3 Things you can do to instantly change the way you’re seen in the workplace

This week, I’d like to share 3 big fixes you can make at work, which will revamp your own personal brand and help you stand out in the workplace without seeming like you’re trying too hard. It’s all about finding your authentic self and presenting naturally and confidently at work.


-Don’t be afraid to own your space

One common way women are taught to act in the workplace is as a confined, compacted unit. Women are taught that they should be well put together, and that’s no bad thing. But we’re also often taught unconsciously to act in a way that is confined and restrictive. Think about the model of an ideal board meeting you see in training videos and workshops. The male executive is excited about his new initiative, so he laughs broadly and loudly, gestures widely, and generally takes up space. He seems confident, and that sells. In the female version of this scenario, what do you think of? I think most of us think of a very tightly-wound woman clutching a folder, speaking from a small area, and gesturing in a narrow field. She’s very competent, but is she naturally confident?


Check yourself in a meeting. How are you reacting to the energy you’re getting from male colleagues. Are you shrinking back, or finding you have to overcompensate to meet them? Don’t feel you have to do either.


Project a natural energy, owning your space. Practice breathing deeply in meetings and workshops. You’ll find that your body relaxes into its own rhythm, and finds its own natural posture that is upright and alert without seeming anxious or rigid, both aspects that don’t project confidence. Allow yourself to act with your own natural reactions, remarks, and expressions, staying in control, but not constricting yourself to that mannequin model of a female businessperson. Start with the breathing, and work outwards. Find your flow, assert your natural energy in your space, and watch what happens with your co-workers.


One way to help center your breathing in the course of the day is to take a good walk. I’ve written a piece on that, where you’ll learn all about how to use careful break planning and good walking shoes to re-focus and stay productive into the afternoons.

-Speak up with composure

It can take years to master the art of being heard, rather than simply being listened to. Female employees and executives are taught that the “professional woman” is reserved, quiet, and receptive, not responsive. We’re taught to speak up nervously, or else in an outburst because we’re dealing with something that we’ve been holding in for too long.


I encourage you to find your voice during meetings, workshops and consultations. Never be afraid to speak up, but make sure you’re doing so from a place of calm, a place of confidence, and a sense of self. If you have something to say, chances are it’s important. I encourage you to find your authentic voice, your personal way of engaging with tough topics and decisions without losing your cool. As I said with regard to taking up space, work with your breathing, to keep yourself collected.


With a clear head and respectful tone, say what’s on your mind. Lead with “I” statements, and refrain from leading with “attacking” or “aggressive”-sounding statements that begin with “you” or “they”. Lead with your own feelings, and you can begin to open up a conversation. Instead of being knows as “that woman who freaked out”, you’ll be a source of inspiration, and a voice of integrity in your meetings.


I found that once I discovered an assertive and authentic presence in meetings, I started deepening bonds with coworkers, who felt they could confide in me or empathize in a new way. I also found that higher-ranking executives came to trust my feedback in a much more consistent way, even if we disagreed on some concrete policy or initiative.


-Be open and receptive, without losing your sense of control

Finally, I encourage you to take that sense of confidence and composure from the meeting setting to your everyday interactions with coworkers. There are a lot of stereotypes about women in the workplace, from the “needy” one to the “oversharer.” Subvert all these labels by being open and receptive to concerns your peers may have, without projecting an anxious “nosiness”. Focus on having a warm, personable energy that’s open, but not intrusive. Let people in, but don’t force someone to engage. If you present confidence and warmth, people will seek you out. It’s also healthy to remember that being assertive does not mean to dominate or to dictate.


Don’t overshare, though, and don’t be afraid to know your own personal boundaries. You won’t be best friends with everyone at work, and you don’t need to lead people on in that way. However, you should foster an environment where your colleagues feel that they can open up in whatever way they need to without feeling pushed or pressured. Set your own boundaries without making anyone feel personally shut out.


By creating a strong sense of self that draws people in naturally, you’ll build better workplace relationships, and find a more intuitive balance of work and personal matters in conversations.

Where do we go from here?

My dear ones,


What a year it’s been. Here at the end of 2016, after a momentous election and a bitter, divisive campaign season, I think we should all take a moment to breathe, absorb, and reflect on what we’ve just been through.


As much as I am loth to say it, we’ve just elected someone who has bragged openly about assaulting women, someone who has continually degraded and insulted entire groups of people, and who has an unpredictable temperament and irrational mentality. That’s where we are now.


As a feminist, I am disgusted and appalled by Mr. Trump’s character. As a businesswoman, I am utterly unimpressed by his supposed acumen. His track record has mainly involved self-serving bankruptcy and short-changing contractors, employees, and business partners. That is no way to run a company, let alone a nation. Yet the election is over, and we must come to terms with that. I have been working to do so over the past weeks.

There is a time to grieve, for lost opportunity, for lost hope. We were on the brink of electing the first female president in our history, which would have been a giant triumph for all feminist causes and social justice activists.We were looking forward to continuing the great strides forward we had made under President Obama. All this is now either uncertain, or endangered. But as the inauguration draws ever closer, we must dry our tears, and roll up our sleeves.


So, back to how I started this entry: where do we go from here? This is not a time for tuning out, being discouraged. We have work to do, friends, now more than ever.


Our fellow business leaders have had a large role in combating discriminatory policies and initiatives, from the North Carolina companies who fought the transphobic bathroom laws in that state, to the CEOs who have recently written to Mr. Trump to express concern that the US cannot fall behind its obligations as a world leader in the fight against climate change. We must step up our efforts to lead the way, and demonstrate that corporate influence can be used for good. Whatever tactics the new administration and Congress use to try to roll back civil liberties or rights protections, we must be there every step of the way, leading by example and proving that we don’t have to sacrifice our social values to do well in the commercial sector.


Stay active, stay engaged. Find ways to use your community service programs at work to help raise funds and attention for important non-profits who need it most. Use your platform to raise awareness among your customer base or clientele, and help them understand and feel a part of any political actions you take as an entity.

Within your own company, stay vigilant. Do not let yourself accept acts of microaggression, intimidation, or sexism as the new norm. Our leaders may be changing, but we have worked too hard to let up now! Make it clear through your words and actions that tolerance, compassion, and empathy are still core values that you expect to be upheld in your workplace.


I encourage you all to reach out to your consumers, clients, and colleagues. Affirm your shared values, and take the moment to regroup and reinvigorate your value statements, mission plans, and ethical goals. The next four years could see many changes, but I want to remind all of you that you are the real leaders of market-based change. Laws come and go, but a good company is ahead of the game in exceeding ethics standards and creating a corporate philosophy that both your company and your clients/customers can feel a part of.


Remember, friends, we are stronger together. Always.


With resolve,