A few years into my first CEO job, I was given a great piece of advice by a man I met at a leadership workshop. “Ask for it by name,” he said.
It’s a lesson I’m still trying to learn and why I’m psyched to be part of She Negotiates’ first ever Leadership Retreat in Santa Barbara June 30. I’m going to be speaking, yes, but believe me, I plan on participating to sharpen my own skills.
While researching No Excuses, I found that asking for what we want and deserve by name, and then negotiating to get it, is a skill women tend not to be taught early in life. Indeed, we’re often taught not to ask. So when it comes to negotiating our salaries and promotions, each of us loses on average $500,000 over our lifetimes. That’s a nice chunk of change. It could buy a dream house, pay for college for several children, or fund a tidy retirement nest egg.
And it’s why Lisa Gates is my “She’s Doing It” woman this week. A coach, consultant, and partner in She Negotiates, she’s teaching women how to ask for it by name effectively. (I profiled her business partner, Victoria Pynchon HERE)
Designed for an intimate group of women executives, entrepreneurs, and other leaders to go deep into their relationships with power, hone their negotiating skills, and leave with a personal strategic plan, this retreat promises to be different from any other leadership conference you’ve ever attended.
I caught up with Lisa as she was busily putting the final details on the agenda and asked her a few questions.
GF: Aside from your bio on She Negotiates, I don’t know much about you. Tell me about your personal background.
LG: I’m a California girl, born in Laguna Beach. I studied journalism at Humboldt State University. I decided to audition for a play and that choice turned my education plans upside down. I enrolled at UC Santa Barbara and received my BFA in theatre in 1987.
At that point I knew two things: I wanted to act as much as I wanted to write, and I needed a job. I was in an improv group barely making scratch, so my soon-to-be husband and I moved to LA where I took a temp job at the Children’s Home Society of California and worked for the director of public affairs and public education, Charlotte De Armond. That relationship changed my life, and she was a mentor to me until she died in 2007.
Because of her, I learned how to write, organize a press conference, put together special events, and develop training materials. I continued to work in advertising or public relations, including LA firms Porter Novelli and Laufer Associates. I developed a habit of turning my employment into contract work so I’d have the freedom to do theatre and be available for auditions. My skill in asking for what I wanted (flexwork!) was driven by a must-have-it desire for creative and theatrical expression.
Fast forward many plays, jobs, years and moves–including the eight year hiatus to find myself and have a child–and we landed back in Santa Barbara. I continued my learning journey into personal development and leadership, and after being laid off from my job as enrollment director in a private school, I decided to get trained and certified as a life and leadership coach. It was a crazy patchwork of jobs and skills and passions that framed my focus on balance, productivity and leadership.
GF: What’s the source of your passion for what you’re doing now as a coach and co-founder of SheNegotiates?
LG: I was unhinged by anything underpinned by the phrase, “that’s just the way it is.” From arguing the school board for the right for girls to wear pants in high school (1973) to challenging male employees and executives who had wandering hands or gave disproportionate promotions to male team members, I developed the skill of forthrightness; naming the elephant in the living room and working for a change in culture. Like my mother, I was humorous and direct and driven by my values of fairness and freedom. Those values form the core of She Negotiates.
GF: How and why did you form SheNegotiates? What do you want to accomplish with it?
LG: In my first few years working as a coach with women entrepreneurs and executives, I began paying attention to the national conversation around work-life issues, gender bias and pay equity. I saw a pattern: women were great at designing strategic plans, setting goals and priorities, but they were consistently trapped by their inability to ask–for anything from a raise, help with children and housework, you name it.
In the meantime, Victoria and I were somehow connected through our blogs and we shared a passion for writing and literature. We became fast friends. I asked her to teach a course in negotiation with me. We ran our first 4-week virtual course up the flagpole in April 2010. We hit a chord so deep we knew we had the making of a new business. The combination of coaching and negotiation skill building in a safe, supportive environment that allows women to go deep is what makes the training so transformative. Women make huge gains both personally and professionally and it’s such a joy to witness.
We see our mission as the last leg of the women’s movement: parity.
GF: What’s one unique thing women attending the retreat will get?
LG: What women will get from the She Negotiates Leadership Retreat is a strategic plan for eliminating their personal wage and leadership gaps and a follow-up group mastermind structure for making it so.
GF: If any of the power tools in No Excuses is particularly useful to you, which and how?
LG: I LOVE this question. #2 “Define Your Own Terms first, before somebody else does.”
What it says to me is that we have to teach people how we want to be treated. What we say yes and no to in work and life reflects not only what we value most (that is, if we’re awake enough to recognize we have choice), but also how we express our power and leadership.
Defining our own terms requires that we be powerfully awake and aware and willing to speak up for the things that matter personally, professionally, politically. This tool is where I believe women have the most work to do. Our attention is so diffuse and often so other-directed that we forget ourselves in the process. It’s not easy work. It takes courage.
If you act fast, you might still be able to attend She Negotiates Leadership Retreat June 30 in Santa Barbara CA by registering HERE.