“Charles Schwab told me his smile had been worth a million dollars. And he was probably understating the truth. For Schwab’s personality, his charm, his ability to make people like him, were almost wholly responsible for his extraordinary success.”
Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends & Influence People
Dale Carnegie’s landmark book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, is one of the bestselling books of all time. In fact, it is required reading in many sales and leadership programs. It stresses collaboration, listening, negotiation, and putting others first as a prerequisite to success. In short, it talks about how to achieve extraordinary success by being likable.
It also goes against the grain of corporate America, where too often the predominant logic is to annihilate the competition – not make friends – if you want to get ahead. I know. I was the ultimate corporate bitch – dramatic, nasty, degrading, confrontational, and outright hostile throughout my twenty-five year corporate career. From an early age, I watched and mirrored the aggressive, bullying behaviors and attitudes of both my male and female colleagues, believing I had to behave like that to get ahead.
I rose through the ranks of several retail companies, and ended my corporate career as a Global Vice President for a Fortune 500 technology firm. I knew my stuff and was great at what I did, but I did little to use my natural kindness, skills and talents – collaborating, influencing, teaming, and negotiating, among others – to achieve success. Instead, I clawed, connived, and bitched my way up the corporate ladder. I didn’t know any other way to do business. In fact, from the time I graduated from college until my last day in corporate America, no one had ever told me I was out of line. It was accepted, tolerated, and many times rewarded, especially when I was delivering great results for the business. But ultimately, my behavior caused my colleagues to pull away from me, turn on me, and usher me out the door – right before an initiative I had poured my heart and soul into took flight.
Only when I left corporate and took some time to really evaluate my life did I realize that there was a better way. And, I discovered something else: that I could still have succeeded professionally – and personally – by being nice. By being the sassy, precocious, and kind young woman I once was. If only I had seen it in myself sooner. If only someone had shown or told me it was possible.
The irony is that for women, it’s not only possible; it’s natural. Women are encouragers, nurturers, listeners, and collaborators. Studies are finding that women are great managers, team leaders, and company heads as a result of those exact traits. So why, then, do we throw these natural skills and traits out the door when we’re trying to climb the corporate ladder, in favor of more negative, outright hostile, bitchiness? Why do women feel they have to “man up” in order to succeed in the boardroom?
Unfortunately for women, it is because peers, colleagues, and managers in corporate America:
- Leave obnoxious behavior unchecked from performance review to review.
- Are not sure how to leverage employees’ strengths, ignore the bad behavior, and turn a blind eye.
- Avoid confrontation or constructive performance feedback. It is easier to ignore and avoid than risk a dramatic confrontation
- Try very hard not to offend (perceived) overly-emotional women; they pretend to not notice the behavior, yet pass over “bitches” for promotions.
Finally, we women are our own worst enemies – we blame the boys’ club or male executives who are perceived to want to block women from key leadership roles, if we aren’t achieving what we want in the office. Instead, women choose to claw, connive, and fight amongst themselves, when they actually should be helping each other. We should be using our natural talents and skills, our “real selves” to master the boardroom.
As you head into the New Year, I want to be sure that you are optimizing YOU and your natural skills and talents as you work hard to pursue your career goals. I want you to ask yourself these questions:
- Where are you in your career against the plans you had?
- What approach or manner do you take in the office or boardroom – how do you think others perceive you?
- Are you trying to climb the corporate ladder and not sure how to do it?
- Are you hoping to get promoted but sense some resistance from colleagues?
- Are you already successful but feel something is missing?
Think about these things as you go through the week, and be ready to plan your 2011 to be the most successful year you have had yet!!!!
Stay tuned for our 2011 Guide to Ditching the Bitch!! We will help you discover what may be holding you back or propelling you, how to shed or optimize those things, and then how to create the outcomes and results you want. Come back here and watch for the Guide!!!