THREE WAYS WOMEN CAN PRESS FOR THEIR
PROGRESS IN THE WORKPLACE
By Marni Johnson
In today’s knowledge and service economies, what motivates and
engages most employees ultimately comes down to satisfying
three needs: career, community and cause. As organizations
strive to build diverse and inclusive workforces, these needs
must be met, particularly in ways that apply to women.
The following strategies can be invaluable to help other women
press for their own progress in the workplace.
Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
There tends to be a historical misconception that women need
to behave like men to succeed in business. Women do not need to
adopt socially identified masculine traits to get ahead – although
many women would benefit from displaying the same level of con-fidence
that men do.
Women are more likely to experience self-doubt than men and
may suffer from “imposter syndrome” – where they are unable to
“own” their accomplishments or feel they haven’t earned the right
to make certain requests.
A contributor to imposter syndrome is the belief that you need
to be perfect and to have all the answers: “leader as hero” think-ing.
In fact, the opposite is true. If you’ve hired a strong team, it’s
unrealistic to think you know more about everything than they
do. You aren’t serving your team well if you don’t encourage them
to think independently and use their talents fully. Second, being
vulnerable – and imperfect – is actually a leadership strength. It
engenders trust, which is vital to building the strong relationships
necessary to be successful. You must feel confident enough to ask
for help from your colleagues or subordinates without feeling that
this diminishes your own contributions.
One strategy is to think of someone you admire who exudes
confidence and adapt those behaviours. For example, in facilitat-ing
a difficult meeting, ask yourself if that person you admire were
in your shoes, how they would behave – and your behaviour can
then be inspired accordingly. It’s not being inauthentic, it’s sim-ply
adapting your own behaviours and internal resources to serve
Lack of confidence can deter individuals from taking action. If
you lack the confidence to make a phone call asking a client for
their business, remind yourself that you only need to be brave for
five minutes. Chances are, once you take the first step and get the
ball rolling, you’ll be fine.
Sometimes women say, “I work with men who love to talk about
sports. I’m not a sports fan – do I have to pretend I am to fit in?”
The answer is a resounding no. You can damage credibility and
trust if you are inauthentic. However, in building any relationship,
it’s important to find common ground. If not sports, then what
commonalities can you use as a basis to build a relationship?
FIND YOUR TRIBE
Your effectiveness at work is dependent on how well you relate to
others. In this age of digitization, machines can do many things,
but one thing they cannot do is replace the value of deep personal
interaction. One of the best things you can do for your career is
foster strong, trusting relationships inside and outside of your
organization, and the more diverse these relationships, the bet-ter.
Women tend to be stronger than men at developing relational
skills such as collaboration; this skill is valued in business and is
worth nurturing. The real value in collaboration lies not just in
building consensus and giving everyone the opportunity to be
heard, but in uncovering diverse perspectives and experiences so
that you make better decisions for your business.
We spend a lot of time at work; to find true fulfillment, we need a
connection between what we do and our purpose in life. Life isn’t
lived solely outside of work!
Doing meaningful work and making a difference is important to
all of us regardless of age or stage in our careers. Although we may
think of this as pursuing something noble like finding a cure for
cancer, it can be as simple as using your coaching skills to help oth-ers
be the best people they can be.
Understanding your purpose isn’t an intellectual exercise, it’s
something you figure out by doing. It may require you to have the
courage and confidence to try new things (and possibly fail). Your
purpose will come from your passions, values and the talents you
have. To get started, what are the activities you do in your work
and your life that bring you the greatest joy? When time feels like
it’s flying by, when you are in “the zone” and wonder where the past
hour or two went, what are you doing?
What if your purpose is different from the work you do every
day? Should you quit your job? No – although it’s important there
not be misalignment between your personal values and those of
your organization. It may be hard to find fulfillment if you can’t
bring your whole self to work due to a misalignment of values. n
Marni Johnson is senior VP, HR and corporate affairs at
gmast3r / 123RF Stock Photo
HRPROFESSIONALNOW.CA ❚ MAY 2018 ❚ 29