By Morag Barrett
Can you imagine having the title of “The World’s Premier Expert on Women’s Leadership”? Add a few more titles (best-selling author, speaker, and leadership coach, what doesn’t she do?) and you have Sally Helgesen. To save me time in writing this, you can read even more of her amazing accomplishments here.
Ruby and I sat down with Sally Helgesen to discuss her most recent book, How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job, which she co-authored with Marshall Goldsmith. Warning: there are a few spoilers in this article. You can stop now and listen to the podcast / buy the book… or keep reading.
After visiting several corporate organizations, Sally recognized a recurring problem. All were quite poor at understanding what women have to contribute at a leadership or strategic level. She could have sat back and let it happen, but then she wouldn’t be the premier expert, would she? Sally started to write.
Many of us establish habits and behaviors early on in the career game that stay with us as we grow, but this can become an issue as we climb the corporate ladder. Unfortunately, many books understood male behaviors, but not female behaviors, and how the content was problematic for career-focused women. In fact, the very habits that helped women early in their careers can hinder them as they move up. Simply put, what got you here won't get you there . . . and you might not even realize your blind spots until it's too late.
Many people prefer having male bosses, but why? A lot of it ties into men being comfortable with establishing reciprocal relationships and exchanging favors.
One of the key habits that Sally overcame (and I found incredibly helpful) was building and leveraging relationships instead of being afraid of the Big Ask! Up until the book, Sally found herself trying to brand herself as wonderful (which, she is pretty wonderful!) and not asking for too much. When she asked Marshall to co-author, it taught her the power of being able to suggest and engage.
Many women don’t even realize their vocal fillers of “just” or “only” or “I’m sorry” fill a large space of workplace communication. One of the most helpful tips (spoiler!) for Women is ...
“to be aware that their primary job is not managing everyone’s perceptions about them, but being very clear about what it is they intend to contribute and acting on that.”
It’s not your job! You applied for a job description and you don’t need to defend yourself. Don’t try to manage and placate temporary opinions that were held before you came into the picture. Be yourself and ask what you’re trying to contribute to the workplace instead of caring what everyone else is thinking. (Second spoiler: you can’t manage everyone’s thoughts!)
You might not like this part, but guess what? It works. You have to be shallow. Your mind gets triggered because you feel like you made a mistake. EVERYONE makes mistakes. You have to break that cycle and that trigger. Made a mistake? Oh, well, moving on! Let it go. Bring yourself back with a vocal or written reminder that everyone screws up.
2020 has brought an incredibly heightened awareness of the erosion between business and society. Much to Sally’s surprise, her book became one for women and men. Turns out, these 12 habits are highly effective for people everywhere. Men were now able to better understand how they were treating female employees, and how to be better at it! It also keyed corporations into diversity inclusion and the responsibility we carry in the workplace and world. Talk about a marketing win.