Nice girls don’t get the corner office

In January my husband and I were shopping for a present for the daughter of friends of ours. While paying at the cashier, my attention was immediately grabbed by the title of the following book:

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Lois P. Frankel, a bestselling author, executive coach, and an internationally-recognized expert in the field of leadership development for women was promising to share some common female prejudices at work that sabotage their careers as well as valuable tips on how to take a different perspective and improve the current situation.

The book definitely triggered my curiosity and I couldn’t wait to go through all the pages and find out which insights and tips would be most valuable to me. While reading it, I was surprised that some beliefs and behaviours that I could relate to were actually very typical for women but not necessarily for men.

With this article I would like to share a few of my biggest discoveries. I hope that you will find some valuable insights for yourself or that you will be triggered to proceed the search for even more valuable tips on the topic.

Although the book has been written mainly for women, I wouldn’t be surprised if men would find some interesting information as well. After all, we all work together and no matter whether you will find some improvement points for you as a man in your role as a colleague, a manager or simply a supporting husband, I believe this book can benefit your relationship with women. It can simply help you better understand where we come from and how our minds work.

Having said this, it’s time to dive deeper into the content of the book.

The book starts with a self-assessment test in which you mark how true certain statements are for you. The “133 unconscious mistakes women make that sabotage their careers” and the coaching tips per mistake are divided into seven categories.

  1. How you play the game
  2. How you act
  3. How you think
  4. How you brand and market yourself
  5. How you sound
  6. How you look
  7. How you respond

After completing the self-assessment test you will immediately notice which categories need most improvement in your case.

In this article I will focus on the mistakes that I was most surprised by as well as the ones that I have personally struggled with or I am still struggling with.

Mistake #54. Don’t dare to negotiate

Explanation: Women underestimate their value and are less likely to negotiate. Whereas, men often overestimate their value and appear more confident in the process of negotiating.

Coaching tips: First of all, make sure you deliver excellent results. This gives you a stronger position in the negotiation process. Do your homework and find out what others in the company or in a similar position earn. By doing this you will find out what is realistic to ask for. Be clear about what you want. Have a plan B and come up with alternatives in case you are not able to reach an agreement. What do you find reasonable to compromise with? Prepare for resistance and come up with arguments on how to act when your opponent rejects your request.  

Mistake #66. Waiting to Be Noticed

Explanation: If you wait until you get noticed, you will not make much progress in your career. Promotions are often given to men because women are naive and expect to be noticed for their skills and capabilities.

Coaching tips: If you want to get a certain project or promotion, you need to ask for it. If you want to make a career step, talk about it. Let others know what your ambitions are. Know your own value and learn how to sell yourself when the right opportunity comes.

Mistake #25. Having the need to be liked

Explanation: Nice girls act in a certain way because they want to be liked by others. Successful women act in a certain way because they want to achieve their goals. To be successful it is important to be both liked and respected.

Coaching tips: Replace the thought: “but others won’t think I am a nice person if…” by asking yourself the question: “What is the worst that can happen if I am simply myself?” Find balance between taking care for others and taking care for yourself. If others get mad or irritated when you start acting in your own interest, that’s often a way to keep us where we belong (according to them). Don’t get into this trap!

Mistake #30. Telling the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth (So Help you God)

Explanation: Women are more likely to blame themselves when a project has not gone well whereas men are much more objective in their explanation of the situation and don’t easily take the blame.

Coaching tips: When you are faced with the question: “What was the reason that this project failed?” look for the objective facts. Even if you are guilty, you don’t need to make things look worse than they are, we all make mistakes. Try to express yourself in a neutral way and avoid explaining and defending yourself.

Mistake #58. Making Up Negative Stories

Explanation: Women often give themselves the blame when something doesn’t go according to the plan. For example, “maybe he didn’t like my presentation”, “maybe I didn’t wear the right dress”, “maybe I insulted the boss”. By constantly doing this you start doubting in your own abilities.

Coaching tips: Switch the negative thoughts with some more neutral ones. Come up with alternative scenarios of why something has not gone as you have expected. Focus on the solutions and not on the problems.

Mistake #59: Striving for Perfection

Explanation: That’s a well known phenomenon for women. Most men inherently believe that their work is already close to perfection and find it much easier to go with something that is good enough. Hereby, they save time for other important tasks, including networking.

Coaching tips: Limit the time you would like to spend on a certain task. By doing this you prevent that you will spend too much time on something that can be done more efficiently. Ask for feedback. You might think that your work  could be even better but your colleagues or manager might find the result good enough.

Mistake #80. Using Preambles

Explanation: The more words you use to make your point, the weaker your message becomes and the smaller the chance that the other party will understand your point.

Coaching tips: When you need to express your opinion on a certain topic ask yourself the following questions: “ What is my most important message?” What are the two or three arguments that support my point of view? Keep it short and to the point!

Mistake #85. Using Qualifiers

Explanation: Women are often afraid that they will come across as too direct, opinionated or aggressive and this is the reason why they often use certain words to soften their message. The problem is that these words also weaken their message.

Coaching tips: Be aware when you use phrases like, “We sort of did…”, “Perhaps we should…”, “Maybe it would be better if…” In certain situations they might be handy but you might want to avoid them when you have a strong opinion on a certain subject and you want your argument to be taken seriously.

Mistake #82. Asking for Permission

Explanation: Have you ever noticed that men rarely ask for permission? They would rather ask for forgiveness after they have committed the “crime”. Women, on the other hand, are much more likely to ask for permission, just to be on the safe side. However, by doing this they put themselves in the position of a “child” and have a greater chance to hear “No” as an answer.

Coaching tips: In every role you have certain authority to make decisions. Discuss with your manager what are the boundaries for you to make decisions on your own and in which situations you need to ask for permission. In case you still would like to inform your manager about the actions you want to take use phrases such as “I am planning to ..” , “I wanted to inform you that…”

Mistake #118. Believing Others Know More than You

Explanation: Women are more likely to underestimate their own knowledge and abilities and even assume that complete strangers are more capable or knowledgeable than themselves. Men are easily able to sell us bullshit stories and are very persuasive while doing it. The worst of all is that we actually believe them.

Coaching tips: Before you assume that someone else knows more than you do, ask your opponent a few critical questions: “How do you know that?”, “Why would you advise this course of action?” If the answers don’t sound reliable to you then they are most probably not. Take the time to think about the advice/opinion of others and don’t let people sell you anything just because they come across as persuasive.

Mistake #126. Accepting the Fait Accompli

Explanation: A French term meaning “an irreversible or predetermined decision.” People assume that women will be less likely to challenge a decision/proposal because they try to avoid conflict.

Coaching tips: When something is important to you, don’t settle for less without “fighting”. Many things can be negotiated.  Men won’t typically settle for the “that’s just how it is” answer, so why should you?

What’s in it for you?

How about you?

Were you surprised by some of the above listed mistakes?

Which ones were most relatable to you?

Please feel free to share your own experience, observations or tips in the comments section below.
I’m very curious to see which common “mistakes” are the most challenging among us.

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