Courage, Confidence and Business Savvy

Season #1

Good morning again from the boardwalk in beautiful El Rompido in Spain.

This morning I'm musing about courage, confidence, and business savvy.

You've Earned Your Place

Imagine that you're walking into a business meeting. It's the first time you have encountered the members of the team you'll be working with. And while you carry in with you an exceptional track record of performance and great skills at engaging others, it's natural to have a little trepidation about how you will be received in this team, especially if, as It can often be the case you are the only woman on the team.

You carry with you the:

  • Knowledge that you bring
  • Level of confidence that comes from knowing you were chosen because of your track record and expertise
  • Skills you've used in other situations similar to this
  • Knowledge that those skills have helped get you chosen for this team

Those are all things you have going for you as you enter this new experience.

You've Been Handed Baggage

But being a woman in organizations, chances are you are also carrying some baggage. This has nothing to do with you, by the way. I want to state that right up front. You are carrying with you prior experiences of:

  • Being interrupted
  • Being talked over
  • Having a man who knows less than you explain (or mansplain) the topic that you are weighing in on.
  • Paternalistically been on the receiving end of comments that can be as blatant as, "Now dear, You don't know what you're talking about."

All of these experiences - which people call microaggressions (and that really angers me because they are aggressions, period) - are in some cases consciously intended to shut us up and make us small and in other cases unconsciously used to the same effect.

And I do want to point out that while these behaviors most frequently come from men, they can also come from women who have internalized the misogyny that underlies most organizations. I say that with grace; understanding that women, especially those who have been pioneers in moving to the top of organizations and who are paving the way for the rest of us, have broken through barriers because they have had to not be perceived as threatening. Sometimes they are not even aware when they are perpetuating these toxic and aggressive behaviors.

This morning I want to say to you again,

This is not on you.

These are behaviors of others that, as hard as it is to do, are best handled by shaking them off each time you enter a new situation, if you haven't previously been able to constructively confront them in order to minimize them. That's a whole separate podcast.

Put Down the Bags!

What I want to be encouraging you to do, and I use that word with intention, is to summon up your courage to continue to present yourself as the capable, knowledgeable person you know yourself to be.

And that takes courage.

And that takes grit.

And that takes perseverance.

And I know it's not easy. I have been in your shoes. But I know that when I have summoned up the courage to continue to present myself as the capable, knowledgeable, and big contributor that I can be, the rewards have paid off.

And when I have given in and kept myself small and quiet, it's at the expense of two things:

  1. The forward momentum of the project at hand, and
  2. My own feelings of self worth.

What's a Woman To Do?

So what's a woman to do?

  1. Before any meeting where in the past you have experienced behaviors directed toward you that have the intention of quieting, diminishing, or deflecting your contributions, buoy yourself up with the knowledge that you are in your place for a reason. So that's tip number one.
  2. Tip number two is to make sure that your contributions are grounded in your business savvy. And that you can present them in the language of business.
  3. Number three. If there are other women in the group, engage them in, in activities whereby you support each other by reinforcing each other's points and making space for each other to speak up.
  4. And four is the subject for another podcast, which would be how to constructively engage the facilitator of the meeting and or members who are frequent aggressors in order to reduce that behavior.


So let's recap.

  • Especially when entering a new group, it's important to recognize that you have been chosen for your expertise and experience. These qualifications won't prevent you from being on the receiving end of behaviors that give the message: diminish yourself, be smaller, and be quiet.
  • There are four ways to respond to these behaviors. So forth, draw on your past successes to create the courage and confidence to contribute at your highest level so that you remain whole, strong, and balanced.

Catch you next time.

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Podcast produced and original theme music by Megan Tuck