Taking the “Girl” out of “Girl Boss”

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We don't always see ourselves as others do. As a woman heading her own leadership coaching firm, I've seen this imposter syndrome in my clients, but I've also seen it staring back at me in the mirror. Understanding our worth in the workplace can often go beyond our control, but it's what we do with our own tools that make all the difference.

What does taking control look like? In the bigger picture, it will lead to a stronger representation of women in leadership. Forbes reported that at the current rate of progress in closing the gender gap, it will take 132 years for women to lead at the same percentage as men. As a woman, this only perpetuates my passion to uplift female leaders and teach the skills it takes to own our power and become the trailblazers we're meant to be.

Just recently, I was coaching a leader who didn't view herself as one. Although she was promoted to a key role on her team, she felt confined to the shadow of a past supportive role. Everything about her presents as a leader: experience, knowledge and team relationships. What was missing? The belief in herself.

Women often struggle to take up space and own it. It's a combination of self-talk, communication and expectations. For many, remaining silent or uncommitted is the path of least resistance. My top goal when working with women coaching clients is to focus on executive presence: How are you seen as a leader by others? How are you showing up? How do you want to show up? This is the basis of building trust with your team and trust within yourself.

Specific coaching methods can assist women in seeing the value they bring to their work. Jennifer Maxson & Associates (JMA) offers Everything DiSC assessments to our coaching clients. Many times, these results shine a light on a leader's brilliance, along with opportunity areas for development and self-awareness, which allows them to understand their teams.

Additionally, knowing your core values is essential. One of the first questions I ask clients in a coaching session is, "What are your core values?" When we're at our best, we honor what we value—anything from achievement, family, direct communication or kindness. When we're upset, disappointed or frustrated, it may be due to not honoring a core value. Knowing what these values are shines a light on why you may react in a specific way to a situation.

When you find yourself in one of these scenarios, it's crucial to identify if your Saboteur or Sage is talking. Saboteurs are the negative comments we feed ourselves to limit our ability. This voice is judging how we show up for others and if we're good enough. We all have different Saboteurs and as a child, they kept us safe. However, as women leaders, we need to recognize these saboteurs are holding us back and lean into our Sage.

The all-knowing Sage is the wisdom and experience that allows us to embrace our full potential. We need to make room to hear what we already know: We can do the job, our efforts were enough, and we're ready to move forward. Understanding the differences in how you speak to yourself will transform your attitude toward your responsibilities and confidence.

The term "girl boss" has been tossed around frequently, and it only perpetuates the idea that women leaders are women first and leaders second. Taking the "girl" out of "girl boss" is essential for us to step into the roles we've prepared for. Anyone can be a boss, so we don't need our own canopy to sit under.

How do we prepare coachees to be the best leader possible? Some of the goals we work towards include:

  • Building trust with team and peers.
  • Influencing without authority.
  • Minimizing self-chatter.
  • Communicating with confidence and impact & articulating vision, ideas and thoughts.
  • Conflict management: not avoiding conflict, feeling prepared, and still maintaining relationships.
  • Delegating with purpose and holding others accountable.
  • Meeting others—creating opportunities for interaction in other departments, networking.

These goals are fully integrated into JMA's programs, specifically The Exceptional Leader™ for those women who are new to leadership and Speak Up & Be Effective™ for women looking to communicate with confidence and impact.

Leadership, specifically for women, is an ongoing journey with lots of twists and turns along the way. Every stop, whether we view it as positive or negative, creates opportunity. Confidence from these trends allows individuals to determine their path forward by listening to what they already know, leaning into feedback, and creating new opportunities.

Jennifer Maxson is a Certified Professional Coach, Professional Certified Coach, and President of Jennifer Maxson & Associates, a results-driven coaching partner for individuals and businesses seeking experts in leadership development.


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