All posts by Michelle Redfern

Can I Really Be Me And Succeed At Work?

Scores of women struggle to be their most authentic selves at work without the fear of negatively impacting their careers. How can you be your fabulous self in the workplace and still succeed! 

 

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I moderate forums quite regularly for women that focus on the themes of vulnerability, building business acumen and authentic leadership. There is a consistent theme in the conversations I have before, during and after these forums. Frustration and exasperation that women are not advancing quickly enough into leadership.

The structural, system level reasons are well documented, however women tell me:

  1. I want to advance, but encounter barriers and exclusion due to implicit bias
  2. I am perceived to lack the confidence that men typically do in the workplace
  3. I want to show up authentically, confidently and courageously, but do not believe I will be rewarded for ‘being me’

Why do women feel like they cannot be authentic?

One answer is the issue of likeability. There is a catalogue of articles about the ‘Heidi/Howard’ story cited by Sheryl Sandberg in her seminal work, Lean In. Heidi who is an authentic female entrepreneur and go-getter, successful, wealthy, powerful and respected. Her success story, profile and achievements are reviewed by a group of students from NYU. Then her name is changed to Howard and the same group of students review her/his accomplishments.  The students rate Heidi/Howard the same for competence, however Howard was rated as more likeable and someone that the students would prefer to work with.

Heidi is ‘selfish and not the type of person you would want to hire or work for.’

It feels true, doesn’t it? It also feels awful and contributes to the exasperation and frustration that women feel. However, there is hope. Andersen Cooper from CNN recently reran the experiment with a group of students. This time around, students rated the female entrepreneur as more likeable and desirable as a boss than the male. Hooray! But why?

  1. Because in the 10 years since the original study, we have seen more women ascend to positions of power
  2. Women’s participation rates in the workforce are at their highest rate ever

However, the societal expectations of how ‘nice girls’ behave and as a result, the challenge of being an authentic leader, female or male, are not shifting quickly enough.

To put a completely gendered lens to this issue; I asked women;

  1. Can I really be me and still advance at work?
  2. Is my authentic feminine leadership style valued the same way as traditional male leadership styles?

Disappointingly, many women say no to both questions. Women are waiting for the right environment to advance to be truly authentic feminine leaders. I say wait no longer!

We expect a lot from women

We want them to lead, manage, coordinate and juggle life, leadership and career. Often this results in women prioritising their career last in a long to do list.  I want women to invest time and effort in themselves, their development and their fulfilment because I know, from my own experience, that understanding myself, my skills and how to use them effectively has positioned and propelled me into doing what I love and what the world needs. More women in leadership!

Get the career advice you need

In her Ted Talk watched over 3 million times, Susan Colantuono says get the career advice you need, not what you’ve always received! Here is some good advice;

  1. Traditional training, development & advice will get you to the middle, not the top
  2. Embrace your identity as a leader
  3. Identify and act to close your leadership gaps

Identify and act to build your leadership muscle

If you want to lose weight, get fit and be healthy, then you would identify and act, wouldn’t you? You might get a gym membership, start eating healthy or engage a personal trainer to help keep you committed, focussed and accountable.

Why not use the same formula for your career?

  1. Lose weight:lose the incomplete career advice, lose the lack of confidence.
  2. Get fit:practice self-awareness & business skills exercises and build authentic leadership muscles
  3. Be healthy: discover your purpose, your vision and values then build a career advancement plan

These are logical steps but require commitment, discipline, support and expertise. That’s why I want women to think of me as their career personal trainer. I have designed a 6-step program to build the career muscles that matter for women.

Advancing Women workshops are designed to build the EQ (Emotional Quotient) IQ (Intellectual Quotient) and SQ (Social Quotient) muscles of the current and next generation of female leaders in Australia.

Advancing Women programs are not designed to ‘fix’ women, they are designed to provide the strategies, tools and the practical actions to women who are serious about advancing their prospects. The learning content is balanced to ensure that women aren’t over-committing and perfecting skills, attributes and traits they are already comfortable with and competent at.    All of which result in women advancing, on their own terms!

This article was originally published on MichelleRedFern.com. 

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Why We Need To #BanBusy

Reckon you’re one of the busiest bees in procurement? Michelle Redfern might just convince you to join the #banbusy movement!

I made a sidebar statement at a couple of speaking gigs I did recently. I said, I want to be the founder of the #BanBusy movement!’ I implored the women listening to me, ‘If someone asks you how you are…please don’t answer busy. The B word is a state of doing, not a state of being.’

The answer ‘busy’ conjures up, not coping. Not in control. Not capable.

Busy is enormously exasperating

I have been exasperated about the auto-response of ‘busy’ when you ask how people are. It used to be just in the hallowed halls of corporate Australia that this occurred. However, I have felt like this canned response was creeping further and further into the daily vernacular. It feels to me like ‘busy’ is becoming the equivalent of the chirpy, insincere have a nice day’ that we Australians have long sniggered at.

Busy has become a status symbol

The Sydney Morning Herald described the term as ‘an overused humblebrag’ in its article in late 2016. A way to demonstrate one’s own importance, value and a dubious badge of honour. Unfortunately, studies which have shown that declaring one’s busyness conveys a perception of hard work which in turn will bring the busy person success. Oh dear, my #BanBusy movement is under threat!

What about busy women?

My chief concern is the effect that ‘ugh I’m so busy’ response has for women who want to advance. Navigating gender bias, perceptions about gender roles and the prevailing belief that women are too busy with the 3 C’s (Caring. Cooking. Cleaning.) to worry about advancement is challenging enough without inadvertently adding fuel to the fire.

Here’s what I learned about busy

I did an impromptu survey of women in my WWGI ecosystem about what busy meant to them. I was surprised at the insights and as a result, I realised that there is an opportunity to change the game. Busy might be a status symbol for some, but perhaps it’s a shield for others?

  1. Busy is a deflector
  2. Busy is a defence mechanism
  3. Busy means I am bored out of my brain
  4. Busy means that I work on meaningless crap
  5. Busy is a cry for help
  6. Busy is a status symbol
  7. Busy means I am disengaged
  8. Busy means I want you to go away
  9. Busy means I am not slacking off even if you think I am

The solution is authentic, compassionate leadership

Leaders, time to step up to the authenticity and compassion plate and take a swing! Yes, I mean connect with the human you have asked ‘How are you?’ by having a caring, compassionate and accountable second question ready. Demonstrate your care, compassion and respect for the person you are enquiring after.

Question Answer Follow Up
How are you? ‘Phwoar, busy! Really? So, what’s creating all that busyness? Can I help?
How are you? I feel like I haven’t seen you for ages? ‘Sorry, so busy, been in back to back meetings all day/week/month’

 

Wow. Sounds like you need a hand. What can we do?
How are you? ‘Flat out busy, schedule is crazy’ Come and have a coffee, let’s talk about what’s going on for you.

If you can’t do this, don’t ask ‘how are you’ as its simply the fairy floss of conversation. Saccharine sweet and disappears in a jiffy.

Women, #BanBusy!

I’m still going to champion #banbusy for women because I believe that women are joining a cult that no one really wants to be in. I want women to own their leadership brand and to be confident, authentic and fearless. Answering ‘busy’ doesn’t honour or do your brand any favours, ever!

However, the 10th thing I learned about #BanBusy is that leaders need to get to the heart of what’s really going on for their people and their workplaces. Leaders need to #askmorehumanquestions