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Study after study has shown that women outperform men in key leadership competencies. Not only that, but men score higher in dark personality traits.
At the same time, different workplace statistics tell us that female leaders are harder to find at executive and C-suite levels.
What’s wrong with this picture? There’s a gap between what could be happening and what is actually happening.
Today, you’ll understand why this gap exists and the challenges that female leaders face in the workplace. You’ll see how women’s leadership coaching can help female leaders overcome these challenges and build core competencies to lead their teams to success.
You’ll also find out 12 topics to include in your leadership coaching program and how to create a women’s leadership coaching package.
We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started!
Table of contents
What is Women’s Leadership Coaching
Leadership coaching helps leaders develop the skills they need to lead their teams effectively. The role of a leader is to inspire and empower on shiny and rainy days with the same efficiency. A leader promotes innovation and embodies the company’s vision.
Because leadership is about influencing people and managing workplace dynamics, leadership coaching primarily focuses on developing soft skills and enhancing personality traits.
Coaching for female executives follows the same principles as any type of executive or leadership coaching. However, given that women face unique challenges, a women’s life coach emphasizes on addressing these challenges.
A successful women’s leadership coaching program helps unlock the full potential of an executive woman and creates a leader who leads with confidence and compassion.
5 Challenges Female Leaders Face
Female leaders face challenges from the outside world and from themselves. These challenges can stop them from feeling successful or taking what they deserve.
Let’s see what they are:
Women are less competent than men. Women cry easily. Women lose their temper for no obvious reason. Women ally with other women. Women hate other women. Women are competitive. Women are too sensitive. Women are cruel.
How many of those have you heard? Or even thought of yourself?
These are only some of the misconceptions about how women behave in the workplace. These misconceptions come into sharp contrast with reality (and with each other). But they’ve been around for so long that people still half-expect a female leader to exhibit one of these traits or behaviors.
Worse still, knowing how others perceive women, female leaders are under constant pressure to prove their worth and disprove these myths. Which, in the long run, becomes very exhausting and wears them down.
Let’s start from the basics of inequality: on a daily basis, female leaders are treated differently than men. They are more likely to get interrupted or to have colleagues second-guessing their decisions.
Women continue to get paid less than men, as well. In fact, the gender pay gap widens as we move up the corporate ladder. According to a 2022 Payscale report, women at the executive level make $0.95 to every dollar a man makes.
Female employees also have fewer career advancement opportunities. Even though women are more likely than men to be assigned a mentor, lack of sponsorship makes it hard for them to gain leadership positions.
Even though the number of women in leadership roles has increased over time, there are still fewer women than men. According to a McKinsey/LeanIn study, women occupy only 24% of the C-suite. Plus, for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women enjoy the same honor.
3The Double-Bind and Other Biases
Among the numerous biases women employees live with, the double-bind bias is the most common. Women in the workplace are faced with an impossible dilemma: they can either be assertive, or they can be likable.
While men leaders exhibiting assertiveness are considered competent, women are “bossy and abrasive” and become less likable. This bias circles back to gender stereotypes that expect men to be dominant and powerful while women should be mild and submissive.
It’s no surprise that female leaders don’t have faith in their capabilities and often suffer from imposter syndrome. Women have traditionally been held back by gender biases and societal expectations. Even implicitly, women have been taught not to take risks and that they can only get “this far.” So when they do get far, they feel like frauds.
Self-doubt is often obvious in the way women express themselves. You’ll often find a woman making unnecessary apologies or saying things like “I’m not sure” or “I’m not good with this.” Unfortunately, this behavior conveys insecurity and only reinforces existing stereotypes.
Another elephant in the room when it comes to women’s challenges is work-life balance. Women still carry the weight of child upbringing and housekeeping on their shoulders. Being present at home and at work is hard for all women, but even more so for women in leadership. The guilt of not being the perfect mother or wife is a burden many successful women live with.
The Importance of Career Coaching for Women
As a coach for women in leadership, you can achieve many wonderful things:
The Basics of Coaching for Female Executives: 12 Topics to Cover
Whether leaders are born or made is still under discussion. One thing is sure – leadership coaching works! Here are 12 topics to cover in women’s leadership coaching to achieve the best possible results:
Positive company culture and workplace comes from authentic leadership. There are many different leadership styles you can explore with your client. But it’s important to help them find an authentic style that fits their personality and business ethics. This will help them use their strengths to the best of their ability and gain their peer’s respect and trust.
Few things ring so true, especially when behind “thyself” is an entire company and its people.
Team leaders need to be aware of and honest about what they can and can’t do. They need to know their strengths, so they can use them to their advantage and incorporate them into their leadership style. And they need to know their weaknesses, so they can improve them.
Self-awareness leads to self-acceptance and builds confidence. Confidence, in turn, is another essential trait for a leader who makes tough decisions, receives feedback and even criticism, and carries the weight of their team on their shoulders.
If female leaders increase their self-awareness, they can identify self-diminishing behaviors, find out why they happen, and limit them. Building self-awareness is a challenging but exciting journey to embark on with your client.
A leader can’t afford to be an ineffective communicator. Quite the opposite – a leader should do magic with their words. Leaders need to influence people and empower their teams, convey trust and credibility, and be assertive and diplomatic at the same time. Therefore, their speech needs to be persuasive and authentic.
Active listening skills are on the other side of effective communication. A leader must listen to their team with compassion and in a way that encourages their interlocutor to speak honestly and freely. This is the only way to build a strong team.
Executive coaching for women should emphasize communication skills. Female leaders need to learn to speak firmly without losing their empathy and compassion.
Coaching on communication skills will also help women leaders get rid of unhelpful speech patterns, like apologizing for no reason (“Sorry to bother you with this”), or using words and phrases that make them lose credibility and sound uncertain (“I’m no expert, but…” “Perhaps we could…”, etc.).
4Negotiation and Conflict Management
Leaders participate in difficult negotiations, where they represent not only themselves but also their teams or the whole company. To reach beneficial agreements, a leader should think critically, analyze information, and foresee long-term implications.
Negotiation skills will also come in handy when managing conflict. Conflict resolution is a charmless task that usually falls under a manager’s jurisdiction. Nonetheless, higher executives will also find themselves in disagreement with others within the company or outside of it.
Female leaders need to be good at negotiating. During negotiations, they’re dealing with the other person’s terms, and also with any unconscious biases that might be there.
5Giving and Receiving Feedback
Another less-than-charming and often awkward task for a leader is offering feedback. Constructive feedback is essential, as it helps teams learn and grow. A leader needs to be fair and give praise where praise is due, but they should also address mistakes and performance issues.
Having to give negative feedback is tricky. Criticism makes us feel vulnerable, especially if it’s from a leader to a high-ranking executive. Thus, a leader should know how to frame negative feedback in a way that boosts motivation.
Likewise, leaders should be receptive to feedback. Research shows that women are struggling in this area. Women not only internalize negative feedback more than men; they are also more likely to be held back and give up on their goals because of it.
Discuss with your client how they react to feedback. If they have a negative attitude and become aggressive, why is that? Why do they feel vulnerable against feedback? Why is it so bad to make a mistake or to not do everything perfectly?
Effective delegation for leaders is not about assigning tasks; it’s about assigning the right people to the right roles. By delegating effectively, leaders empower high-potential employees and are nurturing the future leaders of the company.
Assigning new responsibilities and ambitious projects to your direct reports shows that you trust their skills and appreciate the work they’ve done so far. It’s also an excellent way to motivate and engage top employees.
Delegating tasks to others can also help the leader free up their time. This way, they can focus on strategic thinking and new initiatives instead of having to micromanage everything.
7Strategic Thinking and Decision Making
Leadership is all about making critical decisions that serve the company mission and move the company forward. The leader envisions the future and is the first one to lead the way by mapping out a strategy to reach organizational goals.
According to a CCL survey of 337 HR leaders and line managers, one of the most important competencies for women leaders to start developing is managing strategic thinking and acting. Therefore, strategic thinking and decision-making are two topics that shouldn’t be absent from women’s leadership coaching.
8Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace matter. In a diverse workplace, you’ll find people of different races, ages, educational levels, and so on. In an inclusive workplace, you’ll find employees who feel welcome and supported.
A diverse and inclusive workplace, including one that features a higher percentage of women executives than their counterparts, is also more profitable.
Female leaders are already working hard to promote diversity and inclusion in their workplaces, probably because they are an underrepresented group themselves. However, promoting diversity and inclusion is complicated and leaders often overlook it, so make sure to explore this topic during your coaching sessions.
9Agility, Adaptability, and Resilience
The modern workplace is constantly evolving. Business leaders need to be able – if not to predict – to quickly adapt to change, whether it’s rapid growth or an overnight shift to remote work. A leader needs to take swift action even when events catch them by surprise.
Leading through major transitions, uncertainty, and adversity is one of the biggest challenges a leader will face. You need to show your female clients strategies to build resilience, so they can quickly bounce back and guide their teams with confidence.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage your own and other people’s emotions. Good leaders need to be emotionally intelligent to have successful interactions and build relationships. A leader that can’t understand emotions is distant, uninspiring, and ultimately ineffective.
Emotional intelligence is at the heart of almost every soft skill: how can a leader be resilient if they can’t control their anxiety? How can they make successful negotiations if they can’t read their counterparts? How can they resolve conflict if they can’t show empathy?
Evidence shows that women have higher emotional intelligence than men. Still, cultivating emotional skills is hard and involves a lot of work. You can improve your client’s emotional intelligence by working on interconnected skills, like self-awareness and active listening.
As we previously discussed, female leaders have a hard time maintaining a work-life balance. Therefore, apart from building leadership skills, women’s leadership coaching should offer advice on how to balance personal and professional life.
Ultimately more and more female leaders are feeling burnt out. So teach your female clients time management techniques and ways to prioritize their workload to help them avoid physical burnout. It’s also important to explore strategies for coping with stress, so they can regulate their emotions and keep stress from escalating to anxiety and mental exhaustion.
Yes, you read correctly: in leadership coaching, you must also teach your own craft (on your own responsibility!).
If leaders want to be successful mentors, they need to develop coaching skills. This will help them carry fruitful conversations with their employees, give effective feedback, and provide the best possible support.
Creating Women’s Leadership Coaching Packages
Business leaders are extremely busy people. Our advice is to sell coaching online to allow for more flexibility and create a program that has both synchronous and asynchronous elements.
This means that you will arrange real-time coaching sessions (online or in-person) with your client when it’s convenient for them and when it’s time to review their progress. You’ll also offer them online resources that they’ll go through at their own pace.
Let’s see in more detail what a leadership coaching package looks like:
A successful leadership development program begins with assessing client needs. As we’ve discussed, the list of competencies that make for a great leader is long. That doesn’t mean, though, that you need to start from zero. All leaders possess some, if not most, of those skills to some extent.
An evaluation will help you identify the areas the client needs the most help with and prioritize those. It’s also the first step to start building the client’s self-awareness.
You can start the assessment process with an online form they can fill out on their own – provide your client with a list of all the areas they can work on with you, and they will pinpoint the areas they feel insecure about.
Next, follow up with a one-to-one session. Ask questions to assess how your client performs in all leadership skills and uncover more areas for improvement. Point out their strengths to boost their morale, and leverage these strengths to develop their unique leadership style.
One-to-one and group sessions
One-to-one and group coaching sessions are an essential part of a customized leadership coaching program. This is where most of the productive work is done. During your one-to-one sessions, you’ll analyze the client’s weaknesses and strengths, evaluate their progress, come up with new strategies to test and apply their skills, and do practical exercises like role-playing.
At your group sessions you can engage a limited number of participants into a live dicution, stimulate experience sharing and gain extra coaching effect from the highly-involving group dynamic
As a part of the client’s transformation journey, ask her to fill-in a reflection journal. It is a powerful instrument to ensure your coachee acknowledges the great change she faces along your leadership program.”
Create a library of online resources your clients can explore on their own. Some examples of valuable online resources are:
A mastermind group is a valuable learning experience and a great source of inspiration for female leaders. Organize mastermind groups, so your clients can meet fellow female leaders and expand their network while exchanging knowledge and advice. In a mastermind group, female leaders will find support, understanding, and strength.
Live Workshops and Webinars
Workshops and webinars are two more valuable learning tools for leadership development. Think of workshops as advanced-level group coaching. You can host them online or in-person to perform diverse activities to practice and establish new leadership skills.
Webinars are a more passive learning activity, but you can liven them up. Bring in women leaders to share their stories. Have a Q&A session afterward to turn the conversation into a dialogue. Do quick quizzes to recap and establish the key discussion points. By adding a few interactions, webinars can turn into enlightening experiences!
A certificate provides proof of the hard work your client has done and the competencies they’ve built. This can serve as motivation for your clients, and it can also be used as a marketing tool to attract new ones.
By offering certificates, you can show potential clients the value of your coaching program and the results it can produce. In today’s competitive market, this can give you a distinct advantage over other coaches who do not offer this type of certification.
Women’s Leadership Coaching is the Only Way up
Women have amazing innate power, resilience, and empathy. And, they have already proven they’re great leaders – what they lack is support and faith in themselves.
Career coaching for female executives and leaders can mobilize and unblock women, free them from self-limiting beliefs, and give them the tools they need to advance their careers and find themselves in positions of power.
With LearnWords, you can build a powerful academy for powerful female leaders: schedule online coaching sessions, upload video and audio material, and host your transformational online events all in one place!
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Androniki is a Content Writer at LearnWorlds sharing Instructional Design and marketing tips. With solid experience in B2B writing and technical translation, she is passionate about learning and spreading knowledge. She is also an aspiring yogi, a book nerd, and a talented transponster.