How to answer inappropriate questions

When you want to start building relationships, you have to interact with people, ask questions and answer some. We have to work on our executive presence and one of my previous article gave a few tips on this subject. However, we (especially women) all have been asked inappropriate questions at some point in our lives. Whether it was in an interview or at a networking event, sometimes people can be very direct – if not rude – and ask questions that make us feel uncomfortable to say the least. 

How do you respond to these inappropriate questions? What can you do?

 

Always remain polite

Sometimes, some people coming from certain countries can be more direct than others. They don’t mean to be rude but they can come across as such. However, some other times, some people just want to know certain things and will not beat about the bush. They will ask their questions straight, not really caring if they are going to hurt your feelings or not. 

Whatever the situation, always remain polite and calm as much as possible. You never know what the future holds. You may come across that person at a later stage. This person may be key in getting you hired or giving you a project, an assignment, etc. 

Keep in mind that this might also be a way to test your reaction and whether you are able to handle uncomfortable situations.

 

Ask clarifying questions

If someone asks you inappropriate questions (such as ‘How old are you?’ or ‘Are you married?’ or ‘Do you want children?’), ask the person why they need this information now or why this is relevant. If you are in an interview and it’s your first interview, you may say that you’d rather not answer this question now, but you’d be happy to provide all the information if you get hired. That way, people will know you are not trying to hide something but that you are just trying to keep certain parts of your life confidential, till you need to get things official in a contract. 


Remember that people don’t always have bad intentions. In an interview, they may ask your age as they may get some subsidies if they hire persons of a certain age (either people from younger generations – less than 25 – or older generations about 50 or 60). Or they may want to know if you want or have children as they may provide help with day care or pay for some of your children’s education.

 

If it is really inappropriate

If you are asked a very inappropriate question, that has nothing to do with the topic you’re discussing or the job you are applying to, and/or if it is not the first time your counterpart has asked you some questions that are ‘on the edge’, don’t hesitate to call that person out and say something like “I don’t think this is appropriate.” By doing so, the person will realize you are serious,that you are there to talk business and nothing else. 

 

What other tips would you have to answer inappropriate questions? I’d love to hear your feedback.  

 

#vlvcoach #womeninbusiness #professionalwomen #womenleadership #leadership

 

This article was also published on Linkedin.

 

How women can improve their presence

As we’ve just celebrated International Women’s Day, I can’t help but think that there actually should not be a need to have such a day. Women have come a long way. Women pretty much have jobs in any industry. You now see women in politics, as air pilots, women in construction etc.

Yet, there is still a long way to go. Women are still not as represented as they should, especially in higher management positions. There may be different reasons for it, What I have witnessed – and experienced myself – is that we, women, sometimes do or say things we should not, things that weaken our presence, our message and make people wonder whether we have what it takes.

I wish someone had made me aware all these little things 20 years ago. Since I cannot go back in time, I want to share what I learned to help younger women out there.

 

Watch out for the little words or expressions you say

When you are being asked what you do, don’t reply that you are ‘just a manager’ or ‘just a nurse’ for instance. No. You are a manager, a nurse or any other profession. Be proud of the job you have. You are not ‘just’ something. 

When you want to ask a question, don’t start with ‘Can I ask a question?’ By doing that, you are already giving the impression you’re asking permission. Simply ask your question, it will sound much more powerful. 

Other words you should avoid: ‘maybe’, ‘I think’ (should be ‘I know’ or nothing at all, just your statement), ‘I am not’. When you say ‘I am not…’, take the habit to add ‘yet’. Adding that little word ‘yet’ shows that you are still working on it and that you have not given up. 

 

Don’t always say you’re sorry

It is ok to be polite, but stop saying ‘sorry’ all the time. Don’t say sorry. if someone wants to sit on the chair next to yours and you have to move a bit. Don’t say sorry if you suggested something and someone else disagrees. And don’t say ‘Sorry, can I ask a question?’ 😉

 

Watch out how you say things

Sometimes we are so excited to say something that our voice goes up. If we ask a question, the tone of our voice should obviously go up. However, if you are making a statement, make sure your voice ends up with your town down. With your voice up at the end of a sentence, you give the impression that you either ask a question or that you are not sure. When you finish a sentence with your voice down, you clearly show you’re making a statement and that you are confident. 

 

Accept (and appreciate) compliments

This is something I see many women do, and I must say I still sometimes do it, although the older I’m getting, the better I become.

When someone gives you a compliment, such as “oh, nice shoes!’ or “I love your earrings’, or ‘Nice dress!’, don’t say something like ‘Oh but they’re old’ or ‘well, I haven’t worn it in a long time’ etc. Just accept the compliment and say ‘thank you!”, that’s all. We are so used to focusing on the negatives that when we do receive something positive, it looks like we are not able to handle it. So, when you receive a compliment, be grateful and accept it. 

 

Stop underestimating yourself

This summarizes my previous points. We, women, often have a tendency to underestimate ourselves. When we see a job application or want a promotion, we think we should not apply because we do not have all the qualifications or required skills. The funny thing is that men will apply even if they do not have them all. 

We don’t have to have everything. We are as capable as men. We need to show we are ready to take up the challenge and have the potential to do so, that is what counts. 

 

This article was also published on Linkedin. Find it here, and Virginie’s other articles here.

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Self Leadership also means Self Care

Last week, I mentioned in my article that if we want to become better leaders, we have to practice self-leadership, i.e. start with being a leader of ourselves. 

 

It means we have to lead by example. We have to have values that match our words and actions. We have to step of our comfort zone to grow to become a better version of ourselves.

 

To me, self leadership also includes something important: self care. 

 

Self Leadership = self care

 

We cannot inspire, motivate, help or support others if we are not healthy. And when I say ‘healthy’, I mean ‘mentally and physically healthy’. 

When I had my car accident 21 years ago, I had to stay in the hospital for 3 months. During these 3 months, I had to stay and lie in bed for 6 weeks, without being able to stand or even sit. This accident made me realize how precious life is, how precious our health is and that without it, we are of no use to anyone. The doctors told me I recovered so well because I stayed positive throughout this whole experience. They also said I recovered quickly because I was in a ‘good shape’ i.e. not overweight, or having some health issues such as too much cholesterol, or diabetes. We often take our health for granted until something happens, our life changes within a few seconds and we realize that our health is the most important thing we have.

The second time I realized that we also need to be mentally healthy is when I had a burnout. I was doing a job I did not like. I had nice colleagues, but the job was challenging me in the wrong way. So I was stressed and brought my stress home. Because I was stressed, I did not sleep well. Because I did not sleep well. I was more and more tired. So I no longer went to dance (which used to help me get rid of my stress). I was in a vicious circle. Until I was forced to break it. I could no longer work and stayed at home for 2 months. Here again, I realized that even if I was physically healthy, I still was of no use to anyone, not even myself, as I was no longer able to think properly or even relax! I had stretched my resources too thin… This was another powerful lesson.

 

What I learned from these experiences

 

We need to learn to take time for ourselves to exercise, to meditate / pray and to eat healthy. We need to take some time to relax. Getting enough sleep, spending time with our family and friends and doing things we like are necessary activities so that we can recharge our batteries. When the battery of a phone is close to empty, we are quick to recharge it as soon as we can. Why don’t we recharge ours when we are tired, feel drained, cannot concentrate or start having all kinds of issues (such as headaches, backaches, stomachaches, etc.)? Why do we often wait until it’s almost too late?  I’ve learned it the hard way with my burnout. The body is a powerful machine. It tells you everything that is important, if you take time to listen to it. 

These 2 experiences are the main reasons why I dance salsa 💃🏽. With salsa, I found my passion. Salsa is not only my workout, it’s also my (mental and physical) stress relief. When I dance, I can let go of everything and focus on myself, the music and what my dance partner wants me to do. Salsa gave me confidence. It gave me some ‘me time’. It helped me become a better leader and a better follower. The list goes on and on…

 

So what does that mean?

 

That means we need to continue learning new things and unlearning others. We need to develop and improve our skills. This means also starting new habits and getting rid of others. Getting rid of people who put us down, are jealous or criticize us and surround ourselves with people that support us, encourage us and motivate us to become a better person. 

Finally, this means to be aware of ourselves, of our body and our emotions. Any negative signal we get (even if it’s just a headache) is a sign that we need to take care of ourselves more. 

Taking care of ourselves is NOT selfish. It is the right thing to do. If we are not (physically or mentally) healthy, we, as leaders, simply cannot help ourselves and others. 

Our mental and physical health should always be our number 1 priority. 

 

This blog was also published on Linkedin.

#vlvcoach #leadership #leadershipdevelopment #personaldevelopment #globalleader #professionalwomen #HumanSOS #Humansustainability

 

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Have you ever been in a situation…?

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought

‘I don’t know if I can do it…’ 🤷🏽‍♀️

‘Am I the right person to do this job? I am really not sure…’ 

‘What if I fail?’

 

Well…

 

I’ve been there

And more than once!

 

I remember many years ago 

When I was managing Quality Programs in EMEA for a contact center

I was asked to go to a client in London

To do some consultancy

 

I had never really done that before, and was wondering what I would need to do exactly, would I be able to answer all questions? Would I be able to notice everything? Etc. etc. 

Even though I welcomed the opportunity and said ‘yes’

I was full of doubt…

 

I went there for 2 days

Spent time with the client and their employees

And the feedback I received afterwards

Was that the client had been impressed by me!

 

What did I do?

 

I did what I knew, 

I used my skills and knowledge

I stayed true to myself

And I believed in me

 

Sometimes, we have to kill that ‘little voice’ in our head

Because we can be our own enemy…

 

Have you ever been in such a situation?

What did you do to kill those negative thoughts?

#vlvcoach #mindset #Leadership

 

This post was shared on Linkedin

 

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Leaders hire and develop their teams

True global leaders hire and develop the best.

Leaders need to have a strong and diverse team around them. When they hire someone, they need to hire the best people they can find. They hire not only because of what the candidates have achieved so far, but also because they see potential in that person. 

Leaders know that they are as strong as their team. They provide their team members with guidance and support. They give them additional responsibilities. When they are out of the office (in a meeting, a training or on holiday/vacation), they delegate. They give someone in their team the chance to step up, to represent and replace them. Doing so not only develop the individuals, but it also ensures a succession plan when the time has come. 

Leaders also help them grow. They focus on their strengths. Whether they want to become a manager or follow another direction, leaders help their team members in finding the right path, providing guidance or tips. They identify opportunities for them and discuss them with them so that they all know what the next steps will be. Team members may need their approval to apply for another role, or even a recommendation. The best thing you can do as a leader is to support your team members to the best of your abilities.

Leaders do not micromanage. They empower people. Great leaders trust their team members that they will do the job they are supposed to do. They allow reasonable failure.

They provide tools, policies and procedures so that their team can do their job.

Last but not least: Leaders listen to their team and ask for regular feedback, because they know they do not know everything. 

 

This post was also shared on Linkedin and fyi.to. You can also watch the video there.

 

👉 Contact me for help on multicultural leadership, women leadership, communication, diversity or team performance!

 

#vlvcoach #leadership #leaders #professionalwomen #executivesandmanagement

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Strategic Thinking is key in Leadership

What sets a leader apart from a manager is first and foremost the strategic thinking.

 

Strategic thinking is  the ability to think in the long and short term, and into the past and the present. Strategic thinking becomes increasingly essential as you ascend the corporate ladder.

 

Leaders like Jeff Bezos, Oprah Winfrey, Coco Chanel or Martin Luther King had a vision and they all have worked towards it. 

 

How do you improve your strategic thinking?

  • Observe and look for trends. Be proactive about connecting with people in and outside your organization to understand their observations of the marketplace (remember my previous tip on networking? )Then, share your findings across your network.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions
  • Sound strategic: Pay attention to the words you use. Take a step back and try to see the bigger picture. Do not always think only about your team or department,  think also about your organization as a whole. 
  • Finally, block some time in your agenda to think. It may seem like a waste of time, but it’s your ‘ME time’, just as important – or even more – as other meetings. During that time, pause, take a step back, reflect. 

 

One tip I was also given was to play chess (or learn how to play it). This will also help you develop your strategic thinking skills.

 

To view the video, go to Linkedin or fyi.to.

 

👉 Contact me for help on multicultural leadership, women leadership, communication, diversity or team performance! 

 

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Leadership and the importance of Networking

Networking… A word we hear a lot nowadays…

We all have heard the expression ‘It’s not what you know but who you know’. 

And in a sense it is true!

 

Networking is a very important part of leadership. And this is also an area where women are usually less strong (I know, I’ve been there: we often prefer to ‘finish the job’ or finalize this project rather than ‘waste time’ going out for a drink with some colleagues…

 

And yet, as a leader, online and/or offline networking has big advantages:

 

  • It increases your visibility. You meet new people who will know who you are, what you do and what value you bring
  • Networking can help you set up your business or climb the corporate ladder. By telling people your story and your goals, people will help you and will keep you in mind when they have an opportunity that fits your profile, experience and skills.
  • You can discuss things and get different ideas/opinions and even tips

 

Don’t forget: networking is a long term investment. You should always try to keep in touch with your network throughout the year, and not reach out to them only when you need them!

 

So, networking is not only who you know, but it’s also who knows YOU!

This post was also shared on Linkedin and fyi.to, where you can find the full video.

 

👉 Contact me for help on multicultural leadership, women leadership, communication, diversity or team performance! 

#vlvcoach #leadership #networking #professionalwomen

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How leaders deal with conflicts

As a leader, you will sometimes face challenges, conflicts or difficult situations with either your team members, senior leaders, peers, suppliers, customers etc.

 

A conflict often arises when your values, ideas, opinions and/or actions are not aligned with those of your counterpart OR when there is miscommunication between different parties.

 

There are 5 different styles of conflicts.

As a leader, it’s very important to recognize them and to know when to use which one.

So what are they?

  • 1st conflict style is: Competing. You should use it in either emergency situations or if you have to make a quick decision

  • 2nd conflict style is: Collaborating. You should use this style if you want to improve a relationship or if you are trying to gain commitment

  • 3rd conflict style: Compromising. This style should be used if you are dealing with time constraints or if you are trying to create a temporary solution

  • 4th conflict style: Accommodating: You should use it if you are trying to create goodwill or when you are developing performance in a team

  • 5th conflict style: Avoiding: When you want to reduce tension or need more time

To view the full video, go to Linkedin and fyi.to.

 

👉 Contact me for help on multicultural leadership, women leadership, communication, diversity or team performance! 

#vlvcoach #leadership #professionalwomen #conflict

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Leadership and time management

Time management is something we all struggle with.

 

When you’re in a leadership position, time management is very important. Nothing can substitute time. And the worst part is that once you’ve wasted that time, you can never regain it. 

 

Leaders know that. Effective leaders use their time management skills to ensure that they maximize their time and accomplish their goals. They also know that when time is managed properly, they can accomplish more in less time.

 

Here are my tips for today:

 

  • Leaders set the vision, and work backwards from then on. They set long, medium and short term goals so that their teams know what to work on.
  • They set priorities or help prioritize activities. Are they urgent or important? What is the impact versus the effort? 
  • Leaders get rid of distractions. They make sure meetings are run efficiently. True global leaders do not waste time and know when to stop a task. They keep things simple

 

I could talk more about time management but I’ll stop here for today 🙂

 

This post was also shared on Linkedin and fyi.to.

 

👉 Contact me for help on multicultural leadership, women leadership, communication, diversity or team performance! 

#vlvcoach #leadership #professionalwomen #timemanagement

 

 

 

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True global leaders embrace diversity and include everybody

True global leaders embrace diversity and include everybody. They never assume they already have all the answers. 

Global leaders keep and open mind. They value diversity and include everybody.

 

They know that having a diverse team can be challenging. However, they accept and respect everyone. No matter where they come from, their nationality, religion, sex, age, background, ability/differentability, etc.

 

In addition, global leaders know that everyone has something to offer.  They ask for feedback and ensure that EVERYBODY is included in the process. They know that everyone can offer a different perspective, provide different ideas and strengthen the team.

 

Finally, great leaders know that the big ideas and solutions come from the most diverse teams.

They know that diversity AND inclusion are key! They simply embrace them.

 

As a conclusion, I want to finish with one of my favorite quotes from Verna Myers.

Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”

This post was shared on Linkedin and on fyi.to

👉 Contact me for help on multicultural leadership, women leadership, communication, diversity or team performance!

#vlvcoach #leadership #professionalwomen #diversityandinclusion