PrintLast month I had the honor to facilitate a workshop at the Robert Toigo Foundation Groundbreakers Women in Leadership conference. What an inspiring day of female leaders sharing their wisdom and insights.

The topic that I chose to address was how women manage the age-old challenge of, on the one hand, being perceived as aggressive if they appear too confident, and indecisive if they are too collaborative. The session title became Confident AND Collaborative Communication, in part because of the alliteration, but in the end…it seemed to work.

The thesis that I explored was that communication is a form of energy, and that our job as leaders is to find the right balance of confident and collaborative energy so as to both have and share our unique perspective with confidence, while maintaining the ability to engage others through collaboration.  Both forms of energy are managed through “how” we communicate, or the delivery, as well the “what” we deliver, in terms of content and word choice.

For more information on energy management and it’s relationship to communication check out the work of Ginny Whitelaw, listed among the expert resources on

Despite the fact that this is an age-old challenge, the topics appears to have legs for women. No fewer than four other conference speakers raised an aspect of my thesis in their remarks.  Furthermore, I know the topic still has legs for women because based upon the session description alone it was oversubscribed by the attendees at the conference and was standing room only.  So there is still work to be done.

Since energy is a manifestation of how we feel, think, and behave…it is a complicated matter.  My session at this conference focused mostly on the behaviors with some actionable tips that women could put in practice today.  The real work…the deep work…is continuing to explore why women feel and think in ways that result in communication behaviors that can be self-sabotaging.

What have you experienced or observed on this topic?