6 Mistakes Women Make in Business
1. Undervaluing the power of networking
Let’s get very personal really fast: I list this as number one, because I think it was one of the biggest mistakes I made early on in my career. I’ve always been an intelligent, strong, self-sufficient person. And I always believed that I could make it on my own. I thought my accomplishments and skills and so on and so forth were enough to propel me forward.
Over time, though, I learned just how critical it is to develop a network of women whom you can depend upon. This works both up and down the chain, so to speak. First and foremost, find a mentor. You need someone who has been down that path and can help you as you navigate through the forest yourself. Secondly, develop a network of colleagues. These are your co-workers and teammates. Developing a good rapport with these folks is critical for succeeding. And final, pass it on. In other words, as you grow and mature in your career, find someone in whom you can invest. Share your wisdom, your experiences, and your lessons.
Bottom line: You need a community where you feel safe and can be vulnerable and honest.
2. Comparing Yourself to Others
Why do we as women do this?? In business, in life, in parenting. Stop the comparison game, ladies!
As Steven Furtick is quoted as saying, “Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel.” Isn’t that especially true in this age of social media? We scroll through Instagram and see everyone’s perfectly curated pretty lives, while we struggle to keep the house clean, the dogs fed, and the laundry done.
Similarly, in life and in your career, your journey is unique to you. Don’t compare yourself to your colleagues. I don’t care if she graduated the same year as you, but gets promoted sooner. You don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. You may be on a different development path, destined for something different – and even greater.
People learn and experience life differently. So don’t try to make everyone the same. You follow your career path (and life path, for that matter) and enjoy the journey. Sure, a certain amount of comparison can be motivating, if kept in check and handled healthily. But, as they say, comparison is the thief of joy. So, let’s not let anything steal our joy, okay?
3. Setting Unrealistic Expectations
The previous point leads right into this one… Sometimes playing the comparison game can lead to unrealistic expectations. You see everyone else doing it all perfectly, so you should too, right? Wrong! Expecting yourself to do it all and be everything to everyone is a recipe for burnout and stress and anxiety.
Hear me loud and clearly on this point:
Your time is your most valuable asset. Spend it wisely!
Know your core strengths. Focus on tasks that utilize those. The other stuff? Let that shit go. No, really. I know it’s hard for us perfectionists, but you have to learn to let go. Learn to delegate.
How do you know when to do something yourself or to delegate it? Here’s a handy checklist:
1 – Do I enjoy this task?
2 – Does this task fall within my core competencies (aka, what I do best)?
3 – Is there someone else who can do the task 80% as well as I do?
If you answered no to question one or two and you answered yes to question three, delegate!
One more point on this one: learn to say no. Saying yes to everything leads to being scattered and unfocused, and thus frittering away your most precious asset — time.
4. Underestimating Your Value
Ladies: You must be your biggest advocate! Yes, it helps to have a mentor. Yes, it helps to have a strong network. Yes, it helps to have “higher ups” in the company who go to bat for you.
But at the end of the day, no one cares more about you than you! So, advocate for yourself.
We all know there is a wage gap in this country. But, ladies, how many times have you negotiated your salary or asked for that promotion or wage? Studies show that men do this much more often than women. Frankly, it’s not even close.
Women tend to just accept what’s offered to them, thinking they should be grateful or appreciative, I guess. Whether this stems from a fear of tough conversations or simply underestimating our worth, I’m not sure. Either way, though, we have to stand up for ourselves.
Be your own best advocate!
5. Trying to Fit in a Mold
From my experience, I’ve observed the pressure that we put on ourselves to be a certain way. Perhaps we feel we need to be hard and firm and aggressive to fit in the business world. Well, don’t try to be too aggressive, just because that’s what you think you have to do to be heard and stand out in the business world.
Just be you. What a novel concept, right? As we talked about in our discussion on overcoming imposter’s syndrome, most importantly, know your stuff! Be the subject matter expert in your field. That in itself will carry weight in a meeting or in the business world. And of course always express yourself in a respectful and professional way.
But beyond that, just be authentic. In business and in life, that will resonate more than any false facades you attempt to portray.
6. Letting Feelings Rule
Oh ladies – I was sadly guilty of this one in my early days too. Let’s face it – women are viewed as more emotional and feelings-based. While there is nothing, per se, wrong with that, we have to keep those emotions and feelings in check in the business arena.
We tend to make things personal when, in reality, it’s just professional. As my former CFO used to tell me, “you need to be more like a duck and just let it roll off your back.” Don’t let things ruffle your feathers too much. Just keep swimming.
Two more hot-button items on this topic:
1 – Crying in the work place:
Please don’t. Or try your best not to do so. It just does not behoove you and your career development. If you feel the tears coming on, try to just take a deep breath and maybe step out of the room if needed. Trust me, ladies – this is coming from a cryer. When I feel strongly about something, I can get worked up easily. But letting those emotions flow in the workplace is simply counterproductive.
2 – Using wishy-washy feelings-laden language:
Let’s all agree to stop starting sentences with words like “I think”, “I feel”, or “I believe”. I don’t care if you’re typing an email or talking in a meeting, those phrases add nothing to the content or context of your message. They only serve to undercut your message, in fact.
So, let your yes be yes and your no be no. Always be respectful, but firm and authoritative in your tone.