Last time we talked about the first key to embracing feminine leadership, Stop Concluding, can replace fatalistic thinking with the excitement of new possibilities. Now we will explore Terri Lupberger’s second key, Take Ownership.
I recently led a women’s leadership program for an international group of mostly technical managers. We met by phone on the same day and at the same time for eight weeks in a row. One of the explicit promises we made to each other was that we would be on time and fully present for every call.
During one particular meeting, a manager showed up 15 minutes late to the call and said, “Sorry I’m late! This call didn’t make it on my [electronic] calendar.”
Well, that darn calendar! Let’s blame the calendar. No wonder she couldn’t fulfill the promise she made to the team to show up on time. It was the calendar’s fault.
This happens all the time. We all provide reasons why – why the project is late, why the report is incomplete, why the customer took their business elsewhere, why the promise wasn’t kept.
It’s an insidious habit and organizational blind spot. It accomplishes nothing but has the impact of explaining away our responsibility in the matter.
Wouldn’t it have been a more powerful leadership move for her to simply say, “I apologize for being late and not keeping my promise to you?” Imagine hearing that from your boss, or colleague, or spouse, or kid. No reasons. No stories. Just 100% ownership for a missed commitment.
I get why we do it. We think that providing a reason will take away some of the judgment others will have of us. We don’t want to be seen as incompetent. We are fighting a cultural expectation to be ‘perfect’ and not make mistakes. Women, more than men, really do want to be liked. Connection is important and mistakes might lead to isolation or separation.
And, unfortunately, we’re a blame society. We’re a “dog ate my homework” culture. We are quick to offer up reasons why we didn’t keep our commitments. We believe that if the reason is compelling or believable enough it will lessen or negate the impact of missing the promise, and it will let us off the hook. What’s even worse is that, over time, we start believing that the reason is actually true which then limits what actions we can take to fix the problem.
During a women’s leadership workshop I facilitated last month, I asked the participants to share an example of how they felt stuck on their leadership path. One woman stood up and said that she while she loved her work and her team, her boss’s communication style – intrusive, micromanaging, inconsistent – was making it extremely difficult for her and her team to finish their big deliverable.
No, she couldn’t have a conversation with him because of the potential repercussions to her career. No, she couldn’t consider ways to open a conversation with him about the effect it was having on her team’s morale and productivity. She had seen what had happened to her predecessor who had confronted him, and the risks were just too great. In short, her team’s missed deliverables, her team’s suffering, her stuck-ness weren’t her fault.
What she couldn’t see, until the group pointed it out, was that her reasons (not her boss) were keeping her stuck. Her reasons were robbing her of her power to produce her desired outcomes. Her reasons were keeping her from generating a different future, which is what leaders are supposed to do!
Yes, it takes a certain vigilance to stop the excuses, to operate without reasons or whys, and to take ownership of your behaviors and choices. It requires awareness. It requires taking risks. It requires lots of courage. It requires vulnerability. But that is, precisely, what is missing in leadership, today and what unleashing your feminine power is all about.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Terrie Lupberger is an author, speaker and senior executive coach and advisor to leaders and teams worldwide. Combining her 20+ years of organizational experience and her passion for business and people, she uses innovative change processes to help individuals, especially women leaders, improve the results they get without sacrificing well-being.
Terrie integrates the best of both feminine and masculine approaches to leading since both are necessary to move action forward consistent with what matters most. More of the same is not a strategy to deal with the challenges we’re all facing. Integrating the feminine into leadership produces a different way of engaging with each other that is critically needed and essential.
ABOUT WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP SUMMIT
The Women's Leadership Summit is a program engaging and empowering women on their leadership journey. This voyage of inner discovery spanning 3 months will inspire participants in making a meaningful difference - be it in your personal growth, at the workplace, for your family, or towards a better society. Focusing on Success, Sisterhood, and Satisfaction, this summit creates a collaborative environment for women to set bold goals for their professional lives, explore ways to give back, and create personal well-being and satisfaction. The main event will be held in Bali, Indonesia, on 28-30 September 2017.
For more information, visit our Women’s Leadership Summit event website