Best Beach Reading List for Women in Leadership

woman-reading-at-beach

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2018 was to read more. For good reasons. It’s a fact: People who read books live longer. And truthfully, as I have said before, leadership development is a demanding field–one that requires staying abreast of new perspectives and learning from authors beyond our own particular industries.

Now that summer is here; I’m happy to say that I am enjoying my resolution and am eager to share some new book titles with you. So, as you throw your bathing suit and sunblock into that beach or pool carryall, consider adding one of the books I’ve suggested below, whether it’s to help uplevel your leadership abilities over the summer or to offset that summer blockbuster page-turner you just tucked in your bag.

1. Dream Teams by Shane Snow

Let’s start with this one: Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart by Shane Snow. Managing high-performance teams is a topic near and dear to my heart, one that I speak about in keynotes across the country. “Award-winning entrepreneur and journalist Shane Snow reveals the counterintuitive reasons why so many partnerships and groups break down–and why some break through.” Snow does an excellent job of walking the reader through the elements that cause a team to be high-performing instead of just a group of people who work together.

I appreciated Snow’s storytelling, which made the book an enjoyable read, and his insights based on history, business, neuroscience, and psychology. It’s a fabulous book, and I believe you’ll enjoy it.

2. Applied Empathy by Michael Ventura

Next up is Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership by Michael Ventura. In this Business Insider Best Book, Ventura describes the power of empathy, and how that quality may be what your company needs to connect, innovate, and grow. Ventura is an entrepreneur and the CEO of the award-winning strategy and design firm Sub Rosa. He has worked with brands like Google, Warby Parker, Nike, and General Electric, and organizations including the United Nations and the Obama administration.

In a world where we face the reality of digitalization and our increasing reliance on technology like artificial intelligence and augmented reality, the need for soft skills like empathy is vital. Bear in mind that the people who program this technology upon which we depend come to the work with their biases–and those can easily be incorporated in the development and coding processes. One of the key skills for those of us in leadership is and will continue to be, emotional competence; the ability to empathize with, motivate, and engage our teams.

Applied Empathy provides the reader with a framework for building diverse teams that can be successful in our new global marketplace.

3. Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam

Let’s change it up a bit with this next recommendation. Most of us run from one day to the next, frantically juggling the daily demands of our personal lives and our work lives. One of the things I hear from my female coaching clients is that they are doing it all, all the time, for everyone. They tell me they don’t have time for themselves. They don’t have time to work out, time to relax, or time to recharge.

Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam describes seven principles that time-free people have adopted. “Time-free?” you exclaim. Who would describe themselves as time-free in today’s hectic world? It turns out, plenty of people do because they embrace the seven almost counterintuitive principles outlined in Vanderkam’s book. Her book includes descriptions of “mindset shifts to help you feel calm on the busiest days and tools to help you get more done without feeling overwhelmed.”

This book is packed with helpful information and examples of how people using these principles are learning to apply new thinking to formerly chaotic schedules and lives. I found several invaluable pointers in the book that I plan to use in my own life, and I suspect you may as well. Give it a read. I recommend it highly.

4. Presence by Amy Cuddy

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy is a book I often recommend to my coaching clients. Cuddy, who gave the second most popular TED Talk ever, writes about the differences between authentic and inauthentic behavior, and between social power and personal power.

At this point, your instinctive response may be like this one: “I don’t read self-help books,” writes Laura McNeal in a Goodreads review. “Metaphorically I’m a 17-year-old hearing that it would be better to start my homework on Saturday instead of Sunday night at eight. My inner voice screams, ‘I KNOOOOOOOOW.’ ” If so, read on: “I was in deep danger of switching from the Bold Self initiative to my default setting, which is Holden Caulfield at the end of his madman weekend in New York. And yet I kept reading, and it got to a point where I was curled up on the sofa with a highlighter in my hand….” McNeal gave the book four out of five stars in her review.

Cuddy describes the differences between powerless poses and powerful poses and recommends adopting confident power poses and body language until the reader can become her authentic best self.” As a social psychologist, Cuddy bases her work on her research and is considered a leader among ” ‘next generation’ authors and academics who are pioneering evidence-based approaches,” according to a review by Bridgette Beyers.

Try this one and then let me know how you enjoyed it, and whether you found it as helpful and inspiring as I have.

5. Thrive by Arianna Huffington

Finally, I give you Thrive, by Arianna Huffington. Thrive is Huffington’s account of how she manages the challenges of her career and raising her two daughters. It is an intensely personal book, one that begins by describing her “a-ha! moments” after her physical collapse upon falling and injuring herself due to exhaustion. Huffington points out the reality too many people discover the hard way: The dogged pursuit of money and power leads to stress and burnout and a lessening in the quality of our lives and our careers. Thrive provides the groundwork and a blueprint for revolutionizing the way we think, work, and live. I thought it was a fantastic book and I believe you will too.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

Stop Apologizing for Success: Be Like Miranda in “Sex in the City.”

image-of-three-business-women-stop-apologizing-sucess

Women, we need to stop apologizing for success. We need to start channeling characters like Miranda Hobbes, from Sex in the City; and model confidence and focus for all of the young girls watching us. “It’s time to be ‘a Miranda,'” said Cynthia Nixon. “One thing I always loved about that spirited redhead was that she didn’t suppress her ambitions in order to be more ‘likable,’ nor did she try to squeeze herself into stereotypical notions of womanhood and femininity,” she stated.

And you never saw Miranda Hobbes apologizing for success.

“As a successful lawyer on [ Sex in the City], Nixon’s character often found that she was more successful and more well-off than the men in her life, but she would hardly apologize for it. Why should she?” asks Rose Burke.

Why indeed?

I just heard a disturbing story about a woman who had worked really hard and had accomplished something for her firm that hadn’t ever been done before. Her accomplishment created tremendous positive change for her company. The executives in her firm publicly praised her, but then someone started saying behind her back that she was being celebrated just because she was a woman. Of course, the comments got back to her and made her feel like she should have downplayed her accomplishment.

Has anyone ever said that to you? Maybe you’ve had the same experience of hearing that people in your company are talking behind your back, assuming that you only got the job, the promotion, the raise, or the opportunity because you’re a woman.

It’s not uncommon.

Many women experience this. “They often feel the unspoken implication is ‘… and don’t you forget it.’ In other words, they got a job they didn’t deserve. They had a door opened for them because they were wearing a skirt,” writes Patti Fletcher in a post for Entrepreneur.com.

“The truth of it is that men are hired for what they might be able to do. Women are hired only if they’ve proven themselves over and over again,” writes Fletcher. I agree. Women, as young girls, are taught to collaborate, share, be nice, but not to stick our necks out and tout our achievements. We are expected to be nice. If we promote our successes, our colleagues perceive this as being opportunistic or arrogant. Even our female co-workers. In this, we women can be our own worst enemies here.

There’s a double standard at play here.

“What is really going on, as peer-reviewed studies continually find, is that high-achieving women experience social backlash because their very success – and specifically the behaviors that created that success – violates our expectations about how women are supposed to behave,” writes Marianne Cooper, for the Harvard Business Review. “Women are expected to be nice, warm, friendly, and nurturing. Thus, if a woman acts assertively or competitively, if she pushes her team to perform, if she exhibits decisive and forceful leadership, she is deviating from the social script that dictates how she ‘should’ behave.”

Success and likability are correlated in men but are not in women.

This was made clear in a case study for the Columbia Business School which profiled Heidi Roizen, a successful Silicon Valley venture capitalist. In presenting the case study to his class, however, Professor Frank Flynn gave half the class the case study showcasing Heidi’s successes. The other half of the class was given a case study with a different name and learned about the successes achieved by “Howard” Roizen. The research demonstrated the negative correlation for women between power and success.

What can we do?

As women, we need to share our success with others so we can act as role models for others–particularly those women who might be more unsure about how to self-promote and advocate for their own success. Not only does it not help us to hide behind our work and accomplishments, hoping they’ll speak for themselves, it actually hurts us. And it hurts others.

#TimesUp. It’s time for a change.

Research shows that men in particular view a lack of self-touting achievements as a lack of self-confidence. As women, we need to be visible, share what we’re working on, celebrate successes, help others and ask others to advocate for us.

Today, especially, we have a moral obligation to take on leadership roles and help change the dynamic at the top for women and men. We can create more gender parity in organizations if we talk about our achievements, share success, and celebrate our accomplishments–and stop apologizing for success!

Are you wondering how you can help? Here are some things you can start doing:

  • Don’t bury yourself in your laptop or tablet at work.
  • Use meetings as an opportunity to network and talk about your accomplishments.
  • Share your successes by email, and in person.
  • Talk about your manager and your team’s accomplishments, as well as your own.
  • Be visible in all-hands, in coffee corners or online, sharing compelling content.
  • Speak about results, not just what you’re doing.
  • Combat negative comments or tear-down behaviors by encouraging a correlation between success and likability–for all.

Need help? Contact me. I have more than 20 years experience developing innovative programs for women and men to create space for the necessary conversations to promote more gender equity.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

5 Tips for Rocking Entrepreneurial Work-Life Balance

work life balance

Many of us wonder about work-life balance and how to achieve it. And, even imagine rocking entrepreneurial work-life balance. I did a study on work-life balance with women and men. Equally, they wanted more work-life balance, but the differences were striking: Men who had partners and families were more satisfied in their career. Women who had partners and families were less satisfied. Single men, less satisfied in their career, single women were more satisfied.

This data makes sense to me and is backed up by a statistic Sheryl Sandberg cited in a speech given recently at Salesforce: Women still do two times the amount of housework men do, and three times the amount of childcare. If women have families and a job, they are working much more. For men, it seems it’s almost the opposite.

So what happens when women want it all?

I was chatting informally with one of my favorite people, and superstar entrepreneurs, Courtney Klein, recently. Courtney is Co-Founder and CEO of SEED SPOT, an organization designed to educate, accelerate, and invest in entrepreneurs who are creating solutions to social problems.

SEED SPOT ranks as one of the “Top 20 Accelerators in the World” by Gust and one of the “Top 3 social impact incubators in the United States” by UBI Global and Cisco. SEED SPOT also holds an Emmy for their partnership with Univision serving Latino entrepreneurs.

Courtney is incredibly professionally successful; she has a growing family–and is well-known nationally. I thought you’d find her take on the question of balancing it all as an entrepreneur helpful.

Melissa: “Courtney, you’ve said that women ask you regularly about running a company and having a family at the same time. What’s your answer?”

Courtney: “When I was pregnant with my first child, a mentor said, ‘The best thing you can do for your daughter is to be the best version of yourself.’

And, as a small human was kicking inside of me, I realized that being the best version of myself meant uniting my identities as a mom–and CEO. After 200 flights with my daughter before she turned two, while still learning, I have learned a lot.

I often traveled with a relative and had nannies able to be on-call in seven cities. My daughter sat on stages with me at big conferences, played on my lap while I was on calls, and attended board meetings in her stroller with her favorite toy in hand. The benefit to the daily juggling act was that we never spent a day apart.

The gift of being an entrepreneur is that you get to make your own rules. The challenge is that you often have to create a new norm – really, a new normal. 

Walking into a donor meeting with unrecognizable baby gunk on my sleeve was a common occurrence, but if I didn’t react, neither did they. If folks were shocked that my morning coffee was transported by stroller, I didn’t let it bother me, and they soon forgot about it as well. If my daughter cried and I walked out to nurse her, I simply explained that her hunger was of higher priority than anything else in the room.

This was the way it was; this was the way it was going to be. People accepted it.

There is no one-size-fits-all model. There is no scoring system for how to be a good mom, or a good entrepreneur, or both. But the opportunity we have is to carve our own path for what our identities look like together, not separate.”

Tip: Unite your identities instead of separating them 

Melissa: “There is so much we could learn from you about social entrepreneurship, founding a company, growing a business, but is there something specific female founders need to consider?”

Courtney: “The startup culture is still super patriarchal – if one statistic alone tells the story it is that less than 3 percent of venture capital goes to women. It’s even less for founders of color.

If entrepreneurs play into a patriarchal startup culture system – it will never change. At SEED SPOT we have a huge focus on diversity and inclusion, 49% of our alumni are female founders.

We owe it to our children, the next generation of innovators, to set a new narrative for what an equitable startup culture looks like.

And the new narrative of equitable startup culture must be led by entrepreneurs who don’t take the passing sexual comment as casual, slam those who ask for integrity in exchange for capital, and demand equal pay for themselves and those on their team.”

Tip: Make the new rules for what an equitable startup culture looks like 

Melissa: “My research has shown that men want work-life balance just as much as women but they don’t discuss it as openly. What’s your take on why men don’t seem to worry about ‘balancing it all’?”

Courtney: “I think that’s the predominant cultural narrative in America, but I don’t think it’s actually true. The desire to balance it all has nothing to do with gender; it has everything to do with choice.

If bucking norms makes you uncomfortable, you are going to have an impossible time as an entrepreneur. And if you conform to norms and succeed, it only perpetuates the problem and digs a deeper trench for future generations to climb out of.”

Tip: Get comfortable bucking the norms, the next generation needs to witness a new model

Melissa: “What are some of the unspoken issues that women don’t talk about openly when it comes to balancing personal and business life?” 

Courtney: “It saddens me how many women that want to have a family don’t for fear they can’t do it or will lose their identity if they do. As entrepreneurs, we have the unique advantage of sculpting our own identities. And that can make a difference not only in our own lives but in the lives of women everywhere.

Tip: Social modeling matters – share your tips, tricks and lessons learned.

And, as Courtney pointed out in our conversation, “Sometimes it’s about rocking the compression socks at 30,000 feet, or discreetly muting a conference call button while nursing, or juggling a network of nannies in cities across the country. And, other times it’s about dealing with someone who isn’t quite there in terms of understanding your identity as a female entrepreneur, or an entrepreneur/mom. Sometimes it’s about sharing a resource, or a network, or a hug.”

Tip: Don’t let fear defeat you. Reach out to those doing it for support. 

A version of this post was first published on Inc.com.

Photo: Austin Neill on Unsplash.

5 Traits That Make Women Better Global Leaders

More and more women are rising up the ranks to lead countries and global organizations worldwide. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center study, published in 2015 and updated in 2017, since 2005, the number of world leaders who are women has more than doubled. A fact that is not surprising since women possess certain traits that make them better global leaders.

Having said that, a lot of work still needs to be done. In the U.S., women hold less than 5 percent of the C-suite top spots. And, in regions like Latin America or Asia, women leading large organizations is pretty uncommon.

But, in my work helping women around the world develop advancement strategies, I’ve noticed traits, unique to women, that set them up to be influential leaders–particularly in a global environment.

Here are the top five traits women possess that make them strong global leaders:

1. Women empathize.

Being able to wear other people’s shoes is very important when leading in a global environment. Leaders need to try to understand different perspectives and empathize to be effective.

While I’m always the first to teach the premise that agility and empathy are not exclusive to either gender, it’s hard to ignore the research. An in-depth white paper by Caliper states:

Women leaders also were found to be more empathetic and flexible, as well as stronger in interpersonal skills than their male counterparts.

“These qualities combine to create a leadership style that is inclusive, open, consensus building, collaborative and collegial,” said Herb Greenberg, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Caliper.

2. Women communicate.

Communication is key to effective leadership, particularly when it comes to communicating across cultures, write Deborah Blagg and Susan Young in an article for Harvard Business School’s (HBS) Working Knowledge. And, according to HBS professor Nitin Nohria, author of Beyond the Hype: Rediscovering the Essence of Management, communication is the real work of leadership. “Great leaders, he notes, “spend the bulk of their time communicating, and they know how to employ all three of Aristotle’s rhetorical elements.”

Multiple studies over the years have consistently indicated that women are better communicators than men. Some suggest that women use many more words than men (anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 words a day to a man’s 5,000 to 10,000). One study, by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, attributes this to female brains possessing more of the “language protein.”

3. Women listen.

The female leaders I’ve worked with seem to have an innate skill for listening. When one woman is sharing a problem or challenge, the others seem to give their undivided attention instantly. They listen, ask some questions, and then share their thoughts.

Listening is a skill that’s necessary and appreciated across all cultures and particularly useful when leading teams of people from different backgrounds.

4. Women collaborate.

When managing cross-cultural teams, leaders need to understand that team members work, assess problems and come up with solutions differently.

Women seem to genuinely enjoy working with others. They enjoy learning new perspectives and coming up with solutions together. The women in my workshops always ensure each person in the room has a voice and is a part of the conversation. This means that everyone’s opinion and skills are included, allowing for stronger and more creative outcomes.

5. Women learn.

As I mentioned, women enjoy learning about other’s perspectives. They’re also very interested in discovering new ways to improve upon themselves and sharpen their skills. This focus on development makes women self-aware–crucial for both improving leadership skills as well as emotional intelligence.

McKinsey and Catalyst found that more gender balance at the top produces better financial results than those with the lowest representation of women board directors. However, there are still many challenges that keep women from leading global teams and companies. But as we continue to chip away at these barriers, both internally and externally, our organizations will only become stronger.

Do you need help creating gender balance on your team? Or, are you a woman who is hoping for a leadership position in your organization? I can help. Contact me.

 

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo Credit: Elwynn/123RF

Women in Leadership, Women in Business: What Glass Ceiling?

Women in Leadership, Women in Business
Interview by Melissa Lamson
Interviewer: Hana Al-Abadi

Q: Why are women in business such a hot topic right now?

A: I think that we have thought – at least in the US and Europe – that we fought the battle for equality in the past but when we looked around a couple of years ago and saw that positions, money, and treatment still wasn’t always equal, the subject came up again. Women finally see ourselves as equal business partners and we want careers equally to men. Because of that there’s a lot of pressure on individuals to find flexible solutions to create that equality in the workplace as well as at home. The topic of women in the workplace is big because of that pressure and that evolution. Women tend to be really spectacular working globally because they are good at developing relationships. I don’t think it is a coincidence that we are going global successfully because we are good at it.

Q: Do you believe women still bump into the glass ceiling?

A: Yes I do. I would say there are two challenges. The first challenge is that women are trained to not focus much on self-promotion because we will be seen as a threat, an opportunist, or simply not a “nice girl”. Different from men who are admired for self-promotion; its expected from men. So we’ll sabotage ourselves and not promote our accomplishments enough to be seen for that promotion or next project. The other challenge is that as women we are very focused on performance, mostly because we are socialized to be perfectionists. So we have a perfectionism issue, we need to be more conscious of not being too much of a perfectionist but to pull ourselves out of the weeds, look up, and develop those key relationships, particularly with men.

Q: What are the top 3 keys to women being successful in the workforce? Anything special they need to consider when working globally?

A: 1. Don’t be a perfectionist. 2. Self Promote. 3. Build targeted relationships. (Don’t just socialize with those people you like.)

Q: As a successful business woman, author, and consultant who travels all over the world, would you say women are more or less successful in business outside of the US/in other countries?

A: I wouldn’t say more or less successful. In the US, women have been at a disadvantage in the last 20 years because many believed the whole issue of equality in business was fixed and no longer an issue. But there is still inequality we need to think about consciously, proactively and collaboratively with men. Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most well-known people who recently came out and said “it’s still not equal and we need to be conscious of this”. She also was the first women to admit publicly that a major success factor in a woman’s career is determined by the support of their partner.

Globally, it’s interesting to see the gender roles in parts of Asia and the Middle-east. They are very distinct between women and men. Men don’t try to do what women do and vice versa. It becomes an advantage because when we see the male and female roles, people just tend to leave each other alone in their roles. It doesn’t get messy because men get a little nervous when you’re in their territory and it’s in their nature to be more competitive. So if you don’t have people stepping on each other’s toes then it’s easier to get things done so I think women have more opportunities in some other countries because of that. Having said that, women all over the world are speaking up, getting an education, and want to use that education to launch their careers. It’s economically driven, in many cases, young couples or families need or want more money and material possessions and a more luxurious lifestyle than their parents had. Its also emotionally-driven, where women want to use their brain, invent, create and shape the world.

Q: What is your advice to women wanting to start their own business?

A: Find  people who have done something similar and who are successful at it and either go meet them, work for them, and/or model yourself after them. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel. Also, it’s helpful if those role models are women so you know how to overcome specific challenges. Further, I would find men who are successful and ask them to be formal mentors to you because they will always give the male perspective. When you’re interacting with clients who are male, they will be able to help you. Particularly when negotiating money or asking for the sale, men tend to do that differently from women and its good to learn both styles.

For more information about women in business, contact info@lamsonconsulting.com