“We will not change the workplace until we speak with one voice. We have to be our own best friends and honor what other women bring to the table.”
These were some of the wonderful words of advice that Dr. Ella Bell, professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, gave us during the Women’s Leadership conference I spoke at last week in Cleveland.
Dr. Bell was talking about the changes that still need to be made in the workplace. I think her words ring true for the changes that need to be made in the world.
I hate hearing horror stories of how women treat each other. At work, women young and old still hurt each other by limiting access to important meetings and committees, withholding information, and blocking contact with mentors and higher-ups.
I question if only women do this. I have experienced men who do this as well. I believe this type of behavior, ranging from ignoring people to outright backstabbing reflects the fears we are feeling and a scarcity mindset more than the habits of gender.
This lack of trust has grown as our economy keeps sputtering. The animosity displayed by our leaders has brought out the worst in everyone else. People are driven by fear, pitting them against each other instead of inspiring them to work together to rise above the crisis.
I’ve been teaching leaders for 30 years. I wouldn’t count on this sweeping change of leadership behavior to happen anytime soon.
Therefore, I recommend to my coaching clients, most of them women, that they actively find friends and create their own “positive conspiracies of change.” I also coach them on how they can bring this behavior into the fabric of their corporate cultures and communities.
This covert operation benefits everyone. When we speak with one voice, we can change the world.
You might be thinking that you are too busy for this. Working women tend to put their personal relationships on the back burner behind work and family. The truth is, you need to make time for your friendships for both your present happiness and your future growth.
Besides helping to make changes at work, friends open doors and connect you with other people. They also talk with you and sometimes are just silent with you when life is overwhelming or discouraging, something women do better than men who want to fix you. Women in different positions at work can provide critical eyes to help you navigate your own path.
Biologically, when you socially connect with other women, you activate the brain regions that improve health and increase creativity. Women respond to threats in four ways, Fight, Flight, Flee, and Friend. Having good friends to call is a major stress release.
If you work alone or you don’t have a way of creating a conspiracy among women in your company, you can assemble a community from women in your external networks. Look for like-minded women in your professional associations, in classes at your local universities and colleges, and even at your gym.
When looking for other women to hang out with, choose women with positive outlooks who:
- Are willing to accept help as well as offer it,
- Will commit to showing up physically and mentally when you schedule time together,
- Are on their own personal development journeys, and
- Are willing to share their personal concerns and dreams while having a sincere desire to hear yours.
Also, make sure you have at least one woman in your network who will be honest and compassionately direct with you even when you don’t ask for her opinion. Find someone who will not back down when you adamantly defend yourself. Having at least one person who is willing to be honest with you is critical for your growth.
Let’s put the “catfight” myth to rest. It’s time to collaborate and trust one another. Start forming your positive conspiracies today.