Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty!…It’s 2011!

I don’t know about you, but the last months of 2010 have been like a hurdle race, Christmas and New Year’s Eve included. The first week of January, I pretended I didn’t hear my alarm clock at 6 am. I skipped my C25K training. I skipped fresh oranges juicing for my kids. I skipped answering New Year’s Greeting Cards. I didn’t even feel like making any Greeting Card, real or virtual. No juice. White Space. Sleeping. Snowy winter landscape. I just felt like staying under my warm duvet and dreaming about how my ideal clients will discover me and hire me for new creative, exciting, international executive coaching and training long-term  assignments.

Okay, even Arianna Hufington, at TEDWomen, encouraged me to stay in bed, when she shared her latest secret, Get More Sleep!  You may also want to indulge in healthier sleeping habbits and I believe there’s a lesson to learn for each of us.

“The way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep,” she said at TEDWomen. “We are literally going to sleep our way to the top — literally!”

Mais attention!  Arianna said enough sleep, not the kind of sleep where, like Sleeping Beauty, you fall for one hundred years and only wake up by the magic of a Prince’s kiss!

There are 3 main reasons why women fall in The Sleeping Beauty Trap, never wake up where they want to be and instead sleepwalk themselves to the glass cliff…, no matter how talented, high-achieving and ambitious they are.

  • Women often report that they are “not ready yet”. How many times have I heard, “One day, I will…” , “I’m almost ready”,  “I just need to complete my MBA”, “another training certificate”, “my PhD” or “to gain some confidence”, “to get more expertise”, “more experience”, or “to wait for my children to grow older”, “for my children to go to college”, or even “for the economy to recover”, etc…= for my Prince to come!  Selena Rezvani, in The Next Generation of Women Leaders, describes the psychological barriers that come in the way of our leadership potential when we disqualify ourselves from opportunities. “Women feel the need for a certain level of prior training and experience that men do not necessarily demand in order to jump into a new role.”
  • Women still tend to believe that, if they meet expectations, they will be rewarded. If they complete their assignments and achieve their business goals, then they will be promoted. Someone will detect how brilliant they are and push them forward. In Why Men Still Get More Promotions Than Women, Harvard Business Review, Herminia Ibarra, says that “interviews and surveys alike suggest that high-potential women are overmentored and undersponsored relative to their male peers—and that they are not advancing in their organizations. Furthermore, without sponsorship, women not only are less likely than men to be appointed to top roles but may also be more reluctant to go for them.”

Kerrie Peraino, Chief Diversity Officer at American Express, advised women to be bold in order to find a sponsor. “It’s not enough to say, ‘I’m doing good work,’ and put your head down on your desk,” she said. “To earn sponsorship someone needs to see your work.” (quoted in Catalyst excellent report)

  • Women don’t ask! I know, this sounds a little like “fixing the women” and I would rather not be labeled this way. I believe that organizations urgently need to adapt and innovate in order to cope with the female brain drain and create gender-bilingual cultures. In Catalyst’s report, “maximizing mentoring and securing sponsorship”, Catalysts insists on articulating two strategies for advancement, both organizational and individual.

“On the Importance of Asking for What You Want
The saying, “You don’t ask, you don’t get,” holds true as much at work as elsewhere in life. It’s essential that you formulate a clear understanding of what you want and be able to voice those desires to the people who are acting on your behalf.”  Catalyst 2010 Maximizing Menturing and Securing Sponsorship. Download the pdf here.

Women can find it difficult to develop a comfortable and effective negociating style, especially when it’s directly linked with their personal interests. Read A Woman’s Toolkit for Seeking a Raise by Harvard Associate Professor Hannah Rilley Bowles, in The New York Times. Many women argue they would fight like a lionness for their clients or company’s interests, but will find it extremely difficult to ask for a raise!

If you want to avoid the Sleeping Beauty Syndrome and stop waiting until 2111 to be Awaken and eventually Visible, then get your beauty sleep and get out of that duvet!

In the next post, I will develop the three ways you can become more visible.

  • Stop beeing “nice” (pleasing), too polite and modest. Gain recognition in your company, in your area of expertise, share your success stories. Blow your own horn!
  • Communicate clearly on your motivations and your project and get a Sponsor!
  • Learn to negociate for what you want and get it!

You know what? Just writing this post has risen my spirits and woken me up!

Tomorrow, fresh orange juice and fresh new year’s run!

2011, Here I Come! 🙂

What are YOU waiting for? Do you recognize yourself falling in any of the three “traps”? I would welcome your comments about the stories you tell yourself for not fully succeeding, the questions you don’t dare to ask, what’s working and what not working for you.

6 thoughts

  1. Hi Marion – thought provoking post with lots of interesting points. Suggesting that women change some of their behaviours for me is not about ” fixing”. As you rightly point out it is mainly about transferring skills they already have to advocate for themselves in other arenas. Women negotiate and advocate all the time – just less for themselves professionally. Of course , organisations do need to adapt, but I think women need to contribute to that dynamic by advocating for themselves. Without that there is almost a “rescuing” message and Prince Charming pitching up with the slipper!

    I’m also very cautious about the over use of the word “nice “( Nice women don’t get the corner office etc). It is totally OK to be agreeable and courteous, but that is not to be confused with being subservient and deferential. You may remember the research I did on women and the smiling myth -it is a myth!

    Looking forward to the next installments!

  2. Hi Dorothy, what a great sense of the formula you have! “Prince Charming pitching up with the slipper”
    Yes, I believe change relies on (at least) two dynamics: individual and organizational.
    Again, JF Kennedy speech still resonates ” Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You, Ask What YOU can do for Your Country” Or,” women of the world”: ask not what “Corporations” will do for you, but what together we can do for “the freedom of men and women”.
    Together with men, we can transform the workplace!

  3. Great Post! If I had to say the one thing that changed my life (for the good) was very simple … I asked. Also, I asked for a little (as we women do) but I got a lot. A really, really lot! So get out there and ask for what it is you need… want… or desire! You just may be very surprised!


  4. Spot on, Marion. I concur that many aspiring women leaders need to “wake up” from the fairy tale that many of us learned, either directly or through osmosis: that achieving established goals is enough to be recognized for promotion.

    Of course, this belief has roots from elementary school days where good grades are recognized and rewarded — with promotion into the next school grade/class. Without the critical mentoring and sponsoring advocates you describe, it is indeed the career version of Sleeping Beauty awaiting Prince Charming.

    Don’t hold your breath ladies — wake up and smell the orange juice ; ) and hold the hands of young girls and women, whisper in their ears, enlighten and support them. Help make the difference … .

    Happy 2011!

    1. Wonderful comment, Colette!
      “Don’t hold your breath ladies-wake up and smell the orange juice 😉 and hold the hands of young girls and women, whisper in their ears, enlighten and support them.”

      I think I’m going to print it and post it in front of me! Merci beaucoup Colette.
      This phrase resonates especially for me today, as my own daughter is going through a very difficult time in her life, and inspired me for the Sleeping Beauty post. What I can achieve with young women and girls from all around the world, it seems to be more difficult with the closest and most precious person, my own child. May be the time has come for her to find her own fairy godmother, mentor and grow her own wings…Sending a message right now in the universe so that someone whispers in her ears and holds her hand, so that she recovers her soul life.
      Thank you Colette and an awesome 2011 for you!

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