I recently was the keynote speaker for an ATHENA Award Luncheon honoring two women for demonstrating professional excellence, community service, and assisting other women in attaining their leadership skills. It was a privilege for me to be in a room filled with powerful, high-achieving women. And might I add, I was elated to see at least a third of the audience included equally powerful men.
What a celebration of today’s work environment!
My title was “Golden Lessons From A Silver-Haired Sage,” which gave me room for humor as I shared several ‘Aha’s’ garnered on my career journey leading to a more fulfilling career…. And later in my business, they became Lessons for my coaching clients.
Our local newspaper, PostIndependent, published a story on the luncheon recognizing our two local women heroes… and then I noticed the reporter mentioned me. It stroked my ego, so I reread it. That’s when I saw the overview comment of my talk. It said that Nancy Fredericks… “shared her personal struggles of being a woman and a professional in a man’s work world.”
Whaaat, I thought?! I believed my keynote was about “golden lessons,” and a male in the audience thought it examined challenges in “a man’s work world.”
After reviewing my talk, I can see where the journalist saw it “as a man’s work world. Evidence of “Perception….Fascinating and Crucial” coming into play. I lasered in on articulating the Lessons, and there was another point of view.
Yes, some of my stories—and probably the more ironic memorable ones—focused on overcoming male barriers on my way to all the greatness of my career journey. When I was coming up the ranks, there were only men in positions of authority. And the truth is that the Lessons I was sharing are indispensable on the way to your career success. It’s the same mastery whenever someone is a barrier, whether a man or woman.
I want to say: “Thank you to the journalist for the opportunity to take a second look at my slant on the topic and incorporate yours as well.”
The reality is that today’s workplace calls for both executive men and women, along with a whole slew of diverse outlooks who come together to succeed in our tough, demanding business environment.
Now, you’re intrigued and wonder, what were the golden Lessons which apply to everyone—not merely women.
- Success Is An Inside Out Affair: I shared my history of the boss who thought I was “too intelligent and should reveal less” and the one who considered me “dumb” (Yes!). My intent wasn’t to focus on wrong behavior—it was a different era—instead to reflect on the Lesson. What was it? Take in the information, but only own what is true. If it is someone else’s issue, discard it. Don’t ever retain it, not even for a nanosecond! I’ve found that advice sometimes arises from the other person’s lack—not yours. Yes, consider negative feedback. Growth emerges from such insight, but toss it away as junk if it doesn’t ring true.You can’t take everyone’s opinion as gospel, or you’ll lose yourself.
- The Gift Of Confidence: I reminisced about a teacher who asked if any students had questions regarding her lesson. Well, I sure did! But rather than raising my hand, I remained silent, thinking my question was probably stupid. The teacher, the authority in the room, said: “Well, I have one,” and answered it herself. Precisely the question I’d held tightly locked in my brain unspoken. I was kicking myself for not responding! Why? Why? The Lesson I learned was to have confidence in my ideas. What an invaluable leg-up I had in the business world once I arrived, where speaking up with confidence is a much-lauded leadership attribute. And where research has shown confidence counts for as much if not more than skills leading to promotion. What a gift!
- Receiver Centric The Name Of The Game: I communicated the powerful Lesson I learned at a Law Firm, where I was the only woman member at partnership meetings. All the solid, strategic ideas I presented received nothing but one “no” after another. It was disheartening. Why weren’t they listening to me? I tried varied methods to be heard and get a “yes,” but they never altered my abysmal results. Until I had a career-changing ‘Aha.’ I wasn’t an attorney, nor did I ever want to be one. I loved my creative view of the world—the attorneys not so much. So, I began paying attention to what the partners focused on when making decisions. Why were they shooting down my ideas? What words do they use? How was the concept that received “yes” presented? Slowly, confusion lifted. It was me causing the problems. Once I adapted my pitches to reflect a Receiver Centric approach (how the attorneys took in information) rather than lazily speaking from my messaging comfort zone, something spectacular occurred. I started getting “yes’s” all over the place. This approach is a success-technique that I now help my clients incorporate into their leadership arsenal.
Thank you, ATHENA Glenwood Springs, for being receptive to the “Golden Lessons From A Silver-Haired Sage.” I hope the men and women attending and you reading this blog remember you always have a future in front of you—it’s up to you whether it is a bright and fulfilling one—or not. It is crucial to understand that the only competitive advantage in this world is being your unique, fabulous you!
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