On any given day, the demands that managers face are enormous. Not only do they have to manage up to senior leaders; they have to manage down to their teams. They have to be attentive to executing on organizational strategy and priorities that are set by those above them, while they also have to be equally attentive to building the skills, talents and productivity of their own team. The middle-manager is definitely that: sandwiched in the middle.
At a recent networking event, I witnessed the stark difference between how a female lawyer and a male lawyer touted a recent accomplishment. Both are highly respected, with talent beyond reproach. They both head up their own individual burgeoning practices with partners and associates. Both had been named as a Top 50 lawyer in Southern California — certainly an accolade well deserved and only awarded to the best of the best.
You’ve likely heard of leaders saying they have an open-door policy. I think every leader I have ever worked for or with has claimed to have such a policy. I say “claim” because simply saying you have one doesn’t actually make it true. It’s not enough to just say you have an open-door policy; as a leader, you have to earn it. While your door may be open, it’s a problem if no one walks through it or is reluctant to do so.
Answer the following question: Is workplace conflict a) uncomfortable, b) necessary, c) preventable or d) all of the above? If you picked D, go to the head of the class. Conflict is natural and normal, and it helps teams advance their work. In fact, conflict and goal achievement are natural partners. According to Harvard Business Review, conflict can improve ideas, expose risks and generate trust. Healthy conflict also spurs creativity, broad thinking and respectful relationships. Unhealthy conflict, on the other hand, is a Petri dish for distrust, disrespect and infighting.
As women, we don't always feel encouraged to share our contributions at work. Confident women are sometimes seen as less likable, and some women are uncomfortable taking credit for projects and sharing their past successes because they fear backlash (though self-promoting can be a key to opening career opportunities). I believe this shows the importance of women developing a strong voice so they can "work out loud."
Women are strong leaders who continue to infiltrate into more prominent and visible positions. Take, for example, the new Congress that just swore in a record 127 women. Or that women lead organizations such as GM, Anthem and IBM. This side of the equation undeniably demonstrates examples in which women have reaped success.
Influence comes in many forms and fashions. Its scope isn't limited to one-on-one interactions but includes all aspects of work, including team discussions, decision making and meetings. Influence is also agnostic when it comes to title or position. These aren't always enough to persuade others, nor are you always in a position of power. Regardless of your title, your position or the situation, the purpose of influence all comes down to one word: impact.