destroying double standards

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Last week I re-posted in honor of my anniversary,”Tips for a long-lasting marriage or friendship“. The first tip I listed was partnership.

Then this morning I was reading the chapter, “Making Your Partner a Real Partner” from Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg… so I have partnership on the brain today!


Sandberg writes mainly advocating for women in leadership, but this chapter
advocates very much for men.

One thing that has concerned me through the years has been the limited role of men in home and family. As a woman blessed to have a spouse who has been a “real partner” for our 28 years of marriage, I find it easy to advocate for real partnership in marriage, home, and work.

Sandberg mentions various barriers to real partnership at home that I have seen and experienced myself. She also suggests ways to overcome the barriers. I wonder if you can relate to any of these?

1. Empowerment

Just as woman struggle with lack of empowerment in the business world, men often face a lack of empowerment at home.Too many times I have heard women criticize their husbands’ for how they feed, dress, or interact with their children. In my opinion, these women not only sound disrespectful and insulting, but also prideful, and they are doing their marriage partnership a great disservice (and increasing their own work load). Sandberg correctly states, “Anyone who wants her mate to be a true partner must treat him as an equal–and equally capable–partner.“¹ it is fine to choose task assignments according to preference or skill, but assuming and communicating that a man cannot do (or learn to do) a good job at home is demeaning and de-motivating. On the other hand, empowering will help to take down the barriers between real partners.

2. Encouragement

Derogatory jokes, lack of role models, and social stereotypes all make it more difficult for men to openly and actively participate as full partners at home. I have known a few men who were the primary care-givers for their children. I have known more men who shared equally home and family responsibilities (my husband included).Others teased, questioned, and sometimes isolated these men because of their desire and commitment to actively engage as true partners, rather than praised and honored for their choices.Thankfully, these men did not have the (oft-ascribed) fragile male egos I am frequently warned about, and they refused to be discouraged or dissuaded by stereotypical expectations. Men and women both can do a better job at encouraging men when they act as true partners.

3. Employment policies

Most companies do not offer men the same paternal benefits that are available to women. According to Sandberg, “Only two states offer paid family leave that fathers can use”². Men often pay an even bigger penalty than women via social pressure, low performance ratings,and fewer advancement opportunities if they take time off to prioritize family needs. I believe we need to improve the organizational/governmental policies and laws to support true partnership.

Sandberg claims that true marriage partnership results in greater satisfaction, less divorce, and more sex³, and greater father involvement produces “higher levels of psychological well-being and better cognitive abilities”⁴ and “higher levels of educational and economic achievement and lower delinquency rates”⁴ for the children. These benefits motivate me to work to eliminate the double standards that inhibit true partnership.

Are there ways you can improve true partnership in your marriage?

If you are dating, are you establishing true partnership patterns today for future marriage? 

——-

**For more chapter summaries from Lean In, read here and here.

¹ Sandberg, Sheryl. Lean In. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013, pg. 109, para. 2. 
² Ibid, pg. 113, para. 2.
³ Ibid, pg. 118, para. 1. 
⁴ Ibid, pg. 113, para. 1.

do nice girls finish last?

Lean InI am making my way through Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, and chapter three made me stop and think a bit. The chapter is called “Success and Likeability”, and Sandberg starts out with a Harvard Business School case study based on the experience of an entrepreneur named Heidi Roizen. Sandberg writes:

The case described how Roizen became a successful venture capitalist by using her “outgoing personality… and vast personal and professional network [that] included many of the most powerful business leaders in the technology sector”. [The professors] assigned half of the students to read Heidi’s story and gave the other half the same story with just one difference – they changed the name “Heidi” to “Howard”.

[The Professors] then polled the students about their impressions of Heidi or Howard. The students rated Heidi and Howard as equally competent… their accomplishments were completely identical. Yet while students respected both Heidi and Howard, Howard came across as a more appealing colleague. Heidi, on the other hand, was seen as selfish and not “the type of person you would want to hire or work for.” The same data with a single difference – gender – created vastly different impressions.¹ (emphasis mine)

Sandberg argues that the case study further proves research that,”When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.”² Sandberg explains that from early on, girls learn that intelligence and success are not the path to popularity. In addition, socially acceptable behavior allows men to claim credit for achievements and assertively negotiate for higher salary, whereas a woman is perceived as arrogant and self-serving if she does the same. Women are expected to help without reward, and care and advocate for others.

The ultimate goal is to eventually eliminate different attitudes and treatment based on stereotypes, but until then Sandberg offers a few suggestions for women. I’ve re-written them in my own words here:

1. Pay the price – Women need to accept that there will be unfair biases and criticism. Sandberg suggests that we allow ourselves to feel and work through the emotions generated by the criticism, but then move on and do our job.

2. Play to your strengths – Some of the common “nice” characteristics ascribed to women – caring, communication, community – greatly improve teamwork. As women smile and appreciate others – while focusing on the task – productivity increases.

3. Position yourself communally – Women will have more success in negotiations when they use “we” vocabulary as context for their requests. Petitions couched in common interests and concern for the common good are more readily accepted from women than those that appear self-centered or self-promoting.

4. Purpose to become comfortable with power – It will take concentrated effort to change mindsets and perspectives based on years of habit and feedback, but as women work to become more comfortable with their power, they will also lean in with greater confidence.

Have you ever struggled with the “nice” girl dilemma? What do you think of Sheryl Sandberg’s tips for overcoming that stereotype?

For my men readers… what do you think? Are women held to a different standard than men?

______________________

¹ Sandberg, Sheryl. Lean In. Chapter 3, para. 2-3. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

² Ibid. Chapter 3, para. 4.

breaking down barriers

file0001312170283In addition to the external barriers erected by society,
women are hindered by barriers that exist within ourselves.
Sheryl Sandberg¹

I received a copy of Sandberg’s book, “Lean In“, from a dear friend. I have only started reading it, but I have found connection, empathy, authenticity, grace, and challenge in the first chapters. Sandberg proposes a hypothesis which many of us already know is truth… as women, we are often our own worst enemy.

Sandberg explains that women often deeply internalize the negative messages we receive during our life – and quickly undervalue the positive messages that we earn.

I believe that women are essential to making important world changes in society through our relationships, families, and jobs today. To do that, we need support, advocacy, and partnership with the men in our lives, but we also need to believe in ourselves to step confidently into the places that we are created and gifted to fill. 

How can we do that? I’ve started a list here from some of Sandberg’s comments and some of my own experiences:

Gain self-awareness.

Personality profiles, StrengthsFinder, Reflected Best Self Exercise, work preferences, gift tests, feedback from mentors/friends/others… all help to discover and affirm unique value and contribution. The more I learn about myself, the easier it is to choose where to invest my time and my talents with confidence.

Don’t give unnecessary power to gender stereotypes.

“Strong”, “assertive”, “outspoken”, “intelligent” – these words often negatively describe a woman leader, but compliment a man. Words like “sensitive”, “passionate”, “caring”, “transparent” can also be used to disregard a woman’s position, but be considered uncommon and valuable assets for men. The key principle to remember is – no matter what I do or what I am like, I will never please everyone. I need to be comfortable in my own skin.

Get past the fear.

Women sometimes feel afraid… afraid of not knowing enough, afraid of saying something stupid, afraid of failing, afraid of being labeled as a fraud². Fears like these could easily paralyze and cause a step back from opportunities, but so often they are irrational and never actually occur. I am learning to speak up or act with courage in spite of my fears. I am learning that I am needed and because of that, I must “keep my hand up… and sit at the table”³. 

Say a simple “Thank You” for compliments and awards.

Sandberg explains that it is often our insecurity that causes us to scoff, brush off, and negate the achievements and accolades that we receive. I sometimes fail to accept a compliment without explaining or excusing it away with a, “It was nothing”, “I had lots of help”, or “I guess I had them fooled.” I am grateful for those in my life who (first) express their sincere appreciation for my efforts and (second) confront me if I undervalue my contribution. 

How have you been your own worst enemy? What would you add to this list?

¹Sandberg, Sheryl. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2013. p. 8.
²Ibid. p. 28-29.
³Ibid. p.38

Isolated Leadership: Dangers and Solutions

To my Maturitas Cafe readers… I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share this post with you. It combines two of my all-time favorites – Henry Cloud and Dan Rockwell – experts and amazing encouragers in the areas of life and leadership. If you don’t already, you will want to check out Dan’s blog, “Leadership Freak” and follow him on Twitter. Leave a comment on his blog today for the great package offer!
You will also want to listen in on Henry’s free live call today (details in the post) or read some of his great books. I have reviewed some of them (Integrity and Necessary Endings) already in my posts. These guys are the real deal!
What can you do to prevent isolated leadership in your life?

working women of the Bible

One of the things I like best about Twitter is the new people who I have met in the tweeting process. There are some “crazies” out there as in all of life, but I have also been privileged to interact with leadership experts, soul sisters, and wise life-practitioners.

Susan DiMickele happens to be an incredible combination of all three. Susan and I have never met face-to-face, but we hope to someday. Susan tweets at: @SusanDiMickele and blogs at: www.susandimickele.com. Susan has been a trial lawyer for nearly 18 years and a mother for 12 years. She describes herself as “an author who writes about the working mom’s struggle to live out an authentic faith in a complex and fast-paced world“. Susan has written a new book that will go on sale this week! (pre-sale available now)

I had the exciting opportunity to pre-read Working Women of the Bible and provide a review of the book. This is basically what I wrote…

workingwomenofthebible book

Working Women of the Bible is a unique, refreshing, and encouraging book about women and work. Many believe in error that the Bible mandates all women to work only at home, barefoot and pregnant, with their main role being to serve the men in their life. Susan DiMickele demonstrates that God offers an incredible variety of work options for women of faith. . . and He has provided women mentors from many different situations to guide us. Bible stories, personal experiences, and individual reflection questions combine to create a motivating and challenging resource. The mentors you meet in this book will inspire and empower you… and your work!”

In the book’s introduction, Susan writes: As much as I try to juggle it all—home, work, marriage, kids—I often wish, “Could somebody just please show me how it’s supposed to be done?” and  Too often, we forget that the women of the Bible worked. And they worked hard. They made mistakes, and they didn’t give in. In many ways, their stories are our stories.

I really enjoyed Susan’s fresh perspective and practical applications. She helped me let go of the “superwoman” phantom and find hope in second chances. If this sounds good to you, visit your favorite book seller this week and pick up a copy of Working Women of the Bible for yourself and/or a friend. You won’t regret it!

Have you ever studied the working women of the Bible? Who is your mentor?

___________

susan dimickeleSusan is also the author of Chasing Superwoman: A Working Mom’s Adventures in Life and Faith (David C. Cook, 2010). She has authored articles in both secular and faith-based publications, including, ”War of the Worlds,” a recent article in Home Life Magazine (February 2011) that candidly discusses the need for common ground between stay-at home mothers and mothers who work outside the home. While Susan strives to be at the top of her profession, her greatest desire is to use her God-given gifts to be the woman He created.

what about results?

Some people claim that results are “cold” or devalue people or are too hard to measure, but I think differently. Especially in ministry, our results are people and results mean changed lives… often for all eternity. At home, I definitely work toward positive results in my marriage and my children. It can be difficult to measure those results, but it matters to me to do well.

Henry Cloud, in his book Integrityrecognizes that there are some results that we cannot control, but claims that in most cases, character affects fruitfulness. He says that many people know the “what”or “how” of the work, but still do not produce good results. He claims that the missing ingredient is in “who” they are.

What I do… is intimately connected… to who I am.

In the 9th chapter of Integrity, Cloud mentions five important character elements for achieving results:

1. understand who I am and what I do well  Successful, effective people do better because they know what they like and don’t like, what they are good at and where they are weak… and they set up healthy boundaries based on their values. They don’t chase an idealized picture of themselves, practice a false humility, or fold to pressure from others… but rather they work well in teams with others who can complement their weak areas.

Am I pretending that I am someone I’m not? Am I trying to do what I am not created for in order to please someone else? Do I work alone?

2. prepare and focus before I act – Cloud describes this as “ready, aim… and then fire”.  Being ready involves discipline, evaluative thought, and delayed gratification. It means avoiding rash decisions, “winging it” and impulsive actions. To aim is to live within reality and limits… not be “all over the place” with ideas and dreams. And fire means actually getting things done.

Do I have a plan… for my marriage, my family, my job? Do I know where I want to go? Am I doing the prep work to get me to my goals?

3. willing to make the hard calls  I already wrote about this is my “no more mr. nice guy” post, but there are a few challenging quotes from this chapter that I want to remember.

      “Past being mean and uncaring, virtually nothing erodes respect in a person                       more than his or her inability to make the hard call.”

“The patient, the company, and the family will be better in the end…” 

Do I have the courage and the ability to make the difficult decisions that some people won’t like, but are for the best?

4. find a way – To achieve results, people often have to persevere through hard times, make changes, accept failures, overcome obstacles. Cloud states that, “perseverance takes courage, stamina, emotional reserves, judgment, creativity…”

Do I quit easily or do I have what it takes to keep going? 

5. learn to lose well – Most breakthrough inventions and ideas have numerous “well, that didn’t work” projects behind them. The keys to losing well are facing the reality of failure, accepting responsibility, and learning from the experience. Sometimes losing is just giving up something good for something better.

Do I take time to grieve and evaluate the loss? Do I blame others or do I consider my contribution to the error? Am I afraid to let go of something that is not the best?

Fruitfulness depends on focusing on who I am and what I do. I don’t want to sacrifice dreams, goals, or mission purposes because of my personal immaturity. I want to grow in character. What do you think about results?

truth matters

road sign for the town of Truth or Consequences, NM
© Alamy-Jonathan Larsen

Henry Cloud, in his book, Integrity, writes that many people lie… actually most of us do, in some form or another.

How about the little “white” lie answer to, “How are you doing?” Do I say “fine” when I’m not really fine? Or if someone asks me, “So… how did I do?”, do I give them honest feedback or do I respond with a generic, “Great”? What about when someone wants me to “fudge” on a recommendation letter, or a stats report, or a financial designation? Do I “help them out, or do I tell the truth?

Cloud states, “People of good character are people who can be trusted to tell the truth.”

  • Truth about myself – I’ve heard many times to consider reality as my friend. It doesn’t help to hide, avoid or deny reality – especially about myself. One powerful element of leadership is self-awareness, understanding my strengths and weaknesses. If I don’t contend with my weak areas, others will. I don’t want to be the fool who’s not really fooling anyone except myself. Although it is not easy for me, I am learning to seek out truth – ask others (husband, co-workers, boss, friends) for an evaluation, request feedback about my leadership, apply what they tell me, and seek help where I am weak.

      Will I pursue the truth?

  • Truth about others – I’ve written before about my desire to please others and be the “nice guy“. It is hard to tell people the truth when it may hurt them, but there is a big difference between a surgeon who causes pain while saving a life and a murderer who causes pain when taking a life. The pain itself is not bad – intent is what matters. I am learning that I sometimes have to tell someone a painful truth in order to help them mature, change, or make a wise decision. If I use tact, care, empathy, and respect when I speak, the truth pill is easier to swallow. The temporary pain is for their good; if I withhold the truth because of my fear of rejection or negative reaction, I have put my comfort ahead of their well-being.

      Do I care enough to tell the truth?

  • Truth about my world – In our ministry, we used to do an honest evaluation of our progress every school quarter. We would look at the stats numbers and consider the brutal-truth information they provided. We would celebrate where we were doing well, and we would prayerfully adjust our plans and activities wherever we were missing the mark. Cloud calls this assimilation and accommodation.

The world is changing at breakneck speed. If I am not willing to let go of the “way we’ve always done it”, or if I mislead investors with a sugar-coated story that conceals the real numbers, or if I intentionally tell my teammates only a partial truth about my actions, I – and the organization – will never be able to grow to meet the demands of our reality. No growth = death.

      Am I willing to respond to the truth?

___________

Do you struggle with telling the truth?

What helps you remember that the truth matters?

are you happy to see me?

My dog Mandy loves me. She wags her whole body as soon as she sees me. She dances a little jig, and if I would let her, she would joyfully do a five foot vertical leap to kiss me smack on the lips. Sometimes I forget to feed her on time, sometimes her water dish goes dry, sometimes I don’t give her any attention all day… It doesn’t matter; I don’t deserve it, but she is always happy to see me. 

People aren’t like that.

Henry Cloud, Patrick Lencioni and others state that one of the most important elements in relationships is trust… and I have to deserve it; I have to build it; I have to earn it. I have learned a lot about trust from Henry Cloud’s book, Integrity.

  • The first way that I earn trust is by connecting authentically with others. People feel like I connect with them if I listen for understanding – really hear them, with empathy and validation for their concerns. Connection happens when the people I work with feel that I truly value them, that I care, that I invest in them. I will not always do what they suggest, but they know I will hear them out, consider their ideas, and never discount how I affect them with my actions.
  • Trust is also built by looking out for other’s interests. Cloud calls this “extending favor”. In other words, I am “watching their back”, and I am on their side. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have goals or performance standards, but it means that I will do all I can to help, train, encourage or provide resources so that others are successful. If I have built trust, they can be confident that I will always speak well of them, and I will always speak up for them. They never have to worry that they might “get on my bad side” or that I might turn on them.
  • I also build trust by balancing power and vulnerability. Others can trust me when they see that I make things happen and get things down. I earn trust when I am competent and responsible, and when I follow through with what I said I would do. On the flip side, I also need to acknowledge my mistakes and faults at times. When I am authentic about my own challenges, others gain courage to face their own. When I am honest about my weaknesses and needs, others can identity; they are often willing to help, and we build more trust in the process.

Since trust is the basis of relationships, I need be constantly evaluating how I am doing in my relationships at work and at home. Am I connecting? Do they know I care? Do they know that I am “for” them?  Can they depend on me to get things done? Have I been real with them?

Are they happy to see me?

How do you build trust? How have others earned your trust?

(** If you enjoyed this post, you might also like “how’s my wake?” – more from Henry Cloud’s book, Integrity.)

how is my “wake”?

I have been reading Henry Cloud’s book, Integrity, and evaluating the integrity of my leadership.  Here is a quick preview of the first two chapters of the book…

Cloud starts off summarizing some important requisites for success in this world:

  1. Have a set of Competencies – I need to be good at something…or various somethings… I will need to learn and have abilities to offer to my family, my job, my world.
  2. Be an Alliance Builder – Leaders who are successful understand the importance of creating and building relationships and partnerships…making a bigger impact through mutually beneficial alliances.

As important as these two points are, Cloud writes that the most important element to successful leadership is Integrity – which he defines as the ability to meet the demands of reality.

He also defines integrity as “having the character to not screw up” – saying:

who a person is will ultimately determine if their brains, talents, competencies, energy, effort, deal-making abilities, and opportunities will succeed.

… so integrity is more than just not lying or not stealing…

Henry Cloud challenged me to evaluate my integrity by looking at the “wake” I leave behind me (like a boat leaves a wake behind as it moves through the water).

The wake has two parts: task and relationship, basically what do I accomplish and how do I deal with people in the process?

These are some of the questions he suggested that I am using for evaluating how I am doing in my integrity:

  • TASK: Are goals being reached?  Is there growth/progress in the organization or in my home? Is our mission being accomplished?  Are tasks getting completed? Are new ways of doing things being introduced and perfected?  Is there a stronger reputation for the work and the ministry? Do we have better systems and processes? Cleaner operations? Are profits being made, finances being raised? Is my house in order, my kids learning new things?

…Or does my task wake look like: un-reached goals, disorganization, chaos, inactivity, loss of focus, resources and money loss?

Performance and results tell us a lot about a person.  Results matter!

  • PEOPLE: Are people more trusting after working with me?  Are they more fulfilled as people? Have they grown as a result of associating with me?  Do they feel that I encouraged them?  Did they learn from me?  Are they inspired to be more and do more?
…Or does my wake leave people: wounded, hurting, manipulated, angry, feeling put down, devalued, unappreciated and inferior?  
And the key question:  Would they do it again?
 
Being in transition right now is a great time for me to look back at my wake and see how I’ve done… I have to admit, it is a bit scary to honestly consider where my lack of character or integrity may have negatively affected my results and/or my relationships… at work and at home…
 
On the other hand, it is worth doing since, as Henry Cloud says:
“All of us can always change and be better.”  
 
I am asking God help me grow in my integrity.  How about you?  

a time for every season

photos from morguefile.com

We all go through change. We grow up; we get older. We have babies; our children leave home. We meet new people; we lose loved ones. We upgrade; we scale down.

Some changes are our choice; some changes are forced on us. Some changes are excitedly anticipated; some are greatly feared. Just as the seasons continually change every year, so are “seasonal” changes inevitable in our lives.

With every new season, something ends in order for something new to start. I am going through a change now – a transition in my job. It is actually a planned change, and mostly I am looking forward to it. I started reading Henry Cloud’s book, Necessary Endings, in order to prepare for the change, but now I wish I had read it a long time ago.

Henry Cloud writes that necessary endings in our lives are like pruning for plants – a requirement for living and thriving. Pruning can cut away dead wood that is only taking up space, sick or damaged wood that is draining energy from the plant, and even healthy wood that is just too much for the plant to sustain. I know pruning is positive and important for plants… this book is helping me to see that necessary endings hold the same benefit for me.

I am learning that it is “ok” – even good – to help a non-performer “move on” to a different job; it is helpful to re-distribute resources to the vibrant and growing areas of the ministry; it is healthy for me to leave certain responsibilities of my job to others, so that I can focus and flourish in new endeavors.

Necessary Endings has convinced me of the normalcy, the expediency, and the purpose of change.

What about you? How do you feel about change? Do you struggle to make necessary endings in your life?