In our recent record breaking webinar 5 Strategic Practices Every Woman Leader Should Know, Laura Stone, who heads up our Inclusive Leadership practice, and Susan Brady, co-chair of our Women in Leadership Institute™, shared practical advice for discovering our own superpowers and leveraging them to achieve our future vision—and to create personal and professional fulfillment. If you didn’t get a chance to tune in, you can view the recording. Ultimately, we ran short on time and didn’t get to all of your questions. Here, we’ve asked our experts to weigh in on a variety of topics that are top of mind for you—and to offer some additional resources. Let us know what resonates with you and share resources in the comments section below from your own treasure chest of knowledge.
1. I find that even though I am in a position of authority, it is often difficult to stay focused on a plan. What are your top two tips on setting aside the time to develop a bold plan?
Tip one is to be kind to yourself and to acknowledge what you are doing right. Inventory your own progress. Starting with your strengths gives your brain a boost. Studies show that positive thoughts generate feel good chemicals and new neuropathways in our brains. This results in more positive energy and creativity. When we are in this state of mind, we increase our likelihood of getting work accomplished in a focused and organized way.
The second tip is to think about one thing that you can do next to help you work toward your goal. Bold plans start with one action at a time. Don’t lose sight of your progress—recognize milestones, both large and small. Our own Matt Norquist offers some great advice for how to do this in one of his blog posts.
2. How do you reconcile generational differences with your colleagues? My behavior is interpreted by my older male boss as competent and assertive, but my millennial female employee interprets it as bossy and untrusting.
From my perspective, the term “untrusting” is an opportunity for you to get curious. One of the cornerstones of being a trusted leader is accountability. If you say you are going to do something, then you must do it. If you don’t do it, you risk breaking trust. It sounds like trust was broken somewhere along the way with your colleagues—or at the very least, there was a misunderstanding. To start the rebuilding process, ask: What do you need more or less of from me to positively impact our working relationship moving forward? Also, think about how you might adapt your style of leading and communicating so that you can garner the trust and support you need across all of the diverse populations in your organization.
Check out The Trusted Leader by Robert Galford and Anne Staple Drapau for a fresh perspective on building trust with your team.
3. As an older employee, I often get the impression that my colleagues think that I’m done growing professionally. I don’t feel done. In fact, I am looking forward to the future years of my career. How do I help others see me this way?
Do you see yourself this way? There might be doubt in your own mind about this. Think about how you show up every day and your own behavior. What does it mean to you to show up and behave in a way where age isn’t even a question?
Generational difference expert Tammy Erickson shares some great advice for the “older” generation on how to build on your professional success.
4. What are your thoughts on apologizing? When is it appropriate to say I am sorry?
Stop to think before you extend an apology. Is it truly a situation where you need to apologize? Have you messed up and need to show remorse? When we apologize and it’s not our mistake to own, we take away our own power and lessen our impact.
That said, it is our responsibility to check in with those around us if we think we have had bad impact—whether intended or unintended. To be human is to make mistakes or to say and do things that may not have the impact you planned for. When we make mistakes, or feel that we owe someone an apology, we may first wish to “own” the mistake by apologizing for our impact, and share a bit about our intent. If you’ve done something purposefully hurtful, a direct apology is in order.
When thinking about apologizing, we first must change our thinking and get curious. Marilee Adams’ work on Question Thinking is a favorite!
5. What if your passion isn’t yet something you are fully skilled in or can make a living from?
What a great opportunity to start following what you love and finding opportunities to get practice and build skills doing it. When you love something and take the time to learn more, you will learn it faster and it will open new doors for you.
What is driving your perception that you can’t make money at it? When we think we can’t do something, we can’t. We block ourselves. Give yourself places to try out what you love doing or what you think you love doing. Volunteer for an organization that does what you love. Read more books and talk to a master in your area of interest.
Be mindful of the story that you want to write. One of our favorite authors, Jon Kabat-Zinn, offers a practical framework for doing this in Wherever You Go, There You Are.
6. What advice do you have for those of us who are in transition in our careers and sitting in a place of not knowing?
First off, it is OK to know where you want to be and to be unsure about how to get there. Think of this experience as a trapeze. We have to be ready to let go in order to experience something new.
When we go through a transition, one of the phases that we experience is the neutral zone, a term coined by transitions pioneer William Bridges. During this time, we feel a mix of different emotions that will ultimately help us close one chapter of our life and move on to the next.
Some quick tips for getting started? Consider getting a coach to help navigate through this journey with you. And don’t be afraid to talk to the people who are doing the things that you think are cool or have an interest in.
7. How do I assert my ideas in meetings? I’ve been in several meetings where I’ve presented ideas, and the ideas aren’t heard. But then someone else will bring up a similar idea and it resonates.
Are there other people who are seeing this happen? If possible, acknowledge it when you see it. If you are not comfortable acknowledging it in the moment, talk to the leader who is heading up the meeting about how you are feeling. This individual may or may not realize what’s happening and the impact that it is having on you.
Also, if you are in meetings and you hear someone speak, think of it as your job to offer support to others so that their voice gets heard. Then, you are in a position to ask them to do the same for you.
8. What is the research behind the “4 Questions” that you referenced during the webinar?
The four questions are a part of The Work, a process outlined by Byron Katie that allows us to improve clarity and decrease stress. The four questions are:
1. Is this true?
2. Is it really true?
3. How do you react or what happens when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?
9. How do we know how we are being perceived?
Why are you asking this question? What is making you think about this? Are you not having the impact that you want to have? Are you getting signals from people around you? Do you have a sense for something that is not favorable? Follow your instinct; you are probably on to something.
Ask for feedback and be open to receiving it. This is part of better understanding your impact and how you are coming across to others. Consider doing 360⁰ assessment work to get a more in-depth understanding of your strengths and areas of opportunity. This will allow you to reach out to people in your network and get meaningful feedback. Include people who are going to give it to you straight, so that you have the opportunity to learn as much as possible from this valuable process.
Sheila Heen offers some great insight on how to receive feedback.