sorry not sorry

a lil' swag goes a long way ... just ask Kanye

Yesterday I started a 5 day series that I am calling "5 in 5"  each day this week I will cover a different hurdle and tips for clearing them as we start climbing those ladders so that we can shatter those glass ceilings. It's a lot of work, so let's get started. First, a reminder of the topics the topics...

  • Sorry not sorry (Posted Monday August 3, 2015)
    • I"m here for a reason, get over it
  • A lil' swag goes a long way
    • Just ask Kanye
  • Eww, verbal diarrhea is so not cool
    • Seriously, dude, it's not a good look
  • I got shot gun, I called it
    • (and other ridiculous game you should learn to play)
  • Let em' hear you roar
    • (it's okay, we promise)

Today, we talk SWAG. Not the free stuff brands give out to convince you to like their product. I am talking about real swagger here. 

graceful confidence

First, a definition. Swagger is a hip-hop term that you are probably farmiliar with but I am putting a bit of a spin on my definition. You will notice I defined it as "graceful confidence". I did this because when we are talking workplace, hustle and purpose, there has to be a certain grace to your actions. You have to balance between being cocky, self assured, confident and a total jerk. If I had a visual for this it would be Sammy Davis Jr. and Gregory Hines. If you do not know who they are, shame on you.  They were both dancers, singers and actors who moved with a quiet, distinguished and definitely graceful confidence. There was something about it that was just.....well...

cool with out even knowing it. Don't believe me? Watch for yourself.

Ok, so what do tap dancers have to do with swag and what does swag have to do with the workplace?

It's simple, every single thing in the workplace comes down to one thing... confidence. With out it, you aren't going very far. But if you are a woman the rules are a bit different. 

There are studies out there that show identical resume's being looked over by people. The only difference was the name on the top of the resume, for example John vs. Jennifer. The men were always evaluated much more favorably than the women regardless of the gender of the person doing the evaluation. Studies range by occupation and industry but the result are startlingy similar.  All of the things that people use to describe men as competent and exception at work are the same traits that are used to say the women are not.

Negative words are more often used to describe a woman's performance. In many cases, the woman can't win. If she acts "like one of the guys" she is deemed unpleasant, aggressive, bossy etc. If she acts "like one of the girls" she is emotional, unstable, fickle. Talk about playing a game with a loaded deck.

I ran into the situation more than once during my career. I can pull out review after review that use the following adjectives to describe me:

  • too passionate
  • outspoken
  • aggressive
  • need to develop your leadership skills more
  • emotional
  • too invested in the job
  • bitchy or condescending, bossy, 
  • rub some people the wrong way
  • doing too much, other people are feeling "dwarfed" (yes that is a real quote)
  • "maybe take it down just one notch"

Sadly, this list could go on. It is this same list however that would have co-workers come to me for advice and bosses asking me to take lead, be an example and to grab the bull by the horns and get things done. All of my reviews in my career have been marked with an "exceeds expectations" and full raises/bonuses, you name it but the negative language you see above was also in all of them.

How do we then deal with this catch 22? I can only speak from my own personal experience and so I will share with you what I have experienced.

When all of this negative language is presented to you, find out what they would suggest you do to change it for the better. Ask you bosses questions. Questions and insight are powerful weapons. Use them to navigate the "aggression" which I call "confidence" to your advantage.

Don't just ask any questions though. Ask them tough question that require your superiors to have just as much responsibility for your success as you have. Ask what you can do. Ask for examples of when what you did or said could be perceived negative. You will start to see some patterns.

I noticed that the things they were complaining about were also the things they liked in other employees. So I did the comparison game. Now I do no normally recommend this but in this instance it made sense.

Seek out people in your organization that you admire, people who are hard working, have great reputations for getting things done and being effective leaders. Ask all of these people to coffee or lunch or even drinks. Now ask them questions as well.

When I did this I asked both the women and men the same questions.

What do you struggle with in the workplace if anything regarding your gender?

Is it hard to work in an office full of people of the opposite gender?

Got any tips for how to navigate the corporate structure with regards to these things?

When the women responded I started to see similarities. When I asked the men the same question I got a lot of blank and/or confused stairs and a question in return "I'm not sure I understand what you mean."

This was an interesting experiment and one I highly recommend. Next pull your bosses aside and ask some simple questions. Ask them to compare you to a male counterpart. GASP! right? Ask the following:

  • Am I more or less passionate than him?
  • Am I more of less aggressive than him?
  • Is my work better or worse than his?

When asked these questions, every single manager I asked answered "no" or in some instances "more and better". Well, that's not confusing at all. It's like the boys who says he likes you one day, then pulls on your pigtails the next day.

picture borrowed from http://sorryiamnotsorry.com/2012/06/27/taking-the-mystery-out-of-romance-how-to-tell-if-he-likes-you/

The cherry on top for me was the question below:

have you ever heard anyone in leadership use these same words to describe him?

do they call him a bitch?

Do they say he is bossy?

do they tell him to take it down a notch?

Blank stares, sit back in chairs, shadow of understanding comes across faces followed by a frantic brain scan to figure out what to say were typically the responses I received.

This is a long way to say that having the confidence to ask the questions and speak up when something isn't right is swag. It is graceful confidence because it is trying to determine where and if improvements truly need to be made. It puts the focus on the work and not the gender. 

I can not necessarily say after this happened, I no longer felt a gender bias at work. If that were the case, it would have been once boss I spoke to instead of multiple. However, I did notice in all cases, a different level of respect from those particular managers. In one case, my next review raved about all of the changes I had made to become a really "solid leader" of the team and that I had really taken the criticism to heart and made the necessary changes to go further in my career.

I swear to you, I changed nothing except the fact that I asked those questions. 


Sometimes we have to get people to see us in another light and sometimes you have to work your way around the path to get to the final destination. Do whatever works for you but don't shy away, get quiet and sit down in the corner. We gain nothing from shrinking into the background. Sometimes, you gotta get a little Kanye West up in the place (in the most respectful way possible of course.) So turn up your collar, put on those high heels (as my friend Suzanne just emailed me) and get your swagger on.

To the cool kids, hipsters and people in the hip-hop game, thanks for letting me borrow your slang for this. I realize I may not be the intended demographic for such language but it works and it resonated with me, so again ... no apologies, just thanks.


Have you ever got all Yeezy on a situation at work? Tell me about in the comments below or on social media using the hashtags

  • #kanyemademedoitdawne
  • #dawnehanksdotcom

Tomorrow we continue the series and just to prepare you, things may sound a little gross because we are talking about verbal diarrhea. I know, as Jimmy Fallon would say ...  EWW.  


sorry not sorry...i'm here for a reason get over it

I have talked a lot about my own personal experiences to set the stage, today I want to switch it up a little bit and provide you with some tangible tips to push past the biases you may experience in the work place.

The 5 tenants I want to focus on are listed below and I am going to try and post each day this week so we can get them all covered and start climbing those ladders so that we can shatter those glass ceilings. It's a lot of work, so let's get started. First the topics...

  • Sorry not sorry
    • I"m here for a reason, get over it
  • A lil' swag goes a long way
    • Just ask Kanye
  • Eww, verbal diarrhea is so not cool
    • Seriously, dude, it's not a good look
  • I got shot gun, I called it
    • (and other ridiculous game you should learn to play)
  • Let em' hear you roar
    • (it's okay, we promise)

Ever notice how women are always apologizing for the strangest things?  How many times have you heard someone say the following or, if you're being honest have said them yourself?

  • "Sorry, can I ask a stupid question?"
  • "Sorry, do you have a minute"
  • "Sorry" when someone else bumps into you
  • "Sorry" as you hand your child to their father
  • "Sorry" when someone sits too close to you
  • "Sorry" when someone else was the wrongdoer

What's the big deal? I mean I know I probably did one of these this week alone. We are just being polite, right? But are we doing that or is it something else? 

Saying I'm sorry is one of those annoying quirks and peccadilloes that seem to come in like an alien and body snatch every bit of what makes us us and for some reason we let it. Probably because we were taught to have manners and be the "bigger" (better) person. So we say sorry again and again. It is almost like when you great someone with "hi, how are you?" The whole concept is there as a rhetorical question because if anybody actually stopped and told you ow they were feeling, you would be running for cover because let's face, for most people that we present that question to, we don't really care.

I know, sometimes I'm a bit of a jerk. but I'm a truthful jerk and I am only saying what most of us are thinking. We say "sorry" as a formality. We don't really mean it and if you asked us "why" we apologized, we probably wouldn't know what to say. In the small cases we would be able to give you a reason, it will sound just as ridiculous in our head as it did when you heard it out loud. Then we go home and curse ourselves for doing something so "stupid" and never once giving ourselves the luxury of an apology.


in the workplace

When we are interviewed and hired for a job the assumption is that we impressed the boss. We said or did something that let them know we would be an asset to the team. Imagine the bosses surprise when we show up and start apologizing for all of the things they hired us to do. That's doesn't make any sense, it also doesn't help you out at all because it is not what they wanted. It may seem seem like they do but they don't.

how do i know that? well, do you see men do it?

I realize men and women are different but that doesn't mean one is superior over the other or that one's ideas, questions, space or responsibility is any more valuable than the other. It just means different. So while I ask if you see men do this, it is not to tell you that you should copy what they are doing but comparing our reaction to a situation at work with that of a man does gives some good insight into confidence and at the end of the day confidence is key. Now for the million dollar question Alex...

i apologize.jpg

how do we stop saying i'm sorry all the time?

 

 

I'm glad you asked. It is NOT easy. I still catch myself doing it from time to time, especially when I just don't want to bothered. What I have found to be effective though is do one or more of the following:

know you surroundings

a lot of times, sorry comes from feeling inadequate. When you take the time to REALLY evaluate a room, you will realize two things.

  1. They are all just people, like you
  2. Some of them are definitely smarter than you but some are definitely not.

This means that 99% of the time you are sitting with people who are probably saying sorry in their head too, especially if they are women. Know what the men are thinking that you don't hear or see? 

Fake it till you make it

Yup, that age old saying is so true. You are smart. You are capable. You are strong. You're basically amazing. THEY hired you, not the other way around so if you don't know something, learn it. If you're confused, ask questions (with out apologizing for them). If you need to get up to speed, then work a little extra to get there. Despite what some may think, hard work, knowledge, dedication, passion and commitment do still mean something in the world and people will recognize your efforts. Nobody knows everything and very few people are experts. Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. How many of the people in that office have put in that work? So relax, and fake it till you make it. I mean hello, you know what will happen, the saying tells you. You will make it!

get passionate about your work

If you wanna be a shark, be a shark This one is not so easy for a couple of reasons. 

  1. What happens if your job isn't exactly sexy and not what you dreamed of?
  2. Once you do it, people will use passionate to describe you in BOTH positive AND negative ways when you are a woman. Sorry, but it is true, there are studies all over to prove it.

Passion comes from within. You have to learn to harness it. I believe passion and drive are intimately connected. You have to WANT something to feel passion. Now, that might only be money. It might be respect or recognition or the knowledge of a job well done. If you are lucky, it is all of those things PLUS getting to do something that actually knocks your socks off. When I speak to kids, I always tell them that passion and creativity manifest themselves differently in everyone. It is up to us to figure out how. Stop complaining about not knowing your purpose and go find it. Easier said than done yes but NOTHING gets done until you want it bad enough.

So, how bad do you want it? If you want it that bad, why are you apologizing? You've made it this far, so you're doing something right, all it takes to move ahead, is one little step.

Okay, the first tenant is done, come back tomorrow when we talk about swagger in the workplace. YUP, I typed "SWAGGER". Deal with it. 

share with me

If you are feeling especially engaged today, tell me what you're "NOT SORRY" about in the comments below or on social media with the hashtags

  • #sorrynotsorrydawne
  • #dawnehanksdotcom

P.S.

I just want to thank everyone who emailed, texted, wrote and called me last week and told me about your experiences. I was in awe and truly humbled that you read my words but that you also chose to share yours with me. Just Keep Swimming.