Last week I started introducing a topic very close to my heart as well as the majority of the people reading this Blog “Women in Management” and more precisely what you can do to improve your situtation. Check it out right here. This week I would like to fruther elaborate on this topic.
Confidence and Determination
The guardian wirtes “according to a recent study by the UK Institute of Leadership and Management, compared to their male counterparts, female managers tend to have lower levels of self-confidence and higher levels of self-doubt.”
This comes as no surprise since stereotypically women are seen as more self critical than men. But to what degree is self criticsm constructive and when does it start being destructive. A good dose of modesty is generally useful but in management this self criticism and maybe even lack in confidence might not be helpful to your career.
Although long-established stereotypes can sometimes just latch on and stick forever it is very important not to believe in them yourself!
Sentences like“You can’t do this!”, “That’s a man’s job!” or “That’s too difficult for you!” can haunt you your entire life, unless you replace them with a new point of view. Henrike von Platen, freelance executive consultant and board member of the BPW Germany (Business and Professional Women) suggests:
“try things you have never done before – what’s the worst that can happen?”
Think outside the box and outside of stereotypes. Simply adapt the men’s attidtude. Instead of saying “I can’t do that!”, try saying “I will learn how to do that!”
Know your strengths
Conventional wisdom has it that women are more reflective than men and know better what they’re good at and what they can still improve. Knowing your strengthes and then concentrating on and finessing them might give you a competitive advantage and might give you the confidence you need to overcome sterotypes and speak up!
Set and persue your goals
Once you know your goal you have better chances of reaching it. Think about what you want to do and where you want to go.
The common way of accomplishing this is firstly to specify your goal and secondly try to split it up into little actionable tasks. FastCompany.com a business magazine recommends breaking down your long-term career planning into manageable periods, such as 18 months, three years and 10 years. These short periods are more encouraging than long ones. Thirdly persue your objectives constantly and vigurously. And finally don’t be discouraged by setbacks. Accept failure and try instead to learn from your mistakes and avoid them next time.
“Failure is an inherent and holistic part of the success, don’t give up too soon.”
– Jackie Baptist-
Asking for what they need and want
Jacki Baptist and Elizabeth Dell, who I introduced last week, claim that “Women often hold themselves back from asking for what they need and want, or they apologize for it.” These are two atributes that are going to be obstacles in the pursuit of a career. To be succesful you must have the courage to peak up and ask for what you want and need. Furthermore you must have the confidence to claim what is yours and not let changes pass you by!
If offered take chances
Every carrer consitst of opportunities to work one’s way up. A central aspect of becoming successful is to grab those changes! If an interesting and promising opportunity reveals itself to you, don’t question or doubt your qualifications but take it. Cornelia Topf, Coach and business consultant from Augsburg, asserts that even if you fall behind on you everyday workload, which might anger your collegues you should always take on important and prestigous tasks. Remember that impressing your boss might be more useful to your career than getting good with everyone. Topf insists
“Let them talk. Not everyone needs to love you!”
The peril of perfectionism
Especially for women perfectionism can become an real obstacle to being their most productive self. Almost everything anyone does can be improved in some little way or details but be aware that the costs of that might exceed the benefits. Prioritize and learn to be satisfied with “almost perfect”. Ask yourself how you can utilize your time most effieciently. How much will the project benefit from you putting in extra work? Could your time be better used on other projects?
Don’t play the victim
“Many women see themselves as victim”, believes Topf. It is true that many women complain that in the male dominated workworld they won’t succed anyways. But it’s not that simple. “You can achieve quite a lot with regard to your own career”, empahzises Topf.
This includes not playing the sympathie card when talking to collegues and your boss. If you play the victim this exactly how they will see you as someone to pity not someone to admire or respect, how can you then expect to be taken seriously?
Prof. Gertrud Höhler from Berlin believes that women often read too much between the lines and as a result she feels , that women often feel hurt for no good reason. Women tend to be oversensitive.
“Women take a lot of things personal and react in that manner”
declares Höhler, who works as an economic advisor.
What further complicates things is that men don’t undestand what’s going on and start to think that women are unpredicatble and moody. This of course is not helpful to anyones career.
Talk, Talk, Talk
“In a ‘man-centric’ work environment, you need to know how to express your ideas and opinions, using clear and direct communication.” – the guardian
Enjoy your success and talk about it
Only if the decision maker of a company hear about you and your accomplishments can and will they truly acknowledge you. Women have been trained to be modest but this does not apply to the workplace. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished – experts agree self-praise is allowed and to some extend even beneficial!
“Women often tell me: ‘My boss doesn’t know anything about my capabilities Fähigkeiten.’ I always reply: ‘Then it’s about time you show him what you can do.’ “
encourages Barbara Schneider Hamburg, who coaches female executives and managers.
“Talk about your accomplishments!”
concurs Cornelia Topf.
Even if you don’t have that many big accomplishments try to show yourself from your best possible side and impress people. According to Topf men tend to boast more then women do. “Men even try to sell their failures as achievements, while women stand in the corner saying ‘Oh that wasn’t that impressive.'”
The false assumption behind this kind of behaviour is that women subconsciously hope men will think “What an impressive person. Even though she succeeds and accomplishes a lot she does not need to talk about it.” – this is never going to happen. Therefore Höhler warns not to keep your head down but instead to be proud and bask a little in the glory.
According to FastCompany.com, the style of communicating of men and women is very dissimialr. An important way of achieveing what you desire and getting your message across can be to find the most effective way of communicating with different people. This does not necessairly mean being agressive or speaking like a men but rather to find the tone and words appropriate for each situation. This is easy said but very hard to do. It takes a lot of time and sensitivity, and it might be useful to consult help like a speaking coach or even consider enroling in a speaking training course.
When reading all the different experts’ opinion and writing this post I was shocked to realize in how many of these points I saw myself reflected. I agree that there is more that we women ourselves can do to improve our situation in the business world. Furthermore I think especially the subhead “Don’t play the victim” needs to be further emphazised since in the end the only person that truly effects and shapes your life and what your career is going to look like is you!