During Women’s Month, we look back and celebrate how far we’ve come, and look at what still needs to be done to empower women. This year, the common threads through all of my audiences and talks have been around the difficulties women find in creating boundaries, making choices and receiving acknowledgement. I am not surprised, but it is always interesting to see proof in the numbers.
My dipstick research was obtained through anonymous online polls of audiences of women who are able to work from home, largely in legal, financial services, telecoms and large corporates.
- Women are tired, depleted and suffering from decision fatigue, which has been exacerbated by the work-from-home, school-from-home scenario.
- Fear of repercussions with their boss (male or female) gets in the way of effective communication and creating workable boundaries. This harms engagement and productivity, leading to burnout.
- It’s more difficult than ever to say no and to create boundaries because one may be seen as uncooperative or uncompromising – which may have repercussions on advancement, as well the ability to implement self-care.
- Women seem to suffer from a paralysing sense of guilt and are worried about what people might think about them when they say no.
- Women who are clear about the boundaries they need to create in order to lead a satisfying and effective life, are definitely in the minority.
- When women receive acknowledgement and validation, they rarely stop for long enough to let it really land and to experience a sense of satisfaction before moving on with the next item on their ‘to do’ list.
- Women sacrifice their friendships for family when trying to get the balance right.
WHAT DOES THIS POINT TO?
- Boundaries are more often than not about time:
- Taking calls after hours
- Having to respond to emails after hours
- Taking time off to care for family members who are ill
- Having to incorporate school-from-home in the work-from-home scenario
- Not being able to disconnect effectively because of living and working in the same space
- Women are known to be better negotiators than men, as long as they are not advocating for themselves because that’s when guilt and imposter syndrome kick in.
- Most women are fearful of the repercussions in their relationships with their boss or life partner when asking clearly for what they need/want, or when upholding a boundary that was agreed to.
- When boundaries are broken, they are often not reinstated or re-negotiated and this can get in the way of creating a workable relationship.
- Women who hold their line are seen to be tough cookies and trying to act like men.
- Women haven’t worked out how to be firm and feminine at the same time.
- Women do not honour self-care because it requires saying no or putting boundaries in place, which they are scared to do or feel they are too busy to implement.
ON FEEDBACK AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Just over half of all respondents indicated that they receive useful feedback from their team manager or team leader. Interestingly, this is higher than the statistic in the Gallup report, citing that 99% of people want feedback and only 75% of managers want to give it. The refusal of a manager to provide feedback, or an inability to communicate it, gets in the way of organisational success, as well as professional and personal fulfilment. Staff and management have to meet in the middle to make things work. Things don’t have to be perfect but they need to be workable.
An invaluable lesson I learnt in my second career in the direct selling industry when I ran a crack sales team is this: if you help others get what they want, you will get what you want. For this to happen, you need to really learn how to listen with attention; to really see and hear people; understand what they value and what’s important to them. Then, connect this with meeting their goals at work.
My key insight, which I explain in detail in my workshops and my books, is that all human beings of all ages ask three questions. These questions are asked non-verbally and are directed at important others in their lives at work or at home, and they are not aware they are asking or seeking answers to these questions – it is subconscious:
- Do you see me?
- Do you hear me?
- Am I important to you?
When someone gets ‘yes’ answers to these questions, their needs are usually being met and their emotional cups are filled. There is a feeling of satisfaction and that they have been heard and understood.
How do you stack up to these questions when you think about the people in your team at work? And how about your team at home?
Have you ever looked at success through the lens of a level of satisfaction? It makes a big difference when you combine head and heart around the concept of success; something we are not very good at doing when we work off a checklist.
Women tend to not hold their moments of success close enough or for long enough to ‘experience’ them and internalise them. This leads to feelings of being empty and wanting. Women need to learn how to ring their own bell and stop waiting for external validation.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT THIS IN YOUR TEAM?
- Develop a courageous communication framework to provide for communication equality – top-down and bottom-up.
- Learn how to listen well, to really hear instead of to reply. It’s a skill that must be developed by both leadership and team members.
- Get to know your team members and have open conversations about boundaries; what’s working and not working. This is not a new problem but COVID has exacerbated it.
- Keep agreements. If something isn’t working, it needs to be brought to the table and discussed. Don’t wait for the job appraisal or job review in six months’ time. That’s not how things work in this disruptive era, in which we are reinventing work daily.
- Support women on their journey to learning how to affirm and validate themselves instead of waiting for external validation.
- Amplify all voices around the table, including women as well as those quieter, often-dismissed voices.
- Examine and experiment with work-life integration and self-leadership – we are all collaborating to co-create success in this area and there isn’t only one way to do this.
- Adopt a process or framework that enables your team to collaborate on creating the Success Recipe for your team’s Success Journey.
- Help them to reframe disruption and regain a sense of hope and control in lots of small ways.
- Build a stronger more connected team based on empathy, trust and strong bonds.
Feel free to set up a call with me to discuss any of the above challenges your team may be experiencing. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.