Monday, October 29, 2007

Woman Mentor, Anyone?

For Those Who Missed Having a Woman Mentor

Continuing from the last post . . .

Betsy Myers is the woman mentor I wish I had had -- in fact, I had many strong male mentors who gave me similar advice as she in the following passages but without the understanding of the differences between the way women and men think. For those of you looking for the entire piece, see Women and Leadership, p.67, this week's issue.

Here's what she said:

No one is going to invite you to the table; you have to take the initiative. That means you have to have a thick skin. Ninety-nine percent of the time it isn't personal. People aren't sitting around thinking how they can exclude you.

Some of it is common sense:

Do your homework. Know your issues. Know them better than anyone else. Study. Listen. Show up on time -- preferably early.

The Rest No One Ever Told Me (And I'm Not Alone)

When I interviewed a good friend who is also a high-ranking female executive, she told me she had to learn the following on her own -- I did, too, as did all the other women I know of my age:

Don't think you know everything. No one knows everything. Don't act like you know everything. Don't be afraid to ask questions and to be comfortable with what you don't know. Get experts to brief you and guide you on what you don't know. Your ability to get things done . . . is all about relationships. Our reputations follow us throughout our lives, so how you treat others will be remembered.

The piece ends with an a call for rewarding and praising a team when they deserve it because it is an underrated skill. This, along with the focus on relationship, has always been gendered female.

If It's Gendered Female, Why Say It?

The assumption for women of my generation -- and perhaps those after -- is that women have to do everything on their own or they will be seen as less capable than their male peers. So although most women might live their lives in one way outside the office, they are forced to relearn these precepts once they got to work.

Of course, some women aren't trained to be gendered female in the first place. But it's good management nonetheless.

On Meetings

How many people you manage follow this advice?

. . . don't think you need to be in every meeting. People make the mistake of thinking that if they're not in a meeting, they're not important or they're going to miss something. But if you go to every meeting, you don't get any work done. . . .

Don't talk in a meeting unless you have something to add. A lot of people think if they sit in a meeting and say nothing, people will think they don't know anything. And then say something that's not relevant just to participate.

Shorter and fewer meetings, anyone?

On Email

One skill I've spent a lot of time teaching women I manage (but not men) is how to write an email. I wish I had had these words to sum it up succinctly:

Don't send long, flowery e-mails. To be taken seriously as a woman, you have to understand how men's brains work. Be succinct in your response and very clear about what you're asking in the email.

Finally . . .

Perhaps my lack of female mentors makes this article resonate for me disproportionately. However, the fact that Myers talks about herself as a woman executive to other women -- without either condescending or pulling punches -- than seems very unusual to me.

What do you think?

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