Please Don’t Speak For Me, Sheryl

I almost lost my mind while watching a brief clip of an interview Arianna Huffington did with Sheryl Sandberg...Then, subsequently read her New York Times piece entitled, “Speaking While Female.”... Like, I may have yelled at my computer screen in reaction to the content. In the clip and referenced article, which was embedded in a Huffington Post piece entitled, “Sheryl Sandberg: ‘It’s Still Hard to Speak In a Professional Setting As a Woman,” what I heard her say was, in order for women to feel more comfortable speaking up in Corporate America, everyone OTHER THAN WOMEN has to change. And, since the message I heard is perpetuating the notion that we, as women, are (still) victims, I would like to ask that you, Sheryl, please not speak for me. I don’t feel like a victim. I have never felt like a victim (except for when I actually was one, growing up in my crazy, dysfunctional home.) I was never scared to speak in meetings and never felt ignored. That’s not to say I haven’t been ignored, I just don’t think I took it personally and probably spoke up about it because I think it’s rude.

This is what you said that made me go a little bit crazy...

”Even with all the progress we’ve made, it’s still really hard to speak in a professional setting as a woman. Women face real barriers….As human beings, we are incredibly sensitive to people’s reactions. If you watch someone say something, you see how the person reacts...the person who’s speaking reacts. And, as women, we kind of fall in one of two paths…..either we speak out aggressively and affirmatively and are results focused and then people often think, you know, she’s not nice. I don’t like her. She’s too aggressive. OR, we’re quiet and spoken over. We’re interrupted more, we take more notes in meetings, we sit in the back more and that’s really hurting women’s ability to get to leadership.” And, then she goes on to ask that people start calling on women first “Obamastyle” (as he did when he only called on female reporters in his most recent press conference) so that women get to speak.

For reference, here are the links to the Huffington Post interview and NY Times articles:

HuffPo clip: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/23/sheryl-sandberg-davos_n_6506188.html

NY Times piece: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/opinion/sunday/speaking-while-female.html

First let me say that, as much as I love Obama, what he did by calling, only on women, was an incredibly calculated, yet effective, PR move. I mean, it created the phrase, “Obamastyle,” for you to use to support your argument. Next, I’d like to ask...

  • Are ‘we’ as human beings all really incredibly sensitive to people’s reactions?
  • If ‘we’ are, why is it so and, what does it cost us as human beings? Maybe just some of us are somewhat sensitive and some, not at all?
  • Could ‘we’ ever include men?
  • Do ‘we’ really only fall into only two paths? Either aggressive or quiet?....That’s it?

Maybe there are some other options?

I believe the message is antiquated and not addressing the real problem at hand, which is a matter of confidence and authenticity…. period. I also believe confidence and authenticity or, the lack there of, is gender neutral.

Confidence and authenticity come from within. Both come with self-examination, self-awareness and self-acceptance. Both come from allowing ourselves to be who we are, not who we THINK we should be. Faking it, overcompensating or throwing in the towel if they are lacking, are unfortunate alternatives and glaringly obvious...even on an unconscious level.

Instead of perpetuating the notion that women are being victimized, how about offering a solution to help them help themselves? Why not have a dialogue about this, and not state it’s everyone else’s problem to fix? So, instead of speaking FOR women in a way that makes them seem like damsels in distress, why not ask: 

  • Why do some women feel this way?
  • Why use the word aggressive, not assertive?
  • Do you, Sheryl, feel uncomfortable when you speak up?
  • Did you once, but don’t anymore? And, if not, what changed? This could be helpful for women to know.
  • What are ALL of the variables that exist in these male/female scenarios? Is it not possible that, as with some men, not all questions or talking points made by all women are good points? For example, some people speak up in groups because they want attention, not because they have something relevant to say. Women AND men.
  • Why is being “liked” even an issue? It’s not for most men. (Remember that line from A League of Their Own about no crying in baseball?)
  • Is it possible that women’s feelings of self-consciousness come across when they speak up, thus making them less engaging? This must also happen when men speak too, no?
  • Do women feel the need to overcompensate for their lack of confidence by being aggressive? Is it like the 2015 equivalent to wearing shoulder pads, as women did in the 80s to appear, in physique, more like men?

And, with regard to all of these rude men…

  • Would it not be beneficial to ask them why they think it’s ok to speak over a woman when she starts to speak? There could be an overcompensation (confidence issue) there too.

In your book, you asked women to lean in. Did you ask women to ask themselves why they don’t? In your NY Times piece, you cited studies that support your argument but, what about studies on the importance and effectiveness of confidence?

I am entirely for equality, across the board, and for getting rid of discrimination. I absolutely believe that the equal pay issue needs to be resolved. However, I don’t think attaching women’s feelings of inadequacies and self-judgment helps this issue. In fact, I believe it is harmful in that it promotes the idea that it is not in our (women’s) power to help ourselves. Everyone is scared of something. Everyone struggles with limiting beliefs about themselves and life in general. Why not figure out a way to bring these internal struggles to light? Don’t just lean in, start to work from within.


Danielle Gibson works with people who want to "speak up." That is, they want to have the ability to be more direct/straight forward. She believes confidence, authenticity, good communication skills and paying attention to one's intuition are essential components. And, they serve as some important focal points in her coaching practice. To contact Danielle, please email: danielle.gibson@gmail.com

Going Above & Beyond: The Many Benefits Of Coaching

A few years ago, I read a biography of Bruce Lee that included a section describing how he experienced a series of recurring nightmares. 

These led to a growing sense of fear and unease during his waking hours, and he lost confidence in various areas of his life. It’s fairly obvious why confidence is important to a kung fu master and international film star; the negative effects of his anxiety took a toll on him professionally.

Eventually, after much soul searching, Lee recognized the root of his fear, then set it aside and moved forward. His career flourished, and today his name is known by just about everyone. Although most of us are not martial arts heroes on the silver screen, each of us can imagine what Lee’s experience was like. 

We’ve all had the sense of being held back, of being unable to move past some hidden blockage and onward toward a better future. To a lesser or greater extent, each of us has our own monster holding us back, and that’s where coaching can help. Sometimes, we need someone else to step in and help us slay the beast.

What Can We Gain from a Life Coach?

People often hold misconceptions about coaching. Many confuse coaching with counseling and mentoring, but a coach doesn’t provide advice or work with a client over a long period of time. Instead, a coach’s goal is to empower his clients so they can act on their desires and work toward goals. Generally, this is achieved over a short series of sessions.

Coaching doesn’t involve going into an office and lying down on the couch (as is the case with therapy).

Many coaches never even meet their clients. Skype has made it possible to connect coaches with clients all over the world, allowing clients to conveniently experience highly meaningful and successful sessions. Because of this, virtually anyone can benefit from coaching — even people who consider themselves happy and successful. 

Who Can Benefit from Coaching?

The majority of people who seek coaching suffer from a lack of confidence. People of all ages — from teenagers to retirees — find themselves restricted by fears of what they can actually accomplish. It sounds strange, but many people find it difficult to cope with the idea of success.

People often react to barriers they built early in their lives, usually before the age of 12. At some point, they developed a sense of their own incapability. These barriers can be self-imposed or constructed by social pressures. Although the high-water mark varies from person to person, almost everyone has an internal concept of his own limitations. Once a person approaches this supposed limitation, he says, “I can’t.”

Many people know they have a desire (for a promotion, for social recognition, or whatever else), but they fear what will happen once that desire is attained. Will they be able to handle it? Will they be capable of fulfilling the function? When it comes right down to it, these people are battling with two internal voices: one saying “I can” and the other saying “I can’t” or “I never will.”

Just about everyone can benefit from coaching, but people in the following situations will undoubtedly profit from the experience: 

  • People experiencing transition: A coach is useful when changing jobs, relocating, having a baby, retiring, divorcing, or during any other time when it’s important to assess your situation and develop strategies to move forward positively.
  • People who feel they have come to a crossroads: Coaching provides help when determining your values and goals in a way that will set you down the best path possible.
  • People who feel “stuck”: Coaching provides a means of analyzing and surpassing barriers.
  • People with unrealized dreams: A coach can help develop strategies for bringing goals and dreams to fruition.
  • People who are happy and successful: Even successful people have barriers. Breaking them down only leads to further prosperity.

Research Proves the Benefits of Coaching

recent survey performed by the UK’s The Work Foundation, a research and management consultancy, found that the effects of coaching are quantifiable, and their findings attest to the benefits of engaging a coach.

  • 84 percent reported improvement in their ability to work toward goals.
  • 60 percent reported a heightened openness to personal development and learning.
  • 58 percent reported a better ability to identify solutions to work-related issues.
  • 52 percent reported an increase in responsibility.
  • 42 percent reported a higher sense of self-awareness.

The same report also found a wide variety of benefits for organizations that provide coaching to employees, such as an outstanding increase in each employee’s utilization of his talents, a general increase in organizational performance, a more motivated staff, better relationships between different departments, and an increased willingness to adopt a new management style.

Simply put, coaching provides the boost necessary to push a person far beyond the limits of what he thinks he is capable of. This brings about a positive result for individuals, the organizations for which they work, and society as a whole.

A key aspect of daily life involves overcoming challenges and pushing past barriers. That’s how life is for almost all of us. We all spend our lives in the pursuit of success, whether it’s small or large, physical or intangible. In order to achieve these goals, it may be helpful to have someone remind you to listen to the inner voice that says “I can.” Sometimes, it takes a little bit of coaching to get there.


For more than 30 years, Rod Beau has been an internationally sought-after education and management consultant and keynote speaker. His practical, real-world business experience and career have been in educational leadership, relocation consulting and executive and leadership coaching. As a Senior Consultant and Master Executive Coach, Rod is also an Accredited ANLP Trainer - specializing in Executive and Leadership Coaching. To learn more about Rod Beau, please visit www.sherpanlp.com

 

6 Sure-Fire Career Boosters

I chose the niche of career coaching because I am passionate about helping people find a path that is rewarding, fun and lucrative. My commitment stems from personal experience. My career path was forged by taking risks, following my heart, and not being afraid to color outside the lines.  I have a degree in information systems, and have worked as an interior decorator, a nonprofit fundraiser, and now a career and life coach.  I know a bit about demanding bosses, getting promoted, and knowing when to leave – including reinventing myself more than once.  This is why I am focusing more of my energy on helping others navigate the sometimes challenging waters of the workplace and exploring “what’s next” – including entrepreneurship.  Critical to all of this is knowing how to listen to your inner voice, and trusting yourself.

First, let’s work on gaining some forward momentum – no matter what your path: 

1.    Get out of neutral.  Sometimes we’ve stayed too long at our current workplace, and it shows. The excitement is gone, and we are doing that dreaded countdown from Monday through Friday.  If (and ONLY if) you value your workplace, and are invested in staying there, make a conscious decision to “bloom where you’re planted”.  Actively engage your manager about ways to improve your job performance, learn a new skill or take on more responsibility. Speak up in meetings.

2.    Learn how to self-promote (without being obnoxious).  There is some truth to the adage “nice guys/girls finish last”.  The workplace is nothing if not competitive. And unfortunately just “doing a good job” will not necessarily get you noticed or promoted.  It may make you a valuable member of the team. You’ll be known for being dependable and reliable – but perhaps taken for granted.  Learn how to toot your own horn. Make suggestions and share good ideas. Become your own PR agent.

3.    Dress for success.  Appearances DO matter. If you come to work wrinkled and disheveled, people may not take you as seriously. It is sometimes said that you should dress the part of your next job. In my opinion, it’s not a bad policy. Take yourself seriously, and others will too.  You don't have to spend thousands on a designer wardrobe. But a nice quality suit with a variety of tops or shirt and tie combos can go a long way.  If your workplace is not so formal, you can buy some strategic pieces to mix and match without breaking the budget.

4.    Get a mentor. We are all connected, and it’s important to seek guidance from people who’ve been there.  A mentor can help you navigate the tough spots and develop strategies for advancement. S/he can be an invaluable resource for networking and job search.  Think about an expert in your field with whom you can cultivate a closer relationship.  It can be someone you know already, or you can pick someone who you’d like to learn from and reach out to him or her.

5.    Know when it’s time to go. Sometimes it’s just TIME TO GO. Period. There may have been a leadership or political sea change at your workplace, or you are dealing with a difficult boss who is either intimidated by you, a micro-manager, or who just doesn’t like you for some reason or other.  Or, as I mentioned before, you are just not into it anymore. Maybe you’ve hit a ceiling and there is no room for advancement.  And of course, there is the option of entrepreneurship. Do you have a window of opportunity to follow your dream and hang out your own shingle? Be sure you have a good strategy for a strong start, but if you’re ready, go for it!

6.    Take risks. Nobody got anywhere playing it safe.  Well that’s not entirely true.  People who play it safe are able to hold on to jobs for a very long time – and that’s great. If you want to be promoted, advance, lead, or make more money – it may not be the best strategy.  Be willing to speak your mind, to disagree with your boss, to suggest a new idea that might help your organization succeed.  If a position opens up at your workplace (or elsewhere) that you’re interested in, go for it.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained! 

 As always, here’s to you – and to your truth. My prayer  for you is a fun, balanced and fulfilling life. 

Until next time… Trina  


Trina Ramsey is a career and life coach, specializing in personal transformation and career transition. With 20 years of experience in business and management, Trina is a "people person" and a change agent. Trina started her business, Perspectives Plus Coaching in 2009 after spending 15 years as a nonprofit fundraiser and experience running her own interior decorating business. For more on Trina visit trinaramsey.com. @PerspectivePlus  or https://www.facebook.com/CareerTalkWithCoachTrina