My husband came home from work the other day looking stressed. When I asked what was wrong, he described a situation to me where two of the women on his sales team were at odds with each other because they differed in their approaches to closing a sale.
Untying a Knot
One of the women, Natalie, was new and was being trained by the more experienced representative Anna. Natalie felt that Anna was too assertive or even aggressive when it came to approaching their prospects and this upset her.
This angst only caused more problems and it was obvious that they needed to sort this out.
In frustration over this issue, they sought out my husband for a remedy. After listening to both side, he did his best to mediate the situation and find that “win:win” solution. He told me that he felt that he has calmed down them both, but somehow knew the issue would continue to come up.
So, he did the wise thing that husbands should do and asked for my advice as a female entrepreneur.
Some Really Big Questions
To get to a real solution to the problem, he needed to have a couple of questions answered that would help clear up some of the underlying root causes of the conflict:
- How should he best handle a woman who is driven and powerful, but who is also making other women on the team uncomfortable because of her direct approach?
- How could he help her become more gentle and approachable so that he wouldn’t have to deal with awkward situations like the one he had just had with them?
As I considered what he asked, I simply smiled to myself.
“What a question!” I thought!
I knew exactly what he was getting at, but didn’t know if there was a simple answer. (To be honest if I knew the right answer to that I definitely wouldn’t have gotten myself into as many messes as I regularly do...)
Women in Leadership
When you’re a women in sales (or in any kind of leadership position,) your success largely rises and falls on your ability to be tough, persistent and courageous. Your paycheck depends on your ability to overcome rejection on a daily basis and not be stopped by what people think.
Being meek and gentle doesn’t usually fall align with the qualities of a super saleswoman; however, from experience I knew that if Anna was going to be a true leader in her field we would have to find a way to soften her approach without breaking her passionate spirit.
An hour after this discussion with my hubby, I had coaching call with a new client who had been referred to me by her boss because she too was overly assertive and was driving their organization’s volunteers away. She shared her story of with me. It was one that sounded much like my own growing-up in business.
Seeking THE Answer
To help solve all of these issues, I asked myself this:
How can I best explain how Type “A” women like me, this client, and Anna can still be strong and powerful without coming across as overbearing?
If you’re a female business leader you’ve inevitably asked yourself this question also. This is because it often feels like a balancing act we can’t seem to work out no matter how hard we try.
Leading Without a Title
I feel this book provides the answer to my husband’s question and to others seeking a true solution.
To help get the best out of the women on our teams, we have to help them see that leadership is not about being strong OR soft, but rather about being a tricky combination of both (whether we like it or not).
This is how he phrases it:
- Tough yet tender.
- Courageous yet compassionate.
- Firm yet friendly.
I remember the first time I read this paragraph of the book – I felt a combination of nausea and despair. As someone who prides herself on her boldness, I was actually discouraged by Robin’s description of what it meant to be a world-class leader.
How in the world could I focus on being compassionate and tender while keeping my focus on high achievement?
Wouldn’t those things just get in the way?
Getting To Be Two-Faced
After reading the book four times back-to-back, I accepted the author’s challenge to re-frame what I thought being an influential female leader meant. I accepted that if I wanted to be someone who was capable of leading others in a significant way, I would have to intentionally practice being “two-faced.”
This means that I need to be skilled at balancing the uncensored version of myself with who other people need me to be to bring out the best in them.
It was no longer a question of being one or the other, but being both.
A Better You
I want to be the first to tell you that this transition is not coming easily. Unlike some women who are naturally calmer and softer, this is an area in which I need to be intentional and work on daily.
As I tell my clients, there is nothing wrong with being a strong, passionate, driven personality, but it is wrong when those qualities end up hurting other people as collateral damage.
If this sounds like you, I want to invite you to consider becoming a “two-faced” leader with me.
It definitely won’t be easy but. I know it certainly will be worth it!
So, how are you at balancing your uncensored self with another side that helps others work better with you? How good do you really kn ow the things about yourself that need some balancing? Have you had success at being “two-faced?” I would love to hear your thoughts!
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Image Sources: wonderllama.co.uk
- A New Style of Leader is Quietly Emerging (integral-living.com)
- Your Daughter Isn’t Bossy and Other Real Female Leadership Lessons (projecteve.com)
- Which Leadership Approach is Better? (nocrisis.net)