EP: 131 From Competition To Collaboration: The Path To Rising Together And Building A More Inclusive Workplace With Sally Helgesen

BWW 131 | Inclusive Workplace

Here’s a confession. I think I bought into a lie early in my career. I thought I needed to contort myself into one of the boys to get ahead. I thought if I kept my head down and worked hard, I would be recognized. I thought if I brought up my accomplishments in front of my boss during my annual review, I was being boisterous or not humble.

Guess what? These learnings, and many more, were lies that were fed to me and so many other women. We were not taught that self-promotion was a good thing because if we don’t market ourselves, who is going to? We were not told to be clear about our intentions with our expectations at work. We were not taught to advocate for ourselves in performance reviews or any other negotiations. We weren’t taught these things, but it’s better late than never to learn these things.

I am honored to have my guest Sally Helgesen, on the show today. Sally is a pioneer and has been named by Forbes as one of the premier experts on women’s leadership. It was a pleasure to speak with Sally and to learn from her extensive experience, research, and the eight books that she has written over the last 30+ years.

During our conversation, Sally and I talked about:

  1. What rising means.
  2. What habits prevent women from rising personally and professionally.
  3. What rising together means for organizations.
  4. What are the patterns inside organizations that trigger us.
  5. How women can build and leverage allies.
  6. How we can repair organizational divides to build more inclusive workplaces.

Listen to the podcast here

From Competition To Collaboration: The Path To Rising Together And Building A More Inclusive Workplace With Sally Helgesen

Everyone, how are you doing out there? Here’s a confession. I bought into quite a few lies throughout my career. I needed to contort myself into one of the boys or be in the boys club to get ahead. I thought if I kept my head down and worked hard, I would eventually be recognized. Spoiler alert, it didn’t happen. I also thought if I brought up my accomplishments in front of my boss during an annual review or one-on-one meeting, I was being boisterous or not humble. These learnings and so many more were lies that were fed to me and so many women out there. We weren’t taught that self-promotion was a good thing because if we don’t market ourselves, who is going to? We were not told to be clear about our intentions and expectations at work.

We were also not taught to advocate for ourselves in performance reviews or any other negotiation situations. We were not taught these things but it’s better late than never, as they say, to learn them now. I am so honored to have my guest, Sally Helgesen, on the show. Sally is a pioneer and has been named by Forbes as one of the premier experts on women’s leadership. It was such a pleasure and an honor to speak with Sally and learn from her extensive experience, her research and the eight books she has written over the last several years. During our conversation, Sally and I chatted about what rising means. Sally has written two books that have the term rising in them so you’re going to hear a lot about what it means for women to rise in this show.

What habits prevent us from rising personally and professionally? What rising together means for organizations as a whole? What are the patterns inside the organization that trigger us? By triggering us, it was interesting to hear how those patterns can trigger our mental, let’s say, insecurities and that can become a self-sabotaging behavior and then eventually a self-fulfilling prophecy. How women can build and leverage our allies and how we can repair organizational divides to build more inclusive workplaces. Here’s a little bit more about Sally. Sally Helgesen cited in Forbes as the world’s premiere expert on women’s leadership, is an internationally bestselling author, speaker and leadership coach.

She has been inducted into the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame, which honors those whose ideas have shaped the field of leadership worldwide. She is also ranked number three among the world’s thought leaders by Global Gurus. What a privilege to have someone like Sally on the show. I’m excited to dive in but before we do that, if you’re enjoying the show, as always, I want to make sure that you leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. If you’ve already left a rating or review, I thank you so much. Your support of the show means the world to me and it gets it out there in the world so thank you. You can always share the show with your family members, friends or colleagues on your social media feeds.

Last but not least, I want to share some awesome news with you. I’m excited about this. After working with several clients, I started noticing some patterns of things they were asking me about. I’m like, “I want to create good content for you. I want to create these freebies and make them available on my website.” I’ve created three new freebies and here’s a teaser of their titles. The first one is Career and Leadership affirmations. There are 24 of them in total. It’s 24 career and leadership affirmations that you can use every day. If you’ve tuned into the show and this is your first one or you’ve gone back into the library from day one, you know that mindset plays a huge piece in reaching your goals.

Use these affirmations whenever you need them up to and including daily to keep that mindset positive. The next one is Get Paid 10 Tips for Negotiating. Not only pay or compensation you deserve but benefits you deserve too. There are so many things you can negotiate for in the workplace. Last but not least, let’s talk about Imposter syndrome. We all know that shows up from time to time when we’re leveling up in a new job or maybe you’re a new manager. It’s Five Steps to Managing Imposter Syndrome so when it strikes, you have some tools in your toolbox to manage that Imposter syndrome, the negative voice and that thought reel inside your head. You can grab one or all of these freebies on my site at BraveWomenAtWork.com. Let’s welcome Sally to the show.

BWW 131 | Inclusive Workplace

Sally, welcome to the show. How are you?

I’m very good, Jen. It’s great to be with you.

Thank you so much. I always say that I love women’s stories. I’ve read a lot about your background and you’ve had an amazing arc in your career. Why don’t you tell us about your background story? You can take us wherever you want to go in your story because it’s yours and share how you’ve gotten to where you are.

I backed into this career in women’s leadership, which has been extraordinarily gratifying. I was working in the 1980s in corporate communications, primarily as a speech writer at a couple of wonderful companies and big ones, well-known companies. Even though they were terrific, it was very apparent to me that they had no clue what women, who were starting to come into them in some numbers at that point, still pretty small, had to contribute in terms of leadership, thinking and strategy. It was all execution, helping this guy do this, that or the other. I often felt frustrated. It wasn’t just me. It was the other women. I would hear some of the best ideas being discussed in the ladies’ lounge.

They had them at that time. I would often think if only there were some way for these guys, these leaders here, to hear these ideas but there was not. I’d always been a writer. I’d been a freelance journalist and it was mostly speech writing. I decided that what I was going to do was to start trying to collect some material with the idea of doing a book about what women had to contribute as leaders. There was nothing like this at that time. All the books that had been done in the ‘80s, even in the late ‘70s for women going into the workplace, were telling you that you need to adapt to what you find.

If it moves, salute it. Get with the program and you are not going to change it, do what you can to try to fit in. I felt that that was quite bad advice. Technology was changing. I felt like, “No, we don’t need to be inhabiting old-fashioned leadership styles. We need to bring something new.” I began interviewing and doing diary studies of women who were successful leaders. There weren’t that many but I was able to find them. That book became The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of Leadership, published in 1990. I’m very proud to say that it has continuously in print ever since. This is so rare.

BWW 131 | Inclusive Workplace
The Female Advantage, Women’s Ways Of Leadership

I did not know that. That is amazing.

The success of it took everybody by surprise. It didn’t start to take off for 6 or 8 months but found its audience. It was interesting about the audience because I had intended this book to be for organizations to let them know what women had to contribute. That was not the audience it found. I don’t think they were ready to hear that message. It found its audience in women. I started getting letters. I’m talking about hard mail letters through the publisher almost every day from women all around the country. We sold into about thirteen languages and afterwards, more around the world from women saying, “I never thought about this.”

I remember the most common thing that I would hear was, “What you’ve helped me understand is that I have a leadership style.” I always thought it was how I did things but I was doing it wrong because the women who were reading it resonated with the women in the stories I was telling. I did not stop there. I got an offer for a dream job at one of the companies I was working for but two months after the book came out, I decided, “There’s something happening here. If I quit my job and try to support this full-time, I can have an impact because women were so ready to hear this message.” That’s what I did.

At that time, I started getting these invitations, not from companies so much but from women’s groups around the country. “Can you come and speak to our women? We’ll pay your way. They weren’t paying anything. We’ll buy 50 books or 100 books.” I said yes because my idea was to do whatever I can to help support this book and get the message out. It wasn’t until about a year later that I thought, “I couldn’t be asking for money for this and this would be my job. I wouldn’t have to go back to speech writing by taking a year off to support this book.” That’s what I began doing. I had some help from some male colleagues who were very good at doing this.

Tom Peters, for example, encouraged me and said, “You can ask for money. Don’t be embarrassed or shy. Be brave.” That’s what I did and it turned into a fantastic thing. I started speaking about it and then that enabled me to have the resources to continue to write more books, exploring different aspects of women’s leadership and inclusive leadership. In 1995, I published The Web of Inclusion, which was the first book to use the language of inclusion in relation to organizations. That became a whole other stream. I kept getting invitations, writing books and articles and developing workshops and new ideas. It kept going. I’ll have to tell you one other thing.

There were so many points in my career, probably going up until about 2014, where people would say to me, “Sally, you’ve got to get out of women’s leadership. Get into leadership. Be a leadership guru. You don’t want to be identified with women’s leadership. You’ll never be able to get enough work and build a successful business.” I heard that but I knew they were wrong because of the impact that this was having on women. I’ve stuck with it in the face of some serious discouragement. I’ll tell you, during the recession was fierce but I see that it was the right path.

We’re going to talk a little bit more about two of your many books. The first one I wanted to talk about, which dovetails off of your story, is How Women Rise: Break The 12 Habits Holding You Back From Your Next Raise, Promotion or Job, which got my attention. I wanted to start by asking what does rising mean to you? I’ve wondered if it can change based on a woman’s situation or circumstances. I’m referring to the fact that women’s ambition doesn’t always have to be linear and up in a different promotion. I’m wondering what rising means to you.

Rising to me has a very specific meaning. It means reaching your full potential however you define your full potential. We get to define it for ourselves. It is not always a linear progression. One of the great gifts that women have brought into the workplace is the idea that you can be successful and reach your full potential without necessarily becoming the top dog in whatever organization you are a part of.

I’ve never heard of it that way, either. That’s helpful for me to roll around in my brain. I want people to get the book and leverage the amazing, massive resources and content you’ve created. As a teaser, let’s talk about a few of the habits that hold us back from rising. What are a few that stick out to you that you’d like to share with the audience?

I do a lot of programs for companies. When I do a one-hour program, I always ask them, “Survey the women in the organization and their twelve habits in the book, How Women Rise. Which ones are most resonant for them?” A couple comes up over and over. One is expecting others to spontaneously notice and value your contributions. That is very popular. Women are often uncomfortable talking about what they’ve contributed and what their achievements are. They’ve seen it done poorly. They’ve seen people bragging, “I did this. I achieved that benchmark earlier than anyone thought I could. I’ve got the client eating out of my hand.” They’ve heard it done in a way that is a turnoff to them.

What they do as a result is rather than figuring out a way that they would be comfortable claiming their achievements, they say things. I’ve heard women have said this to me for many years. “I believe that if I do a great job, people will notice.” You’re outsourcing the work of self-marketing to other people hoping that works. Especially in our virtual environment, that gets harder and harder. We all need to find a way to represent what we have contributed or we won’t get recognized. There’s a real danger here because if we fail to do this, chances are we will be under-recognized.

If we are under-recognized, we start to feel undervalued. If we are consistently undervalued or perceive ourselves in that way, we will disengage even from a job that otherwise would be perfect for us. It’s because it’s difficult to remain engaged in a job where you consistently feel that you are undervalued. You owe it to yourself to find a way to represent what your achievements are, get known for them and enlist other people as allies to help you do this. Also, find some language that you are comfortable with so that you can get known for what you contribute.

What’s interesting about that is I work with my coaching clients or talking to peers or family members, friends and colleagues. I’ve been there where I’m working head down hard, hoping and wishing they promote me. They keep skipping over. I keep driving more and more resentment and it keeps growing. The problem is if you move to a new employer, you blame it on the old employer and the old environment that you weren’t recognized. Also, you have to take responsibility for that self-marketing because it could happen in your next environment and your next one after that.

It probably will happen in your next environment. It can be very disheartening and you end up being someone who’s always at the wrong employer or with the wrong job. That is not a good place to be. The other thing is I often hear women will say this to me. “I’m not good at self-marketing. I’m not comfortable with self-marketing.” That’s because you’re not doing it. Once you start doing it, like anything else, you get better at it. It’s like cooking, how you dig a hole in the garden or anything. You’re never going to be good at something that you don’t do so you want to get practice at doing it.

You're never going to be good at something that you don't do. So, get practice at doing it. Click To Tweet

One of the things that I advise and that I use a lot in my workshop is if you feel you’re not good, feel like you’re going to say the wrong thing or are not comfortable with this, get someone who’s a colleague, a friend or someone you trust and say, “I’m working hard on self-marketing. It’s awkward for me. I’m thinking in this meeting of saying this about the success I had with that project. What do you think? How does it sound? Is there a way I could put this better?” Also, saying, “I’m going to say this in a meeting or this situation. I know you’ll be present. If it’s a good moment for it, could you speak up in my support because that gives me confidence?” Even more important than giving you confidence, if you told someone you would do this, then you have to do it. You proactively hold yourself to account.

That person is staring you down in a meeting going, “We’re ramping up. You better speak up for yourself.” It’s self-marketing. We talked about two examples and I want to see if there are any other. It’s speaking up for yourself. We talked about having someone else speak up on your behalf. Are there any other ways of self-marketing? This might be a newer term for some women reading. Any other examples you would say, “You want to consider this when you’re doing your promotion?”

One way to do it is to exceed expectations. One of the things I’ll never forget is being told by a female law partner. She said, “I did not make a partner in the same year that the guys that I came here with did. I was the one left off of the list so I decided that what this meant was they didn’t value me here or appreciate the work I was doing. It was time for me to look around.” She got an offer from the general counsel’s office from a client who had been impressed by her work. When she went in to tell her practice head, he said, “What can we do to keep you? What if we made you partner?” She said, “That’s why I was looking around for another job because I wasn’t made partner.”

He said, “We didn’t know you wanted to be a partner.” She thought, “Why did he think I was working 80 hours a week? I thought you noticed how hard I was working.” He said, “Not really. We don’t know that. The guys were talking about it from the day they got here. They were saying, ‘I want to make a partner. What do I need to do to make a partner? Will this help me make a partner?’” She said that she realized she had not done that. She thought it would be obvious. She wouldn’t have felt comfortable the day she arrived saying, “I’m here because I want to be a partner.” She was uncomfortable with it so she’d never let her practice head even know she had this interest.

I was interviewing her. She’d had about a twenty-year career as a partner at this firm in New York. She said years later, she got on the partnership committee that chose the partners. The same thing was constantly happening. A name would come up. It would be a guy and they’d say, “He’s got to make a partner here or we’re going to lose him.” A woman’s name would come up and they’d say, “She’s never said she wanted to be a partner. I’m not sure she’s comfortable as an individual contributor.” They’d even say, “Maybe she’s thinking of starting a family.” She started saying, “Ask her.” As she said, you shouldn’t wait to be asked.

We can do this in all kinds of ways that are not obnoxious or going in and saying, “I’m ready for a promotion,” but saying, “One of the things saying to your boss or whomever it is that you report to, one of the areas that I can see here where I might be able to make a contribution is doing something like this.” That’s a good language for women, contribution rather than achievement. “What do you think? Do you think that would be a good fit? What kinds of skills would I need to develop? What kind of relationships would be helpful in building that?” You see what you’re doing here. On one hand, you’re telling them what you want to do but you’re not declaring it.

You are asking for their help as a collaborator but in a very specific way, not a generalized way. “Could you help me?” “No.” It’s like, “What kinds of skills and connections? How might I go about this? I’m not positive that this is the path for me but it’s something I want to think about.” You are letting them know that you are an ambitious person, which a lot of women aren’t that comfortable with but that is how we move forward, enlarge our contribution and have more impact. We’re letting them know that but potentially engaging them as an ally. It’s a way of talking about this that many women are comfortable with as opposed to the declaration. I urge your audience to get comfortable with thinking about that if this is indeed an issue for them.

One other point that I want to make sure we get to your book that came out is how men and women do this differently. You’re talking about almost negotiation. I don’t know, in a way softening it. When men come in, they can be much blunter with the negotiation or blunt with like, “This is what I’m expecting with the next step in my career.” It backfires on women and there have been studies on this.

When women try to be men in those conversations, it doesn’t work. I would like you to give us a script. Something even small and talking and having a collaborative conversation rather than coming in with both guns fully loaded, they’re cocked and ready to fire. I was wondering if you’ve also seen that in your vast experience men and women have to have those conversations a bit differently.

That’s often true. I never like to say always. There are women who are fabulous, love negotiating and can be very tough about it going in. There are men who are very uncomfortable with talking about their achievements. I hear from men all the time, “I’m not comfortable with this.” Especially you hear it from people who have a very specific skill. Maybe they’re an engineer or something like that. They want to be left alone to do their work. It’s fascinating. I don’t think that we’re all one way or another way but I do know that women can be far more penalized for being direct and blunt on this subject than men are. This brings me to another point that I elaborate upon quite a bit in rising together.

The newer book that came out at the start of March 2023, Rising Together: How We Can Bridge Divides and Create a More Inclusive Workplace. In Rising Together, I look at triggers that get in the way of building relationships with people we feel may be different from who we are. One of the triggers is how we manage perceptions. This whole business of how we talk about our ambitions or what we want to achieve for ourselves gets to managing perceptions. When I do women’s leadership workshops, the most common question I get is, “How can I talk about my achievements or what I’d eventually like to do without anyone thinking I’m arrogant, over-ambitious and all about me.” You probably can’t.

BWW 131 | Inclusive Workplace
Rising Together: How We Can Bridge Divides and Create a More Inclusive Workplace

There’s probably someone, no matter how much you try to soften it, who’s going to think that because they’re not comfortable with women being direct. That’s their problem. You cannot manage everyone’s perceptions. It is more important for us to learn to be direct in a way that we are comfortable with. This softening or collaboration in the tone is about what makes women comfortable, not about appeasing other people or managing their perceptions. It’s what makes us comfortable and how we see the world.

Getting comfortable with doing that in a way that works for us is more important than what everybody must think. People also change their minds. We all know this from personal experience. We may feel somebody’s very abrupt or we don’t like their style. We get to know them a little bit. We realize, “I like that person.” Give people a chance to get to know you before you helicopter in and try to manage their perceptions, assure or try to meet the unreachable bar of no one ever thinking that you are to this, that or the other.

Are there any other common triggers that you’d like to mention from the book?

Visibility is a trigger. This goes to what we were talking about before about the whole idea of expecting others to notice. The way it can trigger us is also very interesting. If we have trouble asserting our visibility and we’re struggling with that, one of the things we often do is look at somebody very good with that and think, “What a showboat. I would never want to be like him or her. I’m so glad I’m not.” We then start digging into this narrative whereby we think we’re a better person than that other person. The problem with that is we can’t learn from them at all. We are rejecting that.

We get dug into our narrative. That is certainly one of the triggers. Communication can be a real trigger, especially how people use humor. That can trigger us very easily. In managing perceptions, which I talked about the big trigger is fairness. We don’t get a promotion. We don’t get the job we were expecting or hoping for. We’re triggered by that and we revert to a narrative that it’s not fair. “They promoted him because he’s a man. They promoted her because she connects with this group of people that I don’t connect with,” or whatever it is.

We get into this belief that it is not fair. In doing that, we don’t look at other reasons that may have happened. We don’t bother necessarily to find out that that person was chosen because he or she had developed whatever skill or outside network that would be helpful in this job. We don’t understand or recognize the real reasons for it but also, it can inhibit our ability to build any relationship with that person. We may need a relationship with that person. We may even want a relationship with that person.

It’s interesting because what you’re doing is helping me connect the dots. Let’s say I perceive and I have the story that there’s that trigger of unfairness. In my mind, I have this story and it goes, “I don’t have this relationship and this is unfair. This place is toxic. I’m never going to get a promotion and then I need to look for another job.” It takes you down the rabbit hole. It’s interesting how these triggers can play out for people. This is in your book and you probably go into much more depth but how do we repair the divides in an organization? I’m sure that they’re everywhere because some of this comes into people’s heads and how they interpret things.

Let’s distinguish a trigger. A thing that triggers us is environmental. It’s outside of ourselves. We can’t control it. There are no trigger-free zones in modern workplaces. An emphasis sometimes at universities trying to create trigger-free zones does a huge disservice to students because our environment is filled with triggers. We need to understand the fact that we have an emotional response to triggers is not a problem. It’s a human reaction. We feel triggered. We have an emotional response. We feel bad. The issue is how we respond to the feeling we have. The unconstructive way which we’ve touched on here is the narrative or the script that we have is not fair.

We need to understand the fact that we have an emotional response to triggers. That's not a problem. It's a human reaction. Click To Tweet

These people here can’t acknowledge someone who’s not this or who’s that. It may be true but the script remains a problem. There are lots of ways and I talk about a lot of ways to deal with it in the book but a primary one has to do with rewriting the script of what we’re telling ourselves to give the person who’s triggered us the benefit of our goodwill. Here’s an example of how that works. You’re in a meeting. You bring up an idea and no one seems to notice it. A couple of minutes later, a man or somebody who’s more connected in the organization than you are brings up the same idea and everybody is like, “What a great idea. That’s terrific. I agree. We should.” This happens to women all the time. I still hear it a lot.

What is helpful? If we are sitting there and thinking, “That’s not fair. I’ll never make an impact here. These people are jerks. He’s a jerk. He’s trying to poach my idea. Nobody listens to what I say,” all these negative scripts might be true but they keep us stuck and give us no path forward whereas if we rewrite that script, “He was echoing what I said to try to amplify it. He thought this was a good idea so he spoke up about it.” Whatever story we tell ourselves, that gives us a way to take positive action. We can say in the meeting, “Thank you. That’s great to know that you agree with what I said.” If we feel too blindsided to be able to say that, we can catch the person on the way out of the room.

“I’m glad you agreed with that idea. I broached about whatever.” They’ve probably forgotten whether you even said it conveniently or not. “I’m glad you agree with that. Would you like to touch base to see how we might be able to move that forward?” If you are not comfortable doing that or you lose the opportunity to do it going out of the door, you can email that person. This doesn’t assure that it will work out but it does give you a path forward. You don’t want to stay stuck in the narrative that you’re part of.

You don’t want to indulge in the very toxic behavior because you feel bad, unseen or unrecognized, grabbing a colleague that you think may be sympathetic to you and saying, “Can you believe what happened there? That was terrible. I said that but nobody noticed. When he said it, everybody played it up as a big deal.” That is building your network. That’s something we haven’t talked about but that’s another trigger here, how we build our networks. That’s building your network or attempting to do so in a negative way. What I’m advocating here is it’s not fake or inauthentic. It’s not deciding that whatever story you tell yourself has to be true. It might be unfair. That person might have been trying to poach your idea.

It may be true that the people in the room were more primed to listen to the person who echoed you because he’s a man or he or she is in a more senior position. Although women don’t usually do this to one another but sometimes it happens. That may be true. A script like this does give and empowers you because it gives you a path forward. The way we deal with triggers is to be aware of them. “I’m triggered by that. That’s upsetting me,” to accept your emotion, “I have the right to feel this way,” but then to give yourself some path to action. You don’t want to be stuck feeling bad.

The way we deal with triggers is by being aware of them. Acknowledge that you have the right to feel this way, but then give yourself some path to action. Click To Tweet

This is so powerful. What I love is that you’re tying it all together with what we talked about with the first book with this book. We talked about self-marketing. We gave everyone examples of self-marketing with not letting that idea go with many women, myself included. We’ll have the idea. We should throw it out into the ether. No one heard you or they steal it as a meeting and then you’re frustrated and resentful. That sits in you whereas you are saying, “You’re taking ownership of your idea. You’re also self-promoting. You’re also making a collaborative and inclusive space by saying, ‘Let’s meet to talk about how we can move forward,’” rather than sitting in your office or cubicles stewing about it.

That’s exactly right. There is no path forward in that. It keeps us stuck and feeling bad about how women rise. One of the habits the internal barriers that often keep women stuck is rumination. That’s going over and over something that happened like, “Why did I say that? Why didn’t I say that? Why doesn’t anybody ever listen to me?” Whatever it is, it’s going over and over. Studies show women’s rumination is way off the charts compared to men’s. A lot of guys are like, “I screwed up. Fine. Sorry.” I collaborated on How Women Rise with Marshall Goldsmith.

I had this moment when I had this insight about rumination that was quite powerful and very personal. He and I were at his apartment in New York, where we met once a month to work on How Women Rise. I’d go over what I was thinking and he’d say, “Here’s an idea.” We both had our phones off but he got a special signal on his phone. I don’t remember what it was. He picked it up and it was his assistant. She was saying, “Marshall, you had a phone call at 2:00 with Dr. Kim. You missed it.” He said, “I didn’t know. I’ll call him back.” He hung up and looked up at me. It astonished me because I knew who Dr. Kim was. He was the CEO of The World Bank.

I live about 100 miles North of the city. As I was on the train coming back from New York, I thought, “If I missed a call that I had with the CEO of The World Bank, there is no way I would ever say, ‘I would be beating myself up to my grave.’” I’m the person who blew off a call with the CEO of The World Bank. We don’t want to blow things off but it was remarkable to me that he was able to do this. I saw how much time I wasted in ruminating. I made a banner and put it on my office wall. It was there for about a year. It said, “Oh well.” It was there to remind me that I’m human and that I will make mistakes. Also, to let it go and not feel bad about it.

I believe so strongly that if women could learn and discipline themselves to not ruminate or not waste time feeling bad about what happened to them and could not waste time, both of these things are also huge energy saps, trying to manage other people’s perceptions, we would have much more energy for addressing what does lie within our control because it doesn’t lie within our control to never make a mistake, nor does what every random person happens to think about us lie within our control. We’d have more energy to address what mattered to us. It would be more satisfying and rewarding. I would also say a sustainable way to be in the world.

I ask every one of my guests this. What are 1 to 2 ways that you believe women can be braver at work?

Speaking up saying what they want to do, being clear about what their career ambitions are even if they are not sure that that is the path for them. We’re often held back like, “I’m not quite sure I want to do that.” Fine. You can still talk about it and get ideas. Doing so is a brave thing to do. The second thing is when someone echoes us, be sure to let them know that you know what happened. It doesn’t mean you’re telling them, “You tried to steal my idea,” or something but because you don’t know that. Maybe that wasn’t their intention at all but let them know.

Hold people to account in very subtle ways that may seem not worth your time, disrespect or disregard you because those moments add up. Even when they’re small, they add up, incentivize bullies and make people feel as if they don’t necessarily need to think about what would work for them. It’s like the woman at the law firm. She didn’t say anything. “We didn’t know you wanted to be a partner.” We need to speak up, represent our achievements and do that for other women as well.

We didn’t get a chance to talk about that but I know in the book, as another teaser, you talk in both books about enlisting allies. When you get the book, check into that. We talk about how women need to support other women. I’m sure that you cover that in the book.

Certainly, multiple chapters in both How Women Rise and Rising Together.

I’m going to read the titles one more time, How Women Rise: Break The 12 Habits Holding You Back From Your Next Raise, Promotion or Job and then Rising Together: How We Can Bridge Divides and Create a More Inclusive Workplace. As you have alluded to, there are many more in the library of the wonderful books that you have written over the years on women’s leadership. It’s been such a pleasure having you on. Where can women find you and your work online?

My website is SallyHelgesen.com and there’s a contact button there. People use it all the time. It goes directly to my email. I’m on LinkedIn and Twitter so you can find out what I’m thinking about there. I cannot forget that I also have a newsletter on Substack called All Rise that comes out every Wednesday. Please, there’s a button on my website that’ll take you to it or you can Google Sally Helgesen All Rise.

I didn’t see that so I will be joining that because I have lots to learn from you. Sally, it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to have you on. Thank you so much.

Thank you, Jen. I’ve enjoyed every moment.


That does it for my chat with Sally. I hope you found our conversation both valuable and inspiring. Here are a few things to think about until next time. What does rising personally mean to you? What are ways that you can hold yourself back from rising? Write those down. I’m here to remind you that we are all capable of change. You can rise. I believe one of the keys to this process is your mindset. For that, I thank you for taking the time to read and be here. This is a great first step. As a reminder, please rate, review and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on Google Podcast and Stitcher. Until next time. Show up, rise and be brave.

Important Links

About Sally Helgesen

BWW 131 | Inclusive WorkplaceSally Helgesen, cited in Forbes as the world’s premier expert on women’s leadership, is an internationally best-selling author, speaker and leadership coach. She has been inducted into the Thinkers 50 Hall of Fame, which honors those whose ideas have shaped the field of leadership worldwide. She is also ranked number 3 among the world’s thought leaders by Global Gurus.
Sally’s latest book, Rising Together: How We Can Bridge Divides and Create a More Inclusive Workplace, offers practical ways to build more inclusive relationships, teams, and workplaces. It soared to Amazon’s number one top-seller in its field in the first week of publication.
Rising Together builds on Sally’s remarkable success with How Women Rise, co-authored with legendary executive coach Marshall Goldsmith, which examines the behaviors most likely to get in the way of successful women as they move forward in their careers. Rights have been sold in 23 languages.
Other books include The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of Leadership, hailed as the classic in its field and continuously in print since 1990, and The Web of Inclusion: A New Architecture for Building Great Organizations, cited in The Wall Street Journal as one of the best books on leadership of all time and credited with bringing the language of inclusion into business. For over 30 years, Sally has delivered workshops and keynotes for companies, partnership firms and associations, working in 37 countries around the world. She can be reached at sally@sallyhelgesen.com.

Book Your Discovery Call

How much would you give to sit across a coach who was trained to help women just like you get clear, overcome their obstacles and take action to achieve their career goals? Well, for anyone serious about their career, the price would be quite high and worth every penny. But for a short time, for a small number of people, I’m offering that opportunity…without charge.

That’s right, with my Discovery Call you have the chance to work with me one on one, absolutely free. Typically a session like this is $250, but I’m waiving the fee for anyone who applies today.

Because I hold these calls personally, there are very few spots available, so if you’re serious about about finding your dream career and would like the guidance and support of a trained expert, use the calendar provided to apply for your session now.

Get ready for your next negotiation with our Free Guide

Get Paid: 10 Negotiation Tips from Brave Women at Work

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.