Episode #3

Tales of the C-Suite

"My empathy chip has been removed when it comes to women in middle management" said a seasoned Chief Operating Officer over dinner on a Wednesday evening. This conversation revealed some home truths about the things that hold women back in their career.

My empathy chip has been removed!

I’m 47 years old.

I’ve been working for 25 years.

I’ve seen it all and heard it all and lived it all.

Don’t give me your excuses!

Said a COO in a discussion about what holds women back in their careers.

What precipitated this statement over dinner on a Wednesday evening?

From her C-Suite vantage point, this seasoned leader’s lament and frustration when it comes to women in middle management, reveals some home truths about the things that hold women back in their career.

I can see where she is coming from.

As leaders of people, it is incumbent upon us to lead with kindness, flexibility and compassion for the life our colleagues experience outside of work. Always.
People have complex beautiful lives filled with events and relationships and experiences and happy times and challenging times. We all do.

And stuff happens to all of us, at different times and at different stages of our career, in the guise of:

  • illness, injury or diminished capacity of self, partner, siblings, parents, pets
  • caring challenges with kids or other dependents
  • scheduling conflicts with a spouse or significant other
  • disagreements or disharmony with those closest to us 
  • household emergencies

The uncomfortable home truth is that there is a fine line between responding to life events and using these events as excuses for why you can’t step up, show up, turn up and speak up in the workplace when asked. 

Taking charge of ourselves, taking personal responsibility for life and career, makes the difference to our capacity to reach our full potential.

Five questions to ask when you feel that your supervising manager, the HR department or the organisation that employs you, has had their empathy chip removed:

  1. Am I addicted to the adrenaline and drama? “Look at me! Look at me! I’m so busy, busy, busy!”
  2. Am I using situations as distractions to avoid being fully present and trully responsible for my contribution in the workplace?
  3. Am I looking for someone to save me, a father figure to take control and say: “It’s ok, I’ll fix it for you”?
  4. Have I given away power to others so that they are calling the shots in my life and impacting my career – is life controlling me or am I in control of my life?
  5. Am I looking for someone else to give me permission to take a break, go for the promotion, look after myself, or to tell me that I should feel proud of myself?

What are some of the situations that are holding you back in your career? How can these be changed? Is there room to negotiate a different outcome or different perspective with in-laws, siblings, spouse?

The most important question to ask yourself is: Who do I need to show up as, to be in charge of my own career?

People are looking for role models like you. The very thing that you are allowing to hold you back, may be the very thing that those who came before you, have worked a way around. And it may be the very thing that those women who come after you need to see that they, too, can resolve.

Give yourself permission to find a solution. Be the obvious choice to the C-Suite.

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