Global Leadership Speaker and Premier Work-Life Balance Speaker
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Archive for October 2015

A Need for Approval

Just like you, I have wrestled with a need for approval for much of my life. Does this outfit work? Do I look fat? What if I say something stupid? Our self-doubts can cause us to search endlessly for validation and approval, but our brains have the power to take charge and send us onward, despite our doubts. It is okay to wonder about what you are doing and how it is being perceived, because that is one form of feedback that you can incorporate into your perspective. But, don’t dog yourself with the negativity and fear that can come by trying endlessly to meet the expectations of others.

There comes a point where you have to just do your best for you, then get on with it. If you want to stand out, you’ve got to stand up. You can’t find your true calling or wildest success by staying in your comfort zone all day, every day, so that means you need to dare to do things that make you uncomfortable and perhaps make other people nervous. It takes a lot of courage to be a mustang, and if you can’t handle the heat, the criticism, or the uncertainty, you’re not cut out for the ride. People don’t achieve extraordinary success by doing things the way they have always been done. When you stray from the norm, those who must have an unchanging comfort zone will resist.

Keep Charging On

Become secure with insecurity. You’ve got the same hangups as other women. For example, that extra 10 or 20 pounds or remembering a word of praise for five minutes and criticism for a lifetime. But, your insecurity doesn’t hold you back. Despite your flaws, you keep charging on.

Hold your breath and dive in. No, the rules aren’t always clear. Yes, it would be easier to do it the way everyone else does it. No, giving up is not an option. The mustang woman knows how to buck up and win. Be altruistic. It isn’t easy hanging out there by your lonesome, but your sense of mission and purpose will help you through the toughest moments. Really, there is no choice but to do the right thing.

Be passionate. This kind of life sure ain’t for sissies. It takes energy, stamina, and commitment. All of that comes from the passion that drives you. You care about what you are doing and who you are. That helps you put up with a lot of grief. It also helps you focus on what matters to you and gives you the creative mindset to come up with solutions.

You live an inspired life. Be connected. The true mustang woman knows that she’s got to build support networks inside and outside of work in order to be as bold as she needs to be. To build better support networks, you have to share the ones you have. Match people who need help with those who can give it, and you’ll get help in return. Despite extraordinary odds, resistance, or open hostility, you can get by with a little help from your friends.

Challenges in the Workplace

Sometimes, we have to keep reminding ourselves that all of the emotional and political challenges in the workplace are worth the stress and effort they entail. It can be a lonely, frustrating experience.

You want to know what has become a bigger challenge than getting that seat at the table these days? It’s feeling like we deserve it. It’s holding our own, taking charge, and feeling secure enough to be ourselves. Some of America’s most powerful women executives admit they walked into their offices at the top with a tremendous amount of self-doubt in tow.

That challenge is faced by every woman who dares to stand out, whether she is the boat rocker who upsets the status quo, the woman with the impressive title who undermines herself by questioning whether she’s got what it takes, or the woman who stands by herself in a room full of men. It’s felt by the woman in management who stands in front of men and women who say they like male bosses better.

When we look for the same validation and personhood that we sought as 13-year-old girls struggling at school, we lose our ground and become our own enemies. We’ve got to appreciate ourselves because we stand out. We have fought for and won our chance to sink or swim based on our own merits, but we sometimes find ourselves drowning because of personality clashes and office politics.

We blame ourselves when it feels like the squad doesn’t want us. We may say or do the same things our male mentors did, but we keep hearing that we are doing it all wrong, coming on too strong, trying to fix things that aren’t broken, taking on the wrong issues, pushing an agenda—whatever. Some of us hear a chorus of criticism and gossip, or sense others are waiting for and cheering our downfall.

But things are getting better. Aren’t they? Most of us assume that the world is getting better—and easier—for women, but sadly, there are some places where it’s actually getting tougher. The business accounting service NYC office reported in 2002 that 73 percent of all female managers in our country are paid less than their male counterparts. If that doesn’t startle you, this might: The numbers were getting worse, not better. Ex-
amples? In finance, insurance, and real estate, women managers were paid 68 cents for every dollar men were paid. Five years earlier, they were being paid 76 cents to the dollar.

Many women have won their chance to hold mid-level jobs. They can be vice presidents of companies. But only a few will climb any higher. It’s still a man’s world, even if we don’t like to admit it. We comprise nearly 47 percent of the work world, but are just 12 percent of the corporate officers, reported Catalyst, the nation’s premier research organization for women and workplace issues. Do men see the inequities? Heck no. Only 13 percent of men said women have to work harder for the same rewards.

Be Authentic

You are who you are, so don’t give others the power to turn you into something else. Whether you find yourself being challenged to go-along-to-get-along at work, at home, in the community, or in some other place, you will find your center when you remember what it is that made you unique, strong, and passionate in the first place. Tap into that and always be authentic.

If you can’t be yourself and succeed, you are working for the wrong people. You can use good interpersonal skills, team-building methods, and high-level management training to be more effective in a tough environment, but if you are forced to be a fraud, your success will be way too expensive. We all make compromises to be effective and achieve our goals, but we can’t compromise who we are. What a miserable way to win.

As a journalist, I watched one so-eager-to-please editor actually push distorted stories on the front page, rather than tell the big boss his ideas
didn’t bear out. Once that boss realized she’d damaged the newspaper’s credibility, he demoted her. Another editor suffered an emotional breakdown after the 70 hours she put in each week to impress her boss actually convinced him that she was disorganized and ineffective. He demoted her. Another editor suffered repeated public criticism and humiliation by a bullying boss who eventually did promote her because, well, who else would take his crap? Who would want to? All of those women compromised themselves too much, hoping to gain in the long run. In the end, the first two women wound up hurting their careers, and the other sold her soul.

Always go back to your center and your sense of mission. “You have to believe in why you are here,” former Environmental Protection Administration Administrator Christine Todd Whitman told me. “Why are you in this position? Think about it. Why are you doing what you are doing? If you believe in what you are doing, then that’s what it is all about. Keep your focus on that and don’t get thrown off track.”