Why Women Downplay Their Results

Ying and Yang

Us women can be frustrating. We have so many wonderful qualities and yet there is an unwritten rule of workplace success that often blindly passes us by. The balance of play in the workplace is still pulled towards the male ‘yang’. The principles of male leadership include playing for points, achieving results, focused thinking and fixing problems. Women, on the other hand, are more naturally drawn to working in partnership, seeking ways to collaborate with others and looking for contribution and meaning in their work. Don’t get me wrong, women are very clear that they also need to deliver. And achieving results is often a given.

Relationships, Ego and Results

One very helpful model of leadership an old coach introduced me to was the interplay of results, relationships and ego. Whilst every leader I have ever coached irrespective of gender has a strong delivery ethic, there are many differences that play out in the dynamics of relationships and ego. In my experience as an executive coach, women are more heavily weighted to using relationships to deliver results. Men have a much stronger sense of self than a woman. They have more confidence in their abilities, their opinions and their ways of working and therefore don’t need to have the depth of relationships women do to succeed.

I once worked for a female boss who, quite frankly, drove me nuts in the early days. I felt as though she was constantly pressing pause on the work I was doing. Whilst I wanted to get on and deliver (yes I have always been strongly action oriented), she would constantly stop me and get me to consider my actions from multiple perspectives. I learnt, through those painful first months, that she was brilliant at stakeholder management. Her ability to read other people was extraordinary. Her insights into how papers, work deliverables and cross business initiatives could land successfully took my results to a whole new level. But did I ever talk about the results I’d achieved. Rarely. I never saw the need or the importance. I thought I’d come across as arrogant. So I’d tick that task off and move onto the next challenge.

Achievements Are Key

One of the activities members of the WLA are encouraged to do (on a regular basis) is to share their achievements. It’s a fascinating exercise. Every woman, without exception, who is first introduced to this activity, finds it difficult. Many get to about three before genuinely struggling to find more. They are at a bit of a loss. What even is an achievement? I just get on and do my job. And herein lies the problem. Women find it very difficult to showcase their results. Their ability to articulate and be proud of what they have achieved does not come naturally. They believe the results will speak for themselves and they do not need to shout about them. Women’s desire to please is extremely strong. By appearing arrogant or self-focused women fear they may become alienated and has the risk of taking away their natural desire to please others. This is an extraordinarily strong pull for women.

Women then become frustrated when they hear male colleagues talk about their successes. Men are naturally competitive. They love to win and to share their catch. Of course they are going to showcase their results and their achievements. And it can be hugely inspiring to hear what others have achieved. We all want to do a great job. We all want to see the organisation we work for succeed. We all know we have a part to play in it. We need to hear the motivational stories of success. And we each have a place in showcasing the work we are doing and the results we are achieving. It’s critical to inspire others around us. And what better way than being proud of what we have done. Start, this week, by sharing your results with your colleagues. And do it with confidence.

Embrace Our Magnificence

So let’s embrace our magnificence. Let us stand tall. Let us be confident in who we are and in what we are up to. Let us step into the light and be proud of who we are. Let’s stop hiding in the shadows. Go and be remarkable!



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    Great article Sandra. Resonates a lot with me, I’m going to start a success journal at the back of my notebook, celebrating wins, big or small!

    Thanks Laura! Hope the journaling is going well…