A Woman’s Toolbox for Leading

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I recently interviewed author Julia Mateer.

Julia just released her book, Lifegiving Leadership: A Woman’s Toolbox for Leading. She is also the co-founder of Generation Eve, an online community for women focusing on leadership, relationships, and parenting. She is also a wife, mother, and licensed mental health therapist.

During our interview, Julia shared about her background as a mental health therapist in a private practice for 10 years. Her main focus was working with at-risk adolescent girls. Over the years, she transitioned into becoming a full-time pastor. For the past four years, she has directed small groups at a large church in her area. She focuses on writing and maintaining her relationship with her husband of 33 years. She has three adult children and one grandchild.

Julia was inspired to write her book, Lifegiving Leadership, after finishing up her career as a therapist working with women facing clinical and spiritual issues. Largely influenced by her Christian faith, Julia observed her patients with a unique perspective. “One of the things that I noticed caused women the most heartbreak was relationships, particularly relationships with other women,” Julia said. She considers this a point that many Christian women struggle with and noticed many have trouble finding the support and encouragement they need.

The purpose of her book is to help these women the tools to develop healthy, lifegiving environments within the church setting so fellow women can find healthy relationships and opportunities to minister and impact people’s lives with the love of Jesus.

Tools to Help Women Lead

“For us to be able to lead others, we have to be able to lead ourselves,” Julia said. In her book, she covers several ways to accomplish this:

  1. Develop your observational skills
  2. Develop your ability to find quiet and stillness in a busy world
  3. Be willing to seek help for any “heart blockages” we have that might inhibit our ability to lead from a healthy place.
  4. Learn how to develop a healthy team and how to affirm and bless your team
  5. Learn how to foster good relationships with members of your team
  6. Learn how to be a champion for the women you’re mentoring and developing

Leadership Goals and the Challenges They Bring

Julia says the main challenge facing women leaders is balancing family life with leadership goals. As she began developing as a leader, she said one of her biggest struggles was “being able to keep the integrity of my family while I was going to graduate school, while I was taking on more responsibility in ministry, and staying before the Lord to protect my heart and making sure I was following His leading, too.”

Another challenge facing women leaders is keeping themselves healthy physically, emotionally, and spiritually in high-stress roles.

Faith and Career Goals

Most of Julia’s goals are directly influenced by her relationship with Jesus Christ. She became a Christian at age 19. “My goal since then is to filter everything I do through Him,” she said. This impacts every area of her life, including her roles as a wife, mother, therapist, writer, pastor, and leader. It influences how she leads and how she respects others. It drives her to help others to grow and take their next steps. She wants to lead through the lifegiving love of Jesus, which inspires her to show integrity and honor as she fulfills her various responsibilities.

Generation Eve

Julia launched Generation Eve, or GenEve, a little over a year ago. The idea stemmed from a desire for an online community that could foster authentic conversations with women about important issues facing them every day: what it’s like to be a woman leader and the challenges that brings, issues in relationships, parenting issues, and various faith topics. The community includes people from all walks of life and many different ethnic backgrounds, each bringing her own perspective to the group. She wants the conversations to be inclusive and encouraging. To learn more about GenEve, visit http://www.generationeve.com. Julia is in the process of developing several new books about parenting and women’s issues. She also wants to begin hosting live events for her GenEve group.

You can connect with Julia by emailing julia@generationeve.com. To review Julia’s complete list of leadership tools, her book, Lifegiving Leadership: A Woman’s Toolbox for Leading, is available through online book retailers.

You can listen to the full interview on the Leadership Strategies for Women Podcast.

How Women Leaders Gain Confidence and Keep It

Confidence

For women leaders, having confidence is a huge advantage in careers, life, and relationships. It’s the key to attracting the right job, the right people, the right decisions from others, and achieving goals.

All women leaders have a baseline of confidence. Some women leaders have unshakable confidence built upon strong foundations; others find their confidence level is a bit shaky when faced with mistakes, criticisms and failures.

Confidence is closely tied with our sense of self-esteem. Self-esteem enables us to experience ourselves not only accurately but gladly. It’s a realistic, appreciative opinion; we can be honest about our strengths, weaknesses and everything in between, and still feel good about who we are.

There is a difference between the outer appearance of confidence and deeply felt intrinsic self-worth. True self esteem is steady; it doesn’t lead to complacency or overconfidence, but rather is a strong motivator to work hard.

Foundations of Self-Esteem

According to Glenn R. Schiraldi, Ph.D, author of 10 Simple Solutions for Building Self-Esteem, self-esteem is built from three factors: unconditional worth, unconditional love and growth.

  • Unconditional Worth: This means that a woman leader’s worth isn’t increased or diminished by external factors, but is based on her true value as a human being. This can be confusing to women who have learned they must achieve and acquire in order to be considered worthy. Once we, as women, believe in our intrinsic worth, we are relieved of the need to judge ourselves and others, or compare and compete on external values and factors. We can choose to value our own innate capacities and see the many ways we contribute to the well-being of ourselves and others.

 

  • Unconditional Love: Abraham Maslow noted that psychological health is not possible without love for the essential core. Even those who have not experienced unconditional love from parents can learn to provide love to themselves and others. Love helps us experience our worth, feel satisfaction, and enjoy growth and life.

 

  • Growth: As women, we feel better about ourselves when we are living constructively, learning, making decisions, developing and growing. Growing does not change our core worth, but it helps us experience it with greater satisfaction. In summary, self-esteem is a sense of satisfaction that comes from recognizing and appreciating our intrinsic worth; it encourages us to choose to love and grow. It’s not based upon comparing and competing. We can enhance and enjoy our sense of self-worth through learning, growing, achievements and goals.

Getting Rid of Negativity 

Without doubt, our own critical nature eats away at our confidence more than any outside judgment, mistake or failure. Over-active negative mind chatter can cause women to react defensively in neutral situations.

Many of these habits of thinking are learned and can be unlearned. Forget about blaming parents, teachers, and people who didn’t like us when we were growing up. No matter what happened to us or how we ended up with negative reactions, we can learn to disconnect from harmful automatic thoughts.

We can replace negative thoughts with positive ones that will make us more effective, happier, and self-confident. Ultimately, we are responsible for the thoughts we choose. We can’t control many things in life, but we can control our thoughts.

We lose confidence when we apply negative thinking to ourselves or other people. No one escapes these intrusive thought patterns. The key is to become aware of them. Once we catch ourselves engaging in automatic distortions, we can re-think, reframe, and revise our thoughts.

For example, we might be thinking, “I can’t possibly get this done in time. I’m too slow in the mornings. My brain doesn’t work that way.”

We can reframe the self-talk like this: “I don’t like having to work in a hurry, especially so early. I’m not sure I can finish, but at least I can start.  Maybe my brain will wake up after a few stabs at it.”

By acknowledging the reality, we avoid catastrophizing and assuming, and we agree to do what is possible by starting.

When we look at what we can do, instead of what’s wrong, we give ourselves a chance to succeed and grow from the experience. When we guard against distortions and negativity, our confidence grows instead of withers. Our minds start to acquire more positive thinking habits. We set ourselves up for success and build self-confidence.

The “It” Factor for Women Leaders

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Someone in your company may have recently been promoted to a leadership position. This person successfully competed against other qualified candidates, some of whom were probably just as experienced and smart. As often happens in judging one candidate over another, the decision most likely came down to degrees of “executive presence” or what some refer to as the “It” factor.

Executive presence incorporates a range of verbal and nonverbal patterns (one’s appearance, posture, vocal quality, subtle movements)—a whole collection of signals that others process into an evaluative impression of a person. The concept of presence raises serious questions for women with ambitions of career advancement. If, as Malcolm Gladwell suggests in his book Blink, decisions are made intuitively, what do we need to know about “executive presence.”

As it turns out, everyone’s definition of the term seems to differ. But planning your career and determining your leadership development needs shouldn’t be left to guesswork.

Women who want to be promoted to the C-suite, must learn how to acquire or improve their level of executive presence. Women leaders who are already in senior management, must help nurture executive presence in the people they want to groom for succession.

The qualities associated with executive presence can be difficult to learn and practice. Most people aren’t born with executive presence. They develop the requisite skills with experience, maturity and a great deal of effort.

Executive presence should not be confused with speaking or presentation skills. They’re part of the total package, but presence is what you project wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. A woman leader’s challenge lies in managing others’ perceptions of her, which is no small task.

Work to develop the following 11 qualities that contribute to the “It” factor:

  1. Transparency: Be genuine, open, straightforward, comfortable in your own skin. Aim for truth and clarity, even when difficult issues arise. Don’t try to please or cover up with spin.
  2. Passion: Love and feel strongly about your profession, job, industry and life in general. See and believe in optimism.
  3. Clarity: Communicate your thoughts, feelings and insights with crystal clarity and simplicity. Master metaphors and stories that make an impact.
  4. Intelligence: Develop the ability to process, retain and apply information, whether it’s academic or street-worthy.
  5. Pattern Recognition: Sharpen your ability to boil down complex factors and mounds of data to rare conclusions. Offer insights others may not see.
  6. Results-Oriented: Be driven and full of purpose; determined to achieve and succeed. Able to discern dichotomies, unravel paradoxes and work with uncertainties. Flexible and willing to adjust goals. Be decisive under pressure. Have a bias toward action. An attitude of giving, rather than getting. Work in the service of common goals for the organization’s and society’s higher values.
  7. Confidence: Communicate confidence even when you don’t have all the answers. Ask questions and listen.
  8. Humility: Be willing to admit mistakes. Seek answers and advice; listen to others.
  9. Courage: Be willing to take risks and positions against considerable odds. Work to perceive possibilities and innovations.
  10. Humor: Develop a balanced sense of humor that is not over-the-top, but in the right measure to disarm others’ defenses.
  11. Social: Genuinely care about others; see both strengths and weaknesses in people. Allow for people to learn from mistakes. Promote healthy self-esteem in others. Respect others and show a real—not manufactured or superficial—interest in them.

Keep in mind that no single woman leader possesses all of these qualities in abundance. For example, many successful CEOs with strong executive presence lack one or more of the likeability factors, such as humor and humility, but they make up for it in other domains. Ultimately, your executive presence is reflected in the energy and image you convey, along with your understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

 

Achieve Your Goals

A new year usually comes with new hope, renewed focus and a desire to start with a clean slate. That’s why the beginning of the year is a great time to set goals. Have you set new goals for 2017? If you haven’t, it’s not too late. Here are 5 steps to get you started:

1- Consider what you want to achieve: Goal setting requires thoughtful planning and consideration. Carve out some time to consider what you want to achieve. Perhaps you want to take your career to a new level. Maybe you want to improve your attitude or build new relationships. Whatever your goals are, take the time to flesh them out.

2- Count the cost of achieving your goals: Know how much achieving your goals will cost you. For example, if your goal is to write a book while you’re working a full-time job, you will likely have to give up your free nights and weekends to get it done. Is that a price you’re willing to pay? There is nothing more discouraging than failing to achieve a personal goal because you weren’t willing to pay the price of committing to achieve it.

3- Write your goals: It has been said that goals that are not written down are just wishes. Written goals will give you clarity of vision and a sense of purpose. Be specific when you write your goals. Prioritize your goals and include dates and sub-goals to measure achievement over time.

4- Review and revise your goals: Make it a habit to review your goals on a regular basis. Regular exposure to your written goals will give you a long-term perspective and the motivation to achieve. Additionally, it will afford you the opportunity to revise your goals should your circumstances change.

5- Stay on course: It will be easy to lose sight of your goals when the luster of the new year wears off. One good way to not lose sight of your goals is to recruit an accountability partner who is invested in your well-being. Share your goals with your partner and commit to meeting quarterly to review your goals. At each quarterly review, honestly assess how you’re doing. What worked? Where did you fall short? Do you need to reassess your priorities? An accountability partner will encourage you to keep your eye on the prize.

When you achieve a goal, remember to celebrate and enjoy the satisfaction of your accomplishment. Achieving goals will motivate you and give you the confidence to achieve your best.