There are real obstacles in the world for women. These obstacles impede the progress to get to where you want in your career and, oftentimes, to get the leadership role you deserve. Only 24% of C-Suite positions are held by women. It’s not a pipeline issue; women have been consistently surpassing men in entering college, with 59.5% of college students being women in the 2020-21 academic year.
Yes, there are real hurdles.
My dream is that women hold the majority in leadership roles. Then, the rules of how we work can be changed, so it no longer perpetuates the burnout–the workaholic culture–we currently overvalue. This dream would include everyone getting paid livable wages, healthcare for all (including mental health services), respect for all work (paid or unpaid), support for families, and acceptance of all lifestyle choices. While we’re at it, every single person will be treated humanely and with respect, the environment is restored, and let’s attain world peace too.
It may be a pipedream with so many overwhelmingly huge forces standing in the way, but still, it is a dream worth pursuing.
Men aren’t going to do it for us. It must be women because when women are in leadership roles, especially women of color, everyone rises. Not just women, everyone.
According to the Women in Work Report, despite women being significantly more burned out (and increasingly more so than men), “Women are rising to the moment as stronger leaders and taking on the extra work that comes with this: compared to men at the same level, women are doing more to support their teams and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. They are also more likely than men to practice allyship.”
I believe we can get there if each woman first focuses on the obstacles within her control. That will get her one step closer to where she deserves to be, in a leadership role. Once there, she can work to change the rules and start removing the external obstacles and barriers for others.
However, no one woman should feel like she single-handedly needs to take on the challenges of the world. It must be a group effort because you (and I) both need support. It’s our responsibility as a collective sisterhood to lean in, step up, and care for each other.
So, if you do your part getting out of your own way, and if there are some courageous women out there willing to do way more than their part, then this new world is possible.
What Getting in Your Own Way Looks Like
To understand how you may be getting in your own way, it helps to understand the root of self-sabotaging behavior: fear, which is typically on a subconscious level. Examples of fear include fear of failure; fear of rejection, including not being accepted or belonging; fear of loss, and fear of success (yes, that’s a real fear).
It might come in all sorts of forms that look like legitimate reasons (our subconscious is tricky that way), such as:
- Spending too much time on a report to make it perfect because you want to deliver high-quality work and expect it to go noticed. When the credit comes, it goes to the team. You want to be a good team player, so you let it go. You don’t speak up in meetings, thinking it’s not adding value. Although you know the most about the project, others speak for you.
The result is your hard work goes to the team. And because you have a teammate who likes to talk (we’ll call him Bob), it’s assumed he must be the team leader, and it’s Bob who gets the next promotion…
- Fixing your direct report’s work because it’s faster, or not delegating because you feel you can’t trust others to deliver at your level. Not being seen as approachable by your team due to your high expectations (and being noticeably stressed, due to exhaustion), thereby demotivating your team, which causes more mistakes.
The result is you continue to be overworked, instead of working at a strategic level that will get you to your next promotion. You are viewed as a horrible manager, and no one wants to work for you.
- You don’t set boundaries or say no to additional work that doesn’t align with your goals or initiatives. You take on duties such as taking notes in meetings for your peers, figuring you normally take notes anyway, and you don’t mind sharing and want to be seen as a team player.
The result is you’re overwhelmed with extra work that is not helping you get your goals accomplished. You are seen as the team administrator, spurring your peers to assume you’ll do the extra work or ask for more of your help.
5 Steps to STOP Getting in Your Own Way
Before you can correct any behavior, you must first recognize it.
- Do you know how you self-sabotage yourself?
- What triggers the behavior?
- What beliefs are underlining the behavior?
- What is your negative self-talk?
If you aren’t sure what saboteurs you may have, take this complimentary assessment to build awareness.
Pick one thing to work on at a time and know why it’s important to you.
If you focus on one behavior at a time, you’ll be able to focus and build positive momentum. Then connect your success to a bigger WHY: a bigger vision or purpose of what this success will help you do. If you’re anything like me, it helps to have another person in mind. Since women are often socialized to put others first, then use that to your advantage. You can be a role model for your daughter, or you’ll be able to support other women on your team. I shared my dream at the start of this post, which is my WHY. What’s yours?
Be KIND to yourself.
Changing behavior, which you’ve likely done your entire life, takes time. To help build confidence you need evidence. Create a list of your superpowers, strengths, and accomplishments. List all the ways you’re awesome and all the amazing things you’ve done. Sometimes we need data as a reminder and it’s not easy to access as we quickly blow past an accomplishment, onto the next thing. Keep this list available, read it when necessary, and consistently add to it.
Create a plan.
Write down how you want to be and get specific on what it looks like in action.
- If you want to stop making everything perfect, then know what “good enough” or ‘B’ work (instead of A+ work) looks like. Know when you can do B work and when A work is needed.
- If you need help changing a belief you have about yourself, then write down the new story that serves you. Replace the old belief with a new one and read it daily or whenever the belief shows up.
- If you need help saying ‘no’ then create a list of responses that replaces a ‘yes’ or slows things down so you can be more thoughtful before responding, such as, “Let me check my calendar and I’ll get back to you.”
Whatever behavior you decide to tackle, you need a plan of action and don’t forget to add in what support you’ll need in that plan. As I mentioned before, we all need help!
Create space to reflect.
Change does not happen without lots of reflection. Use this reflection time to continue to build awareness. Notice what’s working or not working. Capture the learnings and integrate them into your plan going forward. Log the successes and be sure to add them to your accomplishments list.
Reflection is NOT rumination (reliving what you did wrong and beating yourself up about it). Don’t forget to be kind to yourself in this process.
If you need help identifying how to get out of your own way, creating an action plan, or a support partner, I’m here for you.