Sheryl Sandberg's new book Lean In has really heated up the debate about how women see their careers. Her observation that women 'leave before they leave' in anticipation of the conflicting demands of having a career and family commitments is a perceptive one. There is a lot more that organisations can do to be more user friendly to women but equally there are things that can help women negotiate this challenging stage in mid career.
When it comes right down to it there isn't really a lot of encouragement for women to push their way to the top of an organisation. The higher they get the less popular they are, they are expected to function in an environment that is often male defined, which doesn't always value their methods and anything to do with babies and mess is usually filed in the unimportant box! Why would you push through to the higher levels?
Well, believe it or not many women can see original and innovative ways to contribute to their organisations and with the right kind of encouragement will do so very effectively. But to be successful it is vital for them to see why they should bother.
Accessing what we already know
One thing that can make a powerful difference is understanding who they are. Not in an abstract way but in a way that is real and exciting. When we recognise and use our strengths as a driver for the things we want to make happen, we are happy and fulfilled. We would put in extra effort even if it wasn't required, just for the joy of it.
The more you can engage with and take pleasure in your capacities and your contribution the more confident and effective you will be. Think:
selling an idea,
enrolling your team in a new project
asking your boss for a rise!
If you can get in touch with what your energy is for you are half way there and the easiest way of doing it is to use your imagination and your emotions.
Working with images
I do this with images, which access the playful and intuitive part of the brain that spontaneously makes things up! A woman I was working with on confidence recently was rather quiet and uncertain at the beginning of our session but when she began to explain the meaning of the images she had chosen her eyes began to sparkle. She was recognising herself!
As we worked together to pull out a strap line for her encapsulating who she was, she became more and more excited! Yes yes that is who I am! I could see and experience the energy it was giving her right there in the room. In that instant her relationship to what was possible for her, changed. OI wish you could have seen it.
It all starts with really getting yourself
The recognition released her to reconsider some of her recent actions and also some long term assumptions she had made about what was possible in her future. Again I was reminded of how import it is to have a live pulsating sense within us about who we are and what is imporatnt. If organisations can harness this maybe women wouldn't be so keen to leave before they leave!