In How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job, Sally Helgesen & Marshall Goldsmith have noticed that in the workplace, high achievers — men and women — often demonstrate problematic habits that undermine their career, that have propelled them in the past and that won’t allow them to move further up.
Women, contrary to men, display different self-limiting behavior, face particular challenges, even if they want to advance their career and even if they have assets to contribute to the workplace.
Most often, women feel stuck in their jobs. Feeling stuck comes from feeling like you are unable to move forward, like some force is willfully holding you back, like you are not allowed to use your strengths or you are underappreciated. The feeling of being stuck will shape their behavior and will subsequently determine how others will respond to them.
There are also various external barriers that hold women back from success: most workplace structure has been designed by men for men. Stereotypes influence women ability to move up the ladder: they are their perceived as too aggressive, too passive, too talkative, too quite, too emotional, too mean, they smile too much or frown too much… Needless to say, women are not at all responsible for these barriers or being held back.
People tend to cling to habits that have made them successful but that are no longer serving them. These habits have been reinforced by external factors and by people who want to celebrate your success, by the fact that most people are blind to their own weaknesses.
Furthermore, organizations are quick to claim that they thrive on change, but make it hard for their employees to change within them because:
- Organizations assign roles and tasks on past behaviors and keeping them there. This makes it difficult for employees to practice new behaviors.
- Organizations celebrate and reward a successful action and ignore a warning or a successful lack of action. Someone would be celebrated for signing a good deal and avoid a bad one. The latter are viewed as naysayers.
Habits are not intrinsic to your character but are your comfort zone, your default setting created by your surroundings. Changing is hard, time-consuming and may require external help.
People will then hold one to old behaviors rather than changing them. That resistance is built naturally by rationalizing a behavior, by your brain after repeated behavior and familiar situations.
Because stopping a habit is more effective than starting one, Helgesen & Goldsmith have put together 12 habits to stop practicing in order to be successful as a woman. To open new doors, be purposeful and intentional about choices and change behavior, it is first detrimental for women to identify how them define success.
According to Helgesen and Goldsmith, while caring about rewards and status, most women value satisfaction, quality of life and the impact of their contribution over a high salary or a high position. Women don’t define success as winning or as keeping score, don’t enjoy competition and rather collaboration. Hence, women find it easier to transition to leadership positions because they can place emphasis on others instead of themselves.
Your old habits have previously served but are currently hindering you. It’s not too late to change and acquire better habits. To get rid of them:
- Identify the habits you need to work on.
- Recognize your behavior as a habit, try different behaviors and observe the responses.
- Repeat behaviors until your brain is comfortable with the new behavior.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself.
- Recognize your strengths as well, avoid judging people.
- Address habits one at a time.
HABIT #1: Reluctance to claim your achievements
Women work harder than men but avoid taking credit for their successes, avoid using the pronoun “I” because they believe that:
- Their work will automatically speak for itself.
- This behavior is obnoxious and disruptive.
- The group to which they belong to expect them to be modest, unobtrusive and coy.
To get over the reluctance to claim your achievements:
- Learn how to promote yourself.
- Believe that you are detrimental to your own success.
- Find out what motivates you, why you want to get ahead at work.
- Enlist the help of people to speak on your behalf and don’t contradict what people have to positively say about you.
HABIT #2: Expecting others to spontaneously notice and reward your contributions
When others don’t notice the work that they do, women start to feel unacknowledged or underappreciated for the hard work that they put in. They start to feel like the don’t belong and will look for another place to work.
To get over expecting others to spontaneously notice and reward your contributions:
- Set goals for your career and share your vision at every opportunity.
- Prepare an elevator speech and be ready to deliver it at any moment. This will demonstrate your ambition, clarify your future, get you noticed, show that you are confident and serious, will be an opportunity to highlight your skills, will help you identify the self-serving opportunities. Your elevator speech should be clear, concise, identical to a personal vision or mission statement.
HABIT #3: Overvaluing expertise
Becoming an expert in a field gets women noticed, is a defense mechanisms, a way of asserting their value.
However, mastering a role will only keep you in the same role. Becoming an expert is time-consuming, will make you knowledgeable but will not make you a leader.
To get over the habit of overvaluing expertise:
- Build relationships, increase influence and do the job well enough.
- Don’t be sloppy.
HABIT #4: Just building rather than building and leveraging relationships
To women, building relationships is emotionally and personally rewarding. Indeed, women have good relationships skills but don’t leverage them to get ahead in the workplace because they don’t want:
- Their connections to feel used.
- Their relationships to be based on self-interests.
- To play the political game.
To get over the habit of just building rather than building and leveraging relationships:
- Ask people to connect you to higher-ups.
- Use a win-win or quid pro quo system.
- Become more intentional about your relationships.
- Remember that people can benefit from you and vice versa.
HABIT #5: Failing to enlist allies from day one
From the first day on the job, most women tend to try to keep their heads down, to understand every aspect of their job, to avoid asking questions, to value expertise, to be undergoing the impostor syndrome. As seem before, expertise is just your way of making yourself credible.
Instead find out with who you should connect with to get better visibility, more influence.
To get over failing to enlist allies from day one:
- Reach out to others first and engage as many people as possible.
- Find mentors and sponsors.
- Keep in mind that allies are not friends.
- Talk positively about your allies.
- Identify the people who can propel you to the next level or that you would enjoy working with.
HABIT #6: Putting your job before your career
Most women trying to do their jobs perfectly because they are loyal, get stuck in the same job for years.
To get over putting your job before your career:
- Let people know that you are ready for a challenge.
- Analyze how your current position can serve your long-term interest.
- Admit self-interest and identify what you value and how you can maximize your strengths.
- Appreciate you current position.
HABIT #7: The perfection trap
Women tend to be perfect due to social expectations. Doing your job perfectly doesn’t guarantee success. Instead, it creates stress, keep you distracted and annoyed and sets you up for disappointment, it makes you hard on yourself, destroyed by failure, paralyzed by mistakes, sets too high standards for your team.
To get over the perfection trap:
- Don’t be controlling.
- Learn to delegate and not micromanage.
- Learn to prioritize and identify the vital few.
HABIT #8: The disease to please
Women find themselves eager to please, to be nice, to make everybody happy, are afraid of disappointing and of being a burden. This behavior is time-consuming, kills careers, deters from taking a stance and from following a higher purpose.
To get over the disease to please:
- Identify your priorities.
- Learn to delegate.
- Select your commitments with care.
- Stand your ground.
HABIT #9: Minimizing
Women tend to make themselves smaller, which is translated in the body language and the words they use. This behavior sends the message that they are diminished, subservient, non deserving, uncertain and underachieving.
To get over the habit of minimizing yourself:
- Talk about your accomplishments, talk about individual and collective wins if that makes you feel fairer.
- Choose your voice and words carefully.
- Stay in the moment.
- Avoid multitasking and spreading yourself too thin.
HABIT #10: Too much
In the workplace, women have to temper and constantly monitor their emotional response to situations. Being perceived as too intense, too emotional, too strong, too vulnerable, too much can be an obstacle to promotion.
Monitoring your behavior, your emotions is draining and makes you come out as inauthentic. To get over the display of too much emotions:
- women have to exercise self-discipline.
- Learn to feel, recognize and not immediately react to an emotion.
- Learn to be concise.
- Avoid disclosing personal information, problems and weaknesses.
- Avoid being unprofessional just to be authentic.
HABIT #11: Ruminating
Women are more likely to ruminate, to cling on to the past. They turn their hurt inwards, relive their failure and blame themselves.
Ruminating is counterproductive, are depressing, won’t help you succeed or solve future problems.
To get over the habit of ruminating:
- women need to find ways to distract themselves and interrupt their thought.
- learn from the facts and move on.
HABIT #12: Letting your radar distract you
Women notice a lot of details and process them differently than men. They are aware of everybody’s reaction, are distracted by details and are unable to stay ion the moment.
To get over the habit of getting distracted by their radar, discipline your thoughts and refrain from negativity.
How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job by Sally Helgesen & Marshall Goldsmith is relatable, proactive and insightful. It is written for women with the best intention and with the desire to help women stop self-sacrificing and stop self-sabotaging. It is not necessarily targeted towards women of color even though it mentions the challenges that women of color face in the workplace.
Above all, it teaches us introspection and demonstrates how to control what we can, how to change bad habits, how to improve our quality of life and to reach our full potential.
In addition, How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job by Helgesen & Goldsmith pushes us to seek the positive in every interaction, in every feedback and to not take remarks personally even if they are based on stereotypes. It’s all about changing a behavior that stands in your way.
For the most part, I agree that women share habits that keep us from advancing in the workplace. There are several points that were accurate and that resonated with me: I have a nagging tendency to ruminate on negative experiences (Habit #11). Because I pay too much attention to detail (Habit #12), the rumination process is that much amplified.
However, I felt like Helgesen and Goldsmith insinuated that women, aware of the stereotypes placed on them in the workplace, have to take on the responsibility of changing themselves to fit in, have to listen to and apply the feedback they received from the people who perpetuate the stereotypes, that they have to become enablers and mirror men’s behavior.
It doesn’t seem like we are supposed to change to acquire greater values or to reach a higher purpose. But we’re changing to fit someone else’s standards or expectations of us: we move from one expectation to another.
Instead of viewing money and position as the sole or even chief markers of success, women also tend to place a high value on the quality of their lives at work and the impact of their contributions.
the trick to maximizing your talents and opportunities is not becoming a less thoughtful and giving person, but rather being purposeful and intentional about your choices while also addressing the behaviors that keep you stuck.