Business Sense

We All Must Change the Status Quo

The recent cases of manterrupting in the news have refocused the spotlight on the age-old problem of men who, intentionally or not, monopolize the discussion or interrupt women’s speaking turns. As Tali Mendelberg and Chris Karpowtiz told CNN, women need more than a seat at the table, and their studies revealed that women are silenced when they hold a smaller percentage of the room. Further academic studies, dating back to as early as 1975, make it clear that being interrupted, talked over, shut down or penalized for speaking out is nearly a universal experience for women when they are outnumbered by men.

While women have to be able to gain equal time on the floor and be shown enough respect to make their ideas heard, the burden of changing the status quo should not fall only to women. As recently reported in The Atlantic, “Part of the problem with the usual advice for curbing these interruptions is that it puts the onus on women to do something differently. They are frequently encouraged to speak up—even though this is what they are so often prevented from doing in the first place and even though some men seem to view any amount of speech from a woman as annoying and superfluous.”

Judith Williams, a diversity consultant and former head of unconscious-bias training at Google warns that we have to be careful about ‘fix the woman’ type of thinking. At Google, Williams developed and led a “bias-busting” presentation, and later a workshop, which took on a range of patterns related to unconscious bias as it plays out in meetings, mentorships, and promotions. She recommended methods such as taking turns and stating a “zero interruptions” policy at the start of a meeting. She also encouraged an atmosphere where it’s okay to gently point out when a colleague is being interrupted and redirect the conversation back to them, no matter how senior the guilty party is.

There are many ways that male leaders can value, praise and advance women. To change the way men and women communicate and make their voices heard in the workplace is going to take all of us working together. Several companies are beginning to take note of the issue, and are taking steps to curb the problem – making sure employees feel comfortable and empowered at work, no matter their gender.

Anne-Marie Slaughter writes in Financial Times that she has witnessed a number of techniques used by effective male leaders to ensure everyone is heard. For example, not only should male leaders give a women credit for a point or idea when she makes it, it is also important to make sure that all women at the table have a chance to speak. Slaughter also writes that if a woman is interrupted, it is important that leadership makes sure to either forestall the interruption or to come back to her. That practice will again emphasize that you genuinely value what she has to say, rather than just hearing her voice. It is of course an excellent practice when men are interrupted too.

PR Week points out that the status quo is limiting. It’s damaging for women to be seen as bossy when they speak up at work. While much progress has been made, the reality is that there is a lot of work to be done before equality is achieved. By recognizing the problem, and working together to solve it, we can create workplaces that attract and retain top talent, and reach parity sooner rather than later. It is time that we truly work together to level the playing field, and create an inclusive workplace that supports both women and men.

Manterrupting Is Back in the News

Manterrupting, or men interrupting women has been making the news…again. From the Uber boardroom to the US Senate, powerful women, including Arianna Huffington and Senator Kamala Harris, have been victims, proving once again that when women break the glass ceiling, their journey is just getting started. In fact, women who step on to majority-male boards or committees often encounter barriers to their authority from men who, whether intentionally or not, monopolize the discussion or interrupt women’s speaking turns.
Last week, Tali Mendelberg and Chris Karpowitz told CNN that women need more than a seat at the table, and shared their studies revealing that women are silenced when they hold a smaller percentage of the room. Between 2007 and 2009, Mendelberg and Karpowitz looked at how women exercise authority in groups where they are a minority. Their findings showed that, “Where women make up a minority, they speak less, receive more hostile interruptions, refrain from articulating their views, and are rarely rated as influential. In other words, in meetings where women are scarce, they are actively disrespected. The group suffers, too, as its range of perspectives shrinks.”
The phenomenon hasn’t decreased with time. In 2015, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant wrote in the New York Times about the perils of “speaking while female,” along with research proving that this happens to all women at some point. In the case of recent manterrupting involving Senator Harris, Sandberg and Grant reported that powerful male senators speak significantly more than their junior colleagues, while female senators do not.
They further cite that male executives who speak more often than their peers are deemed more competent (10% more), while female executives who speak up are considered less (14% less). Following the research, the two found that in the workplace, many women speak less, are interrupted more, and have their ideas more harshly scrutinized.
This has to change. Women have to be able to gain equal time on the floor and be shown enough respect to make their ideas heard. Gender communication expert and Leading Women co-author, Claire Damken Brown, Ph.D., urges women to speak out and get their voices heard to build their credibility as leaders, and in the case of manterrupting, she shares strategies for recapturing the idea:

  • Bring attention back to yourself
  • Buddy up with someone in advance and have them bring the attention back to you
  • Seek help from the meeting facilitator.

This final point, however, she warns might not work. The facilitator often gets caught up in the meeting and doesn’t control the flow of dialogue. It is most important to speak out for yourself. That’s why she stresses that the only way to be perceived as a leader is to express your idea clearly and make sure your voice is heard.
Bottom line, nothing squashes creativity and innovation faster than a perceived lack of respect for others’ opinions, and manterrupting, whether intentional or not is definitely disrespectful. Progress comes from mutual respect. The pendulum is swinging, and women are taking to the streets to make their voices heard, recognizing that their voices do have merit, and their opinions do matter. That means it’s time to clear the manterrupting from the conversation, and truly work together.

Crafting Your Image from the Inside Out

style and branding expert

Melissa Murray


Melissa Murray is an image architect and style expert who was born knowing what to wear, how to wear it and how to tell everyone else how to do it. Along the way, she integrated corporate management expertise with personal image insights to create her own unique niche. Today, she shows high-achievers how to blend their visual impression with the message they’re delivering, helping them become recognizable within their industry. In this interview, Melissa provides practical guidance and personal stories that helped her become an industry influencer in branding from the inside out.
As an award-winning VP of sales, Melissa played the man’s game like a man, always looking to get a jump on the competition and that meant looking the part, from the can-do walk to the successful business suit. It was a shock when she moved to California and saw people coming to work in wet hair and flip-flops. She urges women to go ahead and wear work-out clothes to work out in, but then think about the image you want to project and how you want people to respond to you, then get dressed for it. Dr. Nancy agrees that California women may need to work on that.
The other shock Melissa had was the way women supported her in California. In Texas, her experience was that if women got power, they kept it and didn’t share. In contrast, when Melissa was introduced at her first networking event in California, everyone there (over 100 women) gave her their business cards and asked how they could help her.

Common Mistakes Women Make

As the old adage goes, “You never get a second chance to make a great first impression.” Melissa says it takes five subsequent interactions or three hours with a person to undo a bad first impression. And, she adds, who is going to give you that kind of time?
Three common mistakes that set women back are:

1. Trying to be something that you’re not or being completely unauthentic.

When your messaging and your brand don’t match, you can’t get past that. People will see the incongruency and won’t respond as you want them to. A simple handshake and sincere, “Hi, how are you?” is best.

2. Not looking people in the eye.

Women don’t look people in the eye. We look down. Melissa told of an exercise she does in her presentations where she tells the audience to look one another in the eye for ten seconds. No one can do it, not even men. The message is “I’m insecure.” We’ve become confident on our phones, but not with eye-to-eye contact. We’re so busy looking for the next great thing that we’re not truly present. We need to correct that and concentrate on having meaningful in-person communication.

3.  Being so intent on getting someone’s business card that you stalk them at a networking event.

Networking events should be about building relationships, whether you are new or already acquainted with many members. Focus on being present, asking questions and finding out how you can help one another. In fact, when Melissa commented to her coach about the stalking behavior, her coach said, “Melissa, why would you ever take your business card to a networking event where you know the people? They are already networking for you.”

Leading as Women

Dr. Nancy and Melissa discuss how difficult it has been for women to adjust to leading with the feminine. Dr. Nancy mentions that we must admit vulnerability and reach out to support each other. Melissa talks about how women put themselves last and don’t invest in their wardrobe in favor other people and things. She advises women to prioritize themselves and be authentic. Women want to lift each other up, lead each other, share, cry together or whatever it is. To do that, we must be real and not try to be more than we are or someone that we’re not.
Listen to this interview to hear Melissa’s personal struggle with chronic pain and how she learned what it means to show up as your very best self. Why you need to think about your image even if you’re driving your kids to school or planning a weekend BBQ. Check out her website, melissamurray.com for more information about her presentations, her blog and testimonials about her work and her social media links. She also has an award-winning podcast, “Intentional Influence,” that features insights from professionals on all aspects of branding and image creation.

Take Control of Your Money

Financial Fitness Coach

Jen Turrell


Financial Fitness Coach Jen Turrell helps women entrepreneurs take control of their money, so it doesn’t control them. An accumulation of life experiences has made Jen passionate about helping women be financially independent, so money issues don’t keep them in abusive relationships or jobs they hate. Her primary goal is to help women align their values with their money, so they can do the things in life that make them happy.
Jen has run businesses as diverse as indie music, agriculture and personal finance. When her first daughter was born with autism, the crisis of suddenly needing to care for a child with special needs (and no insurance coverage because of the autism exclusion) forced her to leave her job and find help for financing her daughter’s care. She worked her way through the maze of expensive services seeking advice from many different professionals, and now she helps others with early financial intervention for autism.

Women Control More Wealth That We Ever Have.

Jen points out that women have only had power over money for the last 200 years. Prior to that, we were a commodity–bought and sold or married as alliances. In fact, she says it’s still this way in many parts of the world. Jen thinks that now women have a chance to make serious changes, not just for ourselves and our daughters, but for womankind overall, and  says, “I feel like those of us who live in countries where we have the ability to wield that power through money have a responsibility to uplift women in the whole world.”

Money Is The Vehicle to Get You Where You Want to Go.

Jen says that one size doesn’t need to fit everyone. With the internet, we have a lot of opportunities to pursue what makes us happy. She gives advice about how to start in small stress-free ways in this interview. You can plan your exit strategy from your day job and start part-time, and  she has a few other ideas that require little investment as you embark on your future.
Dr. Nancy agrees with Jen about how the Millennials have the right attitude. Nancy says they want careers that make them happy and quotes, “Work is my passion and my passion is my work.” Jen commented about how much she enjoys hanging out with them on her podcast. It took her years to develop a work-life balance, but the Millennials she has spoken with are seeking that balance before marriage and children. Jen says that’s the smart way to begin a career and she applauds them for it.
Listen to this interview for valuable financial advice and to hear Jen’s powerful personal story that made her passionate about helping women get their financial freedom. Check out her website, her blogs at Huffington Post and Daily Worth. Also, she has just launched a 6 week program to calculate, eliminate, negotiate and automate your personal finances. Click here to find out more and to contact her for personal prosperity management.

Lead Like a Girl

10 Ways to Put Your Feminine Strengths to Work at Work

As we move further into the 21st century, the face of leadership is becoming more and more feminine. Here, the coauthor of Leading Women shares 10 traditionally feminine strengths that make women ideally suited to take their place as leaders.


For decades, women in business strove to become members of the boys’ club. We mimicked how men thought, communicated, and even dressed. But now, trying too hard to tap into our “masculine side” has gone the way of severely tailored 1980s power wear (complete with giant shoulder pads). Women have realized that we think and communicate differently—which means that we also lead differently. And—here’s the best news—because our natural skill set is increasingly valued in the global economy, we’re perfectly positioned to become today’s and tomorrow’s leaders.
(As the powerful and popular campaign by Always proves, doing anything “like a girl” is something to be proud of—and that includes leading!)
“Women already have the raw material we need to become successful leaders,” says Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, who along with 19 other women, cowrote the new book Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life (Adams Media, ISBN: 978-1-440-58417-6, $16.99, www.drnancyoreilly.com). “We just need to shift our attitudes and master the best practices to put these natural skills and abilities to work.”
To be clear, this isn’t a contest between the sexes. As one of O’Reilly’s coauthors Lois P. Frankel, PhD, points out, women aren’t better leaders than men—just different leaders. And bonus: What followers expect from leaders in the first decades of the 21st century are behaviors and characteristics traditionally associated with women.
In her book O’Reilly has brought together 20 nationally acclaimed women authors to share their real-life advice for breaking free of women’s traditional limitations in work and community. Coauthors include New York Times and Amazon best-selling authors, corporate coaches, an Emmy Award-winning television host, and more.
Here, O’Reilly and some of her coauthors share 10 ways you can use your feminine strengths to lead like a girl:
Reframe your ideas about power.  If you think power necessarily means “command and control leadership,” think again. Women wield our own style of power and, frankly, it packs quite a punch. (Consider the fact that we influence 85 percent of all buying decisions and are thus pivotal to the success of many industries.) Often, just shifting the way we think about power can make women feel more comfortable with taking the lead.
O’Reilly’s coauthor Gloria Feldt explains that instead of seeking “power over,” women are more comfortable seeking the “power to.” Feminine power is the ability to accomplish our goals, provide for our families, and make the world a better place—and to help others do the same.
“Women understand that more for you doesn’t mean less for me, that power isn’t a finite resource,” O’Reilly comments. “The more girl power we use, the more of it there is.”
Don’t try to be the strong, silent type. Because women are seen as talkative and chatty (often non-productively so), many make a conscious effort to hold their tongues in professional settings. But research suggests that this is a misconception: Men actually talk more and hold the floor longer than women during meetings.
Claire Damken Brown, PhD (another coauthor), says that women’s reputation for wordiness might stem from the fact that our talk patterns are indirect and detail-driven, meaning that we usually provide more background information than men. But research has found that women talk to exchange information and establish cohesion.
“So as long as you stay focused on goals instead of gossip and practice the art of the brief response, it’s okay to use your words,” O’Reilly observes. “Odds are, your feminine communication is making you an effective leader.”
Ask for help. The traditional image of the “strong” leader is a man who is self-sufficient and capable. He’s the prototypical rugged individualist and never asks for help. Of course, this is an outdated stereotype, but for many leaders (male and female alike), the reluctance to ask for help persists. What we need to understand is that women have long realized the benefits of tapping into the resources and expertise of others—Will you watch the kids? What’s your advice? Can we work together on this?—and it’s an incredibly efficient—and effective—way to get things done.
“For millennia, women have actively built strong, supportive connections to help their ‘sisters’ live their very best lives,” points out O’Reilly. “Because women don’t mind admitting what we don’t know and are willing to share the credit, we are good at spotting problems and making sure they get fixed. When we don’t let our egos get in the way of asking for help, we’re far more likely to achieve progress and success.”
Take to the podium, woman-style. How many women do you know who’d rather do almost anything than speak in public? Anxiety about public speaking is common to both women and men, but it’s especially important that women overcome this fear. To advance in leadership roles, women will need to be seen and heard at the podium—and be remembered positively afterward.
Leading Women contributor Lois Phillips, PhD, says women have a natural affinity for public speaking. We tend to provide information to help listeners achieve their goals, rather than to establish dominance over the group or negotiate status. We also want to connect to our audience and have an innate ability to read and respond to their nonverbal cues.
Shift your perspective (and theirs, too). Women have a special brand of resilience. We are able not only to power through tough times, but are often able to creatively use obstacles as teachable moments and stepping stones. And a big part of this quality has to do with an ability to reframe who we think we are and what we think we deserve. (M. Bridget Cook-Burch tackles this subject in Leading Women.)
“The stories we tell ourselves about events in our lives are every bit as powerful as the events themselves,” says O’Reilly. “For example, if your company is failing in one area, you might see that ‘failure’ as a springboard to move in a fresh new direction. Being able to shift your focus away from what you don’t want to the things you’d like to create will not only help you survive and grow; it can help your entire organization become more future-focused and productive.”
 Stop trying to network. Instead, connect. Women love to make satisfying, mutually fulfilling connections with each other. (And we’re good at it!) That’s why the mile-wide-inch-deep world of social media, insincere business card exchanges, and traditional “What can you do for me?” networking often leaves us feeling cold.
“The good news is, it’s easy to start asking instead, ‘What can we create together?’” O’Reilly comments. “This is Connecting 2.0—it’s the powerful force behind the women-helping-women movement that is rapidly changing the playing field for women in business, government, education, philanthropy, and other fields. It feels good and it works.
“There are so many ways to make authentic connections,” she adds. “You can gather successful women in your community and organize a round table discussion. You can collaborate with a different team at work. You can get involved with a philanthropic cause. The idea is to reach out to other women, offer to share resources, and see what happens.”
Don’t be afraid to get a little personal. Historically, female leaders have tried to compensate for being the “emotional,” “soft” sex by keeping it all business, all the time. But women’s ability to nurture relationships can actually be a huge asset in a business context. The quality of a leader’s relationships with peers and employees can have a major impact on company culture and morale, and thus productivity and growth.
“Feminine skills like showing empathy, being emotionally intelligent, being able to put others at ease, caring about their concerns, and more are now ‘must-have’ abilities for leaders,” notes O’Reilly. “And make no mistake, these are not ‘soft skills’; they are actually quite difficult to learn and develop. Case in point: As my coauthor Birute Regine, EdD, points out, no one ever succeeded in mastering relational intelligence during a two-hour seminar.”
Extend a helping hand, especially to other women. Women are natural collaborators. We know the significance of a helping hand, mutual support, and mentorship, and we value the satisfaction and meaning that come from aiding others. In the workplace, this ability can mean the difference between being a “boss” and being a “leader”—a distinction that creates employee buy-in and engagement.
“Giving your time, knowledge, understanding, empathy, and support to other people can have a huge ROI,” observes O’Reilly. “Be especially vigilant for opportunities to help other women by being a sponsor or mentor. This can lead to improved opportunities for both of you via reciprocity. Plus, it sets a positive example and is good karma. Helping other women claim their power and passion is always a sound investment. When the hands that rock the cradle join together, they really can rule the world.”
 Use your collaboration skills to tap into “collective intelligence.” Successful collaboration is a lot more than just putting a group of people in a room and asking them to work together. As Birute Regine, EdD, notes, it requires participants to accurately read nonverbal cues and others’ emotions, to use empathy, to put ego aside, and to be sensitive to fairness and turn-taking. All of these are feminine skills. Without them, collaboration can easily devolve into group-think and follow-the-leader. With them, though, a group becomes capable of “evolved thinking.”
Furthermore, Regine says, research shows that groups are most likely to display a level of creativity that’s greater than the sum of its parts when at least half the chairs around the table are occupied by women.
“Women are adept at creating conditions of mutuality, equality, and trust—all of which are necessary for team members to feel comfortable enough to share ideas and take risks,” observes O’Reilly. “That’s why it’s so important for women in leadership positions to reach out to bring other women into the fold. When we join forces, the benefits have a powerful ripple effect that extends well beyond the original participants. No individual woman is as creative, skilled, or powerful as we are together.”
Trust yourself. From the way we dress to the jobs we do to the way we spend our time, society feels especially free to tell women how to live their lives. It’s very easy to internalize those voices and allow them to shape our choices, aspirations, and dreams—a path that leads to regret for too many women.
“Trust yourself and listen to your instincts,” O’Reilly urges. “They are usually right. Don’t let anyone make you doubt yourself by telling you what you ‘should’ think or feel. One of the best ways I’ve found to stay on track is to stay present and turn on your senses. When facing opposition or making a decision, tune in to how you’re feeling, not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally too. If you’re headed in a good direction, you should feel alive and energized.”
“As women, it truly is our time to step up and take our place as leaders,” concludes O’Reilly. “When we focus and hone our feminine skills, we can make a positive impact on our companies, our communities, and our world.”

~

Originally appeared in Working Mother, March 3, 2015. Working Mother is a women’s interest publication offering ideas, solutions and support for all aspects of working mothers’ lives, including work and family conflicts, balancing roles as a mother and employer/employee and child care

Making Leadership Appealing

While women make up about half of the workforce, there is a huge gender gap in leadership positions nationwide. Francesca Gino, a Harvard Business School professor, points out that women only represent 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, 15 percent of executive officers at those companies, less than 20 percent of full professors in the natural sciences, and 6 percent of partners in venture capital firms.
As recently reported in Scientific American, scholars of the leadership gap suggest that some of the explanation for the gap directly correlates to how people perceive and react to women, and the fact that compared to men, women are perceived as less competent and lacking leadership potential. Women also receive fewer job offers and lower starting salaries, and are more likely to encounter challenges to, and skepticism of, their ideas and abilities.
New research also points out that women simply may not want to take on the task of leadership. While we may be on the right track working to get more women into leadership roles, we need to look at how appealing those positions actually are. Summing up a paper by Hilke Brockmann and her colleagues, Gino writes that overall, women seem to be significantly less enthused about the prospect of being a manager, and more likely to take a significant hit to their happiness should they be elevated to such a position, than men.
Brockmann’s research demonstrates that for women in positions of leadership, the level of happiness and life satisfaction is lower than that of their male counterparts, and when it comes to advancement, women may, “Find the position to be as attainable as men do, but less desirable. The reason is that they see the position generating not only positive outcomes (such as money and prestige) as much as men do, but also negative ones (such as tradeoffs they’ll need to make and time constraints). That’s where men and women differ: in how much they predict these negative outcomes will affect their lives.”
Whether it’s a concern about the loss of flexibility, goals outside of the workplace, family constraints, gender based discrimination, or sexism, there are things that companies can do to address the issue directly. Gino writes that organizations can influence a woman’s decision by structuring and compensating managerial work differently, building in more breathing space for leadership positions, and allowing for flexible career paths.
When women don’t try for promotions, they move us further away from parity and reinforce the idea that women don’t belong in leadership roles. Women must rise into top positions in order to advance gender equality. Here are three things that we can work towards immediately to make leadership positions in the workplace more appealing to women, and move us closer to parity.
Flexibility Flexibility needs to work. People with adaptable work environments – both men and women – tend to have healthier habits with time for both self-improvement and family and friends, which makes them more productive and efficient when they work. Flexibility doesn’t just benefit women’s work performance. Research has looked at more subjective areas affected by schedule flexibility, including people’s happiness and satisfaction. Studies show that when people can choose to do things, like take their kids to school, sleep in or help their spouse that they’ll enjoy better relationships, a better quality of life, and be happier with their employment.
Establish a Mentor Program – A good mentor provides career advice, counsel during stressful times, and unwavering support. And you don’t have to be a member of the C-suite already to provide guidance to another woman. We can all build strong support systems, encourage and mentor one another every day. The benefits of mentoring flow both ways and both mentor and mentoree learn from each other. Successful women are guiding others through the ranks and sharing their experiences. Mentoring relationships can provide the boost to propel mid-career women into top management positions.
Provide Routine Feedback – One area that is frustrating for women is a lack of feedback. Feedback is critical for improving performance, but despite asking for informal feedback as often as men do, a 2015 study found women receive it less frequently. Direct feedback helps employees take the steps they need to improve their performance and advance. And we all know that without clear, actionable advice and performance feedback, women aren’t able to see a clear possibility for change or a way to reach the next level in the workplace, which can be very frustrating. Following established criteria and clearly identifying key issues and potential for growth will lead women to invest more fully in the workplace, not to mention the fact that providing specific feedback can help us close the gap and create a path forward for all women.
We need women to see the path to leadership clearly and without hesitation. While this latest study shows that some of the reasons women aren’t rising to the leadership challenge go beyond potential discrimination and access to resources, if we build firm foundations in the workplace, well qualified women may decide to go for it, and to take the leadership positions. We need to level the playing field and create a workplace that encourages women to seek top positions and advance gender equality.
 

A Collaboration Crash Course

How to Join Forces With Other Women (When You’re Used to Going It Alone)
Collaboration is an incredibly valuable skill in today’s marketplace, and what’s more, women are naturals at it. But if you’ve always been the “lone (she) wolf” type, you may not know how to get started. Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly offers 10 tactics to kick-start your collaborating career. 
We all know that the ability to collaborate is a crucial skill in the global economy. And it’s not hard to see why. The problems faced by today’s organizations have gotten so incredibly complex that a diverse range of skill sets is needed to solve them. After all, no one can possibly be good at everything. No two people will ever arrive at exactly the same solution. And of course, there’s an amazing synergy that arises when we join forces with others.
And here’s the coup de grâce, says licensed psychologist Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly: Women are perfectly poised to catch and ride the collaboration wave to unprecedented heights.
“Women are hardwired to connect, to share ideas, to combine resources, and yes, to change the world,” says O’Reilly, who along with 19 other women, cowrote the new book Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life (Adams Media, 2015, ISBN: 978-1-440-58417-6, $16.99, www.drnancyoreilly.com). “This ability is the cornerstone of the women-helping-women movement that’s taking shape.
“Women are at our most powerful when we join forces, so if we don’t do it, we squander our greatest strength,” she adds. “Plus, working together for the greater good feels good!”
So what is collaboration? “Basically, it’s what happens when you put five women in a room and watch how they can make anything happen. The word impossible disappears from the language when we apply our individual talents with our power to achieve a common purpose.  We not only get it done in record time, we have a lot of fun doing it.”
“Magic happens when we collaborate,” she explains. “We’re influenced by each other’s take on things, and ideas begin to evolve. We draw from each other’s energy. Something entirely new is born, and it’s often far greater than anything one person could have come up with alone.”
One thing’s for sure: Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur seeking to start something new, an employer wanting to expand her company, or an employee hoping to “lean in” further, collaboration is an incredibly valuable skill for staying viable in today’s marketplace.
So if collaboration is as natural as breathing for women, why can’t YOU seem to do it? Maybe you’re steeped in the “rugged individualism” mindset. Maybe you’ve had some bad experiences with “group projects” in the past. Maybe you’ve even bought into the outdated notion that other women are competitors. For whatever reason, you’re just not used to seeking out other women to join forces with—and it’s time for that to change.
Here, O’Reilly shares 10 tactics to help you unlock the “power of sisterhood” by tapping into the women-helping-women movement:
Understand up front that collaboration goes beyond mere “connecting.” Technology may have made it easy to reach out to and network with a large number of people, but collaborating in a strategic way goes far beyond collecting LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends, or Twitter followers. (Not that there is anything wrong with doing these things; actually, social media can be a valuable collaboration tool.) How deep and how broad our reach is, and how well we can partner with other women, determines our success.
“Collaboration is about building a real relationship with someone, not just striking a business deal or adding another name to your digital Rolodex,” O’Reilly comments. “So don’t rush to the close. Take it slow, get to know each other, take an interest, and follow up. Don’t miss out on the satisfaction of gaining a new friend.”
Think creatively about who you might collaborate with and why. Sometimes potential collaborations are fairly obvious. For instance, if you have expertise as an interior designer but lack experience with bookkeeping and managing a staff, you might partner with another woman who does have those skills. But other times, fertile collaborations aren’t so obvious. Think outside the box about who might have the same needs and goals as you.
“For example, let’s say you sell home alarm systems,” says O’Reilly. “You could seek out other businesses that have a customer base you’d like to tap into—like contractors and home builders—and pay them a percentage for referrals. I’ve even heard of women who collaborate with competitors. If one person is approached by a client who would benefit more from a competitor’s expertise, she refers that client—and vice versa. Ultimately, everyone wins—each woman is able to play to her strengths, and the client walks away happy.”
 Don’t gravitate toward women who are like you. It’s a natural human tendency to seek out and spend time with people who share our viewpoints, opinions, attitudes, and methods. It feels good when others validate how and what we think. But on the flip side, that’s not how we learn.
“Be careful that your efforts to collaborate don’t turn into groupthink or an echo chamber,” O’Reilly warns. “Instead, seek out women who have skills and strengths you don’t already have. Remember that as long as respect and civility are present, debates and disagreements are a good thing. That’s how amazing, higher-level creativity is fueled.”
 Set a collaboration goal. Put some numbers with it or get it on the calendar. Good intentions don’t mean much when it comes to successful collaborating. If you don’t have a finite goal to work toward, it will be all too easy to “think about it tomorrow,” Scarlett O’Hara-style.
“Decide that you’ll connect with X women a month or meet X times a month with a collaboration partner,” O’Reilly suggests. “Insert your own numbers depending on your circumstances, goals, and personality. Quantifying your intentions will force you to be accountable. Otherwise, your desire to collaborate will remain just a vague dream.”
Assume nobody is off-limits. You may assume that “eligible collaborators” have to work in your industry or be within a few rungs of you on the corporate ladder. This is not true. The world is full of all kinds of women, in all different industries, and at all levels of authority with whom you might mesh perfectly. In an ever-flattening world where hierarchies and titles are less important than ever, it doesn’t make sense to categorize potential collaborators this way.
“Don’t let how busy or important another person is hold you back from reaching out,” O’Reilly urges. “If you want to collaborate with a thought leader or C-suite resident, ask. I am usually pleasantly surprised by how willing women are to share ideas, best practices, advice, and support—even with so-called competitors.
“One of the things I love most about working with other women is that there really is a sisterhood that supersedes making money and getting ahead. Women who have achieved success know how much it means to help their ‘sisters’ get a leg up.”
When you approach someone, don’t just wing it. Whether your proposed project involves a business venture, a community cause, personal development, or something else, have a few ideas going in. Put together a convincing pitch and be prepared to sell your idea. If your idea is too vague and unformed, what should be a dynamic meeting of the minds can quickly fizzle out or turn into a rambling gab session (which is fun but doesn’t count as collaboration).
“You don’t need to (and in fact, shouldn’t) have every little detail mapped out, but you should be able to explain your overall goals for the project and what you envision each person bringing to the table,” O’Reilly notes. “While there is incredible synergy when talented minds meet up, they still need a plan to follow. Don’t expect something great to coalesce from idle chit-chat.”
On the other hand, don’t be too rigid or dominating. Even if you initiated a particular collaboration, stay open to the other woman’s thoughts and input. Let the interaction unfold organically, even if it veers from the path you’d envisioned. Nothing squashes creativity and innovation faster than a perceived lack of respect for others’ opinions.
“Believe me, I understand how difficult it can be to unclench, take a risk, and let other people have partial control of your ‘baby’s’ destiny,” O’Reilly acknowledges. “It isn’t always comfortable, but setting aside your original vision and staying open to 360-degree feedback is the best way to spot problems, work out kinks, and discover the most innovative ideas.”
Keep ideas doable (and fun). Keep in mind that most potential collaborators are likely to have plenty of preexisting commitments and responsibilities of their own. If you make your idea seem like just another box the other woman will have to check off her to-do list, you’ll be less likely to get her buy-in.
“All I’m saying is, don’t overwhelm the other woman by making your project seem like a ton of work or a huge drain on her time,” O’Reilly comments. “Your ideas need to be realistic and energizing so that she will want to be part of them.
“Often, it can help to pair your collaboration time with other activities,” she adds. “It doesn’t have to happen at a conference table during business hours. Get creative about when you collaborate. For example, you might ask the other woman to join you on your daily walk to discuss ideas. Or have a tête-à-tête while your kids play together at the park. And so on!”
 Make sure you’re not just a “taker.” Sure, collaboration is a group effort—but it’s one in which you need to pull your own weight. Even if you’re approaching women with more experience and/or resources, you must bring value to the table. Show that you are prepared for and invested in the project and make it clear that you are willing and ready to work hard.
“The women-helping-women movement isn’t about free lunches; it’s about combining forces,” O’Reilly comments. “Both parties need to benefit. Think long and hard about your knowledge and skills and how they can help your fellow collaborator. Spell this out up front so she won’t think you’re just looking for a free lunch.”
Think long term. If you can’t make a project happen with someone right away, don’t write her off forever. A “no” today might be a “yes” six months or a year down the road. Remember that successful women often have a lot on their plates, so whenever possible, stay flexible with your timeline. The wait will probably be worth it.
“If you get a ‘maybe later’ answer from a potential collaborator, check in every once in a while,” O’Reilly advises. “Be persistent without being annoying, and keep the other woman updated on any new ideas or progress that might affect how you work together.”
“Over the course of human history, many wise people have observed that we become like the people we spend the most time with,” O’Reilly concludes. “So why not seek out and work with as many smart, talented, passionate women as possible? Together, we have the power to change our lives, our industries, our communities, and our world!”

~

First appeared in Imperial Valley News on February 26, 2015. http://www.imperialvalleynews.com/index.php/news/living-and-lifestyle/1826-maximize-your-collaboration-skills-a-crash-course-for-the-lone-wolf.html

Imperial Valley News is an online publication for the Imperial Valley Weekly, a weekly newspaper serving the El Centro, CA area.

Five Ways to Create an Environment Where Women Can Lead

new report takes a look at why women hesitate when it comes to competing for top jobs. The researchers found that a woman’s desire to reach the top ranks has less to do with family responsibilities and more to do with her working environment.
The data shows that existing gender diversity had a big impact on how workers felt about pursuing more senior roles. In environments where men and women believed that progress was being made towards gender diversity, women were more likely to aspire to a leadership position. At such companies, 85 percent of women were seeking top spots. At companies that weren’t seen as making progress in gender diversity, just 66 percent of women reported such ambitions.
The stereotypical explanation says that while many women begin their careers eager to climb the corporate ladder, this ambition diminishes due to family obligations or feeling that they’re unfairly held to higher standards. A more nuanced view notes those issues can definitely be a factor, but the researchers argue ambitious women are also rational and respond to the realities of their work environments. This environmental effect can stall women in our communities too.
Why is it so important to get closer to a 50-50 blend of women and men in leadership? Research has proven repeatedly that having more women leaders actually creates better results. In one of the most recent and comprehensive of these studies, companies in the top 20 percent of financial performance have nearly 30 percent female leaders, while the poorest financial performers have under 20 percent women in leadership roles.
We need more women in leadership for so many reasons. The question is, how do we create an environment in which they want to pursue those positions. Here are five ways that we can create a culture that fosters equality and make leadership more appealing to women in the workplace and community.
Make me a mentor. A good mentor provides career advice, counsel during stressful times, and unwavering support. And you don’t have to be a member of the C-suite already to provide guidance to another woman. We can all build strong support systems, encourage and mentor one another every day. The benefits of mentoring flow both ways and both mentor and mentoree learn from each other. Successful women are guiding others through the ranks and sharing their experiences. Mentoring relationships can provide the boost to propel mid-career into top management positions.
Actively sponsor other women. Women with senior positions should keep an eye out for promising younger female talent and actively seek to cultivate them as protégés. It can be hard for younger female employees to break into a company, so senior women should make the workplace friendlier for advancement and help mentorees find a place. Younger females may hope to get noticed for doing good work, but they also need to find opportunities to network with women at the top, asking them to lunch or for a meeting to seek career advice.
Flourish with feedback.  Feedback is critical for improving performance, but despite asking for informal feedback as often as men do, a 2015 study found women receive it less frequently. In fact, women are 20% less likely than men to receive critical feedback that improves their performance. Following established criteria and clearly identifying key issues and potential for growth will lead women to invest more fully in the workplace and move forward.
Opt for diversity and inclusion. Recruiting and retaining a diverse, inclusive group of employees makes an organization reflect the outer world. It also enables a team to develop fresh ideas and solutions to meet customer and  community needs. True gender and cultural diversity requires promoting as many diverse, smart, talented, passionate women as possible.
Cultivate powerful confidence.  When something goes wrong professionally, women blame themselves. When things go right, they credit others. Women are also more likely to be perfectionists who wait until they’re 100% sure of their desired outcome. This limiting self-programming, along with a lack of confidence, makes it unlikely women will apply or re-apply for an executive job or other leadership position. Being passed over doesn’t have to be a defining negative event in your life. See it for what it is – a moment in time. Rejection and success go hand in hand, and all successful women have received their share of rejections.  How they handle that rejection is what defines them.
If you’re in a workplace or community situation that doesn’t feel female friendly, it’s not your fault. Just recognize it for what it is and keep moving forward. We achieve parity one woman at a time, so whether you have to work on your confidence or find a woman to mentor, remember that working together is the only way we will accomplish gender equality in leadership.
When women don’t try for promotions, they move us further away from parity and reinforce the idea that women don’t belong in leadership roles. Women must rise into top positions in order to achieve career goals and advance gender equality. It’s the only way to create leadership environments that support both women and men.

Leadership Lessons from Horses

Executive Coach, Author

Evelyn McKelvie


The transformation of her life and career as took place during her first experience with a horse, recalls Evelyn McKelvie, Executive Coach, author and founder of Equine Coach. She describes its effect on her as both physical and spiritual, to the degree that she felt her emotional body had been given a deep tissue massage. At the time she was working in Information Technology, which she calls a knowledge-based abstract intellectual pursuit, while learning all she could about horses and searching for a trainer. She found her perfect trainer in western Canada, named Chris Irwin, who opened her eyes to the secret world of horses, their language and the way they behave with each other. Erwin taught her how to communicate with horses so they understand her.
Evelyn began comparing the socialization of horses to that of humans in the workplace. Both species are mammals that perceive the world in terms of threats or safety. In fact, technology has recently shown that people react to potential threats much faster than possible rewards. Horses also perceive threats most of the time, but because of the difference in their brains and social patterns, their response is much different. In fact, the stability of the herd lies with everyone knowing their roles in the hierarchy and behaving within those roles.

First Respect, Then Trust, Finally Love.

Evelyn wrote a book about her experience and how she incorporates it into coaching called, The Executive Horse: 21st Century Leadership Lessons from Horses. She Executive Horse Book Coversays that the idea of the stallion as the leader came from the Victorians and is not how the herd actually works. The lead mare is acknowledged by the herd when she has proven that she can care for the herd and keep it safe. Horses don’t love until they know they can trust you. She describes the stallion as the doorman or bouncer who keeps other stallions from mating with the mares. But the leader is chosen by and earns her place within the herd. If humans chose their workplace leaders in the same way — based on behavior and character, instead of by power or money — Evelyn says our workplace leadership would be much more authentic, and our work more productive and positive.

Awareness of the Present Moment

Both Evelyn and Dr. Nancy talk about how you have to remain in the present when working with horses. Dr. Nancy laughs about what happens if you let your attention stray. Because of horses’ size and strength, self-awareness becomes absolutely imperative. Evelyn became comfortable with living in the now while riding. This present-focus kept her acutely aware of the interaction dynamic and how she could create a greater sense of ease and calm with the horse. If we would apply that to other humans, our relationships would be much more rewarding for both parties.
Evelyn invites everyone to check out her website. She has a 7-minute self-assessment there that only takes around seven minutes called “The 8-Fold Path of Equis,” which is based on the principles from her horse trainer. She also has a blog and offers to sign her book if you order it from her website. Also attend her monthly webinar in which she interviews women leaders with executive coach Carrie Galant at “Alpha Mare Leadership.
Be sure to listen to this interview for more comparisons and contrasts from Dr. Nancy and Evelyn between horses and humans. Learn how very much they have to teach us about creating relationships that work.

Flex Time Isn’t the Same for Men and Women

Flexibility is making the news again, and while many people feel that flex time should be a given, two recent studies suggest flex time programs could be costly to those who use them, especially women. In fact, one study found that the penalty begins before any scheduling adjustments are made. Furman University’s Christin Munsch studied over 600 working age individuals and learned that the reactions that men and women receive when requesting flexible work requests are quite different — and quite favorable to men.
Munsch found that when male employees requested flexible schedules to accommodate child care requests, almost 70% of participants were either likely or very likely to grant the request. When female employees made the same request, that number dropped to around 57%. In addition, participants were much more likely to evaluate the men as likable and committed than the women.
If Munsch’s study is indicative of the workplace culture at large, women still have a problem being viewed as responsible for domestic and childcare duties, rather than being the breadwinners of the family. The need to make it all work is something that employers must consider to maintain high-performing women employees. Many women who started out with all the ambition in the world find themselves in a place they never expected to be. They do not choose to leave their jobs and they are shut out of advancement by the refusal of their bosses to make it possible for them to fit their family life and their work life together. And in this instance, they are being maligned for something men are being applauded for.
Even if flexible scheduling can be granted without bias, the second study, conducted by researchers in Germany, suggests that it might be exacerbating the gender wage gap. In a survey of over 30,000 people, researchers Yvonne Lott and Heejung Chung examined the impact of flexible scheduling on hours worked – particularly overtime – and found that men and women who switched to flexible scheduling all worked more overtime than those who worked a fixed schedule. However, men used the extra time to earn significantly more than women in the same program.
The researchers speculated that men are more likely to gain schedule control because of increased productivity or a promotion and use that control to set an even more productive schedule. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to use their control to better accommodate their family schedule. Even if they use their flex time to be more productive, their peers may perceive them as still focusing on family tasks first.
Flexibility needs to work for men and women equally, and both of these studies take frustrating looks at a much-needed workplace benefit. Bottom line, people with adaptable work environments – both men and women – tend to have healthier habits with time for both self-improvement and family and friends, which makes them more productive and efficient when they work. Flexibility doesn’t just benefit women’s work performance. Research has looked at more subjective areas affected by schedule flexibility, including people’s happiness and satisfaction. Studies show that when people can choose to do things, like take their kids to school, sleep in or help their spouse that they’ll enjoy better relationships, a better quality of life, and be happier with their employment. The Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College cites additional benefits of flexible work environments, which include less stress and burnout, improved work-life and work-family balance, and less negative spillover from work to home and from home to work.
This issue affects every company through potential loss of top talent. As my Leading Women co-author Gloria Feldt points out in her book, No Excuses, many women are opting out of the very career paths that could shift them to the highest clout positions and lead to gender parity. We need women to step into leadership roles, which means we need every CEO and business owner to keep in mind the fact that everyone wins with an open and flexible path to leadership, a path that maximizes the desire to lead with the environment that supports it for both genders. Removing double standards and improving flex time options would make the greatest move toward improving the lives of every man and woman in the workplace, and strengthening the company’s almighty bottom line.

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