Recently, I was honored to a be a part of the EmpowHER event in LA. Before the event I had spoken with Saren Stiegel, the Founder of the Glow Effect, and we connected over wanting to use the great building blocks we already had to elevate the approaches that we commonly see. Current events are incredibly motivational, but the challenge lies in stopping the momentum fading once people return to their everyday norms. We wanted to design an event that would be experiential, personal, developmental, and inspirational with a view to continuing growth in confidence.
To learn about our model's design concept, we took an experimental approach giving the event several components:
- Connectedness and shared insights: Featured leaders shared their stories, but all of the women also discussed questions in smaller groups and then shared insights with everyone. This intimacy helped participants to identify bonds for deeper level connections.
- Cross cultural learning and inspiration: Women from a women's center in Uganda were streamed in to explain how confidence has helped them, their lives, and their communities.
- Demystifying and understanding confidence: We used the Confidence Index to look at the strengths and potential barriers in the room. Attendees took the evaluation at the start, allowing them to start their thought provoking journey early which they could then explore during the discussions.
- Longevity of impact: Each participant received their comprehensive Confidence Index report, which included information of how several attributes enable confidence inside and out, as well as tailored thought exercises to be used to start to roadmap their own development journeys.
The event was amazing and the women that attended gave me so much to think about that I can apply to my own life. Not only did we validate the model, but we learnt a whole lot about how to improve it ... in true experience design fashion, of course.
While there were many nuggets I walked away with, today, I want to share 5 with you.
1: Share your stories
"Thank you for sharing your stories, it really resonated and makes us feel like we are not the only ones experiencing it."
Joanne, Event Attendee
Sharing a story, an experience, or simply what you have been up to is incredibly powerful. Sharing stories is a way to empower others; you already know your wisdom, the challenges you have faced, and how you dealt with them, so share them freely.
At the event we heard stories shared that drove a deeper connection amongst attendees, enabled people to understand each other's motivations better, and allowed the women to understand with whom they may have genuine bonds. A key learning, though, was that we don't take the time to do this enough. One attendee mentioned how, the night before the event, she had caught up with a friend who had asked what she was up to the next day. Explaining what she was attending, she was surprised when her friend asked how she even finds these events. It just shows that if we all go away and tell even a handful of people about the learnings we gain from the events we attend, maybe those people will find our experiences applicable to their own lives as well.
2: Be authentic - always
"You can smell inauthenticity a mile off."
Samantha, Event Attendee
Authenticity was a huge theme that kept coming up. We all know that we should be authentic, but being who you are, and living up to your core values in every interaction is something that doesn't happen enough. Sometimes people think they must portray someone else, or are just too afraid to be themselves.
The problem is that when you're not yourself people feel something isn't quite right in the energy you give off. This makes it harder for them to bond with and trust you.
Everyone has core values - those 3-5 things they hold dear in steering their lives and making decisions. Understanding our own individual core values and making sure they come through consistently, no matter who we are interacting with, has a profound impact on confidence. You may still need to tailor how you communicate, deliver information, or interact with various audiences, but your core values should still be felt by all. Doing things or acting in a way that goes against our core values can lead us to feel negative emotions, increased anxiety, and stress.
3: Retrain the voice in your head
"I've never seen anyone quantify confidence. This is key, because once you understand the attributes and the relationships, you can be conscious to work on them."
Maria, Event Attendee
A huge take-away was that, for many women, the main barrier to success was themselves; that little voice in their head worrying how they would do something, or worse still, telling them that they couldn't do it. We need to retrain this voice to have the right kind of conversations.
Many already recognized that thinking this way hindered them, which led to a core takeaway: acknowledgement is a key first step, but we have to equip women with the thought processes to retrain their minds. Perhaps this is why the pace of change is not as fast as desired. It will not happen instantly - there are years of built up ways of thinking to peel back and rebuild - but it is possible, with understanding, acknowledgment, and insights on what to do.
4: Invest time in nurturing relationships and knowing your network
"I think sometimes I do not reach out because I may be bothering them, or I am scared of the rejection."
Rebecca, Event Attendee
Many attendees commented that they do not spend enough time reaching out, cultivating their relationships with others, or getting to know their network. Many people's networks were way bigger than they thought and one learning was to look to it for things like advice, support, or help. Don't be afraid to reach out, don't think you are "bothering" someone. Accept that sometimes the answer will be no, and sometimes you may not even hear back, but that's OK. Do not let excuses, the fear of rejection or the unknown stop you from at least reaching out.
5: Take the time to actually reflect
"I think I have been reflecting in the wrong way to actually change, and not patting myself on the back enough either. We need to acknowledge what is good, and what is not so good."
Lisa, Event Attendee
Everyone is busy with work, family commitments, and life in general...but a key theme was that we should be taking more time to reflect productively on our lives. The key difference is this shouldn't be time to worry about what has happened, but to look objectively at what went well today or this week and what didn't go so well. Make sure to reward yourself and feel good for the positives and to reflect more on whys for the negatives; what you could do differently next time, and what you can take responsibility for. This enables continuous learning. It's easy to say you do not have time for this, but the truth is, you can do this in a 10-minute shower, you can do this during a walk, you can do this on a commute to work...everyone deserves at least 10 minutes a day for themselves.
Firstly, I want to thank all the ladies who attended for their time, their openness and their vulnerability.
From what we learnt, and as we suspected through our work on the Confidence Index, it was apparent that people may be too focused on the outcomes as opposed to the attributes that enable those outcomes. For example: "I wish I could get up and speak." Well, there are attributes and mindsets that enable people to do so. Or, "I don't take enough chances, but I know I should, I should just do it". Just "doing it" is an outcome, the ability to take a chance, comes from a mindset; a way to process the information and then behave a certain way. If we can develop the attributes that enable the outcomes, maybe we can increase the pace of change.
What would happen if we could enable aspiration to increase as it should, by equipping and developing women with the mindset to overcome, take risks, and reduce their internal barriers? What would happen if we could equip women with the attributes that enable them to have those difficult conversations regarding their pay, to speak up about their true worth, and to not fear rejection?
In this cause, like so many others, there are both internal and external elements that need to advance for impactful change. External policies, culture, and deep routed societal beliefs are all on the path to transformation, however, the pace of change can be greatly increased by working on the internal elements that we can directly influence within ourselves. We must come to understand where we are, where we want to be, and the steps needed to get there. We must learn what authentic confidence is and what our own barriers are, and then start retraining our minds to achieve our desired outcomes, which will not only empower us as individuals, but the collective too. Closing the internal confidence gap will have knock on effects for external factors, because, "when women wake, mountains move." So, be conscious, be aware, and enjoy your journey.
Photo Credit to: @TheGlowEffect, Photographer @Marlena.Elise