How to Rule the World of Work: 12 Habits Holding Women Back

Are you great with details?  Are you a team player? Are you a rock star networker?

Those qualities will help your career – until they hurt your career.

If you’re a man reading this and you’re about to stop, hang in there.

You’re about to discover some new information about emotional engagement that will help you sell to, manage, work for and live happily with women.

Common stumbling blocks

I’ll start with the big idea, right up front: Women are different from men.  

Read on if you want to understand a bit of what’s going on inside our heads.

When leadership coach, Marshall Goldsmith, a long time friend and mentor of mine, wrote What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, a key insight was spelled out in the book’s title:

The same behaviors that help people achieve high positions often undermine them as they seek to move up further.

In Marshall’s work as a CEO coach, his clientele is 80% male.  

As he traveled the world sharing his ideas, he noticed many of the more aggressive and self-centered behaviors he identifies as problematic in his book are less likely to be stumbling blocks for successful women than they are for men.

Enter Sally Helgesen.  Sally is the author of the 25-year best seller, The Female Advantage.

Together, Helgesen and Goldsmith have identified 12 habits that hold women back:

  1. Reluctance to claim your achievements.
  2. Expecting others to spontaneously notice and reward your achievements.
  3. Overvaluing expertise.
  4. Building rather than leveraging relationships.
  5. Failing to enlist allies from day one.
  6. Putting your job before your career.
  7. The perfection trap.
  8. The disease to please.
  9. Minimizing.
  10. Too much.
  11. Ruminating.
  12. Letting your radar distract you.

Do any of these ring true to you? Or the women you work with?  

Quite candidly, I have struggled with every single one of these. Ten years ago, this list would have been my resume.

I’ll give the mandatory disclaimer here: All women are not the same, and some men struggle with these issues.  

Yet every woman to whom I’ve shown the 12 habits list has review it, nodding in recognition.  

Even CEO women struggle.

Self Talk

In, How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back From Your Next Raise, Promotion or Job, Marshall describes his aha-moment while coaching legendary leader Frances Hesselbein.

Hesselbein is the former CEO of the Girl Scouts whom Peter Drucker suggested was possibly the finest leader he’d ever met.

When Marshall conducted a 360-feedback process for Frances, the response was incredibly positive, yet Frances’ immediate response was:

“I have so many things I need to improve!”  

Marshall was impressed with her dedication but surprised someone of her stature was so self-critical.

Welcome to the inner world of women – where negative self-talk clouds every move.

The habits holding women back often spring from our sincere desire to connect and care for others – to engage emotionally.  

The intent isn’t the issue.  

In How Women Rise, Sally and Marshall show you how to keep the good intent without letting the habit hobble you.

We’re all a work in progress, myself included. But awareness is the first step. After reading this book, I started to recognize my habits more, and work to prevent them.

I rarely say this as emphatically as I am now: Read this book! Buy it for your colleagues and friends.

And by all means, if you’re a father, buy it and read it, so you can help the next generation of women get over this stuff.

Which of these 12 habits holds the most sway over you and hinder your emotional engagement?