For Women on the Rise and Those Who Want to See Them Succeed

Do you strive to please? Do you fail to ask for help or delegate more? Are you your worst critic? Do you take on more than your share at work? Do you say “Yes” when you want to say “No”? Do you minimize your work or give others more credit than you give yourself? Do you apologize when there is nothing to apologize for? Do you worry about what others think or get stuck on something you said or didn’t say?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, don’t be too hard on yourself. You are not alone. These are some of the most common habits of women in the workplace. This is because, instead of placing value on quantity, such as money and position as the chief marker of success, women tend to place more value on:

  • the quality of their lives
  • enjoying co-workers and customers
  • collaboration
  • having control of their time
  • believing their work makes a positive difference in the world

These values are psychologically healthy for women and their organizations, explains Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith in their book, How Women Rise: A Myth-Busting “How To” for the Next Generation of Women Leaders, and Those Who Want to See Them Succeed. But they can also result in women under-investing in themselves and their own growth within a company.

Women tend to devote their time and selves to others. This is a wonderful aspect of being a woman, but it can also keep them stuck in their role, feeling unable to move forward, breaking through circumstances and achieving their goals in life.

One of the biggest obstacles to anyone’s success are blind spots; behaviors you do not see in yourself that keep you stuck in unhealthy patterns and achieving your goals. Additional obstacles are cultural barriers. Because external forces may be outside of your control, however, the key to growth within a company is to focus on behaviors that are in your control while letting go of behaviors that are no longer serving you.

“Again and again, [we] see that women face specific and different roadblocks from men as they advance in the workplace. In fact, the very habits that helped women early in their careers can hinder them as they move up. Simply put, what got you here won’t get you there…and you might not even realize your blind spots until it’s too late,” says Helgesen and Goldsmith. If these habits are allowed to go unchecked for too long, they can hold women back from reaching their dreams.

Helgesen and Goldsmith have identified 12 habits (blind spots) that hold women back and keep them from achieving our goals. They also found that when women change these habits, they are better able to overcome obstacles that have been keeping them from their goals and make a positive impact on their organization, in their communities, and around the world.

Below are the 12 habits holding women back and what they can do instead:

  1. Reluctance to claim your achievements – Women have a tendency of turning the spotlight onto other people. Instead, let people know what you are doing. When you get comfortable accepting credit, you get more comfortable claiming it!
  2. Expecting others to spontaneously notice and reward your contributions – Women tend to not want to “blow their own whistle” but as a result end up feeling underappreciated and undervalued. Instead, take responsibility for getting noticed. Create opportunities for yourself. For example, write an Elevator Speech and be ready to give it on the fly.
  3. Overvaluing expertise – Trying to master every detail of your job is a great way to keep your job but can also keep you stuck. Instead, try to do the job well enough while also focusing on time building relationships and visibility. Mastery is important, but not enough if you want to move ahead.
  4. Just building rather than building and leveraging relationships – Along the same lines as overvaluing expertise, it is important to not just build friendships but use them to help you get what you want. In other words, create win-win partnerships with others. If you go to bat for me, I will go to bat for you.
  5. Failing to enlist allies from day one – Keeping your head down and doing it all yourself creates isolation and can keep you stuck. Don’t wait to gain mastery and feel fully prepared before reaching out to others and building connection. Start now! Making connections is one of the most important aspects of any career!
  6. Putting your job before your career – Yes, you may feel loyal to your job and your team and view wanting more to be selfish, but there are healthy doses of self-interest. It is important to look at the bigger picture and ask for what you want to help get you to where you want to go!
  7. The Perfection Trap – Women are especially vulnerable to this. They believe that if they are perfect, they will succeed. Not true! Failure is an option and risk taking requires being open to failure. Otherwise your options are narrowed. You must let go of expectations of being perfect if you are going to rise within a company.
  8. The Disease to Please – The desire to always be nice, to always be a wonderful person and to help those in need has many advantages. These skills, however, can be poisonous to your career when being nice translates into giving your power away. Instead, claim your power, act with authority and let go of the fear of disappointing others.   
  9. Minimizing – Sometimes in acknowledging the existence of others, women make themselves smaller. In other words, women literally shrink back into their chairs, tighten their bodies and pull in their arms to make space for others. Or they start a conversation with disclaimers using words like “just” or “sorry to bother you”. Both of these habits undermine your ability to project authority and power. You are just as deserving of time and space as anyone else in your company. Instead, be direct! Come out and say what you mean and mean what you say!
  10. Too Much – Women tend to repress their natural responses in fear of being too emotional, too demonstrative, or too much. This can lead you to feeling inauthentic and stifled. In fact, excessive self-monitoring is a buzz-kill and may result in others feeling that you are inauthentic as well. Although vulnerability is actually a strength, emotions must be delivered with passion yet tempered from experience and intention. In other words, learning to respond rather than react will help you go further.  
  11. Ruminating – Clinging to the past and reliving unfortunate events in your life in an attempt to figure out what went wrong is helpful for only so long. In time, this excessive pondering, or what is commonly referred to as “analysis paralysis”, can undermine your efforts to grow in your company. When this happens, catch and let go of these negative thoughts before you begin going down the rabbit hole. In this way, you will learn to let go instead of being dragged around by your negative thoughts!
  12. Letting Your Radar Distract You – Women’s ability to notice a lot of things at once can be a powerful asset at work. It enables you to be more attuned to the people around you, supporting collaboration and building intimate relationships. It can also act as a deterrent, making it difficult to filter out distractions and undermine your ability to be fully present. Instead, use your radar as information and view this skill as a positive attribute, not a negative one. In other words, change your story. Because when you are able to change your story, you can change your life!