8 Tips for Women Who Struggle to Take Time for Themselves

image-of-woman-relaxing

As Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, said recently at a conference: The one word you’ll never hear associated with women is “Relaxed.”

Have you scheduled a summer vacation yet? Are you someone who struggles to take time for yourself? If so, you may want to take a second look at your calendar. See if you can find some time to get away from work and family obligations and relax. If this sounds like an unrealistic luxury, or if you feel like your boss can’t spare you, listen up: Research shows that taking a vacation is good for you–and for your organization.

How is you taking a vacation good for your firm?

If you’re burnt out or bored-out, it’s not good for anyone. You, your team, your boss, your household or partner. Taking summer vacation, and taking time for yourself, which I call “You Time,” is essential.

And, as it turns out, summer vacation is not only beneficial for you but also for your company’s bottom line.

According to research published by the recognition and engagement company, O.C. Tanner, for employees who regularly take a one-week or more extended vacation in the summer, there are positive correlations between their workplace engagement levels and work ethic. The study found that 70 percent of respondents reported feeling highly motivated to contribute to the success of their organizations, as opposed to only 55 percent of respondents who do not regularly take a week-long summer vacation.

The demands of work and family are stressful–but especially for women.

We all juggle the daily demands of our personal lives and our work lives, but women, in particular, describe feeling pressured and struggle to take time for themselves. 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.

And I get it.

As women, we are socialized to take care of others. In addition to work, most women manage their children and family’s obligations. An increasing number of women also these days care for their aging parents. “According to the July 2016 Journal, Brain and Behavior, on top of juggling multiple responsibilities and roles, women have different brain chemistry and have to deal with hormone fluctuations,” says Yvonne Williams Casaus. “Also, women tend to cope with stress differently. The hormone fluctuations are the kicker,” she adds.

Women are also groomed to be perfectionists so we don’t know how to let go of the 20-30 percent of tasks that may not be vitally important–or can wait a day or two. Seriously, we need to remember: If the kids go to school with two different color socks or store-bought cupcakes, it’s really not the end of the world.

The importance of sleep.

We tend to underestimate the importance of getting enough rest. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, sleep is involved in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. In today’s global workplace, we’re online 24/7, but we shouldn’t be. We need to set those boundaries for ourselves because those boundaries aren’t being set for us. And, as women, we often find this hard to do.

As I said, I hear stories about the struggle with stress and burnout from my clients all the time. For example, a workshop participant who worked “part-time” recently described her typical day:

“I get up at 5 am, get online, then wake up the kids, get them ready for school, eat breakfast, make lunches, take them to school and go to work. I work five hours straight through without breaks–since I’m only part-time. Then I leave for school, pick up the kids, take them to a play-date or host one, get back online, make dinner, get the kids ready for bed, get back online or do house chores I couldn’t get to, and go to bed around 11 pm.”

She said all this in front of a male executive, and he looked her incredulously after she finished describing her day, and said, “I would never do that!” Meaning, he would never live his life like that. He didn’t respect the fact that she was essentially working full-time in a part-time position. He also was puzzled by the fact that she managed home, family and work without taking time for herself, to recharge and release stress.

What to do: Eight tips for recharging when you struggle to take time for yourself.

Making time in your life for yourself is critical. It doesn’t always feel possible, but there are things you can do. If taking a vacation this summer is not an option for you, here are some tips to start taking a little bit of time every day to recharge. Start here:

1. Begin to make yourself the priority–even if it’s only for a small amount of time every day.

2. Stop beating yourself up. Silence that critical inner voice that says you have to be perfect.

3. Do something, even something tiny that will make you feel good each day.

4. Make time to rest. Even a few minutes of deep breathing will help.

5. Start meditating. Just five minutes can make a massive difference.

6. Exercise. Walk more, or find a family activity that you can all do together to be active.

7. Begin planning a future vacation. Half the fun is in the planning.

8. Find a colleague to be your “accountability buddy” and keep each other accountable for finding that “You Time.”

Need more help? Contact me. I have more than 20 years of experience coaching women to take charge of their lives and become more empowered.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo: 123rf.com

Global Perceptions of Sexual Harassment [Survey Results]

The following infographics depict attitudes and opinions of seven European countries and the U.S. as they pertain to what is considered sexual harassment—and what is not. The first combines the results from a survey conducted in Europe with the results of the same survey conducted in the United States. It is interesting to see that the U.S. dissents more radically than Europe in answers to the question “offers a woman sexual favors.”

I wonder, does that mean the U.S. survey participants don’t see offering sexual favors as necessarily unwanted, or do they perhaps understand the word “offer” as a negotiation point and not force?

Also, I found it fascinating to see the dramatic variation of responses from France, Denmark, and Finland to the questions around jokes, looking at a woman’s body, and whistling. Moreover, how much difference in opinion is expressed, across all countries, when it comes to jokes with sexual content.

Finally, given the publicity around a letter that was co-signed and published by 100 prominent French women in January 2018 that branded anti-sexual harassment campaigners “puritanical,” I was struck by how France seems to consider all of the questions, more than other countries, possibly examples of sexual harassment.

The chart below provides additional detail on the survey responses from men and women in the United States.

image-of-US-perceptions-of-sexual-harassment

After you have looked at the surveys’ responses, what are your thoughts or interpretations?

The Real Reason Women Are Leaving Your Company

Let’s get this out of the way: The real reason women are leaving your company (and a myriad of others around the world) is not just because they are moms having babies.

Or lack ambition.

In fact, research from the Pew Research Center shows that 57 percent of women surveyed consider ambition to be an essential trait for a leader; while a fully 63 percent of Millennial women and 61 percent of Gen X have the same opinion.

And yet, they are leaving.

As documented in LeanIn’s Women in the Workplace 2017, 17 percent of women are leaving their jobs in mid-career, which, for a company of 500, represent a loss of 85 employees. Those numbers should concern us all.

As I wrote in my book, #WomenAdvance, women hold 85% of the buying power globally, make up over 50 percent of the workforce, and there are three times as many female-owned start-ups as male-owned. Yet, there are still barriers to women who want to rise to the top of today’s most successful corporations.

So, what’s going on?

A survey published by ICEDR finds that women around age 30 cite pay, lack of learning and development, and a shortage of meaningful work as the primary reasons they leave organizations. Not motherhood.

I hear other reasons too, in my women advancement coaching programs. The participants describe having to work harder to get promoted–and fear having to work harder at their job once promoted.

But what they need to do is to work smarter not harder.

And, it’s not that they are less ambitious than men are. In fact, according to a survey from Accenture, “…moms who return to work after having a child are just as ambitious as women without kids–or, in some cases, even more ambitious,” states Maricar Santos, writing for Working Mother.

Women are leaving your company mid-career because they are being paid less, they are not being offered development opportunities to help them move ahead, and they don’t find the work meaningful enough to sustain them. They leave, looking for something better.

Here’s what I would tell you

Understand that, while women may express more comfort in an individual contributor role, they may also be interested in a management or leadership role. Make sure your company offers the right tools for new managers, so it’s not so daunting. And make sure their managers know how to coach them on learning new skills and find the right career path.

Understand that the atmosphere at work might not feel good. If your leadership team is male-dominated, and those males aren’t used to including women, a woman simply may not feel comfortable in the organization as she progresses up the ladder. You may need to consciously develop a strategy to help create more diverse management and leadership teams.

There are companies out there who are doing precisely that. The Miller Heiman Group, for example, has made a significant investment in gender diversity and equality by recently promoting/hiring three executives to the C-Suite. Why is it so significant? Because promoting these women supports diversity and inclusion at the top and sets the example for the whole company.

And finally, you may not necessarily have a hostile environment or an overt discrimination problem, but you may have differences in communications styles. Men and women communicate differently, and this can cause misunderstanding, downtime, and hurt productivity.

You may be able to help by mentoring the men in your organization and showing them how to communicate with women more effectively. If men can start understanding women and move in their direction, too, it’s not such an energy suck.

Women are excited to contribute to your workforce, they work hard, and will be excellent advocates if your company gets it right. Promote diversity. Support inclusion. Win!

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

Photo: rawpixel.com from Pexels

Men Need Mentors too in the #MeToo Era

Women Mentor Men

Inclusion and diversity took center stage at the Oscars this year–and rightfully so. Hollywood reflects cultural and societal changes in the United States, and gender parity is on everyone’s minds these days. Frances McDormand, the winner of the Academy Award for Best Actress, used her acceptance speech to emphasize the vital need for diversity and inclusion in her industry. On the red carpet, Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino promoted the movement towards equality for women worldwide.

But what do diversity and inclusion look like in the workplace today? Women and men alike struggle to define the new normal. “What do women want?” ask men. “How can I show my support to my female colleagues?” These questions come up a lot in my work. In fact, during a recent podcast, I mentioned that women can, and should, mentor men to help them understand the issues at hand. Men need mentors too in the #MeToo era.

There’s a lot of talk right now about women mentoring women and men mentoring women, but I think women need to mentor men. If I were a man who saw a personal, moral, or business reason to support gender diversity in my workplace, I would go to a female colleague and ask her to mentor me.

My comment seems to resonate with both women and men.

According to researchers, Anna Marie Valerio and Katina Sawyer,”…gender inclusiveness means involving both men and women in advancing women’s leadership. Although many organizations have attempted to fight gender bias by focusing on women – offering training programs or networking groups specifically for them — the leaders we interviewed realized that any solutions that involve only 50 percent of the human population are likely to have limited success.

I know this to be true. One of my clients hires me to lead Advancement Strategies for Women workshops. My client had succeeded in raising the number of women in management from 22 percent to 37 percent in four years. But it became clear that without enlisting men’s active support within the company they would only go so far in creating gender balance at the top. That same company is launching workshops for men now, which has been really powerful. After these workshops, men will say things like, “I just realized their KPIs are gender-biased,” or “I never knew that woman on my team wanted a promotion because she was always working so hard.” And the number of women in management continues to grow.

If women and men don’t work together, we won’t achieve equality in the workplace.

Women and men have different communication styles.

Men and women communicate differently, something most of us understand instinctively but don’t always recognize in the moment. Psychology Today notes that while women speak around 250 words a minute on average, men clock in around half of that, at 125.  During the course of a day, women might speak up to 25,000 words while men speak around 12,000.

I teach key differences in communication between the sexes. One of them is status and recognition. The research shows that men seek first and foremost to be seen as the most important and the one with the most power in the room. Women primarily like to be appreciated for their accomplishments, hard work, and a job well done. For example, thanking men is fine but isn’t necessary, they don’t need it. In fact, sometimes it’s seen as a sign of weakness. By contrast, not thanking a woman could erode a working relationship. Understanding the differences in communication style is a vital part of becoming an ally to women.

Men can become more astute at recognizing non-verbal signals.

Non-verbal signals abound in the workplace. Women tend to go silent when they are talked over, interrupted or criticized. For example, if in a meeting, a man and a woman are talking and that woman suddenly gets quiet, what should that guy do? He should pivot and start re-engaging her by asking questions and listening more. Or, if he’s in a meeting and his female colleague is interrupted, he can speak up, restate the point she was making and ask her to say more on the topic.

And then there’s the big one. Tears, which are most men’s biggest fear: How to handle a woman who is upset or crying. It’s easy. Men need to do three things: Abandon the need to solve her problem for her. She doesn’t need a solution; she needs empathy and understanding. Next, show you care by saying something like, “It seems like you’re having a hard time. Can I do anything to help?” Finally, listen, just listen. Say a few encouraging words like, “That must be hard.” Or “I can understand how you feel.” I guarantee after thirty minutes of listening and just being there for her; you’ll see a change in her demeanor for the better.

And women. Step up and take on the responsibility for mentoring your male colleagues. Men need mentors too in the #MeToo era. You can make a tremendous difference by doing so. Here are three tips to help you get started mentoring your male colleagues:

1. Be direct and clear. According to the research, men hear better if the information is delivered without couching or soft-pedaling.

2. Be specific, especially if you have an ask: Men are hardwired to solve, and they go to solutions quickly. State exactly what you want them to do.

3. Don’t be critical. Reassure your male colleague that this is a learning process and of course it’s going to be awkward. Like learning another language or skill. It’s not about being a bad guy, but about learning how to be more in tune with what women want and how they expect to be communicated with differently.

So, men? Go find a woman who can mentor you and help you learn how to be an ally in the workplace. And if you feel you need additional coaching, contact me.

Finally, take my survey on perceptions of Sexual Harassment. I’ve replicated a study conducted in Europe, and I’d like to compare the answers of American men and women to the answers of Europeans.

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

Hiring Women is Smart Business

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Hiring women is smart business. According to research from McKinsey & Company, published in January 2018, gender diversity on executive teams is strongly correlated with profitability and value creation. The study also reveals that the executive teams of outperforming companies have more women in line roles (typically revenue generating) than in staff roles.

Yet, gender inequality continues to be a reality in the workplace, in politics, and in the entertainment industry. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Report 2017, based on research conducted by LinkedIn, estimates that it will take 217 years to achieve gender parity. LinkedIn’s Senior Director, Public Policy, Sue Duke states, “Our research found that women represent fewer than 50 percent of leaders in every industry analyzed — and in some fields, such as energy and mining or manufacturing, the representation of women is far lower, with women holding fewer than 20 percent of leadership positions.”

Advancing women and leadership are topics about which I am passionate. I believe that hiring women is smart business. I write, speak, and create programs for organizations all over the world that address issues of diversity. So when I learn about a company that is actively working to bridge the gender gap and promotes women in leadership positions–I can hardly contain my excitement. Recently, I had a chance to meet with three women from the Miller Heiman Group who have been elevated to C-suite positions. Miller Herman is a global organization with 63 locations across the world.

What happens when a company appoints women in C-suite roles to lead the business into a new age of sales and service?

The Miller Heiman Group has made a significant investment in gender diversity and equality by recently promoting/hiring three executives to the C-Suite. Why is it so significant? Because promoting these women breaks the glass ceiling in a traditionally male-dominated industry. “This isn’t about checking boxes for diversity; it’s about creating a stronger, more competitive business today and driving innovation for the future of the sales industry tomorrow,” they state.

I met with Allen Mueller, chief revenue officer (CRO), Dana Hamerschlag, chief product officer (CPO), and Aimee Schuster, chief marketing officer (CMO) to discuss their work in driving sales and success at the company. I asked each of them how they view their leadership roles. I wanted to understand how they see women as leaders, and how women’s strengths contribute to the company’s global sales, marketing, and product development.

Allen Mueller was promoted to CRO in December 2017 to lead Miller Heiman Group’s global growth strategy after a successful tenure as executive director, North America. Mueller has a unique perspective: “Women make successful leaders because they are socialized to empathize with others and listen first. Men often try to solve the “problem” quickly – jumping to a solution before understanding all the root-cause issues. Women are hard-wired to see the big picture and can thus react to the complexity of sales today by nurturing customers and listening to what say and don’t say,” she stated.

Mueller also made a point about managing teams internally, likening leadership to motherhood. She described the parallels between motherhood and leadership as both including the need to be available, disciplined, consistent, and to be both firm and nurturing at the same time.

Dana Hamerschlag, CPO, was hired in March of 2017 and leads the global product strategy and roadmap. She is driving an agile development approach, which includes an intense focus on responding to market feedback and building innovative cloud-based analytics. She talked about the changing face of the buyer and the challenge of adapting sales processes to meet the needs of diverse buyers. “How we behave needs to be different,” she said. “It’s not the football locker room anymore. We’re at a special moment in time. People are speaking up more, and when the tone and culture are offensive or not inclusive, that becomes a distraction.” Hamerschlag described working to create a culture of direct feedback, focusing on the way we engage buyers of all genders, speaking out against inappropriate behavior, and checking in with people to confirm whether the culture is supporting their ability to do great work as essential components of her role as a leader.

Aimee Schuster, CMO, brings two decades of marketing experience, with the last ten years spent working in Chicago’s technology scene. She founded and sold her tech company; deciding to take this job, in large part, because of the team and commitment to diversity. “I’m working with amazing women in this leadership team,” Schuster stated. “I’m joining forces with sales and product development to create a new marketing structure for the future,” she added. “We all demonstrate through our regular workday the importance of diversity, and we act as role models for the changing landscape.”

In today’s world, gender plays a role in the pace of change.

Miller Heiman Group describes these three women as crucial leaders in its aggressive transformation plans for 2018–and beyond. In our discussions, all three of these women emphasized the need to leverage the strengths both genders bring to the workplace.

And, to accelerate the company’s technology offerings and bolster its ability to help businesses build world-class sales and service organizations, these women have set out to modernize Miller Heiman Group’s sales methodology and its iconic Blue Sheet for the digital age–within the next six months. I’m betting they will be hugely successful.

How can your organization recruit and retain top female talent?

Hiring women is smart business. Wondering how your company can attract more women in top management? Here are three tips:

1. Create a culture of open and constructive feedback.

2. Invite women leaders to review and revamp processes and systems.

3. Acknowledge the unique qualities both genders bring to the workplace.

Does your company need help with gender diversity? Your leadership may need to develop more awareness of how women and men can best collaborate. Coaching and facilitated discussions are essential parts of this process. Contact me for more information.

A version of this post originally published on Inc.com.

Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash

Investing in Women-Led Startups Shows Strong ROI

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Recently I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Allyson Kapin and Craig Newmark about the Women Startup Challenge, an initiative of the nonprofit organization, Women Who Tech. The organization works with talented women breaking new ground in technology to transform the world and inspire change.

As I’ve written in the past, hiring women is smart business. And, women also make exceptional entrepreneurs. I believe that women need to continue to rise to the top in all industries to ensure that we have more open, innovative and thriving organizations.

The Women Startup Challenge Emerging Tech competition featured ten of the best early-stage, women-led Emerging Tech startups, focused on Agriculture, Augmented Reality, Biotech, Health, Energy, IoT, Robotics, and Virtual Reality.

Allyson Kapin is the founder of Women Who Tech and has been named one of the Most Influential Women in Tech by Fast Company. She is also the co-founder of Rad Campaign, a web agency that works with nonprofits to fight the world’s toughest problems, ranging from climate change to health care reform.

Craig Newmark, a member of the Advisory team for Women Who Tech, is the founder of craigslist, the web-based platform that has fundamentally changed classified advertising. Craig is also the founder of Craig Newmark Philanthropies, which works to advance people and organizations that are “getting ‎stuff done” in the areas of women in technology, veterans and military families, ‎trustworthy journalism, and voter protection.

On March 6, 2018, the Women Startup Challenge Emerging Tech finalists pitched their innovative ventures to a panel of tech industry investors on stage at Google, in New York City. The grand prize-winner will be awarded a $50,000 cash grant for her startup. Additional prizes include $280,000 in Google cloud services. Meet the ten women-led startups who were finalists for the sixth cohort.

And, congratulations to the $50,000 Grand Prize winner, 14-year-old Emma Yang, for her “Timeless” app! Emma developed and built Timeless to help people with Alzheimer’s remember events, stay connected and engaged, and recognize people through artificial intelligence-based facial recognition technology.

Melissa: “What inspired you to launch the Women Startup Challenge three years ago?”

Allyson: “We originally created the Women Startup challenge because of the dismal amount of funding available to women-led startups. The latest data shows that less than 2 percent of VC money goes to women-led startups. That number has barely budged in ten years, and we wanted to find a way to shake up this culture and economy that has made it very difficult for women entrepreneurs to access capital.

We’re on a mission to find the best early-stage women-led startups and put capital, mentoring, and resources behind them. I’m happy to report that we’re moving the needle. The startups that have gone through our cohorts have succeeded in collectively raising over $20M.”

Melissa: “And Craig, what inspired you to get involved with the Women Startup Challenge?”

Craig: “One of the first principles that I live by is that I feel that you should treat people like you want to be treated and that means fairness for everyone. You need to give people a break.

I grew up in Jersey, and what people told me is sometimes you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is. Craig Newmark Philanthropies supports the Women Startup Challenge so that people take this extra seriously–and that seems to work.”

Melissa: “It seems as though you have both genders supporting the Women Startup Challenge, so it isn’t just women supporting the Women Startup Challenge, but you have men also supporting it.”

Craig: “That’s why that first principle I think is real important. Treating people like you want to be treated is something we all learn as kids and forget–but now I’m in the process of reminding people, particularly my male peers, to practice what they preach.”

Allyson: “To echo what Craig is saying, and one of the reasons we love working with Craig, is he’s been such an ally to us and to the women in tech community. I think that for us to solve these issues, with the lack of diversity and the lack of funding for women in tech we need male allies at the table.”

Melissa:  “What is it that prevents women from getting funding?”

Allyson: “What we have found through our own research, and other research that validates ours, is that both unconscious and conscious biases play parts in preventing women from getting funding. The gatekeepers of the investor world are primarily men–white men–and they rely on their own networks for warm leads. Investors need to diversify their networks, and we want to help them do that.

Craig: “In plainer terms: Sometimes people don’t get something good when others present it, and we can be real jerks sometimes. That may be too plain of language for you, but that’s the gist of things. Sometimes we’re short of empathy.”

Melissa: Would you say women present themselves, that is, pitch differently than men do?

Craig: I’ve seen some of the pitches, and the results are good, but I think that has to do with the training that Women Who Tech provides on how to give an effective fundraising pitch. You have very little time to pitch investors. The less time you have, the more focused your presentation has to be, and people respect that.”

Allyson: “I don’t see much difference between men and women pitching. But I do think there are unconscious biases that men and even women investors can have that can impact how the pitch is received. A key part of our program is our emphasis on training and coaching for all of the founders who are raising money for their next round.”

Melissa: “What’s the business case for investing in women-led businesses?”

Craig: “The bottom line is that if you invest in a women-led startup, you’re going to make more money. The research shows that women-led startups have a 35 percent higher return on vestment (ROI.) Investors want a better return on investment, so they should go where the return is better.”

Allyson: “This isn’t about charity. There’s a big business case for investing in women-led and racially diverse startups. If investors want to make billions of dollars, they need to start funding more diverse led startups that have game-changing products. And the time to do that is right now because we’re missing out on major innovation by not funding them.”

10 Tips For Pitching Your Start-up Business to Investors

  1. Identify the problem or challenge your product is solving.
  2. Clearly layout how your product is the solution to the challenges you highlighted.
  3. Show traction to date and have a clear go-to-market strategy.
  4. Demonstrate why your team is the one to bring this product to market.
  5. Keep the pitch simple, stupid aka the KISS principle.
  6. Don’t use insider jargon that investors won’t easily understand.
  7. Know your financials backward and forward.
  8. Highlight what the funding will be used for and how you will use it to scale.
  9. Condense your pitch. You will have only minutes to make your case.
  10. Work with a coach to prep for your investor pitching opportunity.

I look forward to seeing continued greatness from Women Who Tech in the future! And if you’re looking to start a business, I offer an impactful coaching program for female entrepreneurs. Contact me.

A version of this post originally published on Inc.com.

Image Credit: Pexels.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Lamson is the CEO of Lamson Consulting, Founder of the highly popular leadership program for women, Advancement Strategies for Women, and creator of award-winning management programs for SpaceX, LinkedIn, and SAP. As an author, consultant, and speaker, Melissa accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by growing leaders, bridging cultures, and empowering teams.  More About Melissa Lamson

Women, Don’t Be Too Busy to Lead!

Three Ways Women Can Rise to the Challenge of Leadership

In her speech at The 2018 Golden Globes, Oprah said that things are changing. Girls have more women role models, and there are more examples of leadership to follow. Actors like Reese Witherspoon and Elizabeth Banks have created and head film production companies, knowing that their roles are limited if they leave up the casting and directing up to others. Michelle Williams brought #MeToo founder, Tarana Burke, with her to The Golden Globes, and Meryl Streep brought Ai-Jen Poo, the founder of The National Domestic Workers Alliance. Geena Davis heads an institute focused on gender bias in the media, continually reminding us where our blind spots are with regards to gender equality.

After hearing the powerful messages delivered around the world by leading women in Hollywood last week, I believe we’ve turned a corner on gender equality. The issues are out, they’re being talked about, women and men are taking action. Hollywood has been turned on its head, and I think other industries will follow.

Don‘t be too busy for leadership. Women leaders work hard. We are perfectionists. We believe the value we bring is in a job well done–that is when we’ve led our employees to complete their tasks efficiently and effectively. We even work alongside our teams. And those are all excellent qualities.

The problem is, many men approach work differently. Male leaders will spend more time delegating, networking, self-promoting, making deals. They are hard-wired to think more high-level. They don’t mess with the nitty-gritty as much, trusting others to get it done. And if a task is only 80 percent complete, they see it as better to move on than waste a lot of time and energy on it.

Men see women who are very busy, who stay in the weeds, striving for perfectionism, taking on projects that are for the good of the team or company instead of their immediate sphere of influence (or themselves!) as… I don’t know how else to say it… “icky.”

In my workshops on gender balance in leadership, men tell me that they don’t understand why women are so “hectic” and “busy.” One man actually said, “She kept her head down in her laptop so much I didn’t even know she wanted a promotion!”

Always be looking for opportunities. I hear from many women that they are simply too busy to look for opportunities. Too busy to network, too busy to look at job boards, too busy for social media… This has to change! We have to get our heads out of our laptops and start making time to network. We have to think about what we want in our careers, decide on it, and start asking for it. We have to create and use every coffee corner, company event, meeting with our boss, or extended team as an opportunity to let people know who we are and what we want. Now, I know that may sound “icky” to some women. But the truth is,

If we don’t promote our own self-interest, we can’t truly promote our team or organization

So keep your head up and look around, that’s where the leadership roles lie.

Ask for more money. Recently, I was chatting on a plane with a CEO of a construction company. Using the opportunity to do some research, I asked him what he sees as a big difference between men and women in the workplace. He said, “Men ask me for more money, women don’t.” He went on to say, “I always give them [the men] more money just because they asked me. It might not be all of what they want, but at least 50 percent.” I then asked, “So if women don’t ask you for more money, what does that mean to you?” Without skipping a beat, he said, “They’re not leadership material. If they can’t advocate for themselves, they can’t advocate for the company.”

I shouldn’t have been stunned, but I was. It made total sense.

Advocacy. That’s really what Hollywood said at The Golden Globes, and what the #TimesUp movement is all about, and what I’m saying here.  As women, if we don’t advocate for ourselves, and our own self-interest, if we don’t strive for more leadership roles, we can’t make the change that’s needed. So go for it, whatever “it” is.

If your head is up, you can see it.

For more on my coaching program exclusively for women leaders, click here.

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

An Open Letter to Men in the Workplace

image-of-men-by-jose-hernandez-CC-2.0

Men,

With the recent events in the media, I can imagine you’re a little confused. I feel for you. How can you authentically and naturally interact with women without concern you’ll offend? What words can you use? What actions can you take?

What does it mean when a woman asks you for “support”?

There is professional protocol in business, and most of us do our best to follow that. However, men and women interact very differently—and most of the time we’re totally unaware of that. What happens when we unintentionally slight someone, offend or hurt them? Especially in the workplace.

Here is a list of things I’d like you to consider. How often do you:

  • Thank women regularly for their contribution.
  • Praise women for their competence and a job well-done.
  • Ask open questions to understand a problem, before offering a solution.
  • Say you’ll jump in and help on something.
  • Ask if anyone needs coffee or water before a meeting starts.
  • Refer to a female colleague in a meeting as a “go-to expert.”
  • Give credit in a public forum, “Susan had a great idea when we talked last.”
  • Use names when you’re speaking about or to women.
  • Ask questions, like, “I’d like to offer specific support, what can I do?”
  • Follow through with what you say you’re going to do.

If you’re doing all of these things, women in your organization most likely respect you and enjoy working with you. If you’re doing some of these things, you will be seen as harmless. If you’re doing none of them, I can guarantee women have a problem with you.

Luckily, I’m offering you a complimentary webinar full of “how-to’s” to keep you from making these mistakes, and better yet, to help you turn into a superstar team player that all women will want to work with and for.

The session will explain the differences in men and women’s communications styles. The meaning behind words like “support.” You’ll learn the secrets to advocating for your female colleagues, how to work in mixed teams most effectively, how to read non-verbal signs, and what to do when women are upset.

I guarantee you’ll improve your relationships with women in all aspects of your life and work.

With respect,

Melissa

To sign up for this session click here.

A version of this post was first published on LinkedIn.

Image credit: Jose Hernandez CC 2.0

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.

How to be a Good Ally to Women at Work

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As the #MeToo movement grows in strength, it seems there just might be a silver lining to the Harvey Weinstein scandal. We have a chance to change workplace culture. And one of the places to start is for men to understand the need to be a good ally to women.

The list of women who say they were harassed by film studio exec Harvey Weinstein is astonishing long–and growing by the day.  And sadly, much-admired men, like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Russell Crowe, are being criticized for standing by and allowing–or even aiding in–Weinstein’s cover-up.

This has precipitated an important discussion on just how many women in the workplace (and life) suffer in silence. And, I believe this discussion of these atrocities has a silver lining.

Through awareness and speaking out, we–men and women–now have an opportunity to change society and workplace culture for the better radically. Men, specifically, can be allies to women.

Men? Here are seven ways you can help.

1. Listen. Listen. LISTEN.

Have you ever been in a conversation where it seems like the other person isn’t getting the message you’re sending? They are on their phone or going completely off topic. It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

We all need to work on our active listening skills–that is, those skills that help you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words a person is saying but try to understand the complete message being sent.

Repeat what’s being said. Ask clarifying questions. And, be patient even if the person could get to the point faster.

2. Learn how the other sex communicates.

Yes, it’s true. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus–at least in how we communicate. The sexes do it quite differently. For example, men have been socialized to take risks quicker. Many women need to formulate a plan and talk through their decisions to feel reassured before they leap.

If a female colleague is feeling uncertain about a decision or task, hear her out and reassure her.

3. Tell them a job well done.

It always feels good to hear when you’ve done something well, but this is especially true when you may feel subpar as compared to your male colleagues.

Call out your female team members’ good qualities. Tell them when they made a good point in a meeting or aced a presentation.

But, stay away from commenting on appearance or dress. That can be taken the wrong way!

4. Don’t underestimate.

2015 study found that one in three women have been sexually harassed. Now with allegations coming to light from scandals like Bill Cosby or Roger Ailes, this statistic is becoming more believable.

Don’t underestimate what women have gone through to get where they are. There’s a good chance they’ve been treated poorly just because of their sex.

Take them seriously and treat them as equals. And, understand that women may be suspicious of your behavior because of past treatment. Be aware of how you act and how it may be received.

5. Be inclusive.

Here’s a news flash. Not everyone likes to play golf.

Women might prefer to bond doing something else–a wine tasting or a 10k run, for instance. When planning an outing, think about if everyone will feel comfortable and included, but don’t assume. If you are going to play golf or any sport, be sure to invite your female counterparts, too.

6. Think before you ask.

There’s a salient point made in The Confidence Code about the difference in the way men and women ask for things–in that, many men see asking as being weak and instead make demands. But women view asking as a way to foster goodwill.

Men, bear this in mind. Use collaborative speak. Don’t forgo niceties. If you do, you’ll be seen as selfish and pompous–and far from being an ally.

7. Speak up.

Should you observe a woman being treated poorly, demeaned, or harassed in any way shape or form, support her. Encourage her to go to human resources.Offer to go with her and share what you’ve seen. Don’t be afraid to speak up and make your work environment one that is welcoming and inclusive. Be a good ally to women in your workplace.

If there is any positive to the atrocities that have come to light from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and all the others, it is that they are now in the open. We–men and women–are on the precipice to change what’s gone on for way too long.

If you need help with understanding how to be an ally for women, or if you are a woman who is interested in advancing her career, contact me.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Image: cafuego, CC 2.0