Women, Stop Overthinking. Be Like Nike and Just Do It!

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Women, and you know who you areit’s time to stop overthinking things. Take the Nike slogan to heartand Just Do It! Whatever it is. Don’t be the one who never steps up to take a risk.

Overthinking, especially chronic overthinking, can hurt your career and impair your performance. I hear the stories all the time from the women in my workshops, “I didn’t ask, and then my male peer got the job.” Or “I was waiting for the right time, and then my manager left.”

Seriously, we know that women hold 85 percent of the buying power globally, make up over 50 percent of the workforceand there are three times as many female-owned start-ups as male-owned. Yet we are still underrepresented in top management, and are less often recipients of VC fundingand we don’t earn as much money than men.

What’s up with that?

Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, the chair of the department of psychology at Yale University and the author of Women Who Think Too Much: How to Break Free of Overthinking and Reclaim Your Life, has found that women are less likely than men to believe that they have control over negative emotions or important events in their lives.

The Confidence Gap

As Katy Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of the book, The Confidence Code, point out, evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men–and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence. “Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities.

“Do men doubt themselves sometimes? Of course,” write Kay and Shipman. “But not with such exacting and repetitive zeal, and they don’t let their doubts stop them as often as women do.” Yet for all the reasons that the confidence gap exists, that women tend toward overthinking and hold back in risk taking in the workplace, the answer is simple, if not easy: To become more confident, some need to stop thinking so much and just act.

Women who take risks

Amelia Earhart was not the only highly skilled pilot at the time she rose to prominence in a male-dominated industry, but she was determined and confident, and willing to go after what seemed impossible. Amelia Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, and she was – incredibly – only the sixth woman to be issued a pilot’s license.

Vera Wang is almost a household name today. But when, as a young competitive skater, she failed to make the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team, she decided to pursue a career as an editor. As Heather Finn describes it, when she wasn’t hired by Vogue for the editor-in-chief position she dreamed of, Wang started working as the design director for accessories at Ralph Lauren. Her dissatisfaction with the quality of the wedding gowns available to her as she planned her wedding led to her career in bridal fashion design.

Beyoncé Knowles, a multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning recording artist who’s acclaimed for her thrilling vocals, videos and live shows, dropped her surprise, self-titled album at the end of 2013, she was terrified of what feedback she might receive, as Finn describes it. The album was hugely successful, and Beyoncé went down as one of the most fabulous risk-takers in history.

And J.K. Rowling, the ninth-best-selling fiction author of all time (estimated 500 million copies sold) lived as a single mom on welfare and wrote every chance she could get. Her belief in her book about a little boy named Harry Potter was so strong that she continued to send out her manuscript and to ignore the rejection letters. Finally, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was publishedand the rest is history.

So stop overthinking. Be like Nike. Just Do It. Whatever it is.

Be bold, push yourself, and get comfortable being uncomfortable.

– Angie Gels, Chief People Officer at Everything But The House.

Here are six tips to help you stop overthinking:

  1. Talk about your dreams, share them, make them come alive.
  2. Create a plan, and execute it. You can always re-tool.
  3. Confer with your mentor or other knowledgeable people in your network.
  4. Do your research. Find out what you don’t know. This will help with overwhelm.
  5. Have a Plan B. It will make you feel safer and more confident in pursuing Plan A.
  6. Use social media to promote an idea, crowd-source opinions or even funding.

Do you need help moving your career forward? Have you considered working with a coach? Contact me. Let’s talk about your options.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo by Steven Jones on Unsplash

8 Ways Women Can Win the Game

businessmen and women

Men and women “play” differently in the workplace. By knowing how to use different leadership styles, women can win the game.

Women–how many times has this happened to you? You’re sharing an idea in a meeting when suddenly you’re cut off–by a man.

According to participants in my women advancement workshops, it happens A LOT. The women view this behavior as a sign of disrespect and obliviousness where the men think it’s reasonable behavior and healthy competition.

This is one of many ways in which men and women “play” differently at work. And, these different styles can create friction and hold women back. But, if women learn the game and switch their leadership styles when necessary, we may be able to start taking up more space in the C-suite.

Here are eight ways women can play like women and win like men:

Pat yourself on the back.

A lot of women feel uncomfortable drawing attention to their accomplishments. They’ll say “we” when it’s really “I” or say nothing at all.

Gail Evans, the author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman, says because the workplace is run by a game where winning is the apparent objective, self-promotion is a way to show power. She advises not to be afraid to toot your own horn. If you don’t, no one else will.

Don’t be afraid to say “no.”

Men often have no qualms about turning down a project while women take on more and more.

Many women fear saying “no” is a sign of weakness–a sign that they can’t hack it. But Christopher Flett, author of What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business, says it is exactly the opposite. He says, “No-one promotes a ‘pile-on'”–a term he uses for someone who takes on more and more, never saying “no.”

I advise the women in my workshops that it’s okay to prioritize. “Work less and get promoted” is the statement I use over and over again. It’s getting women to think differently.

Speak up.

In the new book The Influence Effect, released this week, the authors from coaching firm Flynn Heath Holt reveal research that shows about half of women have significant difficulty inserting themselves into crucial meeting discussions. That’s while half of men say the most important thing women should address in meetings is being more confident and direct, less equivocal and apologetic.

Not speaking up in meetings is a tremendous missed opportunity to sell your ideas and yourself. Don’t be cowed by louder or more aggressive colleagues, or wait to be invited into the conversation. Force yourself to speak up more and defend your point of view. The authors of The Influence Effect share this advice–arrive early, speak early and ask questions.

Be confident.

In The Confidence Code, co-author Katty Kay says that research shows confidence is more important than competence–and women tend to focus firmly on the latter.

Don’t be afraid to take on something new and then figure it out. See it as an opportunity for growth–and believe that you can do it, even if you’ve never done it before.

Get to the point.

Men are generally conditioned to act, and so their communication style tends to be more solution-oriented and to the point. When communicating with men, women should aim to be succinct, direct and use declarative statements as opposed to finishing sentences with question marks.

Be specific with feedback.

If you’re leading men or collaborating with them, be specific in your directions–and especially your criticism.

Many men are hard-wired to let criticism roll off them. Rather than generalities, offer specific action items for them to act on.

Hit the water cooler.

The women at Flynn Heath Holt see “networking” or “schmoozing” as using the “power of the informal.” That means women can gain influence by working behind the scenes and using informal networks to strengthen relationships and get the support they need.

So, circulate the office or stay late at a meeting to find common ground with your male colleagues–talk about your kids or mutual interest in movies. This bond will extend to your working relationship and help you in the long run.

Don’t take things personally.

Because men and women communicate differently, often men’s way of doing things can be off-putting to women.

Remember that men aren’t likely trying to insult, offend or alienate you. And if they are, it’s even more important to put it back on them. You can use it as a coaching moment for yourself–and for them.

Working across gender in the workplace is more of an art than a science, but knowing these gender differences may quell some misunderstandings and even help more women get into the C-suite.

A version of the post was first published on Inc.