Category Archives: The Glass Ceiling

Build Lifelong Resilience

Two Young Executives Sitting on Space Hoppers

Our long term success depends on our long term social, emotional and physiological health. If we don’t consistently invest in building and maintaining these, they erode and will trip us up, sooner or later.

Even a few hours sitting at a desk affects concentration and productivity, as this limits the oxygen getting to the brain. And eventually inactivity and poor nutrition lead to major career breakdowns, caused for example by strokes and heart disease.

We all need a strong network of relationships around us, in both professional and personal life. We need friends, partners, mentors, team buddies, leaders, experts in areas that we are not, advocates, sponsors. We have to get into situations where we connect with such people. Then it takes time and will to invest in building and maintaining these relationships. Take anyone for granted and they may not be there when we need them!

And we need to have the confidence in ourselves to overcome our inner critic, to experiment and sometimes fail, to take criticism and hard knocks, and to bounce back even stronger for the experience.

Don’t put this off. Take action, and keep taking action, in all three areas.

My Secret Weapon of Understanding

I’d like to share one woman’s account of her coaching experience. Although a true story, in the spirit of anonymity, I have protected her identity. What could you transfer to your own situation? 

“I work in a mercenary and male dominated environment. Despite having been with the company for almost ten years and achieving a senior management position, I still found that when I smiled and said hello to the CEO in the corridor he would just keep walking. If I raised a point in meetings, he would take no notice.

I approached Hugh in search of some clarity and a way forward having considered options for short and long term goals. I was looking for a sounding board, a guide, someone on my side in helping explore and navigate successfully through the challenges I faced.

What really blew me away were insights into people who I found challenging and had historically been resistant to dealing with me. Yes, it’s a challenging environment to be a woman at senior management level in one of the main industry player’s organisations however I am determined to prevail in this climate. Having Hugh was like having a secret weapon of understanding. I finally had a magic key to connect with and influence my colleagues. I was able to understand the game that was being played without being drawn in or having it play out on me.

Let me share some key examples.

• We considered situations where I felt ineffective and devised ways to keep my character, gender and values intact without being drawn into the game in the same way others were; and developed strategies to deal with future occasions successfully; and I developed a sense of mindfulness in really seeing what is going on.

• Getting past decisions made behind closed doors by influential key players. Hugh suggested that in this environment, there is a parallel with being a sole trader in the open market. I could market myself to the high powers in much the same way. It’s all about perception of those who have the power to be your allies, those that matter in the organisation.

• Hugh helped me to realise the need to have around seven points of contact in marketing myself within the company. This created a new situation – unlike at the start, now the CEO always goes out of his way to say hello. He clearly rates and values me. It’s important to have this sense of presence in the business.

• I learned the ‘currencies’ of the various people around me – understanding what they value, what they trade in, what provokes their interest. I thought I may have surprised the CEO. I learned that for him, going quiet indicates real interest, so I can then follow it up with confidence that he wants to know more. The CEO is an ex-man’s man who has become a family man and full of new ideas. It has become clear that he loves ideas. So giving him ideas, rather than fully fledged proposals, is crucial to that connection.

• I began getting insights into the mindsets of the other important people in the company, each with a different currency, or set of triggers and ‘what’s important to them’. This all ties in to understanding what it is to be vulnerable in a competitive environment, and the different ways that people try to cope with that.

Overall my experience with Hugh most definitely exceeded expectations. As well as fulfilling my original intentions, Hugh gave me the confidence to experiment, to “break the rules”, whether with my own fears or assumptions, or with the oppressive and seemingly suffocating convention which had crept into the company culture.

I now apply myself with new vigour and sense a great ‘breath of fresh air” from applying new approaches developed with Hugh, and looking back I consider working with Hugh as one of the best career investments I’ve ever made”.

Today’s experiment: How can you better understand the difficult people you have to work or live with? One idea is to try listing at least 10 positive things about them, and if that’s easy make it 20!  What else can you learn and apply from this client’s experience?