The second core value that women need to consider is that of belonging/connection. This part of your psychology is very much interested in belonging to something, being at one with something. Sometimes that something is a person, sometimes it’s a feeling, a place, or even an activity. When this part of our psychology is activated, we are in the moment, in flow. We are social beings with social identities: we are continually defining ourself and behaving in relationship to others. Who we are and how we behave with our boss is very different to who we are and how we behave with our younger siblings, which is different again to how we behave with strangers. Our brain is an association mechanism, so we are continually scanning for likeness, similarity and belonging (safety and familiarity) and difference, disconnect, other (danger and new).
The question to consider here is, “Who do you belong to, in your role?” For many Executive Assistants / Personal Assistants and/or administrative support officers, the answer may naturally be: “I belong to my boss. My role (and therefore my work purpose) is to support my boss.” This is likely to be the case if a core part of your role is concerned with you focusing your attention and energy on your boss. At the healthy end of the spectrum, this relationship can be like a team where players have separate roles but work together to achieve common outcomes. At the unhealthy end of the spectrum, this relationship can foster co-dependency where the boss is utterly reliant upon the EA/PA to get things done and the EA/PA so strongly identifies their self with their boss that they do everything for them. This can lead to a type of servitude for both parties. You can see how personal power plays a key role in this dynamic. If the boss has an overly distorted sense of power and their EA/PA disowns their personal power, then the boss comes to own the EA/PA. And of course, the power roles can become reversed where the EA/PA becomes the mother who is looking after, doing everything for the bumbling, child boss who forgets things, runs late, etc.
There are some very important questions to ask: “How does this ‘belonging’ feel? Does it feel light or does it feel heavy? Is this the type of belonging we want to have in our work/life? Do we in fact, want to belong to this relationship, situation?” You see, often in life, we end up belonging to whatever is around us. We often just fall into things, they just happen. We don’t always make a conscious and deliberate choice about who we want in our life and work and for what reasons. Life and work get busy and in our search for belonging and certainty and enjoyment, we make choices that may not ultimately serve us.
However, there is real power in knowing this. Once you know something, everything is forever changed. Once you know, you can decide and act. We will talk about this part of our psychology in the next part of this series.
To be deliberate in terms of who we belong to is not a taught or natural skill. But it simply begins with a consideration of who is around you right now. Now, there are some people in your life and work, right now, who don’t want you to win. Whether this be conscious and deliberate or sub-conscious and accidental, they don’t want you to win. And this can be for a variety of reasons, but more often that not, it is because you winning brings up something in them that they are uncomfortable with. Perhaps it is that if you win, then they perceive that they must lose (limited black and white thinking).
A useful analogy here might be that of going to a stadium. Imagine for a moment that you are a sports star going to a game in which you intend on winning. As you arrive at the gates, you are swarmed by crowds of people going the other way. They push you back and knock you down in their bustle to leave. This is the crowd. These are the people in your work and life who do now want you to win, and will prevent you from getting to the game. They perceive you either as an obstacle or a thorn in their side.
It takes courage and strength to push your way through the crowd, to get away from them and not be caught up in the tide and swell of their momentum. Once you make your way past the crowd, you arrive at the stadium and go out onto the field, ready to embark on your victory. Around you in the stands are people cheering you on. These people are a cheer squad. These are the people in your life who want you to win, but do not have the capability to help you win on the field. They can encourage from the sidelines, and their cheering and support does help to buoy your spirits, but at the end of the day, they are not going to get down on that field and play that game with you. They are happy just watching.
These people are valuable and worth cultivating and you know that you need more than this in order to win the game. You need a great team on the field. These are the people in your work and life who want you to win and have the capability to help you do it. These are people you can throw the ball to, and who will throw the ball back to you, who will put you in a good position for the winning play. The interesting thing about these people is that some of them, you don’t know yet. There are many people out there in the world who can help you be the person you want to be – you just may not have found them yet. But they are there. Waiting for you.
So at the end of the day, in order to realise your potential as a woman, you need to get really clear about where the people in your work and life sit. Then you need to get really clear about where it is you want to be, who it is you want to be and what is really important to you. Then, go and cultivate the teams you need. Stop belonging to people who aren’t going to help you win and start belonging to people who want to support you. This may be quite challenging, as you may find that there are people quite close to you who don’t want you to win. There is a middle path here between being dependent upon people and just using people to get what you want, and perhaps alliance is a good word to consider. Who are your allies? Whom do you trust to watch your back?
As a leader, one of the most powerful things you can do is create a sense of belonging for your team; create an alliance of people who support each other and work with each other in order to win on an individual and team level. This is quite a challenge. It relies on the other four values, which is to say, it requires a vision and sense of order, strong boundaries and a sense of duty and great inner wisdom and discernment so that people really know what’s going on and make the best choices. Everyone wants to belong to something, to feel a part of something. As a leader, if you can create a space, a place, a culture and team that is healthy and happy, people will want to be a part of it. In fact, they will fight to be a part of it and fight to stay a part of it.