A quick search of “coaching” and “women” reveals a whole host of unhelpful tips from the internet. Within 2 seconds you’ll see that as a leader or coach of an emerging female professional, you should 1) expect to see tears regularly; 2) be careful and deliberate about your word choice, and; 3) open a supportive dialogue regarding family considerations in career decisions. This anecdotal advice is indicative of a whole host of stereotypes that still exist regarding women.
Do people cry at work? Yes! Emotion can be a powerful resource. Do colleagues need to be thoughtful when they communicate? Yes! The receiver of the message doesn’t own that. Do females statistically have more career V life responsibilities to weigh up? Yes! Being supportive is great, but changing the workplace and society so partners and others can get involved in family caring would be even better….
We’re not going to solve each of these stereotypes here, but we can share what our coaches are typically working on with their emerging female leaders, and some of the ways coaching can provide the resource they need to grow their careers.
Often emerging female leaders are questioning how they want to present themselves at work, how they shape the perception others have of them, and what they want to be known for in terms of expertise and personality. Many women find their brand is shaped at the whims of others, and they want to take back control of their reputation to represent their true self. How to do this intentionally and authentically, coming from a place of strength, is a key attribute of an emerging leader and something a lot of our coaching sessions focus on.
Even women who are highly competent and respected for their work outcomes tend to have negative self-talk - the things we say to ourselves in our head, that we’re sometimes not even conscious of. Such as “that was a really stupid thing to do” or “I always look pathetic when I present”. We wouldn’t say these things to our best friend, or even a foe (!) and yet when we really stop to listen, we notice that our own inner voice is barating us. This creates psychological fatigue, and becomes a problem maintenance cycle (i.e. doesn't help us grow or move forward). A coach can help to catch this language, reflect on it with you, and create new patterns of thought that are more enabling.
Sometimes there are invisible forces that women come up against at work - they can’t quite put their finger on what’s happening, but they know they’re in a system and sometimes boss and team dynamics that don’t work for them. This isn’t to say anything about outright bullying and discrimination (which we also work with) but moreso the subtle, systemic structures that women often have to put more energy into overcoming. A coach and help bring some of these issues into focus, but help avoid the victim mentality by building agency and resilience.
Giving and receiving specific performance feedback is an art. To receive, weigh up, and decide how to act is an important skill, while finding the balance of reflecting and listening but not over identifying with others opinions of us. It all takes perspective! And once a leader is effective with receiving feedback, the gift is in how they pass this art on to their teams and peers.
We know that exercising, eating well, and sleeping well are all essential to a whole leader, however our brain health and mind often go unattended. Despite the fact that we’re mostly knowledge workers, so our brain and mind are our assets! Finding the right time to build mindfulness into a habit takes purpose and goal setting.
Often female leaders are focused on their work with their heads down, delivering results in their role, and delicately balancing family, health and community commitments out of hours. Something like networking seems like a luxury, until you really need it. Leaders require their networks for information, connections, and advice, and if they haven’t been building a network purposely throughout their career, it suddenly becomes a weakness in their first leadership role. We find many women are reluctant to network because it seems insincere or embarrassing, but once they know the art and see the benefits, it becomes an essential part of their career journey.
Women need skills and knowledge for critical points of negotiation in their careers - not just for pay, but for role definition, flexible work schedules, and other work benefits. Even if governments and companies mandate equity at the system level, there’s still a critical conversation that happens between a boss and employee whenever a woman takes a new job or promotion, and this is a critical moment where the female professional can either over or undercook the discussion. Our coaches work with female leaders to build these negotiation skills to ensure they’re set up for success.
These are just a few of the areas we touch on in our Emerging Female Leaders Accelerator programme, supporting future leaders with skills and the support of colleagues to enable the next generation of confident leaders. Reach out to discuss the programme or our coaching support to female leaders globally: firstname.lastname@example.org