Dalia Feldheim brings over two decades of experience as a senior executive to her new book Dare To Lead Like a Girl. You may not recognize Dalia walking down the street, but it’s likely you’ve seen her work. As a marketing executive for P&G she spearheaded groundbreaking advertising, including the #likeagirl campaign for Always, which garnered many accolades, and more importantly opened eyes and hearts and reclaimed “Like A Girl” as a phrase of empowerment.
In addition to writing the new book, she has recently taken the spotlight with a TEDx Talk, and created an online game to build happiness in the workplace.
With terms such as “The Great Resignation” and “Employment Mass Exodus” describing the recent state of the job market post-pandemic, workplace safety and satisfaction is certainly on the tip of many millennial tongues.
Discussing the importance of zero-tolerance workplace bullying policies, ways to level the playing field for true inclusion, and how to build strong leadership in a constantly evolving environment, “Dare to Lead Like a Girl: How to Survive and Thrive in the Corporate Jungle” by Dalia Feldheim checks all of the boxes.
We sat down with Dalia to get the inside scoop on her highly anticipated book!
What was the catalyst for Dare to Lead Like a Girl: How to Survive and Thrive in the Corporate Jungle?
I spent 21 years in the trenches of the corporate world. The first 17 I spent in a state of flow at Proctor & Gamble, with my career growing exponentially, then I moved to a new role. I thought it was my dream role, but after 2 months, a new boss came in. It took me one week to realize he was a bully but I was determined not to quit, and to do the best job possible. I stayed for 3 years! When I left, I reflected on the fact that in one company I was a rock star and delivered 200%, and in the other, the job with a bully for a boss, I was so busy defending myself that I delivered only 10% of what I was capable of. What a waste of human potential!
The moment that triggered me to write the book was running a “Find Your Spark” workshop at Singapore Management University. One student stood up and said, “Thank you professor! I now know what my purpose is – but I also know I need to be a corporate slave for a few years and after that I will do what I love!” I knew it didn’t have to be that way. That’s why I decided to dedicate my second career to working with companies and individuals to bring back purpose and joy to the workplace.
Why was it important for you to speak on the topic of workplace bullying?
When I left my job with a boss who was a bully, I went to graduate school. Research is me-search! I discovered that what happened to me is far too common in the business world today. In fact, 20% of employees experience office bullying. That’s 1 in 5 employees! This has a long term impact on their mental state. We are seeing the effects manifest in the great resignation. New research found that the #1 driver of the great resignation is a toxic environment. This is a major mental health crisis we are seeing today, and it must be stopped. My own experience made me realize that if it happened to me it can happen to anyone.
At P&G, I was head of the P&G women’s network and helped others deal with harassment. Yet, when it happened to me, I kept on thinking I could coach myself out of it. When I tried, I realized I was a frog in boiling water – you simply can’t coach someone that doesn’t want to be coached. When it comes to office bullying there really is only one strategy and that is zero tolerance. You must firmly stop it, walk out and complain! Companies need to take a simple and clear strategy for how they hire and promote. P&G used to rate employees on building the business and building the organization, if you weren’t top rated in both you couldn’t be promoted. A company that doesn’t have a zero tolerance strategy will suffer long term.
What does it mean to you to “LEAD LIKE A GIRL?”
Leading like a girl is a call for action to all leaders, women as well as men, to connect to their more feminine leadership traits that have proven to heal the mental health crisis of today. I summarize this in what I call the 5 P model. Leading like a girl is:
● Leading with passion and purpose – focusing on strengths
● Persevering – turning a no into a not yet. Learning to fail.
● Physical wellness – this is something women don’t do as well. We care for others and forget to care for ourselves. As leaders, we have an important role to maintain our own energy and help our teams maintain theirs.
● People – leading like a girl is understanding there is no ROI without people- the real ROI is about return on interactions, advocating power with people vs power over people.
● Positivity – finally it is proven that happier employees perform better. The role of the leader is to enhance this positive disposition, instilling hope, kindness and gratitude.
Why is it important for all genders to “LEAD LIKE A GIRL?”
In 2012, a study by the Harvard Business Review found women to be as effective as men in leadership traits. In 2019, they repeated this research and found that women scored higher than men in 17 out of 19 leadership traits. The working environment is constantly evolving, requiring more agility, creativity and teamwork. Women should stop thinking they need to behave like men in order to succeed and men should stop trying to fix women. Both women and men need to understand that the traits that have historically been considered “feminine” (which both men and women possess) are needed today more than ever. Intuition, creativity and empathy – these are strengths, essential for all leaders in the future of the workplace. The good news is that these skills can be learned.
How did writing this book affect you?
It has helped me remember what really matters, and define how I want to show up as a leader.
What would you say are the best approaches to “level the playing field” in the workplace?
To level the playing field, men and women alike must embrace the following concepts and put them into practice in the workplace:
The quality of our lives is the quality of our relationships. I am in Toronto now as I was invited to speak at a conference, but the real motivation was to come meet my friend, my soul mate from P&G whom I haven’t seen in 20 years.
The #1 driver of success at work is friendships and networks. Companies should invest in creating these, and should support women’s networks- safe spaces to strengthen female sisterhood.
Companies should invest in mentorship programs for men and women. Men tend to form these more inherently, women sometimes are shy to ask. Formal mentorship programs help women overcome this. We also know that women will put themselves forward for promotion when they have 100% of the skill set whereas men will do this with 70% of skills. A mentor role helps address this, ensuring women are offered, and push themselves for promotions more often.
Establish strength-based leadership. Research by MBA programs sought to understand why women who have similar scores at the beginning of the program end up performing worse than men by the end. Research findings show that this is driven by the very competitive environment of the MBA. Women suffer more than men from imposter syndrome, associating success externally and failure internally. A simple intervention turned this around. Having women do a strength assessment and assign tasks according to strengths.
Value flexibility and autonomy. Make room for work-from-home, proper maternity leave, maternity rooms etc.
Do you have anything on the horizon you would like to share with our readers?
I have been invited to speak at Davos CEO lab, working with leading CEO’s to create this important paradigm shift.
I have also recently founded a company – Uppiness, together with Tal Ben Shahar. Uppiness is an online game helping employees deal with their stressors at work using tools from the world of positive psychology. This serious play is a great tool for helping bring back purpose and joy to the workplace.
Any concluding remarks?
I called the book DARE to lead like a girl as this paradigm shift requires courage.
My friend and mentor Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, said, “Courage is the most misunderstood term. People take it to mean making decisions that others don’t make, or going ahead of the pack. But the word courage comes from the French word “cœur” which (as most Canadians know) means heart.” Courageous leaders lead from the heart!
How can our audience get in touch with you?
Purchase Dare to Lead Like A Girl. If you are aligned with this mission, feel free to watch and share my Ted talk.