No one ever got ahead by being a wallflower

 

By Rebecca Heaton

 

 


 

 

Being assertive in a professional setting isn’t always easy, and you’re not alone if you feel like you’re often not being heard. This is especially true for women who may find themselves to be silent observers in other words, wallflowers. To them, I would ask: Are you using muscular language (active words and authoritative statements) or are you downplaying your authority? Are you being a discussion leader? If not, it’s time to embrace your inner boss lady, whether the world is ready for her or not.

 

Come to the table, and have something to say when you do

As a young woman starting out in her career, I began where many of us begin: at an internship. I was lucky enough to land an internship at Women of Influence, where I could develop my skills and personal communication goals in an environment where I was committed to the cause and loved the people. It’s a place where I felt valued and confident. It was a place where I could be loud. While I am happy more women are going to university and coming to the table, I can’t help but notice that young women don’t feel very confident verbally asserting themselves. What’s the point of being at the table if you’re going to be a silent observer? There are many ways women can advance themselves. Why not start by speaking up? Even if you get shot down, at least people know you’re in the room.  

 

Don’t be afraid to take up space

Once you’re at the table, it can feel like you’re not supposed to be there. Myself and other women suffer from imposter syndrome, a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments, and has a persistent, internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud” despite external evidence of their competence. I often find myself trying to fake it ‘til I make it. However, by being a presence in the room and reaching out to other influential women, I have accessed mentorship and opportunity, and I now have people in my corner. It has been uncomfortable and scary, but I gained much more than I lost. I made mistakes along the way and might have embarrassed myself a few times, but I have my foot in the door and that’s what matters. 

 

Fill the gaps and be of use

It’s important to remember that being at the table is a privilege, one we should not take for granted. So, be of use when you occupy a seat. Prepare yourself before you walk in the door. If you’re going to speak, say something smart and remind your boss why they hired you. If you see a gap in the process, offer to address it. Taking initiative and being engaged are some of the ways competence is judged, and the bar is unfortunately much higher for women. We have to constantly prove ourselves to be taken seriously. We have to show up over and over again. We have to go the extra mile. We have to work harder and work smarter because of the double burden we face. And it will do wonders for career advancement, but maybe not always for likability. But you’re not in the business of people pleasing, are you?  

 

Take pride in your accomplishments

Success and likability are often in opposition for women. We worry about being disliked, appearing unattractive, outshining others, or grabbing too much attention. A study done at Cornell University found that men overestimate their abilities and performance, while women underestimate both. Obviously, men are not exempt from doubting themselves, but they do not let their doubts stop them as often as women do. Think of this when you’re applying for your next job. Maybe you don’t meet all the requirements, but please understand that no one knows everything. Most of us just pretend we do, and some of us are better at pretending than others. Some of us are better at sticking out our noses and asking, “why not me?” I have come to understand that you must know what you have to offer and only accept what you are deserving of. No one is going to advocate for you but you.

 

 

Global Senior Executive Dinner Series – Calgary

On Thursday, October 5th we celebrated our annual Calgary dinner at The Lake House, on the scenic Lake Bonavista.  On behalf of our presenting sponsor RBC and Women of Influence, we thank all those who joined us in celebrating accomplishments and discussing the solutions to womens advancement. 

Was That Coaching or Criticism?

 

We all rely on healthy constructive criticism in order to learn and grow as professionals. But what happens when coaching becomes straight up criticism? Christine Laperriere of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre is here to remind us all how heavy-handed coaching can backfire ― and how we can prevent our confidence from crumbling under the pressure.

 

by Christine Laperriere

 


 

As Lead Coach with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, I often am tasked with coaching some of the brightest women in an organization. Recently, one of my clients called and asked if I could support her on a complex issue.

On our call she explained that her manager had decided in his effort to help her advance, he was going to give her “extra coaching.” To many of us, we’d be thrilled to have additional coaching to support our efforts to grow. But this manager had started to repeatedly point out this woman’s flaws in her leadership style ― she accused him of coaching “too much.”

One day he commented she came off as aggressive, the next day he noted that she interrupted someone. After a few months of working for him, she had completely lost her confidence. She said every meeting she went into she was thinking, “don’t be too aggressive” or “don’t be too dominating” or “be sure not to interrupt.” The storyline in her head was so busy telling her what she should not do, she had no focus on what she should be doing in the moment. Ultimately, as a result of coaching, she felt her performance declining and she was worried her career had taken a turn for the worse.

 

“As a result of coaching, she felt her performance declining and she was worried her career had taken a turn for the worse.”

 

This client’s story reminded me of one important component of fantastic coaching: the observation of “current state” behaviours with heavy emphasis and direction around what “future state” looks like. As I listened to a number of observations her manager had given her, I started to ask her what behaviours she should focus on doing more of.  Pretty soon she concluded that she wanted to be a better listener who focused on hearing another person’s full thought. She also noticed that she wanted to stay calm in discussions with other parts of the organization so she could better work with them. By the end of the conversation, she realized that if she could simply bring her attention to staying calm, curious, and listening more, she could perform so much better than focusing on what she might do wrong.

She called a few weeks later to say that she had found a few simple mantras that she’d often play in her head during tough meetings; “stay calm, curious, and listen” was her favourite. She said that making this simple shift in thinking not only helped her create a noticeable shift in her presence in meetings, it was actually making work much more fun and less stressful for her. I know that more fun ultimately means more success, so I simply encouraged her to stay on this path in the future.

 

 

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

Why I’m Finished with Leadership Buzzwords

 

Recognizing when our unconscious personal bias is influencing how we perceive our leaders is crucial. Leah Parkhill Reilly of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre urges us to base judgment on facts rather than feelings, and stay on high alert for meaningless buzzwords.

 

by Leah Parkhill Reilly

 


 

When I was in corporate HR, we would conduct talent roundtables to assess the readiness of the next levels of talent to move forward in the organization.

 

I would occasionally hear the comment that “so-and-so” lacked “gravitas” and was not ready for the promotion or a more challenging assignment. Often, the person lacking “gravitas” was female and the individual who was providing the opinion was a male executive with many years of experience.

 

This is not to say that the opinion was unfounded, but when I would question the individual on tangible evidence of what “gravitas” looked like, and examples of when the person being assessed was found lacking, often they had nothing to share. It was purely a gut opinion with nothing to validate it. Occasionally, it was a comment that the person had heard through the corporate grapevine. Opinion had become fact, and actual evidence was no longer relevant. This admittedly was an extreme example, and thankfully didn’t happen on a regular basis ― but it did happen, and still does.

 

“Opinion had become fact, and actual evidence was no longer relevant.”

 

We are all susceptible to unconscious bias, and part of the work that I did was to be very aware of this bias in these settings. In another example, I encountered a leader who wanted to hold back on an assignment for a female colleague because he thought she was considering having children. His implicit association was that if you’re female, then you’re going to be the primary caregiver and thus would not be interested in the next level of leadership. Thankfully, the discriminatory view of this dinosaur did not stand, and the female colleague did receive the assignment.

 

If you’re curious about the concept of unconscious bias and implicit association, one of the best sites I can recommend for further exploration is Project Implicit and the associated Implicit Association Tests. Project Implicit is an international collaboration between researchers run out of Harvard. The focus is on understanding our own social cognition: the thoughts and feelings outside of our conscious control.

 

You can complete any number of tests ― on age, gender, sexuality, and race, all in connection to career and the workplace ― to better understand the hidden biases that might affect your own decision-making process. If you’re really keen, I’d also suggest reading Blind Spot, which dives deeper into the causes of stereotyping and discrimination.

 

This is the time of year when performance assessments have been completed, but soon enough, mid-year talent roundtables will begin and it’s important to have your own radar on alert for the buzzwords that are flung around. As strong leaders, it behooves us to dig into the comments and understand what lies beneath the surface.

 

If someone “lacks presence,” tell us an example of when this failing was observed, give a comparative example of what it should look like in the firm, or provide options for how that person can develop their “leadership presence.” We can’t just readily accept opinion without actual supporting evidence. Leadership comes in many shapes and forms, and we need to be aware of our own biases of what leadership “looks like” ― instead focusing on the actual work, and impact within the organization and beyond.

 

Leah Parkhill Reilly is a Women of Influence Advancement Centre expert and the owner of Parkhill Reilly Consulting. As a results-oriented human resources consultant, she has a proven track record of driving change across large, complex organizations specifically with regard to learning, development and organizational effectiveness. Leah has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, insurance and financial services. Her career experiences run the gamut from project management for systems implementation to human capital strategic planning.

Women of Influence Evening Series – Catherine Reitman

On May 3rd, 2017, we hosted the Women of Influence Evening Series in downtown Toronto, featuring Catherine Reitman: comedian, producer and actor of Workin’ Moms. We sat down with Catherine to hear the candid truth about the challenges of being a working mother, and how she juggles it all.   

What we learned:

  • Catherine’s early career in Television: Catherine never really identified with the roles she was going after, and once her first child was born she became worried about losing herself, and the things that made her special.  After encouragement from her husband she wrote down her feelings and Workin’ Moms was created.
  • The most important thing to Catherine when she created Workin’ Moms was that the characters be authentic, three dimensional women over 30.
  • What is the best thing that can happen when talking about the struggles of being a mother?“The more we talk about it, the more we promote this conversation as common, which it is. There will be better structures in place and a better understanding so that it is not seen as a stigma, it won’t be something that’s wrong with us, it’ll become an asset that makes our work richer and more sophisticated.”
  • How important was it to have diversity represented in the cast? Since there is no other show on television like Workin’ Moms, it was important to be diverse so that viewers could identify with the characters.
  • The biggest lesson Catherine learned was how important it is to forgive yourself. The moment that you can begin to forgive yourself for feeling guilty about working long hours is the moment you maintain a healthy identity for yourself.

 

Congratulations to Rachel Gervais!  Concluding the evening events, we announced the winner of our VIP Membership Experience Giveaway. Thanks to the generous contributions from our sponsors, Rachel has access to a spot in the short-format executive education program offered by the Smith School of Business, a spa basket courtesy of Captivate, a full wardrobe makeover from Handled and back-up child care from Kids & Company.

 

Photography by Clix Visions Photography

Overcoming the Imposter

 

You probably don’t have to think too far back to recall the last time you diminished yourself and your work, brushing off moments of success as simply “good luck”. It’s called the Imposter Syndrome, and it is real, and it is rampant — an estimated 70% of people will experience it at least once in their lives. So how do we move past it and own our triumphs? Leah Parkhill Reilly of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre has some tips. 

 

by Leah Parkhill Reilly


 

 

Have you ever had a day when it seems like the stars are perfectly aligned for you? When someone has reached out and hit the easy button on your behalf? I had one of those days this past Friday and it was brilliant, everything managed to fall into place and several people offered some much-needed support to make the day successful.

 

My initial reaction to the day falling into place was “what a stroke of luck, thank goodness things happened that way.” But when thinking about things again I realized that there really was no luck involved. Friends stepped up to help out because I had done the same for them many times before. I was offered a project for my business because I had established a track record and proven my worth. My initial reaction of “wow, what luck” diminished the work and my own capabilities that had led to a brilliant day.

 

How many of us do this on a regular basis? Diminish ourselves and our work and brush it off as luck? As it turns out, a whole bunch of us do. There have been numerous articles written about Imposter Phenomenon, and a study from 2011 asserts that “…it is estimated that 70% of people will experience at least one episode of this Impostor Phenomenon in their lives.”

 

The person dealing with Imposter Phenomenon can be summarized as an individual who attributes the success in their life to external factors and internalizes the failures within their life, and they experience some degree of fear at being discovered as an intellectual fraud. They may tend to discount their success if it’s not a match to the ideal standard that they’ve envisioned for themselves. They may discount the success that comes with hard work and perceive it as not being due to their innate ability, or they may just attribute their success to luck.

 

Some have asserted that there is a correlation between the Imposter Syndrome and success, as it drives a cycle of ambition. Anxiety over failure leads to hard work and preparation, leading to success, leading to positive feedback which is discounted, leading to the next task that will prove capability and debunk fraudulent feelings and so on. However, a cycle of ambition based on fraudulent feelings doesn’t feel like an ideal long-term approach to managing a career or life.

So how does one manage the fine balance of accepting one’s role in the successes in life without tripping too far over the other side of the line of having a whopping big ego? I’m not a therapist but in thinking through this for myself I’ve come up with my own list and think it might be helpful for you.

 

  1. Acknowledge Success: accept that you’ve had some part in your own success and that hard work counts just as much as innate skills.

  2. Reinforce and Reward: create a reminder for yourself of your positive accomplishments, such as a journal, tweet, text, or celebratory token – the point is recognizing it in yourself.

  3. Be Proud but Humble: for me, part of the unwillingness to acknowledge is not wanting to be seen as boastful, but there is a balance between openly showboating and feeling an internal sense of pride in accomplishments. Find that balance and try to stay on the side of humble.

  4. Learn from Failure: the point of this post is about owning both your successes and failures, so ensure that in your process of acknowledging, you identify what can be learned from the failures along the way.

 

 

Leah Parkhill Reilly is a Women of Influence Advancement Centre expert and the owner of Parkhill Reilly Consulting. As a results-oriented human resources consultant, she has a proven track record of driving change across large, complex organizations specifically with regard to learning, development and organizational effectiveness. Leah has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, insurance and financial services. Her career experiences run the gamut from project management for systems implementation to human capital strategic planning.

Your responsibility in navigating a bad boss

The quality of your relationship to your superiors is critical to your professional success ― yet, it’s not always easy to overlook your boss’s shortcomings. Christine Laperriere, executive director of our Advancement Centre is here to help.

 

by Christine Laperriere


 

In my work as Executive Director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, I get invited into conversations with top performers who are navigating serious challenges in the workplace, and the topic of working for a “bad boss” comes up often.

I find it interesting how many of us, when working with people we start to experience conflict with, anchor feelings of frustration, resentment, or hopelessness to each interaction we have with that person. After a while, just the sight of that person in a meeting will draw out a feeling of frustration, and that person hasn’t even begun to speak yet!

As I was working with one women, she admitted that each time she walked into the same room as a particular senior leader, she immediately started to think about how frustrating it was to work with him and how she just knew he was going to shoot down her ideas. At one point, I invited her to think about what part of this dynamic she was responsible for. She didn’t see herself as responsible for any part of it.

As our conversation unfolded, I asked her what it would be like to lead a team if they walked into a room already thinking about their resentment for her and anticipating what she would do next to frustrate them. She explained that it would be hard, because they would assume whatever action she took was creating what they already believed about her. She pointed out how important it is that her team show up prepared to be open-minded, leaving past judgments and baggage behind.  

 

“She pointed out how important it is that her team show up prepared to be open-minded, leaving past judgments and baggage behind.”

 

Within a few seconds, she went quiet and I could tell she realized the irony in what she’d just shared.

We’ve all worked with challenging people, and sadly there is no “magic bullet” that transforms these tough working dynamics overnight ― but I know that your individual mindset predetermines the potential outcome in any dynamic. If you start the discussion in your lowest state of mind, don’t be surprised that the outcomes of the discussions look unsuccessful and similar, time and time again.

Your job when navigating a bad boss is to reach for your internal resources to stay creative, curious, and collaborating ― bringing your best tools and thinking forward in every working environment.

 

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

2017 Global Leaders Dinner Series – Washington

On Wednesday, March 29th we celebrated our fifth annual Washington DC dinner at the stunning Decanter Restaurant at the St. Regis Hotel. On behalf of our presenting sponsor RBC and Women of Influence, we thank all those who joined us in celebrating accomplishments and discussing the solutions to womens advancement. 

Women of Influence Luncheon Series – Debbie Travis

On March 9th, 2017, we welcomed 500 guests to the premiere of the Women of Influence Luncheon Series in Toronto. We turned the spotlight on Debbie Travis, who gave a witty and inspiring keynote about her journey to becoming an entrepreneurial mogul and paving the way for home renovation reality shows.

What we learned:

  • How do we do what we want to do? “We need the tools… and I call my tools the Ten Commandments”

  • Commandment #1 – Dream it, Do it, Live it “You can dream it, but then you must do the work. Live it is the consequences of what you’re going to do.”

  • Commandment #2 – Finding Your Passion “I think of passion as an idea, and I think of an idea as a tiny seed.” This little seed is in your head, and once you start to tell people that seed begins to grow. 

  • Commandment #3 – Protect Your Brand “Everyone is a brand, It’s the most precious thing you have, it’s what people say about you”

  • Commandment #4 – Embrace Your Mistakes “Success comes from the solution of those mistakes”  

  • Commandment #5 – Fear! Screw it, Just do it “Don’t let fear hold you back from taking the leap and living your passion”

  • Commandment #6 – Get Support “We need support, and we have to make friends that will help us”

  • Commandment #7 – Learn From The Best  “It’s very easy to access the people we admire on the internet, and people love to share and tell their stories”

  • Commandment #8 – Have a Sense of Humor  “Being able to laugh at yourself and having a sense of humor about life”

  • Commandment #9 –  Make the Connection “I would like to bring the word social back into social media, it’s so important to get to know people again and make that effort”

  • Commandment #10 – Balance equals Happiness “Creating balance in my life has been the most important thing in keeping me sane and able to grow. Balance is the key to happiness and success”

To learn more from this inspiring role model, check out Debbie’s article The Dolce Vita of Debbie Travis….. 

Photography by Morgan Hotston Photography

Questions to build the relationships you need for an amazing year

Are you looking to add some goals to your plate? Christine Laperriere, executive director of our Advancement Centre, suggests you start with a baggage removal plan: clean house of your toxic relationships, and you’ll have more energy to focus on success.

 

by Christine Laperriere


 

As many of us look to add goals to our plate, we often forget one critical element: what are we going to remove from our lives to create space for something new?

 

It’s time to design a baggage removal plan. Let’s clean house in a common area that so many of us feel challenged by: relationships. Knowing where our support network lies and what relationships are toxic can help us build an action plan to free up emotional energy to use elsewhere.

 

In order to do this relationship assessment, you need to ask yourself some tough questions:

 

1. Which relationships drain me?

 

2. And of those relationships, which can I choose to change and which can I choose to eliminate?

 

3. If I choose to change the relationship, what steps do I need to take?  What difficult conversations do I need to have the courage to start?

 

4. Which relationships energize me?

 

5. Who are my “board of advisers” or ultimate support network? Who can I rely on in my life for a bit of support even if it’s just a laugh and a smile on a rough day?

 

6. Who do I provide support to? Do I feel good when supporting them or do I feel taken advantage of? How can I shift this dynamic?

 

Often, we are so busy with the day-to-day challenges of our work and personal life, we don’t notice how many relationships drain us, or take full advantage of the wonderful people who support us. But by spending some time to reflect on each critical area of our life, we can find simple ways to improve ourselves and our relationships — with just a little bit of courage and effort.

 

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.