We’re better together.
We’re better together.
Yahweh’s family lives in unity at Breath of Life. ©
It’s such a simple song but it always reminds me of the power of collective unity. Whether it be a family, a church, or a group, when people are connected, in harmony, and focused on the same goals amazing things happen. So why not women business owners?
October is Women Small Business Month and it’s one my favorite months of the year! It’s a time to celebrate everything I stand for! I am a woman who created a successful small business and I help other women do the same. What I love about women small business owners is the multiplicative power that one woman can create. One woman can employ tens, who then feeds hundreds, which then impacts thousands. Women are one of the most powerful forces for change on this planet. But we cannot do it alone. Women small business owners (and frankly every business owner) need help! We need someone to get us started, steer us in the right direction, give us support (emotionally and financially), share our message, and thereby grow our business. One of the best ways women small business owners can flourish is by supporting one another. But to do so requires some introspection. Below are some of my personal experiences dealing with other women in business and how I think we can do better, and therefore be better together.
I’ve worked with countless other women throughout my life. In high school (shout out to Sisters of Success – the political collaboration I made in high school with my friends as we ran for office), in undergrad (USSA’s Student Vote Coalition covering all university campuses in Tallahassee and ran by three women), and law school (Cristian Legal Society’s Board only had one man!). I always knew the power of two or three women with a vision. My first client was a woman and my entire business’ development (coaches and mentors) and continued success (clients) has been due to women. I’ve always believed in the power of women. My heroes are women. The most influential people in my life are women. And I strive to help, encourage, teach, and employ other women. Healthy, whole, and purposeful women are the best company to keep. They energize you, encourage you, and show you what you can do if you strive to be your best self. I have always been drawn to confident, strong, and independent women because that is who I was raised by, but I had to learn confidence and ego are not the same things. As I got older I learned that many women are masquerading as confident but really are being controlled by their ego and that can have devastating results.
Confidence vs. Ego:
Every woman needs to be confidence in who she is, why she is here, and what she can contribute it. Without those clear understandings, she can fall prey to jealousy and behavior that is beneath her. However, life’s experiences can come to hurt or damage your self-confidence. You can be told things at an early age that you have to unlearn. You can experience disappointment or devastation that can rock you to your core. When those things occur you must be sure to take the time to heal and deal with those experiences and the scars they leave behind or you will begin to operate out of your false self or as its called the ego. Your ego tells you to do whatever it takes to save face and be “safe.” Instead of being honest and owning for your mistakes you blame others. Instead of being humble you become braggadocios. Instead of sharing and contributing to the greater good you become competitive. These are all because your ego has taken over and you are operating from fear instead of trust and love. Trusting and loving yourself and others enough to stand in the truth of the situation, make the harder choice, and do better. When I was younger, as many women, I struggled with self-confidence. I knew I was good at some things but I didn’t believe I was great. I let fear drive me into terrible decisions and with each one there were consequences. As I grew and decided I rather stand in truth than keep living lies, things got better. When I started my business I still had many lessons to learn. Instead of playing it small I needed to step into my rightful place. When you’re playing small you get small results and I do not believe you nor your business were created to be small. If I can shake off the fear so can you! Let’s go confidently into our rightful places and trust that we have all we need to keep going forward!
I’ve had some not so great experiences with women as well. I remember being basically shut out of an organization I was volunteering with because I was “bossy.” I remembered being so hurt that other women felt that I was trying to take over and run anything. I have my own stuff to do! However, I realized an all too familiar scenario that had taken place in my life like many times before. When I was actually being assertive other women took it as being aggressive, and we all know when people are threatened they become defensive. The inability for women to decipher between assertive and aggressive is one of the biggest hindrances for women business owners. I have always been assertive. I am really direct and honest. I do not intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings but I had to learn that a lot of people (and women – not especially women, men can be sensitive too!) are a lot more sensitive in some areas than I am. Below is how I learned the difference and what to do when someone calls you bossy!
Assertive vs. Aggressive:
Woman have to be assertive in business. Your vendors, clients, and employees need you to be clear and direct. The success of your business depends on it. To be competitive many women started to take on masculine-like demeanor, traits, and even attire to assert their dominance and be taken seriously. However, there is a difference between assertive and aggressive… Assertive means you are clear and direct while aggressive means you are being controlling and ill-intentional. Women must learn the difference AND stop confusing and mislabeling one trait for the other, especially among other women! Just because you don’t like that another woman is very clear about her boundaries and priorities it does not mean she is aggressive, bossy, mean, or even worse the name for a female dog! If her delivery of her standards bothers you by all means please express that the best way you can but we must stop tearing each other down because we are not only confused on the difference between these two traits but further because our feelings were hurt!
"Boss not bossy":
Generations of women have been told to tone down leadership skills and assertiveness for the sake of cultural restrictions on femininity. An assertive woman is called bossy while her male counterpart is called a leader. In 2013, Sheryl Sandberg wrote her groundbreaking book on the subject called Lean In (based on her 2010 Ted Talk below) calling out the inherent gender biases that have plagued women leaders in the workplace, C-Suites, and politics for decades. Citing a 2002 Columbia study, likability and therefore trust factors were attributed higher to the male example then to a woman (even by other women!), even though they were doing the exact same thing. Following the book, more and more organizations and leaders started to call out these gender biases that affect women in every industry at every level. The “Boss not Bossy” movement had begun and its hopes are to influence the upcoming generations that they can be both assertive and successful.
I’ve been in collaborations where other women have tried to sabotage me, steal opportunities, manipulate me to work or help them for free under the guise of “partnership” or even worse “friendship,” or more horrendous steal my intellectual property and portray it as their own… But these things happen. When dealing with another woman who is being controlled by insecurity and self-doubt anyone who get close to them is likely to become a victim of their self-hate and the behavior that comes with it. I never retaliated , nor even before this post spoke publically about it. Although I was so sad, disappointed, hurt, and betrayed I have learned people can only treat you as best as they treat themselves so what was an isolated one time incident with me these women are doing this to themselves and to the people who are close to them continuously and that is worse than anything they can do to me. Some women are so controlled and wrapped up in their pain/hurt/issues they cannot help but leave a trail of devastation behind them wherever they go. Dressed in beautiful clothes, and looking like a gorgeous model, the ugly that is in the inside of them that they spew out (often uncontrollably) is like putting lipstick on a pig - not cute. Covering up your inner ugly will never work and it will always creep out and never at a convienet time. The best thing to do when you encounter such a woman and she hurts you is to forgive, take the time to heal, and keep it moving because the best revenge is your success!
A Nation of Haters:
Competitiveness, jealousy, and reality TV culture have made many women feel that other women are naturally their enemy and therefore “haters.” We are often looking for any little slight that can be used to take offense and justify bad behavior. Further, many women intentionally throw massive amounts of shade towards other women to keep themselves entertained and relevant…. Unfortunately, that kind of behavior does not lead to healthy collaborations nor a business with long-term success. Eventually, you will end up alone because in a sea full of sharks where is your refuge?
Insecurities and Self-Sabotage:
Insecurity - uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence, affects everyone – men and women alike. However, due to societal pressures and cultural norms women are often affected by and encouraged to let their insecurities foster and fester. One such example, are the insecurities utilized by the beauty industry to continue to have women buy billions of dollars of products annually. However, insecurities can limit your level of success both personally and in your business. If you cannot learn how to overcome your childhood and adult trauma, drama, issues, mistakes, and disappointments you will be controlled by them, because every time a similar scenario occurs you will react from the same place of hurt, pain, or fear and that is not cute! Instead of learning new ways to behave and taking responsibility (not blame!) many women create unrealistic barriers/boundaries by saying things like, “that why I don’t work with women.” Honey! Half of the planet’s inhabitants are women! Where are you going to go? Or maybe even less overt many women resort to gossip and slander to deal with uncomfortable situations. Instead of being direct they participate in character assassination and are praised for having “tea!” Instead of seeing another woman as your enemy because she makes you feel insecure about yourself - pause. Take a breath. Explore those emotions and memories (whether by yourself or with a trusted mentor, advisor, friend, or therapist). Make another choice. Instead of judging her, find ways to see how you have or can do that same thing and employ empathy. Instead of gossiping remove yourself from the conversation, change the conversation, or speak about something positive. Remember you reap what you sow and that includes what you think, say, do AND allow. How can you want to sell to other women but you never buy? How can you want other women to support you but you are selfish? Make another choice and watch your results change!
One of the best collaborators I know is Oprah Winfrey. She goes out of her way to support, encourage, and teach other women. Through her school in African and in all of her businesses she reaches back and pulls other women up and shares in the spotlight. We all need to take a page from her book. We have to know and believe that when one woman rises we all do because we’re in this together. The best way to become a better collaborator is to be intentional about becoming a better woman. I have found as I improved my interpersonal skills, healed my past pain, developed my knowledge, and increased my value I have been able to connect with other successful women. Now I have very successful (and profitable) collaborations with other women and I am never worried about when the other shoe will fall or she’ll act a plumb fool with me! Not only because I’m connected to well-rounded and healthy (not perfect!) women but also I know how to handle myself and therefore any situation that arises through proper communication, healthy boundaries, and more trust in myself and others that it will be ok.
So what can you do?
Work on being your best self! Examine your past experiences with other women and other business women. Have there been any trends that you will like to change? What were you responsible for in those trends? Again not blame but responsibility. You are 100% responsible for your life. If you do not believe and own that you will forever outsource your failures AND successes to other people and give away your power to make changes in your own life. Be responsible for creating the life you want to see. If you want to have better relationships with other women sow being a better friend. If you want more women to support your business, sow supporting – really supporting other women’s businesses. Be careful of your intention here. If you’re just doing something to get a quick result and not really examining and changing your behavior you will not get lasting changes in your situation. You cannot game the system, nor should you want to. We all deserve to live in a world where we can support each other, be successful, and join forces to make a bigger impact in the world and in our pocketbooks! Below are some basic qualities to strive for to become a more well-rounded and successful woman and therefore connect to, support, and collaborate with other successful women.
My mom first introduced me to Suze Orman and I fell in love with her honest and direct approach to money management. Here is a woman who struggled like so many other women to create a life and business for herself and then makes sure she teaches other women how to do it better than she did! In her book Women and Money, she articulated the 8 qualities of wealthy women:
Her list just struck me so because prior to that I never heard such a succinct and clear depiction of a well-rounded, healthy, and wealthy woman. When you see one you know it but these are the traits that describe her. I immediately posted this list to my bathroom mirror back in undergrad and it’s traveled with me to every new location. Every day during my declarations I list the traits, bible verses I want to activate over my life, and my other goals. Starting my day with an intentional focus on being my best self, takes me one step closer to getting there and beyond.
This post was about the interpersonal skills and evaluations you must make to be a healthy collaborator as a women business owner. My next post will include strategic business and networking tips to connect to other great women in your community, online, or abroad to build your business. Sign up below to receive an email when my next post is published and stay connected!