Sally Helgesen Transcript

Growing as a leader involves overcoming challenges.

Sally Helgesen, international speaker, best-selling author, and expert on women’s leadership, says women deal with unique leadership situations. Understanding these challenges is crucial for both men and women in the workforce. And although Helgesen acknowledges that men may also face these challenges, her research shows that they apply to many women.

Here are three common challenges women face in work and leadership and the habits that can overcome them:

Expecting others to spontaneously notice and value your contributions.

Employees often hope people will notice their accomplishments instead of realizing they must speak up and share them. But in today’s busy workplaces—especially with hybrid and remote schedules—the work doesn’t always speak for itself. As Helgesen says, people notice what is brought to their attention. Employees are responsible for bringing attention to their work, but many women fear being perceived as arrogant or undermining their team if they talk about their contribution.

Sharing your wins is a responsibility, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Helgesen says that all employees, especially women, need to find a way to speak comfortably about their achievements and not think of themselves as being attention-seeking or not team players. People who don’t bring attention to their accomplishments start to feel undervalued, often leading to them disengaging from the work.

Building rather than leveraging relationships.

Women tend to be very good at building strong relationships but are often reluctant to ask other people for support and help. Helgesen says they often fear being seen as a user or someone who takes advantage of other people instead of using their connections and strong relationships to make introductions and gain valuable business contacts and insights.

Helgesen recommends putting yourself out there as someone who is a resource willing to engage and support others. You have to identify yourself not just as a hard worker but as a player.

Falling into the perfection trap.

Perfectionism is a challenge employees constantly face. It’s the idea that you are either perfect or failing with no middle ground. Women often feel the need to invest all their efforts in being precise and correct in everything they do.

Women tend to be rewarded and promoted based on the perception that their work is precise and perfect. In contrast, men are rewarded and promoted based on their visibility, connections, and the perception that they’re big-picture thinkers. Precision and perfection are helpful to women earlier in their careers, but as Helgesen says, what got you here won’t get you there because organizations aren’t looking for perfectionism in their leaders.

Helgesen says women need to develop skills like delegation, big-picture thinking, and making connections to overcome the perfectionism trap.

These challenges impact many workers, but they are more common in women. Organizations need women in leadership roles. By developing habits to overcome these challenges, women can improve their career opportunities and step into leadership positions where they can make a positive impact.

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