How Women Rise – Leveraging Relationships (Habit #4)

Professional women naturally have strong networks now it is time to pull in the favors

One of the greatest strengths of women in all settings and communities is their ability to build rapport with people. Rapport is the foundation of trust within a relationship, this naturally leads to the conclusion that it is highly probable that many women have many professional relationships in place that have a high level of trust at their core.

This results in building a strong connection with a wide variety of people, positioning them with very strong communities of support, which they have been very supportive of throughout the relationship.

This was certainly the case for Amanda, a product coordinator for a manufacturer of medical devices, the company whom she had recently joined. Previously she had worked at one of the top hospitals as an administrator, which was common knowledge to her new colleagues at the medical devices firm. The company’s top salesman approached her to ask her for an introduction to some of her former colleagues so he could connect with them about some of their products.

This made Amanda feel uncomfortable as she viewed her ex colleagues as friends and didn’t want them to feel hustled.

Not leveraging her relationships, Amanda was making assumptions on her ex colleagues’ behalf and that they would not be interested in the introduction based on her own concern that she would be unjustly pressuring people. Amanda overlooked that helping the salesman to connect with prospective buyers she could inadvertently benefit from helping her new company gain new clients as well as helping her former colleagues upgrade their equipment.

This over protectiveness comes from a place of empathy. Women in the workplace have a reputation for being very empathetic which translates into behaviors that you may recognize within yourself:

  • Pro-actively reaching out to show support for people, particularly in challenging times.
  • Providing a listening ear when needed
  • Being very cognizant of what is happening with people around them

Empathy is a very tangible and admirable skill to have, whether it is an attribute that is actively acknowledged within themselves or unconsciously overlooked it is often present for many women. It can also hold women back from career progress when there is favors to be asked in service of themselves.

Let’s explore what some potential actions to help overcome this could look like:

Create a bi-focal view

Reposition how you view your network. Start seeing these people in your community as a resource from which you can also receive from and not only give to. Appreciate for a moment the value that you have given to the relationship and the role you have played to create connection and trust and nurture the relationship over time.

Identify the help you need and match the resource

Analyze what support you require and do some matchmaking between what you need and who can help. Spending time to consider who is right there at your fingertips that are not being leveraged for the benefit of your own career goals and how this person can be a resource for them.

Be the S-word to harness your network power

Leverage the quality of your network through becoming adept at asking for the specific help from them that will support the needs and goals you have identified,

The call is to put it something out there that may not sit comfortable for lots of us, the S word that is often shied away from and considered a bit of a NO-NO. Dare I say it? You need to be more selfish. Becoming more selfish will result in becoming more selfless because you will be working smarter by tapping into the full remit of your resource rather than trying to do it all alone which may be causing feelings of stress, frustration and resentment to build. These are not desirable states to stay in for prolonged periods, it is much better to be in a resourceful state.

Analyze your current network and examine what you have provided for your current network versus what they have provided for you. Many will find that they have been of service to your community and yet they may not have been of service to you. They cannot be blamed for this, it is the fault of the women for not asking, because ladies, people cannot read our mind. We need to ask for the help we need.

This can be a stretch for women to ask for the help they need, it could even be quite stressful for some women because it goes so against the natural grain. We need to build up new habits in order to make this the norm. We don’t suggest for one moment that we give up the giving and nurturing side of our relationship building skills, because the giving is already present and is working well, what the suggestion is here is that we balance that with more asking and more receiving.

Spill the beans on your dreams

If asking for help seems like too much of a stretch, take a smaller step first. This can happen through talking openly about your aspirations in the presence of the right people. Talking about what your dreams are, what you hope to achieve.

For example, when in the presence of the most senior leaders some women may have a tendency to talk less, for their dutiful side comes out more in respect of the leadership hierarchy and they would not dare to talk about their dreams to somebody of that caliber in the belief they are they are too busy doing their own thing and it would not be of interest to them. Right? Resonating?

Well no, this is not right, instead be daring and bold enough to talk briefly about something you are passionate about and hoping to achieve. In this way you are not asking outright you are embarking on an education campaign to let important people know what is important to you so that they see you in a different light. By being more vocal, this helps bring visibility and exposure to those around you to let them think for themselves and have their own ideas on how they may be able to help you.

Accept that some will, and some won’t and that’s ok

People are naturally curious and genuinely willing to support other human beings by nature and will readily come up with their own ways in which they can do that, but we need to provide them with some fodder, some food for thought. Especially when you have been talking from the heart about what you are passionate about. By keeping our aspirations to ourselves we are not leveraging our most valuable resources-people.

And if we are brave enough, taking this bold step to talk about our aspirations we may build enough confidence and know how to take the additional step to ask for the help we need, without any fear, obligation or guilt getting in our way.

Also accept that sometimes this won’t work. Although most people will be naturally curious and naturally helpful not everybody will be and that is ok too. We can’t win them all, but if we can activate 70-80% of our network then how much resource have we put into play for ourselves that was not activated before.

Stay out of the FOG

A helpful acronym that can guide your decision making on who, what and how to ask for the help is FOG…

F-ear- Ask yourself is there any fear holding me back from asking the support I need?

O-Obligation-Ask yourself are there any obligations to others that are getting in the way of asking for the support I need?

G-Guilt-Do I feel guilty about asking for the support that I need.

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, know that FOG gets in way unnecessarily let go of the fear, the obligations and the guilt! Move through the FOG and take the action you need to take and deserve to serve your future success.

For a worksheet to help you identify your FOG moments and move away from them visit the ameliorate group website here.

Next time you are asked for support give it and know that you have given so you are well positioned to ask somebody else for something in return.

Article written by Simone Lawrence-Managing Partner, Executive Coach and People Developer at The Ameliorate Group. Content inspired by the book called “How Women Rise” by Sally Helgesen-12 habits that hold women back from being successful in their careers-as well as my own experience as executive coach when coaching senior leaders in the workplace.

The Ameliorate Group, Learning Partner with Women@Work, is a leadership and corporate coaching consultancy offering a range of bite-sized learning solutions to long-term development programs incorporating executive coaching to achieve organizational goals. The Ameliorate Group aims to superpower your teams and individual capability beyond what you thought was possible.

The first ‘How Woman Rise” program is available across the Middle East through The Ameliorate Group powered by Sally Helgesen. Creating more inclusive workplaces of the future through raising awareness of the habits that hold women back from being more successful in their careers. Encouraging both genders to engage in dialogue and co-creation of solutions and strategies to help women rise at work and in business.