Abby Wambach’s new book, Wolfpack, is short but full of actionable advice. She illustrates with stories from her own experience, and she unapologetically makes the case for a sisterhood of women supporting each other.
I have two favorite chapters. From Chapter Three: Lead from the Bench:
Old Rule: Wait for permission to lead.
New Rule: Lead now – from wherever you are
This is a woman after my own heart. I’m fairly sure she did not read my manifesto, and yet her words really speak to my philosophy as well.
In Chapter Seven: Bring it All, she tells us:
Old Rule: Lead with dominance. Create Followers.
New Rule: Lead with humanity. Cultivate Leaders.
Yes. Leaders all around us. People who are awake, aware, conscious and engaged in what is meaningful to them.
I look forward to new models of leadership in the world, more inclusive and supportive than the models of the past. We are ready for a fresh approach. The old way we have followed results in stress, burnout, environmental distress and war.
We cannot solve problems with the same level of consciousness that created those problems. Instead, we must rally the Pack toward our shared destiny. Amen, Abby!
I love it. I think it is spot-on when it comes to our lives. Most of us know we are powerful, but we also need the courage to act. We need the courage to believe in those great visions and dreams that we deeply long for. Use your power for good. We need it more than ever in this world.
How many of you have “manuals” for how other people should behave?
Whether they are family members, or co-workers, or just other people encounter during your day, we tend to have “manuals” for how we want them to behave. Here are some of my example thoughts related to this principle:
“They shouldn’t talk about people in such a mean way.”
“He should not behave that way.”
“They should say something nice instead of always criticizing.”
Those are some negative “manual” thoughts that sometimes appear in my own head. But they are actually false! How do I know that? Because they DO talk about people, he DOES behave that way, and they DO criticize.
We have no control over others’ behavior. But sometimes we think “if only they would behave differently then we could be happy.” \
This is actually a position of powerlessness. When we realize that we can respond to people from our own cleaned-up thoughts about the situation, we free ourselves. We cannot control the world. (Those of us who are control freaks find this a little hard to accept sometimes.)
Separate out what a person is saying (or how they are acting) from the thoughts and interpretations in your head. Then you realize it is not related to you, it is more about THEM.
This does not mean you should be a “doormat” or that you should not make requests of them (like “please stop”). That is totally fine. But you have to accept that people will choose to behave however they behave. Sometimes you need to have proper boundaries if they are mistreating you.
But the only person who’s thoughts, emotions and actions you can manage are yours. This is incredibly liberating, the more you practice awareness of your own thoughts and feelings, the more you take back the true power in your life.
Is there anyone in your life that is bugging you because they are not following your manual? Consider whether it’s time to trash that manual. Thanks to Brooke Castillo for first teaching me this principal. It has been a game-changer.
Yesterday afternoon I wrote a post in advance, then “scheduled” it so I could read it in the morning, edit and publish. Apparently WordPress ate the 700 word post. Oops. I have no idea how that happened. But spending a lot of time trying to recover a lost document is a waste. It’s best just to get started on the next one without a lot of drama or delay.
This morning I will meet with a VP for our Corporate Science and Technology division at work, my director’s boss. He has been a career mentor for me, and my director has encouraged me to meet with him once a quarter as I figure out my next move.
I am typically anxious about what to wear to such meetings.
My work “costume” has been evolving a lot in the past year or two. I already wrote about “grown up clothes” in a previous post. I had always read that you should dress for the position to which you aspire, or at least a level up, not necessarily the position you have. In corporate leadership functions at my company, that typically means for women dresses and heels.
As someone more comfortable in jeans and t-shirt, that was a transition for me. But I embraced my feminine side and realized that dresses are actually more comfortable than pants most of the time. A friend of mine likes to say they as comfy as pajamas but people actually think you look nice! She’s right about that, except during Minnesota winter, when they just seem stupid when your legs and feet are cold for the sake of fashion.
Work clothing can be a kind of “armor” we put on in the morning, to convey a sense of authority or power. As long as we feel comfortable with what we wear, and it does not “clash” with our sense of ourselves, I think it can enhance our confidence. Fake it until you become it, as Amy Cuddy says in her Ted Talk. A few wonder woman poses before a big event will not hurt either. Your body language may speak even more highly than your clothing, so it is worth being mindful of how comfortable you feel and what you project.
I realize that what I project at work does not really capture authentically who I am, and I am trying to figure out if I can bridge that gap. My husband bought me riding chaps last year before our summer motorcycle trip around Lake Superior. A friend teased me about it because he thought of chaps as a sex fetish thing. But hubby likes to say “dress for the slide, not the ride.” I know that my work colleagues would probably be shocked to see me dressed in jeans, chaps, and a black motorcycle jacket. It definitely does not alight with my work costume or the image I have sought to project at work.
At the same time, the motorcycle gear “costume” expresses my desire for freedom and for being engaged with the world in a different way. In a very practical sense, it is safety gear. And it is also represents a different part of my identity that is not something I feel comfortable bringing to work.
As I write this, I also know that the mask I wear as part of my work costume is getting a little old and tired as well. Having to feign enthusiasm for a job that is “over and done” for me in a fundamental way takes a lot of energy. It is not something I can do for much longer.
I believe that when we bring our whole, authentic selves to work we excel and produce our best work. Maybe there is room for that in my corporation, and maybe not. It is worth speaking up about my real feelings and thoughts to see if this is met with acceptance or with rejection. Either way, I will know whether I might find some other place in the organization or whether I need to move on.
The New York times recently published an article on 42 men in prominent positions accused of sexual misconduct that have been fired or resigned since Harvey Weinstein was fired in early October, and it made my jaw drop. But not as much as my original shock, when friends began posting their “Me Too” stories on social media.
For years, women have used whisper networks “back-channel” ways to protect themselves and others from predatory men in positions of authority. We know that these claims usually end up hurting the victim as much (or more, sadly) than the perpetrator. I grew up at the time when Anita Hill was being grilled for her experiences during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. I realized then that we speak up at our own peril. And since we know about certain men, but we want to protect other women, we develop ways to try to report informally to one another, without calling too much attention to our own experiences.
When many brave women came forward and found the courage to speak publicly about the harassment and degradation they have faced in work settings, a tide was set loose that has been building. Our president’s brash and openly defiant position as “Harasser in Chief” has been shocking to some of us, but in light of all the abuses so many have experienced, it is high time our whispers turned to shouts.
Time magazine’s cover for December 18, 2017 chose “Person of the Year” to be the Silence Breakers, women who had come forward to talk about their experiences of harassment in the workplace. I applaud them for acknowledging the courage it takes to come forward especially in light of the power dynamics that are so tipped against women in nearly every domain: politics, business, economics, academia, etc.
My own story is one of a rare few, with only subtle forms of harassment, what I would call “everyday sexism” of the workplace. I have been fortunate in that way, and I realize that in conversations about the Anita Hill situation while I was in high school, my parents reinforced the idea that I should never tolerate that kind of behavior. At a different place in my career, and in a culture that still devalues and objectifies women, I can see how so many women would not feel empowered to fight back.
When it is your boss or a person in a position of authority, can you really afford to risk your livelihood to complain? Isn’t it easier just to go along and get along?
Perhaps, and I would never judge a woman who is subjected to this behavior for not coming forward. Many women have regrets that they did not say something sooner, that maybe they could have prevented other women from going through the same pain.
As a manager, I recently completed a set of online training modules addressing harassment and policies at our company. I am sure it is no coincidence that the daily news stories reveal a much deeper and wider scope of the problem. The training was surprisingly good, and emphasized not only the policy portion for HR, but also the importance of building an inclusive culture where this behavior cannot thrive.
Fortunately I work at a company where we have policies that allow for good-faith reporting of problems, and ones that do not retaliate against employees who make complaints. That’s not to say it does not happen. I am sure it does. I view my role as helping to support a culture where disrespectful behavior is not the norm. I have had to stand up occasionally against sexism, especially on behalf of my team, which historically was made up of mostly women in front line positions and men in leadership.
Often I am the only woman in a group of 4-6, because I am in a lot of meetings with leadership, and the medical device field is overwhelming male. We work with cardiologists and electro-physiologists, a group that is probably 80% men. I make sure my female employees understand that under no circumstances are they expected to tolerate inappropriate behavior from any employee or customer/physician with whom they interact.
A few years ago, a female colleague in Mexico sheepishly told my boss at the time that she preferred not to visit a certain clinical research site. Apparently the physician had become interested in her, and was texting her inappropriate things, trying to get her to “go out” with him. She was exasperated and explained: he doesn’t even care that I’m married and wouldn’t be interested! Nope. He does not care. It is about power. That is the point.
Fortunately my boss at the time and my current boss (I was not yet the manager) told her: you never have to tolerate that behavior. Always be sure if you do visit the site, you do not go alone. Also, if you want us to find someone else to deal with that individual, you never have to go back there. We will never place you in a situation where you do not feel safe or respected, no matter how “important” the customer. I was grateful this was their advice, and now that I am the operational leader for my team, I continue to help my team to understand they will have my support if they ever encounter this behavior.
Particularly as Latinas, we work in settings where machismo is still very much alive. I shall write about that in a future post. The point I hope to make here is that it is ALL of our responsibility to make sure this culture is not tolerated in our workplaces.
Men, women and leaders especially need to take steps to make sure that we allow people to speak their truth, and that we hear people out. If there are complaints, we need to work with HR to make sure these are investigated without retaliation. We need to confront the perpetrators and explain what behavior will not be tolerated. Further follow up needs to happen when more serious behaviors are brought to light. Culture change does not happen overnight. But the message is LOUD and CLEAR: we will not tolerate this behavior and we will join together to ask you to STOP!