I Am WOMAN, Hear Me Roar...

Female_Lion.JPG

So as much as I am an "animal person" I have to admit, when I see or hear a lion roaring it frightens me.  And yes I said "see" because the look alone makes me nervous.  There is so much power and passion that comes out of that roar.  Thank God those animals are in exotic places like Africa, India, etc.  They were made for the wild open savannahs out there where roaring is appropriate, expected and accepted.  How startling would it be if you were to walk out of your office and hear a lion roaring?  You probably won’t believe it’s a lion because that would definitely be out of place.

Have you ever heard someone use the phrase "I Am Woman, Hear me Roar?"  I did some research online and discovered that the phrase actually came from a song by Helen Reddy entitled "I Am Woman" that was released back in the 70’s.  It was tied to her search for a song that would capture her growing passion for female empowerment.  When I first heard that phrase used, I thought it was powerful.  It made me stick my chest out like never before.  I had no background knowledge of what it meant but loved the way it sounded.  Lately, I've been seeing where that phrase is being used a little out of context or different from its original intentions.  From my experience, instead of the phrase being tied to empowerment its now being tied to strident and extremism.  Frequently, people use that to describe their uber independence and ability to conquer a male dominated workplace.  Think about it, we have all met and encountered that "Independent Woman."  The one who comes across like she has everything figured out and needing help is the farthest thing from her mind.  The one who has the loudest voice to be heard to ensure that she isn't treated as a doormat.  The one who walks with a presence that is sure to capture everyone's attention.  Yeah...her! 

What image is she projecting?  Is that phrase appropriate for the workplace?  Maybe...

So I'm going to speak from my experience:

Corporate America has underlying politics that must be learned quickly.  Everything is based on perception and unconscious bias.  It is important that when you set foot in the building, the lights turn on but not so bright that it's blinding to onlookers.  I GET IT!!  You want to be seen as this strong woman in a society where you are seemingly treated unfairly.   Most of us don't realize that our intention to display a polished and competent individual comes across as if we have a chip on our shoulders.  And as a result: You can be passed over for opportunities; You get labeled as the problem child or potential problem child; People literally have to tip toe around you because they are scared of YOUR roaring. ...Yes, this is a factual perspective!

So, who is your audience? 

The "Movers" and "Shakers" in any organization is typically your boss’s boss, your boss, or the old lady that sits in the cubical behind you.  Those are the individuals that have influence on decisions being made OR are the ones making the decisions.  Those folks are looking for a well-rounded individual that they can trust to represent the company or even them in their absence.  And to be honest, displaying any extreme behavior does not put you in a position where you will be considered.  In fact, it places you on the "do not call list."  People are nervous about approaching you and question your emotional stability.  There is a way to affirm your authority without overpowering the culture at your respective organization.  Know your audience!   

So what does a well-rounded individual look like in today's society?  What’s needed?  This may vary, but here are 5 things to consider:

  • Ability to communicate up, down, and across with people on different levels.  You should be looked at as a person who is not intimidating but approachable.  Having the skill of tactfully communicating important information to your colleagues, senior executives and people external to your organization takes practice.  Be versatile when communicating and again, know who your audience is.  Lastly, be bold, confident and knowledgeable about whatever you're conveying to them. 
  • Flexibility with unintended consequences.  There will always be a project that didn't meet a deadline; an email that didn't go out on time; a colleague throwing you under the bus; a report that you completed that was inaccurate.  THINGS HAPPEN!  You need to know how to be flexible with the consequences that arise from those situations.  Being flexible goes beyond staying late.  You have to learn how to be flexible with the changing of attitudes, rejected work, hearing NO over and over, and receiving constructive criticism (over and over).  You can't always react on the spot so be equipped and be ready.

Stay committed.  Whatever your job may be and whatever task you are assigned, STAY COMMITTED.  Stop looking for the next big thing.  Don't be a "certified position hopper!"  Take some time and develop your skills where you are and don't look at what everyone else is doing to somehow indicate what you need to be doing.  This is where a lot of people get off track.  Their eyes are so busy wandering that they lose focus and start drifting into other lanes.  Stay in your lane, stay alert, stay plugged in and stay committed.  It will pay off big dividends. 

  • Know who is who.  You are not the newbie anymore.  If you've been there for at least 30 days then you should have made it your business to know “who's who in the zoo.”  Find out who the "movers" are and introduce yourself to the "shakers."  Get acquainted!

Lastly,

  • Let your work do the roaring.  Learn when to talk and when to let your work speak for itself.  How will you know the difference?  You need to possess a good balance of technical skills and leadership skills.  The technical side has the skillset needed to carry out the job accordingly.  The leadership side knows when it's appropriate to let the work speak or when it’s time to respectfully speak up.  If you don’t possess either of these then get the necessary training, read some books or consider getting a mentor.  Your work needs to be the loudest thing heard not your voice.  Only then you will become a force to be reckoned with in your organization. 
  Photo attribution: UMASS Sims Workshop

Photo attribution: UMASS Sims Workshop

Do you know what it means when a lion roars?  Roaring is actually the way a lion communicates a message in various ways and for different reasons.  The roar is meant to drive away fear when necessary to protect its group.  Another interesting thing is a lion only roars if they are in their own territory, otherwise it remains silent.  Interesting! 

"I Am Woman Hear Me Roar" was not intended to be replicated in the workplace as a threat to anyone.  Using its original intent of empowerment, I can see the correlation with independence but we need to always ensure that we are portraying strength and empowerment not weakness and noise.  As a woman who has been in the workplace for over 20 years, I do believe that I embody the true definition of strength but it’s not because of the noise I make but rather the stance I’ve taken.  Let them hear the real roar!  Let's awaken the true meaning of I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar.

to you,

kim