Category: Women of HR Series: 6 Rules to Break

You Don’t Need a Title To Be Successful

Posted on December 23rd, by Michelle McLaren in Women of HR Series: 6 Rules to Break. 1 Comment

This is the last post in a series where Women of HR writers share their thoughts and reactions to a manifesto, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed.


When I graduated college, I did informative interviews with several companies and one led to a job offer.  Texaco E&P in Denver, Colorado offered me my first Human Resources position.  I was ecstatic. I was a professional and on my way up!

When I joined the company I was told by the Executive Vice President, Human Resources that if I studied and became came a subject matter expert in some HR thing (Organizational Development intrigued me – yep, I was a bit green) I would advance and would be relocated to their headquarters. I was vicariously living this dream through his promises.  It turned out there were some pertinent details of what the company expected from an Organizational Development specialist like a master’s degree and perhaps even a Ph.D.  But I really wanted this, or I thought so.

In reading Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed, I thought it would be helpful to take a look at each through the lens of my career and share my insights with you:

Rule #1. Take Center Stage  . . . and shine. Act with confidence, boldness and a bit of brazen abandon!  Be relentless in educating yourself about YOU. I recently attended an HR conference and they repeated, “Is there an “it” I do not get?”  You will be surprised what others will share if you ask.  But be prepared for what they share.  Know yourself and constantly be curious about yourself and not others.

Rule #2. Proceed until Apprehended.  I work with a Vice President whose modus operandi is ‘Act and then ask for forgiveness.’  Love it!  He is a bit impulsive and at times appears reckless but he is the epitome of this statement.  He is respected and an esteemed colleague that many want to be around.  Be it, own it and act on it.

Rule #3. Project Personal Power.  This I can relate to. When I was young, I affectionately like to refer to the fact that  mastering the art of stuttering helped me succeed in life.  This was not your typical stuttering but one that completely hindered my ability to talk on the phone, speak in front of others or ask simple questions to assert myself in public or with family. It was mortifying. I was taking my impairment, correcting it and from this, I learned about poise, conviction and taking calculated but conscientious risks. I was grace under fire!

Rule #4. Be Politically Savvy.  I am good at taking the time to build relationships and boy, can I network. Invest in learning about others. This leads to the consensus that is essential to build alliances and partnerships that are significant in navigating office politics, eventually get you that promotion or the recognition as the expert.

Rule #5. Play to Win.  Reinvent yourself.  We live in an economic climate where it is about delivering, conceiving, visualizing, formulating or creating.  Set the basic foundation, establish infrastructure and be strategic.  Be the one to revolutionize the system, transform and challenge process and do not settle for status quo.

Rule #6. It’s Both/And. Want to avoid an overactive mind? I am fanatical about reflection. This can obliterate the over analyzing of everything.  We live with ambiguity and uncertainty. Become comfortable with it. Reflect and this will lead to sagacity.

What I learned is that to be a leader you think, act and behave like one.  You do not need the big title or to be at headquarters to lead or make a difference.  I make a difference at my organization, I am respected, called upon and make contributions that counts.  My managers and employees alike consider me an ally, an activist and a trusted and credible advocate.  If that is not making business better than I do not know what is!

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Break Free From Inflexible Thinking

Posted on December 22nd, by Jennifer Payne in Women of HR Series: 6 Rules to Break. No Comments

This is the seventh post in a series where Women of HR writers share their thoughts and reactions to a manifesto, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed.


Rule #6 in The Six Rules Women Must Break in Order to Succeed – It’s Both/And (Don’t Fall Into Extreme Thinking), cautions us to avoid falling into extreme, black & white thinking.

But even beyond keeping an open mind, realizing that there are many shades of gray, and learning to deal with ambiguity, it also encourages us to “see the big picture” while maintaining a flexible outlook and approach.

I believe that this may be the most difficult of the six rules for many HR practitioners.

By the nature of our jobs, at least traditionally speaking, we have been taught to follow the rules and enforce the policies.  This by definition encourages extreme or black & white thinking.  Many HR practitioners, especially those in tune and with a passion for the changes that need to be realized in the field of HR, are learning to break away from this limiting approach to resolving issues.  Instead of just blindly enforcing the rules, they are learning to view issues in shades of gray, to think about not only the impact on the people involved, but also on business outcomes.  They are learning to become business partners within their organizations.

However, too many still either struggle with breaking away from black & white thinking, or maintain no desire to do so.  Too often we still hear phrases such as “that’s how we’ve always done it” and “that won’t work” being uttered; a tendency to write the rules for the minority instead of managing the exceptions is still too common of a practice.

I understand that there needs to be certain rules and guidelines in place; rules to ensure a safe, legal, and productive environment for our employees.  But when we spend too much time focused on those rules and who might break them, we lose sight of what our true purpose should be: providing the support to perpetuate the success of our organizations through our people.

In my own experience there have been times I have witnessed a hesitation to be flexible (or at least a difficultly in doing so) for fear of the precedent it may set.  I have even caught myself falling victim to this sort of thinking in certain situations.  Rule #6 reinforces that we need to break free from this inflexible thinking. We need to be optimistic and believe that most people, by nature, are well-intentioned and not looking to break the rules or cheat the system.

We need to free ourselves from the fear of “what might happen” and focus our energies on how we can proactively contribute.  Because if we continue to operate in an atmosphere of fear, we will never rise to the top levels of leadership that the authors are challenging us to achieve.

Change Your Story to Excel in Office Politics

Posted on December 21st, by Andrea Ballard in Women of HR Series: 6 Rules to Break. No Comments

This is the sixth post in a series where Women of HR writers share their thoughts and reactions to a manifesto, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed.


Do I agree with the authors of  The Six Rules Women Must Break in Order to Succeed who believe,

In order to succeed at the highest levels in business, we need to rethink the conversations we are having in our heads and tell ourselves a new story. Women must think differently?


The stories we tell ourselves are powerful. When we believe certain thoughts, we always find evidence to prove our beliefs. For example, if I believe “to get ahead in my company you have to suck up and be just like the CEO,” I can find lots of examples of people who have gotten ahead that way. And then I tend to ignore all the other evidence and examples of people who are succeeding in their own way.

Part of the problem is that we want to ignore reality. Every place has politics. You see it in your place of worship, your kid’s schools and even in your Homeowner’s Association. Arguing with this reality directly violates Rule #4 – Be Politically Savvy. Women are quick to write off ‘office politics’ as an old-boys networking game and one they aren’t interested in playing. But the truth is, office politics is an area where women can excel and use their natural talents to their advantage.

Office politics is all about relationships, networks and communication. Those of us who are reality TV fans have watched how alliances often make it or break it on Survivor. The same is true in the office.

Instead of believing the thought “Office politics are manipulative,” think of some ways you can turn it around and come up with some beliefs you can support:

  • Developing relationships with key people in my office is smart and efficient
  • It’s helpful to let my boss know when I’ve succeeded
  • Aligning myself with people who are interested in my success gives them the opportunity to help others

When you believe these stories, you’ll start finding evidence to prove them true. The mentor you want and need may suddenly appear, and now you’re poised to ask them to help you. Your powers of observation and intuition can operate on full alert at the office –  without making you feel icky.

You can be authentic and sincere and succeed at office politics. Office politics won’t go away just because you ignore them. Just change the name of the game so you can win – or at least have more fun trying!

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There Are No Rules to Getting Ahead

Posted on December 19th, by Lois Melbourne in Women of HR Series: 6 Rules to Break. 5 comments

This is the fifth post in a series where Women of HR writers share their thoughts and reactions to a manifesto, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed.


Lisa sent out a request I was really excited about: “Write a post about breaking rules to get ahead.” Oh yeah, since it is for Women of HR, it would be good if the rules were ones that women should break.

I thought “Fantastic, I am a female CEO in technology and HR.  I should be able to come up with a bunch of those.”

I am stuck!  Not just a little stuck, I am stuck a lot.  I have been pondering this post for at least a month.  I have put time on my calendar to work on it.  I can’t come up with a single rule, real or imagined, that has gotten in the way of my moving ahead.

The economy? Yes, that has been a barrier a few times in my life.  Competition? Only occasionally have they gotten in my way.  They mostly just annoy me and shock me.  Slow growth? Rocket growth? Yes, these have both gotten in the way of doing some things successfully.

But I can’t find any rules.

I thought I had completely failed to be of any help on a blog post that I thought surely I could share some wisdom to help others get ahead.  I was going to quit and tell Lisa I failed her – then I realized the pearl I have to give.

Those of us that do big things don’t let rules get in our way. 

We realize there are no rules to getting ahead.  Those rules are a fallacy.  There are barriers and there are difficulties, but just like there is no pixie dust that will make you successful, there are no rules that prevent you from doing good things that will make you successful.

Knock that rules concept out of your head and you will find that progress is much easier.  Every one of you has achieved something big or had accomplishments you are proud of.  When you look back at the path to those achievements, I bet you can’t come up with a single rule you had to break.  They were not there messing with your mind.  That is how you succeeded.

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Hard Work Alone Will Not Get You Noticed

Posted on December 16th, by Debbie Brown in Women of HR Series: 6 Rules to Break. 2 comments

This is the fourth post in a series where Women of HR writers share their thoughts and reactions to a manifesto, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed.


When I read each of the the 6 rules in Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed, all I could say was “yep” – 6 times.

Bravo to the writers seeking to help others and how I would have liked to read the document years ago. If you have not read it yet, I encourage it.

When I became the first female executive in sales leadership for a Fortune 500 firm, no one shared those rules with me. I used to think that hard work was enough, and my mindset was pretty much as described by the authors in the document.

I chose to write about Rule # 4,  Be Politically Savvy (Don’t Expect Hard Work to be Enough) because, as a rule for me, I found politics distasteful. And through years of learning, I agree – you don’t opt out. I now look for opportunities to enjoy the network and pay it forward so that it becomes ingrained as a fiber of my career, versus a part of the job I don’t like, and the process comes much more naturally to me now.

I do not think of it as politics any longer, I think of it as social networking (believe it or not) inside my own firm. Here are some of the things I do to make the most of my defining moments:

1) Prepare for key meetings/conferences. If travel is involved, I will spend extra time socializing before and after with peers and leaders because I agree with the “6 rules” authors that all kinds of great things come from this.I  used to avoid these things and I now believe that was a mistake.

2) Seek input from role models. There are key members of the senior team and peer group that are stellar (men and women) at politics inside the firm. I marvel at their work.  I used to observe in wonderment, I now go to school and seek their input and work with them to pick up the skills until they are more a part of my social norm.

3) Know when my opening is and be stellar. This one is not easy and I have learned that you rarely get a second chance. So, when you know you are on the calendar with a senior member of your company’s team, do not underestimate the level of effort and rehearsal that should go into what you intend to communicate. Think in advance what your key message is, how you intend to make your point, and whether you are able to make it in moments or not. Executive attention span is brief,  snapshot judgements will be made and they are not easy to change if you blow it.

In summary, regardless of how hard we work, our career may come down to some defining moments and these defining moments are ours to manage and take into our own hands. We have all had them whether we know it or not – like last spring when our CEO reached out to me on a return flight from a conference. He asked me a few brief questions about the conference and I took considerable time and effort to write and re-write my response to be certain the information was useful to him. It felt great when he complemented the note the next day.

A short time ago, I would have been hasty and provided a communication that would not have been stellar. I would have thought, “I am busy. He will just know how hard I work.” This would be wrong on so many levels; just wrong.

How about you? When did you have a defining moment? Did you make the most of it?

Real Success Requires Honesty

Posted on December 14th, by Rowena Morais in Women of HR Series: 6 Rules to Break. 4 comments

This is the third post in a series where Women of HR writers share their thoughts and reactions to a manifesto, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed.


The authors of the manifesto, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed, have been very eloquent about the things women need to do in order to get ahead. I do agree that these six rules, if mastered, will go a long way to putting us on the right path. I would add a few things to any thinking we do in this area.

Make the Rules Your Own

Firstly, there’s lots of rules or guides we can embrace in order to get ahead. This is not a particularly new area and there’s been a lot of thought and discussion generated over the years. What’s more important I believe is that you need to have your own thoughts on how to make this work for you, as an individual.

It’s hard, if this is not something you’re used to, to embrace all six rules at a go. So, pick just one and make that happen. The confidence you build in yourself as you make this one rule a reality that you can feel and grasp, will spur you on to more successful endeavors.

Ultimately, we need to think about these rules, and what elements of it that we are happy with and willing to embrace. We also need to consider the parts that we feel are not right for us and which we are not comfortable embracing. We need to make these rules our own and we do that by thinking about them as they apply to us and then going forward by simply making choices about them.

Stop Thinking and Start Doing

Which leads to my second point – start. We can read about these six rules and like them and agree with them. And we can go online and read another blockbuster list of stuff that works for others out there. Everything stays in the sphere of possibility if that’s all we do.

We could fool ourselves that someday, if we put this in action, we will have achieved what the authors say we ought to. But what is possible is not yet real and we delude ourselves if we settle merely for thinking about what’s possible, and being happy right there. At some point, we have to stop reading, thinking or having an opinion and just letting it rest there, whether we do so out of fear, because we’re busy or just being uncertain.

The way to drive success for any of these things is to move from the realm of possibility into the realm of reality. This happens when we start doing. Do and fail and learn and start again.

Stay True to You

I am reminded, in this manifesto, of the many beautiful aspects of womanhood, of the very elements that make us who we are. We see in the people around us, how they move from thinking to doing. They do what they have to do and what they are happy with. Some however, make changes by becoming more like the examples they see around them – the men in positions of power. But we do not need to be somebody we are not.

I believe real success comes to those who are able to see their shortcomings and their strengths and play to both of these accordingly. It requires an unparalleled level of honesty but the reward is a life that’s far more satisfying and truer to oneself.

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Be The Captain of Your Own Ship

Posted on December 13th, by Paul Smith in Women of HR Series: 6 Rules to Break. 1 Comment

This is the second post in a series where Women of HR writers share their thoughts and reactions to a manifesto, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed.


As a gay man, I am often confused by the notion of striving for equal rights. It is not the equal part that is confusing. It is the striving.

On one hand, there is a need to identify with a cultural brand, e.g. gay. On the other hand, there is a quest for rights that everyone else has. With that, is also a quest for opportunities, and the subsequent success and power that others possess.

These two forces contradict each other. For example, I noticed when reading about a Mr. Gay America pageant, one of the organizers alluded that if straight females can do it, so can we.

My response, is why do you want to take your unique culture and mirror it against another? Does this create equality or does it create following? If it’s following, is this disguised abdication?

Giving the benefit of the doubt, perhaps there are no original ideas to create or original identities to own. Hence, outside of discriminating factors, such as sexual orientation, race, religion, color, or genetic indicators, we are all human with the same needs. Therefore, all notions of equality are universally the same. If this is the case, then there is no box to break out of outside of the one we create for ourselves. If this is true, then it does not matter what discriminating trait you carry. Each of us individually has to strive for equal rights and opportunities on our own terms. Each of us decides our own definition of success and power.

These were my thoughts after I read the manifesto, The 6 Rules Women Must Break In Order To Succeed.

Moreover, I felt a little confused. I can’t escape the notion that their definitions of power were built upon structures of power already in existence, and success was based on having more power. Also, it seems the very structure they claim is holding them back is the same one they want to embrace. Thus, I found instead of creating truly new rules, they are suggesting to follow rules already in place.

I don’t disagree with the six rules for someone seeking their definition of power. However, I had difficulty not applying their rules to anyone who was seeking this power regardless whether they were women or men. I agree, for example, one should not “focus on everyone else” or “expect hard work to be enough” or “fall into extreme thinking.”

However, I do think the rules are limiting. I am not one to tell someone else what success or power is. Both of these are individual choices. Hence my negative criticism of the manifesto is of the narrow band of which success is defined. I read nothing that illuminated the internal beauty of feeling free to choose your own level of success. For me, that is when true power comes into play.

Frankly though, I was hoping to discover some true insights into some different rules for women. Going into it, I was anticipating something iconoclastic like Patti Smith. Instead, I was left with Pat Benatar. Neither bad. Simply, one was the captain of their own ship and broke the rules, the other one was a captive of the ship and followed the rules.

To me, if you wish to truly create new rules, take charge of yourself, create your own definitions of success and power, and be the captain of your own ship.

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Let Others Take Responsibility for Their Own Mistakes

Posted on December 12th, by Franny Oxford in Women of HR Series: 6 Rules to Break. 4 comments

This is the first post in a series where Women of HR share their thoughts and reactions to a manifesto, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed.


Our fearless leader over here at Women of HR recently sent us a link to an awesome manifesto titled, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed. The list includes provocative ideas such as taking center stage, being politically savvy, and playing to win.

I have a rule I’d like to add to the list and it’s a big one:

Care Less.

In this instance, by care I mean taking responsibility for anything outside your own purview and trying to fix, make better, help, show concern, or apologize for problem or issue that you did not create.

The fact is, women already apologize far more often than men. And we apologize for different reasons, often to convey sympathy rather than responsibility. Here’s a great example from dinner with my brother and sister last night. We were going to a football game and meeting the rest of our family. The waiter forgot to put in her order and then came back to discuss it as the rest of us were finishing the meal. She told him to forget it. He tried to argue with her about it, since he’d just put the order in.

My sister said, “I’m really sorry, but I had said I didn’t want that shrimp dish after all. We’re trying to get to a football game. Since you forgot to order the dish, everyone else is finished. Please cancel it.”

He brought it out ten minutes later. She said again, to the waiter: “Thanks, but like I said, we don’t want this shrimp now. I’m sorry.” He left it on the table as he went to get the check. The shrimp dish was on the bill.

My brother said to the waiter: “Hey, man, you screwed up. I guess you’re eating shrimp for dinner. But we’re not paying for it. And we don’t want to drag this doggy bag full of shrimp all over town tonight.”

Notice the difference?

My brother is not known to be especially assertive, but my sister is known to be particularly so, for a woman. And she still apologized twice for a mistake she didn’t make. My sister was trying to convey sympathy, but the waiter apparently heard responsibility – why would she apologize if she hadn’t somehow helped create the problem?

Care less. Apologize less. Or at least count the number of times you say, “I’m sorry,” compared to your male peers. Let people take responsibilities for their own mistakes. It won’t kill them. And continuing to care too much about the people around you might kill you. Or worse, send you driving home with a dish of shrimp scampi that has been sitting in your car for 3 hours on a hot Houston night.

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