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Video: Sabotage: The Seven Mistakes Career Women Make – #3

The Misstep of Stilettos

The Misstep of Stilettos

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Mistake number 3 – Stilettos.

Show of hands, how many women here are wearing stilettos? Which I define as a heel that’s really skinny, like this, that is two, two and a half, three, maybe four inches high.

Show of hands, how may women?

That looks to be more than half of the women here. Okay, so for those who didn’t raise their hands, how many of you have a pair or two at home in your closet, that you do actually wear to work?

Okay, so that’s about 80% of the women here.

I have to tell you something, before I talk more about the stilettos.

I am often called in by businesses to work on people—women specifically but men as well—on their executive presence, or their leadership brand.

But when my phone rings, and it’s the HR businessperson inviting me in to have a meeting with them, to talk about the person whom they want me eventually to coach, they don’t always use the language of executive presence or leadership brand.

Sometimes this is what I’ll hear: “We’ve got this woman on our team, she’s got so much potential, she is so smart, she has so much to offer, and I don’t think she’s quite ready for that promotion. She missing something. I don’t know what it is. We’ve been talking about it… she just needs more…gravitas.”

Have you heard this language? That somebody needs more gravitas?

Oh, everybody is nodding their heads, yeah.

This idea of needing more gravitas is language that has infiltrated your businesses. But what does that mean, gravitas? How do you do that?

What gravitas means is weight. It means grounded.

Now, think about a man’s shoe, the sole of a man’s shoe. The sole of a man’s shoe makes almost 100% contact with the earth, with the ground. If you’re going to look grounded, it has to do with being connected with the earth, with the ground

Now, think about a woman in a stiletto. Little skinny heel, which forces you up on the ball of your feet, so that it’s a little bit tippy, not so connected with the ground.

Typically, when I work with women and they want to make a good impression with their leadership brand and their executive presence, they often tend to be in situations where they have to give a presentation—standing up.

Now they’re already nervous, because it’s a high stakes moment, and they have to be standing up. Their legs are already a bit shaky.

And now their little shaky legs are standing up in these little shaky heels on top of their tippy tippy toes and a little bit unsteady and a little bit tippy which feeds the nervousness in the rest of the body, because if you’re feeling this kind of shaky leg thing and it gets bigger, it starts to get the heart racing, and now you’re feeding the nervous energy, which is not going to help you feel or look grounded or competent at all.

The other thing that happens has to do with pure physics. Think about what happens if I was to stick to skinny sticks in the ground and try to build some kind of structure. It’s going to be a little bit tippy, not a very secure structure.

When we go camping what we do is we take those two little sticks and we cross them at the top and we create some stability against the bottom part of the triangle, because that’s how physics works, gives us some grounded.

Well, the human body understands that too.

When the body is feeling that nervous tippy feeling, what the body will naturally do, is cross legs.

Now the centre of gravity, which has been up here—when I’m on my tippy toes, up here in my chest – moves down here, where the cross is happening, where I’m closer to the ground. I’ve got more stability going on. I feel more grounded.

The other thing that happens is that the bone at the top of your leg, this ball, will connect into your hip and start to turn in. When that turns in, the upper part of your body is balanced as well—your shoulders start to turn in. When your shoulders start to turn in, it’s hard to do any kind of gesture, so the hands actually start to do this fiddly thing over here.

Now you look like a 12 year old girl!

“I’m so excited about the new marketing initiative…” right? That same body posture.

Look at this posture (body closed) compared to this posture (Arms open wide)

We’re saying that part of your leadership brand, the first element is how you look! We want you to look confident. So that means you’ve got to be able to stand your ground.

Your feet, your knees and your hips are all in a line. You can be a little asymmetrical, but you want to own the space, own the stage.

I’m not saying never wear your stilettos. I’m saying that if you’re going to wear your stilettos you’ve got to be able to walk around in those puppies and really own the space.

I feel really confident and not get that shaky leg, tippy thing going on. And even when you’re not wearing your stilettos be really aware of this kind of body posture (closed).

Before I did the speech today and I was out at the break and we were all having coffee and I was looking around the room, there was about 45, almost 50% of you—the ones who are wearing stilettos today—standing this way with your coffee or drink and having a chat.

This is not something that men ever have to struggle with because they don’t ever get that tippy shoe thing.