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3 Lessons Your Team Can Learn from the Women’s Suffrage Movement

The best way to overcome obstacles is through unification and perseverance.

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BY Beth Fisher-Yoshida - 22 Aug 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

On August 26, we will celebrate the 98th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the women's right to vote. This milestone came about after many decades of women fighting for the right to have their voices heard at the ballot box. It was not an easy path to get there.

In addition to challenges from those opposing this radical shift in what women had the "right" to do, there was internal fighting. On many occasions, this conflict derailed their efforts. Some women were apathetic and did not join in the movement. And those within did not always agree on the best strategy forward. In the end, however, they rallied and were finally able to achieve their goals.

The success of this moment was due, in part, to the timing and changing nature of the social landscape. Women were taking on more roles typically assigned to men because of the need for labor due to the Civil War and World War I. Having sampled life outside of the home, these women were now becoming involved in social reforms and they added momentum to the movement.

There are three potent lessons your team can learn from these women, who challenged the status quo in pursuit of the right to vote.

1. Lead with a unified voice.

Collaboration and agreement within your team is critical. You need to resolve disagreements, and one way to do this is by refocusing on the higher order goal your group sets out to achieve. In the case of the suffragette movement, it was securing the right to vote.

In my experience, a good practice for your team to be successful is to first decide how you are going to manage disagreements. Your team should have an established process of determining how decisions are made and how you can insert your voice, ideas, opinions and concerns. Once everyone feels heard and respected, then all of you can move forward with a unified voice, even if you are not all in agreement.

2. Align on a scope of work.

One of the issues that derailed the women's movement for many years was a lack of agreement on whether their approach should be state-by-state or federal reform. The momentum eventually went to focusing on winning a series of state reforms. As states began to change their laws, the movement shifted to reform at the federal level.

It is critical for your team to work together in alignment with your scope and focus. Otherwise, you will have people pulling in different directions. Some of the biggest issues you will face as a team is lack of consensus on roles, responsibilities, and the way forward. Teams cannot be and do all things, so you need to make decisions about the steps you will take to achieve the end goal. You may decide on a phased approach, so that when one phase is completed you are able to embark on the next smoothly.

3. Persevere throughout.

When something is important to you, regardless of obstacles in the way, it is important to remain focused on what you are trying to achieve. The women from the Seneca Falls Convention experienced many hurdles. One of them was being stalled by the Civil War. After the Civil War ended, however, they picked back up and started their campaign all over again. They were determined to gain what they thought all women deserved, the right to vote.

There will be many obstacles along the road that you and your team will need to manage. You may be able to get around a few more easily than others, but the goal must always be to get back on track. It is important to keep focused on the goal at hand, and acknowledge milestones along the way to keep you motivated. I have worked with successful teams and they celebrate their accomplishments no matter how big or small because it builds solidarity. When you set smaller, mini-goals and collectively celebrate those mini-wins, your team will have the energy to persevere and achieve your ultimate goal.

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