Attention: Men Leaders of a Certain Awareness! Want to Know How to Help Women Leaders Rise, For Everyone’s Betterment?

One of You Is Helping Me…So Here’s How!

Some men really “get” that women are at a serious disadvantage in the professional world. When we women are strong — “as strong as” the men around us — our likeability goes down.

When we outshine powerful people in ways that don’t fit expectations, we “suffer slings and arrows” of outrageous business fortunes; we can be held back just because we have a woman’s body and because we are threatening a power structure. Power structures of any type have a very hard time with the concept of sharing.

So, what are you to do as a man who really wants to help someone you have tremendous respect for? I am going to tell you exactly what, and it is advice based on real-time, right-now assistance from someone who is helping me rise in one of the areas of my life that is deeply important to me.

Women, pay attention, because this is the type of male business support you are looking for. This, and nothing less than this. Yes, I know it’s rare, but we can not afford to settle.

Don’t think in terms of power, but of personality style, when you coach us

For example, it would be easy for my mentor to advise me in behaviors that excite the feminine negatives: “don’t be too emotional” comes to mind. And Lord knows I am an emotion-based being, which incidentally has developed into the jet-fuel base of my teachings as a communication empowerment coach for women leaders. Yes, I am always “hungry” to move forward, to contribute to the betterment of the systems and the colleagues in which I involve myself.

Instead of “shoulding” on me and my behaviors, because my mentor focuses on how I and he together can approach the situation for my betterment, given my strengths and those places I need to shore up. Because he knows this business environment is a rigged game for women, and a ridiculous game for men and women alike - and because he knows my personality style(s) and he can see how it will help and hinder me in the game at hand, he helps me understand how to use my given personality and strengths to get where I want to go.

“You’re hungry? Okay, take a longer view, take it easier, hold back this aspect of your feedback in this particular situation just a little for now until this part of the game gets played. THEN you can express that.”

He respects my hunger — he’s not scared of it, though he knows some may find it too masculine (a.k.a. threatening in a woman) — and he helps me temper it (ironically, interestingly) with a more feminine approach: patience.

He’s all about teaching me to move through this environment that is alien to me, and doing so in a way that doesn’t require my becoming one of the two ends of the dysfunctional approach: unthreatening and disempowering as a professional woman (and therefore less effective), or strident and goal-hungry (and therefore less connective and less effective and less myself).

Respect us to our face, and to other peoples’ faces

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You will never ever find a more staunch ally than someone you have helped. I hope you are doing this for one of your colleagues because you see her abilities and the incredible benefits she can bring to herself and others by being recognized, attended to, promoted.

But you will benefit in other ways, and one of them is that you will never again want for someone to back you up when you need it.

Reveal your appreciation for our abilities, and for Who We Are — the benefits we bring to the table by virtue of having our personal strengths.

Respecting us to our face — POW-ER-FUL!

My mentor is so impressed with my ability to coach, and my ability to speak the emotional languages of every single person I work with, he hasn’t waited for permission or promotion for me, but started giving me people to coach. When he saw the immediate results, he told me about them, and said, “You’re a good coach.” He said it more than once. More than twice. When it came up in conversation with me, he didn’t hold back.

Now, I already know I’m a good coach. I’m better than that, even; one of my past male bosses called me an “emotional savant”, and I think that’s the case.

What makes my mentor’s approval and recognition so deep for me is this:

He is not appreciating me in a fatherly way, a sexual way, nor an I’m-so-superior way. He is appreciating me as a colleague who simply wants what is best for me, and sees how he can help nurture my forward movement.

I have never, ever, received this kind of recognition and assistance from any male colleague, until now. Ever. We women don’t. We just don’t. Our perseverance and strength comes only from our own grit as we determinedly believe in our own abilities — to the contrary of any kind of external proof — in order to keep going. It is exhausting and it is almost impossible to believe in ourselves 100% while playing a game that consistently tells us we never can be.

(When my mentor unexpectedly said this sentence to me — “Everything you touch turns to gold.” — I was so unaccustomed to being seen, really seen, that my instant answer was, “Really???” I actually know that I am multi-faceted and multi-talented, but I was absolutely confused by someone else, and a male someone else and an “above me” someone else recognizing that fact, and far from being threatened by it was admiring of it! What that does for the self-confidence is literally beyond measure.)

Respecting us to others’ faces — IN-CRED-I-BLE!

Put us in front of the people you want to begin to see and know us. Look for those opportunities, and pepper us throughout them in ways that give us — to put it in actor terms (I use my professional acting in my coaching) — a “walk-on” moment. A moment to be noticed, and to be fascinating and smart and helpful and unexpected in a good way.

When you keep us in mind, and mention things that we have done — little moments that keep coming up in your conversations with other higher-powered people — and you mention not just what we have done (or fixed), but who we are while we do it (a.k.a. our qualities, whether that is being kind, determined, insightful, persevering, etc.), you are actually using a tool from the world of improvisation: repetition. Just a comment here, and a comment there, done honestly and with the proof of our benefit to the company, and to you, starts to draw the attention of the people around you, to us. And we begin to get a seat at the table.

And it makes a Big. Honkin. Difference.

Help us define our strengths in your “language”

All of my working life I have been incapable of just seeing what I have been given to do. I always see from a higher, broader perspective: How does this Excel spreadsheet I’m working on impact, positively and negatively, what that employee is doing over there?

And I have been dinged for that repeatedly. “Just do what I told you to do” has never been something I excel at (pun intended).

However, being a woman who understood not to long after she started working that she was supposed to stick to her level, her “station”, I defined this ability over the decades as my “leadership” outlook. And I saw nothing between where I started (secretary) and where I knew my vision really lived (leadership).

I started working at the age of 16. It has been more than four decades that I have applied myself to the working world.

And it was only three days ago that my mentor told me what my strength reallty is.

“You’re a ‘systems thinker’ “, he told me. And my jaw dropped.

I didn’t know that phrase! I had never heard it, or if I had I hadn’t done so often enough or at a time when it would benefit me to know it! A systems thinker.

No kidding! It’s what my business is based on, what my vision of the world is based on, what my understanding of power-over vs. power-with is based on. And because I want to fix systems, and I have a broad vision, I can bring a lot to the table.

But not as long as I just saw myself as “an underling with a leader’s vision”.

Do you see how utterly critical it is for you to share your viewpoint with us? We need your input!

Laugh with us. And show us that you know that we’re already really one of you.

Photo by Frank Busch on Unsplash

We know this is important stuff. In fact, we have to work twice as hard to get half as far as you guys do. You know that’s true. So, instead of inviting us into more stress (Let’s try harder!!!!), invite us into your laughter.

Teach us to take it easy. We see you doing that sometimes, but we have no idea that we can do it too, and still get where we’re trying to go!

And pull back the curtain on this craziness called power so we can see that really we’re all actually on the same playing field, making the same engine run.

Once upon a time I learned just how great it is to see behind the curtain — to be invited to the behind-the-scenes party, as it were, and to take it easy.

I was a repeat Extra in a television show that was being shot in San Francisco. My fifth time being an Extra, the A.D. (Assistant Director) unexpectedly gave me a break: he hired me to be “bumped” to a character with lines. Three whole lines!

Made a difference in the pay, too (woot!)!

I was suddenly invited to take lunch with the lead characters, and they were welcoming and awesome, and said, “Wow, you must have been incredible to get cast to do this!” They were fantastically warm and friendly, and I felt immediately included on their same level. All that had kept me in a one-down position previously was a structure — I’m an Extra, therefore I am to be seen and not heard! — rather than my abilities.

I spent the afternoon acting with these people. One of the producers said to another bigwig, “She’s doing a really good job!”, which I overheard. And at the end of it the director made a point to come up and shake my hand and thank me for being a part of it.

What had been the difference in this day, and the days before this all the other times I’d been an Extra? Something external: lines or no lines. Nothing about me.

What made a difference for me moving forward? I now had plenty more confidence in knowing that I’m just as good as I think I am, as an actor. If I don’t get where I want in the acting world, it’s not based on my abilities. That’s super supportive to my sense of strong self.

So teach us to laugh. And expose us to the experience of knowing that we’re really already “one of you”.

How does this help you, the male leader? Why would you want to help out a colleague, if not because you’re just generally awesome?

Do you have a spouse, or a best friend, or a girlfriend or boyfriend who really helps you see things from another perspective? Someone whose insights, emotional skews and personality settings balance your own? Have you benefitted from their input? Do I really need to say more?

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Yeah, I guess I will, because the real question at hand here is: Do you want to go further and fly higher? And, by the way, would you like to have better mental health and be happier, more supported, and feel less stressed when you’re at work?

No one rises alone. No one rises with only their own perspective to work from. We all need help, and we all need to have alternative perspectives to help us grow in our own.

We need each other, and balance is key. The masculine mode of work has led to men having higher numbers of heart attacks (though the women leaders who take on the masculine leadership styles 100% are having just as many heart attacks!). We absolutely can not continue to play the 1950’s game of Power-At-Work. Balancing both the masculine and feminine traits, and turning to one another to learn: PRICELESS.

Let me explain.

There are feminine and masculine traits, perspectives and behaviors; when we balance both within our own selves, we are in THE best place to be in life, in ourselves, and in the midst of any part of our careers.

We all have both feminine and masculine aspects to our behaviors, our speech, our expectations, etc., etc., etc. These are general differences, but I think you’ll find there is some kind of socially-based agreement on the split between the two:

Masculine: goal-driven. Feminine: process-driven.

Masculine: driven. Feminine: allowing.

Masculine: truthful. Feminine: tactful.

Masculine: self-confident. Feminine: supportive.

Like you men, we women were raised with the GO FOR THE GOLD edict. To rise higher and go faster — we were all told — persevere, never back down, never stop, try again, go, go, GO!

And…how’s that workin’ out for ya? Well, it works for a lot of men, but it clearly isn’t working for a lot of women. We have not only a different set of rules and expectations, but we live in a completely different world — which is a blog for another day.

We women are redefining leadership, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want your insights. And you men have been doing leadership in a way that has not been fulfilling (be honest: mostly it really hasn’t).

My opinion — which is not at all humble — is that the need cycle goes like this: we women need each other, and we women need you men to support us, and you need us to support you. We need to learn together, and from one another.

With your mentorship, your respect, your collegial attitudes, we will rise faster, support your changes and impact as well, and the world will change in ways that we didn’t even see coming. Positive ways. Healthy ways.

The alternative is to keep chasing money instead of quality of life, and moving through our business worlds in a competition that alters nothing but the number of types of armor we put on to “get through”. (“Get through” to what, by the way?)

So, men, don’t hide your light — don’t hide your help, and we all win. And thanks in advance for being awesome.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Lori Kirstein is an Actor/Sociolinguist-turned-Empowered Business Communication Coach who incites breakout speeches, presentations, and empowered interpersonal business communication for women leaders of all levels. Check out her “The Top Self-Expression Power Fixes for Women Leaders,” at www.GoodbyeGoodGirl.com and request a consultation.

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Lori Kirstein

Lori Kirstein

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Lori is a Confidence & Communication Business Coach for Women Leaders, and the founder of The Goodbye Good Girl Project.