colantuono, a career coach for women based out of the USA, talks about the critical “missing 33%” in female business education:

  1. Strategic acumen,
  2. Financial acumen and
  3. Business acumen.

Once again, don’t wait to learn it. Teach it to yourself. Learn the language of value and start using it immediately.

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.

— Amelia Earhart

5. Don’t just sit there – do something.  While strategic action is better than frantic action, some action is definitely better than no action. No action creates inertia and keeps you stuck in a rut.

It's just like a well worn track in the bush.  It's much easier to stay in the rut than forge new pathways.
  • Action is the fix for low confidence. 
  • Action is the fix for frustration.
  • Action moves you in some direction and creates momentum. Even if it’s the wrong direction you can change course.

Many years ago someone gave me the advice that no decision is a decision. At the time I took this to mean that delaying on a decisions that was okay. Yet the reality is that action in any direction will cause new information to come to light and it's far easier to course correct (in most circumstances) than get out of a state of inertia.

So why is all this important?

Because Feminine Leadership is said to be the leadership style of the 21st Century. Collaborative thinking, emotionally intelligent approaches, looking at old problems in new ways, transparency and non linear approaches are all part of this.

Women—and the men who can think like them—are creating a future we’ll all want to inhabit
— John Gezerma, The Athena Project

So sometimes as women we need to "Step Up, Speak Out, and Take Charge" whether we feel ready or not, whether it's easy or not and maybe whether we like it or not.  Because it's far easier to create a future you actually like, from the front, not the back. And its also far easier to change something once you actually have a seat at the table.  

If you don't have a seat at the table, BYO chair!
  • 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