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    Women Business Leaders: Organize According to Your Personality Type

    July 26th, 2011

    I have tried to various time management systems over the years and have found that there is no one size fits all. I have adapted and combined several methodologies to suite my lifestyle.  When getting yourself organized, it is important to consider your personality type and lifestyle.

    According to a recent article, “Know Your Personality Type Before Tweaking Your Life,” there are four personality types that could affect how women business leaders and entrepreneurs plan and organize. I’ve added my thoughts to this interesting theory on organization:

    The fantastical
    The theory here is that many entrepreneurs fall into the category of “fantasticals.” These are people who are visual and creative and enjoy finding unique solutions to problems. Because these types are very visual, a typical sorting and filing system won’t work. Everything must be laid out within sight, so if you fall into this category, make sure you have a lot of open space!

    The analytical
    According to the article, “analyticals” are those who are driven by logic and ambition.  Although a traditional filing and sorting system might seem logical for these types, having immediate access to information is essential. If you fall into this category, you might prefer electronic filing rather than hunting for paper files that could waste precious time.

    The environmental
    The article describes the “environmental” as someone who places emphasis on comfort and the way his or her environment feels. They want everything to be welcoming and comfortable, and they sometimes have a hard time parting with their documentation. These individuals enjoy the organizing, and tend to set up systems with interesting themes and methods.

    The structural
    The “structurals,” according to the article, are the ones who are master organizers in the more traditional sense. Theses individuals tend to have a very structured system that may boggle the mind of anyone else. It makes perfect sense to them but when there is more volume than expected, this system can become cumbersome. Structurals may want to streamline their systems before it gets to that point.

    The bottom line is that it helps to know your organizational style and personality before trying the organizational systems promoted in books and TV shows. Once you know what works in your world, you’ll be able to target your organization plans accordingly. Here are some of my favorite blogs on organization: “Women Business Leaders – Is It Time to Detox Your Business,” and “5 Ways to Boost Productivity and Create Balance for Women Business Leaders.”


    4 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Conquer Conflict Fears

    July 6th, 2011

    I have always found giving negative feedback to be a difficult process. It’s tricky to balance being frank and direct without seeming insensitive. But, as a woman business leader, you sometimes have to forgo your feminine empathy when giving negative feedback and take on the role of a strong leader.  I found Mike Figliuolo’s approach at little brash but certainly direct in dealing with potential conflicts.

    If you’d like, read the entire article: “4 Ways Leaders can Overcome the Fear of Conflict.” I’ve added my own take on his ideas below:

    1. Take but(t) sandwiches off of the menu
      Yes, Mike really says this in his article, but he was trying to get his point across. According to Mike, many leaders think the practice of surrounding negative feedback in between compliments is an effective method of dealing with an unpleasant or uncomfortable feedback session. If you make a habit of this, however, your team will expect to get bashed after every positive comment and that’s not effective leadership.
    2. Everyone grow up
      Mike admits that he has screwed up, taken his lumps, and moved on from there even though it was not pleasant. But his philosophy here is that we all need to get over it, admit our mistakes, and act like adults instead of whining and sulking to coworkers.
    3. Take off the soft shoes and put on the boots
      What I got out of this bullet point was that it’s far better to be direct, offer the criticism, and get it over with. Most likely the recipient of the critique will be aware it’s coming and like taking off a bandage, it can be less painful to rip it off than to linger and pick away at it. I agree that you sometimes need to put on the “big girl pants.”
    4. Lead
      Leadership, according to Mike, takes guts. If you can’t take the heat, you might want to rethink your aspirations. Leading can be great and rewarding, but the downside is you must be willing to take a stand, be direct and follow through. Mike says he is a better leader because of bosses who treated him with respect, but who were direct and swift with the feedback.

    Mike says in his final paragraph, “being ‘nice’ for the sake of avoiding conflict is dysfunctional.” And I have to agree. His directness and candor are refreshing, and he challenges all leaders to do the same. Let me know how you have benefited from a leader’s directness in dealing with conflict in the comments below.



    10 Tips for Women Business Leaders to Improve their Listening Skills

    June 17th, 2011

    I have always believed that listening is more important than talking. One can only gain knowledge and insight by listening rather than being listened to. As a woman business leader and entrepreneur, I have found that the information you gain by actively listening always enhances the information you impart later!

    Here are some tips to sharpen your listening skills from an article I found on dumblittleman.com, “10 Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills,” and adapted from a book entitled, “Excellence in Business Communication.”

    1. Minimize internal and external distractions
      Put that doctor appointment next week out of your mind until you can give your full attention to that issue. Distractions, even small ones, can really hurt your listening power.
    2. Adjust your listening to the situation
      Are you watching TV or listening to a Webinar on your computer? You’ll need to adjust your level of attention to each specific situation.
    3. Show you are listening with nonverbal communication
      We all do this without being aware we are doing it. Things like nodding, turning your head to one side, smiling or making eye contact are all examples of nonverbal communication that shows you are engaged.
    4. Determine the most important points
      Remember when you were in school and you had to take notes while a teacher was discussing an important lesson? Resurrect those skills and make a mental note of the speaker’s major points, jot them down as reminders or repeat them to yourself to help you remember.
    5. Demonstrate empathy
      Everyone responds to empathy. Demonstrate that you are listening by repeating their concerns and showing that you understand.
    6. Rather than give advice, just listen
      Professionally, it pays to be a good listener and not jump in with unwanted advice. Save the advice for a more opportune time — if you feel it’s needed.
    7. Don’t interrupt
      Let the speaker finish his or her point before adding your input. I know it can be tempting to think about your answer or think of questions while the speaker is talking, but try giving the speaker your full attention.
    8. Don’t prejudge
      Often, we make judgments about people from the way they look, speak or dress. Try to take those things out of the equation and listen to the point the speaker is making, instead of thinking about his or her appearance.
    9. Stay focused on the subject
      It’s easy for the mind to wander when the subject of a conversation isn’t important to you. The trick is to remain focused on the speaker and train yourself to concentrate.
    10. Remain clearheaded, even if the topic is emotional
      This is where most people get into trouble. Staying calm is a learned behavior, but if you make the effort, it becomes easier to do. Take your own emotions out of the picture and think of it as if you were an observer — not a participant. It will help you distance yourself and stay calm enough to discuss it rationally.

    It’s important, I think, to remember that it’s not all about you. Sometimes listening to others and stepping back for a moment can help you hear what is being said, rather than waiting impatiently to chime in with your viewpoint.

    Having trouble concentrating? Here’s a related blog that offers tips on avoiding interruptions: “Seven Concentration Skills for Women Business Leaders.” What are your biggest concentration busters? Leave your comments, and I might write a blog about the worst offenders.

    Women Business Leaders: Charisma Could be Your Most Important Business Tool

    June 9th, 2011

    When I began writing my blog for women business leaders and entrepreneurs, I was adamant that women should not try to be men in the workplace. I remain committed to the notion that women have exclusive talents that can help them get ahead in a male-dominated business environment. I think the biggest mistake is for women to feel compromised because of their gender but an equal mistake is to disrespect their male counterparts and dismiss their inherent strengths.

    In this interview conducted by BNET, successful CEO and business-owner Susan Spencer describes how she uses her femininity to achieve success– even in male-dominated industries, which she outlines in her new book.

    Here are my favorite excerpts from the interview:

    BNET: What can your book teach women about surviving in a male-dominated workplace?

    Spencer: The most powerful tool that women have is being true to themselves. I see too many women trying to survive in male-dominated workplaces by trying to be one of the guys.

    I’ve thrived by embracing my femininity. As a woman, I find I have a set of natural tendencies and abilities. Relying on my innate feminine strengths has been the cornerstone of my success.

    BNET: Could you give me an example of when this has worked for you?

    Spencer: When I started my first company — a tennis clothing store — I had no idea where to begin. So I sat down with my manufacturer, and I hashed it out with him for three hours. I got him to talk to me by being an attentive listener — something I am naturally good at. Everyone likes being listened to, but I’ve found on the whole it’s particularly true of men.

    BNET: What’s the better path to success for a working mother: climbing the corporate ladder or starting a company?

    Spencer: It’s all in the numbers — women are more likely to be discriminated against, passed over for raises and just passed over even when they’re not asking for flextime and a maternity leave so they can raise a family. I think women who are raising a family are better off starting their own company than working for someone else. I find that men are attached to having their employees physically present. Male bosses don’t like it when their employees are not within shouting distance, even if they are still working from home. They feel a loss of control. It shouldn’t be this way — it’s total BS — but I’m not the one who gets to decide.

    Click the link to read the entire BNET interview, “Is Charm the Most Powerful Business Tool Women Have?” And for more on using your innate feminine talents to achieve business success, see my blog “5 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Embrace Their Femininity” and “Women Business Leaders: Ivanka Trump and the Art of Being Underestimated.”


    How Women Business Leaders Can Handle Criticism Gracefully

    April 29th, 2011

    I know criticism is tough to take but I try to welcome the comments as learning opportunities. It’s also important to evaluate each comment to determine if it presents a learning opportunity or if it is merely a stab at your confidence. For women business leaders and entrepreneurs, taking time to stop and evaluate a scathing comment can help to dilute the sting. But I think we could all use a little advice in dealing with criticism gracefully.

    I like the blog on Zen Habits written by Leo Babauta, and I enjoy his point of view. His recent post on “The Art of Handling Criticism Gracefully” was very well written, and I’d like to share my thoughts with you:

    How not to handle criticism
    Leo makes a good point when he comments, “Often people will respond to criticism with anger. They’ll lash out, attack, become defensive and aggressive.” It’s only natural to feel a bit on the defensive, but I think we can all take a bit of advice from Leo and remember that nothing constructive comes from anger. So rather than react, take a moment to reflect on the comments, but don’t dwell on it.

    Do amazing things
    Many people have gone on to do amazing things, even when they were roundly criticized. Leo suggests that while criticism can be constructive, it can also lead to feelings of low self-esteem and rejection. His advice? Don’t let criticism stop you from doing something amazing. Take it at face value, don’t read into it, change the way your are doing something if there is a valid point, and then move on.

    How to handle it gracefully
    The most important thing you can do when presented with criticism, says Leo, is to calm down. It’s something that’s easier said than done, but I think we can all say we’ve been there. So, rather than let the momentary sting affect your entire outlook, think about where the criticism is coming from, why it was offered, and if there may be a valid reason for it. Regardless of the motivation, determine calmly if you might learn something from it. Maybe the critic has a point! Use it as an opportunity to grow and improve, says Leo, and remember – no one is perfect.

    One final point Leo makes is one that I think bears repeating: thank the person for offering the criticism. Many times people don’t mean to be critical, and are really just trying to offer suggestions. Thanking the critic diffuses the situation and helps to keep everyone calm. And if you can’t do that, says Leo, don’t say anything! See my blog on offering productive feedback for more helpful tips.



    4 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Keep Talented Employees

    February 8th, 2011

    Nothing is more important to me than having a great team. As a woman business leader, creating a talented, cohesive team is something I take great pride in. But it requires dedication, and in these difficult times, a lot of strategy. How can you maintain your company standards and keep your talented staff during economically stressful times?

    Here are some tips from Jill Morin, CEO at Kahler Slater, a Milwaukee design firm.

    1. Raises can be tied to added responsibilities
      Many companies felt the squeeze and weren’t able to offer across-the-board increases as they had in the past. Jill said her company, however, did give raises to employees who took on additional duties. As a design firm CEO, it was important to Jill that the company maintained its reputation as the stellar agency in the area, attracting and keeping the most talented people. So, for those who were already earning a better-than-average paycheck, Jill’s company offered them nominal increases to at least acknowledge their promotions.
    2. Achieving revenue goals = bonus
      Because teamwork played a significant role in Jill’s company’s success, when certain account goals were reached and benchmarks attained, her company devised a way to tie bonuses to team and individual contributions. The bonuses may have been modest, but the point was Jill’s company felt it was important for the team to benefit financially if they helped the company meet its financial goals
    3. Clarify the company’s financial status
      Jill noted that her company employed two individuals who requested cost-of-living increases that the company could not afford. Company executives offered up the company’s financial reports online so all employees could see the reports for themselves. While the company couldn’t give the raises, the employees were able to see why and remained with the company.
    4. Provide non-monetary rewards
      In some companies, job satisfaction has a lot to do with the amount of creativity allowed. So, even though a paycheck is necessary for most of us, having the ability to show our creative side goes a long way. Jill’s company recognized this and while it had to take on less creative projects to meet its financial obligations, it kept an eye open to lower-profile jobs that offered employees a creative outlet — even if the jobs weren’t real income producers for the company.

    While not all of these strategies will apply to your business situation, I think they’ll give you enough inspiration to help you come up with ways to keep your employees challenged and satisfied even when times are tough.

    20 Life-Changing Business Truisms for Women Business Leaders

    January 18th, 2011

    As a woman business leader with more than 20 years of business experience, I’ve read my share of “lists” describing how to be a better business leader.

    And, while I can’t take credit for the list of truisms I’m posting below — that goes to Steve Tobak who created this list for BNET.com — I just couldn’t resist sharing it with other women business leaders and entrepreneurs! Steve admits his list is based on observations he’s made over the years and not necessarily on hard facts … but I was so impressed with his down-to-earth “truisms” I almost printed it out to tack onto my office wall!

    According to Steve,”I know some of this stuff straddles philosophy and psychology. So, while you will find elements of Taoism, Freudian theory, Ayn Rand, and What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School, make no mistake: they’re all practical lessons that can help your career … or even change your life.” Here’s the list:

    1. If you don’t know, say so. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, stop talking.
    2. Whether negotiation is strong or weak depends entirely on your goals.
    3. Don’t jump ship before you hit the iceberg.
    4. Anger is never about what you think you’re angry about.
    5. Confidence comes from success; knowledge comes from failure.
    6. A**hole is a subjective noun.
    7. If you’re miserable, quit and do something else. If you’re still miserable, it’s you.
    8. Success is based on current behavior, not past performance.
    9. If you protect your domain or CYA, that’s all you’ll accomplish.
    10. Thin-skinned people are actually thick-headed.
    11. People won’t perform for those they don’t respect.
    12. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, you won’t be successful at it.
    13. When you have problems with others, look inside yourself for answers.
    14. The workplace is about business, not you.
    15. Conflict is healthy; anger is not. Get some help for that.
    16. No matter how smart you are, wisdom only comes from experience.
    17. Whine and complain all you want; nobody gives a crap.
    18. You can BS others but you really can’t BS yourself.
    19. The boss isn’t always right, but she’s still the boss.
    20. The customer isn’t always right, but she’s still the customer.

    “If any of this comes across as sort of preachy, just so you know, that’s not my intent,” Steve notes. “I’m not interested in indoctrinating anyone, just helping you to navigate a complex and challenging working world.”

    Women Business Leaders – Is It Time to Detox Your Business?

    January 12th, 2011

    As women business leaders, we work hard to keep our personal and business lives running smoothly and efficiently. Learn how to simplify your life with an organized business strategy.  This will enhance your personal and business well being.

    We’ve all heard about those personal cleansing products that claim to “clarify and detox” your body, so it makes perfect sense that your business clutter could be bogging you down as well. I am amazed at how cathartic it feels when I de-clutter my personal space, so I agree with the points Rhonda Abrams makes in her USAToday.com article, Small Business Strategies: Yep, time to de-clutter again . See if you need to try some of the de-cluttering strategies I’ve excerpted from her article below.

    1. All those stacks
      Toss the magazines, articles and coupons. Better yet, hire someone to file these for you — America needs jobs.
    2. Costly customers
      In a tough economy, it’s hard to jettison any client or customer — after all, you need the cash flow, right? Take a good hard look at your high-maintenance, low-profit customers and evaluate whether you’d be better off without them.
    3. Paper or spreadsheet-based bookkeeping systems
      Seriously? It’s time to catch up with the rest of us and use one of the many, easy-to-use, affordable bookkeeping software programs or cloud-based bookkeeping services.
    4. Clunky contact management
      Still using a spreadsheet, word processing program, your e-mail contacts list, or even your mobile phone to keep track of your important contacts?  Once again, there are a number of affordable, easy sales management programs or Internet-based services.
    5. Business cards
      Not yours — you’ll need those. But, if you’re like me, you’ve got cards you’ve been gathering for years at networking events, conferences and trade shows.
    6. Outdated software
      I still have the original box of Netscape Navigator (one of the very first Web browsers) I bought, but that’s a historical artifact. Toss ‘em.
    7. Old client, financial, and tax records
      OK — you’re not going to really toss these important records, you’re going to archive them. Move them somewhere secure where you can get them only in the event you ever need them.
    8. Aged or aging marketing materials
      Here’s the rule: If you no longer make the product or sell the service, you no longer need the brochure.
    9. Excess, unsaleable inventory
      Yes, it cost you money to make, so it’s hard to toss. But it’s costing you money to store. Find a way to sell it cheap (eBay?) or donate it to a good cause.
    10. Negative thinking
      Entrepreneurs are, by our very nature, optimists. So the most important thing to leave behind as you de-clutter is pessimism.

    These pointers combined with your innate entrepreneurial judgment will help you focus on priorities and planning for the future rather than holding onto the past.

    Women Business Leaders – Rise to the Challenge of Staying on Top

    January 7th, 2011

    Why we have too few women leaders :: Sheryly Sandberg

    Sheryl is one of the most powerful businesswomen in the world today … but surprisingly (or not) she has few female competitors for that title. Her message is a challenge – keep women in the workforce, expect your partner to partner and be prepared to stay involved.

    Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and one of the few upper-level female executives in a Fortune 500 company, recently gave a sober but inspired TED Talk called, “Why we have too few women leaders.” The video (see above) of that talk quickly became viral.

    Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders | Video on TED.com.

    Personally, as a woman and a woman business leader, I find the video compelling on many levels. But the salient point is this: women today have unlimited opportunities to excel in business … the hurdle, however, is steeped in outdated gender expectations.

    Arguably, Sheryl is one of the most powerful businesswomen in the world today … but surprisingly (or not) she has few female competitors for that title. Her message is a challenge – keep women in the workforce, expect your partner to partner and be prepared to stay involved.

    Here are 3 points Sheryl suggests women business leaders can do as individuals to effect change:

    1-Sit at the table

    The idea is to take your place at the head of the table and stop sitting on the sidelines. Sheryl notes that while men attribute their business or personal success to themselves … women attribute any success they have on outside factors and not on their own abilities. Take credit for your own success and abilities.

    2-Make your partner a real partner

    In study after study, women with full-time careers still do the majority of the household chores. Rather than wait for your partner to “help” with household duties, expect it.

    3-Don’t leave before you leave

    If you think you’ll want to take some time off to raise children (or something else), do it, if that’s what you want to do. But, until that moment comes … stay focused and never let up … be present and give your all 100 percent of the time.

    The message I’d like to send to other women business leaders is this – we need more women at the highest levels in business and government to move beyond the stereotypes, so it’s up to us to rise to the challenge.

    7 Strategies for Women Business Leaders to Achieve their Business Goals

    January 4th, 2011

    You can create a successful business strategy – and reach your goals – by collecting the right information and asking the right questions.

    In his new book, Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution, Harvard Business School professor Robert Simons explains how women business executives can identify holes in their planning processes and make smart choices. I’ve found that throughout my life as an entrepreneur and woman business leader, setting goals and questioning my approach regularly helps keep me on track. Here are the questions Robert recommends every business leader should ask themselves:

    1. Who are my customers?

    Clearly identifying your primary customer will allow you to devote all possible resources to meeting their needs and minimize the resources you devote to everything else. This is the path to competitive success.

    2. How does my company value shareholders, employees and customers?

    You’ll need to define your company’s core values, and how it will respond when faced with difficult choices. In other words, if your company’s priority is its shareholders, is everyone on the same page?

    3. What performance indicators am I tracking?

    Performance tracking means that you must set the right goals, assign accountability and monitor performance. Find out what’s important to you and your company’s bottom line and make sure it’s covered in your performance-monitoring plan

    4. What risk boundaries have I put in place?

    Make sure your company sets specific boundaries for employees … for example, codes of conduct or ethics statements to limit potential risk for your business.

    5. How am I mentoring innovation?

    We all know that companies that fail to innovate will eventually die. You must push people out of their comfort zones and spur them to innovate.

    6. How committed are my employees to helping one another?

    What is the company culture your business promotes? For most companies, it’s critically important to create standards so that people will help each other succeed — especially when you’re asking them to innovate.

    7. What strategic uncertainties keep me awake at night?

    No matter how good your current strategy, the only certainty is that things will change. And, adapting to change is critical to survival.

    Excerpts from Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution. Copyright 2010 Robert Simons. All rights reserved.