Red Light Green Framework

Reagan’s Rules on Being an Ally: Red-Yellow-Green Framework  

Jan 15, 2024

“I want to be an advocate for women getting promoted. Reagan, tell me how.” 🙋‍♂️  

This is the type of conversation I have had with allies throughout my career.  
So, when we were conducting a nationwide research project aimed at understanding why women are not getting promoted into senior leadership, we asked the executive participants, both men and women, what they were doing to help women push forward into senior roles. 
We heard a myriad of tactics, including the one included in this post – red, yellow, green framework. (Check out the video or keep reading below)  
Women have a societally driven fear of not appearing competent. It drives what I call a “Competence Complex” = We have to know everything, about everything, or we can’t be confident about anything.  
This complex shows up in several ways including not wanting to ask others at work for help. After all, if we knew it all (like we are supposed to) then we SHOULDN’T need help. AND, if I do ask for help, my colleagues will just be thinking, “Who let her in here? She can’t even solve her own problems.”  
One leader we interviewed said he observed this phenomenon when he asked for status updates on projects. He found that a lot of employees (especially women) would always tell him, “Everything is fine!”
Finally, after yet another last-minute escalation, when his employee was completely drowning a project, he changed the way he asked the question.  

He asked for a project signal:   

  • Red – project is stopped 
  • Yellow – there are possible risks  
  • Green – full steam ahead 

This moved the focus of the conversation from the person to the problem. As a result, women employees were much more likely to outline risks and telegraph an issue earlier. His response: “What can we do to turn the project Green?”   
So, ask yourself:  

  • As an ally for women, what tactics have you used to fight the “Competence Complex?”  
  • How might you use the stoplight feedback approach in your role? 
    Reach out to me if you need ideas.   

Reagan’s Rule: Being an ally can be as simple as changing the focus of a question from how I can help you to how we can partner on the problem.  

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