This last couple of weeks I’ve been reflecting a lot on the 4.5%, as in the current percentage representation of women at senior levels of management in Australian Businesses; what it really takes to help the women who aspire to operate at that level and what they need to cultivate within themselves to be ready for that challenge. And more than that, what present relating dynamics are showing up as a challenge on that path. It’s kind of impossible to look at this topic, without simultaneously considering the battle of the sexes. And what is really underlying the battle of the sexes? Trauma. So what do we all have to be willing to take a look at in order to support each other out of the Groundhog Day of power struggles and relationship challenges, into the zone in which we CAN lovingly lead together as women, men and all genders in between, walking side by side, with greater understanding of the differences in how women and men actually think and lead? How do we manage it, both within ourselves and in the external business and organisational worlds we create and lead?
There is a simple 4 stage model I was once taught to summarise this process in terms of the stages of the journey. Which basically summed up the journey of what one goes through as:
Recently, having taken a recent journey back to the self-forgiveness step of this journey to get myself "unstuck" and back in flow...and then a few days later, having people literally walk up to me on the street needing exactly the same, I found myself considering the more detailed sub steps within this journey. The more i've lived through my own healing in recent years and supported others through theirs, I came to realise that I could sum it up in a bit more specifically like 15 stages and unique challenges that we all tend to need to progress through in order to get our power back and step off the karma drama Groundhog Day merry-go-round that can happen on this journey, and turn into into a more linear one, with an exit to get back on track at each stage.
This is just as much a roadmap to which we can estimate where we ourselves are at in this process, as well as a map to which Leaders everywhere can gauge where the clients they support or people they Lead are at on the own journeys and how therefore one can best support or help them connect with the right support on the way.
Here’s the model below (which is a snapshot from one of the modules within my 1 year Leadership program):
***(There's also a PDF version for you below to download and have a closer look.) In the column on the left, the difference is that the incident has happened in the present. Whereas on the right, it's a historical incident, and a trigger has brought it back up in the present.
A few things to note about the model:
For people in the pink, where something has happened in the present, the main task to deal with this is essentially no different than emergency services staff would deal with it….depending on the severity of the incident, you’re coming up with an action and or a safety plan, first aid style on the fly to deal with what their basic needs are right now and then helping them to get in touch with whatever support they need, relative to the severity of the incident.
While all of us have been through traumatic experiences to varying degrees, people who’ve repressed a past incident may not have any idea at all that the term “trauma recovery” even applies to them. Or even if they do, they just might not be at a point where they want to or are ready or sufficiently motivated to go there right now. While i would say i believe all people are born equipped with the resources to deal with it, there are times at which the ideal external circumstance for them support their transformation doesn't yet exist for them to go there and so they don't, until the right support is there for it to safely come back up and not only to help them find ways to appropriately manage their own process, but also ways in which both parties to grow through the experience together, rather than end up disconnected. Handy to note when you’re working with or managing people who are showing signs of trauma, but they might not yet be consciously aware of it.
People who are in the yellow section and white sections, tend to have a bit of trouble at times relating with each other. This all stems from the fact that the primary need of those in the yellow section is validation of what happened and support to come to terms with it. People who are in the white section have another main aspiration now, of moving beyond what happened and getting back to living and that may or may not involve choosing to be of service to those still in the yellow section. For this reason, we can see a lot of conflict and hurt feelings come up between the two stages in family, friend, romantic and work life because the people in the yellow can feel abandoned and unacknowledged by people who's focus in squarely in the next stages, or supporting the next stages. Unless someone from the white (or green) stage feels their calling is to support the people through the earlier stages and is healed and equipped enough to be able to do so. I've had the sense for a long term that widespread education about the stages of this journey may help create a bit more understanding and hence respect and empathy for each other, no matter what stage of the journey each respective person is at, in a "i'm ok, you're ok" kind of way.
In a persons transition from the yellow to the white, and their perception of self and self worth changing along the way, it’s not unusual for them to go through a large change in who they’re surrounded with in their inner circles and outer work and personal worlds too. BUT that being said, the right people, the people who are truly on the same page as them with their wants and aspirations in all aspects of life, who are just as willing to own their stuff and grow and evolve with them, will stay, or sometimes return once something has been worked through. Clear communication of wants and needs and boundary setting are key skills here. As people still in the pink, even up to the white, will sometimes struggle to communicate what they need before they're WAY beyond their limits...and only realise, when they're feeling way beyond their limits and verbally swinging at those in the vicinity. Hence the need for clear communication and boundaries. With practice they and we can support them to recognise and confidently communicate what they need MUCH earlier. Women particularly will also tend to go through a bit of a sling-shot from one polarity to the other in this journey of communication too. Because they're not used to being met, they'll try and overemphasise the communication of what they want with extra emotion trying to influence the other part. But in time, as they become more centred in themselves and have more practice, will come to realising all the have to do is actually calmly ask. And if they get a no, no biggy, you just ask someone else, minus the emotional charge of rejection.
And remembering that while their reaction may relate to you, the process they're going through may not. It's their's. So, as hard as it can be sometimes, we have to try and not take it on like we caused the whole thing and react back. It's a process. What's really going on? What does everybody need REALLY? And later (though many in the yellow are literally not ready to hear this one yet) DOES what they're going through in any way show me anything about my OWN shadow, bouncing off them as a reflection, asking to be acknowledged, yet to be integrated and owned? Sometimes when we sense their stuff, but they're verbally telling us they're owning it, yet we feel like they're HURLING "projection" at us, this can actually be what's really going on too. And they're "return to sendering" what bits of it aren't actually theirs to own either, they might just be yours.
From a work stand point, as a Leader or a Practitioner, the support that you will provide to a person in the yellow in largely about listening, being present and holding a space while the person goes through acknowledging the significance of this incident and what they need. Not every time too where the trauma starts to emerge will be an ideal time to deal with it. Hence, supporting them, is also about helping them manage their process and develop processes to both contain what’s moving when they need to be functional and allow it to move at the times where their is permission given on both sides for one to drop into their process and the other to hold space for it.
To some extent, we all still have parts of ourselves we need to bring forward, highest potentials, and skills we need to learn in order to be able to initiate ourselves into living a life where we take full responsibility for our creative potential and power in the white to green. And there's definitely a whole extra professional skillset to learn in order to be able to hold other peoples processes in either the pink or the yellow or the white. One i have a program and a book on the way this year about.
In the end though, women, men, no matter what role we find ourselves in, we all will have times where new things will happen and we will maybe get triggered back into an earlier stage in the cycle or need to take a look at what support one needs right now to move through it with ease and grace. Hence why I think us all, and especially those of us in the leadership realm, becoming much more knowledgeable about this model and just being aware of the journey itself, so that we know how to best support someone along the way of it, along with taking self responsibility for ourselves along the way, I think are major key is reducing A LOT of challenges and gender related complexities along the way and highly relevant to us all in helping more women make it to the highest levels of business and leadership.
Liveris, C, “To be Meritorious: Gender Equality At Work 2017”, March 2017
Liddy, M & Hanrahan, C, Fewer women run top Australian companies than men named John — or Peter, or David, March 2017
Nat talks about Self Expression, Heart Centred Communication and Lifestyle for Leaders.