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Ep 34: How Women Rise-12 Habits holding women back-Sally Helgesen, "How Women Rise" Author, Speaker

Updated: Jun 22, 2023


Hello, This is Sirisha, welcome to my podcast!

Would you like to pinpoint the habits holding you back from progressing in your career? Extensive research by Sally Helgesen and her collaborator Marshall Goldsmith gives us clear traits we can overcome to be intentional in driving our careers. It is never about us lacking the skill, knowledge or expertise, it's about bringing forth our confidence and owning not just our space or voice but leveraging our voice and network without shyness, shame or hesitancy.

In this interview, Sally discusses 3 of the 12 factors manifested by a large percentage of women inhibiting their career progression. We discuss how we can acknowledge and speak to our career success and impact. We also dive into how to leverage our networks and work on our careers and not just our jobs. We are sometimes unsure about how we can have career conversations and decide and define where we want it to go. There are many aspects we can find hard to articulate and this conversation gives you a starting point and walks you along on the journey.

To get a more comprehensive idea of what other aspects you can pull together to propel yourself forward, please pick up Sally's book "How Women Rise- 12 Habits holding women back". I cannot say enough, this book helped me articulate and outline my pinch points so I could clearly understand what I needed to work on.

Sally Helgesen, is cited in Forbes as the world’s premier expert on women’s leadership. She is an internationally best-selling author, speaker and leadership coach. She has been inducted into the Thinkers 50 Hall of Fame and is ranked number 5 among the world’s thought leaders by Global Gurus.

Sally’s book, How Women Rise, co-authored with Marshall Goldsmith, examines the behaviours most likely to get in the way of successful women. Her book, Women’s Ways of Leadership is hailed as a classic in its field and has continued in print since 1990, and The Web of Inclusion: A New Architecture for Building Great Organizations, was cited in The Wall Street Journal as one of the best books on leadership of all time and is credited with bringing the language of inclusion into business. Sally’s next book, Rising Together: How We Can Bridge Divides and Create a More Inclusive Workplace, will be published in February 2023.

Come, let's #paintlifetogether!

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Below is a transcript of the episode, slightly modified for reading.


[00:00] INTRO [Jump to section]

[00:49] Meet Sally Helgesen [Jump to section]

[04:55] Do women face the same challenges Globally? Global issue...local culture...Solving the issue [Jump to section]

[09:31] 12 Habits- Top key habits limiting women [Jump to section]

[13:50] Advocating & Talking about your accomplishments- Finding the right words [Jump to section]

[19:52] Leveraging relationships for success & career progression [Jump to section]

[23:20] How to have Conversation to grow your career [Jump to section]

[28:07] How to decide and define your career intentions [Jump to section]

[31:47] When you are more than qualified to apply for a job [Jump to section]

[38:23] Note to 21 year old self [Jump to section]

[42:29] Sally's new Book- Rising Together- Feb 2023 [Jump to section]

[44:00] Allyship, Inclusion, Unconscious Bias [Jump to section]


[00:00] INTRO


Hello everyone. This is Sirisha and I host the women carrier and life podcast, just like you. I've traveled way with parts, stumble a little, picked myself up and learned a great deal on my journey. Many of us face similar questions, but we don't always get to have a conversation with our friends or peers. In this podcast, you will hear real stories that you can connect with on the challenges of navigating career in life. You must be wondering who I am in my everyday life. I'm a career woman, a mom, and an ever reader. I'm also a road tripper, amateur garden, and even a fashionist on some days. Join me in my guest. As we have an open and honest discussion on career change, trade offs and working across boundaries. You get the idea. It's a perspective you simply may not hear.

[00:49] Meet Sally Helgesen

Sirisha: Hello everyone. I'm really excited about today's interview with Sally Helgesen. I've been anticipating and really looking forward to this conversation. I got to read her book a while ago and have gone and referred to it many times back, and I would strongly urge you to read it. The book is called How Women Rise instead of the 12 Habits That Hold Women Back. Obviously there's a ton of conversation going on around organization supporting women's empowerment and women's leadership growth, but this is also talking about us using our own resources and our own skill set and making sure we get visibility for everything that the work we do.

Sally, welcome and I'm really glad you're here. Just to give you a little bit background about Sally, Sally is being inducted into the Hall of Fame recently, and she's one of the top 50 thinkers. She's in the top five people by global gurus who's recognized her for changing the women's leadership landscape, and she's a recognized expert there. Her book on inclusion is actually Wall Street Journals top leadership books for really bringing the concept of inclusion into the business world and making it a very thought provoking conversation that we see everywhere nowadays. So I'm glad that is a part of the conversation because we do have a lot of experience we go through sometimes, especially as women. So I'm glad to have her here. And Sally, thank you for being as well.

Sally: Thank you so much. It's really a pleasure to be here.

Sirisha: So I wanted to understand how you got really involved in Women in Leadership Space and what sort of motivated you to get here and what's your journey been like?

Sally: I got motivated. It goes back to the 1980s when I was working in corporate communications in a number of terrific organizations. But even though they were very good organizations and pretty well led, what I noticed is that they did a remarkably poor job of understanding what women had to contribute at a leadership level. This going back 35 years ago and I saw women who were very talented. I saw women who had great ideas, strategic level ideas, but there was essentially almost no way that they could be heard on that. So I wanted to address that and I thought a way to do it might be to start doing some research. On how exceptional and very successful women did things. There weren't that many of them back then, but I wanted to find them and I wanted to study how they had an impact and what was individual that they had to contribute. And that research became the book, The Female Advantage, Women's Ways of Leadership, which was published in 1990. I'm glad to say that it's still in print after 32 years continuously has been. And it was really the first book that focused on what women had to contribute as leaders rather than how they needed to change and adapt. And since there was nothing out there like that, companies started to call me and groups and associations. Law firms non-profits community groups. I got calls from all over the us later than that, all over the world asking me to come in and speak to their women. And so I started doing that. I figured I'd rather be writing speeches for myself than e executives, which is what I mostly what I've been doing in corporate communications and there was a market for it, however, small and however much skepticism there was around the idea of having, of women having something specific to contribute. So it just took off from there. And then eight books and thousands of articles and newsletters and posts. And I've been speaking in organizations all over the world now for 32 years and so the books I've done have really developed out of that experience.

[04:55] Do women face the same challenges Globally? The global issue...local culture...Solving the issue

Sirisha: That's fabulous because it came out of your own journey and your corporate career and seeing the gap and the opportunity to enable women to exercise their voice. You must have seen different perspectives, especially as you you travel globally. Can you gimme a contrast of what some of those might look like before we go actually into the 12 habits?

Sally: It's very different. But what has continued to surprise me in my work has been the consistency of the response from women who identify with, first of all, the strengths that I articulated, the capacity for inclusive behaviors that I articulated, the the patterns of notice that lead to women's vision that I was able to put out there and most recently with my most recent book, How Women Rise With the Habits and Behavior that get in the way of women. It has helped me understand that we have enormous commonalities when I went to Japan to do the launch. For how women rise, the most common response I got was we thought these were just habits that Japanese women had and I've heard something similar all around the world. And I really have been in many places around Africa and Asia. The subcontinent, the far eastern Asia and of course and Brazil all over Europe. And of course with since the pandemic doing so much work, virtually it has even increased that ability. Cuz you can, you can be in Nigeria in the morning and Sao Paulo in the afternoon, so that's what I hear. And yes, how we address them can be different because different cultures have different tolerance for unexpected behavior or unexpected approaches. But I think the strengths we have and what challenges us is pretty consistent across culture and I wouldn't have thought that, except I've seen it with my eyes for so many years.

Sirisha: That's actually quite surprising. Even I'm surprised that it is so similar because it inherently makes you wonder what is the common threat, because cultures are quite significantly different for it still to be the same. The sort of the expressions, the feelings that we experience are similar is fairly surprising.

Sally: I think there are two things. Number one is, especially in global organizations, they're pretty consistent expectations and patterns. Pretty consistent models that we are expected to, I don't wanna say conform to, that's too strong, but models that are given to us, And so I think that the homogeneity of the global organizational environment is probably one factor. And the second thing is that really these both the suppression of strengths and or the awkwardness expressing our strengths and habits that hold us back are really the result of not coming from the dominant, mainstream male leadership culture and that a lot of how we respond is similar and it's based on that. So I think that's why there is as much similarity. Now, I wanna be clear that it the same, how to address these things is not always the same. In the United States, for example in there's a lot more tolerance for confronting something directly. Whereas in a lot of Eastern Asian countries, there's an expectation that will confront things indirectly. So your techniques may alter, but the challenges, and I think the opportunities to make significant career improvements are pretty consistent.

Sirisha: Yeah that's I guess, the truth of it, you're right. The address, the structure and the codified culture of such places is quite different, so they're not tackled the same way and working within that space so that you make change without completely creating additional barriers because, Pushing too far sometimes can create other challenges. So how do you work? Still making significant improvements.

[09:31] 12 Habits- Top key habits limiting women

Sirisha: So what do you find from all your research when you talk about the 12 habits? If you want to recap all 12 or what do you think were like the top key habits that were the most limiting in some ways, what you thought self-limiting behaviors?

Sally: Think about the key habits. Going through 12 is a laundry list but the most consistent, perhaps I should say the habits that are most resonant consistently, and this is across culture, but also across sector and across levels. I would say are, first of all, expecting others to spontaneously notice and value your contributions. That has got to be at the top of the list, and that's really a response to reluctance to claim your achievements, where I'm sure of how to talk about what we have contributed to an effort. We don't wanna come off as arrogant or bragging or all about me. We may have seen it done poorly. We may have legitimate concerns. How am I gonna talk about what I did when really this is a team effort? Shouldn't I be talking about the team? So that reluctance to really talk about what we've done. Leads us to a passive default strategy of expecting or hoping that others will notice. And I've heard this for decades now from women in my work, cuz I've been doing this, for 32 years. I believe that if I do great work, people will notice, or I believe that if I do great work, people should notice. and they don't necessarily, and we, the responsibility falls on us. And this is very important because if we do not find a way to get recognized for what we contribute, then over time we will. We will feel undervalued and we will start to disengage even from a job that otherwise we love. It's hard to stay engaged. When you don't feel valued. So we have that responsibility. So that's very common and I think what surprised me the most is how common that is, even at higher levels for women. Putting your job before your career, another foundational habit, pouring all your energy into the job you have, based on the assumption that if you do That will lead you to the promotion you seek because you did the best job. Rather than looking strategically, trying to consider, yes, of course I wanna be good at the job I have, and that's an important part of my contribution, but it's not all of it. And I need to also cultivate visibility and connections and that's what really is responsible for a satisfying career over time. Building rather than leveraging relationships being reluctant to engage other people to help us either by asking them for introductions. Asking them for specific help, asking them for an acknowledgement all those things. Women tend to be really comfortable building relationships and very skilled at it. But again, I've noticed for many years that women often don't take that network. They have. And develop it and use it in a way that benefits them. And I, I hear that, I want people to know that I value them as friends or I, I don't wanna be seen as a user. So those things will make women reluctant on that and then of course, our old friend, the perfection. And the disease to please. Those are very common. And those are two habits I really call toxic at the top because they are classic in that they do tend to serve you well early in your career, but they really get in the way. As you move up cuz they make it hard to set boundaries to protect your time to avoid micromanagement and they create a lot of stress, stress for ourselves and in the case of the perfection trap, also stress for other people, so there's quite a challenge.

[13:50] Advocating & Talking about your accomplishments- Finding the right words

Sirisha: You know what, everything you said, especially a few of them completely spoke to me. That's the book. The part about leveraging the relationships and building them right and. At least in my case, I see the building part. The leveraging is there's a lot of hesitancy around it and I think for women to advocate and talk about their own accomplishments, it's a mindset change and for me, part of it, and maybe for some of the others, I come from India originally, so culturally it's, yeah, it's not something you talk about. It's not seeing as being humble and boastful. So it's very hard to wrap around and figure out how to do it that a way you are comfortable with it.

To what you said that I don't come off as just showing off, for lack of a better word, but how do I still talk about my accomplishments and take credit for it? Because I think it comes to even the simple thing when someone gives you a compliment I think most of us deflect it by saying, Oh, this, oh that and so just saying thank you and saying, Yes, thank you, and the team also did this. So I think that's part of figuring out the language and in some ways practicing it so that you know how to take it gracefully and still get credit where credit is due.

Sally: That's the key, is being able to practice that because the more we do these things, the more comfortable we get and you're absolutely right about the deflecting, Oh, good job. My team was really, or I couldn't have done it without, Of course not all that is true, but the correct response is always. Thank you. A couple things I've learned since the book. Because I've had so many questions on how to do this, and one thing I've recognized is it's really helpful to use what I call the language of contribution rather than achievement. Women are often uncomfortable with the language of achievement or success, or I was able to fulfill this benchmark or whatever. But when you can say, and this kind of also gets you out of this, do I talk about myself or the team conundrum when you're able to say something like, our team was able to achieve this.

Here was the response. This client assessed it at, 90 degree, 90% of satisfaction, whatever it is. My contribution was. So in that way that gets you out of, do I talk about myself or the team? You're talking about both. You did make a contribution, whatever that was cuz you're part of the team. But just the language of contribution, I find women are often very comfortable with that saying, I contributed this because it embeds it in the idea that there's a larger effort, a team effort that you were a part of and is not. All about you. Another thing that I find very helpful. For women is framing what you do as information that could be helpful to someone else. This might be, it might be helpful for you to know that one of the the things I did on that project was this that information might be helpful to you in talking with the client, in talking with whoever, but just giving them a sense that you're sharing. But that your motivation is that you understand that it could be helpful for them, that it could be information that they could use.

Those things are really, they're just verbal tweaks, but they can make all the difference.

Sirisha: In a lot of ways it's reframing both your mindset and reframing your conversation, right? Like you said, using ways that you are part of the thing, but you have impact. And I think reframing the mindset comes very much to where you're talking about the perfectionist trap and being the pleasing part of it. Is, Don't hold yourself waiting for that perfection or the job and career I, I see that as also a challenge because you're trying to perfect a job, but you're not thinking of the long game. When you talk about leveraging relationships, I think in your book you talk about, from day one men advocating and building that even to a new job. There's building that and looking at the network as enabling the solution while in some cases I. Even if you broad brush it, sometimes women might want mastery before they go and say, Okay, I'm going to now solve the problem and bring the team in. But you could leverage those relationships early on. Get that stakeholder opinion, get the conversation going, and start building allies there and how do you do that piece? It's thinking about it a little differently than what we, sometimes we tend to think.

Sally: You really have got that that it's a mindset shift. It's a mindset about how can we help one another. Be successful. In my experience, the most successful people I've ever worked with, men and women, they walk into a new job and the first question they ask is, Who do I need to know to make sure this is a success? And then they make sure that they know whoever those people are, whereas an opposite approach. I need to make sure that I've got all the skills before I start building relationships. Now, why do we feel that way? We may feel that way because we don't want anybody to see us before we are completely confident in doing the job. We forget that nobody expects you to know how to do a job that you have never done before, and that it's much more efficient as well as effective to build the relationships as you go along. I'm new with this. I haven't done this before. How does this sound? This is what I was thinking of suggesting in this meeting. You've been here for a while. What do you think of that? Do you think that. Land or do you think that would be useful in this particular context? So you are enlisting, you're leveraging people. In the process of learning how to do your job, you're leveraging other people in your own personal and career development.

[19:52] Leveraging Relationships for Success & Career Progression

Sally: It's much more effective. Marshall, my Marshall Goldsmith, my co-author on how Women Rise, did some extraordinary research. I think he had a sampling of about 800,000 people worldwide in corporate positions and what he found was that the people who had the most success making long term positive change in their behavior and their career were people who worked with someone else. They might work with a coach, they might work with a peer coach, or they might just informally enlist people as allies and that's the practice that I really, I'm such an advocate for.

Sirisha: That's an interesting way to think about it. Not only you having your peers as allies, but even coaches and from what you're saying, what the day one, when you walk in and say who I need to talk to, you're already, getting stakeholder buy-in right from the beginning instead of finding this perfect solution. It's very similar to what they talk about the entrepreneurial journey, right? There are those people who start putting their product out there and taking customer feedback and tweaking it, or those people who went and designed this perfect product and launched it in there was no one to buy it because that's not what people wanted. So you have to have that conversation. It's building all of that at the same time and people know that you're valuing, you're bringing something to table, but you're willing to change and because no one knows what the end product needs to look like at all times.

Sally: Nobody knows , we can work ourselves to the bone trying to get perfect at something and then find out that actually that was fairly marginal in terms of what our team was trying to do. But we got the idea the first day we were there that this was important, so we spent a huge amount of time doing it. So that's why I say that engaging other people and bringing them along on our journey is not only more effective, but it's more efficient. It saves us a lot of time. The most successful careers that I've ever witnessed are built on three legs that of expertise, visibility, and connections and expertise obviously important, but so are visibility and connections. In my observation, one way in which women often undermine themselves is that they over invest in the expertise part and under invest in the visibility and connections because they feel that they need to have the expertise before they almost have a right to start building the connections and seeking visibility.

Sirisha: Yes, and I think can limit them in the future. Like for certain promotions as they're growing, going forward because if you don't have the visibility and the connections not built based on your skill set and what value you're bringing, then it's hard to get promoted. You have sat in one space, being the perfect manager, done something really well, but are you ready to be looking at the next level because as you go up the ladder, a lot of it is also done through connections and stakeholder buy-in rather than you being the expert. Because the scope becomes so much larger, you're starting to rely on other people's expertise. You have SMEs for that. It's your job to define strategy, use the connections and leverage so that you can bring different collaborations together to solve the more complicated problems. There's, you're trying to generate, say, more revenue or change product portfolio, drive change that becomes very critical.

[23:20] How to Have Conversations to grow your career

Sally: Yeah, I think that's absolutely right and you don't wanna spend all your time proving that you are the perfect person for the job you have, because that's not going to indicate anything about your suitability for the next job. And you also want to talk about it too. I find there's a little value in being reluctant to talk about what you might want to do because people then don't know. Saying, one of the ways in which I think this job could possibly be useful in the future, one kind of job I might wanna consider would be, X, Y or Z? What do you think? Could you see me in that kind of role? What kind of skills would I need to build? Who might I need to get to know? Are there, People within this organization or customers outside that would associations I could be part of that might be helpful in enabling me to position myself for something like that What are your thoughts? So that's a very useful conversation and, I know that I felt this in the past. You know that if I talk like that, people are gonna think I'm disloyal or I'm looking to leave. Oh, but unless we're for the end of our career, we probably are looking at what's gonna happen next if not in the immediate term, at least over time, and acknowledging that and getting input on it.

Again, having those conversations are really important.

Sirisha: Yes and I've seen people who have done that who've been very intentional about it. Going back to that mindset, it's not something we think of as a conversation we want to have, but those who have done it successfully have of done like a gap analysis and said, What do I need to bridge that gap for that next role? Be it skills, be it connections, be it experience, say a customer experience or something and it has really enabled them going forth fast and quickly because they have been very intentional about gaining that skill set and also being very vocal about what they want. I think sometimes being clear on your aspirations gets people to think about when they're considering whether you are the right person, because if you don't vocalize it, I do not know what you're thinking and that's always the challenge. It's very hard to guess what someone else wants or thinks about for us to then say, Okay, this is where you need to go.

Sally: And you may remember the story in , how women Rise about the woman at the law firm who joined with a group of kind of the class, the intake class of associates who came in at the same time out of law school. And three of the men became partner and she did not become partner, and she was very disappointed. So she started looking around. She figured maybe I'm not a fit here. She started looking around. She got an offer from a client company to be in the general Counsel's office. When she went in to tell her practice head, he said what can we do to keep you? He said, What if we made you partner? And she said yeah, that really why I was looking around cuz I was very disappointed when I wasn't made partner and he said we didn't know you wanted to be partner. So she had assumed that the fact she was working about 80 hours a week would indicate to the firm that she wanted to be partner. He said, But you never talked about it. He said, Some of these guys were talking about it from day one, so we knew how important it was to them. We had no idea that it was important to you, and she was very surprised. But a number of years later, she got on the hiring or the promotions committee in the firm, and she found that nothing had changed. When a woman's name would come up, what she'd hear in the promotions, meeting was she's never talked about being partner. I don't think she really probably wants to be partner or, maybe she's gonna have a baby or whatever and the women just weren't articulating it and they thought it was obvious because they were working so hard that's what they wanted but no one was picking up the cues. I remember that story. And actually I remember talking to the senior director, she was one of the female directors of a national agency and it was interesting because I didn't expect her to have a similar experience, and when I was talking to her, she said that when she was in the deputy role, getting ready for the next role, they picked someone else and she thought it was obvious that she was the choice.

But when they picked someone else, she went and, thought about it and had a conversation and realized, because she'd never articulated that she wanted it, she wasn't considered for it. So she then realized, okay, I have to talk about it even at senior levels, right? It can happen from entry to wherever you are, that you have to articulate what you want and whether that's the role or some other role, but without speaking about it, no one knows what you want and I think that's something very important to remember, whether you're early career, mid-career, senior level, to be sure.

[28:07] How to decide and define your career intentions

Sally: I agree with that, and it really goes to what you said earlier, It goes to being intentional. Being intentional about your career. Now, it doesn't mean you're locking yourself in. It doesn't mean because you have a specific intention. Right Now you're thinking this might be an interesting route for me to take, that you've committed to that. It just means that's what you are intending right now. And that may change, circumstances may change, your interests may change, the economy of the technology, things may change. We're in a very volatile situations right now, but it's still very good practice to be intentional about what kind of career for you would be satisfying, sustainable, and deeply rewarding. What that you could do would really enable you to contribute your best talents to the world, to an organization, to your community. So those kinds of questions, which are very much around intention, are good questions to ask at every stage in your career.

Sirisha: So when you look at it from that lens, we've been talking about the women and how they're driving their own career. When you look at the organizations that you know support them and that are surrounding them, how can they drive similar change? What would be the ways, I know culturally you said from globally perspective, there may be different ways to tackle it, but what are some ways even say, talk about the government or the UN or a company locally, like there's a lot of pay transparency legislation being passed in New York and other states, which actually is very gratifying to see because now. It makes it much more obvious what's going on. And just to give you an anecdote, I dunno if you saw this, but when there was Women's Day celebration a few months ago on Twitter, I was looking through the Post and I think it was a UK might have been like a non-profit or something. So everyone who wished Happy Women's Day that organization would tweet saying, Oh, your salary men to women is at this level. So people started to pull that post off because they realized they were being called out. So they had to think about it and that's one way of making sure they are thinking about it and not just, messaging it for the sake of messaging it. So they were, yeah, basically you, you were being called out.

Sally: Exactly. I think also just in terms of for organizations is once you recognize. Habits, like expecting others to spontaneously notice and value your contributions or putting your job before your career, then that can make leaders and managers more intentional about the conversations that they have with women coming in, what, where would you potentially like to see your career go? What are some avenues, what are some skills that you have that you hope to develop in your time here? Where would connections broadening connections, be helpful to you? Going forward. So asking those kinds of questions then sometimes, women will be shy or reluctant or I won't have thought about it and say I think whatever, I just wanna, I'm just here to do my best. There's a good cop out, understood. But what does your best, what would your best look like? If you wanna take a day or two, think about. Not trying to put you on the spot, but please come back and let me know. So I think holding people to account for thing, for being intentional in terms of thinking about their careers, one of the most effective things that organizations can do.

[31:47] When you are more than qualified to apply for a job

Sally: A number of years ago I worked with a big healthcare company in the Midwest in the us and. we got on the subject of how many qualifications you needed in a job listing. And some of the women were like, you know, there was a job that was listed, but there were six qualifications, and I only had four, so I didn't try out for it. And the man who was there, who was the corporate champion for the Women's Network, he was quite young and he was head of operations for all of the Americas. So big job. He told them that the job that he'd had before the one he had now, he felt that it could lead to the job he had now. So he really wanted it and therefore he had applied for that job, even though he only had two of the listed six qualifications and he said, I was very clear that what my job was to figure out how I could let them know that I could get up to speed quickly in learning what I needed on those four things where I didn't qualify,

and the women were shocked at that. They couldn't believe it. Are you kidding? And the result of that conversation that I was able to facilitate, In this company was that the company then made a point of really working with the women to help them identify jobs that they might want to have, and then figure out how to talk about, how they get up to speed on that. So it really just changed the kind of conversations that the company was having internally about what was required to. To put your hat in the ring when something was posted that you thought you might wanna pursue. So it really worked well.

Sirisha: I'm so glad the company did it, but it hasn't changed always. That still happens very often, that people still think, Oh, I don't have everything. I think it goes to that perfectionist thing, right? Knowing all the skills that I have It's very similar. It's same mindset you're taking to a job posting and saying, Am I ready for it?

But how can you reframe instead your experience or your ability to be a quick learner and leverage it to really say, I can do this job. I will bring something different to it than what your usual candidate brings. And that might be something that's new, that might actually make things better, quicker, and start thinking.

Sally: No, We are supposed to enlisting other people. I'm thinking about this. I don't quite have all the skills but I'm trying to figure out how I might describe the quickest way that I could get up to speed on these skills, knowing me, having worked with. Do you have any suggestions? Again, that getting active, having these conversations in process without feeling like you have to do it perfectly, tie it all up with Bo and then present it, it's a better path. And it also gives us more support and makes us seem feel more seen and valued taking that approach.

Sirisha: Exactly, and those people may see your value very differently than how you see yourself. They may see you bringing so much more to the organization, then they can reframe and said, Yes, you are seeing that you saw this small problem. It really, this is the impact it had. Use these words, use these choice of words, and then they could be a silent advocates that you may never know about going, you know around you and saying, Hey, I know that person's interested,

they're not on your list, go look at them. They may not have said it or look at this position, or this team role, or this leadership. So there's ways of doing that really pushed that forward as well.

Sally: That's exactly right and we wanna get other people involved in that because guess what, the more successful we become, , the better it is for them because they know us, so it's not just us, Oh, I don't wanna bother that person, etcetera. It really is a win-win when we are able to do that.

Sirisha: It lifts everyone up and when people look back I hear this and from reading things as well, mentor and mentee relationships or others, when you look at it, it's a legacy you leave behind because you're not going to be there, but you can see all the people who you've helped develop and grow and given a hand to doing really well. And when you talk to senior leaders who, who might retire, then they look back and say, Oh wow, yes, I had a hand in their career. I had, this conversation. That might have been a pivotal conversation. So it's nice to look back and see that impact as well from their standpoint.

Sally: Definitely.

Sirisha: Yeah. When you were talking about organizations, there was one conversation I had with the CEO of Women Who Code Alaina Percival. We were talking about, equitable organizations and how companies would do that. And one of the things was very similar to what you said when they're looking at interviewing, say you've been your first round of interviews, you're doing your second round of interviews, and if you see, start seeing that the pool of women starts narrowing down, you've gotta go back and look. What is it about my interviewing process that's making them drop off? And let's go back and look at it. Is it that them or somewhere, unconscious bias, whatever it is. So for organizations to consciously think from all lenses saying, Okay, this is the composition of the group, so making it everything the same, this is the composition that should be moving forward. So where is that differentiation happening? And go do some digging there to find out what needs to be.

Sally: Yes, and also provide people questions to ask. Unconscious bias, we all have unconscious biases, but guess what? They're unconscious , so we are not necessarily aware of them. So I think it's more effective to focus on scripts or responses we can make, or behaviors or gestures that are going to be encouraging to other people than to try to look in our minds and say, Where might an unconscious bias be holding me back to practice a different behavior is easier than to identify an idea running through your head if it's unconscious. So I feel very strongly about that, that we do a much better job when we provide people with concrete actions they can take and ways of speaking that are going to encourage this rather than asking them to look at unconscious biases, which I don't always think is the most practical approach.

Sirisha: And maybe even have a checklist for certain simple questions saying, Hey did these things happen or are these being checked out so that it makes it very simple? You're right, we don't know what we don't know.

So it's very hard to judge ourselves on a scale when we have no idea what the answer needs to look like. So totally understand that.

[38:23] Note to 21-year-old self

Sirisha: So Sally, I wanted to ask this question because I love the responses I get from different guests. So what advice would you give your 21 year old self?

Sally: The advice I would give my 21 year old self would be to not worry so much about the skills or beliefs or friends that I didn't have and to focus more on what I did have to contribute, what kinds of skills that I had, that I recognized that I had, that I'd gotten good feedback on rather than being overly focused on what I felt that I left or I didn't have these connections. Okay, fine. You don't, You're 21, you have these connections. That's good. So it really would amount to being less self-critical about what I was lacking and more invested in developing, what I did have to offer, which I think is very difficult. Often, in this country, in the United States, women are often very focused, Oh, my feet are too big, or my hair twists this way, or My eyes are small, or whatever it is. Whatever we think our flaw is, we're trying to make up for that. Rather than thinking, Okay, what is my best feature and how can. Play that up. So I think similarly in terms of thinking about our careers and what we have to contribute, think about what's good about you what you have done, what you can contribute, not getting so caught up in what you haven't done yet.

Sirisha: That's really great. It sounds like the focus is on your strengths and not so much as fixing your weaknesses, which used to be actually the message that you used to get, maybe like a decade and a half ago was always the feedback was on fixing that. I think it's really empowering and enabling your strengths to keep growing stronger and stronger. The weaknesses there or whatever it you might consider that is not so important anymore. It's really bringing that forth. What is the one word you would use to describe yourself?

Sally: Engaged. I'm very engaged. I'm engaged by the world. I'm engaged by the journey that so many women are on. I'm engaged by my own journey. I'm pretty optimistic. I know we're not where we could be. I get it. I've been here, I've been in the workplace for 50 years. I've seen a lot but given that experience, I think that women have made remarkable strides. Women today are much more confident. They have more solidarity with other women far more than in the past and they're better at building alliances and recognize that they need alliances in order to really succeed and thrive. I'm encouraged. I'm engaged by what I see and I'm eager to be be part of the future.

Sirisha: You've already had such an amazing impact. You have driven some of the change yourself, and it's phenomenal to see people empowering each other and really pulling ourselves together. You're holding our hands together and moving forward together. So that's excellent.

Sally: Two weeks I spoke at a conference, I did a four hour workshop for a large group of women physicians at a very prestigious New York hospital and they were so smart and they were so engaged and they had pretty dresses on and I thought, 20 years ago, much less, 30 or 40, this was impossible. The fact that this has happened is tremendous and caused for great help.

Sirisha: Even in LinkedIn, you can just see the engagement if you're looking from different forums, you can see them, advocating and continue to reinforce the message show the support, public support for each other. And I think that really helps because we need that to, and it's a global perspective, right? It's you're not sitting in your local just one piece. The world now is different, so there's a lot of it out in the open. So that's a place to really get that allyship outside and building your network as well , it's phenomenal to see that.

[42:29] Sally's new Book- Rising Together- Feb 2023

Sirisha: You have a new book coming out, so maybe you just want us to tell us a little bit. I know it's coming out next February .

Sally: Sure. February 28th, it's called Rising Together, building on how women rise. I was inspired to write it. I had was doing a program out in Las Vegas at what was the Construction Super conference, and I was doing a breakout on women's leadership, so I anticipated I'd probably have about a hundred women. Who would show up, who were in the sector, who felt that they were unrecognized or just wanted some thoughts about how they could build more satisfying careers. And I walked into the room, it was standing room only, and it was about 65% men. So I looked around and I thought what I prepared wasn't really gonna work. So I said I have a question for the men in the room. Why are you here? What inspired you to come to this program on women's leadership? And one of the men stood up and he said something I'll never forget. He said, we hope you're not here to tell us why we need to get better at engaging, attracting, retaining talented women. We understand that to survive, we need to, but we don't understand "how". We don't really know how to do this, and we're looking to you for some answers. So in the same way that how Women Rise was very specific about habits and behaviors that could hold you back and how to practice new habits and behaviors that could help you rise.

[44:00] Allyship, Inclusion, Unconscious Bias

Sally: This book looks at what are the things, what are the triggers? That hold us back from forming strong, effective relationships across boundaries, and yes, gender, of course, men and women, but also across age, across ethnicity, across race, across sexuality. What of those triggers. That get in the way of creating effective relationships and then what can we do about them? What are the inclusive behaviors that we can practice? So again, the idea is moving away from that, looking at unconscious bias, to looking at what are the practical behaviors that I can practice today that will make this organization, my team my cohort, more inclusive and more successful. So that's what I'm trying to do. I've got right here, I've got the bound gals. So I'm very excited about rising together.

Sirisha: Nice and it's very heartening. What a great note to end the conversation to have standing room with men only for a conversation for women's growth because they understand the importance of it not just advocating for themselves and the people around them. Diversity drives. Innovation, it drives revenue growth. If they were to look at the bottom line, and you know what's interesting, I find when I talk to more and more men is also they start looking at their own daughters, their own families, and realizing that they're impacting the next generation as well. It's not just the women in their peer group when they start realizing, Oh, I only have daughters, this is how the work setting looks. What do I want it to look different for my kids? And that really makes them think about it. The lens is very different then.

Sally: I hear that all the time. fellow came up and said, I'd like you to sign how women rise for my daughter

and I said, Glad to. And I was signing and I looked up at him. I said, How old is she? And he said, Eight months . So they're thinking ahead.

Sirisha: That's great. Such a great heartening way to look at eight months, it could be 25 whenever, very good. So Sally, thank you so much. If you wanted to share your social media handles, then the listeners can reach out to you as well.

Sally: Oh, certainly. LinkedIn it's Sally Helgeson on Twitter. It's at Sally Helgesen. I don't really do Facebook. Hardly I'm on it, but I never see it. So those are the two that I use.

Sirisha: Sally, thank you. So everyone who's listening, I would like for the listeners to, when you pick up Sally's book and look at "How Women Rise" or even listen to her conversation in this podcast, I want to hear from you what you think are those habits that you have that might have stopped you from progressing forward out of the five or six that she highlighted. I would like to see which one resonates with you. For me, I can tell you it's about leveraging the network was one of the things that I thought. I've done some of it, but it took a long time to do that, and it's not something that's very easy to do in speaking for yourself. So I would love to hear from everyone else. Like I said, please email it and you can reach us on Instagram, your women carrier in

Sally, thank you so much for being here. I was so looking forward to this conversation and it's been everything that I was envisioning for it, so thanks.

Sally: Thank you so much. I've enjoyed every minute. I hope you enjoy today's episode tune and every other Wednesday to catch the next episode. If you think a friend may benefit from this, please share this podcast with them. Please like subscribe and leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. I would love to hear from you about your stories and your journey. You can reach me on Instagram or Gmail at women carrier in life until next time, this is CIA signing off. Remember there are infinite possibilities to drive change in carrier in life, which will you choose to make a reality today?

Guest : Sally Helgesen

Host: Sirisha

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