It can be so hard working with other women in the workplace. BossY ladies, to BitchY ones, women who are so dramatic, don’t get
shit stuff done, to the ones that simply will throw you under the bus if you don’t watch out. You may have a boss lady who’s not being the kind of boss you need or you may be feeling out of place because the women in your work are “clicky” and haven’t “initiated” you in. Those types of women are out there and there’s plenty of drama it unfortunately. But it’s not happening everywhere…
Years ago, I was part of an NFL cheerleading team. Despite the competitive atmosphere, we were able to bond and support one another during times like re-trying out to be on the team, caption selections and becoming the next Pro Bowl Cheerleader, which is equivalent to winning an Oscar in the cheer world. Most people think there’s a ton of drama, “cat fighting” once you’re on the team, back-stabbing, lies and craziness. It’s no secret Professional Cheerleaders have yet to have million dollar paydays, so we had to love what we did in order to spend the countless hours of practices, fitness (although I would still sneak in a cheat meal or two… love me some chips and salsa), and performances. And most importantly, we had to love who we spent our time with because it was A LOT of time together.
Why am I telling you this and why does it matter to you?
Because I am all about women supporting one another and I learned some of the most significant values in how to do so while cheering on the sidelines with some pretty incredible women.
How did we create such a healthy and tight bond? I’m going to tell you and it can easily be transferrable in the workplace. Here’s how:
1. Be the leader and be proactive
Take the time to meet other women in your organization from other departments and learn what they do. Don’t wait around until they introduce themselves to you, be the first to take a new colleague out to lunch or happy hour and show them the ropes. If there’s a female executive you’d like to know, ask for an informational interview. Being closed off and passive will lead you to missed opportunities and a lack of building out your network. Take the time to get to know them verses immediately dismissing someone because they dress differently, seem intimidating, or even rude. Being proactive will open up the channels to connect and form relationships, now granted she’s not going to replace your Best Friend from college and become your maid of honor, however SHE may just surprise you.
2. Identify what you value as a partner or team
As cheerleaders our values were the fans, love for performance dance, fitness, and taking chances. Figure out what similar values you hold and bond over it. It could be your customer’s being happy, slaying away, making a
shit ton of money, staying healthy, reading business books, whatever the values, talk about them and be open as to why it’s important for you, her and the team. This technique is even more powerful if you are a Lady Leader and managing women on your team. Our coach was amazing at creating bonding exercises during our mini-camp phase (staycation right after tryouts) to formulate the culture of the team and identify values we would remind ourselves when things did get tough… like practicing during monsoon season and 110 degree weather!
3. Be real about it
If you’re the type who doesn’t have many female friends or struggles developing relationships with women, WORK.ON.THAT.SH*T. You don’t need to go out of your way and become homecoming queen of the office. But you do need to understand the WHY behind why you don’t have female work relationships. Are YOU the one giving off the “I don’t support women in the workplace vibe”?? Hummmm? When women have their guard up, you have to learn to be vulnerable with them by sharing, then listening. Vulnerability doesn’t mean spill out your personal problems to bond, start with experiences in your life where you can laugh about yourself or times you overcame challenges, then listen (women love to hear themselves talk…), ask questions because you’re genuinely curious and then share and try to relate. And if you don’t relate what-so-ever, come from a place of understanding, and curiosity about their journey in life. It may be totally different, however there’s always life nuggets you can learn from someone else’s footsteps.
Vulnerability = Being REAL
4. Move on if it’s not receptive
You may have some women in your workplace that are VERY difficult to get to know or won’t open up. Getting to know people who have their guard up or behave with defensive manners take longer to understand (it’s a marathon not a sprint relationship). If you’re willing to invest keep at it, some of those relationships turn out to be the best ones long term. However if you have someone who’s just not a good person (bullies, gossips, constant negative attitude, narcissistic/only focuses on themselves) simply move on. The supportive system you build in the office will either force them to shift or force them out.
You are an igniter – there’s no one on this planet like you, the spark, the power, the drive to build a supportive scene and you don’t need to be CEO of the company or manage people to do so, all you need to do is lead yourself. I remind myself daily…
Lead by example, it will push you to excel, learn and grow.