REFRAME YOUR BRAIN
The 9 most powerful questions to get perspective in a difficult situation
Women in Leadership Feature: Lalita Stables @Google
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Meet LALITA STABLES
Personal background: born in Sri-Lanka, lived in Zambia, Melbourne & now resides in Sydney. Married, with a beautiful 7 month old baby boy.
Education: Bachelor of Science in Business Systems
Career: Currently Enterprise Sales Manager at Google Australia, worked at IBM for 11 years; worked in the IT industry for 17 years;
- Committee member for Inaugural Women’s Build Habitat for Humanity Project in Sydney
- Co-founder of non-profit organisation Oasis Africa which raises awareness & funds for a school for over 1,200 orphans.
- First female board member for large church in Australia
- Professional sessions singer for 15 years
From your journey to date as a woman in leadership, are there any specific moments that stick out for you?
At my early days at IBM I was one of those ‘doers’. I was seen as “Lalita will get it done, so we’ll just give her all the projects,” except I wasn’t the one getting the promotions or the pay rise.
So I set aside time in my diary to have coffee with some successful people and asked them, “Why are you getting the pay rises? You need to tell me the secret.”
One guy said to me, “Lalita, I’m just going to tell you straight. I’m going to give you the 80/20 rule: do your job, but take 20% of your time to tell people what you’re doing. You need to be proactive & make it concise. Write some emails or do your ‘win’ notes first.”
Before this I would try to be humble, thinking “Everybody knows what I do, why should I go and tell them?”. But actually everybody didn’t know what I was doing or what I owned in that company or what my volume of expertise was.
I noticed that my male counterparts were saying how awesome they were without even flinching. That was when I realised how to get promotions and pay rises. Not over doing it, but taking some time to let people know what I’m doing. That made a huge difference.
One of the struggles that have been mentioned from a lot of women in leadership is internally struggling with comparison with other people.
I think it constantly happens to everybody. But then you meet these people you’re comparing yourself to and find out that they are struggling with the same stuff.
I think the more we place value on networking, the more we feel like we are supported. I find that for women the last thing they want to do is catch up for coffee or lunch because it’s low on the priority list.
But when you look at your male counterparts, they value networking. They’ll go golfing or have drinks together and that relationship is so important because then they’re helping each other.
Just place value on networking with other women. Put it in the diary and don’t cancel at the last minute. Its so valuable just being around great women; finding out what their stories are, finding out what they’re good at and just encouraging each other — I think we can do a lot better.
What do you think are some of the major challenges that women are facing when it comes to leadership?
I think it’s the way we’re seen.
For instance, if a woman in our meeting is a little bit more assertive or quite direct, people would say to me afterwards “she’s quite aggressive” or “she’s quite bossy”. That made me think “If I do that, is that what people are going to think of me?”.
As women we could often dumb ourselves down and pull back if we are not aware of it. When we are given a platform to lead, we need to step up and lead.
Women just need to believe in themselves more and realize they’ve got a lot more to offer than they realize.
Half the reason why we hold back is because we think that people are not going to hear what we really mean, and we’re scared of being misunderstood.
Also, women often don’t offer their opinions because they get talked over by all the alpha males. There’s a way to do it – as there’s a lull in the meeting, take the gap, and on the breath say “I’ve got an idea” and run with it.
Have you had any experience with ‘boys clubs’ and how have you learned to deal with it in a positive way?
That’s a tough one. I am most often almost always the only woman in the room. What I try to do is not become one of the boys; I never have and never wanted to be.
It’s just the way they do things. I wasn’t into rugby so I wouldn’t be invited to the rugby games, so we wouldn’t have that relationship. I would sometimes force myself to learn golf or be at some of those events just to make sure that I was around and networking.
I would also ensure that I’ve maintained a relationship with the wives, as well as the kids, and I always had a good word to say about everyone.
There was a boys’ club in one of the divisions that I was working at, and it was so tight and destructive to people that it actually got suspended after a couple of years by very senior management, and they actually fired the whole lot of them.
I didn’t have to do anything. I just maintained who I was and tried to be very respectful of other people when I was asked for my opinions.
A really valuable lesson I’ve learned is: things that are not right will get disbanded in the end. Even though it feels like there’s so much injustice. Sometimes I just think things will run its course so you just have to maintain who you are and keep your head down.
I try to find a good word to say about everyone and speak the facts. I think earns respect over time.
What advice you would give a woman that’s at the beginning of her leadership journey or aspires to leadership?
Believe in yourself & back yourself.
It’s easier said than done and you’ll have to do that daily, if not hourly some days, but just believe in the basics. Every day come back to the basics: “Yes, I’ve got something to offer. I deserve to be respected. I deserve to be promoted. I deserve to get paid this much.”
Just believe in yourself.
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