The Importance of Sisterhood

Photo Credit: Margot Duane

Two weeks ago I had the honor and privilege of attending the WisdomWomen Visionary Gathering together with 150 women from around the world, held at one of the most beautiful and energetically powerful places in the world, The Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA. When I first heard about this weekend retreat, I knew it was somewhere I needed to be. Not only did it exceed my expectations, it reminded me of why sisterhood is so important for the advancement of women at this time and why we need so much more of it in our lives. As I continue to integrate the learning, the deep, meaningful conversations, and the beautiful connection to the Feminine and to Mother Earth, I wanted to share some of reflections with my readers and followers.

WisdomWomen was birthed at the Wisdom 2.0 conference back in 2013 by founder Michelle Stransky. Over 100 women attended an open discussion about what women need to be able to step into their leadership more fully and change the world. It was a moving discussion that led to the eventual creation of the WisdomWomen gathering that took place at Esalen.

The invitation for this gathering was clear—if you feel called to make an impact in the world, then join us to co-create a new reality together! With 200 women on the waiting list, clearly there was a need for this type of gathering, a sort of collective yearning amongst women to come together as a tribe, to support one another and connect with each other in a meaningful way. It was the same yearning I’ve felt for quite some time as an executive coach and trainer specializing in empowering women—women are aching to come together and make a difference in the world.

However, for many, the path to changing the world can sometimes feel like a very lonely one. And it’s not because there aren’t amazing women in the world doing some amazing things. There are a ton of them. It because changing the world often feels like a struggle, feel difficult, and often times keeps us isolated from others. It’s also not because there aren’t hundreds if not thousands of amazing women’s networks, associations and circles available to women. There are a ton of those too. There is something else that is holding women back from really dropping into a connective place with one another. It’s something that can be difficult to put a finger on, but nonetheless palpable.

As emotional beings, women take on far more than men in terms of self-doubt, self-criticism and other negative baggage. It begins with a small whisper and if left unchecked, can grow into a loud roar. Those saboteurs tell us lies like other women are better than me, and gosh, I don’t really have anything to offer. So we hold back from introducing ourselves to that woman or to that network of women. We hold ourselves back from expressing our gifts and our ideas. We hold back our greatness.

At the WisdomWomen though, it felt like most of us were able to break free from the barriers that hold us back, whether its our feelings of inadequacy, not being good enough, feeling left out, not supported, competitive or jealous. For myself and I suspect for many women at this gathering, those barriers slid away into the night sky as we came together to perform a ritual around the blazing fire, giving thanks to the four directions, North, South, East, West, and Father Sky and Mother Earth. As we honored our planet, we honored one another, because when we treat nature as a part of ourselves, we become whole again. We come back to the truth that resides within our hearts that we are all One, all connected, interdependent beings of Love. As we entered our sacred space and sat in circle with one another, connecting with our voices and hearts, it was clear that barriers weren’t invited. And for two whole days all of us were able to operate from a place of pure connection and love, and were given the gift of experiencing what it is like to be in pure Sisterhood.

From this place we came together to connect with each others visions for the world, what our hearts know is possible for our planet and for humanity, and we shared our projects and ideas for changing the world. We began to form relationships and connections that will lead to collaborations that are yet to be known. We shared our longing for the world and what we hope we can co-create as women leaders who feel responsible for the future of our planet. We bathed together in the therapeutic waters of Esalen and engaged in healing conversations. We came together in song and dance and expressed the truest parts of ourselves. Most importantly, we came together as Sisters celebrating one another.

Upon returning back into my real life, back to my husband and to my friends and family, I found myself more openhearted than usual. I felt freer to be my true self—more soft, more feminine, more loving. I was sweeter to my husband and in turn he responded with more affection and attention. I felt more creative, compelled to express myself through writing. I was able to drop down into my intuition and felt more connected to my inner sense of knowing. In turn, I was able to give more to my clients, to my friends and family and be more present with all of them. I felt renewed, energized and invigorated. In essence, I felt more ME.

This beautiful experience led me to me to realize the importance of Sisterhood and why it is so integral we come together to support one another during this time in women’s advancement. In our crazy 24/7-wired world we can get so wrapped up in the logistics of our lives, forgetting that which feeds and nurtures us. We forget the importance of slowing down, taking stock and taking care of ourselves. We forget the need to connect with our Sisters and fill up our cups with inspiration. It’s just so essential to who we are as women!! And we need more. We need more women in the world who are able to consistently vibrate from this higher state of being. When women are able to sustain this frequency, we are a force to be reckoned with. There is no mountain we cannot move. There is nothing we cannot manifest as we step into our feminine power. Absolutely nothing.

The challenge is finding ways to form supportive circles of women sans barriers, even when we aren’t in beautiful places like Esalen. What do you think is required to do that? How can we as women approach one another and be in community and connection from an authentic and honest place? I would love to hear your thoughts and reflections as we continue the learning together and continue holding this beautiful container for each other.

How Embracing Feminine Values Will Save Us All and Create a Society That Truly Thrives

If you’ve been paying any attention lately, you know that women’s leadership is a hot topic right now. It’s about time, right?! As a feminine leadership expert and coach, I’m passionate about helping women more fully embrace their natural strengths, namely their feminine capacity, as a key to success in business and in life. Compassion, empathy, collaboration, connection, candor — these are examples of feminine traits that are preferred when it comes to success and leadership, according to a recent global survey. What would be possible if we based our definition of success and power on these values? And more specifically, what if women embodied these traits more fully?

My own experience working inside a Silicon Valley tech company taught me that contrary to popular belief, women were NOT exhibiting the character traits so commonly referred to as ‘feminine.’ To my shock and horror, most women were hiding their emotions, their passion, and compromising their ability to be collaborative and build consensus by showing up more like men. What I began to realize was that in order to stay competitive and be taken seriously in a business setting, women had been hiding their natural feminine gifts and abilities and adapting to a more male-centric model and approach to success.

This presented a big problem for me when I was given the opportunity to step into a leadership position at the ripe old age of 25. When I took a look around for a female role model I could look up to, all I saw were women acting like men, including our then-CEO, who was a woman. As an up and coming manager, I had to decide — was I going to lead like a man, or was I going to try something different? Being the rebel that I am, I opted for going against the norm and decided I was going to stay true to myself. So, on the first day of my task force meeting with a group of executives, I walked in and declared, “I have NO idea what I’m doing and I really need your help!” I was half-expecting that statement to undermine my credibility and authority, but to my surprise, it had the reverse effect.

What transpired over the following year was nothing short of miraculous. Instead of controlling all the details of the project, I built trust with my team by asking for their help and empowered them to participate fully in taking ownership of their tasks. Instead of bottle-necking the decision-making process, I empowered people to make decisions and got out of the way. I inspired my team with a strong vision and built relationships with the main players, so if I ever had a problem, I knew who I could go to for a quick solution. Through the courageous act of being vulnerable, I was able to successfully pull off one of the biggest challenges of my life: producing a 10,000 user conference for our company.

The icing on the cake for me was the end result. We had one of the most highly-attended conferences of all time, and my team came up to me afterwards and said how much they enjoyed working with me. Attendees at the conference said they felt cared for and how well organized the conference was. To me, this was validation that my experiment had not only worked, but it rocked! And that’s when it hit me. Instead of using a command control and authoritarian leadership style (more traditional, male-centric), my experiment to lean into my natural strengths as a woman are what led me to the biggest success I had experienced to date.

That’s when I came to the conclusion that the biggest obstacle to women’s advancement in business was the fact that we were trying to conform and adapt to an outdated model not very suited for the 21st century. I began to think what else might be possible if women stepped more fully into their authentic, feminine leadership. And I began to get excited about the possibilities and impact that could have on business and in the world.
Please leave your comments and thoughts below. What is your definition of success and power in the 21st century? What traits can women (and men) embrace to truly thrive? What are actions you can take to create this shift in yourself? What type of community or network would best engage and support you in creating this shift?

The “Coach Approach” in Management

During a recent coaching session, a client of mine who manages several teams excitedly reported he was utilizing coaching skills with his direct reports. “Instead of just telling them what to do, or correcting their mistakes for them, I’m coaching them to learn from their mistakes, think outside the box, and take ownership.”
Using a Coach Approach in Management

Needless to say, I was thrilled my client was using a coach approach with his team. Anyone who has led a team knows that inspiring, motivating and empowering people is integral to driving results. However, managers sometimes tend to lean on a more directive approach, which can be useful in certain situations, but not all. Helping people be creative, innovative, and collaborative requires leadership and awareness around how to create an environment where people can really thrive.

Here are a few “coach approach” tips to try with your teams:

  1. Create a Clear Roadmap: The first thing we do when establishing a coaching relationship is create a roadmap. We set clear goals and objectives with a reasonable timeline. When delegating projects or tasks to your teams, make sure you are setting clear expectations, setting clear guidelines and timelines. This ensures you are setting them up for success, and decreasing the chances for miscommunication, or receiving less than desirable results.
  2. Accountability: This is an integral piece of the coaching relationship – the client knows they will be held accountable to the assignment they committed to at the end of a coaching session. Many managers forget to build in accountability during a project or task, assuming people will come to them with questions. If you build in time for updates, questions or time to discuss issues, this holds people accountable and helps you stay ahead of the curve.
  3. Failure is OK: Creating an environment where failure is OK can be really challenging for some managers (esp those with perfectionist streaks!). In a coaching relationship, mistakes are allowed, and often times even celebrated! Learning from mistakes is essential to people development – and it’s up to the manager to make that OK. This is a great coaching opportunity to get curious, ask questions and listen deeply to understand challenges and help people grow.

The best way to learn coaching skills is to work with a coach yourself to experience the power of coaching firsthand. If you haven’t had the opportunity to try it, I encourage you to do so to develop the skills you need to help develop your teams.