Head office | Owner at Simante | Marketing Sweats Podcast Host | Advertising & Marketing Independent Network Worldwide Board Member
When you think of your favorite superhero, who comes to mind? Is it a cape-clad strongman whose story has been made into a dozen feature films over the past half century? If you’re anything like me, your mom, your sister, or your co-worker turned best friend is more likely to be writing her own story between the seemingly endless conference calls, board meetings, and the school pick-up line.
As a woman in heavy industry marketing, I’ve often found myself in rooms full of men – especially early in my career – feeling like I had to prove myself other than that I was good at what I do. And while these gender norms are certainly starting to shift, I continue to be amazed at the women I see changing the game in historically male-dominated fields. Like superheroes, they are the ones breaking down walls and fighting for the good in a world that hasn’t always given them a fair chance.
Last March, as part of Women’s History Month, I had the opportunity to sit down with a handful of women who lead these “hard-working” brands and pick their brains. What I discovered was, yes, we all bring something uniquely valuable to the table – but there are also many superpowers that we share because of the common experiences and challenges we’ve had.
Watch how you appear.
Almost every female leader I’ve spoken to believes that successful women get them noticed. When you show up physically and let people know you’re there, you not only benefit from your own personal growth, you also create a ripple effect that encourages others to come forward. The result is often an energetic, highly engaged workplace made up of people who feel empowered to appear authentic.
But showing up at work highly engaged isn’t always second nature. Not for everyone, especially if some sort of precedent is being set.
Some of the ways we’ve fostered engagement and “showing up” in my organization include investing in coaching, both for the entire leadership team in general and for individuals, particularly with a focus on working moms. This has had such a profound effect on our agency, even for those who have not received the coaching directly. We’ve also started a new approach, with our managers focusing more on creating strong connections, which has given our people a necessary outlet to feel connected outside of work. We’ve found that having these platforms to talk about “real life” empowers people to do more meaningful work and feel more confident (and happier).
Focus on building relationships.
Likewise, I’ve seen many female leaders excel at relationship building. While some of us do our best in the background, many of us value authentic relationships, including at work. And I can’t tell you how many women I’ve been around who were willing to share what they do not know or bring to light their own points for improvement.
When leaders do this, it models an environment where everyone feels comfortable being themselves – without having an attitude or pretending to have it all figured out. All in all, that can build a culture of trust because people are willing to come together and help each other, all hands on deck.
I’m a firm believer that the people we work with are the people we live with so I think it’s important to nurture those working relationships just like we do in our personal lives because when they thrive our does that work too. I suggest communicating from the heart as it can really help foster better relationships between colleagues, clients and stakeholders. We just have to be comfortable enough – or brave enough – to let our guard down.
Lean on each other.
There is also a balance that comes from leaning on your counterparts – from identifying and building on their strengths. For example, with my (male) co-owner of the agency, I’ve seen how our individual superpowers have fused together to build something that we’re really proud of and that others are also proud to be a part of. We’re both business minded, but one of us (spoiler alert, it’s me) tends to lean more into the role of big ideas, envisioning our vision for the future and fighting to leave nothing in the way to stand. The other side has a keen eye for our business model and earnings management, which underpins those big ideas and provides the necessary parameters to make them a reality.
Partnerships can create this yin and yang effect where people challenge, push and lean on each other in a way that fuels tangible progress and momentum that everyone can feel. Organizations can improve when employees help each other connect the dots – and to paraphrase Steve Jobs, creativity is really just the art of seeing connections.
At the end of the workday, most of us don’t hang up our capes or retreat to our fully automated cavernous mansions. We are only human, learning as we go and doing our best to turn our strengths into our super powers in work and life. And when we tap into our superpowers – and cultivate them for others in our work culture – we change the whole game. We normalize empathy, authenticity and friendships in the workplace for everyone, regardless of gender.