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Career Help Needed: Talking To and Building Relationships with Male Higher-ups & Men in Positions of Power

Hi @lucio and Powermoves members,

I am a new member of TPM , and I have a question. I would definitely appreciate you all's advice.

For some context, I am one of the youngest, and few women at my job. I work in a male dominated field.

I was told by mentors that it is important to talk to and build relationships and friendships with higher-ups and people with positions of power to succeed, advance and grow in my career, and to get promotions (do you all feel this is true?).

Here is my issue: I need help with talking to, and building relationships and friendships with male higher-ups & men in positions of power.

I have no problem talking and building relationships with my male co-workers/"equals", and other women; but it is the male higher-ups and men in power at my job I am afraid of talking to. It is weird, but I feel intimidated, fearful, and get scared and nervous around them.

Sometimes in my head I think  "they see me as insignificant because I am and low on the corporate ladder" and/or "they may be too busy to talk to me".

I want to ask, what are some things I can do to not feel as intimidated, nervous, and scared to talk to men in power/ male higher-ups, and build relationships and friendships with them?

Lastly, are there any advantages you all feel I have as someone who just started their corporate career, and as a woman in male dominated field? If so what advantages do you believe I have, and how do you feel I can use them to succeed in my career and overcome my fears of talk to men in power/ male higher-ups?

I look forward to hearing everyone's advice and opinions. Especially yours @lucio 🙂

Thank you.

-S.

Lucio Buffalmano, Kavalier and Bel have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoKavalierBel

Hello S.P. and welcome here!

To answer some of your questions:

Quote from S.P. on August 10, 2022, 11:13 am

I was told by mentors that it is important to talk to and build relationships and friendships with higher-ups and people with positions of power to succeed, advance and grow in my career, and to get promotions (do you all feel this is true?).

More than "important" I'd say it's helpful.

And it's a big shift in definition.

The difference is that "important" feels like it's almost something you MUST do -which seems to be your current frame of mind-.
And that puts you in a bad mindset and place, including:

  1. Pressure, because it's "important" that you do it (and, if you don't, you lose?)
  2. Selfish & taker frame, because you're going to talk to them with your career and return in mind (no "WIIFT" even if "only" at a mental level, it will show). Compare that to some other guy who talks to them because they find them cool folks to learn from. Who's going to bond and connect with them more? You know the answer
  3. Lower power, because when you must, you're chasing. That also increases your pressure

Here's a different mindset and approach for you:

It may be useful to talk to those top managers, both for my career and to learn more. But I don't have to chase them. If it happens, great. If not, then it may be even better when they hear about me because of my good work.

Notice the switch of power dynamics with that last part oft the sentence: if they hear about you first, or even talk to you first, it's 10x better.
Second best is to meet them naturally.
Third best is to meet them naturally because of work-related tasks.
Fourth best is to ask them questions.
Worst of all would be to chase them because of what they can do for you.

 

Quote from S.P. on August 10, 2022, 11:13 am

I have no problem talking and building relationships with my male co-workers/"equals", and other women; but it is the male higher-ups and men in power at my job I am afraid of talking to. It is weird, but I feel intimidated, fearful, and get scared and nervous around them.

Sometimes in my head I think  "they see me as insignificant because I am and low on the corporate ladder" and/or "they may be too busy to talk to me".

Not weird at all, it's power dynamics 101 to feel some more pressure ot, at least, "different" when in the presence of those who have higher status/power in your group of reference.

So, that already can help you soothe a bit: perfectly normal.

Here are some different mindset for you:

Yeah, they may think I'm just a beginner starting out at the bottom and insignificant to the business. Well, so what: they're right (smile). Just the cycle of life, one day I may also think that the new hire is insignificant.

This takes the pressure off on being "insignificant".
We're all insignificant to someone else, everyone of us.

And now to start becoming significant:

The more I'll learn and take over tasks and responsibilities, the more significant and valuable I'll become.
And it's fully up to me how fast and how deep that will run.

In a way, going from "insignificant" to "significant" is the process of going from beginner to mastery, something everyone goes through, and everyone goes through whenever they start something new -bet those significant higher-ups aren't that "significant" when they start lesson 101 of, say, salsa dancing, pizza making, motorcycle riding, Spanish classes, climbing, or whatever you have it-.

As a matter of fact, here's another mindset:

I love learning new things and adding more and more value with my growing skills. Now, I'm learning this business to contribute to it, and get my fair share as I contribute more and more (win-win)

 

Quote from S.P. on August 10, 2022, 11:13 am

Lastly, are there any advantages you all feel I have as someone who just started their corporate career, and as a woman in male dominated field? If so what advantages do you believe I have, and how do you feel I can use them to succeed in my career and overcome my fears of talk to men in power/ male higher-ups?

Absolutely! 🙂

The main advantage may as well be that you don't need to be anything: being "exceptional" and "unique", even if only by being one of the very few women means you have a major advantage in having others observe you, notice you, and potentially come to you.

That's huuuge.


I focused more on mindsets as PU has plenty of techniques and strategies.


P.S.:
Great job in using line breaks and markups.
May I suggest being more targeted with the "@" function and addressing the whole community without singling me out.
See here why (#6.2.)

Kavalier, Bel and S.P. have reacted to this post.
KavalierBelS.P.
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Hello, S.P, how are you doing? So it's your first post, welcome to the jungle!

In my younger years I had the same issue you did: fear of talking to higher ups. To build on what Lucio already said, what helped me was the mindset that

There is no hierarchy between individuals, only between different job positions.

So, when dealing with higher ups, I accept that his/her position is higher than mine, and that means that I won't question the job that needs to be done. But after the job is done and it comes bonding time, then reminding myself that he or she is also a human being, and that human beings are equals, helps me to connect with the individuals. That's when you discover that you have the same tastes, the same hobbies, the same sense of humour, the same fears.

And everything starts with a "hello, how are you doing?" – pretty low pressure, you're just being polite. And then work with what he or she gives you, don't force a connection, don't try to be best buddies with them right off the bat – but here it's the same as talking to your neighbours, strangers in the street, new acquitances etc.

Delivering an awesome job was for me a big part of that. So trusting your own skills, knowing that you are an invaluable member of the team, will also naturally lead to that social confidence.

As you go through PU, you are going to find more specific tips that are going to slowly build up your confidence. Power protecting, self-defence against power moves, body language, dealing with difficult situations, handling crucial conversations... I wish I had found this website when I was "one of the youngest", as you are now 🙂

Lucio Buffalmano, Bel and S.P. have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoBelS.P.

Hi Lucio,

 

Thank you very much for your response, advice, and answers to all of my questions! I appreciate it! Also I somehow missed the forum guidelines, I'm sorry about this and will erase the @'s! And will follow the guidelines moving forward!

-S.

Edit: Oh!? Seems like I cannot edit the post now, after it has responses?

 

Hi Kavalier,

 

Thank you very much for answering my questions and sharing your advice. I really appreciate it!

 

-S.

Kavalier has reacted to this post.
Kavalier

Hi S.P.,

after Lucio and Kavalier’s awesome posts, I’ll add that when I started working I was also scared of interacting with higher-ups.

That changed after many years of work, in which I concentrated on getting my work-skills better, and through the inevitable interactions with higher-ups that everyone, sooner or later, is bound to have.

But a resource like Power University makes a big difference, so I’d bet with it the path will be much shorter!

Lucio Buffalmano, Kavalier and S.P. have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoKavalierS.P.

More great wisdom from Kavalier and Bel, and agree with both.

On the strategy, I think it's a good (Machiavellian) angle you can take:

As you grow closer to some higher ups and you can recognize they also like and appreciate you, you can share your worries about being one of the few women in the business, and if they would help you learn and understand how to navigate the office/business life.

Kavalier has reacted to this post.
Kavalier
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thank you very much Bel for your response and advice! I appreciate it!

 

Also thank you Lucio for your additional comments and advice!

 

-S.

Bel has reacted to this post.
Bel

To add to that previous message, that works especially well with "good guys", since there can easily form an added element of protective, even paternal feelings that want them to be your guide and see you succeed.

So if we were to be highly Machiavelian, we'd say: once you speak with a few, go for those "good guys" who take a liking to you.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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