Last year was a watershed moment for working women. Around the globe, we felt a tectonic shift in how women are treated in the workplace. It’s well overdue and entirely necessary. And while the focus has, justifiably, been on making workplaces safer and more equal for women it’s timely to stop and consider the ways women can sabotage their own careers.
Using minimizing language – the ability to deliver a message concisely and with authority is a vital leadership skill. Yet many women fall into the trap of minimizing the impact of their message by using words such as ‘just’..”I just want to add” or “I just wanted to say”. Or soften their contribution to a discussion with “I feel that….”. These words erode your message and reduce your credibility. Be bold, be clear. Use “I’m convinced that…” or “In my experience”.
Use facts and data – one of the skills we needed to learn as a small team living for a year in Antarctica was the ability to have difficult conversations. We even developed a language radar – a LADAR. The radar put certain words front of mind and we avoided using them. These words are the ‘absolutes’ such as ‘everyone’, ‘no-one’, ‘always’ and ‘never’. It’s rarely everyone and seldom always. If you sit down with someone and say “I need to speak to you because you are always late” then the minute the word ‘always’ is out of your mouth they will say “well on Monday I was 30 minutes early” and the conversation will spiral. Use facts and data.
No triangles – triangles are conversations where one person complains and moans to someone about a third person. It’s disrespectful and nothing will change. In Antarctica we had a practice of No Triangles – go direct to the person. It built trust and collaboration. My research into ‘triangles’ shows a higher percentage of these conversations occur where there are large groups of women. Not because women like to gossip (some do, some don’t) but because women often dislike conflict. So it’s easier to listen to the person complain than actually stop and say you don’t want to hear it. No triangles.
Don’t wait until you are expert – research shows many women will not apply for a job even when they meet the majority of the selection criteria. 85% of women said they will only apply if they “fully’’ or “pretty well” meet all the criteria (for men its around 60%). This reluctance to put your self forward for career stretching goals, and thereby miss out on opportunities, will be career limiting. Regret what you did, don’t regret what you didn’t do.
Manage your boundaries – learn how to stop the ‘have you got a minute?’ interruptions. If you don’t have a minute right now, then say that, and invite the person to come back later. People know when you’re distracted so you will do more damage than good if you stop but don’t really listen.
Rachael Robertson led the Australian expedition to Davis Station, Antarctica - the second female to lead a team at the Station and the youngest ever leader. She managed a team of 18 people through the long, dark, Antarctic winter and through trial and error built a resilient and highly successful team based on the foundation that ‘respect trumps harmony’. Since returning Rachael has completed her MBA, written a best-selling book, Leading on the Edge, and has presented at over 1200 events around the world.
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Inspirational Antarctic expedition leader, bestselling author, international speaker and leadership expert. Read more.