Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage their Careers”
by Lois P. Frankel
published in 2014 by Little, Brown & Company
I can’t write this book review without referencing the current cultural phenomenon which is sweeping the western world. The #MeToo and Times Up campaigns are in full swing, forcing people to open their eyes to the issues of gender inequality, sexual harassment and female subjectification. We are in the midst of a veritable tidal wave of change and the dawning of a new era where the old behaviours are called out and rejected, and where woman can be treated as valued equals. We hope.
Even so, smart women know that they will still need to work hard to gain respect. At least for now. And that’s where this book comes in.
Nice Girls Self-Assessment
The first chapter of the book contains a self-assessment to help you identify the specific behaviours which could be holding you back in your career. This empowers the reader to work smarter, not harder, allowing them to focus in on the areas which require more attention when reading the book.
133 Unconscious Mistakes
The book details 133 typical mistakes women learn in girlhood which have the potential to sabotage their adult careers and provides coaching tips to overcome them. The book groups these into 7 categories:
- How You Play the Game
- How You Act
- How You Think
- How You Brand and Market Yourself
- How You Sound
- How You Look
- How You Respond
Here are the “mistakes” which resonated with me the most and in my opinion, are crucial to overcome.
1. How You Play the Game
Mistake 6 – Overlooking the Importance of Mentors and Sponsors/Advocates
There’s an old saying – it’s who you know, not what you know. Having someone who is actively involved in helping you with your career can be key to your development as a professional. The author discusses the reluctance that many women have to ask someone to mentor them due to feeling as though they would be a burden, they’re not connected enough or simply, they don’t know who to ask.
The coaching tip I thought was the most valuable was looking to the edge of the playing field to identify “winners” and asking if they would be willing to regularly schedule some time with you to answer any questions you may have about career issues. The key to succeeding here is ensuring that you make it very clear to the person how much time you require and that you will be responsible for driving the agenda. The easier you make it for them, the higher the chance they will accept.
2. How You Act
Mistake 27 – Not Asking Questions for Fear of Sounding Stupid
Early in my career, I was surrounded by engineers and technical experts who may as well have been speaking another language. I wasn’t ‘down with the lingo’ at all and naturally, this can be a scary concept.
Humans in general have a tendency to pretend they understand something, lest they give the impression that they are incompetent or inexperienced, but women seem to have an even greater fear of this kind of judgment. The fact of the matter is that if you don’t know, you don’t know and for many of s, it takes experience and maturity to realise that we need to ask questions to get ahead. As the author states in this section, if you don’t understand, ask. Asking a question is a sign of confidence, rather than ignorance and is far better than you or the people around you heading off in the wrong direction.
3. How You Think
Mistake 43 – Thinking Like an Employee
Coming to work and just doing what you deem to be your job just doesn’t cut the mustard. Teams working towards a common goal need team members who will work collaboratively and dynamically across the business to attain that goal. In the author’s opinion, this is the difference between thinking like an employee and thinking like a partner in the process of working toward goal attainment.
When working on a bid, it’s easy to differentiate between those who think like an employee and those who have broader horizons. Those who have broader horizons see the bigger picture and don’t get tied up in the small stuff. They think broadly and strategically and focus on the end goal. These people become indispensable to a company through thinking long-term and expanding their skillset, whilst prioritising activities that enhance the company’s bottom line.
4. How You Brand and Market Yourself
Mistake 62 – An Elevator Speech that Doesn’t Go to the Top
Having an elevator speech is crucial for successful networking, particularly when attending events, both on a professional and a personal level. As the author identifies, many of us avoid this because we tend to feel as though we are bragging, but if structured in the right way it can have quite the opposite effect. The best way to approach this is in the way you would approach constructing a sales pitch for a product. First and foremost, you would talk about what the product is, what’s to be loved about it and why it should be bought. The author states that an elevator speech should let others know who you are, what you love doing and how you impact the company’s bottom line. It’s all about branding yourself as someone others would want to “buy” through talking with passion and confidence.
5. How You Brand and Market Yourself
Mistake 97 – Ambivalence
For us to be respected as leaders, we need to be able to make a decision and demonstrate that we are committed. Ambivalence is weakness. The author reminds us that most decisions are adjustable, so we can make decisions, commitment to the task, and assess over time if changes need to be made.
6. How You Look
Mistake 113 – Poor Eye Contact
People don’t listen with their eyes, or do they? Generally, aside from cultural reasons, when someone avoids making eye contact, it’s usually a sign that they are uncomfortable or unsure of themselves. The author compares this to the behaviour of children. Children refrain from making eye contact when they know they have done something wrong or they are being reprimanded. She says if the eyes are the window to the soul, you must use them to allow others to see your self-confidence, knowledge and sincerity, and to allow you to see the other person’s. Looking others in the eye ensures we are on the same level and allows us to better convey messages more effectively and more sincerely.
7. How You Respond
Mistake 120 – Tolerating Inappropriate Behaviour
Do you tolerate inappropriate behaviour? Many of us would say, definitely not. But chances are we actually do and we just don’t realise it. Women commonly tolerate inappropriate behaviour because they don’t want to cause a fuss, they want to be nice, they want to be liked, and/or they want to give people the benefit of the doubt. Or because they are scared of the ramifications if they speak out. This is what the #MeToo movement is all about.
Instead, we need to describe the problem, explain why it’s a problem, specify desired outcomes and lay out the consequences. Another top tip from the author is to use more ‘I’ messages as opposed to ‘you’ messages to avoid confrontation and work to solve the problem.
You can choose to read every chapter, or just the chapters which are relevant to you from the self-assessment, which makes it a great book to come back to whenever you need some direction or advice.
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