Over the past two years, leaders, managers and professionals of all types have experienced cataclysmic shifts in how they’re working, what they’re working on and the outcomes they’re striving for. And these shifts have impacted not only their careers, but their personal lives and relationships as well. We’ve all heard of The Great Resignation movement and within that movement, professionals are reevaluating exactly what they want and require of their professional lives and their employers, and also what they will no longer tolerate.

In coaching thousands of professionals across six continents, I’ve witnessed something alarming in the past years, which was this: No matter what country professionals were calling in from, or their age, education, socioeconomic status, job title, function, industry or financial situation, they were experiencing the exact same types of crushing challenges, disappointments and struggles, and these struggles were extremely difficult to overcome. These challenges are preventing professionals from thriving in their roles and organizations (and in their careers as a whole). And these challenges are hitting women even harder than men.

Several years ago, I decided to endeavor to identify what was at the heart of this widespread experience of professional disillusionment, disengagement, feelings of isolation and lack of belonging, burnout, stress and an overall inability to contribute at the highest level. I wanted to get to the bottom of why so many professionals globally, even high-level managers and leaders,  are simply not reaching their potential or experiencing the success, reward and impact they desperately long for and worked so hard for.

Overall, I sought to address two core questions:

1.) What is missing from the lives of professional women and men who come for coaching help and feel they can’t experience the joy, success, reward and impact they deserve and want?

2.) What are they gaining from the coaching experience that helps them generate a true breakthrough in how they are working?

The answer that emerged from the research was this. They are missing two essential ingredients to a successful life and career:

  • Bravery: The courage to look at – and face head on – what isn’t working in their lives and careers, and take full accountability to walk through the fear, confusion and insecurity to take empowered steps and make the changes necessary.
  • Power: The ability to act on one’s own behalf, to advocate effectively for themselves and for others; to become the true author of their lives, strengthening their ability to see themselves more bravely, and to speak, ask, connect, challenge, serve and heal from past challenges with greater confidence, strength and impact.

The 7 Most Damaging Power Gaps Emerge

What emerged from this research are what I call the seven most damaging power gaps, which are seven specific career-thwarting “power and confidence gaps” that a staggering 98% of professional women and 90% of men around the world face today. 75% of professional women are facing three or more gaps at the same time. And among younger professionals (ages 18-24), four of these gaps are even more prevalent.

The power gaps are apparent among people in corporate life as well as entrepreneurial life, and they are widespread among corporate professionals and leaders, consultants, private practitioners, startups and in other types of workplaces and arenas such as academia, government, legal, heath care and more.

When we experience these power gaps, we simply cannot achieve the success and reward we want and are working so hard to attain. And our ability to build healthy, beneficial work relationships and support, and collaborate with confidence in teams and groups, seriously is compromised. Ultimately, we’re unable to be of service in our work in the ways we long to.

Based on my research, these seven most damaging power gaps are:

  • Power Gap 1: Not Recognizing Your Special Talents, Abilities and Accomplishments (63% of respondents have this gap)
  • Power Gap 2: Communicating From Fear Not Strength (70% of respondents have this gap)
  • Power Gap 3: Reluctance to Ask for What You Deserve (77% of respondents have this gap)
  • Power Gap 4: Isolating From Influential Support (71% of respondents have this gap)
  • Power Gap 5: Acquiescing Instead of Saying “STOP!” to Mistreatment (48% of respondents have this gap)
  • Power Gap 6: Losing Sight of Your Thrilling Dream for Your Life and Career (76% of respondents have this gap)
  • Power Gap #7: Allowing The Past to Continue To Define You (62% of respondents have this gap)

I refer to these challenges as “power gaps” because they appear as just that – gaps that widen and stretch with time (like cracks in the road that expand over time) that lead to a loss of what we need most to succeed in life – energy, well-being, positivity, confidence, clarity, commitment, communication strength, connection and self-authority. The longer these gaps are left unaddressed, the bigger they become, and the more our confidence, control and self-esteem erode and diminish.

So how can professionals strengthen themselves today, reclaim control of their professional lives and contributions, and address what isn’t working? And how can leaders and team managers do the same, as well as support this process among their colleagues and teams? Stay tuned for the second article in this two-part series to find out.