Is neglecting our feminine energy reducing our potential in the masculine workplace?

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What is feminine energy?

Feminine energy is a feeling energy, it’s about receiving, connecting, nurturing and being. Contrast these concepts with the masculine, giving, doing, strategising and planning.

To be clear - I believe we all have both energies, but I believe many professional women are neglecting and under utilising our power by keeping these feminine qualities out of the traditional workplace. Men who also feel as though they are ‘out of balance’ one way or another, may experience this too.

How are we neglecting this energy?

Lack of feminine energy can often manifest itself through over-giving (saying ‘yes’ to everything asked of you even when it compromises your needs), adrenalised behaviour (piling on the caffeine, ‘pushing through’ to the deadline) and moving ahead with projects before evaluating whether they are aligned.

More practically, we have created habits which don’t allow these important aspects of ourselves to be expressed. Of course, because women in the traditional ‘corporate’ workplace are generally male dominated following centuries of women being at home and only in the last century taking on more types of roles. The setup in an open plan office doesn’t necessarily allow us an easy way to take time and space to listen to the voice within, especially if we aren’t practiced. ‘Feelings’ aren’t generally encouraged as valid expression, emotions are rarely welcomed and I’ve never heard anyone ask me what my intuition is saying about a client (aside from through coaching).  

Yet I have experienced less stress, more flow and ease since I have begun to lean into my feminine energy. I have a strong intuitive sense and I also know how to get shit done, deliver ahead of time and manage clients. Think how we could transform how we work if we began to trust that part within us which tells us even more, and tapped into our feelings about projects or clients and spoke up when it felt ‘off’.

How can we use this energy?

The optimum combination of these approaches is to create a balance, a ‘dance’ - between the energies within us. Typically women feel more at home in their feminine energy and then stepping into their masculine, and men vice versa. Even though many women (including myself) have generally tried to ‘match’ men within the workplace (competing, being assertive, logical etc) we have also seen an increase on a softer, more collaborative, creative approach and so much the better.

For those women who aren’t practiced in leaning into how they feel and have no idea how this might work in an meeting with a client, let me give you an example.  

I was recently swapped in for a meeting, playing catch up on a project that wasn’t clear and was on a deadline. I was concentrating hard, focused on processing and evaluating the information as quickly as possibly so I could begin to help manage and direct it. This needed my more ‘masculine’ energy to plan and create a logical, structured form to what were we discussing. I could see my (male) client was frustrated with the fact that I had been drafted in to take over from someone else, and seemed a little dubious (whether that was because I was young, a woman or something else (perhaps slower than he would like!), I don’t know).

Later we were playing around with some ideas and one of them struck me. ‘That feels good’ I said, almost forgetting I was in a meeting. My client looked at me and I realised I’d veered into territory with my language - because I coach female leaders, this happens!-  with a side of me he hadn’t seen. There was a moment where I wondered if I was going to tell me I was weird, but instead he just looked thoughtful and then asked me back to join the meeting the next week (from which arose additional fee for us) and agreed to my proposed structure. Was it because of that moment? Of course, I’ll never know for sure, but that moment the energy in the room had shifted and he came on board.  

So how can we bring more feminine energy into the workplace to fulfill our potential?

By listening to our intuitive nudges:

When we stay in a situation, career, relationship or lifestyle that isn’t aligned with our deepest selves, it will show up in one way or another. I quieted my intuition for for years because I was afraid to speak up in the workplace; I wanted to be in a career that I loved, but I’d learnt that most people hated work, you just had to get on with it. I didn’t trust my intuition because I believed other people knew better than me - and I cared what they thought. I felt like I hadn’t ‘done enough’ to merit my voice to be heard, and I ignored my intuitive nudges as ‘they couldn’t be right’ - even after I saw time and again that, had I said something, would have avoided various problems and issues.

Once I started listening to myself (I changed career and began to trust myself again), the intuitive nudges were stronger. Using this, combined with my attuned people skills, I now use my intuition to communicate to the the team I work with to discern which clients will be challenging and which will be easier to work with. I don’t always get it right, but this is a problem with my ignoring the nudge (not listening to myself) rather than my intuition being ‘off’. It can seem scary and almost risky when your intuition seems to go against your logical reasoning (they are volume client for example) but I’ve learned to trust it - usually showing up in the form of body wisdom rather than thoughts in the mind.  

By addressing who we’re being, rather than what we’re doing:

The feminine energy bids us to examine ourselves: ‘Who am I being?’ rather than ‘What do I need to do?’ It demands imagination and embodiment of the person we want to be in a situation rather than the actions we’re taking. When we start from THAT place, the necessary action naturally flows or is inspired. When I start a project from a place once I’ve determined ‘who I’m being’ and act from there, it’s been better quality, more easily delivered and well received.  

A previous client who needed marketing support asked me to design a brochure. It was a straightforward brief but I was a bit stumped. I immediately switched my mindset from ‘Oh shit I’m out of ideas’ to ‘Show up as the perfect marketing support’ and as I shifted my ‘being’, an idea popped into my head. Clarity gives way to inspired action - and once action is inspired, the way forward is obvious.

By noticing how we’re feeling

Forcing ourselves into a rigid structure does not ‘feel’ good and that energy will be felt by your customers, colleagues and contacts. I had a tendency to ‘push through’ to achieve the goal, even though something is ‘off’ or ‘hurting’. It usually turns out that I wasn’t speaking up in stating the obvious, challenging an opinion accepted by the rest and I see the consequences play out. Whilst we DO need to spot resistance for what it is, a ‘forcing’ energy will reverberate around you and create tension. The feminine energy is our ability distinguish between what feels good and what doesn’t feel good - use the words ‘right’ or ‘aligned’ if they sit better. And when it doesn’t feel good, it’s our cue to say ‘no’ or ask ourselves what adjustment needs to be made. Saying no used to terrify me, all sorts of fears about abandonment, not being liked, losing clients etc came up. Yet as Gretchen Rubin teaches: successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.

That doesn’t mean ‘no’ doesn’t have consequences: for certain relationships the key to creating a strong boundary is usually in the framework and delivery. For example, if it’s to a superior, it might be wiser to pose a question to them, something like: ‘I’m not able to deliver a high quality piece of work with the other tasks you’ve given me - which should I prioritise?’ when it comes to being given work. By doing so you are signalling what is and what is not acceptable to you and allows others to feel more confident in knowing who you are and what you are and are not available for.

By showing emotion:

The feminine energy is emotional. I was working with a client on a submission deadline and the client was extremely unstructured, partly due to fast growth over a short period of time.

We were collaborating and I was waiting for information from the client to be able to put together the submission, but there was constant delay and broken promises, with the contract I was working with being very slow in sending me even the simplest of documents. Having tried every approach I could think of, including appealing to the MD, the pressure mounting for the deadline, my stress levels were increasing. I was incredulous that they seemed to be doing themselves such a disservice and my ability to deliver was put into serious jeopardy, which pushes me out of integrity.  In one (memorable) unplanned conference call, I raised my voice, which cracked with emotion and it had an immediate effect. I communicated how much I cared about the project.

After that came a rush of information and I realised how I’d neglected to share my values and aims with all the team upfront to get the right buy-in. I don’t suggest tears every week in the office as we also value showing up as professional, however for selective, appropriate moments, dropping our guard and showing who we really are - allowing each other to see our vulnerability - in anger, sadness, joy or happiness can communicate far more powerfully than we could ever imagine. Incidentally, I also received a phone call and apology from the MD, taking responsibility for the lack of progress, mismanaged communication and handling of the situation from the company’s end.

By allowing ourselves to receive

Life and business flows when we create a natural flow giving and receiving (money, love, help). When we can’t stop ‘doing’, it’s time to receive. I remember the first time I (unconsciously) put this into practice. I used to focus on giving 110% as standard. I tried and tried and thought if I kept going, I would somehow ‘win’. When I finally burnt out I took some time off work and unbeknown to me the company had one of the biggest bids they’d ever taken on.

I went back to work, I didn’t stop trying my best, but I eased off the rocket power and full steam for a while. About a month later I received a bonus payment. I was amazed. Of course, there were many factors involved but by honouring myself more and not killing myself over every piece of work, I realised that I was undervaluing myself and forgetting the value we create through selection and limitation and focused excellent work we can do when we’re healthy and rested.

Receiving allows flow. We often think we have to do everything ourselves, but perhaps it’s because we don’t ask for help, or are too quick to offer to do something without giving anyone else to pitch in with an idea, or an offer to help. This can come from insecurity or disorganisation which can have deep roots in self-worth and all sorts of hidden beliefs which don’t serve us. Ultimately, if we’re not able to receive, we do ourselves and those around us a huge disservice, not to mention customers or clients, as we can ONLY show up with less than our best.

Where can we use our feminine energy?

The above approaches might not always be received well. They will most likely take practice on our part and they will have an effect. After all, we’re disrupting norms, which can cause discomfort. However, for powerful men and women who lead teams, how radical would it be to use ALL of our selves, not just parts? What new ways of working, collaborating and creating could that develop?

So over to you - how do you feel like you could use your feminine energy to better serve the workplace? And how could you put one of these ideas into practice - in your life or business?

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