Growing up I heard the adage: “that’s the straw that broke the camel’s back” and never thought how profound it was. What prompts people to act? I dreamed about doing something transformative, creating inclusion by removing gender bias, and empowering women to achieve greatness. But, my actions did not reflect my passion. If I had not been required to act, I would have maintained status quo. Why?
In making decisions, I tend to avoid conflict. I confront issues indirectly, by making a joke or deflecting the comment. This behavior may be characterized as being passive aggressive, I give in begrudgingly and allow the situation to remain unresolved. This reflects my desire to maintain the relationship, and is common to women. Men often approach the issue directly, with the express desire of winning. Since men do not see conflict as being personal, they can easily get over it. The ideal approach is a combination of the two: address the conflict directly but respect the relationship.
The desire to maintain positive relationships is a key motivation for me. I can step out of my comfort zone to help others. I am more likely to ask a favor for my family, rather than myself. The same goes for claiming credit, women are more apt to use the word ‘we’ rather than ‘I’ signifying a collaborative effort. Women tend to brag less, often lessening the impact of accomplishments rather than embellishing them. Strategies for claiming recognition at work:
- Form a “power of three.” Three female colleagues agree on goals and meet regularly to promote, support and network. It is easier to speak highly of another colleague than oneself.
- Share personal success by focusing the dialogue on how your accomplishment benefits the organization.
- Nominate yourself for an award.
Do not let the thought of being viewed as conceited limit your advancement. Sometimes when my fears hold me back, focusing on facts, building a support network and taking calculated risks allows me to move forward.
Risk taking is another hurdle that often prevents women from acting. Studies found that in a pressure situation, men tend to take riskier bets, and look for bigger wins whereas women select surer success. This may explain my reluctance to leave a safe job, for a more exciting but riskier option, such as beginning a new career. One solution is to use collaboration and conversation to flush out all angles of a decision, use facts and figures to make a well grounded realistic appraisal of the situation. Another gender difference is that women want to discuss issues, while men look for solutions. Take the best from both approaches, collect facts and then create an action plan.
Be forward thinking, and evaluate options based on current knowledge rather than relying on memories. Studies have shown that memories are fallible, recollection can be influenced, and a false memory can be planted. Equally important is that the environment is constantly changing. When I advised my son about career options it was based on my experience 25 years earlier and resulted in a poor decision. Event though memories may be, clear and vivid they are often wrong, in spite of feeling confident that they are accurate. The lesson is simple, rely on current intelligence, evaluate all options and leave memories in the past.
Why was I able to act only when forced to do so? Because once my situation had changed, I was able to look forward; there was no going back.
I am awe-struck by successful entrepreneurs, because they walk the talk.
- They are confident, and trust their competence.
- They make decisions decisively using the most current information.
- They take calculated risks, understand the path for successful execution and own the successes.
We can each achieve the greatness we dream of, but sometimes we need that final straw to free us to act. When you do act be bold, be brave and be proud!