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Unleash your inner badass
September 20, 2018

What that means for women in today’s workplaces

A Q/A on badass-ness

It’s a term that might feel a little rough around the edges and yet, over the last few years, it’s been used to refer to women who show up, speak up, fight for their beliefs and get things done.

That term – badass.

Makenzie Davies and Kelsey Dixon, co-founders of the digital marketing agency davies + dixon, went so far as to include it on the front page of their website: “Be badass. We dare you.”

The women met while working in the Fortune 500 beauty industry of New York City in 2010 and joined forces to launch their Seattle-based agency with two goals in mind: 1. To ensure brands have tailor-made solutions to foster worthy customer experiences. 2. To create a company where people WANT to work that focuses on people first, helping everyone reach their goals.

Ever since, davies + dixon have been bringing their badass approach to their firm and their personal lives. We sat down with them to get a sense of what it means for women to embrace the term and how doing so can help bridge the confidence gap:

Describe what it means for someone to be “badass.” Specifically, what does it mean for a woman to be badass in the workplace?

Makenzie: In our eyes, it’s someone who does their job well and strives to bring more to the table every day. It’s someone who isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo and push the bold ideas, while encouraging their co-workers to do the same. They’re fighting to create their reality and are willing to put in the work, risks and commitments to do so.

Kelsey: It means someone that likes to do things differently and against the grain. These people like to do things that are hard, or that don’t necessarily have a pre-written rule book. Badasses forge their own path.

Why are you willing to use this colorful term at davies + dixon?

Makenzie: Behind every client we work with is a group of humans looking to change their world, whether for themselves, the company they work for or their customers. They strive to be the best in their industry by creating a strong sense of community and bringing value to their consumers. We are a world that innovates and continues to push for change to create a better reality. We help them become that badass level they are working toward. Some are there and looking to push boundaries while others are starting their badass journey.

Kelsey: Because the word “bold” is overused and doesn’t properly describe what we’re here to do. Yes, we provide progressive and modern solutions, but the result is badass. It’s the best way to describe how we look at solutions and the results we want our clients to see. On top of that, since being badass means forging your own path, it resonates with us and how we do business together. We like to look at things from a different perspective to flex our creative muscles and come up with marketing strategies, tactics and solutions that enable our clients to elevate. It starts with a badass mentality to be daring enough to try something different.

Where do you turn for inspiration about business bravery?

Makenzie: Mentors, ourselves, our values and our team. Honestly, our entire network – the network that has encouraged us to take the crazy risks and to start on this entrepreneurial journey. They continue to inspire and challenge us moving forward.

Kelsey: Every Monday, we start out our day with what we call “Growth Topic” during which we initiate conversation around things going on in the world, other industries, case studies within marketing, etc. There is so much inspiration out there, and we want to provide a platform and time to be able to openly discuss how these things can motivate us to be better and apply to the work we do with our clients everyday. We recently launched TTLL, TedTalk Lunch & Learns, where d + d hosts lunch and we watch a Ted Talk and discuss. We also find inspiration for badassery via things outside of work, in fact, we encourage it by setting up policies within the workplace to encourage learning, growth and opportunity in our teams’ personal lives. We have a work remote policy where we highly encourage any full-time staff to work remotely for a month.

What tips do you have for women who are ready to unleash their inner badass?

Makenzie: Write out your dreams. Review them weekly and set small, achievable goals to that will help you reach those bigger dreams and milestones. Ask yourself how you’re creating a reality around achieving them throughout the process.

Also, learn how to set a real goal. Many of us really don’t know how to set an attainable and buildable goal. We go straight for the fail in round one by setting a goal that’s out of our reach and are rarely able to achieve it, thus causing a delay in creating real movement toward that goal because the bar was set poorly.

Finally, be willing to be vulnerable. You aren’t meant to know everything and it’s very much OK not to. BUT, it is your responsibility to push yourself to grow. In order to advance yourself in life, you have to be aware that others know more than you and you must find the courage to ask for help in developing your personal growth. I struggled here and should have been less afraid early in my career to ask more questions rather than make assumptions.

Kelsey: Get mentors who’ve done it or something similar, or join communities with people that will hold you accountable. Ask questions and run things by them as you move along and progress in your goals. Talk to them often, but also be sure to update them with how their advice is working in your progress.

What do you think the role of impulsivity is for women in the workplace, and if we agree that it’s more accepted in men, how can women leverage it as part of their badass-ness?

Makenzie: Don’t overcommit. Stay the course. From my experience, women are very impulsive to help, but usually overhelp. We’re wired to be supportive and helpful, but the problem with that natural moment of wanting to assist is that we end up getting in over our head in too much work or work that’s not related to our goals (at work or personally) and end up off-kilter. Then, we’re backtracking to get back on our original mission.

I believe women can leverage their badass-ness in two ways here. 1. Learn to say “no” if it’s not something that fits your goals. 2. If you say “yes”, know your boundaries on how far you’ll let a project go before moving on and taking your time elsewhere. This is hard to do, but with clear expectations set up front (for example: “I can review what you have and offer advice but I don’t have time to help redevelop the outline”), staying within your boundaries is possible.

Kelsey: Most things in the workplace are more accepted in men, so we can start there. For women specifically, it may be more challenging to feel empowered to be impulsive because we can get into a habit of overthinking. We have more to risk because we have a further way to go to reach success, so every setback is a big one. Impulsiveness is a risk because it involves trusting yourself and your instinct coupled with past experience. Part of being badass is confidence. So it’s about having the confidence to take a risk, be wrong and trust yourself.

Research shows that in meetings, women are interrupted (by both genders) more than men; that men speak significantly more than women do (one study found they account for 75 percent of conversation); that even when women speak less they are perceived to have spoken more; and that male execs who talk more than their peers are viewed to be more competent, while female execs are viewed as less competent. How can women do a better job of being heard in meetings?

Makenzie: Question everything. What I mean by that isn’t to quite literally question every thought or idea from the team, but to always be considering innovating. Is there a better way to do something? Is your team being complacent? Push the envelope and encourage the discussion around pivoting your course to create a more innovative way of thinking and performance in your team. Be that disruptor and you’ll be heard and taken seriously more often than not.

Kelsey: I love the idea of educating our allies and men in the workforce. Having men, who are generally more heard in meetings, call on and empower women in meetings to elevate their voices is brilliant. It’s recognizing the privilege that a man holds in a similar position and leveraging that to ensure that diverse perspectives and opinions are shared in a setting where all can benefit from them. I also think there’s power in few words. Often, I feel like in order to be heard I have to talk a lot. But it can be more powerful to listen first and share in selective scenarios to garner the most impact. People start to learn and understand that when you speak, you have something really impactful to say and contribute.

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Marialane Schultz

Marialane Schultz is the founder of IOCI. She helps individuals and organizations perform at their best, do meaningful work and be impactful through customized coaching and consulting engagements.

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