As we begin National Women’s Month in South Africa, I have taken some time to reflect on the interactions I have had with strong successful women during the past seven years of training and coaching. What I have noticed is that these women are not necessarily the ones with several degrees behind their name and not all of them are in senior positions.
What make these woman stand out for me is their approach to daily challenges and how they navigate storms. The women I would like to celebrate are not necessarily the loudest voices in the room but when they speak people listen despite their position. I call them our Workplace Warrior Women, not because of their propensity to start wars, but because I would willingly follow them into any war.
Recognition that they have battle scars, unwavering dedication to a cause, and devotion to the wellbeing of others make these women natural leaders regardless of where they are on the career ladder.
What I have found is that these women all have three characteristics in common when it comes to the way they think and act.
How Successful Women Think and Act
1. Their Resilience to Shame
*Thandeka is a single mother of a 6 year old son and 3 year old daughter. When we met she had just started a new career as a Call Centre Manager and was fired from her previous job because she had developed a drinking problem.
During our third coaching session, Thandeka told me that she was fired from her previous job and openly admitted to the reason. There was no shame in her admission and she proceeded to tell me with great excitement that she had been sober for 8 months and how her life had changed for the better. She also told me how she openly shared her story with colleagues.
Thandeka taught me that even though we fail at certain things, we cannot let shame and disappointment become our self-made prison.
What successful women understand is that we need to build a resilience to shame. According to Brene Brown’s 'The Gifts of Imperfection', shame is the intense feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of belonging. It is all about fear. We’re afraid that people won’t like us if they know the truth about who we are. Shame is something we all experience and our resilience to shame makes the difference between moving forward with confidence or staying locked up in our prison.
According to Brown, people that are resilient to shame share four characteristics:
- They understand shame and recognise what messages and expectations trigger shame.
- They practice critical awareness by reality-checking the messages and expectations that tell them that being imperfect means being inadequate.
- They reach out and share their stories with people they trust.
- They use the word shame, they talk openly about how they’re feeling and they ask for what they need.
- Thank you to the Thandekas of the workplace who are not afraid to own their stories and make space for the rest of us to share our flaws and not hide behind false facades because of our fear of being rejected.