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Ladies: Watch Your Language

I was recently leading a project that has a very successful outcome in a very short timeframe. A colleague complemented me on it.

I said, “It wasn’t just me, I couldn’t have done it without all of help and cooperation I received from the team and the stakeholders too”.

He responded that it is so common for women to deflect a complement and give others the credit and not themselves.

I said “I didn’t!” (bit indignant), followed by “I think it’s important for leaders to acknowledge the input and impact of others on the success of ventures they lead.  I strive to do that and always will!”

He said “But you are doing it at your own expense. A man would not have done that. . A man would have said… thanks and acknowledged the part he played in the projects success as well.” He’s right.

Hmm. I took a deep breath and said “Ok. Reword: my project was successful because I am good at project management and bringing  a great team with me and inspiring them to join me in the work, which they did brilliantly. I also have great relationship building skills and people trust me. This means I have a broad network and as long as I believe in the project it is easy for me to influence ‘buy in’ “.

He said “Thats better”

I said “Oh wow, thank you”. Light bulb moment as they say.

And I am a coach who works with women. Who should know better than I, the impact of language, self talk and how you present yourself and your talents to others. And how that impacts on success.

This has taught me, that even though I know the theory of empowerment and the right language and attitude, it is not always easy to implement it. Easier to fall back on the long ago learned feminine default of self depreciation.

To counter this and stop it in its tracks, I think it is important that we notice and reflect upon what we say about ourselves and how we say it. It’s also a good idea to seek feedback from those we trust about how we are perceived by others when we speak about ourselves and our accomplishments as a colleague and as a leader.

Adjust language and behaviour accordingly. Repeat.

I am still not comfortable with the word change and I am working on that with a ‘fake it till you make it’ approach. I cannot unlearn this lesson though. And so I give it to you.

What will you do with it?


I am happy to chat if you need any help with that. Mail me to book a time on

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