As a woman, I know we are incredible, brilliant, insightful, powerful, and capable of making a positive impact on a global scale. If that’s true, why does it seem like so many of us are sabotaging our successes, holding ourselves back, or missing the mark? After working with thousands of women, in a variety of training/coaching settings, five common themes have emerged on where women seem to be getting stuck. Women are spending too much time and energy invested in activities that do not make any positive contribution, personally or professionally, to our lives. At the risk of triggering some backlash, it’s to time to collectively name what may be going awry so we can address it, rectify it, and then successfully move beyond it.
Where are we going to learn how to move through the places we are getting stuck?
We are going to learn by taking a few tips from they guys on this one.
Many of you may be shaking your head thinking, “Seriously? Is she kidding? Is this some kind of joke?!”
There is nothing funny about this. Women have universally agreed, in training and after training, that too many of us consistently waste valuable time and energy getting stuck in areas we don’t need to be stuck on. Our misguided and misdirected focus derails, diminishes, and depletes us. These energy drains are limiting performance, achievement, and success- and they need to stop.
If we paid attention to how men are moving through the world, we could learn a lot. Men seem to know a few things about where to sink, or not sink, their valuable energy. Men aren’t perfect, and there are certainly many areas for men to improve on, but there are some areas where, generally speaking, men are pretty solid- and it’s worth taking some notes on what they know!
What is it (most) men know, and what (a lot of) women could benefit from remembering? Here are the top five tips to make sure you have a handle on:
1. The workplace is not a platform for your personal life.
Yes, you have a lot going on, but I say with love, get in line. Everyone has a lot going on. Being alive means stuff happens, every day, and as long as you’re above ground that’s not going to change. What does this mean? You aren’t “on the clock” to assess, process, and ponder events in your world. You are being paid to work, so practice compartmentalizing and focus on what you’re here to do. Whirling in your personal angst isn’t doing anything to rectify things in your personal life, and it’s wreaking havoc on your career. You aren’t getting things done and you’re losing credibility. You spent too much time and energy in your life cultivating “the professional” to let it all go down the drain because of “the personal.” *Footnote: It never pays to try and play the, “you don’t know how bad I have it” game, because someone else is always going to have it worse. And, it’s safe to say this is one game you never want to win. Remember that.
2. If you have something to say, say it to who needs to hear it.
You aren’t happy with something that was said, or done, or implied, or inferred, or implemented. That’s fine and it’s great to disagree and state your concerns, difference of opinion, or your feelings- just make sure you’re talking to the right people. Don’t say it to everyone else BUT the person. Why? Because it is a colossal waste of your time and energy to consistently avoid the most direct route to rectifying conflict. You never get that time OR energy back again. Stop squandering your precious resources with reckless abandon. You aren’t happy and you’re talking a lot, but you are solving nothing. Find the shortest point to resolving the issue and then have the courage to take that path. Own how you feel, mean what you say, and embrace the power that comes from being direct and finding resolution.
3. If someone offended you, upset you, ticked you off, or ruffled your feathers, address it- and then MOVE ON.
Following above example, but with a different spin. It is always a good idea to address and resolve an issue, but if you are not willing to address whatever it is, then let it go and move on. Don’t talk about it, analyze it, and create a secret club to bemoan it. Name it, so the other person knows there is an issue and has the opportunity to respond, and then move on. Really move on. Don’t pretend to move on and then reserve the right to bring it up six years from now. It’s now, or never. Guys seem to have mastered this skill. Once I overheard this exchange between two men, “Hey, why did you say that in the meeting? You made me feel like an ass!” To which the other guy replied, “Hey, sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. Relax, I’ll let the boss know I shouldn’t have said that. So, are we going to lunch now, or what?” And off they went. They didn’t need a mediator, a processing party, or seven months of angry exchanges to move through it. They didn’t talk about this for hours, with dozens of other people, trying to gain perspective and insight. They just landed the plane, and moved on. It was beautiful! Can you imagine how much impact you could have in the world if you weren’t preoccupied with keeping score of past wrongs, transgressions, and hurts? We know what would happen, don’t we? Correct. You would take over.
4. Great news! There is not a master subplot (or underground conspiracy) to hurt your feelings.
You want to run this place? You could if you’d just wrap your head around the reality you are NOT the epicenter of everyone else’s world and everything other people say and/or do is not a direct message to you, for you, or about you. You know how you have a lot going on in your world? Well, so does everyone else. It’s not personal on their end, so keep it professional on yours. People don’t meet in secrete to try to determine clever ways to slight you, or leave you out, or hold you back, or take away your opportunity to contribute. Chances are high that you are not being targeted, there is no orchestrated plan to take you down, or some grand scale effort to hurt your feelings. How can you run the place if all your energy goes in to finding new ways to assess, address, manage, and soothe all of your hurt feelings?! Women have the capacity to have a lot of feelings, which is a tremendous strength, just make sure it doesn’t become your undoing. Pay attention: There is no Hollywood movie subplot here. Promise.
5. Own your place and claim your space.
You keep waiting for someone to notice you, recognize you, appreciate you, validate you, invite you in, and make room for you. Newsflash: Your strategy isn’t working and nobody is coming for you. It’s time for YOU to come for you. Name your strengths and stand behind them. Take up space in the world. Stand in your power. Name it, claim it, and then hold on to it with both hands. The world isn’t here to present you with a gift wrapped piece of the power- so stop waiting for it. Decide you want it, you deserve it, and you can handle it…then take it. Notice of all of the men that have fully (and comfortably) set up shop with this one. Women can do it too.
We need to take some tips from men and stop giving our power to so many energy draining things.
It’s time to put our time and energy in to really moving forward, personally and professionally.
It’s time we take stock of our strengths, then run with them. Run right to the top, taking other women with you!
Finally, it’s time we really do this- in the way only women can.
Carrie Stack, M.Ed., is founder of the Say Yes Institute  (www.sayyesinstitute.com), a company focused on building emotional intelligence skills through training and coaching. She has shared her “people skills” strategies with thousands of people looking to build more positive and powerful relationships, both at home and at work. Twenty years in the nonprofit world has taught her a lot about how women work (or don’t work) together and she is committed to supporting women to be powerful leaders in the office, in the home, and in the world.
Carrie is the author of, The Dream Boss (due for release Oct. 2012), Conversations with the Future, and a featured columnist for Achiever magazine. She is also founder of the nonprofit Courage2Know and co-creator of EO Your Life .