Be aware of these common traps for women leaders
Not all women are the same, but there are some common traps for women leaders that we need to be wary of. And don’t worry, we have solutions for them too.
There is a click bait soundbite that says women don’t need fixing – it’s workplaces that do. That is completely true. But one of the downsides of simplifying situations to a single sentence is that it suggests that women don’t need any training or coaching to improve their professional performance, which is completely untrue. Just as some men equally need personal development. But there seem to be some behavioral traps for women leaders that they fall and get stuck in more than men.
Here are 5 traps for women leaders that we can think of:
#1 Dealing with differences
Women are supposed to have a more collaborative approach to work, although I have known my fair share of control freaks and micro-managers who have been female. So it can also be one of those misplaced gender stereotypes. There are also lots of collaborative men! But it’s important when dealing with diversity of thought or differences of approach, to be aware of two traps for women leaders that can derail them.
- If you have an alternative idea – don’t apologise. How many times have you heard women say “I’m sorry but I disagree…?” It’s OK to say “what about an alternative idea…” It doesn’t have to be an “either/or” situation but an “also/and.”
- If someone else contradicts you or comes up with something different – it’s not about you. Don’t take it personally. You are not what you do or your job title. Neutralise it and make it about the job or conversation.
It’s normal to look for recognition and validation of our self-worth in our professional lives. Feedback, if given constructively, is not about who we are, but what we are doing. Sadly women tend to receive feedback that is focused on style rather than substance. The trick is to tell the person “I hear what you say about my delivery style… but what about the content of my presentation.”
If our values and vision are firmly anchored and we are sure of our inner purpose and selves, then this is much easier to achieve. If you struggle then get some support from either a coach or a mentor.
#2 Holding back
As leaders become more accustomed to conducting inclusive meetings, it should be easier for women and other more introverted personalities to be heard. But women are caught in the double bind which is if they are assertive then they are perceived as being abrasive or aggressive. That is not your problem. Provided you have expressed yourself correctly, how the other person receives your input is up to them. There is no need to hold back or play second string for fear of resistance or wanting to make someone else feel more significant. Convey this with strong body language, impactful content and powerful delivery.
If you see credit for your work or input being given to someone else say “Thank you for appreciating my idea....”
#3 Separate career and parenting
There are many among us who still call women “career mothers” or “working Moms.” But it is possible to be a mother and a professional woman without bundling them together. You never hear the term “career dad” or “working Father.” Ever. There are many learning experiences gained from being a parent which strengthen your skill set. But you are a strong professional and if your organisation doesn’t value your contribution based on that alone, then perhaps you need to find another employer.
#4 Rotate invisible work
There is no doubt that women take on the lion’s share of invisible work in most organisations. This is counter-productive and eats into your valuable time, which is a finite resource. So make sure you rotate who organises leaving parties, baby showers and other non-job related tasks with colleagues of both genders. These non-value adding tasks take your focus away from meeting your KPIs i.e. promotion based work. No one ever made VP because they plan a great retirement bash or summer BBQ.
#5 Gender imbalance at home
It could also be that you are caught up in an imbalanced relationship at home and in your personal relationship. Unless you are a single parent it’s time to have a difficult conversation with your partner and redraw your domestic picture. Women are still carrying out significantly more domestic duties as well as the “thinking” work of running a household. Make sure you are not being short-changed. An increasing number of women are treating household management like any other project and outsourcing “low value work.” If it becomes a more serious issue, consider couple career coaching or even relationship counselling. It’s important that your partner supports your career.