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ET-019: The Ladder of Inference and Women in Business

With Ms. Marie Stuppard

ET-019: The Ladder of Inference and Women in Business

and your host Wayne Brown on November 1, 2022

Episode notes:  A conversation with Marie Stuppard

I first met Marie in a coaching program where we were learning to tweak our business and find ways to garner a larger following. It became obvious very quickly that some in the group stood out more than others with their clarity of focus and commitment to their passion.

After a few subsequent discussions Marie introduced me to her coaching practice and the niche she was supporting – Women in Business and helping them to find their voice in corporate life.

What I truly enjoyed was…

  • Her application of the behavior model from Harvard professor, Chris Argyris, is called The Ladder of Inference.
  • Her explanation of the four pillars that form her Voice lessons methodology
    • Conditioning
    • Cultural norms
    • Birth order
    • Family culture
  • AND Marie’s introduction of the three persons model
    • Victim – where everything happens to you
    • Rescuer – I’ll help
    • Persecutor – what aren’t you doing that you should have been

Marie’s interest in people, their stories, and their motivations lead to a deep appreciation for the resiliency of the human spirit. People’s inane ability to survive, evolve, and adapt fascinates her and fuels her desire to be a catalyst for change.

She’s passionate about helping people harness the ability to make positive lifelong changes to their core. The concept of transformation combined with the power of human resolve drives her work.

And she thrives on coaching people through the issues that block their potential and helping them turn obstacles into golden opportunities.

Today’s Guest: MARIE STUPPARD

In our episode today, we are visiting Washington State in the northwest of the US and chatting with Marie Stuppard.

This is a powerful conversation as Marie speaks from the heart about her own upbringing as a young woman and how this has impacted her development and advances in her career.

Thankfully, for us and her clients, Marie’s a great student and equally gifted leader who’s been given the opportunity in life to grow from these challenges and share her lessons with others experiencing similar roadblocks. I have the pleasure of working with Marie as we build our respective coaching practices together, and here’s what I’ve learned about her.

She has over 20 years in the corporate sector where she continues to excel at helping companies solve problems by acting as a change agent and bringing the obvious to light. Along the way, she’s learned that corporate transformation begins with the people, for only they truly have the power to influence and maintain change.

Marie Stuppard – Transforming Your Life, Vol 5:

The full title of this book – “Transforming Your Life Volume V: 20 Incredible Stories Showing The Strength Of The Human Spirit” As you may have heard in our conversation Marie was a co-author of this publication. In this, she shares her life story and plenty more.

Head to the following Amazon link to read more about this book.

Transforming Your Life – vol 5

Final words from Marie:   “I wrote a chapter for a book called Transforming Your Life, Volume Five. It’s available on Amazon, so please go out there and get it.

I have a chapter in there that talks about communications, tells a little bit of my story and how I overcame a lot of these communication issues that I had that were culturally based, and also talks about the steps that you can take, that anyone can take to avoid the ladder of inference or using that ladder to your benefit, using it the best way possible.

How to spot certain behaviors that may not be serving you in yourself and in your own personality, and you’ll spot those behaviors in others as well. How do you deal with those when you see those in other people?”

0:00:03.3 Wayne Brown: Hello, I’m Wayne Brown, and welcome to The ET Project. We’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talents all over the world whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET. In our episode today, we are visiting Washington State in the northwest of the US and chatting with Marie Stuppard. This is a powerful conversation as Marie speaks from the heart about her own upbringing as a young woman and how this has impacted her development and advances in her career. Thankfully, for us and her clients, Marie’s a great student and equally gifted leader who’s been given the opportunity in life to grow from these challenges and share her lessons with others experiencing similar roadblocks. I have the pleasure of working with Marie as we build our respective coaching practices together, and here’s what I’ve learned about her. She has over 20 years in the corporate sector where she continues to excel at helping companies solve problems by acting as a change agent and bringing the obvious to light. Along the way, she’s learned that corporate transformation begins with the people, for only they truly have the power to influence and maintain change.

 

0:01:18.7 WB: Marie’s interest in people, their stories, and their motivations lead to a deep appreciation for the resiliency of the human spirit. People’s inane ability to survive, evolve, and adapt fascinates her and fuels her desire to be a catalyst for change. She’s passionate about helping people harness the ability to make positive lifelong changes to their core. The concept of transformation combined with the power of the human resolve drives her work. She thrives on coaching people through the issues that block their potential and helping them turn obstacles into golden opportunities. Marie does this by bridging the gap between the mind and the heart, and encouraging the dialogue that unlocks the voice to enable people to stand up, be seen, and be heard in order to achieve their goals. I find Marie as genuine as they come, and I truly encourage everyone, women in particular, to connect with her and benefit in their career advancement through her wisdom and her guidance. So with that, and in preparation for our 40-minute episode, please ready yourself to be captivated by the lessons and insights with my friend, fellow coach, and author, Ms. Marie Stuppard, in this episode titled Ladder of Inference and Women in Business.

 

0:02:44.1 Speaker 2: Welcome to the ET Project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor, Wayne Brown, as we unpack an exciting future together.

 

0:03:01.1 WB: Well, good morning, Team ET. Welcome to another episode. Today we have the pleasure of speaking with, I wanna say an authority, Marie, we’re speaking with Marie Stuppard. Marie’s based up in Washington, in Seattle, Washington, in the US and is one of our foremost authorities on women and women in business in particular. And we’re gonna have a great conversation, I know based on some of the discussions we’ve had in the warm-up this morning. So I’m really looking forward to it. Marie, welcome to the ET Project, it’s great to have you here.

 

0:03:38.4 Marie Stuppard: Thank you so much for having me, Wayne. It’s a pleasure to be here with you.

 

0:03:42.5 WB: I always kick off with the same question. Any fun facts that you would like to share with our listener base?

 

0:03:50.6 MS: Sure, let’s see. There are a couple of things. Number one fun fact, it may not be a big deal across the world, the rest of the world, but in the US it’s still a little bit of a big deal. I’m trilingual. I speak French, Spanish, and English fluently. I’m originally from the Caribbean, so I also speak what they call, Haitian Creole, which is an amalgamation of the languages that were spoken by the natives of Hispaniola, if you will, as well as the Spanish and the French. So it’s a mix of languages that has gone on to become its own language with its own rules of grammar and syntax and whatnot.

 

0:04:31.1 WB: I won’t test your French. I studied French in high school for three years and it’s abysmal.

 

0:04:35.5 MS: Oh, oh.

 

0:04:36.2 WB: So I’m definitely not going to test it. Anything in the world exciting you at the moment?

 

0:04:43.6 MS: Sure. The most exciting thing going on for me right now has nothing to do with work. It has everything to do with fun. I’m a wannabe artist. And I have a small studio in Seattle where I go on the weekends and that’s where I get to let loose, if you will. That’s where I get to let my hair down and relax and just be creative. And I’ve got a couple of paintings that have been sold lately, so it’s very exciting for me.

 

0:05:16.2 WB: Wow. Which type of artistic area are you painting? Or what type of genre?

 

0:05:23.9 MS: Abstract acrylics.

 

0:05:25.5 WB: Abstract. Okay.

 

0:05:26.9 MS: On canvas, I do some on wood. I used to do something called Encaustic, which is really playing with fire, I called it. It’s using melted wax to paint on wood and then fusing that wax with a blowtorch. And it’s a layering technique. You layer color on top of color on top of color, and using the blowtorch, you use that to fuse each layer to one another so that it doesn’t peel off. And that unfortunately requires a lot of ventilation, which my old studio had, my current studio does not have. So I’ve put that on pause for a little bit and I’ve been playing a lot with the acrylic paints instead.

 

0:06:08.4 WB: Do you have a preferred canvas size? Do you do large abstracts or you do smaller ones or a mixture?

 

0:06:17.0 MS: I do a mixture, and lately I’ve been dabbling with square canvases, 46… 48 by 48 is probably the biggest square that I have, but I’ve been doing a lot of 24 by 24, 36 by 36. These are in inches, by the way. And the largest canvas…

 

0:06:34.9 WB: Yeah, I was starting to need that clarification. [laughter]

 

0:06:35.5 MS: Yeah. The largest canvas I have is actually four feet by six feet, I haven’t tackled it yet, but one of these days I’ll get to it.

 

0:06:45.6 WB: Wow. I would love to see some images at some stage. If we turn our focus at the moment to more business-centric, you have a very interesting diverse background, and I’m wondering, if you look back over your career, is there anything pivotal or any milestone moment that really resonates or stands out with you?

 

0:07:09.4 MS: Absolutely. And it’s interesting because that moment for me was the moment that I realized that keeping my head down and working hard and hoping for recognition was not working, and that moment came quite suddenly when I was passed up for promotion, when I was actually told that I needed to work as hard as one of my colleagues in order to ever obtain that promotion. And in my mind, I thought I ran circles around that individual. I thought I was the cream of the crop, the top of the group, the best on my team. Only to realize that I was quietly the best on my team, the quiet assassin, if you will. And I was known for getting the most difficult projects done, and so therefore I was continuously assigned the most difficult tasks and the most difficult projects on the team, and that became who I was seen as. The person who could, give her anything and she will take care of it. And I realized that that was not serving me the way that I thought it would serve me. That was definitely an Aha moment. And it was very disconcerting. I didn’t know what to do with it. I was quite upset. I didn’t know if I was more upset with my leadership or with myself for allowing that to happen. So it was quite a conundrum, and I thought about it for a few months before I did anything about it.

 

0:08:46.5 WB: And that’s a perfect set up for essentially what we’ll be talking about during this discussion. I also see that that scenario applies very nicely into an area that we’ve talked about already ourselves, which is a model called the Ladder of Inference. I believe the original model was developed by Chris Argyris from Harvard. I stand corrected, if that’s not correct.

 

0:09:14.2 MS: No, that is correct. You are absolutely right.

 

0:09:14.8 WB: That’s correct.

 

0:09:17.8 MS: The ladder, we call it climbing the ladder, on my team, and it’s quite an interesting phenomena. And it happens, it happens to all of us, and it happens without thought. And what I mean by that is, we automatically default into certain behaviors based on our experiences, based on our knowledge, based on our upbringing, based on our culture, even. Everything that makes us who we are also contribute to how we behave on that ladder. So the best example of the ladder I’ve ever seen, so basically, for your audience, for all of you out there, the ladder of inference is when… If you picture a ladder with multiple rungs, the first rung is the actual data, that’s the information that I have. And because our brains don’t like to have blank spaces or blind spots or areas where data does not exist, our experience, who we are, serve to make up the rest of the story. For example, there’s an old movie, I may be giving away my age with this one, there’s an old movie, I think it was the first movie that Julia Roberts, the actress, was ever in.

 

0:10:36.6 MS: The movie was called Mystic Pizza, and it was based in Connecticut. There’s a town in the US in Connecticut called Mystic, Connecticut, and there was a pizza parlor there, and Julia Roberts and her friends all worked at this pizza parlor. Julia Roberts, that her character was dating the rich boy in town, they were from the wrong side of the tracks, if you will, or the poorer side of town. And Julia Roberts was dating a rich boy. And one day, the pizza team had a party that they had to do at the local country club, and while they were packing up, getting ready to leave, they were in the parking lot, and they heard the music blasting on this pick-up truck where they were loading the garbage and everything that they were going to cart away, and one of Julia Roberts’ friends was dancing, and she danced close to a window, to the country club’s dining room, and through the window, she saw Julia Roberts’ boyfriend having dinner with a pretty blonde, and they were both talking to an older lady. So Julia Roberts looks at her friend and says, “What’s going on, what are you looking at?” And her friend said, “Oh, never mind, never mind.”

 

0:11:40.8 MS: But the Julia Roberts character goes and takes a look and is furious. She saw the same scene, her boyfriend obviously having dinner with a pretty blonde talking to an elderly lady. And so she backs the pick-up truck and all of its garbage up to his little red convertible, probably a Mercedes-Benz convertible in the parking lot, and proceeds to dump all of the garbage into his car, the top was down. Just as he walks out, with the pretty blonde, and he starts yelling, “What are you doing? What are you doing? Are you crazy?” And she said, “You SOB, you’re cheating on me. I can’t believe you’re doing this to me. Who is this girl?” And it turns out it was his sister. So moral of the story is, what information, what data did Julia Roberts’ character actually have?

 

0:12:30.8 WB: True.

 

0:12:31.6 MS: All we knew was that he was inside, having dinner, with a pretty young blonde woman, that’s all we knew. All of the rest of the data, all of the other steps to the ladder that caused Julia Roberts’ character to take action are the rungs of the ladder of inference. So all of that was, A, her insecurities, being from the wrong side of the track, thinking that she’s not good enough for him. B, making an assumption that just because he’s out with a girl that there’s something to going on, it can’t really be a relative, it’s gotta be some girlfriend. Right, and so when you take all of that, everything that made up this person’s character, her personality, all came into play and all helped to fill in those blanks for her, and that plays out at work every day, all day, all the time, for all of us. And we’ve gotten to a point, and at least, in my office, where we have a code word, basically, where somebody will call and say, “Hey, I don’t know if I’m climbing the ladder, but this is what happened,” and that’s usually code to tell me, “Okay, you want me to either talk you down off the ladder or to support your assumptions, to support what you think or what you suspect is going on,” and I really wonder how many people deal with this on a day-to-day basis. And Wayne, in your years of work, I don’t know if you’ve come across people who do behave based on assumptions and based on very little fact or data.

 

0:14:06.2 WB: Gosh, I would reverse that question, say, do I know anyone that doesn’t do this? I think this is the fault patent. What I loved about what you just said, Marie, was by having this awareness within your team, you have the ability then to bring in different perspectives, bring in different reasoning, to diminish some of the inner assumptions that we all have. And so that to me is so powerful. Fantastic, I’m also wondering, is it possible to use the ladder. I’m guessing it is, but I’m interested in your opinion, is it possible to use the ladder to unlearn some of the bias and some of the assumptions and beliefs that we carry with us?

 

0:14:55.1 MS: Absolutely, it’s definitely very useful to… You can definitely use the ladder to actually make a decision right, to back away from jumping to conclusions, and for me, there’s, the system that I use is, I look at the data that I have, and it usually happens, when you think about it, it usually happens when we’re reacting to something we don’t like. So if there’s a behavior that someone has exhibited, if there’s something that someone has said to me, that I did not like, I have to stop and pause and say to myself, “Okay, what are they actually saying?” So rather than filling those blanks, it gives me an opportunity to go back to that individual and say, “You know, I’m not quite sure I understand or I understood what you met by that, can you clarify that statement?”

 

0:15:47.7 WB: Yes.

 

0:15:49.3 MS: So it’s an opportunity to ask the individual to explain, or you can even paraphrase what you heard, right? And say, I heard you say X, or and I hate when people do that, when they actually used the words, I heard you say. So for example, I’ll say to someone, when you said this, I’m not sure what you meant by it so can you help me understand what the context is or where you were going with that, or what it actually means? By replaying that information or replaying this scenario with the individual, you’re actually asking them to name, give it a name, what is this that’s happening? What is this? What are you calling this? Right, and what that does is it gives the individual the… It gives them an opportunity to explain what’s happening, and when that information comes back to me, it gives me another opportunity to evaluate what’s happening.

 

0:16:51.2 WB: Yes.

 

0:16:51.7 MS: Before making a decision on what to do or how to react. Does that make sense?

 

0:17:05.3 WB: Absolutely, I was just thinking while you were speaking about stoicism and the ancient stoic approach, their first rule of being a stoic is removing judgment, removing their own opinion when they look at a situation, and I essentially feel that’s what you’re doing, is you’re trying to make sure that you’re not placing judgment on the situation without having more information, without having the opportunity to really get clear and understand more deeply. Yeah.

 

0:17:05.4 MS: Exactly.

 

0:17:35.9 WB: That’s fascinating, back to your original question, do I see it? Absolutely everywhere. Do I do it myself? Absolutely, and therefore, I think it’s one of those things that we need to establish the awareness of, the fact that we’re doing it, and that’s why I love what you do in your team, is you even have a code word or a code message or a signal that identifies that you’re going up the ladder, that’s beautiful, I really like that.

 

0:17:48.9 MS: And don’t forget that people think that because we’re having an interaction, we’re having a conversation, that the conversation needs to reach a conclusion or reach an end. And what I always say is, “You have every right to pause.” Press pause and say, “You know what? Let me come back to you, I need to go think about this.” If you feel yourself getting worked up because of what someone has said, just say, “Hey, you know what, let me come back to you, I need to go think about this for a minute, is it okay if we talk again tomorrow morning, the same time, or this afternoon, or in an hour, or in 20 minutes?” Whatever that may be, buy yourself the time to walk away from that interaction, cool off, and really take a piece of paper and a pencil, or on your laptop, sit down and type out what you heard, and make sure that you are crystal clear on what was actually said, because what I’ve heard, I’ve translated in my head already. Wayne said, “The sky was blue,” I heard that Wayne’s… I heard Wayne say, “You have no idea whether the sky is blue or not.”

 

0:18:54.2 WB: Yeah.

 

0:18:56.0 MS: And really sit down and think it through and make sure. And if you’re not sure, that’s where you do the going back, could you repeat that? What exactly did you say again? And it’s very easy to do when you have an email, because then you have all the time, not all the time in the world but you have much more time to respond to an email than you do when you’re having a one-on-one conversation or if you’re in a group setting and you having a group conversation. And you’ll find sometimes if it’s in a group setting, when you ask for that clarification, you’ll see other heads nod. And I can almost guarantee you that those people were right on that ladder with you, ready for that second run. Right?

 

[laughter]

 

0:19:33.4 WB: Yes. Yeah, for sure, preempting what was about to happen. For sure. Having the awareness of where you are and which part of the ladder you might be on, it’s a practice skill. Being able to remove yourself from that situation is not something everyone would be comfortable doing as well. So it’s something that you really have to be aware of and practice. I’m fascinated then if we look deeper into the work that you are doing and the clients that you work with. Maybe we start with, if you can just give a brief introduction to what you do with your clients but how does what we’re talking about show up with your client base, as a typical scenario?

 

0:20:20.1 MS: Sure. Okay. So what I do is, I… This is my day job, my 9:00 to 5:00 job. I work as a business and technology consultant for a midsize firm based in the US but we are actually in about six countries as well as the US. And what I do specifically is I co-manage probably our second largest client. And by managing the client what I mean is, I do account management. I’m responsible for a certain portfolio within that client, within the account. And my job is to make sure that we are delivering satisfactorily, that we are delivering on time, on budget, and that we are doing what’s right by the client and for the client. By the same token, I have a slew of consultants at work. They don’t work, they don’t report to me, but they work on contracts that I have landed with this client.

 

0:21:18.8 MS: So I also have to make sure that these consultants are happy and they’re thriving and they’re not being abused, if you will, by a very authoritarian client. It’s a bit of a fine balance, balancing, making sure that my colleagues are happy and making sure that my clients are also happy. I see a lot of ladder climbing both on the part of the client as well as on the part of the consultant. Some clients are very blunt in the way they speak. I happen to have grown up in New York City, so I’m used to straight talk, as we call it. Blunt talking.

 

0:21:52.3 WB: Yes.

 

0:21:53.5 MS: Say what you mean and just be done with it. And some clients are very much non-confrontational. Everything… A disagreement to them is a confrontation and trying to explain to them that, “No, no, we can disagree and still go to lunch. And be fine.” [laughter] So you have that on both sides. So the first thing you’re dealing with personalities. And getting to know that client and getting to know the likes, dislikes, and especially getting to know that client’s preferred style of communication. That’s the first thing. Secondly, I also have to get to know the consultant, their likes and dislikes as well as their preferred style of communication. And I have to make sure that the best consultant for the job is working with the client that has that need, their communication styles may be at opposite ends of the spectrum. So it’s my job to bridge that gap and to ensure that they are communicating with each other effectively.

 

0:22:47.8 MS: So I find myself playing the referee, if you will, between clients and consultants sometimes and also between clients and their own teams. You may have a team that’s completely afraid of their director and will never say anything to go against that director, even if it’s going to cause issues with whatever product they’re trying to deliver. So then it’s my job to empower my consultants to say, “Hey, you know what, let’s talk through this.” And so that’s why I’m such a big proponent of communication and understanding each other’s styles and getting to know each other’s styles so that you can have the most effective conversation and take up the least amount of time possible for a client, if you will.

 

0:23:37.3 WB: You specialize maybe outside of your corporate role, but within your coaching practice, you specialize in dealing with women and the challenges that women face in business.

 

0:23:50.2 MS: Yes.

 

0:23:51.5 WB: But probably even broader than just business, I’m guessing.

 

0:23:54.1 MS: Yes. And I bring that into work as well. I do do some coaching at work. There’s a leadership coaching class that I’ve volunteered to be a part of and I’m one of the coaches for that. But for my own coaching business, my focus is really women, women of color, meaning women who are black, brown, who are immigrants, who are from immigrant families, and really helping them with their communication skills in corporate America, in the workplace. This is based on my personal life and my observations. Women are conditioned to wait. We wait to be asked, we wait to be asked to dance, we wait to be asked for our hand in marriage. We hope we’re noticed and we wait. And that’s how I was raised.

 

0:24:52.1 MS: And I come from Port-au-Prince Haiti, Asian parents, and growing up, that’s how it was in my household. It’s a very patriarchal society. And that’s how I was raised, as a “girl,” I couldn’t demonstrate too much. I couldn’t ask for too much. I had to wait, wait to be asked. I would watch my mother who worked all day just like my stepfather did. And I would watch her come home, make dinner and serve him “his dinner first” before the children, before herself. And I always thought, “Wow, I’m not doing that. There’s no way.” And girls, as we grow up, we are fierce, we’re fighters. I used to get into fights with boys, I used to compete against boys. I used to… My thought was whatever they can do, I can do better type of thing.

 

0:25:44.4 WB: Yeah.

 

0:25:45.4 MS: In Haiti when I was little, we played marbles in the dirt outside, and I was so good at marbles, I beat all the boys. And then when we get to about 13 years old, something clicks in our brain and we go completely the opposite direction. We become more aware of how we look, we become more aware of who likes us and who doesn’t like us and wanting to be liked and not wanting to make waves and wanting to shrink into the background. And so we trade our super powers for what I call the female superpower, the smile and the wanting to get along and the yes, of course and never saying no. And growing up that way, my parents always taught us that school was the most important thing in your life. We weren’t allowed to date until we were done with college. Well, it didn’t quite go down that way, but that was the rule. And my way of dealing with school was if I keep my head down and I do my work and I do my best work, I’ll get As and my parents will be super happy with me, which is what happened. Then I hit corporate America.

 

0:27:00.5 MS: And that’s not how things work. And I applied the same rules, I kept my head down, worked really hard, gave it my best, did my best, got all the kudos and all the pats on the back, and yay Marie, good job. You are awesome, you’re amazing, got great reviews, got great feedback, but I wasn’t getting those promotions as quickly as some of my male peers. And I couldn’t understand why. Then I thought maybe I’m not working hard enough. And that’s what we do as women. We don’t ask, we just re-double our efforts and work even harder and push even harder because we think we’re doing something wrong without realizing that we are not asking for what we want, and that’s what I call the loss of your voice. Somewhere around 13 years old, I feel that me personally, as a girl, “I lost my voice.” I lost my ability to advocate for me, I lost my ability to ask for what I wanted because I was so busy playing nice and trying to get along. And one of the things, at least in the US, I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but there’s a phenomenon in the US called the angry black woman.

 

0:28:09.3 MS: And black women are seen very much as being very aggressive and very demanding, and so therefore, none of us want to be perceived that way, so we’re even quieter and we say less and we try not to offend and we try to be invisible. Meanwhile, we’re choking because we’re not speaking up. And for me, personally, this all culminated one day in my getting very, very, very angry in realizing that I’m not where I wanted to be. I’m not getting the promotions I thought I was going to get because I worked so hard, instead I had a reputation of getting stuff done, which is great, but is that going to get me up the corporate ladder? The answer is no, it’s not enough to just get stuff done, there’s got to be an element of self-advocacy also involved in getting stuff done. So no matter how professional you are, there comes a time where you are going to have to speak up. And the first time I spoke up was in a meeting, and I’ll never forget this, and I had a consultant that I had my eye on that I had already spoken to their manager and said, “Hey, John, is gonna come here and work with me and my client, and I’m at a meeting where we’re doing staffing,” and someone else speaks for the same consultant and said, yeah, John’s gonna come to my client, blah, blah, blah, and I’m looking at this manager and they are not saying anything, and I’m thinking, “But wait, we just had this conversation yesterday.”

 

0:29:42.5 MS: So I said, “No, actually John’s coming here with me.” And the other person said, “No, they’re not.” And I said, “Yeah, I’m afraid they are.” And so we went back and forth like this, and finally I said to the manager, you told me last night that this was fine, and this manager just got frustrated and said, “Well, I don’t know what to do now,” and that didn’t sit well with me. And I don’t have a poker face, so it showed all over my face. After that meeting, I had about three people come up to me and ask me if I was okay because I seemed really angry, and all I did was speak up. Right?

 

0:30:20.2 WB: Right.

 

0:30:20.8 MS: I was no different than the other person who was also speaking up, but because I spoke up, it quieted everything else. So the “anger” is what everyone saw, everyone stopped listening. So my words no longer had any meaning, but my “anger” is what everyone reacted to. And that left me in a bit of a conundrum. What do I do with that? What do you do with that? You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t. And so the next time something like that happened, I was super, super, super conscious of my tone and make sure that it was as non-threatening as possible, but when… At the end of the day, why should I have to do that? No one else has to do that. Why should I have to do that?

 

0:31:04.6 WB: Exactly.

 

0:31:05.5 MS: And this is where I think we as women have also conditioned others to not expect us to say very much, and so it’s a double-edged sword. We’re conditioned to be a certain way, and we go out into the world and we pass that on, and we teach others how to treat us. Don’t expect me to make waves, don’t expect me to say anything controversial. I’ll just go along with whatever you want. So that the day I no longer do that, it’s not a good day, it’s not a good day for me.

 

0:31:37.2 WB: Quite an amazing story, actually. I’m wondering, based on your personal experiences, then you’ve formed an approach that you use with your clients who have faced similar situations. So I’m wondering if you could explain what is it you do with your customer base when they come to you with this situation?

 

0:32:00.7 MS: When a client comes to me with that kind of a situation, I was asked that question just the other day, and a young woman… I was giving a speech at a women’s summit, and a young woman said to me, Well, when I speak up and I say what I’m thinking, what I really want to say to the person is, You’re such an idiot. I don’t say it, but it’s written all over my face. What do I do with my face? I thought that was a really, really interesting way of putting it, because that’s what I always say to myself. It’s like, watch your face, watch your face. Watch your face. And my advice is, number one, stick to the facts. Don’t climb the ladder. Make sure you’re crystal clear on what the data is. Number two, if there’s another person involved in the situation, ask them how they see the situation evolving. Number three, if you’re in a meeting and you have to disagree or you have to dissent, be crystal clear. Be very matter of fact about it. Most importantly, strip any emotion out of it. If that means you pause, if that means you take a deep breath, if that means you take a sip of your water, if that means you square off your shoulders, take the tension out of your shoulders.

 

0:33:18.6 MS: Be aware of the tension in your body. And relax your body so that your delivery comes out relaxed. And my advice to this young woman in particular, when your face is showing everything, look down, deliver your message, and then look down so that they don’t see the idiot look in your eyes when you’re trying to say to this person you’re an idiot, but I’m not gonna say it out loud. I always have a pad of paper and a pen with me, and I start to doodle. This is one way I release the tension in my body. I start to doodle before I respond. And then I’ll say, “Hey, I need to think about this for a minute, but you guys go ahead. I’ll come back to this issue, this question,” and I’ll give myself time. I’ll buy myself time. I don’t wanna say I buy myself time ’cause no one really owns your time, but you. I give myself time to get the tension out of my body so that my delivery is effective, so that the tension that anyone sees coming from me doesn’t become the narrative. Make sense?

 

0:34:16.7 WB: For sure. And I’m thinking about EQ skills while you’re talking there about we need to have this self-awareness to be able to self-regulate, to be able to then have the social skills required to deal with these situations. And so I very much like this whole storyline and connection because I think it’s so powerful and it brings together multiple theories around how we can approach these situations. But as you’ve said, you need to have that presence of mind to be able to step back and say, Hey, what’s going on here? How do I deal with it? And then come up with your method of doing whatever you need to do to deal with the situation.

 

0:35:03.3 MS: Exactly. And one of the ways that you do that, I’m a firm believer in stepping away, buying time. You don’t have to respond in the moment. My philosophy, and I’ve said this to somebody once before, as long as the situation is not over for you, it’s not over. So that means you can always go back and readdress. You can always go back and re-evaluate. You can always go back and ask more questions. And be very honest and say, You know what? That didn’t leave me feeling very good. And I want to make sure that I’m not misunderstanding. Can we talk about this one more time? Oftentimes people feel that, Hey, I wish I could have said this. I wish I could have said that. Go back and say it. It’s not too late. The conversation is not over until you say it’s over.

 

0:35:49.2 WB: Yep. And I see this plays out in conflict all the time. And part of the understanding of how to deal with conflict is if we don’t address these issues, they simmer under the surface and eventually they bubble up and they explode.

 

0:36:09.1 MS: Exactly.

 

0:36:09.3 WB: And there’s…

 

0:36:09.4 MS: Or they become steps to your ladder, right?

 

0:36:12.0 WB: Yes, exactly. [laughter] Exactly. It’s an extremely important discussion. And I have to say, it’s not only for women. There’s many of us of the male gender that also struggle with this situation. But though I can really feel empathetic or compassionate about the additional struggles that women face because as much as we don’t want to admit it, it’s still very much a male dominated corporate world.

 

0:36:42.1 MS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

 

0:36:42.6 WB: It has improved, but it’s a long way from being where it could be or should be. That’s very powerful. And so the service you’re providing is extremely important. I can imagine there’s many people listening today to our conversation that have probably experienced something similar. So if you were to give any sort of general advice, if they’re in this situation, what might they do apart from what we’ve already spoken about? How could they make a first step in dealing with this?

 

0:37:10.5 MS: I would say number one, take inventory of your talents. Know who you are, know what you’re good at. I’m good at managing projects. That’s not enough. There’s gotta be something more in there. And women especially because we have a hard time tooting our own horn. We see things as, but this is just parts of the course. This is just normal. It might be a superpower and you’re not letting yourself take credit for that superpower. So really think about what you do and what you do really, really well and what you excel at. What are you getting kudos for? If you were to go ask three people, and I want people to actually do that, go ask three people to describe you in three words each. Then you’ll see your hidden talents. Then you’ll see the things that to you may be commonplace.

 

0:38:04.0 MS: To you they may be normal, that to someone else is really admirable and is really exceptional. So find out what your exceptionals are. What are your superpowers, number one. Number two, take stock of how you demonstrate those superpowers in your work. Number three, let somebody in authority know, this is what I do really well. This is how I’ve demonstrated it. Number four, that position that you want, that promotion that you want, what are the qualifications? What are you already doing? Keep in mind, I heard this quote a long time ago, that women feel that they have to be a 100% qualified for a job. Men, 80% is good enough.

 

0:38:42.0 MS: So let’s go with that 80%. If you’re already doing 80% of the next role up above yours, then you should be playing that role, and that’s your justification for it. So know who you are, know your superpowers, tell someone, know where you want to be, know what the qualifications are. And compare those to what your accomplishments have been, and go back and tell someone. And without us telling someone, Hey, you know what, this is what I do very well, self-evaluations. Nobody likes to do those. I don’t like to do those, why? ‘Cause I don’t like talking about myself. I’m learning, I’m still learning. And it’s very important that you do those, it’s very important that you make sure that your leadership is reading that information, that it’s not just a box that’s being checked. So become your own best self-advocate and push for you, push for you. If you don’t push for you, no one else will.

 

0:39:39.1 WB: Yeah. Very, very true. And very powerful. Marie, I’m conscious of the time as usual, and I’m wondering, is there anything you’re working on at the moment or you’re writing a book or are you doing anything outside of this focus?

 

0:39:56.4 MS: So yes, I wrote a chapter for a book called Transforming Your Life, Volume Five. It’s available on Amazon, so please go out there and get it. I have a chapter in there that talks about communications, tells a little bit of my story and how I overcame a lot of these communication issues that I had that were culturally based, and also talks about the steps that you can take, that anyone can take to avoid the ladder of inference or using that ladder to your benefit, using it the best way possible. How to spot certain behaviors that may not be serving you in yourself and in your own personality, and you’ll spot those behaviours in others as well. How do you deal with those when you see those in other people?

 

0:40:43.9 WB: Where would people go to find you if they wanna connect or look at your work, where would they go?

 

0:40:51.2 MS: Oh, please reach out to me on LinkedIn. My website is under construction. It should be ready soon. And I’ll advertise it on LinkedIn. My LinkedIn is my name Marie Stuppard, S-T-U-P-P-A-R-D and let’s connect.

 

0:41:06.5 WB: Marie, it’s been a fantastic conversation. I love the topics that you are focused on, and the whole premise of using the ladder, almost as the metaphor, but it’s a very powerful model in itself, it’s such a wonderful approach to dealing with challenges that we all face, certainly. Thank you for sharing that. Thank you for being a guest on The ET Project, and I look forward to staying in contact and connected, and…

 

0:41:33.8 MS: Yeah, I would really like that, Wayne. Thank you so much for having me.

 

0:41:37.2 WB: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you, Marie.

 

[music]

 

0:41:42.4 Speaker 2: Thank you for joining us on the ET Project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, e-books, webinars and blogs at coaching4companies.com.

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