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5 Types of Support Networks for Women Leaders

In the months leading up to my book launch, I experienced some of the worst imposter feelings I've ever felt in my life. I couldn't stop the critical voice in my head that kept spiraling downward with anxious thoughts like:

   

Who is even going to read this book?

   What if everything thinks this is stupid?

   What if nobody buys the book?

   What if this proves that you have no idea what you're talking about?

   Who are you even to put this into the world?

 

Luckily, I had a mentor and former leader in my life (Author & Leadership Expert, Cy Wakeman) who always used to say, Don't lower your standards, up the support.  

 

While she meant this in terms of coaching up your team, to me this phrase meant that I could continue to struggle in my own leadership journey and allow doubt and loneliness to get the best of me, or I could up the support around me. 

 

So that's what I did. I signed up to go on a business retreat with fellow entrepreneurial women. I didn't truly know anyone at the retreat, but my feelings felt validated in the room and I left with new friends and tips to move forward more confidently. As a solopreneur, I don't have traditional coworkers, so I've had to learn how to forge connections to create virtual coworkers for the times I need support (it goes both ways!). 

 

For the clients I coach who are advancing up the ladder in corporate, this “up the support” advice fares well. Why? Because as you advance at work, you can find yourself as an “only” in the decision-making rooms. Perhaps you now manage the people who used to be your peers and your relationship has changed. You can't lean on them for support like you used to. 

 

As your level of decisions become larger and the stakes rise, challenging emotions come with that. And remember, men naturally have this support by nature they are already present with one another in most decision-making rooms.

 

🔥 So for women advancing into higher levels of leadership, I pass along similar advice, Don't allow doubt and challenges to hinder you, instead find a new level of support to advance you. When doubt hits, have a trusted group of fellow women leaders to reach out to for help and empathy. How do you find this? Keep reading below.



5 types of support networks; caproate, community, industry, immediate, acquaintance
5 Types of Support Networks


Put this tip into action:


As an introvert myself, I get that reaching out to build a future supportive relationship can feel scary! Just the part about finding someone to connect with feels vulnerable. Also there tends to be a persistent myth that women in are competition with one another. I disagree. When one woman gets promoted it doesn't close the space for the rest of us, the data shows that women in leadership help companies produce more innovation and revenue. This creates more spots for us. The table gets larger.

 

1. Immediate Network

  • Who can you reach out to that's in your family or friend group?

  • What co-workers can you reconnect with from past experiences?

  • Try this: Ask them for a 30:30 meeting where you can help them resolve an issue and then they help you.


2. Acquaintance Network 

  • Who do you “kind of” know because you have shared acquaintances that would be a good relationship to build?

  • How could you two mutually benefit from connecting?

  • Try this: Ask for an introduction or message the person on social media. Remember that connection goes both ways, so highlight how a meeting could help you both.


3. Corporate Network

  • What employee resource groups can you plug into? Or, corporate learning or philanthropic events you can partake in to build connections?

  • If your employer doesn't have groups, is there a co-worker you can invest some relationship capital in to build a support system?

  • Try this: Notice what corporate events people gravitate towards that may be an attractive support system for you. Reach out about their next event to attend.


4. Community Network

  • What local women's groups exist near year you? These could be through a local religious affiliation, a women's business Facebook group that meets locally, volunteer organizations or non-profit groups.

  • Try this: Grab a friend and attend a local meet-up or community event.


5. Industry Network

  • What industry groups can you join to build your relationship support network?

  • Many industries have “Women in _______” organizations. Google search and find a local or online chapter.

  • Try this: Attend a monthly meet-up or annual conference event to be in the room with other women at your career stage for validation, tips and support.


Remember, if you can't find the support you want, perhaps this is an opportunity for YOU to create what is missing. Start a group yourself in the workplace or in your community!

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