Sunday, September 05, 2004

Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office

Women need to be advocates for themselves by playing up their strengths - like being nurturing, accommodating and good listeners - while also adding complementary behaviors.

"You don't have to be like a guy to get ahead in business, but you do have to be an adult woman," said Frankel. One common mistake Frankel sees women make is couching statements as questions. By doing that, women hand over the power of decision-making to someone else, like the boss.Instead of using phrases like, "Would it be all right if . . .," she suggests saying, "I just want to let you know ..." or "I've got this great idea that I'd like to move forward with, and I want to give you the heads-up on it."

Women, who tend to react more quickly than men, need to instead take some time to think about how to best handle a situation, said Maureen McCormick, director of the learning and development unit in the human resources department at the University of Iowa.

Frankel's other suggestions for women include:

- Don't explain ad nauseam. Women look for clues like "mmm hmm" and head nods to ensure that the message they're trying to convey is getting through. When women don't get that reinforcement, "We make our point, we make it again, and make it again," she said. "The more words you use, the more you soften a message."

- Don't use minimizing words. If someone compliments you on a job well done, steer clear from saying, "It was nothing," or "I was really lucky." Instead say, "Thank you, I'm proud of what I achieved."

- Do go to meetings. Women often think that poorly run meetings are a waste of time, and that they can skip them in lieu of doing more productive tasks, Frankel said. Instead, meetings should be seen as a place to network and build relationships that can benefit you in the future.

- Don't apologize for other people's mistakes or misdirection. The boss gave you minimal instructions for a project. Once you've completed it, the boss says that it wasn't what he had in mind. Instead of saying, "I'm sorry," and minimizing your position, Frankel suggested, "Well, the instructions weren't clear to me. Tell me how you want it."

- Do get involved in office politics. Replace the word "politics" with "relationships," Frankel said. "That's what politics is - it's about building a relationship before you need it."


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