Is your tendency to “people please” holding you back as a female leader?

Good leaders tend to have highly developed interpersonal skills and have a natural ability to build relationships and create harmony. However if these abilities are used in the extreme and you notice a pattern of behaviour such as; needing to maintain good relationships at all times (which means you are failing to speak up), holding back from delivering feedback in case others “take it personally” , trying to pre-empt what people need and finding challenge when they are not appreciative of your efforts on top of finding you are regularly anxious about gaining and holding on to the approval of others it can indicate that may have a “please people” working style (Hay, 2009) , which if overused can have a negative impact on you professionally as a  leader. If this style extends into your personal life you may find that you regularly get tired and emotional from constantly being in “helpful mode” and this sometimes leads to tensions in personal relationships.

If any of the above has resonated with you here are some tips to manage situations better:

Decipher what others want by ask people questions around what they want/need instead of trying to pre-empt/guess

For those of us who have a tendency to over please others very often our aim is to please others without asking, to work out what people would like and then provide it. We tend to draw on intuition and are very attuned to body language and other signals. However there are times when we may not get this exactly right , we hesitate to ask questions because we feel we should somehow know the answer, only to find out later that we've not quite provided in a way the other person wanted. Our attempts to read people's minds often result only in us feeling misunderstood when others do not like the results.

Having a conversation with someone about what they require and asking questions to decipher what they need eliminates these misunderstandings and damaged relationships.

Please yourself more often and ask others for what you want

Do you spend a lot of time ensuring others are aware of your agreement with them?  Do you present your own views as questions only, ever ready (both in your actions as well as your body language) to back off if others appear to not like what you are saying?  If this is true for you unfortunately you  may be seen as lacking assertiveness or lacking the ability to critically analyse situations and come to decisions.  When criticised by others, you may take it personally and get upset even when the comments are worded constructively. This may damage your credibility as a leader.

It is important that to set your own limits and priorities. To gain respect from others ask yourself : How much credibility will my "yes" have if they never hear me say "no"? Reflecting and understanding what is important to you and establishing boundaries are important to eliminate  miscommunications and gain credibility.

Work on your mindset around delivering constructive feedback

If you hold back from giving feedback for fear of upsetting others, explore your mindset around this; constructive feedback is about improving the other persons performance. The advantage of your working style is that you have an ability to engage with others in an empathic manner so your delivery of the feedback can still be delivered in a way that maintains relationships but is about helping the other person to improve.

Making these changes will work best if carefully thought out about how they are/aren’t serving us and perhaps should be made incrementally  as we need to remember that our employees,  colleagues and family may like us just the way we are and much of the recognition we receive may be attributed to these behaviours.  When we make changes to how we behave and are clearer about our boundaries we should be  aware that :we may miss some of the recognition we are used to, others may resist our new approaches so we need to plan to deal with these challenges.  We need to ensure that we get our new behaviours reinforced by ourselves and other people. We can do this by tweaking our approach for example instead of aiming to be seen as nice; aim to be recognised as  being assertive.

Understanding the other working styles, how your came to rely on them and and knowing what you already and possibly can draw from to be successful in your relationships with others as well as achieving balance will help you both in your professional and personal interactions. Insightful works offer a range of 1:1 coaching programmes . Our “Leadership breakthrough coaching programme” (  includes an opportunity for female leaders to explore their working styles and how they impact success as a people leader. Contact Angela for a 30 minute complimentary call to discuss how you can make a breakthrough as a leader

Ref:     Hay, J. (2009). Working it out at work: understanding attitudes and building relationships. Sherwood.