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How women can own their brass (ovaries)

When I was a kid playing with Barbie dolls, I wasn’t interested in planning dates for Barbie and Ken. In my world, Barbie told Ken what to do, and he stayed home while she went to work at the towering office building with her name on it.

I’ve always known I was different. Different from the boys and the other girls.

I’ve always brought my opinions to the table. I’ve always asked lots of questions, driving my parents — and now my husband and kids — nuts. Why do I ask so many questions? To find out why, to find out why not, to find out what else and what if.

I didn’t just ask questions, I took action. When I was bullied, I befriended the bully. When the guys ran for class president and the girls for secretary, I ran for president, too. When I needed money, I started working at age 11. My senior English teacher senior year used me as an example of how not to write. But years later and seven books in, I’m still writing. No means I haven’t asked you the right question yet.

I have always had and owned my brass ovaries but didn’t know what to call it before I wrote the book on it. I’m not kidding.

Before #METOO

Before Hillary ran, before the #MeToo movement. I wrote a book titled, “Brass Ovaries Own Yours: Master the Mindset, Change the Game.” As the book unfolded, I saw so many similarities I had with other successful women. Everyone I interviewed brought up the same types of stories about losses, struggles, strengths and wins.

I discovered that I was not alone in this owning department, and, through the book, I wanted to help others own theirs with pride, too. Men and women own their “brass” in different ways. But our push, drive and needs still come from our brains, hearts and backbones – just differently.

WHY

Everyone is an individual, yet we are the same in our fears and insecurities. I have mine, too, but my strengths and life lessons keep me moving forward. My “whys,” keeps me focused, relentless and driven.

My three kids are my main “whys.” I want them to know that anything is possible. I want them to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. I am the sole provider in my family because my husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 14 years ago. My mother lives with us, too. There is a lot to balance, and I have to stay focused.

Another “why” is that I love helping others see their potential. I love helping business owners, executives and employees find their best lives. I get pumped up when the phone rings, and I get to help people solve problems.

Your “whys” will be different from mine. Once you find your own motivators, never let go. Make them a part of your daily self-talk.

Am I perfect? No. Do I know it all? No. For example, because I am so opinionated and outspoken, it is challenging for me to keep my thoughts to myself while others are speaking. So I’ve learned to take notes during private sessions and meetings. This allows me to write what I’ve heard and listen for clarity rather than respond. I often repeat back what I’ve heard before offering a solution or idea. This allows others to speak and keeps me from speaking too quickly without the full picture.

I used to try to be a different person at home than I was at work. I thought I was supposed to be in charge at work, but submissive and agreeable at home. I sought harmony by shutting down and being quiet. I saw my mother do that with my father while I was growing up and vowed never to do that, and when I realized I was doing the same thing, I hated myself for it. I finally stopped because I didn’t want my kids to see an inauthentic person. They read my business writing and follow my business trends, and I have to be myself all the time.

HISTORICALLY

Historically women were brought up to please others, and that is where we, as women, get confused. The same is true for men who have gotten confused when they have bought into the stereotype that they must be the provider, the bread winner. There is freedom in letting go of stereotypes that no longer serve us.

I have always been ahead of the change and many times driving it. Often I was the only woman at the executive table in the owner meetings. But there is room for more women! There is no such thing as scarcity in my book.

Some women may fear that earning their brass also means getting labeled the “B-word.” Just to be clear, I am not a bitch. I do carry a heavy bat that only swings for home runs and accountability. I am direct, but I am warm.

When I first started as the EVP with a hotel franchise company, my reputation had followed me. It wasn’t long before the owner introduced me to an investor in my office. He walked in, looked around and I had to ask, “What are you looking for?” He said, “Your ball bat – I heard you carried one.” I looked at the owner and they both laughed. Later he explained he had described me as firm but fair (but a little more directly using a baseball bat as his metaphor). I was upset and honored at the same time.

I admit living with rose-colored glasses. I am an optimistically driven introvert with strong opinions. I take quick action and risks, pivot as necessary, cry when necessary, laugh as often as possible and share all I have experienced with the sole purpose of helping other grow.

My optimism helps me as a problem solver. A colleague called to tell me her boss was accused of sexual harassment. She was stunned, hurt, confused and not sure how to a handle the news. We broke it down through lots of questions and I got her to remove herself from the situation and look into the future and think about her next steps. In this case, it was to calm down, get the facts straight, not to assume and then take action. When you focus on optimistic outcomes, you come up with solutions.

8 LEARNINGS & TIPS

Here’s some of what I have learned and hope sharing them brings the brass out in you, too. Don’t get confused, though, brass doesn’t mean being rude, being unaware, being selfish — it’s being bold, being you, caring, sharing and living.

  1. Self-confidence is an attitude, and our roads to confidence begin as dirt roads that we need to clear from rocks and holes, then pave and finally landscape for a beautiful drive. My confidence has been built through my experience of putting myself out there. I am an introvert, so learning to get comfortable with networking was and still can be hard, but I remind myself why I am attending an event (meeting a prospect, furthering a strategic connections, supporting a colleague). I ask myself what will happen if I don’t go vs. if I do go. From there my confidence and purpose rises through my intention clarity.

2. Perception is a choice that everyone makes. Rose-colored glasses or not, your mind has to be straight to keep your heart in check and your backbone straight. Where are you now? Where do you need to go? How can you get there? Who should you involve? What other resources do you need? What might get in your way? What will you do if it does? What should you stop, start and continue doing?

3. Perfection, stop, just stop. Do your best, be your best and realize that none of us is perfect. Focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses. Don’t try to do and be everything to everyone. Seeking to be perfect is a waste of time. You will always find areas that need improvement; when you stop improving, you stop growing and die.

4. Balance is in the eye of the beholder. Do not judge what balance is for others; focus on what balance is for you. I have always said “BS” to those that say they can’t have it all. Sure you can, once you find your own personal balance. Keep in mind, my balance is different from my neighbors’ and this is okay.

I work when I want to – I work a lot. But it doesn’t feel like work because it’s by   choice. I put boundaries around special things with my kids. Personal non-negotiables are in my calendar in red. The cost of my services are non-negotiable – just as you don’t negotiate with the checkout person at Walmart. I know my value. I can’t pay college tuition for two kids, keep a roof over the family, food on the table and clothes on our backs if I don’t know my worth.

5. Help — Don’t be too proud to ask for it. As independent as I am, this is a continual struggle, but I have learned to ask others for help both personally and professionally, and the more I let go, the better my business and home life have become. I sometimes hire housekeepers, and I hire others to do my accounting, administrative tasks, some marketing and research.

6. Be authentic. Bottom line — be you, the best you. Don’t hide behind anyone or anything. Fear can freeze you or thrust you forward. Choose forward. I do!

7. Circle of Influence —Don’t be the smartest one at the table! If you think you are, make sure you are sharing your knowledge to lift others around you – choose mentorship, not arrogance. Strive to surround yourself with others that keep you motivated and move you towards your desired realm. Your circle should be honest and transparent with you, too. You don’t want disciples, but rather equals, to keep you motivated. Even the most motivated need others to push them to greater heights. One of my circles is an elite group of women business owners called Women Who Wow.

8. Boundaries — Set them, keep them, make sure others know them too. Your worth is set by your boundaries. Your balance is found through your boundaries. I don’t answer the business hotline after 6, and rarely meet with clients on the weekend.

Just because you own a bag of seed corn doesn’t mean they will ever grow if you never plant them. Likewise, you already have brass ovaries. It’s time you start owning them.

I am a proud wife of 30+ years; mother of three (I love them so much!); author of seven books, including,Brass Ovaries Own Yours: Master the Mindset, Change the Game”; and the kickass business owner of Premier Rapport, Inc. My business consulting firm removes stress from workplace culture and helps executives strategize, execute and create returns for their employees, stakeholders and themselves. 

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Written by Shelley Smith

Shelley D. Smith is a best-selling author, consultant, and Founder & CEO of Premier Rapport consulting firm. Her experience over the past 35+ years has earned her a reputation as the Creator of the Culture Inquiry in businesses all along the east coast, and beyond. Her culture approach includes four phases: inquiry, analysis, creation, and curation.

A highly-sought after speaker and business culture inquiry consultant, Shelley asks tough questions to hone in on pain points and areas of opportunity for companies to grow. The most recent of her five published books, titled How to Avoid Culture Big Fat Failures (BFF), has rattled and disrupted corporate America in a highly effective manner. Numerous C-suite executives have tapped Shelley for her sharp insight and professional recommendations to shape the culture they’ve envisioned, increase profitability, decrease employee turnover, and retain top talent.

Companies of all sizes are taking note of Shelley’s ability to put out fires as well as cultivate a company culture which is more fire-resistant moving forward. The Premier Rapport consulting firm delivers authentic, focused, actionable, and measurable results in a timely fashion, with an emphasis on long-term solutions.

Find Shelley’s advice and wisdom in various publications, podcasts, DisruptHR events, SHRM events, and culture conferences, as well as on her website, PremierRapport.com.

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