Women managers bring uniquely feminine styles, motivations and skills to professional life and have learned to use some of their strengths — like empathy, adaptability and strong verbal skills — to their advantage. Unfortunately, another typically feminine characteristic, self-doubt, often follows women into the workplace.
“I don’t know whether we’re wired this way or taught it, but women want to please and to fit in. We care what people think and don’t want to rock the boat, so we wind up underselling ourselves,” says Ann Hambly, president of Prudential Asset Resources, a unit of Prudential Financial, in Dallas. “I’ve seen other women do it, and I’ve seen myself do it.”
Ms. Hambly is working to eliminate this tendency. Meanwhile, she compensates for it by talking in the facts-and-figures language she knows her largely male team prefers and by taking on challenging assignments that demonstrate she isn’t timid or risk averse.
Still, self-doubt and unwillingness to be aggressive can result in lower earnings, diminished stature and missed opportunities, even for women who are qualified and enthusiastic managers.
Are you making these four common mistakes:
Underselling your skills?
Fear of negotiating?
Not thinking strategically about relationships?
Source: Don’t Let These Common Traps Keep You From Getting Ahead, The Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2008
Since the culture at most companies has been shaped over time by male executives, women are at a disadvantage when it comes to gender-based differences in communication styles.
A report, “Women and Men in U.S. Corporate Leadership: Same Workplace, Different Realities?”, by Catalyst found that 81% of women said that “adopting a style with which male managers are comfortable” is an important or very important strategy to advance one’s career.
Communication styles rooted in childhood training or unconscious beliefs can be tough to change. A first step is becoming aware of how you talk at work.
Our perceptions represent the way we see the world works and they also strongly influence those we live and work with.
Catalyst asked 296 executives of both genders to rate by percentage the effectiveness of female and male leaders on ten different leadership behaviors. Both genders said men are better at networking, influencing upward and delegating. “Women as well as men perceive women leaders as better at caretaker behaviors and men as better at take-charge behaviors,” says Ilene Lang, president of Catalyst. “These are perceptions, not the reality.”
Do these 10 terms describe you?
Professional, credible, assertive, capable, intelligent, direct, articulate, politically astute, self-confident and self-marketer?
If not, it’s makeover time.
Seeing ourselves clearly does many things:
• It allows us to control impulses and select the most appropriate behaviors.
• It shows us how to avoid reacting in negative and potentially self-limiting ways.
• Knowing our strengths and limitations makes us more understanding of others.
• Gaining an understanding of issues reduces conflict in ourselves and in others.
Working with an executive coach can help you to be clear on the communication style at your level within the company and to confidently practice this style so you will be heard at work. Of course, you must agree to be coachable before deciding to work with a personal coach.
If you know women executives in your organization who need to become better and more creative leaders, suggest you point them toward: www.executivewoman.info