No Woman Should Be Passive, The Change Begins With Being Intentional

Lydia Belanger

From an early age, many women learn to be passive and timid. Here are four ways to show the world you’re a leader.

1. When the opportunity comes, trust yourself to be ready.
“A lot of how people survive in organizations is they learn on the job,” Neale says. If you’re insecure about your own abilities, remember that you can’t be an expert at something you’ve never done before. Part of working your way up to a promotion, or taking on the duties of an elevated role, is handling new types of assignments or responsibilities.


Women not only tend to forgo asking for promotions until they think they meet all of the job criteria perfectly, but they also shy away from some of the work a senior role would entail for this reason. “When you’re offered an assignment, you might think, ‘I’m not ready,’” Neale says. “But if your boss thinks you’re ready, then maybe you should step up. Take the risk.”

2. Make a conscious effort to give yourself credit.
Many women can be so focused on fostering positive relationships with their colleagues that they avoid any language that may come off as selfish or braggadocious, which can result in their shortchanging themselves credit. When talking about their success, they’re less likely than men to highlight what they did individually. “Women are much more likely to talk about and characterize their success as what the team did — ‘we,’ ‘us,’ ‘our,’” Neale says, “and men are more likely to say, ‘I,’ ‘me,’ ‘my.’” So, don’t be afraid to own your accomplishments: Use singular first-person pronouns.

3. Form a posse.
If you’re feeling intimidated about sharing your ideas, or you find that other (perhaps male) colleagues frequently talk over you or don’t seem to consider your contributions fully, form a posse, Neale suggests.

Talk to both men and women colleagues who will have your back in group situations. If you say something smart in a meeting and no one acknowledges it, and a while later, a man says something similar, and people hear him, that’s where your posse comes in. “Somebody from your posse gently highlights the fact that, ‘Hey, Maggie just said that earlier,’” Neale says. Then, she says, you can get credit for your ideas without crowing.

4. Frame your case as a solution to a problem.
When it’s time to negotiate a promotion, think like a leader, Neale says. “Leaders aren’t passive. They are proactive, they’re engaged, they offer solutions to problems.” When you’re in that meeting explaining why you deserve a promotion, speak in terms of how your skills can help your organization improve, or provide a specific solution to a problem your superior faces. That way, you’ll be more persuasive. And if you get a “no” on your first try, don’t just accept it and walk out with your tail between your legs. Think of the negotiation as ongoing.

“Say things like, ‘OK, you don’t think I have the requisite skills or responsibilities — whatever it is that I’m lacking, I’m not ready for this role yet. What is it about where I am that is deficit? Talk to me about what that is, because it’s important to me to be able to rise to that level of expertise,’” Neale suggests. “Because what you’re saying to the person, in very clear terms, is, ‘I will be back once I have met the criteria, the milestones, that you have set.’” And once you have met those criteria, then you can negotiate again and say, “Here I am. I’m ready.”


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