Sheryl Sandberg, author of the book Lean In, writes that we should stop telling little girls they’re bossy, and start telling little girls that they have leadership skills. As these women enter the workplace, communicating, speaking up and feeling part of the conversation can be a challenge, without being labeled as “bossy”.
I did a Q&A to answer some of these questions about empowering women
Question: What’s your first recommendation for women to find their voice in an organization?
Michelle: Contribute in meetings. Speak up when you agree. Provide additional ideas when you disagree. Don’t just leave the comments for the vocal few. Even introverts need to find their voice and contribute on their teams, and in their organizations. Stand up for people, champion projects and share your voice.
Question: When there are problems on their organization or team, how can they speak up and contribute without sounding bossy?
Michelle: Find and share solutions more than complaints. One of the ways you can add the most value to your team and organization is to provide solutions without complaining. This is great tip for men and women. Sometimes in an effort to encourage change we share all the things that aren’t working, but it’s hard for management to respond because it can be perceived as having a bad attitude. Instead, provide and offer solutions and be creative when it comes different ways to address issues. Managers the trait they wish every employee had was the ability to problem solve without complaining.
Question: What if a “problem” escalates into a disagreement, or if you feel like you’re not quite sure how to respond?
Michelle: One of the best ways to find your voice is to know what to say AND when to say it. When things get heated, give yourself permission to table the conversation and revisit it when emotions cool down. Also, practice the phrase “It seems like you’ve had time to think about this, could you give me a day to think through my thoughts and I can come back to you with some ways we can resolve this issue” or “I may need a day or two to think through this situation, could we revisit this conversation on Friday after I’ve given it some careful thought?” Sometimes you need time to consider the right response so you don’t say things you don’t mean.
Question: What if someone takes your idea after you have already shared it?
Michelle: This is the MOST COMMON complaint we hear at our events. Women will share an idea in a meeting and then later in the meeting or another day someone will share the SAME idea and claim it as theirs. That can be discouraging, and if you’re gutsy, be willing to stand up for your idea. However, “Thank you for validating my suggestion” sounds better than “Hey, that was my idea!” In the moment, that can be tricky to pull off without attitude. If this seems to be happening to you frequently, practice a validation statement before you go into your next meeting. Also, remember that passion is okay. If your emotion feels competitive or combative you may be criticized for your emotions. Lead with passion and a commitment for the best interest in the team and organization, and you may find that this positive approach inspires people to lead with passionate positivity.
We love men and aren’t men bashers, but there is something powerful about a group of women getting together to learn and support each other. For more information about our annual Power Women event for female professionals, check out: