To say I’m proud of my sister is an understatement.
Although she’s five years younger than me her drive and pursuit of excellence has always inspired me.
I’ve seen her competitive spirit as she played competitive sports (whether knocking bigger girls around in select and high school soccer, or breaking through women’s barriers by taking on tougher competition playing as a girl on a boy’s basketball team, or taking over the coaching duties when she led a mutiny against an abusive coach). You name it. If the team needed her, she was there. Or when he was valedictorian in her high school graduation class or getting her chemistry degree and then becoming a patent attorney. Annie always drove to be the best. Annie outlines some of that (along with some bumps along the way) in her inagural episode of her unraveling pink podcast.
But today I’m going to talk about her second episode. A very eye-opening podcast with Joanna Bloor of the Amplify Lab.
In this episode Annie and Joanna explore some of the differences between men and women in the workplace. And how both sides can better their communication and get better results from their interactions. Something that all businesses could learn from.
Here’s the 2nd’ podcast. Joanna Bloor and the Blue Bandana. Check it out. Here’s some things I learned that you can apply to your situation.
Why Are You Awesome?
My first takeaway was something that Joanna said about one of the first questions she asks out of the gate in an executive coaching session, “Why are you awesome?” Or “What do you want to be known for?” A key to personal branding.
Men and women often view this differently.
This question is tied to two separate questions Joanna asks.
The first is about the company the person works for,
“What does your company do and why is it important?”
Men and women execs both seem to get this one (yes, their marketing departments have done their job). But it is the next one where you get radically different responses.
That question is,
“What do you do and why is it important?”
Men typically do fine (just don’t say, “I’m strategic” or Joanna will pounce on that – too generic). They have a vision for themselves and often how that ties in to their role in the company and creating a compelling future for themselves and their company.
Women on the other hand often struggle with this question. They typically respond with how they “Get shit done.” Or that they “Connect with people.” Well as Joanna says, that’s “table stakes”. That’s the thing that is a job requirement. Not something that will help you get ahead. Whether that is a promotion or a new job elsewhere, you need a compelling vision for yourself and understand how that creates a better future for the company. Without that you’re just a hard worker and the go-to person (who in reality is often used and forced into remaining in that go-to role, because the company can’t afford to lose you – and they also won’t allow you to progress in your career).
So getting a handle on your personal value., your personal brand is critical. That’s something I come across with the resume rewrites I do for my clients who are heading in a new direction in their career. Often the resume is the end product of an intense conversation about their strengths, weaknesses, interests, frustrations, and vision (yes vision) for themselves and their future.
Getting a handle on this is key for you and your career.
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This is the second part of the equation. If you know what sets you apart from the competition (as your personal brand), then next step is to communicate it.
Men typically come from the perspective of, “I should already know how to do this.” And often that results in them often trying to go it alone or not ask enough questions, thinking it makes them look weak. That is a key reason men often hide using a professional coach from others (especially their own company management). We’re taught as men that admitting you don’t know something is a sign of weakness. However if we can’t do it as leaders then how can we expect others to do it? They’ll take our lead by not asking questions and opportunities to improve the organization go by the wayside. A vicious cycle.
For the women, according to Joanna, it is more about society teaching women that self-promotion is “bragging” and that is bad. Or that they shouldn’t push that hard.
Joanna brings up a key “pink bandana moment” that shaped her world view when she left England and came to America and went to high school at 15 in a Texas, a “Friday Night Lights” -style high school.
“You know, you should be careful about how many times you put your hand up. Because you don’t want to come across as too smart. Or the boys won’t ask you out on a date.”
Yes, things we’re still screwed up in those days. Thankfully women have largely pushed past that and are now going to college in numbers greater than even men and have more women role models to look up to and guide them.
So how do women get the message out without coming across as bragging or bitchy? But as assertive, confident and awesome?
That’s an area I probably don’t have all the answers for but Joanna gives some clues further in the conversation. Here are a few…
- Take the initiative: Often men are just as insecure about effective communication with women as women are about men.
- Get to know people: Develop those relationships. With solid relationship you can be open, honest, and share your successes without coming across as bragging – just let it come out in normal conversation.
- Own your stuff: Be accountable. We’re not always right or perfect. Accepting that and moving on anyway is part of the puzzle.
- Develop a foundation of mutual respect, trust and accountability: This is huge. If you have these things much can be accomplished.
Annie’s listener challenge: What they can you do, that’s not very hard, that will help create a conversation around gender-based assumptions or help reduce gender-based assumptions?
Empathy is where it starts.
And empathy requires having a conversation first. Find out what they’re outside passions are. You can ask questions such as, “What are you into outside of work?” If you don’t know anything about it follow up with, “Can we have lunch? I’d love to learn more about [whatever it is]?”
A special bonus concept (that will help you at work and with your significant other)
Women are more spacial and non-linear thinkers frequently. And they talk things out. Men are very, generally linear thinkers – think something then say stuff.
One of her clients commented in a group session,
Hey, have you noticed how Joanna does that? She thinks and talks at the same time. And if you just let her go, by the end of it she’ll come out with something brilliant. So just shut up and in a minute she’ll get there.
When in a meeting with men, she’ll say, “I’m really sorry. I think and talk at the same time. And it’s my way of processing things.” He said, “Oh, my God. My wife does that.”
So guys, if you find the woman in your life talking as she’s thinking, and it seems like it is going all over the board, recognize it could just be the way she’s processing things.
And shut up and listen for the cool, brilliant result. Yes, you could learn something.
To learn more about Annie Rogaski, a thought leader in unraveling gender-based assumptions – so businesses can run better and achieve more by leveraging the talents of all their employees (both men and women), go see her blog “unravelingpink.com”
And if you find yourself at a career crossroads and need to talk it through (whether you need a resume rewrite or just some direction on the next step in your career/life path), contact me.