Breaking through glass ceilings in the workplace is dangerous business. There is now an easier (and safer) way for women to rise and succeed professionally. In her book, The Glass Elevator: A Guide to Leadership Presence for Women on the Rise, Ora Schtull shares the 9 critical skills that will enhance your ability to engage, connect, and influence in the workplace.
Women of HR was offered the opportunity to review The Glass Elevator and through a series of questions and answers, Debbie Brown (DB) and Dorothy Douglass (DD) present their thoughtful review of this book.
Debbie and Dorothy,
What is the overall gist of Ora's message or topic? How would you summarize her book in 3 or 4 sentences?
DB: The book is a good coach to women who want to work on their engagement, connections and influence to move up the leadership ranks. Ora, writes in simple terms and stories what behaviors and skills women need to hone in on. She also provides a checklist for you at the beginning of each chapter for you to assess yourself and follows through at the end with you to be able to write down those things you want to start, stop and continue as a result of her coaching points.
DD: Professional women – read me! Now! Real life examples of successful executive women add value to this must-read for anyone interested in forwarding their career, at any age and any level.
Ora presented the 9 critical skills that will enhance your ability to engage, connect, and influence in the workplace. Comment on the skills presented. What do you think . . . are they really critical?
DB: I thought all the skills presented were critical for women on the rise. Communication, networking, engaging with your boss, staying healthy, all very important to name a few.
DD: These skills are critical to success, and while not new or ground-breaking information, Ora presents the skills in logical fashion, including some simple self-assessments to determine the reader’s skill level. While I wish I’d had this book about 15 years ago, it still presents in a manner that speaks to me so I can enhance my levels of communications (engage), mentoring (connect), and happiness (influence) at work.
What one skill called out to you? Why?
DB: How to ask for what you want and need called out to me. I believe that women have a tendency to assume too much about what people know and believe about their effort and results. That assumption is not a good one, which is why it is so important to look at many more aspects as the book points out. If you don't ask, many times you will not get what you want.
DD: I kept thinking that I would get bored or not have any more “aha” moments as I read along in the book. However, Ora presents in such a way that made me a) keep reading,
b) say yes, this makes complete sense, and c) think of all the female connections I’d like to share this information with. I kept flagging pages, and chapters that spoke to me, and finally ran out of my post-it flags. Two that jumped off the page included (from p. 132) “…if we’re going to grow our influence, we must conquer our fear of selling.” Selling isn’t always selling a product or service, it is often selling ourselves – for that next project lead, job, or career move. Women need to get over being the care-taker of others, and begin to take care of themselves – at least at work. This does mean getting results in the job, and communicating those results to others (who else is going to ‘toot our horn’).
In chapter 9: Be Happy, Ora speaks of being often overloaded, and I really appreciated the reminder to use four D’s of time management: Delete, Delegate (with care, not in a micromanaging way), Do, but diminish, and Delay
Ora writes on her website, “The good news is that Leadership Presence is not something you’re born with. It’s something you develop.” What do you think of that? Did the book impact your thoughts about this? If so how? If not, why not?
DB: I agree with the author – these skills are something you can work on . The book emphasized non-verbal communication which I think can impact how confident people believe you are.
DD: I felt this book was a well-written moment of preaching to the “HR-Choir.” We work with our managers, likely not enough, to stand up, put best foot forward, develop self and team, and never stop learning. I felt this book was a wonderful reinforcement of those messages, with great examples and good self-check tools for the lady over-achievers in the reader audience.
Did Ora challenge, inspire or enlighten you in any way? If so, how?
DB: Actually all three. It brought to light areas that I continue to work on every day and other skills to add to the list and I found it encouraging to have a woman writing from a woman's point of view, which was easy to relate to. In addition, she provided bios of successful women leaders and I found those stories and bios inspiring.
DD: This book re-energized my passion for helping to develop our professional staff (both men and women) at the bank. I’m hopeful this book is or will be available so we can use it in the future as an opportunity to reinforce, reinvigorate, and sometimes re-engage our talented women.
Would you recommend this book to others?
DB: Yes, absolutely. I would recommend it to both genders because the book provides great perspective and coaching so any leader would be able to grasp how to help women advance.
DD: Yes. Already making a mental list of those in my network who would value reading it!
Debbie and Dorothy, thank you for your review!
Disclosure of Material Connection: Women of HR received this book free from the publisher. We were not required to write a positive review. The opinions the reviewers have expressed are their own.
I’d Rather Be in Charge, by Charlotte Beers, is a breakthrough book, a master class for women who are ready to learn from a legendary business leader how to shatter the glass ceiling, reach the corner office, and—above all—develop their highest self in the workplace and beyond.
Women of HR was offered the opportunity to review, I’d Rather Be in Charge. Through a series of questions and answers, Alyson Nyiri (AN) and Debbie Brown (DB) present their thoughtful review of this book.
Alyson and Debbie,
What is the overall gist of Charlotte's message or topic? How would you summarize her book in 3 or 4 sentences?
AN: Beers echoes Dr. Mark Savickas’ career construction theory when she encourages women to “Think of work as your chance to practice becoming your largest self.” Women are still led to believe from a young age that their work is secondary to their roles as mothers and lovers. Beers doesn’t enter that debate. She starts instead from the premise that women work and require ways to become better leaders in their work. And to do that, women need to see themselves within the world of work and manage how we are perceived by those around us. Beers says “We must be prepared to take controversial stands, initiate ideas and projects; that’s how influence is felt.”
DB: I think that Charlotte summarizes her own book very well - the book is about “to know” yourself and be known by others. She takes us through a process of how to dig into how we learned to be a certain way, what image we want to portray and how to move in the direction of that image. The book also does a great job of differentiating management from leadership and why and when you should step up (and what to look for when you do).
Charlotte calls this “the era of forging ahead for women.” What did she mean by that?
AN: Beers delivers workshops to women in the U.S. and Europe and calls them The X Factor, standing for the extra X chromosome women have. This extra X is women’s potential; the way we chose to work and lead. We are also more educated than previous generations and are acquiring more expertise.
DB: The number of women in the workforce, and the call to action for women to act on the defining moments to take charge and lead.
Charlotte recognizes that the old boys' network is alive and kicking and that women have many more barriers to get over than men do. What barrier resonated with you? What strategy have you, or will you, use?
AN: Beers clearly articulates how men behave in leadership and how women must learn to speak and behave in ways that men in command can understand (I nearly chucked the book across the room, my feminist sensibilities enraged, but decided to hold up!). Beers does not sell out women by asking them to become men. She carefully outlines strategies we need to move ahead in the world of work.
As the year begins to wind down, we are in the midst of making lists, checking them twice and planning for the holiday season. While our immediate sights are set on the weeks ahead, we are also looking into 2012 <and beyond> at life, travels and career.
If someone asked you what the best career advice you ever received was, what would you say? Well, I asked the Women of HR to weigh in and this is what they said.
Trish McFarlane • It may be simple, but early in my career someone told me to always just be myself. Sometimes that means that I don’t filter myself as much as I should, but as long as I’m being honest and not intentionally hurtful to anyone, I try to follow that advice. People seem to gravitate to others who are comfortable in their own skin. I would never recommend that someone conform to a job, supervisor or workplace if it meant going against who they really are.
Vicki Shillington • I have a couple. One, that you should find a place to work where they want you there as much as you want to be there, and two, you are not what you do. Don’t let yourself identify so much with your job that it defines you – that way, if you have a bad day at work, or lose your job, things are still ok. I guess it’s another way of saying ensure work-life balance. You can have it all, just not all at the same time.
Bonita Martin, SPHR • Find a way to say Yes! This was specific to a career in HR. HR and legal tend to be the groups that say “No you can’t do that”. HR professionals need to better problem solvers by understanding the needs of the business and finding a way to help solve the problem. If the solution proposed is not going to work, suggest something else that might work. It can be difficult, but worth the time and effort!
Shandrika Combs (not pictured) • Sometimes people will hate you and sometimes those same people will love you. I pass this piece of advice to every HR person I know. Because it’s our job to try and get organizations straight, that means there will be times the employees aren’t happy and there are times when management/leadership will be unhappy. However, there are just as many times when your answer will make those people happy.
Lois Melbourne, GPHR • My late mother-in-law told us “You have to live like others won’t until you can live like others can’t.” This always struck me as meaning you have to put in hard work to get the reward. Not everyone will put in the hard work. Not everyone will take the big risks. But those that do, are likely to be rewarded.
Margaret Ward, PHR • Very early in my HR career, I wanted to apply for a position that would have been a huge promotion for me but I didn’t have all of the credentials required by the position. My HR Director (at the time) and mentor told me “Never tell yourself no. Let them tell you no. Where you may not have all of the qualifications for a position, you don’t know who you’re going up against. You may have more than anyone else that applies. When a position is posted, the ideal qualifications are listed but that doesn’t mean that they will find somebody who has all of those qualifications”. This has always stuck with me. And by the way, I got that job!
Teresa Rennie • I have two I would like to share. The first was that I tend to be very direct, let people talk and you will get more information by listening. The second was from my son who exclaimed after taking on a paper route that “work is very hard” to which I replied that if you want to progress in life then you really have to “very hard” to achieve your dreams.
Shellie Sturmer, SPHR • A senior executive once told me that I needed to stop trying to be the manager that people above me wanted me to be and to be the leader that I am. While I think the two intertwine in today’s business climate, that encouragement to not lose sight of the big picture and to inspire and instill trust hasn’t left me.
And in 140 characters or less . . .
@DebbieJBrown • be yourself
@theHRmaven (Deirdre Honner) • best career advice? 1) while it might happen periodically, don’t count on shortcuts; 2) sometimes it’s just not about you
There is nothing better than advice from those who have who have walked in your shoes and are willing share what they’ve learned. I have had the benefit of mentors and coaches over the years but the best piece of career advice I received was when I first starting out, frustrated that another colleague <obviously much less qualified than I> received a plum assignment I had my eye on. The advice went like this:
You are responsible for your own career. Stop thinking that if you work hard and do a good job people will notice. They are too busy working on their own careers. Uncomfortable as it may seem, tell people what you’ve accomplished, why it’s important to them and to you – and never forget those who helped you along the way. Give credit where credit is due but don’t minimize your own contributions.
Take a few minutes to share what you’ve learned either here or with us in the Women of HR LinkedIn group. It’s a manager’s choice discussion and there are more comments there. “Like” the comments you like, add your experience, complete a thought, blaze a new trail . . . go crazy.
Hey, we’ve got your back.
If we had a crystal ball, life would be grand. But, because we don’t, we often find ourselves at the mercy of hindsight. Hindsight being 20/20, what is one setback you faced in your career that ended up being a blessing in disguise?
We are hardwired to respond certain ways to situations without even realizing it. My hard wire response is defense. My defense mechanism cost me my job.
One of my first HR jobs was with a very small privately owned manufacturing company. Providing leadership for the rapidly growing company meant developing HR strategies, practices and procedures to support growth and hiring staff for all levels of the organization.
It also meant advising supervisors, managers and the executive team and doing so from a neutral point of view. No one could do that better than I could because I did not have the history with the company and the owners that many of the others did. Nor did I have the benefit of established relationships; which I quickly set out to build.
Early growing pains for the company later became pains of another when the economy began to slow. Managers came and left as business decisions were made and shifts in leadership philosophies occurred. Relationships changed and became strained. I began to lose my neutrality and perspective and replace it with defense.
Only I didn’t see it.
In my quest to “protect and defend,” I failed to notice I was jeopardizing the very relationships I had worked so hard to build. The effect was stifling. No longer above the madness, I was ready to rumble. Business became personal and I entered into a spiral that did not stop until I left the company.
I submitted my resignation and we parted ways - but the physical departure really was a mute point. We had already parted ways 3 months prior when I was unexpectedly notified my department was downsized and I, through my tears, very ineptly had to let a staff member go that very same day.
It was all very telling, yet there is nothing more telling than the moment you realize you were part of the problem. And that didn’t come right away. It didn’t come until almost 1 year after I left the company and I started to hear some of the same old, familiar conversations . . . and see the same old, familiar hard wire reactions.
“Damn,” I remember saying, “It wasn’t all him. It was me.” I hired an executive coach and worked on getting “me” out of my own way.
As I worked on short circuiting my hard wire responses, I came to see just how much my defense mechanism impacted my credibility and inhibited others around me. So instead of controlling conversations, I focused on having them. I turned “No stinking way” into “Let’s talk about it.” I replaced the satisfaction in being right with the joy of developing potential in others.
Instead of protection, I focused on intention. And that turns out to be far more powerful.
Photo credit iStockphoto
We ran a series on Women of HR where contributors discussed whether or not there are lines, i.e., societal expectations, in the workplace that are different for women vs. men.
I was thinking about the amazing posts in the series as I, mascara in hand, got ready for the day. Gender differences. Societal expectations. Been there. Done that.
I worked in a male (military) culture, was almost not hired for a position because I was living with a man who was not yet my husband and experienced the joys of being on the receiving end of harassment more than once.
I see these instances as matter of gender related lines, yet, I don’t see the same when looking at my overall success and failure. A friend posted on Twitter a few weeks ago, “I’ve never experienced or been aware of gender inequity. . . is it male/female OR something else? If I fail, it’s ME, not because I’m a woman.”
Welcome to my world.
Naivete? No. And I am sure about that. I am also sure that there are ‘lines’ in the workplace a man clearly does not have to endure.
What ‘lines’ am I talking about?
I am talking about bathroom lines, panty lines, hem lines, laugh lines, and (biological) time lines. How about lip liner, eyebrow lines (aka unibrows), hair lines, and tan lines? Let’s not forget smile lines, crow’s feet, and cheek lines.
Think about this:
- The Worldwatch Institue reports that the amount of money spent annually on cosmetics in the United States is $8 billion. This is $1 billion less than the amount of money needed each year (in addition to current expenditures) to provide water and sanitation for all people in developing nations.
- Nancy Lynn Kanter, Beauty is Inside writes on her website that our culture bombards us with ways to make our external selves sparkly, svelte, and sexy. Unrealistic standards of beauty not only hurts our self worth, but diminishes our social and political power.
Wow. A man can set his alarm clock to t-10 minutes to departure, jump in the shower and hit the door running right on time. Not me. I don’t get very far or anywhere very fast as I bemoan the morning rituals that delay my departure (stomps feet and sifts through her Lancome, Clinique and Jane Iredale Minerals stuffs).
“The … problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.” — Gloria Steinem
Unlearn the morning ritual? Fly in the face of cultural messages? Prepare for the inevitable questions, “Are you feeling well?” “Did you change your hair?” “Is that a gray hair I see?”
No, not this girl.
Lines exist. So what?
I am much more than the color of my eye shadow and my power is not in my hemline.
Photo credit iStockPhoto
“Stay between the lines,” the teacher says as the children concentrate on completing the task correctly and are careful not to let the crayon go too far.
At first, the children have a difficult time keeping the crayons on the page - let alone within the lines. They learn as they grow and are soon able to do what is expected and they color within the lines. They color the sky blue and the grass green.
Being inquisitive by nature, the children begin to ask questions, “Why does the sky have to be blue?” “Why can’t I stay up later?” “Who said milk is good for me anyway?”
They continue to grow and reach a point where coloring within the lines begin to feel restrictive. Some let the crayon slip and others color the sky purple and the grass red. They can do more than they were led to believe and find that going “outside the lines” can be exhilarating. They realize the only limits they face are those they place on themselves.
What a discovery!
Not before long though, they find that this is not necessarily the case. Rooted deep in our society, roles are defined and societal expectations are enforced. They find that socio-cultural “lines” can be much less tolerant of females than of males. Yet, there are women who overcome the system are are successful in erasing the “lines,” as evidenced by women in medical professions, top corporate positions, and in the military.
The paragraphs above are the introduction to a paper I wrote, “Socio-Cultural Analysis of Combat Exclusion,” for a Masters class. It was written in 1993 when I teaching ROTC at University of Pennsylvania – and a lot less fun at parties.
Nonetheless, it was on my mind so I pulled it out, dusted it off, laughed at the typewriter type, and began to wonder:
“Women of HR, what lines do we need to erase today?”
So, I asked them.
What you’ll read over the rest of this week are a number of different perspectives. We’re going for awareness and strength. Read along and let us know what you think.
Photo credit iStock Photo
I am at the gym doing what I always do after exercising - drying my hair, getting ready for the day, thinking about the mocha (and the calories) I am not going to have.
Looking in the mirror, beyond myself, I pause to take in what I see.
To my right is the principal of a local high school and to my left, a fourth grade teacher. Into the locker room walks a local triathalete and over there is a mother of two.
There is a middle school nurse digging in her gym bag, an auto parts service manager recording her calories and a college student, a volleyball player, a medical office scheduler, and a trainer from the orthopedic sports center moving about.
They are employed, unemployed and retired. They are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond, each with a different reason for being there that morning. They are leaders in their families, their organizations and in their lives.
They are you, me and they are us. They are women, each with a story of their own. They offer words of support, motivation, laughter and a swift kick in the pants. At 5am on a dark winter morning, they offer community.
So girls, tell me. If I was looking into the mirror of the Women of HR, who would I see?
I had a session with my personal trainer bright and early the other morning. Things were going relatively well until we headed for the preacher curls. Ugh. I don’t like preacher curls. When I said I really didn’t feel like preacher curls, I was promptly informed that fitness had absolutely nothing to do with feelings. So, I curled.
And so it goes at the gym, as it often does in the workplace, feelings get into places where they have no business (pun intended) being.
I attended a Human Capital Strategist (HCS) Certification course last year and, all of the valuable information aside, there is one comment that still sticks with me today.
Let me set this up for you.
We were in the midst of a case study developing human capital options for a business in distress. We evaluated the business environment, strategic direction and tactical challenges. We discussed key leadership roles, incumbent competencies and necessary skills and made informed human capital recommendations (we did our homework) based on the needs of the business.
It was time to present and our group spokesman (was it me? I can’t remember) started off by saying, “blah, blah blah, and so we feel blah, blah, blah.”
The analysis we conducted, the pros and cons we weighed, and the solid, fact based recommendations we made didn’t matter. In fact, nothing before and after the “we feel” mattered. Those were the only two words the instructor latched on to and said (something like), “That’s the problem with HR, they are feeling all the time.”
As HR pros, as women, and as leaders, we feel too much (or speak as though we do) and it gets in the way of our influence and our effectiveness.
In a Computer World article, Career Watch: How Women Can Get Ahead, Selena Rezvani, author of The Next Generation of Women Leaders discusses how women can get to the top in the workplace. One point she makes is:
Women executives communicate in a specific way. They use emotional intelligence to read people and situations, but they don’t use emotions when making a case for something. When building your argument or making a case, said the executives, keep things fact-based, not innuendo- or hearsay-based, using phrases like “The data shows..” and “The facts are…” rather than “I feel….”
She is addressing women executives in this article, however, this is superb advice up, down and across the organization.
So, tell me, how do you feel about that?
Photo credit iStockPhoto
Mentoring programs abound. Coordinators, companies, and participants boast of success. The success is real. The programs are powerful.
Yet, mentoring programs are only part of the solution.
What’s the problem? Opening doors.
In a recent HBR Ideacast, “Women Are Over-Mentored (But Under-Sponsored)” featured guest Herminia Ibarra, professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD and coauthor of the HBR article, Why Men Still Get More Promotions Than Women, talks about the distinction between mentoring and sponsoring and the impact on women in the workplace today. Click the HBR icon to link to the podcast.
Herminia asserts that not all mentoring relationships are created equal. Mentor relationships offer feedback, support, and advice but are not designed to “propel” mentees upward. Mentor relationships are not designed to “open doors” and this is where mentor programs fall short – for women.
Although I’ve heard the term “sponsor” and have even said, “sponsor a woman today,” I didn’t see sponsorship as a distinction of it’s own. But now I do.
Listen to the podcast (it’s about 11 minutes).
What do you think?
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We’re 90 days into Women of HR and you’ve been reading, writing, and supporting us along the way.
We’re loving every minute of it and hope you are too.
It’s one thing to hope and another thing to know. And we want to know. We want to know what you think about Women of HR.
That’s right, tell us what’s on your mind.
One click, 10 questions – that’s it. So easy. So valuable.
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