Five Ways to Tap Into Your Power: Take The Lead!

Presenter Mary Alice Callahan set the tone by introducing herself to our table.  When one of the attendees said she worked for IBM, Mary Alice said she herself was an IBM Systems Engineer many moons ago.  Her ability to connect with each attendee was very gracious.

Presenter Rebecca Shambaugh is the author of It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor.  Elegantly attired in a pink dress, she was a powerful, engaging and energetic speaker with an admirable ability to instantly secure and maintain her audience’s attention.  “Are you women here to feel the power?” she asked.  The audience responded with enthusiastic cheers and applause.


  • What is power?
  • Is it a bad word, indicating manipulation?
  • No!  This is about smart power – being present and intentional
  • In the end, it’s not really about you
  • It’s about the people you’re serving and how you can show up better to serve them
  • Power allows us to effectively influence those around us
  • Focus on creating your best self
  • Everything is in our reach
  • Anything is possible
  • But you have to take action!

Rebecca humorously dispelled the myth of Corporate Prince Charming, who would one day knock on our door and say, “Hi!  I’m here to take you where you want to go.”  This session is about taking a seat at the table and it’s how you fill that seat.  Women need to take the lead and empower ourselves, instead of waiting for Corporate Prince Charming.

This is tricky business because the invisible layer is inside.  Rebecca coined the term sticky floor to indicate the hardwired belief system within us.  She summarized seven sticky floors:

  1. Managing Work/Life Balance
  2. Striving for Excellence
  3. Continuous Learning – Taking Risks
  4. Capitalizing on Executive Presence / Political Savvy
  5. Making Your Words Count
  6. Building Strategic Relationships / Personal Brand
  7. Knowing and Asking for What You Want

If a job description states 10 criteria:

  • Men will apply if they can check 4 out of 10 boxes
  • Women will apply if they can check 9 out of 10 boxes

Women are skilled at talking ourselves out of opportunities.  But failure is good!  We become smarter and more confident.  New circuits are formed as we now know what not to do.  I recalled the anecdote about Thomas Edison inventing the light bulb on his 1000th attempt and informing an interviewer, “I didn’t fail!  I learned 999 ways not to do something!”

We began a worksheet titled Tapping Into Your Power:  Personal Action Planning.  The first question asked us to identify and re-frame a sabotaging narrative.  Mine was, “What if someone doesn’t like it?”  Rebecca’s narrative was “I don’t have anything important to say.”  This made her initially reluctant to pursue public speaking and writing.  She eventually realized, “do have something important to say!  And it’s not fair or right of me to hold it in.”  She identifies herself as an “off-the-scale introvert”, which added to the challenge in putting herself out there.  After a couple of “swift kicks” from her mentors, she began speaking and writing on a smaller scale and here she is, a published author and sought-after speaker at GHC 2017!

Rebecca mentioned that she is addicted to the show Shark Tank.  Building a personal brand is similar to this TV show.  Both require a good answer to “Why would they select you over the others?”  It’s how you show up.  When people show up to connect with you, what are they drawn to?  Is there a true connection and alignment to your brand?

How you make people feel is huge.  This put me in mind of Maya Angelou’s famous quote:

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.  

Rebecca stated:

  • What are you known for?
  • What do people need to really trust you?
  • Be able to listen, paraphrase and emotionally and intellectually connect

Rebecca shared an anecdote where she kept getting pulled into meetings and she didn’t know why.  A colleague told her, “It’s because you’re a great collaborator, you’re strategic, you connect the dots and remind us of why we’re here at the end of the day.”

Telepathy is not a strategy!  There is no app for mind-reading.

An important part of your personal brand is being aware of what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

Women are often asked to attend senior executive meetings and “report back”.  At the next meeting, don’t just “report back”.  Bring something back in.  Be that person.  This is the difference between being powerless and powerful.

Connect to people who can be your ambassadors.

If you’re on a panel at GHC, you are the “face” of your organization.

If you’re a remote employee, it’s not just about filling the phone with words.  Tonality of voice and inflection count.   On average:

  • Women utter 8K to 10K words per day
  • Men utter 4K to 6K words per day

Be a woman of few words. 

When people know you’re there to help them, they see you as a powerful individual.  Spread the power!

Next post:  Part 2 with Mary Alice


About Saranya Murthy

Voracious reader, aspiring writer, wordplay and personal growth enthusiast, English language and nature lover, 96.3FM fan, software developer
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