This Saturday, I’m being interviewed on the House9’s Art & Humanity Podcast by Farah Khan, Principal and Creative Director and House9 Design in Montreal. She created this podcast as a listening and learning tool for her business.
Her top most question for me was: “As South Asian women, we’re taught to be humble and submissive. But this can work against us in getting what we want in the workplace. How do we, as women leaders, overcome anxiety? How can we train ourselves to become a more confident advocate for ourselves in the workplace?
I crowdsourced this answer from women in my membership. Their tips below:
- Don’t overthink. Focus on the bigger picture. What is the team is trying to achieve?
- You know what you are doing. But also know that it’s OK to make mistakes. Always take ownership of those mistakes.
- Practice and present in front of small groups first. Make it conversational. Talk things through with an accountability partner before presenting to a larger group.
- Create a ‘Brag Book’ A Brag Book is a list of all of your accomplishments. On this list can be a great presentation you gave. You got an award for your work. You helped someone who was having a difficult time and helped them reach a resolution. Keep this list handy and refer to it anytime the anxiety or overwhelm creeps up. It helps to boost confidence. Sweta Chawla asked her clients to keep an impact journal. Every time they get any kind of feedback on how they have helped someone to write it down. Then to read these testimonials often – especially when hit with a disappointment or up leveling. She also encourages clients to figure out what their unique gift is or the the magic they bring to their roles. “I have observed when they know who they are – they can step more fully into their own style as a leader instead of comparing or letting the world define them. And when they can name their role in creating impact during meetings, negotiations, talks.”
- Accept the fact that you need help and ASK FOR IT. As South Asian women, we tend to brush a lot of things under the rug, but that action ultimately harms us. Ask for help. You will be surprised on how people want to help.
- Building relationships and personal connections with people. Creating these bridges gives people the opportunity to learn more about you. It also gives you a chance to and for you to showcase (advocate) for your talent.
- Meeting stakeholders and building trust, and being well prepared
- Lists. Lots and lots of lists. Of my fears. My doubts. My wins and losses. And to dos! Making lists of what works and what doesn’t work has helped me see everything objectively, so I can lead objectively.
- Look people in the eye when speaking to them. Speak with conviction. If you are not 100 pct sure, get your facts right.
- Always treat people with respect no matter what their status.
- Find a supportive partner. Rakhi Rajput writes “With the support of my husband, a good support system allowed me to not worry about boundaries women South Asian women face.
- Make people feel comfortable and important so that they will open up to you.
- Create solutions instead of fault-finding.
- Give people enough responsibility to prove themselves.
- Do not micro manage.
- Give people an opportunity to ask you the same question 100 times. Once they are completely comfortable, then hold them accountable.
- It’s a journey but accept the fact that time will eventually boosts confidence.
- Always act, behave, dress and TALK LIKE A LEADER. Good leaders don’t bring other people down. They bring up and bring out the best in others.
- Get an executive coach. Bita worked with a coach and a psychotherapist to find her voice, to feel empowered, confident. To know and trust her value & what she offers. “I continued to grow & evolve by pushing through “old narratives” reading authors who had found resilience and could share their stories, networking, cultivating relationships with mentors, partnering with others who inspire and motivate me. I did this as a SouthAsian woman in Corporate America and now as a business owner. I truly believe mindset, working on negative self talk and surrounding yourself with the right support systems.”
- Books to read: Quiet by Susan Cain and The Imposter Syndrome. Both helped give perspective on what I was feeling.
- Neha Desai Shah, Co founder and President, GEP shares this anecdote on this topic.
Growing up, my Dad always taught me that I could do anything and be anything. However, I also constantly got messages implicitly and explicitly about the role of a girl which did make me quieter, more submissive than my male counterparts.
Over time, I realized that confidence and belief in yourself can co exist with humility. Confidence is about believing in yourself and your capabilities. I forced myself into situations outside of my comfort zone professionally. With each attempt, I learned something new, even if my landing wasn’t perfect. I realized I had a voice that other people were interested in. I had good ideas and contributions to make well beyond and often better than the dominant man in the room. I built on that to overcome my anxiousness, my fear of saying or doing something wrong. Today, I will say I am the most confident (and humble) I have ever been in my life. I hope to continue along that journey.
My grandfather was a political activist, a businessman, and a change-maker and he always encouraged me to stand up for what I believed in even if it meant changing the status quo. My grandmother is also a very strong female figure…and a bit of a radical. She dabbled in theater growing up (what asian woman in the 30s did that!). She has never been afraid to live life on her terms and speak her truth (but always with a twinkle in her eye!). I learned a lot from both of them.
Growing up, my father was the traditional Asian parent who wanted me to become a doctor or a lawyer. I knew that wasn’t my path from a very early age so I rebelled against fitting into this box for years. Having examples of people in my life that have taken on non-traditional roles successfully made it easier for me. I gravitated towards my grandfather’s message and did not let the traditional notions of women in business and leadership define or confine me. It was a clear choice for me.
Women can overcome anxiety by choosing which voice to listen to. Some voices tear you down, others strengthen you. Surrounding yourself with a community of like-minded people and mentors that have walked the path before you is.
In addition, I believe it’s important to get better skilled at adding value in the workplace. Ask: ‘What big problem can you help others to solve?’ If you can think strategically on how to better contribute to an organization’s success, you become invaluable to them. If you can articulate the value you are adding then you make it easier for others to do the advocating for you.
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