In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, says she wants the likeability factor for women to go away. She also says that women should be relentlessly pleasant or delicately honest.
It’s not something she wants to perpetuate, she says. It’s just that it’s practical because, right now, mostly the blokes are in charge.
There are times I get righteous about this. And I agree with Sheryl Sandberg. Until there are enough women in senior leadership positions, not much is going to change.
And in the meantime? Being liked will help you smooth the way up.
AND, I want to take this an important step further.
Let’s look at what women – in general – do exceptionally well.
We’re acknowledged for our focus on relationships, our preference for direct communication, our propensity to lead from the centre rather than the top – by bringing in people around us, and our ability to integrate work and life.
Workplaces need these characteristics, more than ever. Relationships are key. Focusing on relationships does a fair bit for our likeability quotient too, by the way.
So let’s own what we’re amazing at. Let’s take that through the front door of the office with our morning coffee.
We know that we won’t be taken seriously if we err on the side of too nice. And we also know that the woman who’s aggressive will get the blokes off side and make her climb to the top as treacherous as ascending Mt Everest.
And I want to say this too: Aggression isn’t exactly attractive to most people, whether they’re women or men.
The key is to be direct and respectful, clear and kind, to approach difficult conversations with courage, confidence and care.
This is not about game playing. It’s not about giving yourself away for the sake of pleasing others. I don’t think you have to be relentlessly pleasant or delicately honest.
You can be authentic. And I really mean authentic. This is not about leaving a chunk of yourself on your couch at home before you put on your shiny, heavy armour and hop in the car for the drive to work.
Let’s go for connection and collaboration.
Beyond arguments about men, women, and diversity, connection and collaboration are the sweet spot, and they’re available right now.
Here’s what you can do:
- Focus on building relationships at work. Show a genuine interest in others. Connect. It only takes moments and it can make a MASSIVE difference
- Speak in a way that’s respectful and kind
- Instead of trying to push your own agenda all the time, include others in your achievements, and any challenges you’re addressing
- Be a champion for the advancement of others who deserve it
- Choose collaboration over competition and rivalry
- If you don’t know, ask. Know your allies and treat them well
- When you ask for you what you want, make sure others know what you’re prepared to give
- Offer to support others when you can
- Listen deeply to people. You’ll be amazed by the difference it makes in your relationships
- Learn how to have difficult conversations well and always approach them with care
- Own the part you’ve played in a situation that didn’t turn out quite the way you wanted it to. Make the effort to connect over differences
- Do what it takes to discover your innate self-confidence. This is true power
People will like you. And they’ll respect you too – as a leader.
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