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".

ZerotoHero.jpg

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

Advice to my Younger Self

I wrote this article as part of my preparation to speak and emcee (MC) at the 2015 APAC Women in Leadership and Management Summit (see summary here). The theme of the Summit was Advice to My Younger Self and the program liberally sprinkled with sessions about mindset, courage and confidence along with technical case studies in leadership, customer service and leading culture change projects.  So in preparation I scoured the interwebs for ideas, videos and some inspiration to see if there are any common themes or threads and also put a call out to my readers - you. 

WireTap: How to Age Gracefully

CBC Radio's WireTap is saying farewell. In this special video message, people of all ages offer words of wisdom to their younger counterparts.

Posted by CBC Radio on Wednesday, 19 August 2015
Helen Mirren - need I say more?

Helen Mirren - need I say more?

The internet is FULL of advice to your younger self. It seems that hindsight truly is 20:20 vision. 

 

So to keep with the theme of encouraging women to step up, speak out and take charge here are some thoughts from my own community of readers plus a couple of goodies that you might enjoy.

Dear younger self- when you decide that you will risk everything for happiness, that’s the point where you will start to grow and understand that every challenge makes you stronger and wiser.
— Alison
Go with your gut and don’t be influenced by people that tell you it will be too hard, you know better than anyone else what you’re capable of.
— Rennae
Dear younger self … don’t waste time trying to change who you are… invest time in being the best leader you can be.
— Judith
My mother always said to me “Good, Better, Best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better best”. I followed her advice, which I believe this attitude has helped me succeed at most things that I have attempted, both professionally and personally.

Therefore I would tell my younger self: “Mum was right. Have confidence in yourself: Don’t give up, persevere, do the best that you can and you will succeed!”

That said, I am very happy with who I am and what I have achieved so would not change anything. I am who I am because of everything that I have experienced; good, bad & ugly.
— Sharon
I would learn to say ‘No’ earlier in my life and to cull negative people a lot quicker than I did! I have told my children not to wait until my age to learn these things!
— Tina
Be brave, take the job that you don’t think you can do. I look at where my (male) colleagues are now, that were clearly on par with me “back then”, and wonder, if I had gone for that job instead of the one I took….
— Elizabeth
Follow your instincts and gut feeling. If something doesn’t sound right question it. Understand your surroundings and people around you. Dream big and plan how to get there.
— Josie
Write it down. Make it happen! And believe you can, because challenging yourself more reaps greater rewards!
— Violet
Make the best of every situation. And the best revenge is definitely happiness!
— Anne
Keep a handwritten or electronic journal.
Have One Page Personal Improvement Plan.
Practice value to others.
— Barry
If it feels good it is right. If it feels a little scary it is right. Still not sure? Ask yourself …If I do this what is the best thing that could happen? The worst thing that could happen? The most likely thing that will happen?….then take the leap of faith.
— Melanie
Take on the boys and challenge things that don’t feel fair”
“Seize the opportunity and don’t overthink”
“Don’t be afraid of change”
“You will fail at times but don’t be afraid because this is where the learning is”
“Look after your body now so it doesn’t let you down later. Nurture yourself”
“Take that step… stretch yourself and be surprised!”
“Trust your instinct because you will be right”
“Take more risks. Looking back that were not that scary”
“Life is too short to self-doubt
— from the team at SA Heart Foundation
Dear 56 year old - you are still young do anything you like! Don’t pigeon hole yourself.
— Jane
Look after your health because everything else is useless if you are too sick to enjoy it.
Work out the common illnesses in your family history and then take all the necessary dietary and exercise steps to prevent them.
— De
Be confident in who you are, have clarity and be proud of all of the strengths you have are and don’t compromise your values for anyone. Be true to yourself always.
— Julie
 

My advice to my younger self? 

Dear younger self: Be bolder and more brave than you could possibly imagine. Worry far less about what other people are thinking about you because they most likely aren’t. And love more. Don’t let the distractions of being busy get in the way of your connection with people.
— Amanda

Thanks to those in my Facebook community and email newsletter subscribers who contributed!

I work with women one on one to keep them agile, ambitious and focused on making a difference in their careers and communities.

I work with organisations who are working on empowering women into leadership roles.

I also help budding info-preneurs to create key messages that resonate.

What's your advice to your younger self?  Comments below.

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 

 

 

17.jpg

 

 

“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
 
 
 

If you like this article, please pay it forward by sharing it with your network by clicking the little sharing icon below.

Amanda white background cropped.png
  •  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

5 Career Lessons for Women - from the online blogging world OR Linkfluencer Conference Highlights November 2015

Linkfluencer Annual Conference Highlights

Linkfluencer Annual Conference Highlights

In November, I attended the Linkfluencer Annual Conference hosted by Linkfluencer and run by Alex Pirouz.  While some conferences are theoretical and programmed to explore the problem - this one wasn't.  In fact, right from the get go we got onto practical, take home strategies that will help anyone to tap into and harness the power of LinkedIn better - particularly entrepreneurial and info-preneurial ventures.  

As some of you are aware - I've run or attended more conferences than most people have had hot dinners.  So I'm pretty picky when it comes to the program.

 

Thanks to the organisers for pulling together an awesome technical expert presentation team including Jeff Bullas, Robert Coorey and Andrew Wickham.

My one disappointment? No women on stage. I'm pretty sure that women are doing great things on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. Would have been nice to see that reflected on the stage too. While I don't want to rain on their parade (because it truly was a value packed event and the lessons absolutely invaluable), given that women are AWESOME at connection, socialising, communicating etc there would appear to be a natural fit with the power of social. Surely there is some woman somewhere in the social media world here in Australia who is doing great things?   Conference organisers need a check list when programming so they don't fall into that trap by accident.  (Note: since first publishing this on my blog organisers have already acknowledged that they are looking at this in preparation for next year.)

So what did I learn that might be relevant to those who work in professional roles?  Heaps!!  Let's extrapolate.

1. Blog before breakfast.
So you don't blog?  Don't worry. Same same, but different. This is not a new idea, but it is a great reminder - even if you don't blog.   The early bird catches the worm.  Many highly successful and powerful people wake early and get started on their work.  And according to Top 10 Career Lessons From Powerful Women on Forbes Magazine:

“Starbucks’ President Michelle Gass wakes up at 4:30 every morning to go running. (Former) Avon chairman Andrea Jung wakes up at 5. LongtimeVogue editor Anna Wintour is on the tennis court by 6 every morning before work. These women have realized that success comes easier when you have a jump on the day.”


So what are you waiting for? Set your alarm. Establish a routine. Beat the commute and get something substantive done and out of the way BEFORE breakfast. You might just surprise yourself at how energetic you actually feel.

2. Systematise, automate and outsource/delegate.
We know that systems and processes help mitigate anxiety and increase productivity. However sometimes human nature gets in the way and we get stuck in the rut of wanting to do it all ourselves. To keep highly productive it's time to regroup and ditch that thinking.

  • What can you eliminate that might be cluttering your thinking?
  • Or perhaps you feel negatively about so its an energy drain slowing you down?  
  • Or what else is simplynot getting done because you don't really know how to tackle it?  

Once again in that great article from Forbes on career advice for women and delegation:

“If you think of your career as a juggling act of various balls, ask yourself which of those balls are made of glass and would shatter if dropped, and which are made of rubber and would bounce back. Give away the rubber balls.”


3. Drop old school thinking about connecting on social media. 
If someone you don't remember invites you to connect, do your due diligence (vet their profile) but keep an open mind. Stay curious and consider how you both might be able to help each other - it's a new hyper connected world where joined up thinking, connection and collaboration are the way of the 21st Century. In the old world we were more likely to operate in silos and structures. Now openness and curiosity are queens. As we lookfor new ways to solve old problems we just might need to think outside the square.  

“Today, the lightning pace of change means you have to be ever-curious, always ready to learn and adapt to the new environment around you. Anne Sweeney, the co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group, describes herself as “driven by curiosity” because “it gets people excited” and “leads to new ideas, new jobs, new industries.” She says, “The smartest thing you can ever do is to constantly ask questions.” Forbes


4. Done is better than perfect.
Not a new idea by any means but obviously we all need constant reminding.  Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good!  Jeff Bullas showed us his first tweet. OOPS!! Not perfect!  He showed us his first blog. Another big OOPS - and another "not perfect". However these first steps were the beginning of him building an amazing social enterprise.   

So what are you procrastinating on right now because it's not perfectly polished? What projects, what new ideas, what initiatives are on the go slow because you are feeling like it needs more work?  Take a good look and then hit the "play" button.  You might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

5. The sooner you put scalable tools into place, the sooner you will grow. 
So how does this translate in the professional world?  Mentors, champions, coaches, sponsors, cleaners, VA's, outsourcing, systems and processes that free your thinking power up and allow you to keep growing -  and thinking bigger.  It's safe not to scale - but it won't get you very far very fast and in fact will eventually slow you don't.  Change gears and accelerate instead.

“Get comfortable with discomfort! And from there you will be far more effective”


So my question to you is - what can you do right now that will move you forwards?  What can you implement immediately that will help you execute your next bold audacious move?  Or what is the one thing you've been thinking about for weeks, but haven't yet done, that will land you the role of your dreams one day?  

And instead of thinking about it? Just do it.

Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution


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PPS - want to see the Twitter highlights?  See below.



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

Feminine Leadership Traits - the way of the 21st Century

We’ve all seen plenty of articles about what it is that women do wrong.  Sad to say, I’ve certainly contributed my fair share in that space . Why? Because they get higher read rates from both men and women alike. Case in point, I’ve been publishing almost weekly for one year, and the three articles that have been most popular (and I don’t just mean by a few hundred views, I’m referring to 1000’s of views)?

woman-leader.jpg

(Hint: don’t click on the links if you don’t want to perpetuate the cycle!)

The fact remains that when there is gender diversity in the leadership team – organisations have a better track record of achieving great results including increased productivity, increased profitability, better risk mitigation, higher staff engagement and higher customer satisfaction ratings amongst other things.   

In fact, if there were an “app for that”, it would be an absolute sell out!

The reality however is somewhat more challenging as organisations and governments struggle to meet gender diversity targets, with women hitting up against road blocks, brick walls and glass ceilings of bias, discrimination and resistance to change.

“I haven’t found myself constrained by the male models of leadership because I haven’t found them particularly inspiring, so why copy something you didn’t like?” Ann Sherry, 2015 AFR & Westpac Woman of Influence

Our business culture is pretty saturated with images of masculine leadership as the ideal – strong, decisive, direct and to the point.  Female leaders as role models are still pretty few and far between in business and politics the world over and frequently stereotypes one or two characterestics such as "grace and poise". I'm pretty confident that while grace and poise are wonderful things, feminine leadership is made up of much, much more. 

Additionally there is a tendency for us to fall back on all or nothing thinking - so if one woman makes a mistake, gets something wrong or even behaves less than leaderly - it becomes a transgression for all women, judged by both men and women everywhere.  

So what exactly is it that women bring to the table that appears to add such great value? What do women do right – not wrong?  What are these characteristics/traits/values? And are they limited to only women?   We’re pretty focused on “fixing the problem” but the reality is perhaps these characteristics should instead be highly sought after by both men and women.

The Athena Doctrine - by John Gerzema & Michael D’Antonio explores a bunch of characteristics that are traditionally seen as the domain of the feminine, are great for solving problems in business, and are also seen by younger generations of future leaders as highly desirable.

“Femininity is the operating system of twenty-first century progress. Women—and the men who can think like them—are creating a future we’ll all want to inhabit” John Gezerma

Why? Because we live in a world that is increasingly global, interconnected, social, transparent and interdependent. This new world needs long term solutions, collaborative strategies and joined up thinking.  These traits are more than a simple preference. In fact it would appear they are more in the needs/must category.  So the traits/skills/characteristics that operate well in this new joined up global economy include:

  • Listening
  • Communicating
  • Collaborating
  • Adapting
  • Promoting a positive culture where purpose and profits co-exist
  • Inclusive decision-making and
  • Nurturing of relationships.

As you can see, anyone can do these things - men and women alike. They are not gender specific but more traditionally aligned with the feminine. There is an interesting interview with Janet Crawford on Forbes that highlights feminine leadership traits and how they contribute to great leadership and innovation if you want to know more.

So what can you do?

Do you remember in a recent article on negotiation and bias, we learned that when women are told that good negotiators require listening, communication and emotional intelligence, they outperformed the men in negotiating in mixed pairs?

So maybe if we remind ourselves that the traits and skills that women use more naturally are highly desirable as leadership traits, we'll be more likely to want to put our hand up to lead, to lean in and to ride out the initial discomfort and resistance to change from others.

Feminine leadership traits are alive and well and should be encouraged rather than torn down, allowed to flourish rather than trying produce little “mini me’s”, and also allowed to be diverse rather than limited to simply grace and poise under pressure.

So next time you read articles about what women do wrong, remind yourself again of what exactly is it that women do right – and that it’s not just great for women, but great for business and community too.  

Your thoughts?  Comments below.

If you like this article, please pay it forward by sharing it with your network by clicking the little sharing icon below.

 


  •  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
ThumbsUp.jpg

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

Eight insights to help you negotiate the divide between "nice girl" and "hard nosed b*tch"

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
― Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Over the past few months nearly every single one of my clients has asked for advice on negotiation and the irony is that several of my clients are negotiation experts in and of their own right!   

This got me thinking. Why is it that these women don’t like negotiating? It can’t be that they aren’t good at it because these particular women are highly sought after dispute resolution experts  and do really well advocating for others.  What else might be going on?

Is it because there is a social stigma attached to negotiating for yourself? Is it because women are perceived as greedy if and when we do, and greed is associated with appetite?

Possibly and probably. Anyone who is anyone knows that appetite and women are two words that don’t go together comfortably in a sentence even in this day and age.

But when we are going after big career or entrepreneurial goals our appetites will show whether we like it or not. If we want something hard enough it’s difficult to hide it! And neither we should.

“Victor Ciam of Remington fame - he liked the razor so much he bought the company. Big goals require big appetites!”

My expertise is in decoding the differences between male and female brain biology and interpreting how that may play out in a work environment. For example, in general women are more risk averse, which plays out with many entrepreneurial women starting with lower goals and those in corporates wanting to see more evidence of risk mitigation strategies or research done. 

The benefit of having a brain that scans for risk is obvious – it’s a survival, "playing it safe" mechanism - and frequently good for business. But the down side of having a brain that constantly scans for risk is exactly that. When we feel uncertain, underprepared or under threat, the risk part of our brain will kick into overdrive and slow things down, keep us playing small, and keep us in the “comfort zone” of safe.

So here are eight interesting insights about women, perception and negotiation that might just blow your mind or at least help you navigate the divide far more easily.

1.     Take ownership

We need to take ownership of the fact that we avoid negotiating for ourselves.

Men negotiate four times more frequently and when we do negotiate we ask for 30% less than men – according to Linda Babcock, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University and the author of Women Don’t Ask

Wow!  Really? Yes really. 

In the past year I’ve spoken with many an HR manager and recruiter. They definitely agree with this observation that women ask for raises less frequently and also ask for less when they do ask. Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In refers to this research along with Katty Kay and Claire Shipman in The Confidence Code.

We need to own this piece of the puzzle when reflecting on getting ahead - and do something about it.

2.     It’s easier and possibly more beneficial to have someone else do your negotiation for you. 

Hannah Riley Bowles, a professor at the Center for Public Leadership and Faculty Director of Women & Power at the Harvard Kennedy School, says that

"Women do substantially better negotiating for others than for themselves,"

"It's got to do with social stereotypes."

And the reality, according to Bowles, is that when we as women do negotiate hard for ourselves, there is a social cost as we come out looking less likeable.  And once again we’re back to navigating that double edged sword between “nice girl” and “hard nosed b*tch”. 

And while it’s not always possible to have a salary broker advocating on your behalf, maybe we need to accept the social cost in the short term, because the very real cost in dollars is undermining us later in life with ANZ recently calculating that the gap in salary over the span of a career equates to $700K. When you weigh it up like that, maybe likability is a small price to pay.

3.     Stop talking up how well you do the job – and start talking up your value

Last week I wrote about the issue of communicating value. As women we frequently get stuck in the mode of doing the job properly and well. We imagine that "doing the job well" is a fast track to success and we polish up “doing the job” as if  it were the end result. But when something new comes along or we start dreaming of something better, all we have is the language and experience of doing the job well and that won't get you very far, very fast.

Carrie Gallant, negotiation expert, talks about leveraging value. Be sure to bring the value of what you offer to the table – context and big picture thinking – and communicate that clearly and articulately.

“Leverage is essentially what you bring that is valuable to someone else, plus your ability to help them see that value.” Carrie Gallant, Goop

 

4.     Change what you believe about good negotiation skills

Tara Mohr, Playing Big, writes about a really interesting study where men and women were paired in mock negotiation. Some of the pairs of negotiators were told that traits frequently associated with women were great for negotiation:

  • Good listening,
  • Emotional intelligence, and
  • Good communication skills

Guess what - in the pairs who were given this information the women outperformed the men!

So instead of heading into a negotiation worrying that you aren’t good at it, focus instead on the skills that you do have (listening, emotional intelligence and communication) and leverage those for beneficial outcomes.

5.     Don’t think of yourself as a woman negotiating

I’m extrapolating here and making assumptions but the following research may throw some light on it.  In 1999 Margaret Shih conducted a study at Harvard of 46 undergraduate Asian women.  They were asked to sit a maths test (traditionally thought of as a weakness in women’s abilities). When the women were reminded of their gender prior to the test, their test scores dropped compared to a control group.  Interestingly when the women were reminded of their Asian heritage they didn’t perform as poorly.

Yes, I’m extrapolating here – but perhaps by focusing on gender all the time, we are making things worse. Focus instead on gender neutrality.

7. Reframe your language from “negotiating” to “asking” and you’ll more likely ask for a payrise

Apparently the word “negotiation” has negative connotations for many women. Another study conducted, once again with Linda Babcock involved in the research indicated that by using language such as “asking” which is perceived as less intimidating, more polite and more role consistent, women were more likely to initiate negotiations.

“Consequently, gender differences in initiating negotiations persisted when situations were framed as opportunities for negotiation yet were eliminated when situations were framed as opportunities to ask.”

Ah the power of language.  Ask, don't negotiate. 

8.    You are not likely to be any more or any less successful than men

In a recent Harvard Business Review article by Margaret a. Neale and Thomas Z Lys they write:

“When both men and women have similar expectations about compensation packages, there is no difference in their likelihood to negotiate. Empirical evidence also shows that when women do negotiate, they’re no more or less successful than their male counterparts.”

So in a nutshell

  •  Do ask. Find ways to ask formally, informally, light heartedly and seriously. But do ask.
  • Instead of avoiding the issue or preparing by reading articles about why women don’t negotiate as well as men, simply go into the “asking” with an understanding that women do negotiate well. 
  • Do prepare - it will help mitigate your hypersensitive risk antennae triggers of under preparing, uncertainty and feeling like you are under threat - and more on preparation next week.
  • Remember that when we’re reminded of our gender we are more likely to underperform, yet when we focus on the traits and skills that are great in a negotiation, we do really well.
  • And finally – there is never a good time for a tough conversation. 
"The right time, while not perfect, is now. "

It’s your career and your future – and your ability to navigate that double edged sword between "nice girl" and "hard nosed b*tch", will be in part what differentiates you as a leader.

“If you just set out to be liked, you will be prepared to compromise on anything at anytime, and would achieve nothing. ” ― Margaret Thatcher


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

Five things that undermine your ability to communicate your value

At the beginning of the year I wrote an article on "How to be More Fascinating".  I referenced Sally Hogshead's work on "How to Fascinate" and the importance of understanding your own value and being able to clearly communicate that.  

Most of us are really good at describing the job that we do (describing the widget). In fact, let's be honest here, men are even great at describing how well they do the job!  Yet we women (and I include myself in this) are far more comfortable describing the role itself and downplaying our own contribution.  

But what's frequently missing for both men and women's communication is clear articulation about the value that you offer to the success of the organisation more broadly.  

"It's not the what and the how, but the why. "  And if you want to know more revisit Simon Sinek's Leadership talk on the power of  Why.
Let me rephrase - the people who get ahead more easily are far better at articulating their value.

What might that sound like?  Examples below:

  • "Yes, I run the customer care team and I do it well - but as a result of that good work we've managed to drive customer satisfaction levels up by 2 points in the past year which drives customer retention and ultimately improves profitability, and don't forget that it costs 7 times more to attract a new customer the retain an old one."
  • Yes I head up the complaints division and I do it well - in fact just this year we reduced the number of complaints that ended up being referred to the Ombudsman by 25% which resulted in far fewer penalties and fees, plus we also decreased the amount of time it took to handle each complaint which means a significant reduction in costs,  plus higher staff engagement and increased customer retention by 15%. By the way, did you know that a 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%?
  • "Yes, I run the events department and as a result of this great work our brand advocacy has increased which we can see via our social media metrics (insert compelling %), we are also perceived seen as the "go to" provider of PD for the sector which is edging out our competitors, plus we've managed to put increased efficiencies in place due to the repeatable nature of our work,  so are delivering better than budget financial results for the entire organisation."
  • "Yes I run the HR function and as a result our staff engagement scores have increased by 10% in the past 12 months, we've seen a reduction in staff turnover which saves us both money and loss of corporate knowledge, plus we've been nominated as an "employer of choice" by the staff which means both retention and recruitment in the future will be less labour intensive." (Once again insert compelling statistic).

Now I've made these examples up, but I think you get the picture.  In fact I hope you can see the big picture! 

It's  not enough anymore to say "I do a good job".  As women we've been socialised to believe that doing "good work", behaving well and doing the right thing is the secret to success. However the reality is that doing good work will only get you so far. 

As an ambitious woman or a "leader in the making" you need to be able to demonstrate you see the big picture and how the work you do completes that picture for the organisation as a whole. You need to dream, to scheme, execute bold, audacious moves along with communicate in terms of value. 

This is not bragging - this is simply smart business. And the reality is that the people who frequently get promoted over and above others, are the people who understand how to communicate in language that the C-suite understands - the language of value.

So what gets in the way of clearly communicating value?

1. Pretending to be someone you aren't: Maybe you took the role because it pleased a partner or parent. Maybe it was something to pay the bills until the right role came along. Maybe you feel like you're in a holding pattern, until something better comes along.

So find a way of expressing yourself confidently and authentically at work - or change organisations. Clean up any "dirty little secrets", be prepared to do the work without your war paint on, commit to the here and now and step fully into the role.  You will be far happier AND more effective if and when you are able to step up, speak out and take charge.

2. Lack of belief in your own abilities - sometimes manifesting itself as "imposter syndrome" or feeling like you're a fraud about to be caught out.  This can be exacerbated by feeling over-stressed, over-worked and over-whelmed - frequently followed by fear of under-performing. 

Find a way to take time out to regroup. Find a way to get support whether at home or at work to help you get back on track (champions, sponsors, coaches and mentors are great resources).  And remember, if famous people like Emma Watson feel like a fraud, then it's perfectly normal for you to feel it too at times. Many years ago my coach told me to take a holiday. And while at the time I thought the advice was misguided, he was right!  I came back refreshed with my confidence and self belief replenished.

3. Not understanding your "why" and the knowledge of what drives you to get out of bed every day and do good work.  

Connecting with your why will not only make it easier to believe in your own abilities, but is also a great starting point for connecting with the why of your organisation. Your ability to see your own big picture, is a great starting point for seeing the bigger picture about the work your organisation does.

4. All or nothing thinking - which gets in the way of possibility thinking, thinking outside the square or parallel thinking.  

Why does everything need to be either/or?  Why not try a "YES AND" approach and see how this changes your perspective making your work a lot less confrontational, less about who is more right, and more about how can we deliver value together.

5. Lack of preparation - sometimes we go into these discussions imagining we can "wing it", make it up as we go along and play it by ear.   The reality for most of us is that we need to do the work.  If you don't naturally think in terms of value, then not preparing is just like the ostrich sticking its head in the sand.

So take time to reflect, to prepare and run through a variety of "what if" scenarios.  You need to talk with others more senior to you. You need to work out what keeps your boss awake at night and you need to do the work. This is part and parcel of a growth mindset - and while right now it might appear you are on the wrong side of a whole heap of work - if it means a bigger salary far sooner, more acknowledgement from those more senior, or simply that you love your role more, then it will pay off in spades.

Negotiation Season

So why have I brought this up now? Because it seems to be salary negotiation season right now. Many of my clients are asking for tips on negotiating and/or renegotiating salary packages or consulting fees.  And being able to clearly communicate your value, rather than describe the job, is critical.

Leverage is essentially what you bring that is valuable to someone else, plus your ability to help them see that value.
— Carrie Gallant, Gallant Solutions
  • A picture says a thousand words, and having a decent set of professional photos for your career progress is really important. 
     
  • It says you are ambitious,  keen to get ahead and that you think of yourself as leadership material. So put aside your discomfort and get some headshots done. 
     
  •  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

Feeling ambitious? Three inspiring TED talks to keep you focused

Whether you are entrepreneurial or have a corporate focus, strategically managing your time and harnessing energy is pretty important. So here at The Ambition Revolution we are constantly on the look out for resources, tools and inspiration to help you play a bigger and better game - far more easily.  And while I'm a great believer in the beauty of books as development tools, sometimes a powerful video is equally as good, if not better, as it cuts right to the heart of the issue in a short period of time.  

I've curated the following three TED talks - not just because they'll help you you tackle your current role better, but because they just might help you see yourself differently - reminding you of your "why", your "what" and your "how" in ways that expand possibility - and help you get ahead more easily.

1. Why Gender Equality is Good For Everyone - Men Included (Michael Kimmel15 mins

The first is a talk by Michael Kimmel from the May TEDWomen 2015 conference.  Michael is the author of Angry White Men and a scholar on the topics of men and masculinity.  His rather humorous take on the gender equality issue makes it well worth watching and might give you a few new insights as to why you should step up, speak out and take charge.

In a nutshell, it's a great reminder that gender equality is about both men and women, and any inequality is a societal issue (not simply a women's issue). He reminds us of the notion of privilege and how the more invisible privilege is, the more fortunate you are.  He also reminds us that when anyone has to give up power it's going to be a challenge, so we need to help people see the benefits of giving up power in ways that make meaning to them.  You can read a summarised version of his talk here

So why? Because organisations are frequently better off, because you are frequently better off and because men are also better off in the long run when women step up, speak out and take charge.

There is no Mars and Venus, but in fact we are allies here on planet earth and our interests are the same.”
— Michael Kimmel

2. The Career Advice You Probably Didn't Get (Susan Colantuono13 mins

Susan Colantuono is the CEO and founder of Leading Women. You can read more about her here.  She is also the author  of a book called No Ceiling, No Walls: What women haven't been told about leadership, "which takes a close look at the conventional wisdom keeping women from rising from middle management."  

This talk is your how.  It's for anyone who feels like they've worked hard at "doing the job" only to find out that this doesn't get you ahead very fast. That there is a set of curriculum to which you've not been privy to,  and that is not easily taught (or spoken about at women's functions) - strategic acumen, financial acumen and business acumen - "the missing 33%".  

As women we've been socialised since birth to "work hard", to "do the job really well" and to be incredibly loyal to role, department or an organisation. What happens if these behaviours actually keep you "mired in middle management" and get in the way of getting ahead?  

With the right leadership skills, the highest levels of career success are well within reach. Unfortunately, conventional wisdom about leadership won’t get you to the top. Much of it is outdated, incomplete, and ineffective. What you need is.........The Missing 33%!
— Susan Colantuono

So how? Find mentors, coaches, champions and sponsors who can guide you specifically in these sorts of big picture intelligences (the missing 33%) so you can execute bold, audacious moves more easily.

3. Why Ambitious Women Have Flat Heads (Dame Stephanie Shirley) 13 mins

From the TED website:

"Dame Stephanie Shirley is the most successful tech entrepreneur you never heard of. In the 1960s, she founded a pioneering all-woman software company in the UK, which was ultimately valued at $3 billion, making millionaires of 70 of her team members. In this frank and often hilarious talk, she explains why she went by “Steve,” how she upended the expectations of the time, and shares some sure-fire ways to identify ambitious women …"

Wow! So in 1962 this amazing woman not only started her own software company in order to provide a great place to work for women and to make serious money - but also invented the Black Box.  This is inspiring and sad all at once because it highlights that as women in the workforce, we haven't really come all that far, and yet at the same time it's quite clear that we women can and will continue to create and undertake amazing work despite this.

This talk is about your "what". Aim high. Embrace a possibility mindset. Got a big idea? Give it a crack!  Go explore it. Yes, you can. And yes, you should. Don't believe your internal mental chatter or what other people say. 

We waste too much time being afraid, when what we should really fear is wasting time.”
— Stephanie Shirley, Let IT Go - The Memoirs of Dame Stephanie Shirley

So what? Stop playing your B game, stop planning small. Why shouldn't your idea be groundbreaking, earth shattering or incredibly popular?  If you ever need proof - consider the guy who invented the pool noodle!  

“When we dream small we create small things. When we dream big, we create powerful change.”

So have you worked out your why, what and how yet?

Maybe after watching these TED talks you'll start dreaming and scheming again - connecting back with your reason for being.  Just maybe these talks will inspire you to tackle your next promotion or opportunity with a little more clarity, focus and precision.

And more importantly, who are we to be thinking and playing small? Creating a new reality for yourself and others is yours for the taking, if you choose.

Vive la révolution!  #ambitionrevolution

  • 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.

Toolkit.jpg
  • “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

Three Things they Probably Didn’t Teach you at Business School

So you’ve just quit your job (or you’re dreaming about it) and starting to establish your own brand new business venture.  Exciting times!    Well you are not alone.  Right now, there is a big shift by women to step into the realm of the entrepreneur.

Across Australia and the  USA data is showing that an increasing number of women are establishing their own businesses – either in addition to their paid employment, or as their main income source.

The gender salary gap

Traditionally, paid employment for Australian women doesn't have a great track record when it comes to salary. In fact in Australia, according to the 2014 WGEA report, the gender salary gap is still sitting at around 18.8%  - and strangely this is right back at the levels it was some 30 years ago.  Even more alarmingly, the higher up the ranks you go and the gap widens to about 45%, with the gap average being the largest in the finance and insurance sector (29.6%). 

Just this week the Financial Review provided some pretty compelling insights from both KPMG and PWC further highlighting the discrepancy in salaries between men and women in professional services firms and laying out some of the strategies that they are putting in place to mitigate this.

ANZ Bank has recently capitalised quite cleverly on quantifying the gap with some very slick media and advertising that estimates that this gap pans out over the span of a career to around $700K.

So perhaps it’s no wonder women want to do something about this and are heading out on their own to see if they can carve their own piece of pie, rather than rely on others.

Avoid being a statistic

“According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. A whopping 80% crash and burn.” — Forbes Entrepreneur September 2013 

But if you've worked in paid employment - and not run a business before, then as you might guess it's highly likely there is a HUGE  gap in both your skills and knowledge.  And that gap is not necessarily in the technical aspects of running a business.   From my own experience in speaking with both men and women heading out, this gap is about the things they don’t teach you in business school – the emotional and energetic requirements for running a small or medium sized business venture.

So in the absence of cash reserves, chats with peers, a boss who has done it all before and a team of fully qualified others in the office (those things we might take for granted) - here are a few of the things that I've found particularly helpful around remaining buoyant and resilient, bringing you closer to achieving that successful new venture you are set on. 

“Being an Entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death" — Elon Musk

1. Eliminate Frazzle

When you first head out  it is highly likely you’ll start on your own. As mentioned above, you’ll be doing everything from marketing, to cleaning, to graphic/website design, to setting strategy, from book keeping right through to social media. And the whole lot combined is a surefire recipe for feeling "frazzled".

Frazzle is actually a technical term and it feels and means, exactly like it sounds. 

"Sorry, I'm feeling rather frazzled at the moment!"

Daniel Goleman refers to the term in his book Focus: the hidden driver of excellence.  He says that;

“Frazzle occurs when the brain switches into crisis mode. Thought control shifts from the executive center in the prefrontal area just behind the forehead to the more primitive emotional circuitry in midbrain, roughly between the ears. This emergency response causes the brain to give priority to speed (over thoughtfulness) and knee-jerk responses (over creativity).”
— New York Times

In a nutshell, frazzle makes you unproductive, stressed, less creative and unable to execute bold and audacious moves.  It’s a passion killer and productivity killer all in one. It definitely keeps you playing your B game.  

I strongly recommend you develop a bunch of really good techniques for dealing with frazzle so you can nip it in the bud before it does serious damage to your motivation and output.  Here are mine - and I practice most of them on a daily basis.

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2. Undertake some failure practice

Who knew that practicing failure could be so helpful?  Certainly not most women that’s for sure!  We’re socialised as young girls to value the condition of perfect: doing things right and doing things well.  

I’m sure you’ve read by now, even if you haven’t quite worked out how to apply it in your work and life, that success correlates just as closely (if not more so) to confidence as competence. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of The Confidence Code have unearthed heaps of evidence that clearly points to the power and importance of confidence when it comes to getting ahead.

The problem being that as young girls most of us have been indoctrinated with the notion that competence will get you there!

So how does this apply to making mistakes?  Well if you are socialised to believe that perfect is good, then the opposite of perfect must be bad. Ergo mistakes must be bad.  

So what happens?  You become less likely to take action in case its wrong. You slow down and inertia sets in and nothing happens. Lack of action in and of itself contributes to lower confidence. It's definitely a Catch 22. Nip that one in the bud early.

  • If you are scared of failure you don’t take risks, you play safe, you play small,
  •  If you always colour inside the lines, you end up doing things the way they’ve always been done and there is zero need for creativity,
  • If you keep on doing what you've always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

So instead why not think about mistakes with the following framework. A mistake allows:

  • Finding one more thing that doesn’t work,
  •  One option to be ticked off the list as not needing to be done again,
  • One step closer to finding something that does work.

So bring on the failure practice for kids (girls) in school. Help them design experiements and tasks where finding out that something doesn’t work is part of the process. Help them see that testing ideas and eliminating options is equally as (if not more) valid as being right the first time.  When we colour outside the lines, new solutions to old problems are easier to see – and maybe that new way of operating that you just discovered by accident fills a gap in the marketplace and could in fact become your big ticket to success anyway.

3. Create a game out of rejection

Unless you’ve got a product or service that’s got "genie genius" (like a never ending packet of Tim Tams), the reality is that in your first year or two, you’ll have to face rejection. A lot. And rejection of your own ideas, products or services that you’ve lovingly crafted, selected and tended for months, is a whole other ball game.  

So instead of resisting rejection – make a game of it like Jason Comely, a freelance IT guy from Cambridge, Ontario did.

Jason was terrified of rejection so he designed an approach to immerse himself in his fear in order to lose the fear.  He decided he needed to get rejected by someone at least once per day.   And by making a game of it – by needing to get his rejection, this turned the actual receiving of a rejection on its head. In fact it made receiving a rejection a good thing! He couldn’t wait to ask someone for something because it got him closer to his goal of getting his rejection.

“Jason had totally inverted the rules of life. He took rejection and made it something he wanted — so he would feel good when he got it.”

So how does it work? Well if you are scared of rejection then you won’t put yourself out there in situations where you will get rejected (i.e. making those sales visits). But if instead your goal is to get 10 rejections per day, then it actually becomes a win win. Get the sale? Win! Get rejected? Win! 

Don't let perfect be the enemy of good - simply get started

So while the lessons they teach you in business school are immensely valuable, I reckon some of the lessons we can learn around failure, rejection and focus are equally, if not more, important. Even then, don't let your tendencies to over prepare get in the way of getting started. Rest assured you'll get to experience plenty of "frazzle", failure and rejection along with way - and just in time learning is equally as valid as old school learning in most instances.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
— Winston Churchill
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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

Three Signs your LinkedIn Profile Sucks

Okay, lets be honest, the quality of your LinkedIn profile is pretty subjective. Some people like to provide broad brush strokes, others go into detail.  Some write in the first person, others in the third – although in my (subjective) opinion that’s just a teeny bit creepy and states out loud that you may not have written your bio yourself, or perhaps you haven’t really stepped into your own authority  i.e. “owning that shit”. The upper rungs of The Ambition Revolution program help women to step up, speak out and take charge. Writing in the first person, owning your own opinions and taking responsibility for your expertise is an important component. 

Your LinkedIn profile is an increasingly powerful tool in your career advancement tool kit for both professionals and entrepreneurs.  Back in 2011 industry pundits were predicting that in just 10 years you wouldn’t be asked to send in our CV anymore when applying for work – but instead relying on online tools such as LinkedIn.  

And while there are some valid arguments about lack of privacy, personalisation and ownership – I’m pretty sure that agile and progressive online platforms will work their way around those sorts of issues in the future, perhaps providing degrees of privacy that enable you to upload more sensitive data and send that more private link when applying for work.

In terms of personalisation and colour – if you use a recruiter then any personalisation is all stripped out anyway whether you like it or not.  Plus with moves in the diversity space for recruitment processes to eliminate our natural human propensity for unconscious bias (and that wonderful blind audition orchestra case study used as leverage)  I suspect this concern is old school thinking as we move to level out the playing field anyway.  

Loser

So here are three signs your profile is working against you, not for you, and a bunch of tips to get you thinking about how to amend.

1. Somehow, randomly, a recruiter finds you the good old fashioned way i.e. personal referral – and in the course of their conversation with you says,

“based on your profile you’re obviously not in the market for a job”(!!)

WHOOPS!  Even if you’re not actively looking for work, LinkedIn is a perfect positioning tool you can leverage to enhance your credibility within your current organisation. If done right your profile has the power to position you as an expert and gain you industry credibility - almost instantly.

2. You invite people you know to connect and they “ignore” your invitation – even when you send a 2nd and 3rd reminder.  Okay so that might be a bit of a dramatic interpretation – but if your profile is scaring people off, then you need to do something about it.  I’ve written previously about the 6 Signs That you need to Take your Personal LinkedIn Strategy Far More Seriously – well the same principles apply here.  Get a professional headshot done, update your profile with your expertise, get recommendations, gain endorsements and get connected. Too few connections might feel safe and secure to you, but in this hyper connected world it spells “loser” and you didn’t even know it.

3. You appear on page 2 of the LinkedIn search results amongst your connections – even when it’s your area of expertise!

Where’s the best place to hide a dead body?
Page 2 of Google (LinkedIn) results.

Yet the irony is, if your profile is actively working against you, it might be better if you feature on page 2 or 3 of the LinkedIn rankings. The principle of that old Google joke applies in LinkedIn.  If, when you do a LinkedIn search for the key things that you are good and you don’t appear anywhere near the top, you definitely need to take a moment to reflect.   Are you trying to bury yourself on page 2?  Or are you ready to “shine” and be listed on page 1?  If it’s the latter, simply do some SEO work on your profile and you can remedy that in a few minutes. 

So if you are reading this article and feeling at all uncomfortable about any of the points listed, its time to get busy. A LinkedIn facelift might be time consuming but it’s definitely worth it in the long run. A good profile can put you in the running of career opportunities that you might not find yourself and get you positioned as an expert in your field - all with minimal outlay by you.

Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution

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

  • I mentor ambitious 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