We know that there are a number of underrepresented groups in the workplace and we’re looking forward to engage with those individuals whose leadership experience is affected by their identity, gender, or any other visible or non-visible characteristic and look at ways that coaching can support them to grow and thrive.

In this blog, we'll explore the positive impact of coaching women in leadership roles through a series of conversations with some of the Know You More coaches. They'll share their insight and expertise, and how specialist coaching can bring clarity to specific topics surrounding female leadership.

Setting realistic personal goals
By Lisa Paris

Exploring how to manage a personal agenda that leans towards over-achievement is a key part of coaching women in leadership roles. The pandemic forced a hybrid working model and shone a light on the very real issue of female leaders placing unrealistic demands on themselves.  In coaching, we explore those self-imposed high expectations - which often overreach those of others - and examine the drivers behind these pressures.  There is often a strong weight of expectation.  A feeling that it is their responsibility to set goals far beyond those expected of them, as though their success is linked to that of all women in an organisation. In part, this can come from the disparity in numbers of male and female executives at higher levels. The sense that they - often the only woman in a senior role - are ambassadors for female senior leadership across a whole organisation, or even industry. There is often a real sense of duty to forge an easier path for future female leaders. This sense of wider responsibility can weigh heavy and contribute to burnout and lack of fulfilment.

Coaching women in these roles can help to define what a realistic and achievable criteria for success could look like, and those discussions can define purpose and intent more clearly.

Imposter syndrome and channelling emotions
By Stefan Senger

My experience as a coach has thrown up a few recurring themes which can hold back women leaders from achieving their full potential. Perfectionism, and the pursuit of it, comes with downsides such as a sense of impostor syndrome, and a fear of disappointing others. The goal to be perfect means that women don't always feel empowered to say 'no'. Their workload can become unsustainable and work-life balance all but disappears. When this is coupled with a belief that emotions should be suppressed at work, a woman can effectively feel trapped by her own self-doubt, and can fail to reach her full potential as a leader. Coaching offers a safe space to speak openly without feeling judged, where emotions have their place and can be expressed without fear. As a result, acknowledging and accepting that perfection is not attainable can be truly transformational.

Find your tribe
By Camilla Degerth

Where male leaders tend to take on tasks for which they are aware they don't have all the skills, they often still have the confidence to try. Women leaders, with their often hard-fought positions, can feel like they have more to lose and are more likely to have their failures highlighted. Caution may be warranted as a result, but will not benefit the female leader in the long run. Building strong networks and creating a tribe of allies will help to support women in leadership to be brave. To take risks in the knowledge that we learn from every action, whether a success or a failure, and that having a trusting and supportive team is empowering.

Changing mindsets
By Verónica de la Fuente

Many of the barriers to success that women in leadership face are systemic, and will require a change on a seismic level in order to achieve full equality. However, there are also internal barriers that women can break down. Often, these barriers are connected with some limiting beliefs and habits; such as a reluctance to claim achievements, resistance to build networking, focus on perfection, and not looking at their career outside the actual work they do. Coaching can support women to be more conscient and overcome these barriers. By changing the mindset, it can become one of the steps to move forward in advancing in their careers.

Make change happen
By Sue Gammons

It would be nice to assume that hard work is always recognised and that success is achieved as a direct result of ability. However, we know that this is not always the case. Female leaders are turning to coaching to take control of their future leadership goals. Having the confidence to be able to communicate their strengths and achievements becomes more important as women move upward in an organisation. Having strategies that allow them to do that in an authentic way allows them to develop an awareness of their strengths, values and interests, and can help women to articulate their career aspirations more clearly.  

Making their voices heard is important so that decision makers can more easily identify ways to support their stated development and career goals. The issues are societal, from an early age, women are often brought up to believe that it’s not acceptable to be bold about their strengths. That being aware of those strengths and being vocal about them is ‘boastful’ or ‘pushy’.  Coaching delves into changing those deep-seated beliefs that inform women’s resistance towards self-promotion.

A coachee’s perspective:

“Through coaching, I tackled a number of work-life questions that had been bubbling for a number of years. As a result, I have absolute clarity on where I want to go and how I would like to get there, with total alignment across my stakeholder group. As a result, I feel I have become a better all-round leader.”