Read The Confidence Myth Online

Authors: Helene Lerner

The Confidence Myth (9 page)

BOOK: The Confidence Myth
7.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

These inequities are probably not going to change anytime soon, but we can still step up and negotiate powerfully for what we need now. The women interviewed for this book maneuvered around the unique difficulties women face as they advanced. Here are some of their strategies.

The first step in negotiating your power parameters is figuring out what is most important to you. Debbie Storey of AT&T, offered up a great metaphor for how to determine your personal and professional boundaries: “It's a matter of
assessing what you're juggling at the time,” she explained. “With all the balls you have in the air, which ones are rubber—if you drop them, they will bounce for a while—and which ones are crystal—if they drop, you'll never get them back. Those you need to set boundaries around.”

Early on in her career, Debbie learned to assert herself when the issue was important: “I was a single mom and my son was four years old. At work, I was the only one around the table who was female. The meetings would run over and I was the one sweating, concerned that my son wouldn't be picked up in time from school.

“I went to my boss and asked for his help. I let him know I would work overtime as much as needed, but I had to know the days in advance so I could make the necessary arrangements. I also negotiated that I would not be the first person called when emergencies came up on weekends.”

Once you have determined which balls you're juggling are rubber and which are crystal, think about what you can do to make the situation a win-win, like Debbie did. She needed to negotiate a power parameter around her family commitments, but that didn't mean she was taking a backseat at work. To make sure her boss saw that, she offered concrete examples of how she could continue to step up at the office, such as working overtime when it could be planned in advance.

Shying away from uncomfortable negotiations that involve taking a stand and setting limits is natural. Lessen the anxiety by figuring out how to make what
want attractive to the other party. The most important step is careful forethought and framing.

For example, when negotiating for a raise, Sheryl Sandberg advises framing the discussion in terms of the common good. She recommends positioning yourself as connected to
the company at large, by using
instead of
. “A woman's request will be better received if she asserts, ‘We had a great year,' as opposed to ‘I had a great year,'” she writes. With a simple pronoun change, your negotiation is reframed as what is best for the organization.

The last point I want to cover about negotiation is allowing yourself to think bigger. That's where confidence comes in. Ask for more than what you want, even if you think you won't get it. Be bold. If you aim high, you are much more likely to end higher and be better off than you were at the start.

Confidence spark

You may know this already, but it's a good reminder. The rule of negotiating is to find a way that both parties win. Beforehand, figure out where you will be flexible (the rubber balls) and what is nonnegotiable (the ones made of crystal). Let the person know at the beginning of your meeting that you are interested in creating a win-win situation for both of you. Do your homework. What does he need from you? How can you provide him what he needs and get what you want in return? For example, if you need to set a limit on your time, is there someone else you can suggest to do the remainder of the work? Of course, you'll probably have to make some trade-offs, but that's why they call it negotiating.

Balancing work and family— is there such a thing?

A few years back Ellen Galinsky, president and cofounder of the Families and Work Institute, changed the paradigm by suggesting that there is no such thing as “balance.” Rather, she thinks what we do each day is navigate between work and family life in a constant series of shifting priorities.
Some days you give more to the office, other days it's more about your family's needs.

Call it whatever you want, the seeming tug-of-war between work and family will continue to be a challenge, particularly for women. Though balancing the demands of family and a career is something that men are beginning to grapple with as well, child care is still a responsibility that falls more heavily on women—not to mention housework, elder care, and other related duties.

Years ago work-life balance was considered a soft issue by some executives, secondary to the hard issues that deliver profits. But more and more, people are coming to realize that flexibility is one of the most important issues related to business. If corporations want to attract and retain talent, flexible work arrangements (such as job sharing, working from home, and flexible hours) are necessary. Many companies have these accommodations in place, and some organizational cultures have shifted so that employees are encouraged to take advantage of them. But a lot of institutions still have an unspoken culture that requires face time and very little deviation from the norm. Changing this will take time and a commitment from top-level management that is communicated to all levels of the organization. Creating a new norm needs to be seen as a priority tied to bottom-line profits as well as individual paychecks.

As you progress in your career, you will have trade-offs to consider, and how you deal with them depends on your personal situation—no one way is right for everyone. When my son was young and I had to juggle the responsibilities of work and family, I decided to leave the corporate workplace and start my own business. I thought I would have more control of my hours, which in some ways I did. But when you start a business you have to invest a great deal of time and money. There is no easy solution, but we can learn a lot from women leaders who are handling an enormous amount of responsibility as well as creating their power parameters around family.

I know a woman at an international finance company who was asked to take a top global job. She, her husband, and their two small children resided in the United States, and she didn't want to move or have to travel three-quarters of the time. She knew if she hired the right team, they could do the bulk of the traveling and report back to her. In discussions with top management, this woman expressed her excitement for the assignment and presented her plan to have her team do the majority of travel. That was her power parameter.

To make sure that management understood her commitment to the job, she explained that she would definitely lead the larger, more-critical meetings where strategy was rolled out internationally and her presence would be necessary. In the end, she received the promotion on her terms, and she did an excellent job in her new role. And when her children were older, she actually did take a plum position overseas.

Jill Campbell of Cox Communications is another powerful leader who was able to set boundaries: “I don't work a zillion hours. I can separate the work and the play part of my life. The time that I have with my daughter is most important to
me. I have to create those chunks of time. We have a nice breakfast in the morning, I drop my daughter off at school, I'm home at a decent hour, and we have dinner as a family.”

Her negotiation is that she has her phone with her 24/7 to stay on top of what's happening. “I feel better if I can check my e-mail to keep connected.”

There is no road map for how to manage our family and work commitments. We learn as we go along and accept that things change over time as our needs and the needs of our loved ones change.

Saying yes to yourself

Saying no can give rise to feelings of guilt, but how about trying to see guilt in a new way? As we assert ourselves, the uncomfortable feeling we experience might not be signaling that we're doing something wrong but rather that we're finally doing something right—for ourselves.

Why relegate yourself to the last spot on your to-do list? This problem is so prevalent that I wrote an entire book on the topic called
Time for Me: Simple Pleasures for Women Who Do Too Much.

Say yes to taking the time for simple pleasures, whatever those may be for you. Start by identifying and getting rid of time bandits, such as guilt, worry, people pleasing, and perfectionism, which I know can be a tall order. But by leaving room in your schedule for the things that nourish and replenish you, you might actually start finding it easier to check off all the other to-dos on your list. For most of us, saying yes to ourselves is an immediate confidence and productivity boost.

Get creative with how you can carve out some me time for yourself. You probably already have in place some things
you enjoy. Why not double up on your personal time by doing two at once, like calling a friend when you're exercising. Ask your family in advance which events you can't miss, and make the others negotiable. Be aware of time bandits that eat away at your precious hours. Get a self-care buddy so you can keep each other on track.

These are just a few suggestions. Navigating work life is a complex issue for all of us, and neither side of the equation should be taken lightly.

Confidence spark

In your day planner, make sure to schedule not only your business and family obligations but also your me-time activities. Although you have a certain amount of flexibility, put in pen the personal activities that are nonnegotiable— like doctor visits and a monthly girls' night out. Taking care of yourself will foster your growth on all fronts.

What would you do?


Hold yourself back

Create power parameters

Your boss asks, “Can you stay late to finish up a report?” You have already done the bulk of the work, and the report just needs proofing—plus you've stayed late four days in a row.

You agree to finish the report. You want your boss to know that you'll be there no matter what.

You say no. You explain that you need a night to take care of yourself. You suggest your intern, who is eager for more responsibility, pitch in.

Your child asks, “Mommy, please buy me this doll.” She has two dolls of the same type on her bed that she doesn't play with.

You buy the doll out of guilt. You've been working late every night for the past week.

You say no. Instead of buying the doll, you find a game you can play with her, and you share some quality time.

Your neighbor says, “Can you bake just one more cake? We don't have enough items for the bake sale.” You've already brought her two.

You say okay. The sale is for a good cause, but you resent her for asking you.

You say no. You tell her that you don't have time to bake a third cake. Instead you offer to chip in on buying one.

Power tools

Say no.
Saying yes when you are too stretched never yields a good result. You will probably end up resenting the person and yourself.

that saying no can be someone else's yes. Think of turning something down as an opportunity for another person to advance.

Be aware
of when you put unrealistic demands on yourself. Treat yourself with kindness and draw the line.

Negotiate what you need.
Being clear on what your priorities are and what trade-offs you're willing to make can help you speak up even when you're wary of saying no.

Stand Out and Attract Sponsors


The competition for sponsors is fierce— standing out and getting one is too difficult.


I can attract and build important power alliances.

We all know that being successful in business requires building strong relationships. But do we take enough time to do it? With constant deadlines to adhere to, we may rationalize that sitting at our desks uninterrupted and using the phone and Internet to contact people is enough.

BOOK: The Confidence Myth
7.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Her Old-Fashioned Boss by Laylah Roberts
Get Even by Gretchen McNeil
Silver and Gold by Devon Rhodes
The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White
Night of the Wolf by Alice Borchardt
The Truth About Stacey by Ann M. Martin
An Obedient Father by Akhil Sharma