March 8 had a different level of urgency and awareness this year compared with International Women’s Day celebrations in the recent past. Thanks to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, much has changed just in the last few months when it comes to how issues related to gender equality in the workplace are perceived, discussed, and seen as a priority for today’s businesses and institutions. I’ve felt the difference myself during a series of talks that I’ve given at companies around the U.S. for International Women’s Day. Women and men alike are even more motivated today to find solutions that can move our organizations and our world closer to gender parity.
To respond to that need, below is a recap of key messages that I’ve recently shared with audiences that can serve as reminders of actions for taking the lead and ways we can together make a difference using Power of One principles. I’ve also included some top pointers on Sticky Floors and other popular SHAMBAUGH strategies to remind us what we can each do to avoid holding ourselves back:
- It’s all about us. Great leadership starts with you. Yet leaders who will thrive and help their organizations thrive as well are those who understand and lead with a “we” mindset that I refer to as the Power of One. It’s very hard to effectively lead or get things done alone when it comes to addressing new markets, opportunities, and complexities in today’s new world. It takes leaders who understand the importance of the Power of One, which incorporates unity, belonging, and being there for others. Shift your leadership mindset to incorporate less “me” and more “we.” Having a unified and inclusive voice of leadership is what allows organizations to thrive, which means individuals will as well.
- Sticky floors are often invisible. Take the lead and look at your internal beliefs and assumptions that translate to behaviors and outcomes that may not be working for you. Ask yourself what your own mental movie is and how that is helping or hindering your fullest potential. For example, do you need to shift your mindset away from trying to be perfect and embrace “good enough” in some arenas so that you can show up more strategically in others? Or, do you hesitate to speak up in meetings if others in the room are more senior than you? Reframe your narrative so that it validates your view and expertise; otherwise, it will be a missed opportunity not only for you, but for those who don’t get to hear your insights.
- Confidence is in your control. Contrary to what many think, confidence is not primarily about feelings but is instead a combination of attitudes and behaviors. This means you aren’t at the mercy of your emotions if you want to become more confident—you can take action to change. One thing you can do right away to improve confidence is to become aware of any sabotaging mental narratives that may be causing you to create internal bias about yourself and your abilities. Recognize and delete thoughts like “I can’t,” “I won’t,” or “I will fail.” Another way to build confidence is to request feedback from others on your leadership skills. Ask not only for constructive critiques, but also for perceptions that may validate your strengths and the value they bring to others. Be intentional and lead with these strengths when taking on stretch roles or new opportunities that you are less familiar with.
- Strong relationships make strong leaders. When it comes to getting ahead, I learned when researching my last book Make Room for Her that 83 percent of men believe that building relationships is part of their job, while more than half of women feel career advancement is more about credentials and results. Men have the right idea here—people who have strong relationships are perceived as being able to get things done. So take the lead and put yourself out there to build relationships with people who think differently than you do, as well as those who are more senior than you. Ask yourself: “Am I getting enough ROI with the existing relationships in my network?” If that answer is no, then be intentional and align those relationships with your top professional goals so you have a good reason to start building your Personal Board of Directors.
- The voice of leadership takes the lead. Are you someone who only points out problems, or do you provide solutions that showcase your strategic thinking and ability to lead? Don’t underestimate your ideas. By understanding context and balancing substance with style, you can avoid demurring when asked your opinion and instead offer innovative ways to handle challenges. And remember: you can take the lead and also be inclusive if you take the time to understand how your own bias and lens affects your viewpoint. Remember that the Power of One is about sharing the spotlight and helping to amplify others—even (and especially) those who have a different cognitive style than you do.
So as we reflect on the current state of gender parity on the heels of this year’s intense International Women’s Day, I propose a challenge to all women who aspire to great leadership. It’s important for women to take the lead and be the voice of change that inspires true inclusion, and this means bringing men along as part of the solution for real change to achieve gender equality. Every meeting or keynote or session that I am in that includes men, I have found that half if not more of these men are ready now to support equality and advancement of women. When we bring men in as our allies, our combined power allows us to co-create the change that is needed not only for gender equality, but for a greater sense of unity and a common voice of leadership.
What are you doing in your organization to co-create change so that both men and women are part of the solution? I’d love to hear from you in reply to this blog about what’s been working and what you’re finding more challenging about the process—or feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Rebecca Shambaugh is the Founder of Women in Leadership and Learning, a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review, and blogger for the Huffington Post. She is author of the best-selling books It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor and Make Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results.
Hear Rebecca Shambaugh’s new keynote on Disruptive Inclusion “The Power of One” by contacting Becky at firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about SHAMBAUGH’s Executive Coaching and our Inclusive Leadership —Women’s Leadership offerings, visit www.shambaughleadership.com.