Kit Prendergast, PCCKit brings you a wealth of expertise and experience as well as a wonderful spirit, energy, and a gift for inspiring you to create the life you truly want for yourself.
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Women need to believe in themselves again. In the late 1960’s to the 1980’s we saw women embracing their own self-worth and capabilities with strong confidence. They didn’t need to be perfect but they wanted to make things happen and they did.
But then what happened? For the past 15 – 20 years, we have steadily seen women fall off their career growth and success. Yes, we know there are major societal and cultural barriers to women here in our country but there is something more subtle going on. Women become their own worst critics.
These highly educated, capable young women start falling behind at almost every turning point in their career paths. That inner voice of self-doubt becomes louder and they begin turning down opportunities to advance saying to themselves “I’m not good enough, qualified enough, and smart enough or the time just isn’t right”. Interestingly, we don’t see the young men saying that at all – they tell themselves “I’ll learn it as I go”. The result . . . they move ahead and advance quickly.
This disturbing trend has been well documented but has received little serious attention by human resource professionals or the leaders of growing organizations – all who are now scrambling to recruit and retain top talent especially among the millennial generation.
What can we do? Here are three actions that HR departments and company leaders can take.
- Establish one-on-one mentoring programs
- Create confidential professional peer support groups
- Teach coaching skills to all managers/supervisors.
This is just a short list – there is so much more that we all need to do to stop this talent drain. Let’s help these young women grow their self-confidence so they can step up to critical leadership positions in their professional work and in their communities. We need them!
As a leader of others, do you know your own “Why”? Are you committed to this core belief? Are you able to communicate this belief clearly and consistently? Leaders are not leaders unless they have followers and people will not follow us unless they embrace the fundamental “Why” of our actions
In his book, Start With Why, Sinek describes this dynamic as the Golden Circle and maintains this is not just opinion but actually well grounded in the study of how our brains work. While on stage, he draws out 3 concentric circles on a flip chart. The “Why” is the center powered by our Limbic (emotional) brain. The next circle illustrates the “How” – the mechanics of how things get done. Finally, the outer circle is the easiest to describe – that’s the “What” we produce – the products or services.
As a business owner and leader of several community initiatives, I can easily relate to what Sinek is suggesting. When I seek to inspire and engage others to follow me in a cause or project, I am very mindful of what they are listening for – what is the “Why”? What is my purpose? What drives my commitment to them?
Sinek reminds all of us as leaders that people buy from us or work for us not for what we provide or for how we do it. People only commit to us when they believe and embrace the “Why” of our intentions and actions. They are inspired and that is the power whether we are the leader or the follower.
I challenge you (and me too) to step back this week and think about the “Why” of what we do. We may be surprised with our insights and how they may change the future of our work.
Sleep is a top priority for leaders. Our bodies, our brains, our spirits need to refresh and nourish themselves each and every night. Did you know that lack of sleep over time leads to a loss of brain cells that can’t be replaced? So our brain health is deeply affected by the quality and quantity of our sleep cycles and patterns at night.
We are at our best as leaders when we have the energy, confidence, clarity of thought and capacity to be emotionally available to those that we serve in our leadership roles. How do we get that? With a solid 7 hours of sleep the night before – here’s how to get started.
Prioritize your sleep by planning for it in the following ways:
- Establish a non-negotiable time to be in bed and lights out on your regular days of work. On weekends and holidays your time may vary a bit but not much.
- Be mindful of what you eat in the evening hours. Eating a heavy or spicy meal can create havoc with your stomach all night long.
- Be careful with wine which may put you to sleep faster but because of the sugar content may also wake you up in the early morning hours.
- Plan a bedtime routine that relaxes your mind and your body – a relaxing bath and a good novel are my favorites – start the routine 30-45 minutes ahead of “lights out”.
- Establish a solid cut-off time for all electronics including iPads and iPhones. And by all means, don’t look at any work email! Your brain will go into work mode instantly, making sleep very difficult as your mind starts whirling around your “to do” list.
- Think . . . let go of today knowing that you did the best you could and in the new day you will bring greater clarity of thought, more energy and an uptake of optimism – you have what it takes to tackle all the challenges and opportunities that will come your way.
- Finally, say to yourself three things that went well that day. This is Martin Seligman’s “What Went Well” exercise from his book, Flourish, 2011. In this way, you place your brain into a space of abundance rather than scarcity. It’s amazing how powerful that simple brain exercise puts you right to sleep!
Speaking from my years of experience working with people, families and communities as a professional coach, trainer, psychotherapist and social worker, I’ve always appreciated that our human needs are very clear – we want to be seen, have a voice and be able to contribute in a meaningful way.
And a robot or computer simply can’t provide that connection in any significant way and never will be able to. A robot is no competition for the human touch, the human heart and the human ear.
As leaders, these subtle but critical sensibilities show up as empathy. Empathy is the core of all social & emotional intelligence: true inspirational leadership never happens without it. Empathy is the ability to see the situation from another person’s eyes and heart. It’s the ability to set aside your own agenda, to listen deeply without judgment and to be able to genuinely understand and appreciate the perspective of another.
Do all leaders have this ability? No, they do not but the ones who do are remembered for their ability to engage and inspire us to always be at our best. We will work our hearts and souls out for that leader who genuinely hears us, values us and gives us the opportunity to use our talents to contribute in meaningful ways.
Can empathy be learned? Yes, it can, with daily practice and an authentic belief and enjoyment of others. It’s part of what clearly differentiates us from any computer program, machine or data package.
A robot can’t compete or replace us when we as leaders are at our best and humanly connected to others.
As a woman, how do you get to a position of leadership? A position of influence? A position to make a difference? It’s by having self-confidence. It’s the confidence to know that you can do it – that you are a strong and capable woman. It’s by taking that seat at the table right along with your male colleagues
As Sheryl Sandberg writes in her wonderful book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, 2013, we as women unconsciously but regularly hold ourselves back from sitting at the table.
As women, we can learn a lot from men about how to embrace our own successes. For example, research shows that when men are asked about how they achieved their various successes, they give credit to themselves – to their own innate qualities, skills and yes, their potential. It’s not in an egotistical way (no one likes that) but men don’t usually minimize or excuse their abilities but rather give themselves credit where credit is due.
Now, when a woman is asked about her success, what does she say? You will hear them (or even yourself) attribute their success to external factors like “I couldn’t have done it without other people’s help” or “I had a good mentor” or the worse for self-confidence . . . “I just got lucky”.
We constantly underestimate ourselves! Does that sound familiar? And the research verifies what we as women have suspected for a long time . . . we judge our performance worse than it actually is (men judge themselves slightly better) and when we are in front of other people, we are even more critical.
Changing this kind of self-talk is long overdue – especially as we raising our talented young daughters. We truly need the best of everyone – men and women of all ages – and, yes, ourselves as well!