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    Guest Blog: A Man’s Viewpoint on Women Business Leaders and the “Them vs. Us” Syndrome

    August 28th, 2012

     

    Tom Peery reached out to me to discuss the concept presented in my blog “5 Pointers, How Women Business Leaders can Avoid the Them vs. Us Syndrome.” I was interested in his point of view and had not realized how pervasive this issue actually is. Feeling confident as a woman and not having had adverse reactions from men, Tom’s comments accompanied by his strong desire to change his upbringing and mindset was really enlightening.

    Here is the response that he shared with me:  ”I agree with Bridget Ayers’ response to Christopher Flett’s “What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business,” in that the competition is not between men and women, it is between one company and another.  Men who regard business like war have not experienced the horrors of combat, and may still be operating on the belief that “male” and stereotyped “masculinity” are the same thing.

    A more interesting approach is “What can women tell men about business?” Today’s gender roles are shifting as an expansion of societal definitions and needs, evolving from the formerly strict definitions of masculine stereotypes that once separated the sexes. I do not see that shift as a war between the sexes.

    Mr. Flett does not mention the many men today struggling to find their place in this shifting sand. I was born in 1944, and grew up stuffing emotions and viewing the role of “breadwinner” as my sole purpose in my marriage. Self-sufficiency was my ideal, competing against peers. I couldn’t nurture relationships. Believing that being rational and using reason were the only means of acquiring knowledge distanced me from my body’s intelligence, my emotions, meditation, dream work, intuition, and my sense as a spiritual being among other humans.

    In today’s workplace, corporate training emphasizes teamwork, communications and leadership skills. Professional training companies trumpet “soft” skills, aka skills previously defined as “feminine.”

    Female entrepreneurs are more familiar with the soft skills that young to middle-aged men are beginning to seek. For these explorers they can

    • provide a non-warlike competitive environment, a safe place to talk about fears, problems, hopes and desires.
    • assure men that an emotional life contributes to their personal growth–that because their anger is theirs, not caused by others, men can learn to soften their anger.
    • help men better communicate with themselves and others by being supportive rather than not.
    • reward inner company relationships, rather than pitting employee against employee”

    If you’d like to learn more about Tom and his philosophies on life, please visit his website at www.sodadwhatmakesaman.com.


    Lessons for Women Business Leaders on Delighting Your Customers and Creating Brand Advocates

    August 20th, 2012


    photo credit: jiazi via photo pin cc

    I am a recipient of under-delivery, and I hope to turn my disappointment into some sharable lessons about customer service. I love the concept of excellence and over-the-top delivery articulated in the Ritz Carlton brand. When I choose to stay at a Ritz hotel, I have a particular set of expectations.

    Last December, I stayed the night at The Ritz in White Plains, New York, celebrating my niece’s 14th birthday. While preparing to check out of our luxurious room, I broke my toe on a protruding bathroom ledge. I preferred to deal with the issue on my own, and the hotel management team was so excited to have a non-litigious guest — they radiated gratitude and relief as they watched me sign a release. In this celebratory moment, I was asked if I prefer wine, soup or fruit. Making my choice, I was told that whenever I stay at a Ritz, for the rest of my life, I would have fruit in my room.

    So, as I travelled to my next family reunion in New York, my hotel of choice was the Ritz Carlton in White Plains. My husband and I checked in after a stressful travel day. Although we were hungry and tired, I convinced my husband that we should wait to eat, as there would be a wonderful fruit basket waiting for us when we arrived. We were greeted with this message: “Welcome back. Thank you for choosing the Ritz Carlton.” Imagine our disappointment when we couldn’t find the fruit – was it perhaps hidden in the mini bar? No fruit to be found yet my toe continues to ache in cold weather.

    Given my experience, here is the advice I have to offer when it comes to customer service:

    Brand promise: Ensure that the brand promise is echoed through every activity. Make sure that the entire staff understands the nuances of what your company stands for and makes decisions based on this promise.

    Action rather than words: Rather than state that you are going to do something special – just do it and then you will have the opportunity to talk about it. Surprise your customer in a good way.

    Keep meticulous records: The more you know about your customer the more you are able to delight and super-serve. Beyond keeping records, develop a system to tap into the information that you are collecting without having anything fall through the cracks.

    While this isn’t an exhaustive list, I am sure that you all have many more lessons to share. I have written about the importance of customer service before, and you’ll find more tips in my blog, “3 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Create Brand Super Fans.”


    5 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Embrace Their Femininity

    July 22nd, 2012

    Women who are running  businesses should detach from feminism and embrace their femininity.

    My daughter started her career in a high stress male dominated industry. We were reflecting on how a woman can succeed in this environment  without becoming masculinised. Women who are running  businesses should detach from feminism and embrace their femininity.

    The truth is that women have been liberated. We no longer need to spend our energies proving that we’re equal. We own our own companies, we assume leadership roles and we don’t have to wear ties to work.

    Here are 5 ways to create this balance while getting respect from both males and females:

    1. Don’t pretend that you’re one of the boys – you’re not. But at the same time don’t play the “us girls” game.  Work at your individuality as a person. Use your unique leadership strengths when dealing with an issue.
    2. You shouldn’t dress provocatively but you also don’t need to wear a burka.  You have a wonderful opportunity to express yourself  and your femininity.  Make sure that you are dignified and professional and let your gender work for you.
    3. It’s OK to talk about kids, make-up and hair but please consider your audience – these discussions may be boring to whomever is listening. Be yourself but remain sensitive to the situation.
    4. Respect both male and female employees. Disparaging remarks about men set a feminist tone and put a line in the sand when there may not have been an issue to begin with.
    5. Watch out for “womens only groups” why would you want to segregate ideas and talent. Position yourself as an entrepreneurial leader rather than a proponent of  “Women rule”

    You have a real advantage as a woman running a business – don’t blow it by  wearing workboots and snarling at men, rather walk around in your stilettos with strength and conviction.

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    How Women Business Leaders can Become Highly Respected Achievers

    June 26th, 2012

    photo by scott*eric

    I recently attended an International Woman’s Forum meeting with a small group of women business leaders. As I looked around the room, I realized that not only was I surrounded by women leaders, but they are all good people. I have never consciously thought of myself as a leader but rather organically moved into this role. Although I am not over burdened with self confidence, I find I do have a strong desire to lead — but with a focus on leading with authenticity.

    This article on becoming a respected leader from Forbes shows how leaders can combine good human characteristics with passion and leadership skills:

    1. Tempered Tenacity
      Respected achievers are incredibly tenacious. To a tenaciously driven person, there is never just one way to get there, and no one will convince them otherwise. However, the sort of achiever we’re talking about also keeps the well-being of others in mind, and if one of those alternate routes will result in unnecessarily harming someone else, then that route isn’t an option, period.
    2. Consistent Commitment
      While nurturing multiple visions is fine (assuming they are manageable), the respected achiever sets a high standard for her/himself that what they commit to do on a project, they fully intend to do and will make every reasonable effort to make it happen. The respected achievers’ standard of following through is consistently maintained whether or not adversity materializes, and others know that when they collaborate with a respected achiever it won’t be a waste of their time.
    3. Soulful Pragmatism
      Respected achievers are typically pragmatists – they focus on what works. But, implementing a pragmatic approach without being mindful of how changes will affect others isn’t commendable, it’s cruel. Respected achievers know this, so they balance an outcome focus with a situational awareness of the adjustments required by others, and they work with them to make those adjustments.
    4. Strategic Resolution
      Just like anyone else, respected achievers can become negative when things aren’t going well, and just like all of us, they may vent now and again about how crappy a situation is.  What they do not do, however, is drop anchor in that negative place and allow their negativity to feed itself and eventually seep into the perspectives of those around them. Instead, they experience the pain, recognize that whatever caused it (business or personal) is now part of their repertoire of experience, and then they resolve to strategically move on.
    5. Responsibility Ownership
      One less-than-admirable trait of many driven people is that they’re good at figuring out how to avoid taking responsibility for what went wrong. If that means throwing someone under the proverbial bus, so be it. Better him than me. But the respected achiever sees things differently in a couple of ways. First, if something went wrong due to a mistake made by the team, the respected achiever owns responsibility whether or not other team members do the same. Second, respected achievers are intuitively reciprocal people – they treat others in the manner they wish to be treated. Their embodiment of the “Golden Rule” is not situational; it’s a consistently applied maxim that guides their behavior.

    Have you worked with someone you feel fit the model above for a highly respected leader? Please share your story with us and tell us how this person influenced you in finding your own leadership style.


    5 Ways Women Business Leaders can Achieve More Impact with Social Media

    June 17th, 2012

    photo by Marc_Smith

    Most women business leaders would agree that social media is an important component of a company’s successful marketing strategy. Many have a blog, Twitter account and a Facebook page. The paramount goal for most businesses is increased sales or a measurable return on investment. However, what can be confusing about social media participation is how to effectively maximize your time investment in these platforms.

    Here are five questions from Lee Odden that you need to ask. Your answers will help you identify your brand and achieve more impact from your social media efforts.

    1. Who are you?
      What do you want to be known for? What do you stand for? What’s unique about you?
    2. What makes you special?
      How are you incorporating your professional “unique selling proposition” into your social content, sharing, and engagement?
    3. Have you looked in the social mirror?
      Have you looked at the past 20 tweets that you’ve published? Do the same on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or other social networks you’re involved with. When looking at 10 or 20 social content objects together, you can see what kinds of messages you’re sending and determine if those threads support your social objectives or not.
    4. Are you reactive or proactive?
      Are you thinking about the impact of your social content on others or is it mostly a form of self-expression in the moment? If you have professional objectives from your social participation, think about that each time you tweet, update, or comment.
    5. What’s it like to experience you on the social web?
      Rather than viewing each tweet, update, comment, or blog post as a stand-alone engagement effort, think about how others will view the cumulative of your social engagement. What memes can be found within your own social content streams? Do they support what you stand for? Do they reinforce what you want to be known for?

    While your messaging and content development are key to creating a social media presence, understanding and listening to your audience can’t be stressed enough.  But don’t be discouraged if you don’t have thousands of followers or “likes” immediately – it takes time and effort.


    7 Ways Women Business Leaders can be Memorable

    June 13th, 2012

    photo by antony_mayfield

    I have often written about the importance of maintaining one’s sense of self by understanding and maintaining your authenticity. My lesson came early in life as I immigrated to New York from Johannesburg, South Africa with a young family. Upon arrival, I realized that culturally, I was quite at ease. But my accent was, and continues to be, a dead giveaway. It immediately establishes my authenticity and thus, even if I want to, I cannot retreat into the status quo.

    Here are some great pointers from Jeff Hayden on how to be memorable and enjoy the process at the same time:

    1. Don’t see … Do
      Anyone can share opinions about movies, TV or even books. That’s why opinions are quickly forgotten. What you say isn’t interesting; what you do is interesting. Spend your life doing instead of watching.
    2. Do something unusual
      We like to think we’re unique, but roughly speaking we’re all the same, and similar isn’t memorable. Occasionally do something different. Work from a coffee shop one day just to see what you learn about other people… and about yourself. Your goal isn’t to accomplish something worthwhile; the goal is to collect experiences.
    3. Embark on a worthless mission
      Remember when you were young and followed stupid ideas to their illogical conclusions? Do something, just once, that adults no longer do. Pick something it doesn’t make sense to do a certain way and do it that way. You’ll remember it forever—and so will other people.
    4. Embrace a cause
      People care about—and remember—people who care. When you stand for something you stand apart.
    5. Let other people spread the word
      People who brag are not remembered for what they’ve done; they’re remembered for the fact they brag. Do good things and other people will find out. The less you say, the more people remember.
    6. Get over yourself
      Most of the time your professional life is like a hamster wheel of resume padding: You avoid all possibility of failure while maximizing the odds of success in order to ensure your achievement graph climbs up and up and up. Stop trying to seem perfect. Accept your faults.
    7. Be gracious when you fail
      When you do, people will definitely remember you because people who are willing to fail are rare… and because people who display grace and humility, especially in the face of defeat, are incredibly rare.

    As women business leaders, we must accept and embrace our uniqueness. No one can afford mediocrity if you are to achieve real success. How have you leveraged your innate abilities and true self to become more successful?


    Women Business Leaders: 7 Steps to a Better Business Blog

    January 5th, 2011

    Starting a company blog can transform your business. Instead of relying on a website with the standard “About Us” page, a business blog can take a bland company image and inject a sense of personality, brand identity and vibrancy.

    I’ve been blogging here for the last few months, and I’ve found the process to be both personally and professionally rewarding. I believe it’s become a good repository of ideas and suggestions for women business leaders and my current business contacts. But this blog also serves as a way for potential clients to get a feel for my company dynamic … a virtual way to test the waters and see how the company “fits” with their needs.

    Blogging is a valuable tool for any business, according to featured columnist and blogger Shira Levine in a recent article on American Express’ OpenForum. Shira notes that companies of all kinds … Fortune 500 companies, large businesses, and well-known brands … have joined the blogging world.

    Here are some of the blogging tips Shira offers readers:

    1. Choose a place to host your blog
    Sites like Blogspot and WordPress make it easy for new bloggers to set up and create their company blogs.

    2. Build interest in your company’s viewpoint
    Creating an online presence is key. But keep it short and simple.

    3. Create a voice
    Create your own “corporate” voice through your blog.

    4. Keep a consistent voice
    Whether it’s you, someone else internally, or someone hired outside of your business, make sure the voice of your blog is defined, clear, and unwavering.

    5. Make blogging part of your daily routine
    Treat posting as part of your day’s schedule and it will become easy and instinctual.

    6. Blogging gets the conversation going

    Consumers want to know about the people behind their favorite brands.

    7. Blogs make it easier for clients to find your company
    Having an online blog presence helps customers find you through web searches.  Your blog may be referenced or linked by your clients and appear in several online searches, helping to promote your company’s online presence.

    It pays to connect with your clients through your company blog, but keep in mind that a blog is a living, breathing expression of your company, its values and its identity. Read Shira’s complete American Express Open Forum article

    http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/technology/article/how-blogging-can-transform-your-business-shira-levine