|Yep, someone actually said that to me. (In jest, of course.) This individual actually had good women problems! He was an HR Leader who had a strong pool of women managers he was seeking to prepare for the next level of responsibility. The challenge, though, wasn’t the capabilities of these women – it was helping them believe they could take on additional responsibilities. (No worries! Courtney and I were up to task. It required a crash course in confidence for these women and everything turned out great.)
I answered a similar call for help recently from a friend and colleague, a senior leader in an organization. He, too, had some challenges related to his female employees. His problems were different, though. He wanted to discuss how to talk with women in this post #metoo world.
I empathized with him, and was so glad he trusted and confided in me. I get it. I’m challenged, too, on how to engage in this post #metoo world:
- Should I be offended if someone comments on my appearance? Unless it’s said in a creepy tone, I usually take the compliment.
- Should I still hug at work? Does that put my male (and even female) colleagues in an awkward position?
- My language can be a little loose sometimes (thank you, Marine Corps). Am I going to offend anyone by anything I say?
- I call women “girls” … a lot. It’s not intended to belittle or slight women. It’s just kind of what I do … and sometimes I forget that I’m doing it.
- I know that some men are really concerned about being alone with women. Despite how I feel about the situation, my feelings will not change how they feel. What role do I have in forcing the issue?
Our workplaces right now seem to be a little tense around how women and men should engage. Here’s some guidance that I offered my friend:
- Hold a meeting with all employees and address the issue. Seek to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable educating each other on what’s appropriate/not appropriate for them.
- Explain yourself to others. I’ve started to say, “Hey, I’m a hugger” before I go in for a hug. I’ll then add, “If you’re not, let me know and I’ll respect that.” I encourage others to educate themselves and their tendencies to others, too. The more we share, the more trust we generate, and the more we assume good intentions vs bad ones when we make those unintentional slips.
- When in doubt, ask or share. I recently had a dear friend go through gender reassignment surgery. When I followed up with they, I asked about their preferred pronoun. I then confided that I knew very little about what they went through and if I asked a lot of stupid questions, or even questions that are inappropriate, it was my ignorance … and my hope is that they’d enlighten me. (They did … they started by saying that to them it wasn’t gender reassignment – it was gender correction. What ensued was a very positive conversation that helped educate me on their life story.)
Here’s what I believe: I believe we all want to be our best and work to bring out the best in others. I think the world we’re living in is confusing, but if we all approach it with honesty and integrity, we’re winning in this journey.
I’d love to hear from you on what you’re doing in in the post #metoo world to better engage others and promote trust and respect. Let’s take this conversation to LinkedIn, which is where this post will be after you this Leadership Moment.