Category Archives: Women Leaders

Women Leaders: Master the Art of Emotional Intelligence!

three-girls-1057194-1279x852Women leaders are scrutinized at work for how they handle emotional situations.  To be successful, follow these five tips to improve your emotional finesse.

  1. Be emotionally flexible

One of the biggest challenges for women leaders is to navigate the fine line between being “too strong and decisive” (a.k.a. masculine) and “too friendly and nice” (a.k.a. feminine).  Eagly and Carli call this the “double bind” in their book, Through the Labyrinth: The truth about how women become leaders.  In other words, it’s important to be able to flex your leadership style and hence your emotional expression.  Learn the contexts in which expressing warmth is beneficial and when stern would be a better approach.  Learn which people need friendliness and have earned your trust and which people would do better with a firm handshake.  Practice being able to move in and out of these modalities so people respect you as both a leader and a woman.

  1. Acknowledge the limitations of rational thinking

“But it’s a rational decision!”  “Why don’t they see it’s clear from the data?”  Even rational, data-driven decisions involve emotions.  Data can be disappointing and saving face might be important.  Emotions are there whether we like it or not.  Assuming people will check their emotions at the door is like wearing blinders into the workplace.  By acknowledging that emotions are present, you are taking more information into consideration when you plan your strategy and make decisions.  The book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is a great resource.

  1. Look for signs of emotions

As a leader, it is particularly important to take note of where others in the room are coming from.  Are they in agreement?  Are two team members not getting along?  Does your team suffer from a lack of motivation?  Use your senses to “feel the temperature in the room.”  The first sense is sight.  Use your eyes to see how are people are sitting.  Are they slumped back, facing away from each other (or you), avoiding eye contact, crossing their arms, or frowning?  This is valuable information for you to use as you try to influence the team.  If there’s a lot of negativity in the room, you’ll need to start from a different place than if people are in alignment.  Too many leaders skip this step and find themselves floundering in deep water without understanding why.

  1. Learn how to talk about emotions

It’s hard to talk about emotions and most of us aren’t very good at it.  Moreover, as women leaders, we may fight the temptation to talk about emotions to avoid being negatively stereotyped.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Women (and men) who are able to articulate their own and others’ feelings tend to be effective leaders because they connect with people and manage difficult situations.  Talking about emotions doesn’t have to sound soft.  Look at these examples.  “That sounds frustrating.”  “I’m anxious about the upcoming deadline.”  “I’m really glad you’re back. We missed you while you were gone.”  “It’s crushing to lose a sale that big. How are you handling it?”

  1. Allow people to express emotions

Have you ever been in a meeting where nothing got done because there was an underlying tension that kept people from being productive?  Sometimes it helps to start a meeting with a 10-minute check-in or vent.  If you give people a chance to let it out, they can get it out of their system and move on and stay focused.  The key to success in this situation is to close the vent or celebration session and tell people it’s time to get down to business.  Usually, people are calmer and can move on.  If someone is holding on, however, you may need to invite them to take a break and come back when they’re ready or offer to set up a one-on-one after the meeting.

Bill Treasurer: 5 criteria for evaluating whether a risk is right or wrong for you

BBill Treasurerill Treasurer is an expert on Risk. He has graciously shared tips for assessing whether taking a risk is right for you. Millennials, especially, consider Bill’s advice. Women too. You have been raised in a risk-averse environment, but risk is actually a good thing if done right.

Bill Treasurer: 5 Criteria for Evaluating Whether a Risk Is Right or Wrong for You

When considering a risky move, most people resort to simple math, asking “What will I get and what do I stand to lose?” But big moves need to consider more than just gains or losses. It takes more than simple math to judge whether to take a risk. As explaiRight Risk book coverned in one of my other posts a Right Risk is one that is congruent with your deepest held values. It’s a risk that should help close the gap between who you are and who you aim to be. What matters most isn’t how much you stand to gain from the risk. What matters most is whether the risk is true for you. Risk should be about more than compensation. It should be about destination. Not, “What will this risk get me”, but “Where will this risk take me.”

Here are 5 criteria that you can use that will help you access your risk at a much deeper level than just jotting down a pro and con list. Using the 5 Ps won’t guarantee that your risk won’t be a wipeout, but they will increase the probability of success.

Passion: A Right Risk is something we care about intensely. Right risks are often ordeals, and ordeals involve suffering. The word “passion” comes from the Latin verb pati, literally translated as “to suffer.” By arousing the strongest, most untamed parts of our nature, and stirring up the wild mustangs in our soul, our passion gives us the raw energy and wherewithal to suffer through the anguishing moments that often accompany right risk. Ask, “What about this risk energizes me?”

Purpose: A Right Risk is taken out of a deep sense of purpose. Purpose serves to harness our passions and give them direction. Right Risks are rich with meaning. They stand for something beyond sensory or ego gratification. Ask, “How will this risk make me a more complete person? How will this risk further my life’s purpose? How will it help me get to where I want to go?”

Principle: Right Risks are governed by a set of values that are both essential and virtuous. As mentioned, risks are essentially decisions, and when facing a decision of consequences, principles form a set of criteria against which the risk can be judged. The principles that right- risk takers often use as the basis of their decision-making include truth, justice, independence, freedom, mercy, compassion and responsibility. Ask, “By taking this risk, which of my deepestly held values or ideals will I be upholding?”

Prerogative: Right-risk taking involves the exercise of choice. Right-risk takers view the power to choose as a privilege, and then honor it as such. By consistently making choices at a conscious level, they are better able to make superior judgment calls at an instinctual level — in fast-moving situations. After all of the input of naysayers and yea-sayers are considered, the Right-risk taker makes the final judgment as to whether the risk is right for him or her. Ultimately, a Right Risk is an exercise of free will. Ask, “Am I taking this risk because I have to, or because I choose to?”

Profit: A Right Risk should come with a real potential for gain. Risks are, well, risky. And in exchange for assuming the potential risk of hardship, you are entitled to some real and unequivocal upside gains. Notice, however, that Profit is the fifth “P”. It’s the criteria that should be assessed last, otherwise you’ll be in danger of getting too enamored with the pot at the end of the rainbow, which can distort your decision-making. Ask, “What gains do I hope to reap from this risk?” and “How enduring are the gains likely to be?”

Bill Treasurer is the author of Leaders Open Doors, which focuses on how leaders create growth through opportunity. Bill is also the author of Courage Goes to Work, an international bestselling book that introduces the concept of courage-building. He is also the author of Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace, an off-the-shelf training toolkit that organizations can use to build workplace courage. Bill’s first book, Right Risk, draws on his experiences as a professional high diver. Bill has led courage-building workshops for, among others, NASA, Accenture, CNN, PNC Bank, SPANX, Hugo Boss, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. To learn more, contact info@giantleapconsulting.com.

Women: Increase Your Presence in Meetings

Lessowoman running meetingns from “Managing Yourself: Women, Find Your Voice” by Kathryn Heath, Jill Flynn, and Mary Davis Holt, in the June 14 issue of Harvard Business Review.

By Joanie Connell

Last week I attended a webinar and was surprised at how useful it was. In it, Kathryn Heath summarized the findings of research she conducted with her co-authors about how women can increase their presence in meetings. A few key messages stood out to me as new and important and I’d like to share them with you.

Be actively present. This means to be engaged in the discussion, not reading emails, and to actively participate and capture others’ attention. Two things can greatly improve your presence in a meeting. First, be concise. To be concise, it helps to prepare statements in advance and practice them. Yes, that means actually rehearse what you are going to say. Women, more than men, tend to begin statements with preambles and qualifiers. Ditch the preambles and go straight for the message. You can qualify it later. Strong (sometimes blanket) statements grab people’s attention.

Make powerful statements that have a strong point of view. These statements also come out of the preparation piece. To know where you stand on an issue requires you to know what the important issues are, do your research on which position you ought to take and to know where others stand before you enter the meeting.

Being actively present also requires you to insert yourself into the discussion. I say “insert yourself” very deliberately because it is critical for you to take responsibility for being heard. Don’t wait around for others to ask you your opinion or wait around for you to get to your opinion when you are not concise. Don’t shut down when others interrupt you. The best advice I heard from Heath was: “Don’t let yourself be interrupted.” This message came from the men she interviewed. Have you ever watched men have a heated discussion? They interrupt each other, talk over each other, and talk louder and louder until they are heard. Don’t be afraid to “enter the ring” and engage in the competition for the floor.

Strategy helps. It’s not only about being the loudest or most aggressive. Timing is key. Be actively engaged by watching the conversation intensively. To use a sports metaphor, think of playing basketball or soccer and watching the ball intensively to jump in and steal the ball at just the right time. You are watching the person’s moves, anticipating where they are going and who they are going to pass the ball to.

The same strategy works in meetings. Make transformational statements and ask transformational questions at opportune moments to “steal” control of the conversation and take it in a new direction.

Heath and her co-authors offer more valuable advice, like ask for feedback and don’t ruminate over failed attempts in meetings. Prepare, practice, and persevere. It takes time to improve at anything. Keep at it until you feel that you are getting the results that you want.

One question that Heath did not address: What does it mean to be successful in meetings? Depending on the context, it could be to win, to have influence over a decision, or to help the team come up with the best solution possible. I would add to Heath’s advice that it is important to keep your goal in mind and not dominate the meeting purely for the sake of having a presence. This can alienate people, not get them on your side. Heath’s techniques can help you advance the team’s best interests if used for that purpose. After all, a good leader does, in fact, work for the team.

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Special thanks to Becky Robinson of Weaving Influence for putting together this webinar and inviting me to attend.

To Women in Business: Lessons from Female Heavy Metal Singers

By Joanie Connell and John Thornburgh

Letangry women’s face it: women in the workplace aren’t exactly known for supporting each other.

Rosa Brooks exemplifies this with her recent Washington Post op-ed piece titled “Recline, don’t ‘Lean In’ (Why I hate Sheryl Sandberg).” In the op-ed, Brooks attacks Sandberg’s “meticulously coiffed hair,” among other things. Can you imagine a man writing a piece like this? While Brooks’ article raises many points worthy of consideration, it’s unfortunate that she preyed on the stereotype of women cat-fighting to grab the attention of the media. The documentary film Miss Representation captures many more examples of how women tear down other women in the workplace and the media.

Research supports the notion that women don’t support women at work. For example, the 2014 Survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that women who bully target other women 68% of the time, whereas men who bully tend to target both men and women more equally (43% and 57%, respectively). “Why do mature, normally reasonable women do this to each other?” Asks Lisa Quast in her recent Forbes article. Good question! Quest offers many reasons, as does Amy Tennery in her recent article in Time. Competitive threat, stereotype threat, lack of training in team sports, and tokenism in a male dominated business world are a few explanations given.

Alice Eagly and Linda Carli, in their thoroughly researchedwoman with man at work book, Through the Labyrinth, explain that women have to be assertive yet feminine and work their way up the ladder in a more subtle, convoluted way than men. If women act like men, they are perceived as “bitches” (our word not theirs). That is a fate worse than death to any aspiring business woman. It doesn’t have to be this way though and women heavy metal singers are proving it.

You don’t have to be a fan of heavy metal music to recognize that it is the epitome of a male dominated culture. The “good old boys” consist of Aerosmith, Metallica, Van Halen, Scorpions, and Black Sabbath, to Kissname a few. They are a menacing, shrieking, growling, aggressive bunch, and metal fans aren’t known for being particularly feminist. Discussion boards on metal sites such as Blabbermouth.net are filled with misogynistic comments about how women don’t belong, and when one leading female-fronted band opened for Metallica in France, the audience booed as soon as the band took the stage. Record labels haven’t always helped either. For example, Delain singer (and Gender Studies graduate student) Charlotte Wessels had to fight efforts by her previous label to Photoshop her legs.

How have women broken into the male-dominated metal culture? If you aren’t a fan of heavy metal music, you might be surprised to know that there is a strong feminine presence developing. If you are an American (metal fan or not), you may be particularly unaware of this trend. That is because it’s largely a European trend. (Coincidentally, European business women are faring better than American ones too. What’s up, America?)

Women in business could learn a thing or two from women in metal. They know how to support each other and break into a male-dominated business.

What are female heavy metal singers doing that gets them ahead? First of all, they are not afraid to be themselves—feminine and beautiful and a stark contrast to the male singers. Secondly, they are notoriously supportive of each other. For example, established women metal singers regularly collaborate with up-and-coming artists they like, helping them to grab the spotlight. For example, Amy Lee of Evanescence performed with up-and-comer Lzzy Hale of Halestorm several times recently while they were on tour together. This helped promote Halestorm’s breakthrough. Lee explained: “It’s cool to have another female on the road. Not just because it inspires me musically—because it does—it makes me feel this sort of pride and ‘yeah, go get’em’ when I see a chick rocking.”

women metal supporting each other clippedHighly successful women metal singers, far from being divas who want all the glory for themselves, also regularly collaborate on each other’s albums. This delights fans and is a win-win for the artists. For example, Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish) appeared with Sharon den Adel on Within Temptation’s latest album. In the “making of” video, Sharon relays that the media had been pitting the two singers against each other for years and asking the two of them to comment on each other, even though they had never met. When they finally did meet for this endeavor, they clicked instantly and sang a beautiful duet together.

Women in metal are also highly supportive of each other online. They promote each other’s work on Facebook, and for a time even had an official support network called Eve’s Apple with over forty members worldwide. This group Eve's Apple at MFVFrecently declared “mission accomplished” and ended its formal role, but the members remain sisters who look out for each other and advise each other about the music business. One of Eve’s Apple’s leaders, VK Lynne, explains “in the media today, competition between women is very pervasive. It’s not just talked about. It’s fostered, and it’s supported, and it’s encouraged. And at Eve’s Apple, we believe that not only is that not healthy but we simply don’t want it and so we won’t do it.” There’s nothing stopping women in the more traditional workplace from doing the same.

It’s okay to be different from men and sometimes it’s even better.

What if women business leaders started just being themselves instead of tirelessly tight-roping across the line between masculine assertiveness and feminine modesty? There is diverse meetingalready research out there that shows companies with gender-diverse management boards perform better. What if women were valued for being women in the world of business? If women supported women, there might be enough women leaders to make that happen. Female heavy metal singers have; they are definitely not like men and no one wants them to be.

Share the spotlight with an up-and-comer.

How cool would it be if high profile women business leaders helped up-and-coming women to “grab the spotlight?” Men do that for each other. It’s called “sponsoring” someone. It’s putting your name on the woman presentingline for the other person’s success and highlighting the other person to help them get ahead. Women tend to avoid this and see more junior women as a threat. For example, as reported in Science Magazine, a recent study found that, “in academia, women collaborate less with their same-sex juniors” than men do. Women see that there are so few slots available to women in the higher echelon that they don’t want someone else to take theirs. If there were more women in the higher echelons, women wouldn’t see other women as threats because there would be room enough for everyone.

Metal women singers see other women as helping their cause, not hindering it—the more the better. As explained by French singer Clémentine Delauney, “[We] can help and protect each other instead of being rivals. … There are not a limited number of places in the scene. Jealousy is ridiculous and doesn’t help you get better.” When metal women singers sponsor other women, the only threat to them is if the women don’t do a good job. Thus, they do their best to bring the other women up, not push them down. At Eve’s Apple: “We wanted to help new singers understand the music industry and we wanted to show everybody that the female fronted rock/metal scene is not about bitch fights, gossip and diet marathons. It was the beginning of a new family and a whole new world opened up to many of us when we found out that we are not alone—and not lonely—in this business.”

Move from collaborative to collaborating.

Women are known for having a more collaborative leadership style than men, but that is not the same thing as collaborating. The collaborative leadership style is more democratic and consensus-driven than directive and authoritarian. Although women may be more collaborative, they don’t necessarily collaborate with each other.

A photo essay in BusinessWeek shows 11 business partnerships that changed the world, like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. They are almost entirely partnerships between men and none are entirely between women. What would it look like if women leaders collaborated with each other to change the world? Women in music are leading the way. In addition to heavy metal singers, pop singers, like Britney Spears, Madonna, Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston have made top hits by singing together. Many business initiatives exist to encourage women to collaborate with each other, particularly in science and technology. The idea is clearly out there. Let’s see more women do it.

Promote other women’s work in social media

Social media has been called a narcissist’s heaven because it is a venue to shamelessly self-promote and see yourself on screen. However, experts in social media suggest that the best way to get out there is to promote others. Metal women singers have learned this, and so can women business leaders. Some women have started. For example, Oprah promotes women and is currently supporting Lavern Chatman for congress. Lean In promotes women and offers Lean In Circles as a way of sharing and learning together. This is start, but let’s see more!

Learning from heavy metal singers is not as much of a stretch as you might think. Music is art, but it is also a business. Heavy metal female singers are making deliberate business decisions to collaborate with and support other women. As a result, female metal stars are growing in popularity, with more bands, releases, and fans each year. The Pretty Reckless (featuring ex-Cindy Lou Who, Taylor Momsen), recently topped U.S. rock radio, only the second female-fronted band rock onin the last 24 years to do so, after Halestorm last year. Both bands benefited from the support of veteran Evanescence, and both bands in turn have supported other female-fronted bands.

Rock on, heavy metal women, rock on!

Contributors:
Joanie Connell has 15 years experience as an organizational consultant and has a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley (http://www.flexibleworksolutions.com).

John Thornburgh is a contributor to Sonic Cathedral, a webzine devoted to female-fronted metal (http://www.soniccathedral.com/webzine/).

Thanks to Tim Tronckoe for permission to use his photograph of Eve’s Apple at the Metal Female Voices Festival in Belgium (https://www.facebook.com/tim.tronckoe).

Images of Sharon den Adel and Tarja Turunen are from Within Temptation’s “Paradise (What About Us?)” music video.

Tech Tips for Presentations

  man on computerBy Joanie Connell

How much time do you waste in meetings—in web meetings or in person—waiting for the technology to work? Here are some tips for making your meetings more efficient.

  • Find out what kind of technology you’ll be using for your presentation.
    • Your own laptop? USB or other connector? If you have an Apple computer, make sure there is a plug adaptor for the projector cable.
    • Someone else’s computer? Apple or PC? What software is installed on the computer?
    • Do you need audio for your presentation? If so, make sure there will be sound.
    • Do you need the Internet for your presentation? Figure out wifi or other connections in advance, not to mention firewalls and passwords needed.
  • Get there early to set up and make sure it works.
    • If you can do a dry run the day before, that is the best in case there is a problem.
    • If it’s “just in time,” get there at least a half hour early. I recommend 45 minutes but some people won’t be willing to meet you that early. Perhaps you can meet the IT person early to set up.
    • If the person who is hosting you is not tech savvy, get someone who is to help you out, like an IT person. If something goes wrong, you’ll need them. Ask them to stick around for 5 minutes after you start to make sure everything is going smoothly. If the meeting is critical, have the IT person stay the whole time.

I gave a presentation last week in an auditorium full of people. I followed the steps above and still had a major tech failure. Per the host’s instructions, I put my presentation files on a memory stick and plugged it into his laptop. I opened the PowerPoint presentation and tested the videos I was planning to use a half hour before the meeting. Everything worked perfectly. Then, between the times that others spoke and when I got up to speak, the computer ran a hardware scan and installed some updates. (It was clear he hadn’t used his laptop in some time.) When I got up to speak, my video files were blocked. There I stood, in front of an auditorium full of people, trying to figure out why my videos wouldn’t run, wishing I had insisted on using my own laptop.

This is why it is important to always have a backup solution (or two or three). Here are some tips for backup solutions.

  • If you are using your own laptop, bring a memory stick with the presentation in case you have to switch to someone else’s computer.
  • If you are supposed to use someone else’s computer, bring your own laptop anyway. Bring a power cable! Bring extra cables to connect with various projectors and the Internet. Some people still use old equipment and not everyone has wifi available.
  • If you need the Internet for your presentation, bring a wireless modem. However, I highly recommend you find a way around depending on an Internet connection for your presentation. Download the files ahead of time if possible. You may find you’re presenting in a cinderblock room in the middle of a building and there is no signal on your cellular modem.
  • Make a PDF copy of your presentation.
  • Bring paper (yes paper!) copies of handouts.
  • Email out slides or resources to the host and/or participants ahead of time.

The most important backup solution is to bring your sense of humor along. Stay flexible and move forward even if the technology doesn’t work. Talk through a video example, write on the white board (bring pens!), or turn it into an interactive discussion. It’s even better if you have a backup plan thought out in advance, but no matter what; don’t let a technology glitch stop you from getting your message across. Humans have been communicating for centuries without computers. We haven’t lost the ability yet.

 

Why Is Pregnancy a Women’s Problem?

baby at laptopBy Joanie Connell

Babies are a part of life. We were all babies once. Most of us will have babies. And, whether or not we do, we need babies to continue our society. So, why is it that the burden of having babies has landed completely on women?

The recent HBR discussion on whether women are obligated to tell potential employers that they are pregnant when they interview is a great example of how women are blamed for having babies. The conundrum is: tell the potential employer and don’t get hired or don’t tell the potential employer and be called a liar. It’s a lose-lose situation for pregnant women looking for work.

Are men liars if they don’t tell their potential employers that they have medical conditions that might affect their work? It’s interesting that pregnancy is considered a medical condition that needs to be disclosed, even though people have fought hard to have the right to privacy over their medical issues. The disability act requires employers to find a way to deal with a disability, but why don’t employers have the same obligation to find a way to deal with pregnancy? Isn’t that gender biased?

In an ideal society, we’d all be honest with each other and give each other warning when things were about to change. But this is not an ideal society. Employers don’t do it and neither do employees. Why are women held to a higher standard?

More to the point, however, is that we all have to bear the cost of having babies and we all get to reap the benefits of having babies too. We think so often about how people who don’t have babies are saddled with the cost of other people (especially women) having babies. But, could it actually be the other way around? It could be argued that people who don’t have babies are free riders of a sort.

The problem with the blame game is that it blocks productivity. We’ve seen this on a large scale, for example, when Congress disagrees on the budget and when presidents are investigated. Our government comes to a standstill. People get so rooted into a position that they bring everyone down disagreeing. They’re fighting for win-lose but everyone loses.

Pregnant womanWe’re asking the wrong questions about pregnancy at work. We shouldn’t be thinking at the granular level of what he said/she said or if he/she should hire this person or that. The reason why women are losing out is that employers keep thinking at the level of “would this person be better for me over the next 3 months” rather than what is the best solution for the company over the long-term? This is a pennywise, pound foolish approach. Women are losing wages and opportunity and companies are losing access to a huge portion of the productive workforce.

Let’s turn pregnancy into a win-win proposition by asking ourselves to challenge our current assumptions and think in new and creative ways. Wouldn’t we all be more productive if we started implementing solutions rather than blaming and harping on problems of pregnancy at work—if we found ways to leverage the productivity of pregnant women and mothers, rather than write them off as being less worthy? Wouldn’t we all be better off if we found a way to collectively bring in the next generation of leaders and employees while supporting the current leaders and employees? Think of how much more we could get done!

Pregnancy is not a women’s problem. It is a part of life that can drain or regenerate our society, depending on how we handle it.