7 ways to be a lady boss
Why did I start #ladybosswednesday and my lady bosses page? I have talked to many women recently who are in a variety of professional situations (large corporations, small start-ups, or even working on their own) and they all say the same thing, being a lady boss takes a lot of courage, persistence and emotional stamina. And most of the women say that they would rather work with men because it is easier than dealing with other women!
This made me do a lot of thinking and I decided to do a quick google search about what goes wrong and why it is so challenging to be a lady boss. I came across a great article on oprah.com "When Good Women Make Bad Bosses" and unfortunately the beginning part of the article resonated all to well with me.
The article describes the two types of character a women usually takes on as a boss: the ice queen vs. the good mother. Basically, the ice queen is described as tough and handles situations like her male counterpart. In this instance you are often seen as a bully or even dare I say a bitch. On the flip side, the good mother is soft and tries to connect with everyone on a personal level. And this results in being perceived as too nice and unable to handle the tough stuff. So how do you find the right balance?
During my career, my character has been tested a few times. Funny enough, in every situation the criticism and challenges were initiated by other women. Why is this? Aren't our lives already tough enough? I mean we have our periods, we bear children and we do all of this around many many other jobs! So you would think that women would have each other's backs, right?
Not exactly! During dinner with a friend she mentioned something I hadn't even thought of. Apparently there is a podcast which discusses this phenomenon and the rationale may go back to the caveman days where women had to compete for men's attention.
Regardless of where this behavior comes from, I wanted to talk to other lady bosses about their experiences to see what are the biggest issues. What I found from these discussions is that it seems to boil down to 4 things: insecurities, ego, fear and jealousy.
And without getting too much into politics, the latest presidential election did not help women. No matter how you feel about the female candidate, the fact that she was bullied and harassed for things in emails while her male counterpart was in the media announcing things like "let's build a wall," proves that we still have a long way to go for women to be seen as equal. Which is why, for me, things like the women's march is so important. We need to stand together so our voice is heard.
On a side note, I am loving the new Chelsea Handler series on Netflix and the advertising on what it takes to be a woman. They look like ads that would have been in play decades ago but when you think about it, how far have we really come?
Moving back to the wonderful conversations I had with several amazing lady bosses. From our talks I was able to uncover 7 tips for being a lady boss:
1. Be objective - stay away from emotions and getting into subjective discussions. At the end of the day the facts matter most.
2. Relationships matter but not everyone will like you - stay professional and open minded. No one wants to work with someone who only sees things from their own perspective. However, if you are working too hard at the relationship trying to understand the other's perspective without reciprocity, take an honest look at the situation and let it go. If it just doesn't seem to be working why put so much energy into it. You wouldn't stay with a boyfriend if you couldn't find a click would you? Often when you stop trying so hard and focus on doing your job it will work out the way it should.
3. Learn how to give and take constructive feedback. However, not everyone is able to handle constructive feedback. In this case, be sure to involve a non-bias third person. This goes back to #1. When someone cannot be objective and is getting too emotional, facts can easily get twisted around and you need someone who can help navigate the situation and see both sides clearly.
4. Admit when you are wrong but don't over apologize. Accountability is important but learn to talk about what went wrong, why and lessons learned to avoid in the future. You don't see your male counterparts saying "I'm sorry" all day long, do you?
5. Be smart with office politics but don't get caught up in office gossip. There is a huge difference. Of course, be in the know and understand key decision makers, etc. but there is a fine line between getting obsessed with this and turning it into water cooler chit chat or even worse drama in the workplace.
6. Find a woman mentor - someone who is more experienced, older, wiser and not working directly with you! Someone you can talk to and be vulnerable with that will not have an impact on your career negatively or will not judge you. And will share openly their experiences and help guide you through your tough moments. Recently I have become inspired by Tracee Ellis Ross and her videos YOUR QUESTIONS, MY ANSWERS. Number 7 in particular speaks to finding people that can support you, who don't necessarily have the answers but will listen to you. I love her tips in this video...you should check it out!
7. Let go - this is probably the toughest one. And all women I talked to agree. We tend to take everything more seriously than men do and have a harder time not holding grudges. Some techniques that I heard during our discussions include meditation, yoga, time on the beach, writing or going to a comedy show. Whatever you need to remember in life what really matters and be able to move on from the situation. Another great tip I got from a friend and lady boss is to ask yourself some key questions: "where is this noise coming from; is this really my character; what is going on in the other person's life that might blur their perspective; how many sources am I getting similar feedback from?" From these questions and answers you can then choose how much you are going to buy into it and then how you are going to deal with it. Often times the information will point you in the direction of "letting it go," and moving on.
There are probably many more tips so please share your ideas with us. The dialogue is important for us to be able to change the landscape of women in the workplace. Of course, there are so many great lady bosses already working on this that I would love to celebrate:
- Bold and Pop - Bold Boss Tribe: A place to celebrate awesome bosses
- Rachel Maskell - Mumboss: A voice for the modern day mother
- Paula Mallus - WMN Space: a conscious space for women to gather in service to their own healing
- Heather Cullen - TeamSexy247: A transformational coach helping women gain confidence & self-love to create a boss babe life
Coming soon - I am working on something very special. A collaboration of lady bosses so we can bring our awesome skills together and work on amazing projects around the branding and strategic experiential marketing space. If you are interested in learning more please contact me!
To all my fans, regardless of gender, please help me in celebrating and supporting lady bosses. Your voice matters!