Confidence AdviceLB's Corner
That Little Voice of Doubt? Ignore it!

“It’s not that female leaders no longer hear that voice. We’ve just gotten better at ignoring it.”

Today I interviewed VP of Revenue Talia B for our #GirlsClub OnDemand second-level leader series. Talia is a former #GirlsClub mentor and six months ago took her first VP of Revenue role. In her 10:00 tidbit, she shared three lessons learned and advice for female revenue leaders seeking the next level.

I’m eager to share a story about her second lesson. She made a tough and fast call and recommended the termination of a badly-behaving employee. But because she was new, she immediately followed up with the disclaimer. You know how it sounds …

“Well, that’s just my opinion. I realize I’m new, and ultimately I’ll leave it up to you.”

We’ve all said some version of this, IMHO, BS. Ladies, as soon as you start to type it I hope you’ll backspace. Your opinion is valuable, so stop being humble!

Back to the story, Talia was right. The employee stayed and 4 months later they terminated them. After lots of time, expense, and spreading of bad mojo.

“I wish I’d stood behind my decision better” she shared with me as her lesson, “I doubted myself and I shouldn’t have..”

As she shared it with me I instantly thought of another woman I met this week. Yesterday I shared my “What Women Want at Work” keynote with a group of men and women revenue leaders at WasteManagement in Phoenix, AZ. We discussed wage gaps, confidence gaps, hand-raising and speaking up gaps and then actions leaders can take to better attract, hire, engage, and promote women at work. The conversation was awesome and authentic and a little scary if I’m honest in the mixed group.

Afterward there was a line of folks waiting to chat about their situation, their team member, or how to get involved in #GirlsClub and one supervisor went back out to the workplace to grab her top female employee to introduce her to me.

She waited about 15 minutes (thank you!) and was visibly a little nervous. She said it took her ten years to get the courage to even speak up in a meeting or raise her hand to volunteer for an assignment and be considered for promotion. That’s ten YEARS in case you thought you read it wrong.

I asked her to tell me more and she shared that a little voice always stopped her. It said, “What if you’re wrong? What if they laugh? What if you stumble when you speak?”

Do you know this voice? I know I do. In fact, Sheryl Sandberg did a study about his called “Speaking While Female” and the top reasons we don’t speak up are exactly these!

Here’s why I share this. The individual contributor and the VP of Revenue (and the author of this article and every women I’ve ever interviewed ever) have the same voice with the same words in her head. Talia said it best: 

“It’s not that female leaders no longer hear that voice.  We’ve just gotten better at ignoring it.”

This is a learned behavior and it can start as soon as today. When you think of an answer in a meeting and she whispers doubts to you, instead of keeping quiet, try this instead:

  1. Recognize the voice as fear. “Of course I’m afraid of looking foolish”
  2. Accept the voice as normal. “This happens to all women and even men at all levels”
  3. Invite some reality. “Do I normally fumble? Do I know less than the rest of the table?
  4. Picture the future. “How will I fell if I don’t speak & someone else gets credit for this? And, “Will I be proud of myself for trying? “

Remember, fear is normal. It’s how we respond to it that counts. Now you know it isn’t just you.

Where will you speak up next?