a shout out

March 8th is International Women’s Day! You may not have known that. It is not a high-profile holiday here in the US, maybe it is where you live.

You may not have planned any extra activities or special menu items for the day. If you forgot to invite your family and friends over for the celebration, that’s OK. I thought we could celebrate here!

shouting-for-joy

Since living almost 20 years in Latin America, I know that you do not need an official reason to have a party. It can always be fiesta time! When I read that March 8th is International Women’s Day, I immediately began to have a party in my heart as I reflected on the amazing women who have been on my life journey with me.

I began thinking about family first… My brave Mom who is battling cancer and just lost her husband but continues on loving me and others. My sisters who have each fought their own personal battles through the years, but are growing and learning and giving sacrificially to others. My daughters who make me so proud as they become thoughtful, generous, sensitive, creative, strong, caring women.

shout Newsbie

I could never list all the special women who have been friends, coaches, mentors, and inspirational examples for me, but as their faces flashed through my mind, I remember life-changing conversations and experiences together, and my soul feels refreshed and ready for any challenge life may bring.

Friends also came to mind… friends from all stages of life and all parts of the globe. How they have brought laughter, adventure, comfort and challenge to my world! We have talked for hours, worked side by side on eternally valued projects, and cried and hugged through pain. I am a better person because of their investment in my life.

Jimmy Jack Kane / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

I thought, too, of the women I have never met, but I have read about them or read their books or blogs. Women leaders and those who have suffered great tragedies. Women who advocate for women to find their place in powerful divine alliance with men for good and change and hope in our world.

And speaking of men, I cannot forget to mention the ones who have believed in me, sponsored me, and always ensured that I found the stairs to the unique platform God designed for me. My incredible husband, Steve, is the first one on this list.

I have written about some of these special people through the years, but I can never do them all justice. Their influence is engraved in my mind, heart, and soul. So this week, I am taking advantage of International Women’s Day to give a shout out to these special ones. I am so grateful for paths that crossed and lives that intersected.

Will you join my fiesta? Who would you like to honor on this International Women’s Day? Name your special people in the comments… I’d love to celebrate with you!

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.

live by your convictions

Margaret Thatcher 13 October 1925 – 8 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher
13 October 1925 – 8 April 2013

The former UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, died last week. She was the only woman to have held that prestigious and powerful position in the UK, and she earned the title, “Iron Lady” because of her strong leadership style.

The life summaries and tributes to her make it clear that she was not a “Mr. Nice Guy” kind of leader, instead she often alienated people into “love her or hate her” opposing factions. No matter what opinion I may have on Mrs. Thatcher’s political career, I can learn leadership lessons from her life.

In some of my early leadership experiences, I was very self-conscious, with a profound desire for people to like me and to agree with my decisions. I believed passionately in our vision and mission and wanted others to enthusiastically join with me to achieve our goals. I often took criticism very personally, and I felt that rejection was against me and my character, instead of against the idea or process. Mrs. Thatcher clearly understood that does not work for leaders: 

“If you just set out to be liked,
you would be prepared to compromise
on anything at any time
and you would achieve nothing.”

I have learned – the hard way – that I will never please everyone with my decisions or plans. People are very different in their preferences and perspectives, and often have completely opposite, conflicting ideas about how to move a project forward.I need to listen carefully to the differing opinions and weigh out their value, but then I must make the decision I believe in. My leadership goal cannot be to please people, but rather to lead by convictions.

“I am not a consensus politician.
I’m a conviction politician.”

Margaret Thatcher

At the end of the day, I may only be able to say that given the knowledge, experience, and guidance that I had at the time, I made the best decision I could. No matter the outcome of the decision, when I am swayed to do something I do not truly believe is right, I am often haunted by regret. Whenever I choose to lead by conviction, I have peace in the end.

Do you struggle with wanting to please others? What helps you live by conviction?

_____________

A few other places to read about Margaret Thatcher…

http://www.margaretthatcher.org/essential/biography.asp
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/people/margaret_thatcher
http://www.leadershipnow.com/leadingblog/2013/04/former_british_prime_minister.html 

a promise is a promise

IWD logo 2013

A Promise is a Promise: Time for Action to End Violence Against Women

This is the theme for the March 8th, 2013, International Women’s Day activities around the world.

Although great progress has been made through the years since the 1900’s beginning of this celebration, there is still so much to be done. In some places, equitable opportunities exist for women in education, employment, access to resources and benefits, but shamefully, in other parts of our globe, women are still treated like property, abuse and violence are common, and options are excessively restricted. This needs to change.

“There is one universal truth,
applicable to all countries, cultures and communities:
violence against women is never acceptable,
never excusable, never tolerable.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Here are some websites that you can visit to begin to learn more about the history of the day, the issues facing women presently, and how you can get involved to support and encourage the women in your life… as well as value and protect all women around our world.

YOU can make a difference. Think globally and act locally…

http://www.internationalwomensday.com/

http://www.un.org/en/events/womensday/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/international-womens-day

What will you do to help end violence against women?

what women add to a team

Business TeamDo you remember that awkward elementary school experience – two scrawny kids choosing the players for their team? There was always a tension between picking a friend because you liked them and picking a “star” because you wanted to win.

Whether it was a debate team or a football team, you needed a variety of players to cover offense and defense. Your choices didn’t always work out as planned. The thick glasses didn’t always guarantee intelligence any more than extra height ensured skill under the basket, but certain general characteristics proved to increase your chances for victory.

I firmly believe that men and women live and work best together in partnership, and I have experienced many times that the best teams are often diverse, not only in gender, but also in age, personality, strengths, and cultural background.

Earlier, I wrote about some of the challenges facing diversity, specifically gender diversity on leadership teams. I mentioned that more information can often facilitate positive change. Here are some ways that women’s participation makes teams healthier and stronger. I have also listed some articles below that support these three points. 

Men and women are like two feet—
they need each other to get ahead.
Helen E. Fisher

Women add integrity.

In my experience, the women on my teams consistently committed to maintaining a high standard of fiscal, legal, and labor integrity. When women participated on the teams, we implemented accountability systems, complied with necessary policies and laws, and quickly investigated decisions that appeared questionable. Financial partners, funding, and the organizational reputation for integrity increased as a result. When women participate on a team, there is great potential to build a strong ethical, moral, and integral foundation. 

Women strengthen collaboration.

On mixed teams, the team members rarely worked alone in siloed responsibilities. Instead, the women facilitated true teamwork by ensuring regular communication and interaction, systematic sharing of ideas, and fostering a healthy feedback culture. They promoted honest personal and productivity evaluations. The women were approachable, quick to ask clarifying questions, reciprocally helpful, and loyally supportive of team decisions. Mixed gender teams often led to better ideas, better decisions, and greater productivity and growth.

Women foster personal development.

The women I worked with prioritized personal and team development, often establishing strong mentoring relationships and coaching. They actively demonstrated concern for team member’s growth and well-being. The women readily participated in 360 evaluations, team building activities, and conflict resolution. They were good listeners, discerning, and keenly aware when alignment was missing. They were often very successful at recruiting, training and empowering their future replacements. Women leaders contribute to the effectiveness of a team’s leadership pipeline. 

I believe that great leadership ultimately depends on character, and that calling, competency and chemistry are also important for successful teamwork. Diverse teams do not ensure automatic success, but in our complex and constantly changing society, I am certain that they are one of our wisest recruiting strategies.

How have you seen women add to your teams?

McKinsey & Company. (2008). Female leadership, a competitive edge for the future. Paris, France.
Zenger, Jack and Folkman, Joseph. “Are women better leaders than men?” blogs.HBR.org. March 15 2012. Web. Jan. 26 2013.