Women are so often raised to be likeable and sweet instead of competent leaders. And when we move into leadership roles, it’s often at the expense of our popularity. We’re sometimes labelled bitches, and unfortunately… it’s because we’ve been told that to get ahead, we need to be steely.
But that’s simply not true. I mean, #BossBitch is great, but isn’t #Boss better?
So, what’s a boss?
A boss isn’t just the CEO, director, or department manager: a boss is someone who’s getting shit done, doing it well, and inspiring others. A boss is a leader. A leader encourages, collaborates, compromises, and delivers. Boss is an attitude far more than a title, and if you’ve got the attitude you’ll get ahead. I promise.
Here’s what you need to remember:
Standing up for yourself or pushing back doesn’t make you a bitch. When you’ve got a good reason and you can back up your stance, it makes you smart. It makes you a leader.
Compromising doesn’t make you a doormat, but compromising also doesn’t mean just “giving in”. Finding common ground and making something work shows teamwork, leadership, and flexibility. So, let’s work on getting you what you want at work, OK?
Start by setting boundaries.
I’m not saying you can’t share your personal life at work, but I am saying that the division of personal and professional lives is extremely important. Check your emotions at the door. When things in your personal life are a mess, confide in those you feel safe speaking to (maybe it’s HR, maybe it’s your boss), but try not to let it come into everything you do in the office.
Also, taking your personal feelings out of the meeting room is key. If your idea isn’t loved by all, don’t take it personally! We can’t always present the winning pitch, and that’s OK.
Listen (like, really fucking listen) before you speak.
And stop thinking that listening is just shutting your mouth to let someone else get a word in. Listening is an active state that has three main components:
- Auditory listening: You’re hearing the words, and using that big, beautiful brain of yours to process them. You should also be listening for tone of voice, inflection, and any keywords that can help you better understand the situation.
- Visual listening: You’re watching body language cues – is this person relaxed, or are they super tense? How’s their posture? Is their eye twitching?
- Emotional listening: You’re sensing a vibe. We’re not all immediately great at this, so practice. Once you’ve spotted someone’s “tell” that they’re feeling stressed, uninspired, or excited, you’ll be able to better read every conversation you have.
And there’s also three levels of listening that I encourage you to practice.
- Level one listening is where we spend most of our time, and it’s when we’re listening to someone speaking but we’re thinking about ourselves: what does this mean to me? What should by response be?
- Level two listening is where we *should* spend our time in conversation, and it’s when we’re focusing on the person speaking and imagining how they are feeling. When you’re in level two, you often can’t immediately respond because you need a moment to gather your thoughts – this is good!
- Level three listening is environmental listening. Is everyone quite jovial, or does the room have a heavy feeling? Do this every time you walk into a meeting room.
Compromise at every. single. opportunity. ever.
Compromising is like yoga: it takes practice. In much the same way as bakasana is tough the first few times you try it (I’ve had the bruised cheekbones to prove it!), so is working with someone else to compromise. And, in case you’re wondering, I’ve had the bruised ego to prove that.
Compromising doesn’t mean you’re backing down; it means you’re mature enough to work together to find a solution.
Be clear (and if you feel strongly about something, speak up).
Talk to your supervisor about your wants, goals, needs, and intentions, but know your audience. Speak from a place of positivity, professional development, and growth.
And, if you’re going to speak up against something… make sure you can back it up with facts and logic. Nobody likes a naysayer who naysays for no reason. NOBODY.
Don’t settle for less than you deserve.
PSA: You deserve a working environment that it safe, respectful, free of any abuse or harassment. Be clear (see how things loop together) about your wants, needs, and professional goals and then really listen to the response. Understand.
If you believe you have the skills and expertise to take on more responsibility, don’t just ask for it – prove it. Take on a project (or start one in your “free” time) to really showcase that you deserve more responsibility – and maybe more remuneration! – instead of just whining about it. But…
…know when to back down.
Don’t fight a fight that’s not worth fighting. (God, I sound like my mother.) Pick your battles, and don’t fall on your sword every time you don’t get your way – which, by the way, probably won’t be nearly as often as you think it should be. Sometimes, that added responsibility or dem dollar dollar bills just aren’t in the cards.
See also: COMPROMISE.
In the words of Michelle Obama: when they go low, we go high. Sometimes, people will throw you under the bus. They might steal your ideas. They might not invite you out for lunch or sit with you. Channel your inner-Elsa and let that shit go.
Leaders don’t throw a temper tantrum every time they don’t get their way, and retaliation is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.
Bring the ‘ence: Confidence, Persistence, Resilience.
Confidence takes time to grow, but you can fake that ’til you make that. If you’re confident in your ideas and abilities, others will be too. But remember…
You’re going to hear “No,”. You’re going to fail. You’re going to fall.
And if you give up… well, things won’t really go up.
So even if you’re shitting your pants, pretend you’ve got ice in your veins and go get ‘em, tiger.