Confidence is such a funny thing; you can have it in one area in your life and not in another. You can also have confidence at certain times in your life and then lose it. But one thing is for sure, confidence can be elusive at the times when you need it most. That moment for me was when I was fired from my C-suite position.
After 14 years climbing the corporate ladder at the same company, I had broken the glass ceiling, was recognized as one of the most influential women in radio, headlined countless conferences and had been promoted numerous times. To say that I was in shock the day another woman looked me in the eye and told me my position was eliminated is an understatement. At that moment, I really needed my confidence, but sadly it wasn't there. What was there, thankfully, is a lifetime of experience learning how to build my confidence muscle back up when it had been depleted. I got to work quickly on my 30-day plan to rebuild my confidence in order to put myself in a position to handle this new challenge with the right mindset.
Heather Monahan's book cover for "Confidence Creator"
Over those 30 days, I saw amazing support from my loved ones and network of contacts. I reached out to others for help, and they showed up. I saw terrific opportunities present themselves to me. I had started to rebuild my confidence and shift my perspective. As that change occurred, it became clear to me that I wanted to write a book. Now that may not seem like a big deal to you, but it certainly was to me. While I have always been a public speaker, a mentor and a leader in business I have never been nor have I been viewed as an “author." That seismic shift to be willing to see myself in different areas and not in the one box I had always been in was scary. Would I be good at it? Would I even be able to get it done? To start something new, you need to be willing to be a beginner and take the risk associated with doing something new which can be petrifying. So many ideas flood your mind, but the biggest is what if I fail. To push beyond that feeling and get started, I needed to remember all that I had accomplished in my life, past challenges I had overcome and how I had been a beginner at everything at one point and figured it out. I decided I was going to figure this one out too. That is when I decided I was going to write my book.
Once you decide to take a risk and try something new, you need to figure out how to do it. I had no idea how to write a book so in my standard operating procedure, I googled it. I really did. I googled how to write a book and found an outline and a webinar. The basic takeaway for me was to just start writing. To stop overthinking and worrying about what I was going to write about or what I would call the book or if anyone would like it and instead I set up space at my desk, cleared everything else off and just started writing. Since the thing on the top of my mind was getting fired, I decided to start there. Each day I would sit and write whatever it was that came to my mind. Over the next two weeks, it became clear that I was writing a book about my life, my experiences and how each one of them taught me how to build confidence. Again, I did not know this when I started but through the process of doing it, I figured this out. This strategy has worked with so many different experiences and I am always reminded that taking action and taking steps will help you to figure out where you are supposed to be going.
After writing for a couple of months, I realized I was going to need to tap a professional to let me know if what I had was good enough, needed to be modified or needed to be trashed. With no experience in writing a book, I didn't have a benchmark to compare it to. That is when I started surfing the net looking for an editor. As always the simple process of taking action led me to one. When I told my fiancé how much the editor was, he called a friend in the book business who recommended someone else, that is when I found my editor. While I wasn't entirely sure that he was the right editor for me, I felt we had a fair agreement, and he really seemed to care, I sent him everything that I had written.
Heather Monahan interview with BOLD.
Photo Courtesy of BOLD
Having an expert on board was a game changer. He immediately taught me the need to re-organize and categorize my stories and always take in different ways to benefit the reader. He showed me where I was redundant and where I need to fill out more detail.
Working with an expert allows you to leapfrog the process and this was a wise investment. We are working together back and forth on email and before I knew it things were beginning to look like a book. I will never forget the first time he emailed me over a rough draft manuscript of my book. We had been going back and forth on word docs with each chapter. Unbeknownst to me, my editor had put each document into a rough draft manuscript and the first time I saw it I cried.
Even though I had been working on this for months that was the moment I realized I was really going to be publishing a book. Every step forward takes you closer to reaching and realizing your goal, and each of those steps helps you to overcome the fear. This doesn't mean that the fear of failing or not finishing or anything else wasn't there because it was, it just means that the further you go and the more milestones you reach the closer you get to the train has already left the station so I better just let go of second guessing myself.
Heather Monahan #Bossinheels - Behind the Scenes.
Photo Courtesy of Heather Monahan
During this time I was working with my editor, I began to have conversations with others with experience in the book business, and everyone told me I needed a publisher. My fiancé knew a book agent, so I called the guy to get the inside scoop.
He said to me that without being a previously published author or without having a significant social media following or another type of large reach, platforms like tv shows or movies, there really wasn't much of a shot of getting a publisher to take me on. His suggestion was to write a book proposal and start cold calling publishers and pitching my concept. I worked on this for about a week until I realized that book proposals are a lot of work and I was basically finished with my book, and then the final straw, which was finding out the publishers would want 12-18 months to bring my book to life. That was it for me, the pivot began, and I started working on self-publishing. One thing I was clear on was I wanted my book to come out now. The timing was really important to me, and I wasn't going to risk waiting.
As per my usual, I began googling self-publishing and setting up calls with companies that guide you to self-publish. I quickly found a number of different solutions based upon the investment you wanted to make. I found a company that was willing to offer me products a la carte and I chose them since I already had my manuscript finished and edited. From that point, you would think things would move quickly but they didn't.
There is the typesetting, the fonts, the copyright and everything else that moves painfully slow in the publishing process. Even though I selected the name Confidence Creator and the cover image before I even went to the self-publishing company, we still had to go through different iterations on the cover before we found the final version. The process was much longer than I would have liked and like anything there were times that deadlines were missed and I was frustrated. There were also lots of mind-blowing moments like the day I picked my final cover and the day the final locked PDF manuscript was sent to me or the day I held my first proof copy. This week I received cases of my book to my house and I stood over them and cried. The act of holding something that was just an idea months ago is beyond surreal and gratifying. The feeling of pride and accomplishment that goes along with taking a risk and doing something new is overwhelming once the task is completed. Still not knowing what the world will think of my book, I stand here today realizing that no matter what anyone else thinks I love my book and this is already a major win for me. My confidence is at an all-time high and my ability to take risks on has never been greater. Now, I am a proud author who will no longer be put in a box. I have successfully torn down the walls that I had previously allowed to limit me. Standing here now there is only one thing I can think of and that is what I will create next!
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.