Women in Technology and Leadership

Jennifer-Granholm-Ted-talk

“Alpha Partner” Example: Jennifer Granholm

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From TED.COM:  Jennifer M. Granholm, former two-term governor of Michigan  makes the case for empowering states to create jobs through a Clean Energy Jobs Race to the Top … and demonstrates Alpha Partner skills in the process!

She’s relaxed, confident, and has a commanding presence.

Watch Jennifer Granholm’s TED talk to see these Alpha Partner behaviors in action:

  • High energy
  • Downward inflection
  • Short sentences with pauses.
  • Conversational tone of voice
  • Eye contact throughout the room
  • Large, firm gestures
  • Open body, neutral stance
  • Personable, shares anecdotes & personal stories
  • Uses humor
  • Downplays mistakes

Note that she becomes more of herself, not less, as she steps into her full power.

What It’s Like To Be Coached By Pat Kirkland (Participant Guest Blogger)

Posted by | Coaching, Leadership, Strong Smart Women, Women in Technology and Leadership | No Comments

 

I signed up for a Leadership Presence Foundation class because it was offered and because I’ve had a nagging feeling for some time that I could become a more effective leader and communicator. What wasn’t working for me was not clear. But I knew that, while I seemingly was coming across as likable enough, I often felt I wasn’t inspiring confidence in others, especially people with whom I’ve never worked. If I were to put a name to it, I’d call it the Rodney Dangerfield syndrome — there are times when I felt “I get no respect.”

The day of the coaching class arrived and I went in feeling pretty good about myself. Dressed in my best colors, I knew the topic I wanted to work on for presentations and, truth be told, figured I’d be at the head of the class fairly quickly as I’ve always prided myself on being able to speak in front of a group, especially with a little preparation.

Boy, was I surprised.

Our first task was designed to give Pat and Susan, her coaching partner, a “baseline” for each of us — an idea of where we were starting in terms of our leadership presence. We were each to stand up at the front of the room, say our name and what it is that brought us to the class.

Piece of cake, I thought. I went first.

“Hello, my name is …” I heard myself saying. And heard myself telling the group why I was there. I used group eye contact and some gestures I’d picked up from some training I’d taken long ago. While I knew it wasn’t riveting, I thought I came across reasonably well.

Pat asked the group for 3 things that were working for me.

The “what was working” stuff was pretty tepid.  Clearly I had not made a fabulous impression. I don’t remember anything anyone said that was working because about that time my brain started to go into a self-conscious-induced paralysis.  Pat and Susan gently started suggesting things that could be improved. Others in the group nodded in agreement.

Turns out I had an “upspeak” problem — a habit of ending a phrase or sentence with an upward inflection. Upspeak makes people sound less credible, Pat explained. As if they aren’t entirely sure what they’re talking about. As if the thought expressed is up for question. I’d heard other people do it. Had no idea I did it too.

I try again. Couldn’t even get my name out without going up at the end. I am 100% certain of my name. You’d think I could say it without a questioning sound. But it was a struggle. This was going to be harder than I thought.

Vocal volume was another issue. Susan, standing toward the back of the group, said my voice is audible, but more volume will give it more authority, make me sound more confident and therefore come across as more credible.

I try increasing my volume. When I do this, I unconsciously rise up on my toes and sound panicked. This also turns out to be more difficult to correct than one might expect.

Pat stands next to me and gives me what actors call a “line reading.” She says each phrase and I mimic her. She takes my hands and shows me how to feel a “weight” at the end of a phrase rather than a lift in the voice. The former gives you a credible sound, the latter makes you come across literally as a lightweight.

Finally I’m able to deliver a short paragraph with far fewer upturns in my tone. We decide to leave vocal volume for later. One habit at a time. Pat and Susan assure me that it takes just a bit of practice to re-route the neural pathways of our communication habits. And they promise to show us how to practice later.

Next up is another classmate who has a decent delivery. But it’s not dazzling. Within 20 minutes, they have worked with his eye contact, his gestures, and his facial expressions and suddenly he is approaching dazzling. I find I feel differently about him than I did at first.  Initially, he came across as an OK guy.  Now, I’m ready to run his political campaign, should he ever run for office. I’m buying what he’s selling.

As each of the handful of other class participants takes their turn, I witness the same minor miracle of a transformation — tiny little changes in external behavior make huge differences in the impression each creates. I’m learning vicariously, picking up tips and cues as the others are coached.

Did I mention we were videotaped? Yes, Pat and Susan come armed with tiny little video cameras that they use to tape each of us.  At the end of the first segment, we copy our footage to our laptops, with instructions to watch the footage over the lunch break.

Watching the footage is an eye-opener. You really don’t get how you come across until you see yourself in footage. My first few takes I most closely resemble a deer in the headlights. Or more accurately, I look like my cat when you try to put him into a carrier head first, like I really don’t want to be there.  Let’s just say I’m not owning the room.

I notice all the things about my appearance that I don’t like — my hair, my chin, how I’m standing, how I really do need to lose a few pounds. If you’re a woman, you likely know how quickly and thoroughly you can critique your own appearance. But a funny thing happens when I look at the last take — the one where I’d improved my delivery. Suddenly those imperfections disappear and become unimportant. Because what’s important is that the person speaking — in this case, me — sounds confident and assured in what she’s saying. She’s engaged, she’s knowledgeable, she’s speaking out without apology. She’s self-assured, believable, and authentic.

After lunch I learn that the others had a similar experience watching their own footage. Horrified at first, we all came to see that those seemingly insignificant behavioral changes made a world of difference in the impression we made and how we felt about the person speaking.

I won’t go into the rest of the day, except to say that Pat and Susan have a slew of ways to help you get where you need to be to come across as your best, most authentic, most competent, likable self.

At the end of the day, they advise us to practice, practice, practice. Practice in low-risk situations — when you’re ordering coffee, for example. Practice cements the behaviors in your neural pathways so it becomes automatic.

I’m not going to tell you my name, because I believe you’ll have an unbiased expectation of the class if I remain anonymous. But if you see someone in Starbucks speaking in a strong voice with a definite downward inflection when she asks for a latte, that’s me.

Sara Bareilles’ “Brave” as a Theme Song

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If we have a theme song right now, it’s BRAVE by Sara Bareilles and Jack Antonoff (lead guitarist of the band fun.)

As Bareilles said in an interview, ““I think there’s so much honor and integrity and beauty in being able to be who you are.  It’s important to be brave because by doing that you also give others permission to do the same.”

We couldn’t agree more, especially with the part about giving others “permission.”  One of the reasons we work in small groups is that sometimes a breakthrough moment comes not in your own coaching but by watching someone else be coached.  It’s the “If she can do it, I can do it” factor (more about that HERE).

We recommend you BUY the song, and play it before anything you do that requires you to be Brave!

“Brave”

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if youSay what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be braveWith what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be braveI just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be braveI just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be braveEverybody’s been there,
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, just stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave isSay what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be braveWith what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good,
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
See you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you

The Gender Trap

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The Gender Trap, an article published in the European Business Review in 2013, ably outlines the double bind women in leadership positions face.  It’s recommended reading for anyone struggling with the dilemma of how strong, smart women in the workplace can emerge as effective leaders.  The article points out the heart of the problem bluntly:

“A woman who adopts a command-and-control style or behaves in an overly assertive way is vulnerable to being labeled a “bitch”. As Penelope Trunk, a columnist for Business 2.0 magazine notes acerbically: “There is no male counterpart to this term, because men who exhibit such traits are promoted.””

Key for women leaders is to balance competence and likability, in a way that works within cultural norms.  As the authors note, the self-aware, self-monitoring female leader can make great strides in increasing her influence on both counts by avoiding extremes of both ends of the behavioral spectrum, illustrated in the magazine’s first table:

GenderTrap-AvoidExtremesGraphic

Self-awareness and self-monitoring, often aided by personal and small group coaching, pay off in another way.  They help female leaders overcome another challenge that seems to come with the territory:  self-doubt.  As the authors note:  “Ambitious women certainly face barriers that their male colleagues do not, but some of those barriers are in their heads.”
 

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

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It was my distinct pleasure to speak at the recent Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Minneapolis, MN, Oct 2 – 5, 2013.  What a jolt of positive energy!  The conference was attended by a diverse group of more than 4,000 women who defy the notion that to be a computer professional means being “a geeky guy with no life” and sub-par communication skills.

The conference, presented by the Anita Borg Institute and the Association for Computer Machinery sold out this year!  Connect with the Facebook Page for the event to get info as soon as possible about the next event.  Or follow the Anita Borg Institute on Twitter — @AnitasQuilt.

Better yet, explore joining a LeanIn.org circle, run on Mightybell – a technology platform that makes it easy for you to join existing ABI Circles or start your own. As a bonus, Mightybell is run by Gina Bianchini, the co-founder of LeanIn.Org and a successful (female) tech entrepreneur!


CBS-Coverage-of-Grace-Hopper-2013

 

It’s worth watching CBS’s coverage of the event – click HERE.