No Woman Left Behind!

I often hear women talk about their struggles with other women in the workplace … It often smells and feels a lot like hate if not absolutely so.

… the principle we used to live by and have since abandoned

Every woman knows it – “We came together and we’re all leaving together.”

It was a safety agreement, a declaration of sisterhood, a reminder that she had your back and you had hers. We lived by it – on trips, at the club, out on the town or in just about any unfamiliar situation. Honoring the code meant that you would be safe. Anyone who disregarded the code was in for harsh backlash and possible shunning from future get-togethers.

It didn’t matter whether we were out as a pair or a group of ten. No one was wandering off alone without checking in with the group. A solo trip to the restroom that took a little too long, meant a girlfriend would be coming to check on you. You could give your number to a cute guy, but you weren’t leaving with him. If you had too much to drink, a designee would make sure you got home okay. She’d even help you take off your shoes and get you into your bed if needed.

We cared for each other.

What happened?

I often hear women talk about their struggles in the workplace, I find it interesting how much distrust, jealousy and undercutting abounds. Women tell me stories of co-workers, subordinates and supervisors who challenge them unfairly, speak ill of them behind their backs, go out of their way to prevent promotion and downright scowl at any sign of deserved favor. It often smells and feels a lot like hate if not absolutely so.

Why?

We’ve either forgotten the golden rule of sisterhood or we have convinced ourselves that it doesn’t deserve space in our occupational circles. We treat the other women in our workplaces as if we’re playing for opposing teams. All is well and good as long as she stays in her lane and we can stay in ours. Heaven forbid we have to work together on a project and share the spotlight … ever! We would rather remain an island than to conform to teamwork with our declared enemy. We would prefer to be acknowledged for our own brilliance alone than recognized for greatness, while sharing the credit with another.

So, what can be done?

Let’s go back to basics. Let’s dig out the old girl code and revisit the principles that were set upon the foundation of our friendships and encouraged us to think beyond self. We should begin to have the honest conversation with ourselves about the things that don’t feel right, keep us up at night, make us uneasy and cause us to questions. We need to pinpoint what we have done to feed the spirit of competition and separation. We should be transparent with ourselves.

If you’re working in the same organization you are after all, playing for the same team! We were hired to work together, so we should work to succeed together. Tag someone that you can link arms with. Give it some serious thought and commit to it. Let her know what you are trying to accomplish and make a pact to work together instead of against each other. Just do this with one person and see where the road carries you. No matter what, keep your eye on the ultimate goal to never leave her behind. You are to lift her up, but not carry her. Liking her should not be a requirement or expectation. If you see her backed into a corner, offer a solution. When she struggles, but is too proud to ask for help, offer it with no strings attached. This is the beginning of our growth and the stretching that molds us into effective leaders.

Don’t just think about it, go and put it to work TODAY. In this era of #metoo, we should expect more and be willing to do more to support one another on all levels.

How to Deal With Chronic Complainers (3 min read)

When someone would come to me repeatedly to vent, I would let them talk at first and then I would ask one of three questions…

In your work environment, there is likely one person you hate to see coming. Why? … Because they love to complain about any and everything! They don’t like their boss or supervisor, they have issues with the new policies, procedures or organizational chart. They think Mary Sue in accounting is mean to them for no reason and so and so forth.

These complaining types make it hard to focus on the work and they can suck the joy out of the atmosphere. I’ve never been one of them, but I’ve had to work alongside and supervise several. I refused to spend my days listening to negative comment after negative comment. I found the exercise to be a waste of their time and mine. So I crafted a few responses I kept on hand, ready to use.

When someone would come to me repeatedly to vent, I would let them talk at first and then I would ask one of three questions:

  • “How can we fix it?” – (5 words)
  • “What do you recommend?” – (4 words)
  • “Got an idea?” – (3 words)

… And it worked.

Some would simply get tired of me asking the same questions, so they would stop including me in the conversations. These people were generally miserable and liked to have company. As long as someone was listening and agreeing with their grievance, they experienced a feeling of validation and continued to complain.

Others would continue to come with their complaints, but they would also be ready to discuss possible solutions. These people are what I called “the turnarounds.” Instead of wallowing in what was wrong, they began to focus on ways to make improvements. Those are the ones who would go on to become supervisors, managers or leaders in some capacity.

Asking these questions helps thin the heard. However, I also had one quick response for the ones who continued to complain no matter what questions I asked and didn’t seem to get it. This question was designed to shut them down indefinitely:

  • “So what?” – (2 words)

… Conversations would generally go something like this:

“I don’t think Mary Sue in accounting likes me. I haven’t done anything to her, but she never says Hi to me.”

My response, “So what?”

“Well….I, I just…”

“We’re not here to make friends. We have work to do.”

-Shut down complete-

Untitled design (3)

See how that works? I would make it clear that what they were complaining about wasn’t dire by making a statement and then turning their attention back to the work at hand. It may sound harsh, but understand that at this point I had already coached the individual on their negative attitude and lack of accountability, encouraged them several times to come with solutions and in some cases I even assisted them in outlining recommendations for change.

Working with difficult people doesn’t have to be stressful! If you are consistent and firm in your expectations and hold them accountable, people will either adjust and play along or they will get out of the way!

 

Daring To Be Me: How I Cultivated Authentic Leadership

I didn’t want to do what I saw everyone else doing. I definitely didn’t want to repeat their failures. I was growing out of the people-pleasing phase of my life and wasn’t interested into conforming to someone else’s idea of leadership.

My hope for you is that you find your own voice and your own leadership style that allows you to connect with people.

stephanie-godwin-chu

“If you have to tell people that you are the boss, then you are not the boss!”

The statement was simple, but I will never forget it. The day I heard it, I was sitting in a Bible class. The topic of the evening was leadership. I laughed out loud because of how simple and true the statement was. But as the week went on, I found myself replaying it in my mind over and over. It prompted me to make a decision. I didn’t want to be that person – the one so out of touch and insecure that I needed to throw my weight around and remind everyone constantly of how in charge I was.

I would say, looking back on it now, that statement resonating with me was the beginning of my purpose journey. I wasn’t even in a supervisory role at the time, but I knew that I didn’t want to do what I saw everyone else doing. I definitely didn’t want to repeat their failures. I was growing out of the people-pleasing phase of my life and wasn’t interested into conforming to someone else’s idea of leadership.

Was it possible to be someone’s boss, supervise their work, delegate to them, provide them with guidance and criticism when needed and also love and care for who they were as a person? I believed it was true and found that juggling all of those demands and expectations was my niche. I never had to dangle a carrot to get someone to run faster or work harder. I never threatened or belittled. I didn’t lie or keep secrets. I was just Stephanie all day, every day. I worked hard to ensure that I upheld my values personally and professionally so they were never at odds.

Side Note: It’s so much easier to be one person all of the time and not have to maintain separate versions of oneself.

I was transparent, firm, optimistic, kind and caring. I was the opposite of what many would expect a person in a high-stress leadership position to be. I was determined not to take out my stresses and shortcomings on my staff. I took a servant’s approach. They were there to serve the company and me as their supervisor, but I was also there to serve them. If their fundamental needs weren’t being met, then I looked at it as a failure on my part. What resulted was a powerful dynamic of trust and openness that I didn’t see anywhere else in the company. People would comment that my team was “different” and my team members “actually liked each other,” but what they didn’t know was how intentional it was.

While being purposeful in my pursuit of balanced and authentic leadership, I uncovered a purpose that was so intricately woven into the fabric of me, but it was at odds at times with the goals of my employer. I cared more about the individual than I did the often suffocating metrics that hung over my head daily. If someone wanted to quit, I encouraged them to go find the type of work that they were passionate about, even if it made me one person short during the busy season. If someone had a calendar full of appointments, but came to work devastated by the wreckage in their personal life, I sent them home and took on the burden, delegating what I could. When someone needed to cry, vent frustrations, get angry, cuss or ask for personal advice, I offered my office as a safe space.

I took a risk and it was worth it. I had challenges just like any boss does with hiring and firing staff, having tough conversations, dolling out the constructive criticism and not-so-favorable evaluations at times. I would question whether I was doing the right thing. With examples of the opposite before me, I started to feel like maybe I was too soft and cared too much. But I approached each person and each situation with a purpose and for that reason, I have no regrets. I’ve been able to build and maintain wonderful relationships over the years by doing things differently and choosing to connect rather than dictate.

When I had to call someone into the HR office first thing in the morning to tell them they were being let go, discuss severance, request their key and walk them out of the back door, I felt like a failure. But then, the unusual happened – I got a hug from them and a sincere “thank you,” followed by a genuine request to keep in touch. To me, it was triumph amidst the disappointment.

Today, I’m still not the type of person who can work a room full of strangers or walk into a crowd and demand attention. I’ve never had an iron fist. I’m a quiet observer. I have a fantastic photographic memory and an uncanny ability to learn and recall random facts about history, people and places. I come alive when I can talk about purpose and what I’m passionate about. I thrive when I can teach someone something new. I find confidence when I can authentically share my life experience and make someone else’s life better in the process.

My hope for you is that you find your own voice and your own leadership style that allows you to connect with people. It doesn’t matter if you are naturally loud and out front or a behind the scenes supporter. Everyone has a leader in them. The type of leader you desire to be may not be popular, but from my experience, that’s when magic happens.

Allow the leader you are to be an intimate part of you, not just a representative. Be real and be accountable to who you are and upfront about your expectations. Share with people and they will share with you. Learn about the people who look up to and rely on you. If you don’t know who they are, what drives them, their strengths, their limitations or worries you will never truly understand how to lead them effectively.

No, it won’t be easy.

But yes, I can say from experience that it’s worth it.