Sally Helgesen: How Inclusion and Visionary Leadership Fuel Innovation at Work | E283

Sally Helgesen: How Inclusion and Visionary Leadership Fuel Innovation at Work | E283

Sally Helgesen: How Inclusion and Visionary Leadership Fuel Innovation at Work | E283

In the ‘80s, Sally Helgesen worked in corporate communications, writing speeches for leaders at reputable companies. Although she thought these companies were wonderful, she felt frustrated that they didn’t understand what women could offer as leaders. The big ideas she heard other women discuss at work led her to believe it was time to let go of old-fashioned leadership styles. So, she started talking to successful women leaders and wrote a bestselling book called The Female Advantage. In this episode, Sally offers advice on creating more inclusive workplaces and shares valuable insights for both male and female leaders.

Sally Helgesen is a speaker, coach, bestselling author, and leading expert on women’s leadership. She has written or co-written eight books, including her latest, Rising Together. Sally is ranked number three among the world’s thought leaders by Global Gurus and has been inducted into the Thinkers 50 Hall of Fame.


In this episode, Hala and Sally will discuss:

– The once radical strengths of female leaders

– Commonalities between male and female leaders

– The need to build connections for success in leadership

– Practical advice for leaders looking to create a more inclusive workplace

– Toxic habits leaders must avoid

– The danger of overvaluing expertise

– The difference between diversity and inclusion

– Rewriting negative scripts to stop acting like a victim

– How triggers can hinder inclusive behaviors

– The value of all four kinds of power in the workplace

– And other topics…


Sally Helgesen has been writing about female leadership since 1990 when she published The Female Advantage, hailed as “the classic work” on women’s leadership styles. She has authored or co-authored several other books, including How Women Rise and her latest, Rising Together. Sally delivers leadership programs, workshops, and seminars for corporations, universities, and nonprofits worldwide. She has worked with global brands like Chevron, Microsoft, and The World Bank Group, among others, to cultivate inclusive cultures. Cited by Forbes as the world’s premier expert on women’s leadership, Sally has also been inducted into the Thinkers 50 Hall of Fame for shaping leadership worldwide.


Resources Mentioned:

Sally’s Website:

Sally’s Books:

The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of Leadership:

How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job:

Rising Together: How We Can Bridge Divides and Create a More Inclusive Workplace:


LinkedIn Secrets Masterclass, Have Job Security For Life:

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[00:00:00] Hala Taha: Yeah fam, today we're going to talk all about how we can rise in our careers and break bad habits that keep us from reaching our goals. We're also going to talk about how to have a more inclusive and diverse workplace. Today, our guest is Sally Helgeson. She's a best selling author, coach, and speaker, and also one of the premier experts on women's leadership.

But don't worry, today's conversation is going to be super relevant for all of our male listeners because a lot of the times the same bad habits are holding all of us back. 

Sally, welcome to Young and Profiting Podcast. 

[00:02:05] Sally Helgesen: Thank you. It's wonderful to be here with you. 

[00:02:08] Hala Taha: you've had an amazing arc in your career. You started working in corporate in the 1980s. Can you tell us about your early career days and how you first got interested in leadership?

[00:02:19] Sally Helgesen: Certainly. My early career, while I had been a journalist in the seventies, but in the eighties, I started doing corporate communications. And I was mostly a speech writer, which is kind of like being a journalist for the leadership in an organization. And what I began to notice almost as soon as I began writing, and I want to emphasize, I worked for excellent companies and had some really good bosses.

However, I noticed the skepticism among people in the organizations. About the message that their boss was trying to convey in their talks, and I would hear that over and over. And that made me curious about where that went wrong in leadership and how leaders could get more credibility with their people.

What was undermining them? And then I was also noticing that the organizations I worked in had very little way of understanding, not just what women, but what anybody who came from outside the leadership mainstream had to contribute. So. All those things got me interested in leadership. 

[00:03:23] Hala Taha: So I know that your first book was called The Female Advantage, and really this is hailed as a classic work on women's leadership.

So what were some of the big ideas that people weren't talking about before that you surfaced with this book? 

[00:03:37] Sally Helgesen: Oh boy, there were big ideas people weren't talking about. The book came out in 1990. It was the first book to focus on what women had to contribute as leaders. rather than how they needed to change and adapt.

Up until that time, virtually all the advice women got, whether in books, articles, or from consultants, was that you've got to act like a man. You've got to dress as much like a man as you can. You've got to pretend you're not a woman if you're out bar hopping. With some of your colleagues, you've got to laugh at their jokes, even if you find them outrageous.

I mean, you cannot believe the stuff that went on back then. It was real madman. So I felt that that was bad advice and that organizations were changing. They were changing because of the technology. They were changing because knowledge and what people have in their minds was becoming more fundamental to organizations.

And so I wanted to help that change along by encouraging women to focus on what their strengths were and that meant identifying those strengths and putting them in language that leaders could understand. 

[00:04:54] Hala Taha: And from my understanding, you actually were like interviewing a lot of successful female leaders for this book.

And what did you find out in terms of how successful women lead? 

[00:05:02] Sally Helgesen: Well, what I found out was that they had a couple of strengths in common. And I say this across whether they were entrepreneurs, whether they were in corporate, whatever their age, whatever their race, I cut a broad swath in terms of who I was interviewing and also doing diary studies up so I could get a sense of how they interacted during the day.

Number one, I found the women invested a lot of energy in building strong relationships. Now, this doesn't sound like a big deal today when we see the ability to build strong relationships as a leadership strength, but back then it was considered A soft skill that had basically nothing to do with leadership.

I felt that that was wrong. The women demonstrated the power of building strong relationships. They were very comfortable communicating broadly rather than up and down a chain of command. This is a very hierarchical environment we were part of. They understood the. value that fresh eyes and fresh perspectives could bring to the workplace because they had been outsiders.

They weren't just tolerant of diversity, they understood its value. And they were also very good at integrating their personal and their professional lives and bringing strengths that they had cultivated. In their private lives to the workplace and vice versa. So all these things were pretty radical in terms of thinking about how leadership was done and valued back in the 80s and early 90s and throughout the 90s, I would say.

[00:06:42] Hala Taha: The book became a really huge success. Did the success caught you off guard? 

[00:06:47] Sally Helgesen: It really did. I remember people started calling me in companies and associations and groups and asking me to speak. And I hadn't done that before and I hadn't foreseen that as happening. I knew I could write a speech because I've been writing them for senior executives for 10 years.

But I found that I really enjoyed it. So I thought, you know what, I could be doing this full time. And instead of writing speeches for other people. So that really helped to support the book and keep it out there and gave me, I was sort of following along the lines of Tom Peters at that time, who's been a big supporter of mine back then.

But Tom had pioneered the idea of going out on your own and earning your living as a speaker. So I followed in those footsteps and it ended up working out quite well. 

[00:07:42] Hala Taha: Amazing. So are you saying that At that point, being a speaker wasn't really a common full time job? It was 

[00:07:50] Sally Helgesen: not. It really wasn't. There were people who did it.

It was almost always tied to a book. It was tied to a book promotion. But being a full time, paid, independent speaker. On your own, not somebody who was working for McKinsey or whatever. That was an unusual career path back then. And it was certainly an unusual career path for women because we didn't have the development of women's networks and companies and all that.

So it was. A little bit of a pioneering situation. 

[00:08:24] Hala Taha: I was going to say, you're just like pioneering things left and right with women's leadership. So you have a pretty recent book called Rising Together. And you also have a book How Women Rise, which are two of your most recent books. I thought we could start with How Women Rise.

You co authored that with Marshall Goldsmith, who's been on the show twice before. He's my social media client. I love Marshall to death. He's amazing. Let's talk about what rising means to you, the definition of what rising means to you. 

[00:08:54] Sally Helgesen: I think rising is different depending on what it means to the individual.

For some people, it means getting to the very top of whatever their organization is. For some people, it means starting a successful business that sustains them over time. For some people, it means achieving their full potential, feeling like they're contributing their best talents. In whatever way they want.

So it can mean different things to different people. So I think it's an individual. It's not like you're rising because you ascend in positional power. That may not be. what you necessarily want, but most of us want to really be able to act on our full potential. So that's ultimately how I describe it and how I think of it.

[00:09:40] Hala Taha: I want to focus on how women rise first, but I do want to clarify, because I have a lot of male listeners, we're going to make this applicable for you guys, because in my opinion, I feel like some women, I feel like I kind of act like a man. Like when I read stuff about women and what they do, I'm like, I don't do that.

Right. And I think that there's some men. kind of act pretty feminine. So I feel like everyone is on a spectrum in terms of how they operate and we can all learn from the things that you have to teach. So first of all, One of the things that you say women do differently than men is that we don't speak about our contributions and achievements enough.

So first off, why is there a difference in the way that men and women talk about their achievements? 

[00:10:22] Sally Helgesen: Well, first of all, I do want to say, I think what you're saying is important. And the first day I was publicizing how women rise, I was doing drive time radio. I had a male host and the first thing he said to me is, you have 12 habits in this book, I identify with four of them.

Let's talk about them. And that was one of my big learnings. So especially it kind of depends on what field you're in. Reluctance to claim your achievements, very common among women. It certainly can be common among men who are things like engineers or accountants. So, you know, have very specific professional expertise and who kind of feel like, Why do I have to talk about it?

I just want to do it. So you find it across the spectrum for sure, but for women and people of color and a lot of people who come from outside the leadership, the traditional leadership, mainstream, whatever that is. And I don't say white male because I do work all over the world. So if you're talking about white men in Japan or in Dubai, it's kind of ridiculous.

But those who've been outside that leadership mainstream, Are often judged a little bit different. They may have gotten pushed back and I've heard women say this forever. And I've certainly heard people of color, men and women say, when I talked about something I'd done, people said, well, you're pretty full of yourself, aren't you?

Or you don't seem to have any trouble boasting about what you've done. Or haven't you heard there is no I in team. So people will say those kinds of things. So that's fine. They're uncomfortable. Sorry. But, the thing is, a lot of people who've had that experience will internalize it and then begin to feel, Oh, what if they think I'm this?

And I hear that all the time from women. How can I talk about my achievements without anyone thinking that I'm arrogant? Guess what? You probably can't. Somewhere, someone is going to think you're arrogant. The point is, you have to have a plan or a strategy for talking about what you're contributing, or it won't get noticed, especially in the virtual era.

It's become even more important. So over managing people's perceptions and worrying about what they think can really get in your way of being effective. And representing what you have to contribute. 

[00:12:47] Hala Taha: So as a leader, a lot of my listeners are entrepreneurs, they're small business owners, they're probably managing teams, even if they work in corporate.

How can we be better at making sure we give people an opportunity to showcase their contributions and achievements? 

[00:13:02] Sally Helgesen: Well, one thing is we can become sensitive to it. We can become sensitive to people who feel reluctant to claim their achievements because we can be triggered by that. If we're good at doing it, we can feel like, okay, can't speak up for herself.

There's nothing I can do about it. Or he seems awfully shy. Maybe he's not the contributor, I think he is, you know, he seems to lack confidence. So we can first of all, become aware of those attitudes or perceptions that we may have. And then we can encourage people, we can say, I asked you why you thought this particular initiative was so successful.

And I heard you talk about what the team had done. And that's terrific. Thank you. I know you're part of the team, so I'm wondering what your specific contribution was to this. So you're making it a little bit easy for them, you're holding them to account for doing that, but you're also making it a little bit easier, you're using language of contribution rather than achievement, and you're acknowledging that they have talked about the team, but you're saying okay, team, good, what can you do?

And then I think you also want to be aware if you're in a leadership position with a team like that. That there's always going to be a balance and that some people will hide behind the team. So you want to coax them. You want to encourage them. And you want to model that for the whole team, that that's a good thing to do and that it's not taking away from the team.

[00:14:37] Hala Taha: Something that I want to drill down on that you mentioned is that you said use language of contribution rather than achievement. Why do we need to understand that distinction? 

[00:14:46] Sally Helgesen: I think it's important for people who find themselves uncomfortable with the language of achievement. I don't want to take away from my team.

Use the language of contribution. That is speak about. I was able to contribute this. This was my contribution. Why is that important? Because it embeds what you do in a larger effort. Unlike the language of achievement, if you're using it about yourself, just make it, oh, this was about me. You're embedding it, so it can be more comfortable if you have problems.

with claiming your achievements. If you don't, have at it. Go for achievement. It's not saying contribution is better than achievement. It's saying that it's very helpful for people who struggle with it. 

[00:15:33] Hala Taha: That makes a lot of sense because you're attaching yourself to a project rather saying it was me, me, me.

It's like I contributed this and we as a team accomplished this project. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So another habit that you talk about that women do more than men is ruminate. But of course we know that both women and men ruminate all the time. Why is rumination so bad when it comes to being a leader?

[00:15:58] Sally Helgesen: There's almost no good side to rumination. Rumination is basically going over and over and over what you did that you feel was not successful and kind of beating yourself up. Why didn't I say this? Oh, that would have been a perfect opportunity. The end. To say that once again, I blew it. Oh, I felt like I represented myself poorly in that meeting.

That's terrible. We think if we ruminate, we usually rationalize it by thinking that if we really give ourselves a hard time, we'll be better at it next time. But essentially all we do is risk a negative spiral that will bring us down because it is not that kind of. incriminating language, using that to ourself, almost abusive language.

Oh, I'm so stupid. That does not help us. Now, research shows that rumination is something that is definitely far more prevalent among women. And if you identify yourself as a ruminator, then you need to address it. Most of these habits, it's rooted in a desire to do your best. So it's rooted in some very good things.

But there's no good side to it. Most of these habits have a good side. This one does not. It's really toxic and we need to have ways to address it. One of the things I find most useful in the work I do with, with people in workshops and in coaching is have them post a notice because. Sometimes we just almost forget that we're doing this.

It's become an unconscious habit or behavior. So posting notices, you know, have a positive conversation with yourself, whatever that is, or that wasn't so bad, is going to be Often very helpful and also running it by other people, getting out of our own heads. You know, I did this. I feel really upset about it.

And then somebody else was like, wow, are you kidding? I remember last time I was in that situation, I did this, so we'll feel better. So this is not something we want to keep to ourselves. 

[00:18:07] Hala Taha: Totally. And I have a story about rumination. I think that it's. Really bad for relationships. So I had an ex boyfriend and he was buying really unhealthy cereal at one point.

And as a flyby comment, I was like, you know, in Japan, they banned Frosted Flakes cause it's not good for you. And that was it. It was like, that was my one comment. I went on with my day. Three months later, he brought it up and he was like, you shame, we got into a huge fight, you shame me because of my cereal choices.

And you're trying to control me with my cereal choices. We ended up breaking up. This was one of the fights Because I was just like, listen, that's crazy that you've been ruminating about this for three months and now it's come to a head and you've changed the story around so much. Me mentioning a fun fact that Frosted Flakes is banned in Japan has turned into me shaming and controlling you for your cereal choices.

In my opinion, rumination is such a toxic habit for your relationships, for your workplace, for your mental health. It's all about, I believe, giving people the benefit of the doubt. 

[00:19:16] Sally Helgesen: It's what I call giving people the benefit of our goodwill. Because there's something negative about that. So I really prefer, and I use it a lot in Rising Together, giving people the benefit of our goodwill.

That's what he wasn't doing. By the way, I'm glad you broke up with him. It sounds like a piece of work. Giving them the benefit of our goodwill. Well, she was probably only trying to help me. Ooh, that kind of wounded me, but Coming up with sort of an alternate script or an alternate explanation than the one we immediately go to of why someone did something is a very effective way of giving people the benefit of our goodwill.

And I agree with you. One of the reasons it's so toxic for our careers and as leaders is it's toxic for relationships because it's a form of resentment. It's kind of seething about something that bothered us that the other person probably isn't even thinking about. 

[00:20:18] Hala Taha: Exactly. one other thing that I want to talk about is people pleasing.

So you say women have the disease to please. So why do you think that women in their childhood and in school were sort of molded to be people pleasers? 

[00:20:34] Sally Helgesen: I do think that's true. But again, I want to say not all women are people pleasers. I'm not myself. It's just something that in the workplace is more likely to manifest and I think in relationships as well, but that's not my field of expertise, but in the workplace it is more likely to manifest in women.

I do think women tend to, as girls, again, depending on the culture, some cultures this is extreme, where women are rewarded for being pleasers. You know, in organizations, they're often promoted and rewarded based upon the perception that their wonderful person will always show up and do all the work without ever complaining and pick up bits of other people's jobs, if that seems appropriate.

To be something that's necessary and get it done. And so that can really help women earlier in their careers. The problem with pleasing is that there's nothing of course wrong with being a wonderful person who's trying to help other people. But it is a very toxic behavior when we're in a leadership position because we have a hard time holding other people to account because they might not like us or they might feel displeased.

We have a hard time delegating because people might not want that extra work. We have a terrible time asserting our boundaries. So we end up doing a lot of things that we'd rather not do and probably should not be doing. So there are a lot of downsides to it. And also the other thing I want to say is that pleasing is one of those habits that if we have it at work, we probably have it at home.

So, we are that woman staying up till midnight to sew her children's Halloween costumes if we're in the U. S. because the other kids don't have store bought costumes. Now, their mothers may not have the kind of jobs we have, but we're worried about our kids not being pleased or their friends criticizing their Halloween costume, whatever it is.

So we're doing double duty, and this is a very challenging habit, and it's also one that's helpful for men to be aware of when they're in leadership positions because they can recognize if a woman is trying too hard to please, she may be taking on too much work, she may be burning out, and we have no idea that she's burning out because she's just taking stuff on and not advocating for her own boundaries.

It's helpful to be aware of these things. 

[00:23:15] Hala Taha: Totally. I know my two top leaders, one is a male, one is a female, Jason and Kate, and they act totally differently. And I find myself, Jason will ask for something and I'm like, well, Kate didn't ask, but I'm going to give it to Kate As a leader, you need to always remember that men and women act differently and women really do have a hard time asking for raises, asking for time off, and just setting boundaries to your point.

What's your advice on being better at giving boundaries, especially as women, because sometimes when we're assertive, we can be called the B word, we can be called aggressive and things like that. 

[00:23:51] Sally Helgesen: Well, first of all, we want to privilege protecting our ability to be effective over being concerned with what every single person thinks of us.

I've said that before, but that really definitely applies here. Okay. Thank you. We want to practice saying what we need and then leaving it at that. So not, well, I know you're very busy this week and I hate to ask you, and I'm really sorry. And please tell me if this doesn't work for you, but drop all that.

I need to ask if you can do this for me this week by Friday would be good. So just get in the habit of saying things like that. Now we're not asking our boss to do something like that, but. If we're in a leadership position, we want to ask somebody to do something like that. We need to, and that falls within their job parameters.

Then sort of larding it up with all these apologies and regrets and but ifs is just confusing Moise a lot of time. And it doesn't get us in the habit of being clear about what we need. So that's the habit we want to establish. We can practice saying no, and I know this sounds ridiculous, but I worked with a coaching client once, and she had such a hard time saying no, that we practiced it.

I would make all these requests of hers. Her job was just to say no, or no, that doesn't work for me, or no, I can't do that this week. Whatever it was, get in the habit. Find a friend. Do. Informal enlistment. Hey, could you help me get used to saying no? Just ask me a bunch of times to do things and I'll say no.

That's very, very effective. You've got to break that train in your mind, that habit, whatever it is. I'm not in neuroscience, but whatever those receptors are that have grown used to always saying yes. and teach them how to say no. 


 So one thing that I read in your book that I thought was like really interesting and counterintuitive was the fact that you said that being an expert is actually not the best idea to advance in your career. And that sometimes being an expert can actually hold you back. So what do you mean by that? 

[00:26:13] Sally Helgesen: If we overvalue expertise, this again, this is common for women who may fear being seen as not qualified, but it's also very common for men in certain fields feeling like, I will be judged on my expertise at the job I do.

Well, first of all, That doesn't necessarily mean you'll be promoted to the next job because they might think, she's so perfect and so expert at the job she has, why would we promote her? We really need her there. So it's a sort of fundamental misunderstanding of how promotion works. But it also is a very unbalanced approach.

In my experience, which is, I've 40 years. In my experience, the most successful careers are really built on three legs. There's expertise, what we know and how well we do what we do. There is visibility, how much visibility we have among the audience for what we are doing, whether that's our customers, our clients, the senior leadership in our organization, you know, our board, whoever that is, that visibility.

And then connections, how many connections we have, what is the quality of the connections we have, both in terms of who the people are and how they regard us and the esteem in which they hold us. So people in my observation who over invest in expertise under invest in visibility and connections and that holds them back.

[00:27:48] Hala Taha: That's so smart. It's so true because really a lot of the promotions is just. Knowing the right person who's going to pull you into those situations and say your name in a room full of people who could give you opportunities. So you're so right. It's really about having those personal connections. So something that both men and women do depending on their personality type is actually minimize themselves at work and in meetings.

So what are the common ways that people can minimize themselves and how can we go about maximizing ourselves? 

[00:28:17] Sally Helgesen: Well, first minimizing ourselves, it can be verbal and we all do this. I look at emails I've written, I'm just writing you because, or I just want to ask you, or this will only take a second, all those kinds of things, which kind of say is, what I'm going to ask you is very unimportant, it's, it's not a good way to start.

They become like verbal habits. People often minimize themselves in terms of their posture. They sit in the back of the room, they sort of slum, they're not stepping up and actively participating or inhabiting their space. Which is the important part when it comes to not minimizing is really claiming the space you have.

So, all these apologizing is a big one and that's so prevalent as we know with women. I go all around the world and women are constantly, I'm sorry this, I'm sorry that, I'm sorry the car service was late. Really? It's your fault? I'm sorry the coffee wasn't hot. Really? Did you make it? It's this sort of compulsive apologizing that's a very serious form of minimizing.

Now, the thing about minimizing is it's just a habit. It's not like the disease to please or perfectionism, which are very deeply rooted and take serious effort to begin to address. Minimizing is a habit. So what we want to do is cultivate a different habit. So we can do that with people, you know, I'm really working on, I've recognized I have a tendency to minimize.

myself in a room and not speak up or speak up in a very soft voice or sit in the back. I'm trying to do it differently. You're going to be in this meeting with me. This is if we're in person. You're going to be in this meeting with me. Could you just give me some feedback about how I'm doing now? What does this do?

First of all, it's helpful to have the feedback. And by the way, we can do this in virtual situations as well. It's very helpful because it gives us ideas. Transcribed What was successful, what really worked, what didn't work. So that's good, but also, and even more important, is when we ask someone that, then we sort of implicitly are asking them to hold us to account for what we say we're going to do.

Because we can't go up to somebody and say, this time, I'm really planning on speaking up in this meeting, I've been working, preparing a little bit what I have to say, so I'm practicing a different behavior. And then if we don't do that, we're looking at them and thinking, Hmm, they're expecting me to do this and I'm not going to do it.

So it's a better way than just deciding for ourselves, we're going to do it. It's really saying, I'm willing to be held to account for. Addressing this habit, and this is an easy habit, apologizing, you know, I've noticed I apologize all the time. I've become aware of that. I've got to stop this. It's just.

Ridiculous. It's become almost laughable. Next time I do that, would you point it out and just ask people to do that? And then first of all, you'll get that feedback. Oh, okay. I did it again. Won't do it again. But then we'll also, when we see them, we'll think, Oh, better not apologize. I asked them to point out that when I apologize.

So it's helpful. 

[00:31:37] Hala Taha: Yeah, totally. I love that hack of having other people keeping you accountable and having like an accountability buddy when it comes to that. So one thing that you mentioned is that perfectionism. is something that's also deeply rooted in us. And if we're perfectionists, it's often our childhood that has made us perfectionists.

So what are the things that happen in our childhood that could make us perfectionists as adults? 

[00:32:02] Sally Helgesen: Being a straight a student, either by teachers or by parents. Having parents expect that we will always be well behaved. This is more common with girls. Boys have a little more, you know, oh, boys will be boys.

Is leeway? Girls are often held to account for always doing the right and proper thing that can result in perfectionism. But one thing I recognized when Marshall and I were doing some research for this book is that organizations also reward perfectionism in women. Because what we saw was a huge study that showed that women are most likely to be rewarded and promoted based upon the perception that their work is precise and correct, whereas men are more likely to be rewarded and promoted based upon the perception that they're a big picture thinker at their visibility, especially outward facing, and also.

the connections they have. So those are very different criteria. So it's not surprising that women get the message that being perfect, that is precise and correct in everything we do, is the way to go. 

[00:33:18] Hala Taha: Let's move on to your latest book. It's called Rising Together. What made you want to write this book as a follow up to How Women Rise?

[00:33:25] Sally Helgesen: Well, two things. First of all, How Women Rise really showed me the power of how, and that talking specifically about hows rather than whys, etc. Was much more meaningful to people, but the real impetus came. I'd been asked to present a women's leadership program at the construction super conference in Las Vegas.

So this was about 6, 000 people there. not surprisingly, it was about 90, 95 percent men and asked me to do a women's leadership program. So I said, well, what should I. Be prepared for in terms of the audience. And they said, well, based on last year, we'd say about a hundred women who are really interested in getting more visibility for what they contribute and talking more skillfully about what they do.

I said, fine, I could do that all day long. So I go down to my session on the morning. And there were maybe almost 400 people there, and about 65 to 70 percent of them were men. And I thought, well, what am I going to say? I'm prepared to talk to women about what they can do with this. So I started by saying, why are you here?

What can I do that would be helpful? And they started talking, not surprisingly, about we've got to get better at attracting and especially retaining and advancing talented women, this is the talent base, we're not very good at it, we're hoping to get some kids from you. And then one guy stood up and he said something that He's still with me.

He stood up and he said, look, we hope you don't waste your time. He was really meaning their time. We hope you don't waste your time telling us why we need to get better at this. We understand, we get it, we've been talking about it for a number of years. What we need to hear from you is how we can get better at it.

People keep talking about the need to build inclusive cultures. How do we do that? We don't seem to have answers. So I left that program knowing that that would be my next book. Because I too, I felt that, you know, a lot of the leadership work I do comes under diversity, equity, and inclusion is budgeted there.

And one of the things that I'm very aware of is that there's been so much emphasis on identifying unconscious bias, and in my view, not anywhere nearly enough emphasis on helping people to understand how they can behave in a way that others will perceive as welcoming, as making them feel like they belong, as making them feel as if they are a part of we.

We have not defined that, we've been focused on the why, or the what, what are the unconscious bias issues, which is kind of another why, rather than the concrete, practical, tactical hows. So that's what I wanted to do. 

[00:36:35] Hala Taha: 



[00:36:43] Hala Taha: one of the things that you say is that diversity requires inclusion.

And usually people are just bucketing diversity and inclusion, it's the one thing. But they're two different things, so talk to us about What that distinction is. 

[00:36:56] Sally Helgesen: They're very different. Diversity is the nature of the global talent force. And this is true, whether you are a huge corporate or whether you are a small employer, whether you're an entrepreneur, no matter what field you're in, you have a diverse workforce out there.

That's who the talent pool is. Whereas inclusion is the means and the method. That is most successful at leading a diverse talent pool because people who have been outsiders or who are unexpected people with maybe unexpected talents. are accustomed to feeling as if they are marginalized or not really a part of the we.

lot of times leaders will say to me, first of all, they'll say things like diversity is our goal. No, it's not your goal. It's your reality. creating a more inclusive organization, that's your goal. But they'll also say, do you have an assessment so we can grade our organization where it stands on inclusion.

Well, it's very simple. If people talk about the organization as we, you can bet that they perceive it as inclusive. If they talk about your organization as they, then you know, you've got some work to do. So it's very simple. It's really the language people use that lets us know. Whether they feel that they belong and are included.

[00:38:25] Hala Taha: So something that you touched on was this concept of unconscious bias. And I remember I used to work in corporate years ago when I'm entrepreneur now, we always had these trainings on unconscious bias. It was like the main thing that diversity inclusion was about. It was like uncovering your unconscious bias and all the stereotypes that you have, but you say this is totally ineffective and you talk about triggers.

So help us understand. Why unconscious bias is not the answer and why we need to understand our triggers instead. 

[00:38:56] Sally Helgesen: Well, first of all, I don't think it's totally useless, but I think it just starts a process and may be an unnecessarily divisive part of the process. So what I set out to do in the book was identify behaviors that people perceive as being inclusive.

The issue with that is that often we. know how we should be acting, but we don't because we feel triggered in some way. A typical trigger is, I really don't like how she communicates. It can be, you know, Young people talk like this, old people talk like that, whatever it is, we're triggered by that, so we're not willing to behave in a way that will be inclusive toward them.

fairness is a huge trigger. We feel like, well, that's not fair, I wasn't treated fairly. And that is a trigger. Makes us indisposed to practice inclusive behaviors because we feel resentment over that, and we feel we're not getting a good deal. Feeling like we're outsiders to an old boys network can be a big trigger.

I can't get anywhere around here. I'm not part of the crowd that counts. So all those things are triggers. So what I decided is I couldn't just focus on the inclusive behaviors. I had to look at some of the triggers. That undermine our ability to act in a way that we know would be probably more productive and also serve us better.

And I was influenced, of course, by Marshall's book, Triggers, and his definition that a trigger is an event or a person or a comment outside ourselves. That stirs an emotional reaction in us. So it's not something we can control because it's outside ourselves. It's something that we have to find a way to deal with.

And in my experience, Triggers are especially active in a highly diverse work environment because there's a lot of room for stereotyping and for misperceptions, but only to focus on how may I be stereotyping this person isn't going to help us once we've identified that we need a better sense of a better way to do it.

[00:41:19] Hala Taha: So, from my understanding, with these triggers, the trigger happens and then we tell ourselves a story to make us feel better about why we're feeling this way. So, talk to us about why that isn't good and how we can tell ourselves a better story. 

[00:41:34] Sally Helgesen: Well, Hala, that exactly gets to the point that I'm trying to make with triggers.

The problem isn't the trigger. We had that emotional response. That's the reality. That's our history reflected, whatever it is. The trigger isn't what keeps us stuck so much as the story that keeps us stuck. And you always hear this, Oh, women can't get a break around here. Oh, I see they're not promoting men here anymore.

Oh, you've got to be a person of color in order to get a promotion here. Oh, they're only promoting white people. That story is what's going to get in your way. It doesn't matter really whether it's true or not, unless it's something that you're prepared to take major action on. It doesn't really matter whether it's true or not.

The issue is that that story going around in your mind is going to keep you stuck. Either you're going to ruminate over it and feel resentful. Or you're going to try to grab somebody who you think might agree with you and engage them in a gossipy little session about why such and such situation or person is so unfair.

And neither of those will help you to take positive action. So rewriting your script. is really a device for yourself to help you take more positive action. You're not just letting the other person off the hook. So for example, go back to visibility that we talked about at the beginning. If you are triggered, for example, because you are in a meeting, you said something, no one picked up on it, someone else later said the same thing, this is a very common situation, and everybody went, oh, what a great idea, you know, either because it was someone at a higher level or because it was a guy, whatever it was, Then you feel like, well, I can never get respect around here.

Or you might feel like, oh, I see, he was trying to steal my idea and get credit for it. And apparently it worked. Whatever the story is, it's a negative story. It doesn't give you a path to positive action. If you rewrite the story and you're saying, okay, hmm, well, that was interesting. I guess he really liked my idea and wanted to amplify it, or maybe he didn't hear that I had said that, but it's good to know we think alike.

Then you have a potential path for positive action. You can say to that person, either in person or email, text, whatever it is, it was really glad to see you agreed with the point I raised about such and such. I think there are a couple things we could do here. On this, that might be really useful. Would you like to have a conversation about it?

So what that does is first of all, it is giving the other person the benefit of your goodwill. It's almost a definition of that, but it also gives you a path to engaging that person as a potential ally, rather than having them as. Someone that you feel enmity toward or who you resent. So it's very positive.

And when I suggest this to people, often what they'll say is, well, you know, that's not really authentic to me. I feel like I need to be true to my beliefs and not act in a way that's fake. Okay. If you'd rather act in a way that's totally in accord with all of your beliefs, if you consider that being fake and It may not serve you, but you have to accept that fact, that that may not serve you.

So that may not be the best path for you. But also, you might be wrong. You just make a presumption based upon your first hearing. Maybe the person didn't hear you. Maybe he was trying to amplify you. So you question yourself. You just get a little bit curious, is probably a good way. To put it. And that's very helpful.

[00:45:31] Hala Taha: I love this advice because it's a sign of maturity. People want to be led by people who are mature, who make positive choices, don't act like victims. So it's just like a way healthier way to be rather than just feel like everything is happening at you and you're the victim of every situation. So I totally agree there.

So I know we're running out of time. I want to wrap this up with one question about creating a culture of belonging. Like I said, a lot of my listeners are entrepreneurs and business owners. Bye. Bye. What is your best advice for creating a culture of belonging at work? 

[00:46:02] Sally Helgesen: Well, for entrepreneurs and business owners, this is potentially very powerful.

It's good to recognize that in any organization, there are four kinds of power. There's the power of position, which you as the leader, as the owner, as the founder, definitely have. So there's that power and that's real. But there's also the power of personal authority, how much people trust you, and that's true for your people.

There are people in your organization who have real personal authority and are trusted. And that's a positive thing that doesn't threaten you or threaten your positional power. There's the power of course of connections and there's the power of expertise, people who are really good at things. So a healthy organization, an organization that has the best chance of making people feel that they belong is an organization that explicitly values all four kinds of power.

Rather than overvaluing positional power, which is what my way or the highway leaders do. You know, I have this position of power, so I get to say, you do this. So creating that and cultivating that and being clear about that and even speaking about it. There are many sources of power here. Which one do you want to cultivate?

How can we help you cultivate that power? The power of personal authority. is tremendous and it can be held by people at every level. We've all worked in organizations where someone who was fairly low on the totem pole was really the go to person. Whenever you try to get something done in an organization, that's a plus, that's a benefit.


[00:47:47] Hala Taha: Well, Sally, You seem like such a great leadership expert. Hopefully we can work together in the future. So I end my show with two questions that I ask all of my guests.

The first one is, what is one actionable thing our young and profiters can do today to become more profitable tomorrow? And this can be profiting in all aspects of life. 

[00:48:07] Sally Helgesen: I really think that having an accountability partner is absolutely key for anybody who has this. Ambition to hold you to account for what you say you are going to do.

And that doesn't just have to be around measures of profit, but also measures of people development and becoming a place where people love to work. 

[00:48:33] Hala Taha: Great advice. And what is your secret to profiting in life? And this can go beyond business. 

[00:48:40] Sally Helgesen: Not spending too much. That's my secret. It took me a long time to learn that one.

[00:48:45] Hala Taha: It's important. And where can everybody learn more about you and everything that you do? 

[00:48:50] Sally Helgesen: My website, SallyHelgeson. com. I have a newsletter on Substack, which is called All Rise. And LinkedIn and, uh, Twitter. And I think I'm on Instagram, too. 

[00:49:03] Hala Taha: We'll put all of your links in the show notes. We'll make it super easy for everyone.

Sally, again, thank you so much for your time here on Young and Profiting Podcast. 

[00:49:10] Sally Helgesen: Oh, my pleasure, Holla. Wonderful to be with you. 

[00:49:17] Hala Taha: you know, young improvisers, words like diversity and inclusion get touted around a lot these days, but we seldom take time to actually understand what they really mean or why these words are so important. And I really appreciated Sally's take on leadership and why all leaders should be seeking a more inclusive workforce.

Like she said, inclusion is the means and method that is most successful when it comes to leading a diverse talent pool So how can leaders actually improve at building inclusive organizations and cultures? It starts with awareness. Just being able to recognize the triggers that can undermine our ability to act in a way that would serve https: otter.


But the problem isn't just the trigger itself, according to Sally. The trigger isn't what keeps us stuck, it's how we respond to our triggers. So for example, if you always get triggered because colleagues get credit for your ideas at meetings, you have two choices when this happens. You can ruminate about it and feel resentful and angry, or you can rewrite your own script and focus on the positive.

Maybe your colleague liked your idea and wanted to amplify it for others. You always want to figure out what could be the alternate bright side. How can you give people the benefit of the doubt? Acting in this way keeps you from unnecessarily holding your progress back, it keeps you from unnecessarily being negative, and it gives you a pathway to positive action.

Thanks for listening to this episode of Young and Profiting Podcast. If you listened, learned, and profited from this conversation, please help us put a pathway to positive action by sharing this episode with your colleagues, friends, and family. And if you did enjoy this show and you learned something new, then please Drop us a five star review on Apple Podcasts.

 I personally read the reviews every single day. I love to read your reviews. It gives me feedback. Tell me what you like about the show, what you don't like about the show. I want to hear from you.  If you prefer to watch your podcast as videos, you can find us on YouTube. Just look up Young and Profiting. And you can also find me on Instagram at Yap with Hala. 

. And I did want to shout out my amazing production team. Shout out to the whole team, but especially shout out to Amelia. Amelia is our producer. She's been with us for like three years now. She's getting promoted soon.

She's going to move to the network side. And so she's not going to be my producer. Forever, but she's amazing. And Amelia, we thank you so much for being a Scrappy Hustler, for embodying all of our values, for always keeping me on point with the podcast and dealing with all of my lateness and tardiness with things.

Cause I'm just so busy trying to run this company. You rock.  And shout out to my executive producer, Jason Ames, who is my rock, my best friend, my business partner, 

This is your host, Hala Taha, AKA the podcast princess, signing off 

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