10 Things Women Leaders Need to Stop Doing
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
by: Debbie Foster, Partner, Affinity Consulting Group

Section: WILLed Q3 2016

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Leadership is leadership.  Right?  Well, in some cases yes, but being a woman myself, and spending much of my career in the male dominated technology and legal world there are some lessons I have learned about women in leadership.  These lessons are a combination of things I have observed in women leaders, and mistakes I have made myself as a leader.  If you are a woman in leadership, I hope these tips help you.  If you are a man, please read on and share this with women leaders you care about or use these tips to encourage the women leaders you work with.
  1. Stop apologizing. For feeling the way you feel, for disagreeing with the men you work alongside of, and to those who report to you for what you are about to say.  Everyone loves a leader that can deliver a sincere apology when they are wrong – those apologies are meaningful.  But the ones that preempt your professional opinion, or an apology that precedes a reprimand do not serve any purpose but to undermine your authority.  So, speak up, without apology.
  2. Stop putting your health last.  You cannot be too busy to take care of yourself, and if that is what you say or think, then you really have to think about your priorities.  We have a tendency to make sure everyone’s needs are met before ours, and there has got to be some balance.  Just remember, you cannot take care of everyone else unless you are taking care of yourself.  So, whatever that means for you – it could be exercise, preparing meals, reading a book, taking a clarity break – make your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health a priority.
  3. Stop thinking you can have everything (or, that you can be everything to everyone).  Because you can’t.  There are only 24 hours in every day and we all have to make sacrifices. In fact, everyone makes sacrifices – even the guys.  Most women are professional jugglers of responsibilities, and when there is no limit to the balls you think you can have in the air at one time, you will disappoint yourself.
  4. Stop resisting help.  Asking for or accepting help does not make you less of a leader.  In fact, great leaders have great delegation skills.  Great leaders have great teams.  And great teams get things done together.  So, let people help you whenever you can.  Oh…and don’t be a martyr.  When we say “Forget it, I will just do it myself.” Everyone can read between those lines.
  5. Stop thinking that having more woman leaders is a threat to you.  OK, that is a tough one to hear.  But I have to say, although this is not something woman leaders have SAID to me, I see it, and it is obvious.  Part of the responsibility of a woman leader is to promote and mentor other woman leaders wherever and whenever we can. 
  6. Stop trying to control everything.  I sometimes call that ‘letting go of the vine.’  That is hard to do at first, but once you start trusting people to do those things that you think you do best (but which are not the best use of your time), you will have great opportunities to coach and mentor those around you.  Find the times when it is ok for things to be done and not your definition of perfect.
  7. Stop being fearful of speaking your mind in a meeting.  When you have an idea, but you are worried that people will think your idea is crazy, remember that millions and millions of dollars were made when someone said “hey, let’s make a movie about a waterspout that lifts sharks out of the ocean and deposits them in Los Angeles.”  Sharknado FOUR is about to be released.  Even if your idea does not end up being the best idea, it may spark the next great idea.
  8. Stop acting as if you’re not supposed to be there.  Confidence is so important in a leader.  It is crucial that those we lead see confidence in us.  When you have earned a leadership position, never fear losing that spot.  Focus on doing the job you were called to do, with confidence and pride.  Never, ever act as if you don’t belong.
  9. Stop saying you are busy.  Everyone is busy.  And everyone has time to do what they prioritize.  Make it a point to say that word as little as possible.  In fact, consider eliminating it from your vocabulary.  Sending the message that you are perpetually busy could cause someone to not include you in something awesome because they are concerned that they are just piling on to an already “busy” schedule.  Make sure YOU are in charge of deciding what you can and cannot do.  
  10. Stop wearing stupid shoes.  I am not going to define what ‘stupid’ means, because I firmly believe there is a time and a place for all shoes.  Your job is to know when to wear which shoes.  Bunny slippers are great, but not in the office.  Your nicest pair of Louboutins might not be a good choice when you know it is going to be a heavy walking day.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with having multiple pairs of shoes under your desk, in a drawer, or in your bag.  Be ready for anything.
Debbie Foster is the Managing Partner at Affinity Consulting Group.  Affinity provides technology, process, and management consulting services to law firms.  Debbie speaks across the country at the ALA, ABA, various state bar association, technology and default industry events.  She is heading up the 3rd Annual Management Symposium for law firm partners, administrators, and managers in October.  For more information, click here
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