The Worst Reason Women Don't Get Promoted

The room was filled with successful, competent, middle-aged women. We’d just finished a powerful workshop where each of them had identified ways they could make a bigger impact in the their organizations, in the world and in the women leaders coming up behind them. Then over lunch, Laura turned to me and confessed, “Karin, I’m still having trouble with your confident humility model. I think most women have way too much humility and that actually gets in the way of their success.”

Of course, the whole point of my model is that it’s the balance of confidence with humility, but my point was not the point. I needed to hear her story.

They just filled a really critical role in our organization, and everyone was shocked. “We thought it would be you!”  I know I’m way more qualified than the guy who got it, and I could have added a lot of value. But the truth is, I didn’t apply. No one asked me to. I guess, I figured if they wanted me they would have asked.

She continued,

I don’t think we should be teaching women about the power of humility. I think we need to get them to learn to believe in themselves and tell others why they should believe in them too.

And then several other women chimed in with similar experiences. One C-level exec shared her observations.

I think the problem is that many women look at the long list of requirements on a job description and think “Shoot, I’m missing one, better not apply.” Whereas a guy is more likely to say, “Ha, look at this, I’ve got all but one nailed, I’m a shoe-in.”

As I listened, I thought about the many roles I have taken on in my career that were really a stretch. On paper, I was completely under-qualified for these cross-functional assignments. What was the difference? Why did I exude that “masculine” audacious confidence that made me believe I could be successful without the experience?

And then it hit me. Much of that confidence came from the fact that one time, one senior leader convinced me I should move out of HR and take on a field role for which I had no experience. He told me he had “no doubts” that I would be successful. So I put my hat in the ring and was hired. He was right.

The next time, I didn’t need any external convincing.

Humility has nothing to do with selling yourself short. Humility is about knowing the mission is bigger than you. For goodness sake, if you’re the best person for the job, don’t stand back and let someone else take the helm.

And we all need to be on the lookout for women and men, who might need a little extra convincing.

Experts Share Advice on Inspiring Breakthrough Results: A Frontline Festival

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. Our March Festival is all about inspiring breakthrough results. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month’s Festival is all about “Spring Cleaning” for your leadership or team (e.g. renew, refresh, planting seeds). New contributors welcome.

The Internal Side of Breakthrough Results

The achievements of an organization are the result of the combined efforts of each individual. – Vince Lombardi

Wally Bock of Three-Star Leadership reminds us that breakthrough results and business success take more than smarts. Guts and discipline count, too. Follow Wally.

Michelle Cubas of Positive Potentials reminds us that breakthrough results are often like “overnight sensations.” We all know or heard of people who have come “out of nowhere” and were the next big thing. Stop there—Not true. See why . . .  Follow Michelle.

Chery Gegelman of Simply Understanding points out that breakthrough leaders are curious.  They enjoy turning rocks, are willing to get dirty and courageously face the squiggly things they discover.  And those discoveries inspire change and results.   Follow Chery.

Bruce Harpham of Project Management Hacks helps us learn how George Washington laid the foundation for breakthrough results in the American Revolution and beyond. He mastered these four career hacks before he turned 25. Follow Bruce. 

Barbara Kimmel of Trust Across America advises that breakthrough results can be achieved by companies that proactively build trust into their business strategy. If you don’t think a business case for trust exists, this article may change your mind. Follow Barbara.

Scott Mautz of the Make It Matter blog helps us discover a formula that expresses how an organization’s energy is derived, and provides the four questions leaders can ask themselves to avoid sapping precious energy from the quest for breakthrough results. Follow Scott.

From  Matt McWilliams of MattMcWilliams.comThese four words are what helped a shy assistant nearly set a company record for sales…in her first week. Less than two years later, she scored in the top 1% on the SHRM exam as she transitioned into HR management. It all started with these four words.  Follow Matt.

Jennifer Miller of the People Equation explores what happens when you’re just plain stuck. Try these four tips to help you break through the mental clutter.  Follow Jennifer.

Michelle Pallas of Michelle Pallas, Inc. asks and answers: “Want breakthrough results? Change you!” Follow Michelle.

Alli Polin of Break the Frame  shares that you can’t achieve breakthrough results until you have the confidence to show up and lead from your truth, not from behind an illusion of perfection.  Follow Alli.

LaRae Quy of Mental Toughness Center observes that when we stop striving to do our best, we become complacent. We settle into a comfort zone that produces mediocrity, and it takes mental toughness to break out of that rut.  Follow LaRae.

The External Side of  Breakthrough Results

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited gives pointers on setting goals with your team that will achieve breakthrough results. Follow Beth.

David Couper of Improving Police suggests that to inspire breakthrough results, a leader must: deeply listen to others (including dissent), oversee a quality training program, model an engaged style of leadership, create a system of improvement, be data-driven and sustain improvements. Follow David.

David Dye of Trailblaze, Inc. shares the most important five minutes you’ll spend to get clarity, accountability, and breakthrough results after your team stumbles upon a breakthrough idea. Follow David.

From John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement blog: Breakthrough results don’t always require remarkable innovation or even radical change.  Often incredible results are the result of creating a system that is continually improving and over time hundreds of actions build and help achieve breakthrough results.  Building such a management system takes great care. Follow John.

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference shares that as leaders we can get caught up in the hard-core metrics when we’re measuring results, but what if we also focused on heart? Heart delivers a confidence to make the places we work and live better with each week, month and year. Follow Jon.

Skip Pritchard of Leadership Insights shares, “Have you ever seen the massive pumpkins that compete for the world’s largest title? Thousands of pounds, these champion growers credit the good seed, good soil, and good luck. What I learned about breakthrough results mirrors what I learned from these monster pumpkins!” Follow Skip.

Jesse Lyn Stoner of Seapoint Center points us toward research study into teams that create breakthrough results, identifying these six benchmarks of high performance teams. How does your team stack up? Follow Jesse Lyn.

Linda Fisher Thornton of Leading in Context shares how respect is incredibly important. In the quest to create workplaces where people can find meaning and do their best work, she believes that we need to aim much higher. Follow Linda.

frontlinefestival-300x300-300x300Call for Submissions. The April Frontline Festival is about Spring Cleaning for your leadership or team (e.g. renew, refresh, planting seeds). Please send your submissions no later than April 10th. New participants welcome. Click here to join in!

Leadership Pros Contribute Thoughts about Humility: A Frontline Festival

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. Our February Festival is all about humility. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month’s Festival is all about inspiring breakthrough results. New contributors welcome.

Humility: We’re all shaped by it

“Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.” – Confucius

Chery Gegelman of Simply Understanding reminds us that great struggles humble us, and make us stronger, softer and wiser leaders.  Read cautiously, this post may inspire you to wish for a big struggle!   Follow Chery.

Matt McWilliams of MattMcWilliams.com helps us with How to Avoid the Three Most Common Downfalls of Leaders (hint: one is ego)  Follow Matt.

Jeff Miller of the Faithful Pacesetters asks, “How Does Humility Equal Confidence?” Follow Jeff. 

Yes it is true that Solomon was gifted with great wisdom. But his greatest leadership asset was his humility, according to Bernie Nagle of Altrupreneur. Follow Bernie.

Michelle Pallas of Michelle Pallas, Inc. offers, “When people in my network reached out to support me during an important meeting it was acts of caring. If not for a snow storm that forced a travel delay and time for reflection, I would have missed being grateful. It’s an emotion that keeps me humble and yet without deliberate thought it is easily squeezed out.” Follow Michelle.

Skip Pritchard of Leadership Insights gives us humble leadership  lessons with Pope Francis as a model. Follow Skip.

LaRae Quy of Mental Toughness Center shares about a time when she realized she would be moving from knowing everything about her job, to a new situation where she knew absolutely nothing. It was tempting to feel humiliated, yet she instead felt humbled. Follow LaRae.

Jesse Lyn Stoner of Seapoint Center shares how Alfred was deeply humbled by a wake up call and radically turned his life around. (Spoiler alert – this is a true story). Follow Jesse Lyn.

 

Humility: We all benefit from it

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less.” – Rick Warren

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited reminds us to forget what we give, remember what we receive. Gratefulness leads to humility.Follow Beth.

Wally Bock of Three-Star Leadership tells us that humility is a virtue everyone praises, but getting it right is hard. Many of us face the same challenge as Ben Franklin. Follow Wally.

Tom Eakin of Boom Life  points out that parent-leaders who want to help their children solve their own problems often give advice. But giving the answers, surprisingly, doesn’t help change the behavior that caused the problems. That’s where influencing with humility comes in. Follow Tom.

Bruce Harpham of Project Management Hacks shares three ways your humility improves your effectiveness at work. Follow Bruce. 

Barbara Kimmel of Trust Across America shares 20 simple ways to be trustworthy. Guess what one is? “Be Humble.” Follow Barbara.

Lisa Kohn of Thoughtful Leaders  shares how a great leader is someone who can admit when they are wrong, and be gracious and humble when they are right. Follow Lisa.

One thing we want in life is respect. We want to feel valued and listened to. Humility is one of four practices to earn and keep the respect of your peers. Thanks, Jon Mertz of Thin Difference. Follow Jon.

Don’t you just love a big slice of humble pie? Leadership Coach Julie Pierce of Empowered by Pierce shares her passion for pie and humble leadership. Follow Julie.

Alli Polin of Break the Frame  suggests that we learn to use our humility to solicit and be open to insights and ideas from across the organization. Together, not alone, we can create and do great things.  Follow Alli.

Linda Fisher Thornton of Leading in Context reminds us that leading now is not as much about leaders as it is about bringing out the best in those they lead and serve. Follow Linda.

Call for Submissions. The March Frontline Festival is about inspiring breakthrough results. Please send your submissions no later than March 13th. New participants welcome. Click here to join in!

If you haven’t seem my confident humility infographic, click here. to view and share.

 

The Turnaround Factor: Digging Deeper

One of the most important leadership lessons of my life happened five minutes after I stepped off that stage. I’d been giving out recognition awards on my massive “road trip,” a 27 states in 45 days kind of tour of motivational kick off meetings in Verizon Wireless’ outsourced call centers.

I was the “client”–read that “scary exec”–who was doing everything in my capacity to have my team viewed as developers, not auditors.

As I made my way to the back of the room from the makeshift stage, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find a small, gray-haired women with eyes gleeming with pride. It was Lisa, the service rep who had swept the recognition awards. Lisa was one of the heroines in this call center’s turnaround story, I was delighted to talk to her to understand the secret to her success.

“Lisa, congratulations! You’ve got to tell me, what’s the secret?”

What she said next was so utterly simple and yet totally profound.

“Last year I was almost fired.  My metrics were a disaster.

Everyone kept telling me that I needed to be more confident, to be the expert for our customers. But the problem was I just wasn’t FEELING confident. And I didn’t THINK of myself as an expert.

And then one day, my team leader gave me an opportunity to re-record my opening greeting. I decided this was my big chance to sound absolutely energetic, confident, and convey my expertise. I recorded it again and again until it sounded just right.

And then a miraculous thing happened. The customers heard that greeting. They began to greet me with comments like, “Wow, you sure sound cheerful for so early in the morning.” Or, “I am glad that I got the expert, I should be in good hands.” Well, after that I just had to stay cheerful, and began feeling more confident. And you know what, I had to be an expert. Turns out, I am one.

After thousands of calls, only once have I had a customer respond to this in a negative way. My customers are getting a great experience because I know I can deliver it.

And now, here I am.”

That’s what we SHOULD have been celebrating… her story… that’s what the others needed to hear. Why hadn’t I heard the back story BEFORE I’d taken the stage? Why had I wasted that recognition moment?

I vowed to no longer be the executive hand-shaker without getting the details. (See also:  why your recognition is backfiring).

Full of confident-humility, she was poised to teach me what mattered most.

You Can Too

Even if it seems impossible to go that deep, it’s worth it.

Take time to understand the turnarounds. Hear the whole story. Ensure others know it too. Know matter how many layers fall between, as a leader, it’s always your job to know the good stuff.

I promise. It’s worth it.

Leaders Share about Confidence: A Frontline Festival

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. Our January Festival is all about Confidence. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month’s Festival is all about Humility. New contributors welcome.

 

Confidence: Explaining It

“When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things.” – Joe Namath

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited shares how a shooting lesson with Olympian and Top Shot star Gabby Franco revealed three important elements of excellence and confidence. Follow Beth.

Steve Broe of My Career Impact says there are a lot of reasons to be busy in your work. Show your team and your senior management why it is important, and your confidence in the significance of project management. Follow Steve.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement  shares that without confidence people often take disagreements about the merits of an idea, proposal or action as an attack on them. With confidence people are much more able to separate their feeling of self worth from a discussion about what options are best. Follow John. 

According to Barbara Kimmel of Trust Across America, when a business that’s comfortable not having 100% market share confidently and happily recommends a competitor, they’re sending a signal about trust and confidence and most of all, about feeding the community first. Follow Barbara.

Michelle Pallas of Michelle Pallas, Inc. states that we act confidant when we deliver on our promises. It’s the only thing that gives us the right to hold others accountable. Follow Michelle.

Skip Pritchard of Leadership Insights says confidence is more important to your success than competence and provides three steps to building it. Follow Skip.

Confidence: Gaining It

“Confidence comes from discipline and training.” – Robert Kiyosaki

Paul LaRue of the UPwards Leader gives us steps for new leaders to overcome their fears and gain credibility in their new role. Follow Paul.

From Matt McWilliams of MattMcWilliams.com: You had great expectations, but you fell short. Now what? Here are five steps for letting go of expectations and getting your confidence backFollow Matt.

Julie Pierce of Empowered by Pierce asks, “Do you ever find your confidence waning when you’re cornered?” Here are 3 Confident Comebacks for When You’re Pressured, Pushed, or Put on the Spot. Follow Julie. 

Jim Ryan of Soft Skills for Hard Jobs shares that limiting beliefs are those restricting convictions we hold about our abilities. These kind of beliefs stop us from trying something hard or force us to give up too early. Follow Jim.

Confidence: Maintaining It

“To succeed in life, you need two things. Ignorance and confidence.” – Mark Twain

David Dye of Trailblaze Engage! shares several tools to overcome imposter syndrome and regain the confidence you need to lead well. Follow David.

LaRae Quy of Mental Toughness Center tells us five things confident women never do, and that confidence should never be confused with arrogance. Follow LaRae.

Chery Gegelman of Simply Understanding asks, “How do you maintain your confidence when you are pushed outside of your comfort zone or faced with historical pain?” Follow Chery.

Dan Rockwell of Leadership Freak says “Insecure people won’t try. Successful leaders help others find confidence, assuming they want to find it.” Follow Dan.

Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer Leadership provides  5 measures leaders can take to build and strengthen their confidence. Follow Tanveer.

Call for Submissions. February’s Frontline Festival is about humility. Please send your submissions no later than February 13th. New participants welcome. Click here to join in!

If you haven’t seem my confident humility infographic, click here. to view and share.

Confidence (A Frontline Festival)Thanks to Larry Coppenrath for a wonderful map of our Festival’s Ideas.

Hillary Clinton And I Share This Concern

Hillary Clinton’s noticed a pattern in her decades of work developing men and women staffers. As she shared it from the stage at the conference I attended last week, I felt my eyes tear up. Her words articulated a concern I’ve had for years.

“Too many women in too many countries speak the same language — of silence.”
~ Hillary Clinton

When I ask intelligent, articulate, highly qualified women to step up and take on more responsibility or a substantially bigger role, I’m often met with questions.*

“Do you really think I’m ready?”

“Are you sure I’m qualified?”

“How am I going to balance it all”?

In all my years of working with young staffers, NOT ONCE did I hear something like that from a man. Sure men have fears too. They just are less likely to say them out loud. It’s not all women. There’s no one who hates gender stereotypes more than me (and Hillary). But we have enough stories to be concerned. I imagine you do to.

How To Help Strong Leaders Build Confidence

  1. Look past the obvious choice for special assignments – The most qualified candidate for that special project may not be the one banging down your door asking for more. Consider the strong less flashy performers quietly inspiring others to get it done.
  2. Share specifics of why you believe in her – People need help in connecting the dots of their experiences. Articulate why you know they can do what needs to be done.
  3. Debrief wins – Help the leader understand her role in successes as they are happening. It wasn’t just “luck” or the expertise of a “great team.” If her leadership made a difference, explain why.
  4. Encourage confident communication – Point out the words that weaken (“this is probably a bad idea…” “in my feeble mind…”) and encourage power words (“absolutely” “game on” “we’ve got this.”
  5. Teach the art of ignoring stupidity – Many female leaders tend to take scrutiny more personally than men. And sadly, appearances and other superficial characteristics tend to get more focus for women. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, women leaders need rhino skin. And as Hillary added, we still do, we now just have better skin care products to hide it. Help your leaders focus on what matters, and ignore criticism that doesn’t.

*Quote is paraphrased, apologies to Hillary Clinton if it’s not precise…sentiment is spot on.

A Matter of Trust: Why I Trust You, Why I Don't

Developing real trust takes time. The people we lead come to us with history, memories, and experiences–they recall times of trust inspired and trust betrayed. When we are in a new gig, our teams watch even more closely.

  • “Can I trust you?”
  • “How do you talk to your boss?”
  • “Are you like the last guy?”

When we have been with a team longer, our teams have real perceptions and interpretations of our actions.

  • “Is this a pattern?”
  • “Does she always have my back?”
  • “How does he act under stress?”
  • “How is she treating everyone else?”

After years of leading, being led, coaching leaders, reading employee surveys, and hanging out with leaders here’s my best summary of what inspires or destroys trust.

“Why I Trust You”

Because you

  • let me know where I stand
  • share information
  • back me up
  • help me learn from mistakes
  • share how you make decisions
  • treat other people well
  • do what you say you will
  • understand what makes me tick
  • have my best interests in mind
  • admit when you are wrong
  • encourage dissent

Why I Don’t

Because you

  • let politics trump logic
  • withhold information I need
  • talk about me behind my back
  • break commitments
  • keep changing your mind
  • react without understanding
  • don’t get to know me
  • ignore me

What are you doing to develop trust within your teams?

A Matter of Trust: Why I Trust You, Why I Don’t

Developing real trust takes time. The people we lead come to us with history, memories, and experiences–they recall times of trust inspired and trust betrayed. When we are in a new gig, our teams watch even more closely.

  • “Can I trust you?”
  • “How do you talk to your boss?”
  • “Are you like the last guy?”

When we have been with a team longer, our teams have real perceptions and interpretations of our actions.

  • “Is this a pattern?”
  • “Does she always have my back?”
  • “How does he act under stress?”
  • “How is she treating everyone else?”

After years of leading, being led, coaching leaders, reading employee surveys, and hanging out with leaders here’s my best summary of what inspires or destroys trust.

“Why I Trust You”

Because you

  • let me know where I stand
  • share information
  • back me up
  • help me learn from mistakes
  • share how you make decisions
  • treat other people well
  • do what you say you will
  • understand what makes me tick
  • have my best interests in mind
  • admit when you are wrong
  • encourage dissent

Why I Don’t

Because you

  • let politics trump logic
  • withhold information I need
  • talk about me behind my back
  • break commitments
  • keep changing your mind
  • react without understanding
  • don’t get to know me
  • ignore me

What are you doing to develop trust within your teams?

5 Ways Leaders Bust Confidence

Leaders work hard to build confidence in their teams.

They know that building confident teams and people is vital to success.

Confident team members are more creative, communicate more effectively,

and take more risks.

Plus, it’s easier to delegate to a confident person.

Sometimes the very actions leaders take to create confidence, can backfire. How does what was meant to be a confidence-builder become a confidence buster? It’s a matter of depth.

Here are a few ways well-intentioned leaders destroy confidence (from the follower’s point of view):

 1. Give me a new big task, because you believe in me

… but don’t give me enough support to succeed

2. Tell me I am doing great

…with no details as to what is working

3. Recognize what I do at work

… and ignore who I am and what I am accomplishing on the sidelines

4. View me as a specialist

… and overlook my creative ideas and what I could contribute to the bigger picture

5. Stay calm, cool, and collected

… and show no emotion around my big wins

The common thread through all of these well-intentioned actions is how much the leader invests. Building confidence requires exploring deeply with someone. Understanding what they are most proud of and building on that through specific opportunities, feedback and recognition.

It also involves getting into the muck, working a few levels below the obvious insecurity to understand what scares them, and helping them to overcome those fears one step at a time.

With subtle shifts in approach, leaders can build on their positive intentions, and work to create stronger, more-confident followers.

The Turnaround Factor: Digging Deeper

One of the most important leadership lessons of my life happened 5 minutes after I stepped off that stage. I’d been giving awards on my massive “road trip,” a 27 states in 45 day kind of tour of motivational kick off meetings in Verizon Wireless’ outsourced call centers.

I was the “client,” read that “scary” who was doing everything in my capacity to have my team viewed as helpers, not auditors.

But here I was on her home stage recognizing outcomes. Lisa, with beaming confident-humility, was ready to teach me about process.

 

The service rep that had swept the recognition awards at this particular center tapped me on the shoulder.

Last year I was almost fired.  My metrics were a disaster.

Everyone kept telling me that I needed to be more confident, to be the expert for our customers. But the problem was I just wasn’t FEELING confident. And I didn’t THINK of myself as an expert.

And then one day, my team leader gave me an opportunity to re-record my opening greeting. I decided this was my big chance to sound absolutely energetic, confident, and convey my expertise. I recorded it again and again until it sounded just right.

And then a miraculous thing happened. The customers heard that greeting. They began to greet me with comments like, “wow you sure sound cheerful for so early in the morning.” Or, “I am glad that I got the expert, I should be in good hands.” Well, after that I just had to stay cheerful, and began feeling more confident. And you know what, I had to be an expert. Turns out, I am one.

After thousands of calls, only once have I had a customer respond to this in a negative way. My customers are getting a great experience because I know I can deliver it. And now, here I am.

That’s what SHOULD have been celebrating… the story. I’m embarrassed to say. I didn’t know it. That was the last time I gave out an award without knowing the backstory (see also: why your recognition is backfiring).

Even if it seems impossible to go that deep, it’s worth it.

Know who the whole stories, not matter how many layers fall between.

I promise. It’s worth it.