A female CEO and an HR professional walk into a bar…
Thursday, October 31, 2019
If you identify with either group, then your reaction to that title is likely: good for them, they probably need a drink. Unfortunately though, recent research shows that the likelihood of that meeting happening is still small.
That is because female executives are still challenged by networking. And in some cases, we are the ones bringing the challenges on ourselves.
My sister once pointed out that, unlike me, a massage was much more likely to relax her than making a list. Just as telling, it had not occurred to me previously that list-making was not a commonly embraced method of relaxation. And once she had so lovingly proven this point with a number of examples, I started to examine this habit and the related actions.
I found my love of GTD, minimalism and open space — in both design and lifestyle — were intricately intertwined with my approach to work. While I am sure I knew this on some level, from a practical perspective, I did not always think through the implications. One special habit residing in that blind spot was tidying.
Per GTD, if something takes two minutes or less, I do it. With my love of clean surfaces, I realized that meant when I make coffee in the break room, I wipe the counter; on conference calls, I tidy my workspace; and during meetings, I clear dishes.
Though I knew in the back of my mind somewhere that women performing housekeeping duties in the office is a no-go on many levels for many reasons, I did not even realize I was guilty of it.
Upon initial reflection, I blamed it on my aforementioned cleanliness bent. However, diving slightly deeper I realized that my skills and role in HR leadership positions also decreased my visibility into that blind spot.
The dangers of comfort
My realization that I could be undermining myself with what I thought was a beneficial habit got me wondering what other of my common practices were slowly destabilizing my success.
Both HR pros and women leaders tend to be empathetic, collaborative and, in turn, good listeners. The dark side of those being: we also tend to internalize, have difficulty saying no, and don’t always speak up for ourselves.
These are all well-documented issues, but for those of us in one or both of these groups, it can be a real challenge to see the connection between our day-to-day tasks and the dark side of these characteristics to which we often attribute our success.
So, what do we do? I have found a couple of simple ways to start revealing those blind spots. First, ask a trusted friend or advisor (or sister). If they can’t think of anything, try asking specifically, what it is that people say right when you leave the room.
Second, stop smoothing things over. Though it is a skill squarely in our success zone, we can benefit from examining the specific thing in that instance that compels us to help everyone get along. That thing — someone being ignored or taking unilateral credit — may point to things about us that we are not embracing, like speaking up for ourselves or taking credit for a win.
The bottom line is that all this advice and even the data has been around, but unless we really examine the practical aspects of our daily actions, the information will fall on deaf ears and the trends will continue.
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