Attuned Leadership for Women Podcast
Episode 007: Redefining Women’s Power Dynamics in the Workplace
In this episode, Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT is joined by Anna Baeten, the partner, COO, and Director of Corporate Training of Failure Lab in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Together, they delve into the complex dynamics of power and leadership, particularly in relation to women in the workplace. From discussing the challenges of behavioral change to exploring the glass cliff phenomenon, they shed light on the importance of redefining power and valuing diverse skill sets. Join them as they provide insights and practical strategies for navigating power dynamics and achieving success in today’s work ecosystem.
Introducing Anna Baeten: Partner/COO/Director of Corporate Training Failure Lab
Anna Baeten is a dynamic professional with expertise in organizational scaling, operational strategy, and women & BIPOC leadership development. As the principal of The Human Solution, she guides organizations in achieving growth and evolution. Anna’s commitment to justice-forward systems change and human-centered leadership fuels her passion for creating impactful organizational cultures. With a background in Biomedical Sciences and Professional & Applied Ethics, she brings a multidisciplinary approach to her work. As a Senior Consultant with Ktisis Capital, Anna reframes philanthropy through a progressive lens. Join us as we learn from Anna’s insights on organizational power dynamics, transformative leadership, and driving positive change.
[00:02:07] Being a woman in the workplace.
[00:04:35] The glass cliff phenomenon.
[00:08:38] Redefining leadership and power for women.
[00:20:08] Women and money aspirations.
[00:23:05] Valuing women’s qualities and influence.
[00:24:38] The perception of skill in sports.
[00:29:00] Women’s unrecognized value and skills.
[00:32:10] Women’s confidence in male-dominated fields.
[00:35:13] Reflecting on accomplishments.
[00:43:05] Leadership and stress levels.
[00:43:07] Listen to your body’s signals.
[00:50:11] Accessing problem-solving parts of our brains.
[00:53:23] Redefining power dynamics in the workplace.
Mentioned In This Episode:
Failure Lab’s 10-year anniversary at Wealthy Theatre, August 10th, 7:00 pm.
An extraordinary night filled with captivating narratives and awe-inspiring performances, featuring six storytellers and seven entertainers.
Tickets + Details: https://www.tickettailor.com/events/failurelab/944318
Connect with Anna Baeten:
Anna Baeten LinkedIn
Get immediate access to my free audio training created for women professionals:
How to Run Your Day Without It Running You
Prefer to Read? Here’s the transcript!
*Just a heads up – the provided transcript is likely to not be 100% accurate
In today’s business world, one of the most important skills is the ability to understand and manage power dynamics in the workplace. And today, I’m really excited because I’ll be diving deep into what power is and how we navigate it with a very special guest. I have Anna Baeten, the partner COO and director of corporate training of Failure Lab in Grand Rapids, in the studio with me. And our hope is that you leave today’s show with an expansion of how you define your personal and professional power and that you feel confident in how you use power for your own and our collective success.
So welcome, Anna. Thanks for being here with me today. We had a just casual conversation and it was awesome. And one of the things that really stood out to me was your thoughts around being a woman in the workplace and we started talking about power and I just was lighting up and was like, you have to come on and we have to just have a conversation about this because I think we both come with just valuable perspectives and career experiences that our listeners can benefit from. So thanks for being here.
02:29 Anna Baeten
Yeah, well, thank you very much for having me.
02:32 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
I’m very excited to be here today with you. Awesome. So you’ve been in multiple kinds of premium executive roles over your career. Would you say that you’ve been in positions that felt like you had power?
02:44 Anna Baeten
Yes, absolutely. I typically, historically have been in positions where I am either coming into sort of reorganizing an organization or I mean, I kind of call myself a cleaner but like not the scary kind in movies, the operational kind for businesses. Yes, I do. I think that over the course of my career and now being a woman in her mid 40s, this sort of anecdotal study of observing power and action has definitely been something that interests me a lot.
03:23 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
Absolutely. So you said two things that I wanna kind of come back to. One is it’s a great skill to be the cleaner, to be able to come in. I mean, that shows you’re a great systems thinker. You come in, you can evaluate an ecosystem, pinpoint the problem area and then formulate a plan to solve it, and then execute it. That’s amazing. That’s in high demand, especially with all of the chaos that we’ve been through with transition after transition and just having to adapt to so much.
But that does make me wanna point out that the research shows that when chaos is happening and transition needs to happen, typically that’s from a position where a male was in power. And then more recently, more women are being put into those positions because they’re seen as having more relational skills and more empathy because being a change maker when you’re cleaning up, you gotta make changes that other people may resist.
04:24 Anna Baeten
Those skills are really valued, but it’s really hard. It’s very hard. And I think that a lot of times, so the glass, people are very familiar with the glass ceiling and they are less familiar with the glass cliff phenomenon. So the glass cliff phenomenon for your listeners that don’t know what that is, it’s very worth looking up. So that is sort of the phenomenon where typically a woman or potentially a leader of color is brought in to fix an impossible situation. And typically, as you said, oftentimes by sort of a traditional sort of white patriarchal leadership style. And then it’s a win-win for that leadership because if that woman or leader of color comes in and they do a freaking amazing job, then yes, they get to take credit for it. And if they come in and they find out that yes, in fact, it is a totally impossible situation, then that leader can be like, oh yeah, well, they couldn’t do it anyway. And so those things are incredibly common. And you know, like the more, my more optimistic side wants to think that in some cases, it’s not deliberate. It’s like, we don’t know what to do. So we are trying to bring in an outside perspective and we don’t know if it’s gonna work. And then, but the flip side of that is, is that there has to be transparency and candid communication around expectations for that.
05:41 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
Absolutely. So that reminds me of the research. When I looked into the research on power for our conversation, some people talking about power identified three kinds of power, which is related to what you just said. One type of power is authority. That’s where, you know, you’re in a hierarchical top-down system and someone has power over someone else in a very traditional org chart way. Then there’s expertise, which is where somebody has specific expertise that gives them the power to make decisions and implement change that may not be because of their authority. And then the last one is charisma. You know, you think of a salesman who can come in and influence other people and, you know, initiate things, even though they don’t really have authority.
But in what you described with all of like the DEI efforts, for example, and someone coming in, I think one of the challenges with that power dynamic is there’s this conflict with a minority or someone with a vulnerable identity is the expert and they want to institute change, but that change is sometimes in conflict with the knowledge base of somebody in authority. So I don’t know, I’m wondering if you’ve seen that in action. If you have any thoughts about that.
07:01 Anna Baeten
I think it happens all the time. I mean, I think that it happens all the time for many, many reasons, right? So there’s obviously a systemic component to that. There’s also, I think, a change strategy component where like a lot of humans don’t really consider like what are the mechanics necessary or how change happens, right? So how change happens behaviorally in individuals, how change happens in organizations, things like that. So I think that there’s that component as well, whereas we all just, as people living in kind of westernized, we have to get our thing right now. We can’t wait more than two days to get our package from Amazon. Our expectations around how change happens in systems and with individual behavior are just really, really unrealistic. And that is the thing that layered on top of a lot of those systemic things just makes for a really impossible situation.
07:55 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
Absolutely. I mean, even though it’s stereotypical to say, even as a woman, maybe being more sensitive to those, the impact of change and resistance to change within an organization and being better able to see that, reflect it, show empathy, speak to it, and help creatively navigate through those changes, which is very different than authoritative way of power, which would say, I said to do it and so do it. I don’t care how you feel about what’s happening.
08:31 Anna Baeten
Maybe it would be helpful, Crystal, for us to talk about just as framing, how we even got to the power conversation. Yeah. So I think that when you and I were first talking, one of the things in Failure Lab’s Women in Leadership Program, that really is about trying to redefine what leadership resources are available for women. And that’s so aligned with what you’re doing with your work. And one of the main things that sort of frames that entire conversation is this language around what do we mean when we’re talking about power? What do we mean when we’re talking about leadership or influence? And it’s been very interesting to sort of see women go through this program.
And one of the questions that we start with in that particular module is just, do you want power? The great question. And that simple question opens up just this really complex and nuanced conversation. And the answers are, we do it as a poll, we’re like, yes, no, and it’s complicated. And it’s so interesting to hear from these women as they sort of unpack why they’ve chosen the thing that they’ve chosen. And so this kind of study of language and story is really important in sort of getting to what’s wrong with the way things are currently framed or what is uncomfortable about the way that things are currently framed. And typically, and these are women, these are women that have self-selected into this program. These are women that are in leadership, that are self-reflective, that have spent a lot of time doing development for themselves, for their organizations, for their teams. And that simple question is like, it just opens up this huge conversation about it is complicated.
10:20 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
So listeners, I love to bring it back to your body. Ask yourselves that question right now. The question was, do you want power? I’m big on asking your body yes or no. You’re just simply listening for yes or no. Usually no has tension and resistance and a pushing away, constriction, and yes feels a lightning in some way. It feels there’s some energy to it. And it is so nuanced. So if we think about the regular old definition of power in the business world, from what I’ve read, it’s really just the ability to influence an outcome, the ability to influence others.
As someone from the rural South with a very traditional family style, someone that’s been in more of a corporate healthcare setting, I would say that my early learning and conditioning around power was more like someone getting me to do what they want. It was about force, sometimes manipulation, and definitely about control. And so that is embodied, that is in my body. And even if we look at the larger world in your local and national global political systems, we can see power used in different ways related to money, power is used in different ways that give us an experience in our body of whether we think it’s good or bad or right or wrong. And when people think about associating with power, it reproduces those feelings, which is why unfortunately in the women’s circles, women are comfortable saying, I want to be empowered, but not to stand up and say, yes, hell yes, I want power.
12:11 Anna Baeten
And even those that have gotten themselves to a place and typically through a lot of self-worth work and reframing, right? Typically you’ll have a couple in a group that are like, yes, like one, based on kind of what their core personality is like and sort of where they’re standing and what their lived experience is, they can say that, but it’s pretty universal that regardless of how people answer that question, women in particular, sort of in our focus group of our experience is that all of those women have that sort of tingling of a stress response in their bodies because we also, it’s like, what does that feel like? Even if we can say it confidently, there’s still, it’s complicated, right? And there is that sort of physical response to what that is because the word carries with it all of the historical context, right? And so that’s part of what we call it our anti-gaslighting campaign, right? Is that there are all of these things that are true about the world and historically what has brought us to this point and they’re true for women, they’re true for men, they’re true for all of these things. And so like, our core definitions of power and leadership are based out of a war model, right? About, so like, the art of war as a book is still used as a leadership guide in a lot of places. And so we’re not talking about the modern feminist movement, we’re talking about hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years of this type of power over context, which in my opinion is sort of very biologically opposed to the way that women orient the world.
13:55 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
Yes. It’s like we see people born into power, people generally given power because of their identity, people taking power that may not deserve it, haven’t earned it. We also don’t have the representation to see women, as many women in those positions of power. And when they are, they’re often criticized for how they use power differently because they’re not using it in that general way.
14:25 Anna Baeten
Yeah, and I think that coming back to sort of that like semantics piece, I don’t believe that, I think that you and I are aligned on this, I don’t believe that the most effective way to enhance and lift up other forms of leadership or more diverse forms of leadership is to take the current model of leadership and then try to just transplant it onto a different identity, right? So it’s like, I have always been very frustrated in the women’s leadership space that most women’s leadership materials and resources are a lot about teaching women how to behave more like men. And I just think that’s kind of crap. I think that we have to have a lot of tools in our tool belt to be able to achieve the results that we want.
And so there’s, you know, this dance of what kind of leader do I need to be? How do I need to show up in certain spaces to be able to get the thing accomplished? But then also that I’m doing that with choice and that I’m doing that with an understanding of how I have to show up, might not be how I want to show up. And we’re sort of trying to move into a direction that is more nuanced. And I think that that conversation about power isn’t just who gets to have it, it’s how do we define it? And how can we support alternate definitions of what that means? So the current definition of power is wildly masculine because it’s based out of this sort of conqueror mindset. And historically, you know, sort of if we look anthropologically, right? We’re looking at why is that the case? And if we were to change it, what would that mean?
It would mean that we would have to elevate and value other qualities as equally as we value those sort of more masculine qualities. And so it’s not that the masculine qualities are necessarily bad, it’s that that vision of power is unbalanced because we aren’t valuing some of these other more air quotes, traditionally feminine skill sets and holding them up as valuable as some of the more aggressive skill sets.
16:27 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
Mm-hmm, absolutely. And yeah, you’re right. Like power is, I think the goal we want with this conversation is to help people see that power is not bad. Power is inherently necessary. And if we want the world we want to see to be true, which is more representation and equality for women, that we need to be comfortable defining, claiming, redefining, whatever it is, sources of power and ways to generate the influences that we want. That power builds trust, it builds relationships, it navigates change, you know, it’s bringing someone along with our vision and inspiring them in ways to also get what they want and not just fulfill what we want them to do. It’s definitely a different way, I would say, my way of thinking about leadership, which I call a tune leadership and more broadly, we’re talking about servant leadership or other, you know, types of leadership that are in that camp. And I’m sure what you’re teaching in your training programs is that more collaborative way of seeing expressions of power and communication and inclusivity.
17:44 Anna Baeten
It is just not widely seen, you know, it’s just not what’s most common, unfortunately, you know? And even if it is, I mean, I think that, I think there are probably people, there are people that are doing it well, but it’s a quieter form of leadership, right? And so I think that, you know, and kind of coming back to sort of what we experience or what the voices of the women that are in our programs kind of come around is that this question of do you want power, the things that we hear most commonly are, I want influence and I want agency, right? So power is defined by power, like the power of influence, which I think is very similar to what you were talking about, like power with, right? Like power to power, you know? And then that agency component, I think, is really important too, is that I want to have agency over my life, my decisions, how I choose to move through this world, right? And that I want to have the agency to be able to be nuanced and flexible and not boxed in.
18:47 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
Yes, yeah, absolutely. People want visibility, to make more money, to have more impact, to grow their business, to, you know, rise in their, if they’re in a corporate environment, you know, these sorts of things, but fundamentally, although there is some language nuance to that, those things feel safe in our bodies because we’ve seen it done and we believe it can be done without harming others. And there’s something to also seeing every single one of those descriptions that both you and I just gave our power. Yes. To me, leadership is power because the ability to lead is this exquisite power that we don’t want to take advantage of and to develop those skills in order to fulfill your personal goals, your organizational goals, to take care of the people that you are leading. It really is. I mean, and I think until we can get to that place of feeling comfortable saying, I want power because I know it will give me all these other things, it’s gonna be really hard for women to contend in a male-dominated world.
20:04 Anna Baeten
Yeah, it’s really interesting. A lot of the questions, like the very simple questions, you know, lead to really interesting cascades of more questions. I was having a conversation with a woman business owner, she has several businesses, and she was like, why do I feel so uncomfortable saying that I want to be a millionaire? Like, why is that uncomfortable? Like, why is it not okay for a woman to be like, yes, I would like to make money and lots? And here are the reasons why, but I don’t actually have to give you the reasons why. Like, I do have altruistic reasons, but that actually isn’t a prerequisite for me to be able to say that thing, right? Absolutely. And so, I mean, that’s an interesting, you know, sort of point of reflection of like, why does that feel so uncomfortable? Whereas, you know, I think that it’s normal and expected for men to have those kinds of aspirations.
20:56 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
Yes, yeah. I watch all the neighborhood boys pile on each other and beat up on each other and laugh, and then one gets hurt and he cries, and then they all kind of make fun of him, and then they come back together and they do it again. And they’re basically training themselves in power dynamics, starting from as soon as they can walk and talk. And as women, we don’t have those experiences, and we have all the stories. I call it the Perfection Paradox. We’re supposed to, traditional conditioning is, get money through relationship with a male partner. And times are changing. You know, you can choose not to have children, to be the breadwinner if you’re married, or not to get married at all, to make a million dollars or two or three or more, and, you know, to claim that. And in order to do that, we do have to deal with that internal storyline and the resistance that comes up, because it’s really seeing ourselves as an identity. It’s claiming like the identity. And when we can’t see ourselves, just imagining ourselves having an experience, it’s very hard to navigate the situations and actually make it happen.
22:08 Anna Baeten
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that all of those landmarks of accomplishment are like the, you know, sort of the steps of a deeper piece. Like how are we orienting ourselves to the world? How are we creating our own identities? Like what is important? And I think that there’s a lot of the current existing paradigm that there is a biological component to it. I mean, I think that that’s, you know, I don’t kind of fall into the one way or the other. I think like you have to understand what it is, like your little boys in a pile. That is a thing, right? Like that is a thing. That is how they’re conditioned. Can we influence that? Yes, but that is kind of a biological thing, right?
So, you know, to me, it’s not about necessarily being like, again, making little girls like little boys. It’s like, but are we actually valuing the ways that little girls and women express themselves and express their influence? And are we giving those things and those qualities the same weight as we would give some of these other qualities? And it’s difficult, and it is difficult because I think that so much of, you know, these pieces, we were talking earlier about this like sort of cleaning thing or like the integration piece, right? Like people, organizations that have really excellent integrators, right, in partnership with their visionaries are magical. Oftentimes that happens by accident. So people don’t even realize all of this integration work that’s happening behind the scenes until it’s not there, right? Sometimes it’s deliberate, right?
Where we’re actually valuing that integration role equally to kind of like that visionary role, right? It’s like it doesn’t get done unless it actually gets done, right? Like somebody has to do the work. Somebody has to do the work, right? So, I mean, I think that that’s the thing is that a lot of the skills that women often bring to the table are difficult to sort of tie down in a finite way, because the better you are at them, the more invisible they are, the more seamlessly an organization moves. It feels easy. And it’s like very difficult to then see all of the work that goes into making it feel easy.
I actually have a dance background and dancing is, as a sport, is interesting because the better you are at it, the more effortless it looks. Yes. Right? And so it’s not like basketball. It’s not like somebody looks at Michael Jordan and thinks, oh, I could totally do that. Like when you look at the most elite performers in certain sports, the physicality and the effort is very obvious. And then there are other kinds of sports where the more skilled the individual is, actually the more, “natural” it looks and effortless it looks. And so it’s just like sort of visually or perceptually confusing. Right. Right. And I think that that’s kind of what happens a lot of times in this sort of masculine feminine divide of what our most valuable skill sets are, is that the highest level of this masculine version of power is very obvious. Right. It’s like super obvious. It’s the Michael Jordan. Right. It’s like you can tell how much work it is. You can tell how effortful it is. And that’s what the skill looks like versus some of these other skills that are more about like making everything harmonious and all the pieces working together and all of the gears in the machine are beautifully working and we’re becoming more efficient because all the humans are interacting better and all of that stuff. The better you are at that, the more people are just like, wow, this culture is great. You know, it must have just happened. A woman couldn’t have done it. Yes. Yes, exactly. It didn’t actually take skill and effort to put it to create that infrastructure because the better it is, the more useful it looks.
25:50 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
So how do we as both you and I and others in our field, as people leading leaders, basically, put better names to those skills and promote the importance of them for organizations? I mean, is that work being well done that you’ve seen and where do you think the gaps are?
26:13 Anna Baeten
Yeah, I mean, I actually think that there is a lot of gaps. I mean, I think there’s a lot of gaps in understanding that work. Right. Like how effortful that work is. Right. I mean, if you kind of imagine like an imaginary circumstance where you have like a very powerful CEO and you have all of the people that are working behind the scenes to make sure that everything is smooth and effortless, it’s like you have to talk about that work. Right.
Or if you like look at a theater production, there’s all of this stuff that’s happening behind the scenes. And do we elevate that work? Right. Or do we talk about what it takes to get that done?
I think that’s part of the thing where it’s for women in particular. We’re you know, you talk a lot about, you know, there is this double bind all the time. It’s like we want to present ourselves as being like, oh, it’s no big deal. We just have done the thing versus here’s all of the work. Or like how do you you talk a lot about like, how do you do less things so that people understand that? There’s all of this work that goes into doing these things, because I think there’s an awareness of that and like, how do we talk about that in a sort of an educational framing sort of way versus like, we’re not going to talk about it, we’re not going to talk about it, we’re not going to talk about it. And then we’re going to be super pissed off when people don’t notice.
That we have all of this stuff that we’ve done. Right. And we’re actually maybe perhaps we were even a little complicit in that happening because we wanted to make it look so effortless. So it’s like, how can we have those conversations? And I think that, you know, I’m sure this is true for you and a lot of your, you know, individual consulting work. Almost all of the work that I do individually is really at its core, its expectation setting and reframing. Yes, absolutely. Yeah. So and that’s, you know, what’s I think sometimes the hustle and bustle of when we’re actually just doing the work, we aren’t taking the time to do the communication around the expectations that are like how and why things are happening so that we can all understand and, you know, give value to that.
28:08 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
There is so much finesse to that. And in in what you said, you know, I’m thinking of those three sources of power that are in the literature, which were authority, expertise and charisma, you know, women are there’s the confidence gap, which what is that episode for? If you want to go back and listen to that. But where women are not seeing their value, they’re not. I don’t know that it’s I can’t remember exactly what you said, but they want it to look easy. Yes. And I think some women don’t even realize that what they’re doing is actually really valuable and skillful. They’re not seeing it for what the value that they’re providing.
28:56 Anna Baeten
That exactly. There’s a lot of research around that now, like all of the things that women are doing to coordinate their homes, their businesses, their thing, like this executive function and load that’s happening all the time. It’s like running a really big computer program in the background all the time. And then you wonder why your computer doesn’t work very well. Yes. And I do think that that’s happening for many women. And that’s just what they consider to be normal.
29:21 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
They don’t even know that everything is happening. Right. So it makes me want to say to the listeners to look at the way that you’re leading either at home, if you’re, you know, an entrepreneur in your business or if you’re in a corporate setting and look at what you think are your natural skills and the way that you can influence others and the outcomes and what you’ve learned because you’ve invested lots of time in learning new skills and what you think you bring to the table. That’s really successful, even if it’s not what’s demonstrated to you. So that as Anna said, you can start to look up. Well, what is that skill called? What am I doing? What’s the outcome and what is this called so that I can start to speak to it and say, I need time to devote to this because this is effectively leading outcomes, because unfortunately, what happens when there’s a job posting, for example, the studies have shown that women pitch themselves, throw their hat in the ring when they have 100 percent of the expectations fulfilled. However, their male counterparts are, you know, throwing their hat, their name in the hat when they have 60 percent. So they’re 40 percent less qualified, but there’s more of them doing it. And so, you know, there’s just this gap. And this can be an area not only as the research shows that women have more, you know, predisposition to some of these, let’s call them softer skills, of emotional intelligence and the type of leadership that we’re describing. You know, it’s just really important to close that confidence gap for yourself and name what you’re bringing to the table, which can be one of the greatest assets to your business team or organization if you can do that. And to see that as a source of power.
31:13 Anna Baeten
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think so many of the things we talk about, right? It’s like, how do we frame the conversation or the behavioral movement away from finite bullet points and to sort of how do we navigate between the bullet points? The application for a job example is great because that happens all the time. And it’s actually one of the biggest success metrics from our programming is, is that the thing is that we have women five that I can think of just off the top of my head that have come back after that program and have applied for jobs that they would not have applied for before and gotten them and specifically come back and be like, then like I did it because I knew that statistic. So that’s right. That anti-gaslighting campaign. But I mean, what is the confidence that you actually have all of those bullets that are listed on that job description, which, by the way, is just a wish list.
32:04 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
Right. Or is the confidence that you believe that you have the ability to figure it out? I think what’s happening is women don’t feel like they have the authority or necessarily the charisma to contend in the male ring, and they rely on their expertise. And if they doubt that expertise, that’s the power they’re leaning on. Then they don’t move forward. And the opportunity is to see exactly what you’re saying, that your list of expertise may not line up line item by line item with the job description. But you’re bringing to the table all these other tools in your toolbags to solve complex problems that the person that wrote that job description doesn’t even know is actually the solution to the ecosystem problem.
32:54 Anna Baeten
Totally. And also the people that write the job descriptions oftentimes don’t even know what the job is. So that too, I think that the thing that’s about women is we are especially I think if we’re talking about high performing, white, “ambitious” women, right, like the expectation that we hold ourselves to is so ridiculously high. And it’s very easy to assume that that is the same expectation coming at us externally as well. And in some ways it is and in some ways, it isn’t.
It reminds me of I am a part of this lady’s lunch, this lady’s financial lunch. And the original purpose of it was to get women from different industries together. So one of the women is in investment banking, and one of the women is in real estate acquisition. I have some background in philanthropy and grant making and philanthropy. And what we wanted to do was those are all very male dominated fields, especially investment banking and real estate acquisition, is we just wanted to run through like what actually happens in a deal and what are those things called? Because it’s all vocabulary.
Like we assume that we don’t know how things work, but we actually do. It just might be called something else in a different field, right, slightly different field. So that’s what we did with those things is we’re like, here’s what we would do, you know, a deal from, you know, from inquiry to finish. Here’s what it looks like. And then you’re like, oh, this is what it’s called here. It’s called this over here. We’re doing something similar like this over here. And so that transferability of like understanding what the process is, that’s part of the thing. I mean, that’s where that like what’s the skill, the skill in the transfer of knowledge or information or the application to new and different situations? Or is it that I have done this exact thing in this exact way? Right. And I think that the more we can sort of move to what is the skill of figuring it out and seeing the things that are similar and different, you know, then we internally, I think, will feel more able to be able to transfer those skills.
34:51 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
Yes, I’m a huge fan of women actually keeping a list of their accomplishments, like written down the things they hard things they figured out, conflict in relationships, they navigated, you know, traditional achievements and all of that, because I think we need that reminder, because as you said, we hold ourselves to the standard of more, more, more. And if we’re not really reflecting on what we’ve already, already figured out and already achieved, I mean, that’s what counters that voice in our head that says somehow, you know, you’re not good enough.
And I don’t know, I really don’t believe in the saying to “release” your limiting beliefs. I’m very much not on board with a lot of the personal growth world or, you know, the thought of having imposter syndrome. We are imposters because. We’re underrepresented and we don’t have models and we haven’t seen people figure it out and not enough people are talking about safe, healthy, generative and flourishing ways of using power. We’ve we’ve seen the opposite. So the resistance and the self-doubt, like that’s a normal thing. That makes perfect sense to me, you know?
36:10 Anna Baeten
Yeah. And we’re bouncing between kind of two paradigms and it doesn’t it’s not just about, you know, sort of women and men. I mean, we see it. I know you have you have school children as well, like you can get in the ways that schools are operating. Right. Like there’s this bouncing back and forth between like a rote memorization model and like a problem solving systems model. Right. Like how do we do? And we haven’t figured it out well in any of the realms. Right.
So, I mean, I think that, yes, obviously these these challenges and the ways in which we grapple with them impact certain populations differently. Right. So, I mean, that’s kind of the piece like, you know, when we talk about failure lab, failure for us is like a synonym for stress, discomfort, icky feelings, like the somatic things that you’re talking about. Like, can we actually identify those things that are happening in our bodies? But, you know, one of the things we say a lot is that you really can’t talk about failure without also talking about identity and without also talking about power, because the consequences of failure are different depending on what is around you and your identity and your what, you know, what group of people you’re with, like the consequences of failure for a Black woman are different than the consequences of failure for, you know, a white affluent man. And that is just true. And so understanding that wishing that away is not going to change that. Right. Understanding that that is a truth that now we have to navigate and be, you know, and be thoughtful about and like consider. Right. That gets us closer. But it’s just true.
37:48 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
Absolutely. More awareness, the better. Can you talk for a second about how in your groups, what do you do once you ask the question, do you want power? How do you move your group through that? Because I’m sure it’s an experience.
38:05 Anna Baeten
They have an entry point, they process, they explore. Yeah. And like you were saying, even there is a very there’s a very real somatic physiological response to those kinds of questions. So there’s sort of that piece. And I think that the you know, our lens specifically around that question when we’re talking about it for women, for leaders of color, for people that are disproportionately negatively impacted by the current pervasive sort of model of power is really like, how do we do power differently? Not how do we just move power around? Like, how do we not how do we move the current definition around different places and like you get a slice and I get a slice?
But the really more interesting question is like, how do we do power differently? How can we define and analyze for ourselves what that means? And then again, that agency component, how do we have choice around it? So even in small groups, how can we value and give weight to some of those things, the influence component. The you know, like how can we say out loud that, yes, that is powerful, that we are redefining those skills as powerful because they allow us to have impact and connection that is beyond just ourselves, right, which is really sort of like at the at the most basic level, what the point is. And that’s incredibly impactful for women.
I think that we live in a very binary thing. It’s like I’m either a badass, like kicking doors down and doing the thing. Or we have to lead from this mushy, gushy place of like blah, blah, blah. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all sing kumbaya around a thing and like, no, no, that’s that’s not a realistic way to shift things.
What’s more interesting is to go, OK, what are the tools? I have a broad spectrum of tools that I can have in my toolkit. Where do I feel most comfortable? Where’s my range? Can I move? Can I be this way if I need to be this way? Can I be this way? Like and that’s different for everybody, right? It’s different for everybody where their sweet spot is, right? And how much range they have and how agile they feel within that range. But they just even acknowledgement that that’s allowed. Right. Right. You know, like sometimes we have to be like this. Sometimes we have to be like this. And, you know, from my perspective, personally, the biggest piece about that is to be able to do it with conscious choice and then to be able to communicate about it with Canberra.
40:42 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
Yes, I love that. Having a tool bag that has range and knowing, having some discernment about your audience and your environment and which one is going to lead to the best outcome. Yeah, I think that is leadership. Like that is power. That is power. Yeah.
41:01 Anna Baeten
Because in the end, we’re trying to move towards effectiveness. So like, you know, one of the things I think that in general, and I know that you and I have similar opinions about our general frustrations with the space, right. And in general, it’s like there’s a lot of great ideas. Like there’s a ton of really interesting stuff, right? Like there’s interesting ideas, there’s inspirational ideas. But what I’m most interested in is how do we absorb that material? How do we move those things into skills of behavior shift? And then as we become more skilled, more skilled to me is how do we become more agile? Right. Like, how do we collect the tools on our tool about the ones that we like, the ones that we don’t like? How do we put things down when they don’t serve us anymore? How do we pick things up? Right. And how can we become really artful in that, you know, in that execution? So, you know, I think it’s, you know, it’s wonderful to think about sort of utopian, like, wouldn’t it be great if this was the thing? Well, it’s not. It’s not. It’s not. And so we need to be able to navigate inside that skillfully to a level of effectiveness. Right. So because in the end, that’s what we want. In the end, we want to be able to move, you know, point everybody into the same direction, sort of move towards progress. And that requires different, you know, different strategy at different times.
42:14 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
When you say, like, navigate to that effectively, for me, when I’m working with someone, one thing that comes to mind that helps with this, specifically when you need to understand what tools are in the toolbox and when do you have the capacity to reach for a specific one? Because it changes.
In one phase of my life, I have more capacity for a broader range of how I’m showing up and what sources like what types of leadership I can bring. And in other times, times of more strength, more flexibility, more confidence, more stress, that range shrinks. And I’m going to be more likely to go to do default behaviors and thinking. And so, I mean, really, that shifts in a 24 hour period. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Or, you know, yeah, weekly, monthly, if you’re still cycling as a woman, all of that. And I think that being able to listen to your body, to sense even in the most rudimentary, basic, simple, I shouldn’t have to define it more than this. You know, are you feeling low stress? Are you feeling medium levels of stress? Are you feeling high levels of stress? And how long has that been going on?
That can help if you feel like the way you’re showing up in your leadership, the tools that you’re able to pull and, you know, the breadth of the range that you have between these two poles that we’re talking about can be related to that stress level. And it might just be figuring out how to move from where you are to one notch down on that scale so that you can, you know, show up with greater capacity. And it really does change the way you see the world and your thinking as well. So if you are thinking, you know if you’re feeling less confident. In your ability to have impact or the tools that you have, then, you know, just just throwing it out there that realistically, it could be that you’ve been under high levels of stress for a long period of time. And you’re going to really struggle to see all these skills that and as naming that are so critical that you can point to, that you can call out. You know, you want to call out how you solved a problem, like she said, not just make it look effortless like the ballerina floating through the air, but to say, wow, this was it took a lot of skill for me to really create the solution. And it took me navigating these specific relationships and conflicts in a new way. And I’m really proud of how I did that, like to speak to the tools that we’re using and the strengths that it brings to the organization always. So that’s just another little side.
45:11 Anna Baeten
That narrative piece is interesting, right? I think it’s interesting for our own internal narrative. And I also think it’s interesting for developing the skill of framing, you know, framing behavior and asks. Right. So I think that like and it doesn’t have to be super, super complicated. I mean, like I think that, you know, one of the most revolutionary things that you can do as a leader is I think is to be like, I am not in the emotional space to be able to access, you know, the level of problem solving that is required right now because of X, Y, Z. Can we regroup? Right.
Like, yeah, that’s, you know, like those types of skills to be able to identify or to be like, if I had more time or bandwidth, I might respond to this differently, but it needs to happen now. So here’s how I’m responding. Mm hmm. Right. So just like very small framings of that acknowledge that there is a range of responses that can work and be effective and that you’re navigating those ranges help set the tone and the expectation around how people communicate and interact with each other. Right.
And so I think that effectiveness piece is can you identify in yourself? I mean, the work that we do is so similar. It’s like, how do you consistently show up? Mm hmm. Regardless of why. Right. Like there’s a whole very interesting lifelong journey of figuring out why we show up the way we show up. Right. But it’s also just useful to be like, this is what my baseline looks like right now. Then I can have conversations with myself and my therapist about whether or not that’s a healthy baseline or whether or not we need to bring it up or down. Right. Right. But also what that allows us to do is to be able to identify when we are off our baseline and so it can flag to us. Oh, that was a disproportionate response. What’s going on? Right. So I need to check in. I need to check in. Right. You know, the most effective skills of leadership are to be able to do that for yourself and also other people so that you can see whether or not they can receive information from you. Mm hmm. Right.
And those are really the same skill sets that you talk about, about like, can I identify stress in my body? Can I identify stress in other people? Can I have like a gauge or, you know, a baseline of what this person shows up when they’re their most effective self and are they in that window? And if not, how can I tactfully like talk to them about that? Right. Like the or maybe just pause for a second and, you know, 30 minutes they’ll be there. So I think that those skill sets are. Incredibly valuable and a shocking number of people don’t know how to do that for themselves even.
47:41 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
Absolutely. And you made me think of this story that I was reading a while back about when 9-11 happened, you know, there were all the like response systems that were already in place that were going off. Let’s just all the alarms were going off. And phone calls were being made and just complete chaos. There was like the local response. But in the area, like right down the street from the incident was an office that was actually the place for a national response. And the whole department was there. It’s like a whole floor. You know, the whole department is there and they’re all freaking out. Nobody knows what to do. Anxiety is undescribable. Grief and shock, all the things. And they’re waiting on the director to show up. It’s a woman. And as soon as she got off the elevator and started walking into the room, the whole department tells the story that immediately the chaos was gone, that this woman had developed in her career, this, you know, soft skill, let’s say. She could co-regulate.
And she was so grounded in herself, despite everything that was going on, that her being there was the solution. It wasn’t even an action that she took. It was just her presence and that effect on the team. And they all were able to calm down and decide their next steps based on their specific roles, you know, their jobs. They were able to access that bag of tools because of what she gave them. And, you know, at that moment now, I’m sure she did speak a few words, but it’s not that she had time to go around individually and direct each person to what step they needed to take because she didn’t. And I think that’s a phenomenal example. It’s definitely that is a source of power. That’s something that needs to be valued and, you know, really just.
49:51 Anna Baeten
Certainly helped her effectively manage the situation. Absolutely, absolutely. And even just knowing that that’s a thing, I mean, like, I think that there are a lot, a lot of people, I mean, and for those of us that are sort of steeped in this world of this type of work, right, there’s a lot of people that don’t really understand the neurobiology of how we access the problem solving parts of our brains.
And, you know, I mean, I think that even that that’s that piece is one so incredibly useful for effectiveness and sort of communication and how people and organizations interact. But the other thing I think it does, it’s really kind of magical, is it really like sort of depersonalizes that experience? It takes the judgment away from that type of experience. It’s like, no, you like literally physically are not able to be in your right mind right now and make your best choices. So how do we how do we do that? How do we navigate through that? Right. And I think that, you know, for those of us that are parents, we see that play out for real. I mean, I think but we are really all just big four year olds.
51:02 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
Right. Try to regulate our nervous systems. Yes. Yes. My kids are about to be one’s about to be eight. And the other one is five. And I go back and forth which one I relate to more.
51:16 Anna Baeten
I know. But it’s so clear. I mean, it’s so that that physiology, what’s happening for them is so clear when you’re watching it happen in that space. And then it’s like, we’re just older.
51:28 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
That’s all. Yeah. Our nervous systems are all the same. All the same. Yeah, exactly. Well, is there anything else you want to say about this topic of women in power dynamics from your own personal experience or how you’re driving change with the failure lab programs?
51:48 Anna Baeten
Yeah, I mean, I think that the biggest thing is, you know, in my personal opinion, I feel like all of this exploration to me is always like, are there more questions at the end? Right. That we’re not actually looking for finite answers because they don’t really exist. And that, you know, success looks like, oh, did I think about something different or in a slightly different way? Or did I think about, you know, how do I dance in between these things? Right. And that, you know, so I think that this power conversation or really any systems change conversation is, you know, we have to be comfortable with that nuance and having a foot in both sides. Right. And that, you know, that pendulum swings back and forth and it kind of goes, you know, it’s like we have to be have reasonable expectations for ourselves about how we’re navigating it and how the world and the people around us are responding to our work. Right. Like, yeah, I guess that’s kind of the biggest thing is that the answer is that we just keep asking questions.
52:48 Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT
Yes. If I can add to that, in asking those questions, listening to your body’s response to them instead of just the cognitive answer, because that’s not what we need to rely on. It’s not always accurate. The body is going to tell you, you know, exactly what’s going on. So as we kind of moved to summarize some of what we’ve said, we started by stating the importance of examining our thoughts and bodily reactions towards power, why resistance shows up and then talk through redefining how women navigate power dynamics in the workplace. We discussed examples of power and leadership, distinguishing between power over, which is a more patriarchal use of power and power with, which leverages qualities that are more feminine and even called, air quotes here, soft skills like emotional intelligence, empathy, collaboration and systems thinking. The most valuable skills women leaders bring to the table are often invisible, but they are an asset. We shattered the notion that power is a dirty word, highlighting that it includes influence, impact and progress in our careers. It’s a necessity. Then Anna told a story inspiring us to leverage the power of our social networks and the strength of collective knowledge sharing, specifically how creating small groups to learn from one another can break the mindset that we need to figure things out all alone and amplify our success. We touched on the impact of stress on leadership effectiveness and the significance of stress resilience as a skill set and as one of your sources of power. I urge you to start naming the skills you use to deliver your outcomes and to be verbal about them. Start to see these skills as sources of power and leverage them to raise your visibility. When you do that, it not only builds your own success, but it shifts the way power is collectively defined. Lastly, as women and as marginalized individuals, we have the power to challenge abusive uses of power, reclaim our right to hold power and to model what it looks like to use power sustainably and generatively. So embrace your power. You’ve already earned it. Take what you can from this conversation and integrate it into your evolving leadership style. Yeah, I love that. Next week, I’m kicking off a new series that will run for a month called From Stress to Strength, helping you understand what stress is, how your stress resilience specifically changes with age. And spoiler alert, it gets easier after 50. And how to leverage stress resilience to build a magnetic presence, feel grounded no matter what comes up and co-regulate your team for higher performance. Anna, thank you so much for all you’ve shared. I found your input insightful and definitely valuable. Thank you so much.
Thanks so much.