anxiety types

Is Your Influence Recognized and Rewarded in Your Company Culture?

Which leadership behaviors are reinforced in your company? In particular, does your company culture recognize and reward behaviors you would describe as more “masculine” or those you would describe as more “feminine”? And maybe it’s a balanced blend of both.

Male and Female Brains

To set the stage, not all women exhibit 100 % feminine thinking, speech, or behavior. Not all men, have completely male mannerisms, behaviors, or thought and speech patterns. Each of us is our own unique combination of masculine and feminine traits. However, current brain research shows that most women tend to have more female brains, while men tend to have more male brains. Brain structure and functioning is also influence by gender-related hormones of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, oxytocin, etc. And because of that most women show a propensity for more “feminine” ways of operating, and most men exhibit more “masculine” modus operandi. The culture in which you were raised adds a layer of gender-based expectations.

This makes it interesting to look at the kinds of behaviors your organization tends to reinforce. If you’re a woman in the workplace you know this ground quite well. Even though most workplaces today are roughly 50/50, male/female, most corporate cultures in the US are still very male-oriented. Thus, it is commonplace that your thinking, speaking, and other behaviors are misinterpreted by the corporate culture and the men around you. Because of this, the way women interact within their companies is interpreted and explained away through a male lens. In fact, more and more research shows unconscious bias in companies adversely affects, not only people of color, but also women, especially when it comes to promoting individuals into leadership positions.

For example, the leadership model has been shifting over the past couple of decades from using mostly hierarchical authority towards more egalitarian influence. This seems great for most women because the female brain tends to seek out complex and robust relationships. Most women want to create good relationships in the workplace. Once they foster relationships, they also work to maintain those relationships and keep them intact. On the other hand, the male brain is wired to prove prowess and strength. So, so men tend to be more aggressive and competitive, looking for ways that they can prove themselves.

Relationships Versus Competition

Apply this to one area of being successful in most companies: showing your success by stating your accomplishments. This often comes up in performance reviews. Because women generally seek to maintain relationships, they will tend not to brag about their accomplishments for a couple of reasons. First, if you’re a woman, you don’t want to appear as though you’re better than other people because you’re trying to relate to others without positioning yourself as “better”. Second, you realize that other people contributed to your success. Third, if you have to brag about what you accomplished, it diminishes any recognition you received for your feat.

Conversely, men aren’t defining themselves primarily by their bonding and relationship skills. Rather, if you’re a man, you compete to the best most accomplished or best performer. That’s why most men don’t have a problem bragging about their accomplishments. In fact, it’s important that they call attention to their abilities. Consequently, men generally can more easily talk about their wins.

Collaboration and Influence

Another area where your influence and might be missed is through collaboration. Masculine versus feminine notions of “collaboration” can look different. Women will ask others to participate in projects or decisions. As a woman, you may hold off landing on an answer to a challenge and gather a lot of input from others up front. Not only do you value the connection with the people, but you might be looking for a lot of different perspectives or ideas that about the challenge. This inductive thinking is about gathering more ideas for a better solution. In contrast, male collaboration comes from a competitive competence angle. If you’re a man, collaborating with others is a way to test out your ideas and see how well they measure up. With this more deductive style of thinking, you start with your idea and see how well it stands up to challenges from others.

How have your behaviors been perceived through the lens of your company culture? How are you perceived by various factions within your company culture? What are the implications for you and your leadership?

WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at:

Follow Beth:
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LinkedIn: /company/firebrand-consulting-llc or /in/bethstrathman
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How to Be Successfully “Bossy”

According to a recent survey by the Adecco Staffing Group, about 30% of employees want the boss’s job.  After all, it looks so easy.  Bosses have more freedom with their schedules.  They are able to take longer lunches, come in late or leave early without having to punch a time clock.  Bosses get to spend most of their time in meetings rather than having to do actual work, and they get paid more and can tell others what to do.  Who wouldn’t want to move up the ladder and be the boss?

Ask those who were are in a supervisory position.

It turns out most supervisors had no idea how difficult being the boss could be when they were on the other side of the management fence as a worker bee. After becoming the boss, they often find there is almost always someone who is unhappy with them, they generally work long hours, they must have tough conversations with employees even when they don’t want to, and in spite of what they thought before they were promoted, their direct reports don’t necessarily listen to them and sometimes even resent them just because they are in charge.  Some fun.

So, if you were recently promoted to a supervisory position or are still having difficulty accepting your role as boss, here are a few tips for being bossy – in a good way:

1.       Find your center to maintain your integrity.
At its core, this includes making sure your personal values are mostly in alignment with those of your organization.  If personal and business values are off kilter, you will know it. In fact any misalignment will be magnified in a supervisory position because now you must directly represent the company’s interest.  If you can’t do that with a clear conscience, you might want to start planning a move.
2.       Communicate clearly by checking your assumptions.
One of the most important aspects of communication is what happens before something comes out of your mouth or body – check your assumptions.  Some common assumptions that might catch you off guard are assuming employees have automatic respect for you because you’re up the food chain (they don’t – you have to earn it), assuming you can be the same kind of familiarly friendly with former co-workers you now supervise (you can’t, but they want you to), assuming they can avoid confronting problems because they’ll take care of themselves (some don’t, you need to address them), and assuming that your employees know what you mean all the time with little or no explanation.

To be successfully bossy on the communication front, you must set and reset expectations continually. New bosses especially are wise to meet individually with each direct report to get to know them, especially their career goals and current challenges.  From your end, make your expectations clear for employee behavior and performance, including specific performance standards you’re looking for.  Another thing to divulge are your “hot buttons” – those things that drive you crazy that you expect employees NOT to do.  The previous boss probably had different ones, so unless you say something to the contrary, your employees are going on the status quo.

3.       Remember it’s not personal; it’s the limbic system. 

As a boss, your employees’ neurological systems perceive you as threat just by virtue of having an ever-so-slightly-raised status above your direct reports.  This means, even a slightly raised eyebrow from you will set some employees twirling off into a tizzy. Whenever you simply have a conversation about someone’s performance or conduct that needs improving, you’ll be accused of “yelling” at them even if you whispered during the entire conversation.  The same goes for positive interactions you have with employees; telling someone “good job on the Johnson project” can put someone on Cloud 9 for days. Yes, you’re that powerful.

Learn as much about emotions and neuroscience as you can to work effectively with your team.  More important, monitor your own emotional repertoire to avoid exacerbating the emotional response in others.

4.       Patience. Go slow.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day.” “Don’t eat the elephant all at once.” Et cetera.  You may see a thousand issues that need to be addressed, and you might be right.  To be successfully bossy, refrain from jumping in to tackle them quickly on your own (unless something illegal or unsafe is happening).  Instead, start asking questions about why things are done/not done a certain way.  Educate yourself and listen.  Then include your employees in creating or re-designing something different.  It will take longer and may not end up the way you originally envisioned; however, all will have ownership in what is created together.

5.       Be graciously fallible.  

As the boss, you may feel pressure to continually prove you earned the spot – to be seen as competent.  Well, there may be an employee or two who could also do the job, but you’re the one who got it.  So, accept that you’re in charge and be successfully bossy by offloading the pressure to be right or smarter than everyone else.  It’s amazing how powerful you will be if you take a lesson from Louise Penny’s fictional character Chief Inspector Gamache, who mentors junior inspectors with 4 key phrases:

  • “I don’t know.”
  • “I was wrong.”
  • “I’m sorry.”
  • “I need help.”
WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with executives and senior leaders to create team environments that optimize ownership, accountability, learning, and results. Learn more at:

It’s Spring. Time to Renew Your Commitment to Your Work

renew your commitment to workAs the hours of daylight increase and the outside temperature is warming up, I find myself leaving the behind the gray, unmotivated mood of winter and actually feeling . . . cheery.  What a great opportunity to renew my commitment to my work and to spread more sunshine throughout the office.  If you read Shawn Achor’s, The Happiness Advantage (2010), you’ll recognize these simple things you can do to stretch your happiness muscles:

1.    Consciously Re-Focus on the Positive.   It is well-established that we humans pay more attention to negative events than positive.   “ . . . [M]ost findings indicate that people react more strongly to bad than good events.  The evidence covers everything from minor everyday events and brief experimental exposure to objectionable odors to major life events and traumas.  Bad events produce more emotion, have bigger effects on adjustment measures, and have longer lasting effects.”  Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, Vohs (2001).

So, is it any wonder that we drive to work most mornings, dreading what might be in store for us at work?

Aware of this human tendency, you can now counteract the negative bias we all experience and consciously focus on the positive.  To do so, write down 3 good things that occur each day.  Or write about a positive experience at work for 20 minutes, 3 times per week.  Burton, C., & King, L. (2004), The health benefits of writing about intensely positive experiences.  Journal of Research in Personality, 38, 150-163.  (Concluding that writing about positive experiences for short periods of time led to increased happiness and even led to greater physical well-being).

2.    Reframe Your Work to Find Your Calling.  There’s nothing wrong with seeing your job as just a way to pay the bills.  It’s just more satisfying to think that you’re actually contributing to something larger in the world.  How can you find the meaning in the more unrewarding aspects of your job?  List a task you might define as meaningless.  Next, ask yourself what the purpose is for that task or what it accomplishes.  Keep asking yourself these questions about the task until you hit on a purpose or reason for the task that is more meaningful for you.   In other words, connect the task to something larger or with greater impact in the world.

And to lift your mood even more, watch Shawn Achor talk about happiness in his 12-minute presentation he made at a TED conference.

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

beliefsThroughout my career, I have learned that much of what is thought, is only in your own head and is not necessarily true.  Yep.  Humans make up a lot of stuff about the world. But creating clarity of thought comes only if you decrease the amount of our own interference with the information you take in.

The brain has been described as a pattern-making machine.  It looks for patterns everywhere (even where there aren’t any).  You have many THOUGHTS that come together in patterns, which eventually form BELIEFS about everything.  And although you like to think of yourself as a rational, logical being, you typically don’t investigate the objective TRUTH of those THOUGHTS and BELIEFS. In fact, most of our beliefs were formed before you were 7 years old.

Based on the way the brain is designed, the more you practice a belief, the more you see it in the world around you.  And if you don’t examine what is going through your mind, you can end up making decisions about or reacting to situations and people in ways that can look wacky to others and that don’t serve you in the long run.

In other words, you have filters in place that color what you see, hear, and experience. The more you use these “filters”, the stronger the neural connections become around a belief. In turn, these “filters” shape how we interpret our experiences.

To get clearer about your interpretation of things around you, become aware of a few of the negative thoughts or beliefs you hold about a situation or another individual at work.  Something for which you don’t have much of a factual basis.  Own up to the fact that the stories you tell yourself are often merely your interpretation of what happened and may not fully describe the entire situation.

Explore processes like The Work by Byron Katie  to help you question beliefs that especially cause you to react negatively with frustration, sadness, or anger.

As a leader, question a negative belief you have about someone at work.  Is it true?


WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders as they evolve into the leader they are meant to become and learn to maximize the people side of business. Learn more about her at:

Follow Beth:
YouTube: Firebrand Consulting LLC
LinkedIn: /company/firebrand-consulting-llc or /in/bethstrathman
Facebook: /firebrandleadershipconsulting