Lessons in Leadership: The Aspirant Female Leader - overcoming obstacles & challenges | Tani Amarasinghe | Skillshare

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Lessons in Leadership: The Aspirant Female Leader - overcoming obstacles & challenges

teacher avatar Tani Amarasinghe, Leadership Skills for the 21st Century

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
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Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

14 Lessons (1h 45m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. The Motherhood Penalty

    • 3. Toxic Masculinity and Femininity

    • 4. Lessons From My Early Days

    • 5. Imposter Syndrome

    • 6. Finding Your Voice

    • 7. Setting Boundaries

    • 8. Assertiveness and Learning to Say No

    • 9. Toxic Beliefs

    • 10. Work Life Balance

    • 11. Time Traps and Obligations

    • 12. Managing Your Time Better

    • 13. Silencing the Inner Critic

    • 14. Conclusion

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About This Class


Maintaining balance between being a leader, wife, mother and care giver is a challenge faced by women throughout the world. In this course I will be sharing my experiences as well as tools and techniques necessary for successfully navigating these seemingly conflicting priorities. Some of the things I will be going through include inter alia:

  • Imposter Syndrome
  • Maternity Penalty
  • Toxic Masculinity and Femininity
  • Finding your voice, assertiveness, setting boundaries and learning to say no
  • Managing your time better

We will have honest conversations about the insecurities women face as a result of societal and cultural expectations, the stress induced by trying to juggle the dichotomy of being both a good mother and having career aspirations, contending with workplace cultures that are still rather patriarchal in nature.

By the end of this course, you will be empowered with the tools to successfully deal with the plethora of challenges and expectations that women, especially working mothers, face in the modern workplace. You will learn how to deal with your own insecurities better, be more assertive, productive and successful, while keeping sane and maintaining a work life balance. You will learn that you are not alone, and that you can be a role model to those still on their journey.

This course is for:

  • The leader who is a working mother
  • Working mothers
  • Anyone seeking a work life balance

No prior experience is required. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Tani Amarasinghe

Leadership Skills for the 21st Century


Hello, I'm Tani.

I am the founder and CEO of Human Capital Matters, an end-to-end HR Consultancy focusing on Leadership and Management development, Executive Coaching and Training. I have over 20 years of experience in the field of human resources with a career spanning multiple industries including mining, exploration, online marketing and financial services, and in countries across multiple continents. I hold a Bachelor of Arts, Honours Social Science and Master’s in Commerce (Industrial Relations – Cum Laude) Degrees from the then University of Natal in Durban, South Africa. I also hold a Post Graduate Diploma in Personnel Management. I also completed a management development programme through the Insead in ... See full profile

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1. Introduction: It is really difficult to be a woman in today's world, the pressure is relentless and unforgiving. Women are expected to be the perfect wife, mother, and homemaker, to be an amazing cook, to be actively involved in their communities all the while excelling in their careers and looking a certain way. It is an unfortunate fact that working mothers face challenges that they are male and nonmetallic counterparts don't necessarily face or are even aware of. A perception exists that working mothers or mothers to be a less competent, less hard-working, less committed or driven to succeed. Working mothers are viewed as being less authoritative, more emotional, and are expected to be movement more maternal in the workplace. I recall many times after I had my daughter being asked when I would bake or cook or bring goodies to the office. I hadn't ever been asked this before I became a mother. Mothers generally seen as a primary caregivers, have the brunt of the responsibilities around children and one more accepted as part of their role than fathers. They are still heavily penalized for having multiple roles. What sociologists have coined as the motherhood penalty is a very real thing. Working mothers face many challenges on a daily basis, and I expected to play in a playing field that is stacked against them. They have to work that much harder in order to prove themselves. They have so much on their plate, so many different balls to juggle and many conflicting priorities. It is hard enough being an employee who is a mother, being in a leadership role and being a mother at the same time. It's not for the fainthearted and society, culture and community having ingrained in us the myth that we are supposed to be superwoman and that we should be able to do it all. And if we can't, because let's be honest and very few of us can do it all without something giving way. We are judged and are made to feel less. Is it any wonder that we feel conflicted, overwhelmed, depressed, burnt out, and unable to ask for help. Women, and especially working mothers and mothers in leadership, face unique challenges and unrealistic external expectations. It can sometimes feel like your mind wants to explode and you question whether you can do all of this. You question your capability and your worth. Imposter syndrome rears its ugly head. I will take you through 25 years and more of experience and the lessons that I've learned along the way, I will share real life examples that will probably resonate with some of your own experiences. You will learn that you're not alone. We will have honest conversations about the motherhood penalty, toxic masculinity and femininity, imposter syndrome, toxic beliefs and relationships. We will talk about how to express anger in a positive way, setting boundaries, learning to say no, and how you can silence that inner critic. We will look at bringing structure to your day. We will identify time thieves and time obligations and what to do about them. We will look at how you can organize better and be more present in every moment. We will also look at the things that take up your time, wasted time, and what you can do about them. Leader, have a successful career and fulfill the role of a mother. Can you have a life that is happy and fulfilled? In this course, we openly talk about the challenges that working moms and mothers in leadership phase and how to deal with those challenges. We'll look at how you can be the best version of yourself and be happy, confident, and fulfilled. By the end of this course, you will understand yourself better. You will know how to be mindful and present. You will know what you need to do to keep your sanity, find balance, manage the different parts of your life, and even thrive as a mother in leadership. Do you feel that you are not good enough? Do you feel that you are not doing enough? Do you feel like a fraud or a failure? Do you feel like a bad mother? Do you feel that no matter what you do, It's simply is not good enough. Do you find yourself not fully present in any one moment because it feels like your mind is pulling you in different directions. Do you feel that you cannot be both a good leader and a good mother? If so, this course is for you. This course is predominantly for working mothers in leadership roles. Any working mother or primary caregiver can benefit from it, as Can anyone seeking to create a work-life balance. I will be using storytelling as a means of imparting my knowledge and experience. So yes, the examples you used will be female and maternal in nature. My name is Tony and I have over 25 years of experience in the field of human resources. I have been a human resources business partner, a head of human resources and human resources director in corporate spanning multiple continents in industries, from mining to retail, from financial services to online marketing to name, but a few. And now I am a business owner. I majored in both psychology and English. I have a master's degree and I have studied at the NCI it in Fontainebleau, France. But you can find out more details about me and my company on my webpage or on LinkedIn. A few years ago, I founded Human Capital Matters, a specialist end-to-end human resources consultancy, based on my belief that people are fundamental to the success of a business. I have lived and worked in many African countries, London, Moscow, and Antwerp. I have worked with people from many different countries, cultures and backgrounds. I'm a wife and a mother and have juggle these roles with that of being a full-time HR leader and now a business owner. I have faced many challenges in my life, both personal and professional. The hardest has been to find the balance between being a mother and being a professional, being a mother and being in a leadership role. I've tried so hard to be the best mother and wife that I could be the ones they all talk about. And I have tried so hard to excel in my career. I've had so many uncertainties, fears and doubts. Perhaps it is true that age brings wisdom. These are the lessons I learned along the way and I hope that they will help you in your journey. 2. The Motherhood Penalty: Sometimes referred to as a maternal wall bias. Motherhood penalty describes the phenomenon we're working mothers encounter disadvantages and discrimination in pay, perceived competence and benefits relative to not just their male counterparts, but also to childless woman. Now this conversation about pay discrimination is a whole other thing and not restricted to whether or not you're a mother. Research has shown a historical imbalance between male and female rate of pay. However, I'm not going to focus on that, but rather on the perceived lack of competence, barriers and challenges faced, and more importantly on how to deal with them. When women talk about their children at the workplace, there are often seen as being distracted or unable to focus on their work. When men talk about their children, they simply being caring fathers. The motherhood myths of children and family suffer if mothers work or a child needs a mother to be present. And the belief that it is a man's job to earn the money and a woman's job to look after the home and hearth in leads to an unconscious bias against mothers and a view that women could not be good workers and certainly not leaders and be good parents at the same time. Most times working mothers have to reduce a working hours are cut back on little seemingly unimportant social interactions in order to ensure that everything gets done so as to justify or field deserving of their salary. When my daughter was little, either hard stop at 12:00 PM so that I was able to take home from crash or kindergarten. The I would be back within the hour. I would miss the lunchtime chats I'm male colleagues would have together with inevitably talked about some aspect of work and bonded over shared stories and jokes. He wasn't malicious or intentional. But those seemingly unimportant social interactions, we're actually rather important in creating a sense of belonging, inclusion, and team spirit. There were many times that I felt like I was on the outside looking in a clueless as to the nuances occurring around me. I remember a situation where overheard my mail team members and I was the only female member laughing about a get-together. On the group email, I saw a message saying something to the effect of BRI that's a barbecue at John's place, usual time. I vividly recall feelings, so left out because while I was on the group email, I had no idea with John lived and I had no idea what the usual time was. Was I actually invited. Did they forget that I was on the e-mail? It took me months to realize that if any of the team left their computers unlocked, someone would take the opportunity to have some fun at that person's expense. If I had been present during lunchtimes, coffee breaks, and social times, instead of focusing on my work so that I could leave a 12 PM to pick up my daughter without it affecting my deliverables, I would have known that someone's leg was being pulled. So how do you come back? Motherhood penalty? There are no easy answers unfortunately, but here are a few of the things that you can do and that I did, which helped don't hide or play down your parental duties. Because if you do that, chances are that every time you are absent, people would assume that you're out running a personal errand. I started being very explicit as to where I was. If I was out of office for a meeting, I would let my team know that I was when it came time for my 12 PM hard stop. I made a point of popping my head into our communal area and saying, Okay guys off to pick up my daughter, be back in a bit. I factored in one on one catch up sessions with my team members and I change my mindset to see that as part of my work, I started realizing that the more I built relationships and understood their needs, the better I could put processes in place to deliver on those. These one on ones would be work-related, but inevitably a few personal things would be shared and connections made such that team members will be the ones to get you up to speed when you get back from those parental obligations or you feel that you have missed out on something without making it about you sympathize with them about the challenges their partners are facing. Gosh, traffic was terrible today. Digital wife managed to drop the kids often time. Or it can be frustrating to have to switch from creative or strategic thoughts to loops. If I don't leave now I'm going to be late to pick up the kids. Gosh, it must be really exhausting to multitask. I found that while my male colleagues had wives are partners in similar situations as myself, they were unable to make the connection between what they're wise faced and the experiences of the female colleague happened to be a working mother. Also, they only saw what their wives were going through from the lenses of a husband or partner. I found that by bringing their attention to the challenges their wives were experiencing was not only getting them to understand that I was in the same situation, but I was also getting them to see the challenges they're wise we're facing from another perspective. Suddenly they were more sympathetic and understanding as Taney's not here at 12:00 PM. And gosh, it's so frustrating to have to wait for her. Became Taney's not here. Oh, yes. It's school pickup time. She'll be here shortly. When faced with situations like my earliest story about the briar barbecue user relationships that you are building through your one on ones to inquire about it. Don't just leave it like I originally did. You go to someone you are more comfortable within the team and ask about what is going on and what you have missed. Drive a culture of being rewarded for output and outcomes and not seat time. And finally, and most importantly, be the role model that you wish you had. There will be other ladies there, other working mothers who perhaps are not as senior as you, who would like the support that you are also craving for. Be the role model that you wish you had. 3. Toxic Masculinity and Femininity: Just as I had a hard stop at 12:00 PM, I also had a hard stop at 530 PM. I had to get home so that my child minder could go home as she use public transport. I cannot tell you how many times I had male and funny how it was mostly my male colleagues would say to me, Oh, working half-day again. These were the very same people who had a number of coffee breaks away from their desks took the full lunch hour and some were smokers. It takes an average of seven minutes to smoke or full cigarette. So if you even smoke five times a day while that's already 35 minutes taken up. And yet I who didn't or couldn't take those brakes, was the one working half-day rather ironic, right? There have also been instances where I was the only female sitting around the leadership table and would be asked to make coffee for everyone every time. And when I complained, I was told not to be so uptight about things and to just loosen up. I also cannot count the times that I have been interrupted, spoken over, or simply overlooked by my male colleagues when I have wanted to contribute to a discussion. Now part of this was to do with me and I will get to that in a bit. But all of these are classic examples of toxic masculinity in the workplace. So what is toxic masculinity? It is defined as the ultra can pitch to work style that supports a patriarchal system where outspoken men are viewed as being assertive and leadership material and outspoken women are seen to be aggressive and hard to work with the old boys club. Toxic masculinity keeps that alive and well. Now look, men are also not immune to the aspects of masculinity, but this course is not about them. I can however say that the one male colleague who would try to intervene when I was asked to make coffee every time, would be teased mercilessly for doing so. The problem with toxic masculinity in the maternity penalty is that very few male leaders and males in general are aware of having this unconscious bias. And those who have some understanding of it do not realize the depth and pervasiveness of the problem. The reality is that in order for the culture to change, things have to be brought out into the open and some tough conversations need to take place. How did I deal with it? Initially before I found my voice and became assertive, I dealt with it didn't rather passive aggressive manner. Some of us work faster than others or do I look like your wife or your mother to you? Being passive aggressive might make you feel better in the short-term, but it does not really resolve the issue. As I grew more confident, I tackle the issues head on. I had conversations with the people involved and explained where I was coming from and what they were doing. If it persistent still, I took matters further, sometimes done a formal route. It wasn't easy, but I also had a responsibility to the women who were not in a leadership role. And you had to do with incidents like this on a daily basis. Being a woman in a leadership role, being a mother in leadership meant that keeping quiet was not an option. It was not just about me. I was representing many voices that were unable to fight for themselves. I've spoken about the motherhood penalty and toxic masculinity. I think it's important that I also discussed the concept of toxic femininity. Is there a yin to the yang? I believe there is. Toxic femininity is where a woman uses the agenda to obtain certain privileges or hold the harassment Cod over people's heads. It's where women feel that in order to succeed in a man's world, they have to become or act masculine themselves. It's where they use tools to get their own way to get out of trouble. Even worse, toxic femininity is where women target other women. And instead of helping coaching and grooming other women, they belittle or bully them in order to ensure that they are the only ones in positions of power. Both at the workplace or out of the workplace. Women use things like malicious gossip, snarky, or snide comments, and the threat of social exclusion to keep other women in line. The worst part of this type of behavior is that it is not overt and obvious as it is masked by smiles and friendly greetings and, oops, silly me. I don't know what you mean. Kind of comments. I've been on the receiving end of toxic femininity from comments about how I look and what I wear to much more serious instances which I will talk about in a bit. Toxic femininity, like toxic masculinity has to be called out. It has to be tackled head on. Don't be the kind of woman that puts other women down. Be the kind of woman that builds up others, men and women alike. Be true to yourself. Do not pretend to be someone you are not because you think that this will help you get ahead in life. Don't use or abuse things like tears, PMS, and the harassment cod. Now note, I am not saying allow harassment. Oh, no. Oh gosh, no. However, he only damage your own reputation and credibility in the long run if you keep using this cod time and time again for reasons that are not valid or legitimate. 4. Lessons From My Early Days: My initiation into the field of human resources was in the South African mining industry at a time when there were very few people of color and female people of color in professional roles, nevermind those of authority and leadership. My country, South Africa, had achieved independence from the apartheid government a few years prior to this. Diversity or employment equity and getting the right numbers was a very big thing. I started out as a graduate human resources business training in a small mining town based in the middle of nowhere. I was fresh out of university, having been through a growling three-stage interview process over and above personality and competency assessments, and was rightly proud and rather than nervous to have been chosen out of thousands to join this global mining company. All trainees were put through a rigorous two-year training program specific to this specialization, but also giving them exposure to the business. Mind was broken up into the different parts of the HR lifecycle, like training, organizational development, recruitment, Human Resources Administration, as well as exposure to the business. As mentioned earlier. The idea behind the training program was that at the end of the two years, not only would I have had experience in the full human resources lifecycle, but that I would have had worked in all functions that made up the mind. Be it underground, operations, mortality, marketing, public relations, geology, whatever the value chain was of the mind. I could then choose which aspect of HR to take up at. If I chose a generalist stream, which I did, I could then choose which business area that I wanted to work in. At the end of every section in the training program, we will expect it to present what we had learned about the specific function to a panel of senior leaders, including the executive in charge of my area and the area that I had been in. If you could not demonstrate your understanding of the area, showcase a project or a piece of work that you had done or withstand the grilling, you had to go back and repeat this section. Even though I had worked before part-time jobs while at university, this was my first exposure to the corporate world. I was young, hungry to learn and eager to please. What should have been two years of development of supplementing my theoretical knowledge with real life practical experience of having a safe place to make mistakes and learn from them was a nightmare. The executive in charge just simply did not like me. I realized only many years later was that this was more about her than it was about me. Despite the fact that I had already two degrees under my belt and I was close to completing my Masters degree patch. She felt that I did not deserve to be there. She certainly told me that often enough, as well as phrases like you make my numbers look good and I will never let you transfer out of here. Here's a great example of toxic femininity, by the way. Now this is all water under the bridge, but I'm sharing this because there was a significant amount of damage done. Even though I knew I did good work. She made me so nervous that I would make mistakes. And because I was a perfectionist, I start to blame myself and doubt myself and my abilities. She would cut me off whenever I spoke, I would speak over me and mocked my opinions and views. I lost my voice. I struggled to make myself heard as no one would hear my little whisper of a voice because I could not speak back to her without repercussions. I developed the habit of not being able to say what I was thinking of feeling. And when I eventually managed to gather up enough courage to make myself heard or stand up for myself. I came across as being aggressive, as the words would be lost in the explosion of emotion coming out of me. Before I could resign, some senior people at the company had office, realized what was happening and saw something in me. I was transferred to another arm of the business are under another vastly different type of leader that I flourished. Under. My confidence in my abilities grew and learned to find my voice without coming across as being aggressive unless he wanted to. And I kept getting compliments and accolades for the work that I did. I learned to give my opinion, but only if I was a 100 percent sure that I was correct and that I knew everything there was to know on the topic. So obviously not the head often. I was given increasingly more complex and strategic work. But I knew deep down inside that I wasn't as good as everyone thought I was, that everyone else knew so much more than me and that they will find out that I was a fraud. I got promoted several times and even got my master's degree cum louder. But I knew that I did not deserve any of this. I couldn't talk about this to anyone as then I would definitely expose what what a fraud I was. Can you see how effectively I cut myself off from any form of support? Once again, does this sound familiar to you? I was close to a nervous breakdown until one day I came across the term impostor syndrome and I started reading up on it. The person who wrote the article could have been writing about me. But I still wasn't completely, completely convinced that I had impostor syndrome. I eventually gathered up my courage and approach. A friend of mine who had two master's degrees, a PhD, and later went on to get an MBA. And he was held in rather high esteem in the business. Imagined both hers and my surprised to discover that we both felt the same way. We went through a few glasses, too many of wine, just unloading our fears and concerns to each other. I would like to tell you that that defining moment cured me overnight. But it took a lot of conscious, hard work to overcome those feelings that I had ingrained in me. Let's talk more about imposter syndrome, making yourself heard and about assertiveness. 5. Imposter Syndrome: Have you ever been in a situation where you feel that you are deceiving your friends and colleagues and that they will soon realize that you are a fraud. Do you feel that you do not actually deserve your job or your accomplishments to you? Downplay compliments and positive feedback. Do you think that other people know so much more than you? If so, you are not alone. You have imposter syndrome or what psychologists call the imposter phenomenon. You are unable to internalize and own your own success. Impostor syndrome is when you doubt your abilities and feel like a fraud, you question if you are deserving of your accolades and you feelings of competence persists despite your education, experience, and accomplishments. There is a conflict between your own self-perception and the way others perceive you. When people praise you are recognize your work. You attribute your success to being in the right place at the right time and simply being just lucky. To counter these feelings, you work harder and hold yourself to ever highest standards in order to feel worthy of the role that you're in. To prevent people from discovering your shortcomings, to make up for your perceived in competence and lack of intelligence, and to help you handle the guilt that you feel for deceiving or tricking the people around you. You know, at one time it was thought that only women struggled with this. But research has not only shown that people from all walks of life can get this, but also that it affects over 70 percent of people at some point in their lives. The irony is that the people generally affected are actually high achieving individuals who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. While there are no specific reasons as to why some catch this and others do not. It is typically due to either personality, behavioral, or environmental trays. If you're an anxious person or a perfectionist, perhaps as a child, you will always made to feel that whatever you did was not good enough. Or perhaps you weren't discriminated in some way such that you were made to feel inadequate, whatever the reasons might be. And you can read up more on the why. The underlining thought process is that in order to be loved, included, wanted to feel like you belong. The others think well of you, you need to achieve. Does any of this sound familiar or resonate with you? Dr. Valerie Young describes find me five main types of imposters in her 2011 book, the secret thoughts of successful women. Why capable people suffer from imposter syndrome and how to thrive in spite of it, do yourself a favor and grab a copy of it. As a perfectionist, you set extremely high expectations for yourself. And even if you meet 99 percent of your goals, you feel like a failure for not attaining that 1%. You cannot meet the standard says you have set for yourself and any small mistake will make you question your own competence. Hey, instead of acknowledging the hard work you've put in after completing a task, you criticize yourself for every little mistake and feel ashamed of what you perceive to be a failing. You might even avoid trying new things if you believe you cannot do them perfectly the first time. Now that what it means to be the perfectionist. Now as a natural genius, You are used to picking up new skills with little effort. You believe that you should understand new material and processes right away. You believe that competent people can handle anything with little or no difficulty. And therefore, if you struggle or have to work hard at something or fail at your first attempt, you see this as proof that you are not good enough that you're an imposter and you might feel ashamed and embarrassed. If you are a soloist, you feel you should be able to handle everything on your own. And if you cannot, you consider yourself to be unworthy. You find it hard to ask for help. But as asking someone for help or accepting support when it's offered doesn't just mean failing your own standards. It also means admitting to your inadequacies and showing that you are a failure. If you are an expert, you feel the need to know every piece of information before you can start a project or piece of work and will not contribute to a discussion unless you feel you know, everything there is to know. You are hesitant to even ask a question because you're afraid of looking stupid. If you don't already know the answer, you might not even apply for a job if you don't meet all the criteria. As for, since you believe you should have all the answers, you might consider yourself a fraud or failure when you cannot answer a question of don't meet all the criteria that they asked for. As a superhero, you push yourself to work harder than those around you to prove that you're not an impostor to you. Being competent means that you must succeed in everything that you do and in every role that you hold, lead a friend, mother, partner, et cetera. If you cannot successfully meet the needs and demands of all the roles that you hold, then this in your opinion, proves that Jordan you are inadequate and a fraud. To succeed, you push yourself to the limit, but even then you probably feel that you should be able to do more or that there should be easier. As clearly illustrated in my story, you can be more than one type of imposter. So how do you go from seeing a cat in the mirror to seeing the strong, accomplished and capable person that you are. How did I do it and continue to do it when it's still at times rears its ugly head, which it tends to do if you're having a really bad day. If you're exhausted and just feeling a little sorry for yourself. If you feel like a fraud, working harder to do better won't necessarily do much to change your self image. Here are some things that help me to resolve my impasto feelings in a more productive way. One of the first steps to overcoming imposter feelings is to acknowledge the thoughts and put them in perspective. Talk to a trusted friend or mentor about your feelings at this can give you some outside context and the situation. Share your feelings as this can help to make them less overwhelming. Open up to your peers, friends and colleagues. As this will not only encouraged them to do the same, it will also help you to realize you aren't the only one who feels like an imposter. Try not to give into the urge of doing everything yourself. Instead, build connections, turn to peers, friends, and colleagues to create a network of mutual support. Being in a leadership role in particular, you do have to be careful who you share your vulnerabilities with. But you can build a tribe, a circle of trusted friends and colleagues who can serve as your mirror and to whom you can be honest about your feelings. Remember that saying, no man or woman is an island, you do not have to achieve everything alone. Your trusted network will give you guidance and support, reiterate and validate your strengths, offering encouragement and support your efforts to grow and develop yourself. You're not the only one that feels this way and you are not the only one that has been afraid or embarrassed to talk about your feelings of inadequacy. But keeping it quiet not only does not help you, it reinforces the belief that this is some sort of shameful secret. If over 70 percent of people feel this way at some time or other in their lives. And research shows the number is actually much higher than that, then it's not such a secret. And you're in good company. Share your feelings as it will help others in the same position feel less alone. It will also help you to create opportunities for brainstorming and sharing strategies to overcome these feelings. I had a few trusted people that I would talk to and who would serve as my mirror when my view of myself was not at its best. I could trust them to tell me the truth, good or bad. Ieee, whether there was an opportunity for development, piece someone's mirror, and they can be yours. Challenge your doubts. If someone came to you and said that they did not think that you were on the right track. He would ask them why they felt that way, right. You would ask them to give you the reasons and then we'll see if there was any facts to support what they were saying. So when those impulsive feelings rear their ugly head, get into the habit of asking yourself what the reasons are for you to feel this way and whether there are actually any facts to support these beliefs. Since you tend to be hard on yourself, your mind might come up with some facts as you see them. So when this happens, look for evidence to counter those facts. Years ago, I was given an incredible opportunity to implement a process that would result in a culture change in the company that I worked at. I didn't know it at the time, but years later I was able to pinpoint that opportunity is a major stepping stone in my career. I almost turned it down because I was convinced that I could not do it. The voices in my head kept bringing up instances where I had made mistakes and I will sure that the people telling me that I could do it, I didn't know what they were talking about, simply trying to boost my fragile ego. I wrote down the reasons why I thought I couldn't do it. And for each reason, I gave a counter argument for why I could do it. Then I listed all the mistakes I had made that I thought were relevant to the situation. And while these facts are facts and I had made those mistakes, I also realized that in many of those situations, I had successfully come up with solutions to fix the mistakes. I'd put things in place to ensure that I would not make the same mistake twice. Here's a rather silly example. Remember that mine I spoke about. I was tasked to put the minds first ever diversity plan in place. I had to give actual numbers of people against a set categories and fill a table on a Word document. I made a mistake in my totals with all the large numbers involved. Well, let's just say that mass was never my strong point. I eventually got it right by creating, creating an Excel spreadsheet and putting in formulas to help me calculate and total up the lesson I learned. Besides the fact that Max wasn't my strong point. I did not need to do everything myself and that I could use tools to bolster my developmental areas. Also became who is on Excel. I also thought about the people that I was certain I was fooling into thinking I knew what I was doing. I thought about who they were, whether they were competent, intelligent people, and whether I respected them or not. If they were competent and intelligent, I would have to be incredibly smart in order to fool them. And he found, was that smart and the chances were that I could actually do the project if they were competent and intelligent than maybe there was some truth to what they were telling me. I also realized at fooling, all of my colleagues, all of the time would be rather difficult and poor work would never go unnoticed long-term. So if you consistently receive encouragement and recognition, that's a good sign that you're doing the right things. Remember that comparison is the thief of joy. Avoid comparing yourself to others. We are all unique individuals and have unique abilities. You are where you are because someone recognized your talents, hard work and potential. You may not be good at everything and you may not excel in everything that you do. But here's the thing. Why do you have to? Very few people can do it all. Even someone who looks like they have everything under control, you are only seeing what they want you to see. It's rather like the tip of the iceberg. The full story is beneath the surface. It's okay to need a little time to learn a new skill. Even if someone else seems to grasp that skill immediately, chances are that you grasp something else very quickly that has taken someone else some time to learn. As women, we tend to be especially hard on ourselves. We are our own biggest critic and society doesn't help as we are constantly bombarded with impossible images or standards. We are never as thin or as beautiful or smartest someone else. If you have straight hair, you, you had to have curly hair. I recall going on a team build with a group of colleagues, one of whom was a statuesque lady, tall and built like an Amazon. She was utterly gorgeous and the complete opposite of me. As we were putting on ikea. She's suddenly exclaimed, Akash tiny, I would give anything to be as petite as you. Having a background in psychology and human resources, I have always found people, relationships, and behavior to be relatively easy to navigate. I've never given it much thought. The one time I remember a colleague at engineer who I admired and thought was brilliant. Talking to me about this struggle in having a difficult conversation with somebody. I was stunned, stunned that he found it difficult to do so and even more so when he said to me, Tony, you make it look so easy? It was easy for me, but I couldn't do what he could do. Most people experience moments of doubt and that's normal. The important part is not to let that DOD control your actions. It's natural to have moments of self-doubt every now and then. It's only when it becomes debilitating that you need to address it. Remember that an imposter moment is very different from having an imposter life. 6. Finding Your Voice: I come from a fairly traditional background where children were for the most part, to be seen and rarely heard. While opinions were allowed, at times, children were not encouraged to argue or TalkBack. You had to accept what your elders said and not express your anger or frustration. When an elder got a certain look in their eye, you swallowed what you are going to say. I learned to hold my words back. I know now that that was the beginning for me losing my voice. Children should respect their elders certainly. But unless you want to raise a wallflower, they should be encouraged to share their opinions, debate and disagree, because this teaches them that it is okay to have different opinions. That they can express their dissatisfaction, irritation, or even anger without feeling that they're doing something wrong. It builds their confidence and ensures that they will always have a voice. My experiences at the mind, coupled with societal expectations of femininity, further exacerbated my struggle to find my voice and express what I wanted to say in a time uncontrolled manner without coming across as being aggressive or passive aggressive due to the explosion of emotion coming across. I overcame this, but it was a battle to do so as not only did I have to fight use of conditioning, I also had to face the backlash of people who struggled to accept the new mean. I'm sad to say that some of those that initially struggled to accept the new me, we're friends. And needless to say, I lost some of those friends who could not accept the new mean. But I also realized that perhaps they were never really good friends in the first place. So how did I teach myself, defined my voice, use my voice and be more assertive. As mentioned earlier, women have had to work harder and work differently in order to be assessed at the same level of competence as their male counterparts, as well as their female colleagues, one not mothers. These are some of the things that I learned along the way. Number one, I learned that I apologized a lot more than my male colleagues and friends. I use the phrase, I'm sorry but, or excuse me, as a precursor or a frequent means to start what I wanted to say. What observed women. I realized that they use qualifiers like just maybe I think probably vary. And they also asked for permission may I sorry. Excuse me, to soften their language so as to avoid appearing to aggressive, especially when when making requests are stating their views. The problem with using such qualifiers and asking for permission to speak. It can look a lot like uncertainty and weakness and thereby affect perceptions of competence. One needs to communicate competence and warmth at the same time by using warm opening and closing statements while keeping the substance of the message clear and direct. A sandwich where the slices of bread at the soft precursors to the substance in-between. And learn to write emails that started with a short friendly greeting. Hope this finds you well, followed by the substance and ending with a warm and positive sign off. I taught myself to communicate both warmth and competence in single communication. I found that standing up on the pretext of getting some coffee for myself, for example, was a great way to draw attention to myself and give me the opening to speak without having to use qualifiers, precursors, or having to ask for permission. Women struggled to find their voices in the original families, in their relationships, in the workplace and in society. Although things are changing, the reality is that from the earliest years, girls are taught that social acceptance and femininity are intertwined. In order to be accepted, they have to maximize their femininity. And that this can only be achieved by quiet, running their voices, being caring, differential, accepting, supportive, and nurturing in order to compete in a man's world or even with each other, they feel or had been made to feel or taught to feel, that they have to display what is thought of as the more masculine traits of assertiveness and forcefulness in order to succeed. But this can backfire on women as well. As I learned the hard way. In order to be a successful leader, I taught myself how to be assertive, to disagree and to say no to. Since demands that did not suit me and to set boundaries, but discovered that it came at a cost, a likability penalty that if I was not careful, could limit my professional success. She's too aggressive. Whereas a man would be called a certain She's argumentative. A man would be admired for being able to debate and stand his ground. She's pushy. A man would be respected for being determined. She's rather arrogant, isn't she? The masculine counterpart to that would be confidence. She says no, no to things all the time. A man would be respected for being able to prioritize. Women have to work harder to be assessed at the same level of competencies men. And they also need to work differently, treading a fine line between femininity and emulating masculine trays. One male employee could easily ask for a promotion. Salary increase of unsolicited opinions or advice, challenge the status quo or speak up about concerns and get ahead in their professional career. A female employee exhibiting the same behavior could easily end up being labeled as bossy, aggressive, aggressive, strident, or even worse. Studies show that women apologize more often than men. But there is a difference between apologizing when taking responsibility or accountability for a mistake and being a serial apologist. Compulsive or indiscriminate, apologizing is seen as a weakness because the topology is given when it isn't actually necessary. If this is something that you do, perhaps try these phrases instead. Instead of saying, Sorry, I'm late, say, thank you for your patience. Thank you. Waiting for me. Rather than saying, I'm sorry, that time doesn't work for me. Say unfortunately, that time doesn't work for me. Use excuse me. Could you repeat that instead of I'm sorry. I couldn't hear you. And could you please send me that document by the end of the day today in place up. I'm sorry to bother you, but can you send me that document when you have a moment? I realized in my early days that I took on a lot of additional tasks, struggled to say no because in my mind, it was a way of showing how competent I was and really broaden light being liked. Being a people pleaser, however, means that you will always make yourself a victim and will struggle to complete your own deliverables under the weight of other people's needs. If you are afraid to say no and being a people pleaser, unfortunately, this indicates a lack of setting boundaries. Setting and maintaining boundaries is a way of asserting one's needs and refusing to be walked over as a woman because of things like the motherhood penalty and imposter syndrome, we feel that we have to overcompensate and thus feel that we cannot say no. So we tend to overburden ourselves by saying yes to extra work even when we don't have the time. This resulting missing out on opportunities due to working late, canceling appointments and having to Sage no to things that make us happy and the things that we really want to do. It makes us feel that we're not in control of our lives. And as a result, resentment, stress and frustration can build. The day I started giving myself permission to setting and reinforcing boundaries was nerve wracking in the extreme, I could feel my stomach clenching when I said No. I could hear those old voices in my head saying, they going to think you're incompetent and they're not going to like you and you are going to be excluded and so on. Remember, I mentioned right at the beginning about identifying your own worst enemy. Yes. Unfortunately, it is yourself, that insidious little voice inside your head. I started small instead of saying no straight away because that was really difficult for me to say no while being put on the spot. I trained myself to say, let me come back to you on that. I found that removing myself from the pressure of having to give an immediate onset gave me the time to gather my thoughts and formulate my I'm able to assist at this time response. It took a field trial runs, more misses then hits before I was able to hold my ground and even pushed back when required. I discovered that most people actually accepted me saying no. But there were a few that were pushing on an end and able to accept my newfound voice. You will unfortunately come across people like this. What worked for me was acting out the scenario in my head, thinking of all the possible comments and outcomes that could happen at or come my way. Practicing what my response for each scenario would be. Practice makes perfect. And I was able to handle those pushy individuals because I'd already acted out the scenarios in my head. Holding my ground became easier when I realized that saying yes to everything didn't necessarily mean that I was like more and that being respected actually was frankly better than being light. The added bonus of preventing burnout, increased productivity, and reduce resentment allowed me to be most successful in both my personal and professional life and gain work-life balance. Over and above this, I gain the respect of my team who trusted me to stand up for them as well. Being a working mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister, et cetera. I found that there were many, many calls and my time and I sometimes ended up committing myself to things that I really didn't want to do because I felt guilty saying no or sometimes even double booking myself because I didn't realize something else was going on at the same day or same time and often running from one thing to another. Even if it was something that I normally enjoyed, I ended up feeling resentful and forced into it. I tend to use my phone as a calendar for myself, but I started to keep a visual calendar stuck on our fridge door of all places. And if something came up, a playdate, a haircut oh, webinar, taking the dogs to the vet, birthday parties, work functions, et cetera. I wrote it down on the calendar. If it was not if I was not near this visual calendar and I was invited to attend or asked to do something. I once again trained myself to say, let me get back to you once I've checked the family calendar and then if there was something else on the day or even if I simply didn't feel like attending, the simple fact that I had taken myself away from being on the spot meant that it was easier for me to come back and refuse or decline and information decline an invitation, sometimes truthfully, sometimes on the pretext of already been committed. Many years ago, I joined an HR team that had at TED had had a series of bad managers and as a result were disenfranchised, disempowered, and expected to take the blame for things that went wrong in the business. When I took over the team, it took a long time to build their confidence and trust that I would have their backs. There was a company-wide initiative to nominate and recognize our high performers with some lucrative prizes. We had been running this campaign for a while and everybody knew what the deadline dates were. We shortlisted the nominees and created a video of them that for, that was for distribution throughout the organization. One of my fellow Xcode members came to my office and said to me that he had forgotten to nominate one of his high performers. This, despite me having reminded him on several occasions, he was embarrassed and had an upset team member. His solution was to ask me to announce to the business that I or rather HR had made a mistake and left this nominee out. I pointed out to him that this would be a discredit to not only the current nominees, but to my HR team and to the process as a whole, it would make my team look bad as if they had been incompetent. He asked me to be a sport. Do you do him a favor and just help him out? This was a very valuable member of his team. I stuck to my boundaries as hard as it was. He even got the CEO involved. I explained how doing this would not only undermine the legitimacy and the trust in the process, but more importantly, at least to me, it would undermine what my team had worked so hard to achieve respect. I suggested that he called in his high performer and apologize for not following the timelines and submitting the motivations on time. I was not combative or aggressive. I just calmly laid out the facts and stuck to my guns. Trust me, the next year he was one of the first people to submit his nominations. I recall another incident where we as a leadership team, we're putting forward people for promotions to the senior management level. We had finalized our list and I had sent out a company-wide communication congratulating these people on their promotion. As soon as the announcement went out, another executive colleague came rushing to me to say that he had forgotten to nominate one of his people and that she was incredibly upset. He asked me to take one for the team and send out an announcement saying that I had forgotten to include her name. I pointed out to him that not only would it look like she was an afterthought, it would make me looking competent. I suggested that he take one for the team by acknowledging his mistake and apologizing to his employee. Perhaps make it sound easy in standing my grant, it wasn't there was significant pressure on me to take one for the team. But I also knew that if I did not set those boundaries, I would constantly be pushed to doing or accepting things that I was not comfortable. Just so that the rest of the team could look good, get their own way, or push an agenda. That was not mine. I knew that I would never be respected and people would never learn about being accountable for their own actions. Adopting a dominant body language and using direct speech while communicating is also highly effective tool. One that you can use. Stand tall and project your voice. If someone interrupts, you don't be afraid to politely say, John, let me finish my thought and you can share your views after or John, you interrupted me. Let me finish my thought first. Maintain eye contact and ironically, don't be afraid to interrupt in order to establish dominance when needed, and avoid hesitating when speaking. Try not to use intrusive gestures like pointing, as these can be viewed as aggressive. As mentioned earlier, standing up on the pretext of getting coffee automatically draws attention to you and you can use this gap to make your contribution. Number 3, I also found that I tended to over elaborate and go into unnecessary detail. I trained myself to be more succinct and to the point, while talking a lot might help men. Studies have shown that women who talk for disproportionately longer than others in professional settings are rated at lower levels of competency that men whose torque for the same amount of time. Unfair, right? Also, as women, we tend to be expressive both in body language and facial expressions. One of my biggest learnings was when I videotaped myself talking and realized my expressiveness, my hand gestures, my rolling of my eyes of raising eyebrows. Hey, all those things actually distracted and detracted from what I was trying to say. My message was lost in hyperbole. The correct hand gestures and facial expressions are very powerful tools. Use them sparingly and in the right context. Here are some ways that you can start to find and use your voice. Set small goals to speak up more during meetings, speak with your manager and ask for a mentorship or leadership development. And if need be, invest in yourself and find yourself a coach. Improved confidence by practicing power poses, as well as planning your responses to possible comments are pushed back that might come your way. Seek out resources such as books, podcasts and workshops to develop effective leadership skills, strengthening conflict management speaking confidently, improving body language, building relationships, et cetera, define your values and commit to them, even if that means being the only one to speak up when something is wrong or unethical. I promise you, it gets easier as you go along. 7. Setting Boundaries: Let's talk a little more about setting boundaries as once you can do this, everything else falls into place. How many scenarios have you replayed in your head? We you wished you had said or done something differently. Those situations where in retrospect, he should have gathered up your courage to start the tough conversations or insist that colleagues, families, or friends respected your time. When asked myself that question, what prevents me from speaking up, saying what is on my mind, standing firm on my beliefs or decisions and not allowing people to push me into doing things I didn't want to do. The answer was very clear. I was afraid that people would not like me. That same no would result in people thinking I was selfish, uncaring, and I really hated having to deal with conflict. But here's what happens when you worry about what others think. You stop making progress. You stop being a leader and a role model. Instead you become a people pleaser or worse, a doormat. Because if you do not set boundaries for yourself, then you allow others to decide how they can treat you. And one might think that being a people pleaser means being liked. The reality is that nothing strips you have authority and respect, like ignoring your boundaries. What does setting and maintaining boundaries look like? It looks a lot like refusing to allow others to speak to you in a rude or condescending manner, protecting your space when your door is closed, it means it's closed. It doesn't mean somebody can just walk in and interrupt what you're doing. Setting your priorities for the day based on what works best for you and what you need to get done. Tackling head on the snide and snarky comments, refusing to be the fixer. I either one, everyone goes to when something needs to be done and done, right? Refusing to always be the one to take one for the team. The benefit of putting boundaries in place is more productivity and our highest standard of performance in everything that you do. It's also one of the first steps towards achieving that work-life balance. To start the process of putting your boundaries in place, you need to do some introspection, some self-worth as a nobody else can do this for you. Start by deciding what you are willing to accept and tolerate and watch you or not. For instance, it was really important to me that I not do anything to undermine or break the hard-fought confidence of my disenfranchise team. It was also important to me to not allow people to put me in a position where I felt powerless and without choices. Pay attention to a day in your life, a week in your life, and note down when something or someone irritates you or you feel that someone disregards you. This list will highlight the boundaries that you need to establish in order to feel empowered. Remind yourself that you have the right to set your own personal boundaries. This unfortunately goes back to your childhood and being told how little girls were to behave, act, and what they needed to accept in order to be seen as good little girls. I had to work on finding my voice. I had to constantly remind myself that I could disagree, debate and oh my goodness, yes. Even argue and express my anger, irritation or frustration. Because of this socialization. As adults, we often struggle to recognize that we can choose something different for ourselves. And more importantly that we have the right to do so. From the time my daughter could speak or express herself, I encouraged her to express their anger and frustration with me. While I might not always change my mind, she could tell me and show me she was upset or angry and we could talk about it. The hardest things about putting boundaries in place is acting on them. Once you know what your non-negotiables are, what you're willing to accept and not accept, then you need to consistently act on them. Start small, perhaps with one boundary at a time, you will stumble. We have all done so. And don't be hard on yourself when you do pick yourself up and bounce forward. And when you are comfortable with that first boundary at another and another, until you are comfortable with all the boundaries that you have put in place for yourself. It is incredibly liberating and empowering to be able to stand up for yourself, to make your own choices and not let other people's opinions dictate your self-worth. How do you change the behaviors of people around you? By changing how you do things? When you decide to set boundaries of your own, you change the behaviors of other people around you because you are different in setting new expectations and limits. Not only can you hold your head up high, you become a role model to other women and little girls around you. 8. Assertiveness and Learning to Say No: Finding your voice and setting boundaries are the outcomes of being assertive. Why you can have a naturally assertive personality. Assertiveness can be taught and nurtured. The trig, especially for working moms and mothers in leadership, is to be assertive without being viewed as being passive, aggressive, or aggressive. First, you need to address the belief that you do not have the right to be assertive. This comes from the societal norms and childhood beliefs of how good little girls act or behave. Everybody has the right to stand up for themselves, to voice an opinion, and to not be taken advantage of. Once you have addressed the belief, this leaf, you need to work on the belief that assertiveness is a negative tray and something that will put people off. Perhaps you're afraid to be assertive because you think that people will perceive you to be pushy, of noxious, difficult or overbearing. But being a people pleaser and doing what others want you to do will only result in frustration, anxiety, and resentment. Also, what people want you to do ends up being things that are of benefit to them and rarely of benefit to you. You are not being difficult, mean, unkind, or unreasonable for saying no to things that are unreasonable or expressing your opinion, even if it is a differing 1. The first few times that you push back will probably surprise people who are not used to doing this. But if you keep at it, they will quickly get used to the new year. Not only will you like and respect the new you better, you might find that others do as well. The first step in learning to stand up for yourself involves doing a lot of self-reflection. Get to understand why you're afraid of standing up for yourself, for pushing back, for voicing your opinions and for saying no. Does this go back to your childhood? Was it imposed by society? Was there a painful and defining negative experience either as an adult or a child when you tried to be assertive? For me, as mentioned before, the start of it was the belief that children are to be seen and not heard and that people would only like or love me if I did what they wanted. My experience at the mines or successor baited this. Once I began to unpack the root of my fear and once I began to ask myself questions like, Well people really not like me if I express my opinion and if I push back, if they only like me because I did things their way, people that truly cared about me. I mean, if they really cared about me would be saying no to them, change that. If so, was their regard for me really that shallow? In self-reflecting, it is important for you to acknowledge what the cost of your silence really is. Use the self-reflection exercise to take the first step in understanding the root cause of your fear and the price that silence extracts from you. Ask yourself if it, if it is actually worth it. When pushing back or giving feedback on something that does not work for you. How you say something matches. It is important for you to get across how you feel about something, why you feel that way and watch you would like the other person to do about it. You can acknowledge two reasons. They might have done something, but still reiterate how you feel about it. And it is important for you to draw a line in the sand and let them know that it must not happen. Again. Let's look at some phrases that you can use to push back and express your views. Some ways of doing so are I feel and then you can insert the emotion that you're feeling because tell them what they did to make you feel this way. I would like you to tell them what you would like them to do the next time instead. I understand that you feel you have a good reason for being late for getting to meet or whatever they did to offend you. But I want you to know that what you did hurt my feelings, made me angry. I'll let you off the hook this time, but please don't do this again or I forgive you this time, but I I don't want it to ever happen again. And if it does, I won't be so understanding. Let's look at how you can go from being passive, passive aggressive, to being assertive. Start out on a positive note. When you have a complaint about a person's behavior or actions, it's generally a good idea to start by giving the person some acknowledgment for the positive things that they have done. Then give an I statement that expresses your feelings and describes the problem very specificly. Clearly explain why you are upset and what affects the person's behavior has had on you without blaming or whining. Tell them clearly and specifically what you want from them and what you want them to do differently. You can also state what you will do if they behave in that manner. Again, remember, you cannot control the actions of other people. You can only control your own. Thank them for listening and ask them for their input. Once you have made your point, you can ask the other person for their take on the situation and for any suggestions that they may have for resolving that situation. You might say something like thank you for listening to me. I'd really like to hear your point of view as well and any suggestions you may have for solving this problem. Learning to say no is an important skill to learn. Before, learn to say no. I had countless moments where I wanted to say no, but didn't and ended up with conflicting or overflowing. She schedules nagging feeling of dread when the events of tasks, I should have said no to approach and dealing with irritated husbands and children also been victims of my inability to say no. I hated disappointing people letting them down. And at times just wasn't confident enough in myself to be able to say no to something someone else was really adamant about. Learning. No has to do with finding your voice, setting boundaries and being assertive. And once you get more comfortable with those things, learning to say no should become easier for you. But it's not always the case. The reality is that learning to say no takes practice and starts with understanding of why it is important to learn to say no and why it is difficult to do so. It is important to learn to say no, because if you do not, you will end up with your plate overflowing with things that you do not necessarily want to do and have very little time for the things that you actually want to do. In today's busy world, it is easy to think that one needs to be busy doing something all the time. In fact, one of the first lessons I learned when I became a manager of people for the first time was that as you progress up the management ladder, the more quiet thinking time you need in order to plan and strategize. You also need time to rest and recharge in order to be actual best. Your inability to say No takes away from this time. We have already spoken about setting boundaries. Learning to say no is about setting boundaries. And setting boundaries is healthy and needed in order to protect your mental, physical, and emotional health. Clear boundaries are a sign of healthy relationships that are based on trust and mutual respect. When you say no to the things that you do not want to do, surprise, surprise. You, open yourself up for having time for the things that you do want to do. When I started saying no to things, I found that my calendar miraculously cleared up. I felt less resentful, tired, and anxious. I appreciated having the quiet time so I could recuperate, recharge, and just think. Peer pressure and social influence can result in saying yes when your internal voice is screaming, know, if you can relate to this, don't feel bad or embarrassed about it. As scientists have shown that humans have a natural proclivity towards doing things that benefit the group, even at the expense of themselves. A remnant of cave man or woman days. When going with the collective meant survival. No wonder it's difficult to say no, not only are we fighting a biological need, but in some cases our upbringing, previous experiences and backgrounds, we're also fighting societal conditioning. How do you start learning to say no? Similar to setting boundaries, it starts with establishing what your priorities are and what matters to you. I identified what my and note the word my work deliverables were and then factored in the priority of spending quality time with my family. I also noticed that every time someone put me on the spot and asked me to do something, my brain would freeze and I couldn't remember if I had other commitments and would end up saying yes, only to find out that I was overextending myself. As mentioned, I put up the visual calendar on the refrigerator and wrote down everything that was planned. The haircuts, that dental visits, the birthday parties, going to the Vic, my husband's trips, sleep overs, play dates. I included school events and also as mentioned, her husband's business trips as well. While I predominantly use my calendar on my phone, I would transfer this events into the visual calendar. When someone asked me to go somewhere, tend to function, et cetera, my standard response became, let me look at the family calendar and get back to you. As a family, we made a rule that only have a maximum of one social event today. So if we were invited to to birthday parties, for example, on the same day, well, attended the first one we said yes to this one little thing of saying let me get back to you. Took the pressure off me. It allowed me to breed, check my calendar, and then respond appropriately. Unfortunately, we have other plans on the day, perhaps next time. I even got so good at it that in the event where had sometimes forgotten to write something down on my visual calendar and double booked myself. I could go back to the person and say, I know I said this earlier, but I didn't realize that I had a prior appointment. How can you say no without feeling bad about it? You can express gratitude for the consideration. Thank you so much for thinking about me. I really appreciate appreciate your invitation. Thank you for your confidence in me. Be clear in your answer. Being vague or indecisive just leaves room for people to push their needs onto you. Thank you for the invite. I would have loved to be the but I cannot make it. Finally, if it is something that you genuinely want to do, but just don't have the time save that. Suggest an alternative. Perhaps we can get together next week. I can't help you now, but I can do the contract for you tomorrow. 9. Toxic Beliefs: Toxic beliefs. Now toxic beliefs are the beliefs in grains. So dp in you. These beliefs do not serve you. They hold you back and prevent you from being a strong, confident, assertive, and sane woman and leader. Take a look at the statements given and ask yourself whether any of them describe you. If the answer is yes, give yourself a rating from one to ten so you can see how much the belief affects you. Once you've identified the beliefs that are the most damaging to you, you can focus on those and if needed, get help from someone who is qualified to assist. 10. Work Life Balance: Let's be honest, working mothers have it really tough at, on the responsibility of being a leader and being responsible for a team of people as well. Wow, being fully committed at work and being a mother can feel like an impossible job. It's exhausting, thankless. And the perception exist that you surely cannot commit and be present for both. Does being a mother mean that you can no longer be a high-performing leader? Does being a high performer mean that you cannot be a loving and committed parent? Something has to give right? Not necessarily. It is possible to find balance between your role as a mother and being fully committed to your career. It starts with you finding out what works for you. Magazine, Judge, for leaving their children and returning to work full time. Not all mothers can, however, stayed home because their financial circumstances might require for them to return to work. They also might love their jobs, have worked hard to be where they are in their careers and have many goals they still wish to achieve. Unfortunately, however, working moms are judged, shamed, feel, and are made to feel guilty. The first step towards achieving peace of mind and keeping your sanity in text starts with you. You have to let go of the mom guilt. It's easier said than done. Trust me. I know. When I returned to work from having my little girl, I was fortunate enough to be able to afford a caregiver who would be able to look after her when I dropped her off from crash or kindergarten. I'm eternally grateful to this amazing lady that looked after my little girl. But they were times I resented her as well. She got to experience some first that I'm estar time, but I had my moments with my daughter also. The time I was with her was quality time, focus completely on her as I knew, I had limited time available. It's funny and ironical that when you have the whole day to do something, you inevitably put it off until later as you know that you have the time and luxury to do so. When you have limited time on your hands, you know that there is no room for putting things off. As mentioned earlier, I missed out at work as well. I couldn't be there for the lunches and coffee breaks to be part of the inside jokes and team-building as I had regimented start and stop times, and my time constraints meant that I could not procrastinate. I felt guilty all the time. I had to deal with the snide comments. I also had to contend with people's perceptions that I couldn't be present in either role. And truth be told, I felt that I wasn't present in either role. While working. I would never switch off my phone just in case my child needed me. And I couldn't switch off my phone while at home because I was a leader and I needed to be available at all times. I've already spoken about how to build relationships at work, how to deal with comments, and how to be assertive and deal with conflict. This section is more about you and your ability to understand that you can never and will never be replaced by your caregiver in your child's eyes. You might miss out on some first. But even if you had been with your child bathroom when that first happened, what is important is your child knowing how much she is loved and knowing that her mother is a strong, independent, self-confident person with their own identity. That being ambitious, wanting to achieve things, having a voice are good things. And that whether you are a stay at home mom, a working mom, a part-time working mom. You are a valued and contributing member of your family and of society. Not a bad role model for a child, right? I learned to structure my day such that I could maximize on what I had to do. I learned to surround myself with competent people who did not need me to hover over them. I learned to make systems and processes that work for me. I use time-saving hacks like having, like scheduling calls during my commute, doing online shopping, buying birthday presents in bulk so that there was always a suitable present on hand for that surprise party. In short, I learned to work smarter as opposed to working harder. Did I have heart stops and miss out on certain certain social events? Sure. But I can tell you that I was more productive than most people during the hours that I was at work. Once I figured out that if you factored in the time, I've had people take for coffee breaks, smoke breaks, and just idle chatter. Even though they were physically at work longer than me. I did more work in a short space of time. I was also really fortunate to have a good working relationship with my manager, or maybe fortunately is not the correct word as actively worked on having that good relationship. I ensure that I was always in constant communication. He never had to ask me for feedback on work, are always kept them informed whether via e-mail or a quick chat. If I was coming in late because of a school thing, I needed to take my child to the doctor. He was the first to know and he knew that he could trust me to be back on top of things as soon as I could because I never gave him cause to doubt that I made a point of under promising and over-delivering, not the other way around. As an aside, one of the things I learned over time is that hiring a working mom came with much more positives and negatives despite what the prevailing opinion might be. When I was looking to get back to work after having my daughter, I will never forget the one experience I had. The hiring manager told me to my face that she would be wasting her time on interviewing me as being a new mom. She couldn't expect me to be a performer and she only wanted the best in her team? Yes. That was from a female manager. I learned that generally speaking, even with the fact that they would be moments where the working mom would be unavailable or perhaps not as present at work. These would be few and far between. The time would always however we worked back and there would be no procrastination and things would get done like clockwork. And I would have an individual who would be able to multitask and multi think. 11. Time Traps and Obligations: Not everything that you do is high priority or even value-adding. It is important to identify the things that impact on your time and productivity. Once you know what they are, you can put plans in place to address them. Time traps are things that eat up your time. If they're not controlled, they're not necessarily worthless or even things that you can ignore. They are just things that eat up. A lot of your day. Time obligations are things that you need to do, but if not handled in a proper thought-out way, can also waste your time. The most common time, traps and obligations, our email, this shouldn't come as a surprise, depending on which role you play in the company, you receive a varying amount of emails daily. Some are more informative, some require for you to do something and some are just for liberty and fun. Develop a system that works for you. I had a team, ones who felt that copying mean copying me in on everything was a way of keeping me informed. I let them know that it's simply clogged up my e-mail that I preferred a weekly team meeting to keep up to date. I flagged emails from my boss, my executive team, and my personal team as being the ones that I had to read as they came in. All other e-mails, I read three times a day in the morning, midday, and at the end of my workday. Smartphones, these are simultaneously made life better and worse at the same time, having a smart phone means that you are available 24, 7. You can access your e-mails, you can browse the internet, you can go on social media, played video games, video chat guessed, get distracted by joke sent on WhatsApp groups, et cetera. Don't fool yourself though. A quick scan of Facebook can eat up a lot of your time. Once again, do what works best for you. I've flagged my boss, my team, my husband and my child minder, and the school is being important numbers and set notifications accordingly. Social media and social chat groups for work for after hours, when and if I had time, co-workers and others sharing your workspace, just because they are ready to take a break, doesn't necessarily mean that you are or that you are able to take a break. It's just five minutes, right? But if eight people interrupt you, hmm, that's 40 minutes of your day gone. If you're lucky enough to have your own office, you can close your door when you need to get things done without being disturbed. However, if you work in an open plan office, put on earphones as a sign that you do not want to be disturbed. Very few people will come for a quick chat if you see your head down and ear phones on. For those that do don't be afraid of saying, Hey, is this urgent? If not, I'll come find you in an hour's time. Low priority tasks. These are the tasks that have little overt value but still need to be done like filing, for example, which can be an absolute pain and a time waster. But if not done, can come back to bite you. These are the tasks that you need to assess if they can be delegated or set-aside for a specific time. Negation, it is important to learn today. 12. Managing Your Time Better: How did I manage my time better, add some structure into my life and regain my sanity. I tried to do the following things. I learned how to prioritize. I discovered a simple yet effective tool called the Eisenhower matrix, which helps you to plot your tasks against four quadrants, urgent and important. These are the things that must be done. Important but not urgent. I would schedule these to be done later. Not important but urgent. These tasks I would delegate. And finally, unimportant and not urgent. These I would just delete. I surrounded myself with a team of people that were competent, committed, and whom I could trust. I very quickly weeded out any poor performers. Don't be afraid to hire people who are better than you. You will experience can never be replaced by having shining stars in your team. This can only make you look better. You cannot always control when you deliverables are due. But I learned how to plan for the long-term and control what I could. This way I could easily slot in the curve balls that came my way. My team's annual calendar had all known deadlines and I would work backwards from the deadline date to when we had to start the task in order to comfortably deliver on time wherever possible, I would build in some fact to ensure that I had extra time if needed, or to allow me to under promise and over-deliver. In my personal copy of the annual calendar, I also included events from my personal life like school events, vet visits, specialist appointments, cost services. Doing this allowed me to try and ensure as little as possible of conflicting demands on my time. Systems and processes are there for a reason, find the ones that work for you and use them. I promise you they will make your life much easier. For instance, make your calendar whether Google Outlook work for you. I would populate my electronic calendar and block out times to do the things both work and personal that I needed to do. This serve two purposes. One, it prevented people from booking unnecessary meetings, and 2, I had a reminder of what I needed to do. Use it to do list If that works for you personally, I love to do this, but I prefer a weekly to-do list than a day one. I find the act of taking off a completed task to be rather satisfying. Use what works for you. I also learned early on not to waste my commuting time to and from work and to and from school pickup. Always with safety in mind, I would share my phone calls and telephonic meetings during that time. My only non negotiable was that when my daughter was in the car with me, I stayed focused on her and on conversations with her. I also learned to make the best use of online services. These days. You can get most anything online from groceries to codes, to toys. You can get your pharmacy to deliver to you. The tasks both personal and work-related, that could not be done by anyone but me. I did those, but others. I outsourced. For example, a complete time waster for me was going to get my car license renewed. It would take hours. I found companies that provided the service. If a friend was going shopping for stationary, I would ask you to pick up some things for me as well. And I didn't feel bad about it as I would inevitably return this favor. The Eisenhower Matrix is a brilliant yet simple tool that you can use to prioritize your tasks both at work and on the home front. Emails at time trap and time obligation can also be plotted against this matrix. I would mentally place the e-mails in the relevant quadrants and action accordingly. As part of an exercise, I would like you to make a list of your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks and plot these against the Eisenhower Matrix. 13. Silencing the Inner Critic: Have you ever heard the phrase, you are your own worst enemy? This is true for most of us and most especially for working mothers, because of societal pressures coupled with their own insecurities. It doesn't matter how successful you are or how many things you have accomplished or even how beautiful or healthy you are. If you have a mean, nasty, insidious little voice inside your head, constantly putting you down, your self-esteem and confidence will always be low. Your inner critic has many roles. It blames you for the things that go wrong regardless of whether it's your fault or not. It calls you awful names like ugly, stupid, and fat. It is very good at comparing new to others in setting impossible standards. It's a little voice that replaced if we think that you have said or done and says that you did it wrong or that you could have done it a different way. It's the voice that makes you second guessed the work that you have done as not being good enough. Your inner critic will always talk about your failures, but we'll never talk about your victory, accomplishments and strengths. There are many techniques to silence this voice. And in some cases you might need the help of a coach and mentor, a therapist, or sometimes a really good friend. The things that worked for me and continue to work for me are identifying the inner critic and telling it to literally shut up. I got into the habit of having a little folder where I saved my good work, compliments, receive bonus letters, etc. And every time I doubted myself, I would go back and take a look at some of the contents. There were many times that I would look at something and think to myself, Wow, this is really good. Wait, that was my work. I also would use affirmations and say these over and over again until I believed them. I would also coupled saying affirmations while meditating. I found this to be a truly powerful tool. Try it. Sit cross-legged in a quiet dark room where you feel safe. Close your eyes and place your hands open palms on your knees. Take a few deep breaths in and out. When your mind is cams, say the affirmation to yourself over and over again. I also wrote down the things that I had done that I was proud of. It started out as just one thing a day and I slowly bolted up. By doing things like this, you can change your image and belief about yourself into something positive and strong. Silence the inner critic and replace it with the best cheerleader you will ever have yourself. Some of the best leaders in the world. The people who have achieved so much in their lives have only done so because they believed in themselves and they never gave up on themselves. Imagine what you could do if you were, you're in your own corner and you choose yourself on. I always tell my daughter how brave she years, how smart and intelligent she is. I tell her how kindhearted and beautiful she is and that not only do I love her to infinity beyond and back again, I also really, really like her and I like spending time with her. I tell her how proud I am of her. I see her eyes light up when I say these things to her. Why don't you look yourself in the mirror and see these things to the scared little girls staring back at you. It will change your life. 14. Conclusion: Thank you. We've come to the end of this course, and I really hope that you've enjoyed it and that you will go from strength to strength. These are the things that I learned in my journey and I wanted to share them in the hope that it would make others realized that they were not alone, that they were not crazy. And that's some of what they were going through was perfectly normal. I wanted to share the lessons that I learned along the way. As always, feedback is appreciated and welcome. In the words of SSL Heaton, I have been many women in my lifetime. I have been the protector and the provider. I have been the lover and the fighter. But the woman that I value the most will always be the survivor. Be the survivor.