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Women leaders, it's time to own who you are

August 15, 2016
Diversity & Inclusion

Dr. Stan Beecham in his book Elite Minds, rightfully says, “If your emotions are in charge, you will never fully know yourself, and you will never reach your full potential in a performance environment.”

Women are accustomed to being labeled as “too emotional.” Business culture tells them to “man up” and hide their feelings. However, tapping into those emotions instead of hiding them enables women to know themselves better, challenge the status quo, and reach their full potential, which enables high-performance teams and positively impacts revenues. One study from McKinsey & Company revealed that companies that have three or more women in senior management functions score higher in organizational effectiveness.

Unfortunately, many women start their career with a culture-induced handicap. I’ve worked with many female high potentials and executives, for example, who’ve reported they needed to adopt a persona in order to succeed in corporate America.

Women who ignore their emotions, instead of taking charge of them, miss important opportunities. For example, if we do not recognize anger and the thought behind it, chances are we will end up reacting. When, instead, we acknowledge and embrace an emotion, we are able to analyze the thought behind it. This gives us the opportunity to re-frame the challenge and to respond consciously. Consequently, this puts us in charge of the emotion, rather than allowing the emotion to be in charge.

When challenged to be themselves, my female clients politely explain to me that they embrace the idea but feel their true self would not be appreciated at work, which they are afraid could limit their future career opportunities.

My response to them always begins with a question:

• How different would it be for you if you could simply define your emotional reactions by what they truly are, and not by what you think they are?

• How would “owning” your feminine essence and the associated physical and emotional responses make you feel?

Recently, a client experienced an incredible breakthrough in her career as a result of owning and exhibiting her emotions at work. She had always been afraid of being herself, of appearing vulnerable. When her 360-degree feedback came back, she learned that the leadership wanted to see more of her, as they believed in her potential. She was aware of the disconnect: she wanted to be authentic, but was afraid her true self wouldn’t be accepted. After five months of working together, she was able to close the gap between her true self and her persona, and now feels empowered at work.

Hiding and suppressing emotions, even if done unconsciously, takes a great deal of energy and can make us feel deeply unsatisfied in the long run. Here are a few simple steps to reconnect with your feminine essence and take charge of your emotions:

1. Redefine what emotions are for you.

2. Examine how men express anger, frustration and disappointment. How do you judge it? How do others judge it?

3. Notice how you express those same emotions. How do you judge yourself? Does this judgment empower or hinder your potential?

4. Evaluate what makes men’s physical response to their emotions more accepted than your response to the same emotions.

5. Take an EQ assessment to measure your level of emotional intelligence, and begin developing those skills.

In a global corporate environment where women will represent a vast majority of tomorrow’s leaders, it is crucial for those women to reconnect with their feminine essence and so they can reach their full potential.

By Belinda MJ Brown, Executive coach and founder of Equanimity Executive, a firm offering coaching services to professional women and diverse organizations.

Source: Forbes

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