Key Takeaways of a Workshop on Personal Branding for Women by Soaring Eagles
We recently conducted an immersive workshop with a select group of women executives on the topic of Personal Branding for Women. The workshop was led by our CEO, Sonali Sinha.
Women, across companies and industries, thrashing through intense personal and professional issues resulted in a very productive 4-hour session! We discussed some unique challenges women professionals face and how they can overcome some of these through cultivating and projecting a strong personal brand.
After a fun icebreaker, Sonali introduced the concept of Personal Branding and the myths about it. Unlike what most people misunderstand it for in terms of external appearance and how one speaks and carries herself, Sonali clarified that real personal branding starts from inside. She highlighted the fact that as one moves up the corporate ladder, it becomes more and more important to be visible and be seen as a capable leader.
“Your brand is a perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes the total experience of having a relationship with you.” – David McNally and Karl Speak, authors of ‘Be Your Own Brand’
For all professionals – and most especially for women – it is critical to start projecting themselves in a specific, well thought out manner. As careers advance beyond middle management, the challenges of the work are compounded by the cutthroat competition to advance up the ladder. This is when your personal brand could be the differentiator that keeps you moving up.
The workshop covered the 4 main aspects of building a personal brand – self-concept, communication style, visibility and networking.
Self-concept is our knowledge about ourselves, including our beliefs about our personality traits, physical characteristics, abilities, values, goals, and roles. As we grow up our self-concept becomes more abstract and complex.
Our self-concept very strongly affects the way that we process information relating to ourselves. The participants went through an assessment and came to understand their own self-concepts and how it is impacting their behaviour and choices. This whole exercise actually set the mood for the workshop and made the participants think deeply about themselves.
The discussion then turned to self-talk and core beliefs. Our core beliefs are the very essence of how we see ourselves, how we see others, the world and the future. These are rules that we take as a given. They colour our way of thinking in any given situation. If we believe that the world is not fair, we will look for signs that confirm this belief and we will question everyone’s agendas and actions. Similarly, if we believe that we are not smart (because we have been constantly told so), then we will not even try to make an effort to do better.
The discussion on the core beliefs gave immense insights to participants when they shared how being a perfectionist is taking a toll on them. Delegating work to others is hindered by their own ‘Must’ and ‘Should.’ One of the participants also shared her experience of when she was micromanaging a family picnic to the point that after the outing she was totally exhausted.
The participants also realised how their core beliefs were shaped during their childhood and how important it is as a parent to be careful about what messages we give our children all the time. Someone who is constantly held up to a higher standard of performance may actually develop a belief that they are not good enough in any situation. This can be debilitating, especially in the work environment.
The discussion then veered to the fact that a lot of women do not aspire for leadership roles as their belief is that a leader needs to authoritative and aggressive and that they do not want to be that kind of a person. Sonali highlighted that the traits of successful leaders in the current age are very different from this age-old image of a dominating and aggressive leader. She urged the women to take on leadership roles as they have the capability to thrive in such roles.
Our communication style also plays a huge role in how people perceive us. This point was driven through roles plays. Given our socialisation, women tend to be more passive or passive-aggressive. Sonali underlined the need to be assertive, especially in the work environment and while dealing with demanding and aggressive colleagues.
Women tend to feel embarrassed to say NO in many situations because of their conditioning. This self-effacing behaviour is especially obvious when personal issues crop up. They frequently feel – and are told so by colleagues and bosses – that the right to prioritise a personal life is not something career women have. This makes them feel very guilty and pressurised.
Participants were asked to reflect and identify which areas in their lives they needed to be more assertive in. They then discussed their rights and correlated them with the situations in which they need to be more assertive. Participants share that this is one area where they really need to improve as not being assertive can take a big toll on their health and personal life.
Sonali highlighted that to get ahead in the workplace, you have to be seen. Being visible at work allows employees to demonstrate their skills, land prominent assignments, and build strategic relationships.
Studies have shown that women’s contributions are systematically overlooked at work, especially if they are not visible and assertive. This limits their professional advancement and explains why the senior levels of organizations remain overwhelmingly male-dominated. Yet when women try to make themselves more visible, they tend to face backlash for violating expectations about how women should behave. This fear of backlash leads women to believe that if they try to be more visible they may even risk losing their hard-won career gains.
Many women shared how they struggle in their own organisation; they routinely deal with comments on their leaving on time, not being available late at night or for extra projects. They constantly tried to fit in and keep their heads down so as to fit in better and not create a stir. In fact, many even distanced themselves from other women who were perceived as aggressive!
Sonali shared the concept of Intentional Invisibility – how women tend to intentionally become invisible. This was something that almost all participants could relate to their behaviour. Women leaders also realised the important role they can play in support other women in the organisation by giving them the opportunity to speak up and share their ideas and in general be more supportive.
Sonali outlined several ways in which the women leaders can improve their visibility at work without feeling like there are being too aggressive or a show-off.
Networking touched off a debate where women opened up about the challenges they face on the ground trying to create work relationships. Many felt that networking was either unnecessary or sometimes sleazy (this was an important issue in a male-dominated workplace). They also felt that the whole process of networking is inauthentic in some way. It tends to also make demands on their personal time and hence women tend to avoid networking.
Sonali introduced the core concept of networking and clarified the myths the participants had about networking. She showed them how they can do networking without feeling inauthentic and pushy. She also shared how anyone can become a great conversationalist and leverage that ability to get better at networking.
The participants understood that lack of networking was keeping them stuck in their current roles. They needed to build relationships outside their department and organisations to establish themselves as thought leaders and get more opportunities to work on exciting projects.
The whole workshop was intense and made the participants realise how their own thoughts and beliefs may be holding them back. Generational conditioning is a big part of this internal roadblock which promotes a workaholic, aggressive image of a leader that most women can’t seem to align with. Now, of course, the millennial workforce requires a softer touch and organisations are rapidly reassessing the role of a leader – AND women with their heightened emotional intelligence and social skills are perfectly placed to approach leadership roles, which makes this a great time to be women at work!
The participants also realised that the power is within them to make a name and space for themselves and also help other women in their journey. All of them went away greatly motivated to start implementing the learnings of the workshop, and we wish them all the very best!
If you would like to know more about building your personal brand or if your organisation would like to encourage women leaders to grow, then do get in touch.
2020 is coming to an end and what a year it’s been! The global pandemic has really challenged us in so many ways and it’s been hard for many of us to feel in control as the crisis just drags on. Our businesses have taken a hit but we know that there are many around us who have been hit even harder.
It’s natural then for many business leaders to feel guilty about the hard decisions they’ve had to take in terms of layoffs, closures and disruptions in service. A client of mine had to let go of a senior employee in the US and he knew this meant that the employee had to go back to his home country and his entire life would get disrupted. He was also worried that the employee would no longer have health cover to take care of the special needs of his child. A friend who is the CHRO of a large organisation was distraught when a young employee passed away due to COVID and he felt he couldn’t do anything to save her.
Guilt is an unsettling emotion to deal with. But it’s also a sign that you’re a conscientious leader. While there are many things that are out of your control, one way of dealing with this guilt when it hits you is to re-evaluate and improve the way you approach your employees and company, and demonstrate compassionate leadership in difficult circumstances.
Here are 5 ways in which you can do this:
If you have a small team, it’s possible for you to do so yourself. If you have a large employees base, put together small cross-functional teams to spread out and listen to the wider group. This will help you plan your initiatives better.
When you have no choice but to implement furloughs, reduced hours, or pay cuts, don’t delegate sharing the news to HR - it feels demoralizing, disrespectful, and lacks empathy. If you are responsible for the decision, it is you who should be sharing it. This sends a clear message to not just the people who are impacted but also the others around them and support the morale of the team.
If some of your decisions have gone wrong and negatively affected others, take remedial action as soon as you know or can and do it as publicly as possible. Acknowledge your mistake and then communicate new developments frequently and consistently. Decisions can go either r way based on the limited information that we operate on – you are not expected to be right all the time. But how you own up and make amends is what your team and customers are looking at.
Try and see what benefits can be retained even when someone goes on a furlough or pay cut. Help the ones who’ve been laid off to find new jobs. Provide career transition support wherever possible.
People respond to that. They connect with you and they trust you when you’re being the best version of you. Talk about how you balance your own personal and work commitments. Talk about your own challenges and encourage sharing of tips and resources for managing workload, scheduling and so on. You don’t have to have a stoic mask all the time. Let people know that you also struggle sometimes and that’s okay. That’s being human.
So, to sum it up, it’s understandable if you as a leader are struggling with guilty feelings as you see the disruptions and struggles that the Covid-19 crisis is causing your employees and colleagues, sometimes specifically as a result of your own actions. But if you reframe your feelings of guilt as an opportunity to consciously and thoughtfully make the best decisions possible, communicate clearly, and behave with compassion and concern for both your employees and yourself, then you can help steer their teams and organizations toward better times.
If you want to talk about this, just click on Request Consultation and pick a convenient time for discussion or send me a WhatsApp message using the button above.
Many times, when I bring up coaching with business leaders and owners, they react by saying that I’m doing well. I don’t think I need a coach.
To my mind, there are two possible reasons for this reaction – one, they are not aware about what real coaching is and its benefits, and two, they are not ready to have a hard look at themselves and see what’s not working. They may be afraid of what they might uncover and are happier just coasting along till they are forced to confront these issues.
I always make an effort to explain what real coaching is and how it’s different from having a mentor or guide or just reading self-help books. I also make it a point to share that coaching is not about solving problems. It is about unblocking the realisation of your potential. You can do and achieve much more than what you are doing currently just by getting out of your own way. A coach helps you get out of your own way and go after those big hairy audacious goals.
Ask yourself this
Having a coach is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of ambition, it’s a sign of hunger for bigger impact, it’s a sign of courage to work on oneself.
Go ahead, tell me you don’t need a coach…
Click on the Request Consultation button above for a discovery call.
To be truly listened to is an amazing experience, partly because it is so rare! When another person is totally with you – leaning in, interested in every word, eager to empathize – you feel seen and understood. When people feel that they are really being listened to, they open up more as they feel safe and secure and the trust between the parties grows.
Unfortunately, most people do not listen at a very deep level as they are preoccupied with the challenges of their fast-paced life. As a result, most conversations tend to skim on the surface.
The absence of real listening is especially prevalent at work. Under pressure to get the job done, we listen for the minimum of what we need to know so that we can move on to the next fire that needs fighting. So, what’s the consequence of this? Everyone is talking, no on is listening. As a result, employee engagement has become a serious issue in organisations today.
This is becoming a bigger problem in this COVID scenario as employees are dispersed and the conversations are very transactional and brief. Leaders seem to have become busier and more distracted in recent times.
How often are you as a leader distracted in a conversation or a meeting with your team? How often are you as a leader not psychologically present when you are virtually with your team? How often do you cancel, interrupt or shorten meetings with your people in favour of some other stakeholder, priority or task? How often do you make your people wait, ask, or even hope for your leadership? Ironically, now more than ever, leaders need to be deeply and continuously connected with their teams.
What your team needs right now is authentic and unequivocal leadership presence. So, turn off the noise in your head. Turn off the noise from your technology. Focus your mind and your time on the people you lead and they, in turn, will follow and support your leadership efforts.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to take the time to connect, to show that you care about your employees as people. Listening deeply will also help you understand what their challenges and expectations, and gives you a chance to share what your intentions and goals in a way that everyone can be aligned.
Listening is a skill that you can gain from training and practice. And who better to learn if from than coaches. Effective coaches tend to be gifted listeners and they hone their listening skills to reach a high level of proficiency. This enables us coaches to reach the inner recesses of your mind and help you get those deep insights.
In the book, Co-Active Coaching, Henry and Karen Kimsey-House explain the three levels of listening and how the art of listening can be cultivated.
Level 1 listening is an interaction where the primary focus of you as the listener is on your own thoughts, opinions, judgments, and feelings. You relate the words you hear to your own experiences or needs. For example, if we are buying a car, we will be listening at Level 1 to the salesperson to see how the car features will fit our needs and budget.
Level 2 listening takes the communication one step further. It involves paying attention to the tone of voice, body language and facial expressions. As you filter out your internal chatter and distractions from the environment, you are able to tune in to the meaning of the words, choose a way to respond, and assess the effect of the response on the speaker.
Level 3 listening brings an entirely new state of awareness to the conversation. It involves doing everything at Level 2, plus using your intuition and being open to receiving more information in any form that it presents itself. If you get a hunch, for example, while listening to someone, you could bring it up without being attached to it. Without insisting on being right, observe the effect it has on the speaker and be aware of where the conversation goes next.
For instance, you may say: “I understand that you are happy with the results, but I have a feeling that you have something else on your mind.” The response may be, “No, not really,” or “Yes, actually, I wanted to tell you about this issue that came up with our project.” It is irrelevant if you are right or wrong; what is important is the effect on the conversation.
So, there you have it – why it is important for you as a leader to hone your listening skills and how you can enhance your depth of listening. The art of listening takes time to develop, but it can be practiced daily. It builds trust and understanding and contributes significantly to your effectiveness as a leader.
If you want to discuss further, just schedule a complimentary consultation by clicking this link above.
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