How to be a Mindful Leader

Shannon is a woman who is small in stature and big in personality. Sometimes being a woman has been the biggest challenge she has faced in moving forward in her career.

She’s worked in male-dominated industries, like construction and engineering, where the executives and board members were always male.  Being mindful about how she is showing up and relating to others is one of the superpowers she has leveraged to move forward in her career.

Mindful about Opportunities

Shannon was one of the longest tenured employees with her last employer. She watched as members of the “good old boys’ network” got promoted seemingly overnight to different vice president positions. Finally, she decided she was not going to be passed over again. When the next vacant vice president seat came open, Shannon had been with the company for over 20 years and knew she was ready for it. She asked to fill that empty vice president seat. Instead of the overnight promotions she had seen with the men, Shannon was told she needed to undergo nine months of training before she would be deemed ready to fill the vice president seat. Not to be deterred, Shannon jumped through the additional hurdles placed on her as a woman and finally secured that vice president role. Even though she was the first woman to join the rank of vice president and the company always announced vice president selections of the men, the company refused to broadcast Shannon’s selection. Shannon did not let the lack of a company announcement detract from her huge accomplishment as she was mindful that the company’s failure to announce her selection was a reflection on the company leadership and not on her.

Mindful about Threats

According to Shannon, she wasn’t always mindful about the threats in her career. Early in her career, she learned the hard way about the importance of being vigilant about the decisions leadership was making that impacted her when she found herself fired from a job because she wasn’t “soft” enough. While that’s the excuse management used, Shannon believed the real reason was because she was a Hispanic woman surrounded by white men and her unique qualities weren’t welcome by the white men. That experience helped Shannon grow and be more vigilant so she could better prepare to address threats the next time.

While serving as vice president, the CEO of the company transitioned out and Shannon sensed there was going to be an internal hostile takeover. She expressed, “I was the most successful of all the VPs and new leaders always want what the hard workers and successful employees have, so I knew the new CEO would be coming after me.” She didn’t know why she had this hunch, but she did. She shared it with a few close colleagues who thought Shannon was a little paranoid. However, Shannon didn’t let their judgments sway her game plan. She had built a lucrative book of business with the company and, because she had been with the company so long, she actually did not have a non-compete agreement like the other vice presidents had. She started working with her attorney to plan her own way forward to protect her assets, namely her book of business. Then, the takeover started happening and Shannon started receiving calls and texts from colleagues as each one was let go of the company, always near the end of the month so the company didn’t have to pay insurance coverage for them for another month. By the time the new CEO scheduled an appointment with Shannon, she was prepared. She made sure the meeting was early in the month. When the new CEO reminded her of her non-compete agreement, Shannon reminded him that she did not have one and that she was ready to leave with her book of business. She left the company and, within a week, she landed a new position, bringing all her clients with her. Shannon remarked, “It’s so important to remain aware of your surroundings.”

Mindful about Difficult Relationships

Shannon has encountered her fair share of conflict in her life. Early in her career, Shannon was working in New York for an engineering firm and had a business meeting in Los Angeles. She shared that with a name like Shannon, there can be an assumption that she’s a man and she often found that in the engineering world clients preferred to work with men. She flew to Los Angeles for the business meeting and, when she arrived, the female executive client greeted Shannon and then abruptly left the reception area. Suddenly, the client had no time to meet with Shannon that day. She was offered a tour of the building, instead.

On another occasion, Shannon was schedule to meet with a team of women for a national consulting firm. Shannon’s perspective is that women are very visual and often judge a woman on her appearance. She knew her personality, brains and looks could be seen as a threat to other women, so she wanted to downplay her looks. She decided to wear a plain navy pantsuit, a string of pearls and no makeup. To her delight, this tactic worked and she was able to present her sales pitch and garnered the contract.

Shannon shared that there are always catty women that we are going to encounter. Some are Queen Bs who have risen through the ranks by trying to crush other women on the way. There are also women who refuse to work with other women and will go to great lengths to tear down or ostracize women they encounter. Shannon’s advice is to remain cordial and take steps to minimize interactions with these women. Only engage with them enough to get the work done.

When Shannon encounters women who feel threatened by her and get in her space, Shannon now always backs down. She said she didn’t feel empowered to do so early on in her career. However, now she knows the most powerful move is to step away. Nothing good will happen by staying strong in the face of a catty woman. Perhaps Shannon’s mindful superpower is best summed up by her realization that “My magic wand is knowing when to bend. I can now do it with a smile on my face and get ready for another day.”

Work With Me

Are you ready to be a more mindful leader?  Are you navigating threatening situations at work or difficult relationships and want to do so with a smile on your face like Shannon?  I am passionate about my work helping women become confident leaders.  Here’s a link to schedule a time so we can chat about how I can help you.

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