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While Microsoft CEO’s comment upsetting, it is not entirely wrong

By now everyone in the social media world and beyond is likely talking about the recent comment by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in which he suggested that “women don’t need to ask for a raise and should just trust the system to pay them well.”

In a monumental effort to regain creditability as a leader and quell the flames of indignation, Mr. Nadella apologized for his response to the question “What advice would you give to women who are uncomfortable requesting a raise?”

Despite being politically incorrect, the irony is that Mr. Nadella’s advice is actually sound. This in and of itself is the real issue with which everyone in the business world should be more concerned.

According to the results of a Yale University 2012 study conducted by Professor Victoria Brescoll, “when men talk a lot, people want to reward them. But when women do it, they are seen as being too domineering, too presumptuous.”

More specifically, the study found that talkative men were given a competency rating of 5.64 on average, while quiet men were given a 5.11. On the other hand, “chatty women” received a rating of 4.83 versus 5.62 if they were more quiet.

Based on the above results from the Yale study, it would be unwise to summarily dismiss Mr. Nadella’s words as being out of order.

Don’t Shoot The Messenger

I in no way want to come across as if I am agreeing with the sentiments behind Mr. Nadella’s words, nor willingly accepting their implications. However, women cannot with cries of injustice and sexism, continue to ignore and/or muffle the underlying problem.

After all, and if you think about it, an apology from the Microsoft CEO ultimately does little in terms of overcoming a negative stereotype of women.

Similar to the belief that men are assertive and women are aggressive disconnect, the fact that men are rewarded for speaking up while women are penalized for doing the same, requires more than an apology.

It requires a whole new mindset on the part of men and yes, even women.

Killing Women With Mentoring Kindness?

In the September 2010 Harvard Business Review article by Herminia Ibarra, Nancy M. Carter, and Christine Silva titled “Why Men Still Get More Promotions Than Women”, the authors found that “high-potential women are overmentored and undersponsored relative to their male peers”. As a result, “they are not advancing in their organizations.”

For those unfamiliar with the difference between a mentor and a sponsor, a sponsor is an individual who goes beyond providing feedback and advice, and uses “his or her influence with senior executives to advocate for the mentee.”

In essence, and in addition to speaking for themselves, women also need champions to voice their support and to help pave the way to greater opportunities – including increased pay.

Less Apologies and More Sponsorships

In the case of the Microsoft CEO, and beyond offering an apology, I would suggest that he ask himself the following question; “Have I ever been an active sponsor for a woman or women within my own company?”

Once again, I am not talking about the mentoring referenced in the HBR article. What I am talking about is real sponsorship in which Mr. Nadella examines the pay scale differences between men and women at Microsoft, and actually works towards implementing a reward policy based on merit as opposed to gender. This is ultimately leading change through positive action.

In terms of women, there needs to be less focus on the offense, and more emphasis on solutions. This includes following the advice of Maria Klawe, who suggested “women do their homework on salary information”, and first practice “asking for a raise with people they trust”. Beyond the raise question, women also need to actively seek sponsors who will, when required, step up to the plate on their behalf.

Or to put it another way, and in the spirit of the Elvis Presley song, it is now time for a little less conversation, and a little more action . . . on everyone’s part.

Less Talk



Does Sandberg’s “ban bossy” campaign help or hurt women by Roz Usheroff

You would probably have to be on another planet – maybe even in another galaxy – to not have heard of the recent call to arms of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to eradicate the word “bossy” from our everyday vernacular.

According to a Forbes article by Micheline Maynard titled “Dear Sheryl Sandberg: There Are Far Worse Things Than Being Called Bossy,” the writer recounts a slight suffered by Sandberg when she was a junior high school student.  Apparently, a teacher told Sandberg’s best friend, “Nobody likes a bossy girl. You should find a new friend who will be a better influence on you.”

While there are certainly no shortages of women jumping on the ban bossy bandwagon, including notables such as Beyonce and Condoleezza Rice, I found Maynard’s position to be most interesting.  Specifically her Tweet which proclaimed “I’ve got news for Sheryl Sandberg: there are far worse things for women than being called bossy.”

Maynard then goes on to say “bossy isn’t only a word that applies to women. It’s gender neutral. There are plenty of bossy men out there, too. Bossy is bossy — dictatorial, unyielding, telling people what to do and expecting them to do it without any input.”

I tend to agree with this last point, as men too get called bad words for being pushy.  However, in my many years of coaching both genders, I have never heard a man being referred to as bossy, but rather “aggressive”.  There are two questions to consider.  If a man is referred to as “aggressive”, is that perceived as positive or negative?  The second question is more related to how women and men react to a negative and even unwarranted comment.

Maynard ended her article by saying that the word bossy “reflects more about the person who said it than it does about you,” and that one should not “take it personally.”

Once again, there is truth in Maynard’s position that is worth considering beyond gender.

For example, I met with a female several weeks ago who has a very senior position.  However, her boss doesn’t seem to believe her collaborative style warrants a higher position in leading people.   She has led groups, transformed organizations outside of this company yet her credentials don’t seem to matter.  Her boss’ perception is that she is is not strong enough to manage challenging people, yet her results demonstrates the contrary.

On the other hand, I also know a guy who everyone loves.  He’s hoping for an EVP role and to sit on the leadership team.  His boss says that he isn’t demonstrating leadership qualities like his peers. He’s seen as too nice a guy.  Go figure!  He brings in the results.

What’s interesting with the above two scenarios is how each responds to what appears to be a harsh and somewhat unfair assessment by their respective bosses.  Or to put it another way, what would be the best and most productive way to deal with these situations.

Does it make sense to stand up on a soapbox and proclaim that being called “weak” or being “too nice” should be banned from our language?  Alternatively, does it make more sense to receive the feedback, understand the basis for why you are being seen this way and, figure out a way to deal with it so as to remove the obstacle?

Perhaps the answer is found in Sandberg’s own success in that as Maynard put it,  she didn’t let the teacher’s comment “stop her, since she’s a billionaire and a best-selling author.”

I can’t help but wonder if Sandberg would have achieved the same level of success if she had chosen to launch her ban campaign when she was starting out, as opposed to using the teacher’s slight as motivation to ascend the corporate ladder to the lofty position she now holds.

In other words, by placing an emphasis on a word or words as opposed to rolling up your sleeves and focusing on getting the job done, is Sandberg hurting or helping the next generation of women leaders?

Last, if by chance you do receive feedback that suggests you are either “bossy” or “aggressive”, I would encourage you to ask the person to explain what that looks like.  At best, you can decide if his/her perspective is valid.




Shadowed success: Do women have to be twice as good as men to be equally recognized by Roz Usheroff

“Women don’t believe enough in themselves.  They wait for permission to go for the “GOLD” and stand on ceremony to speak out . . . these athletes took the bull by the horn and allowed their competitiveness be their bond and came together to win . . . Females typically focus on being collaborative rather than winning.  It was wonderful to see their self-confidence shine and not be distracted by the competition.  Coming together as a team, supporting each other like glue with the same vision brought these females to stardom in my eyes.”

I gave the above comment in response to a question regarding my recent post discussing the success of Canada’s Men’s Hockey Team winning gold in Sochi.  Specifically, how did I view the performance of the Women’s Hockey Team given that they too won gold.

From a business analogical perspective, the women’s victory was on many levels even more amazing for a number of reasons.

To begin, there is a prevailing sentiment that being competitive is somehow unladylike, and that possessing the competitive fire that is necessary for success in the business world is an unattractive characteristic.

Then there is the competitive disconnect in which women will at times become each others worst enemy.  Many women know what I am talking about in that instead of being supportive of one another, women tend to undermine female “teammates” based on a belief that there are only a limited number of places available on the “corporate roster.”

Finally, there is also the persistent belief that the accomplishments of women are somehow less noteworthy than those of their male counterparts.  The commercial that aired during the last days of the Olympics proved this point based on the response of some of my friends both male and female.

The commercial to which I am referring highlighted the number of consecutive gold medals Canada’s hockey team had won.  The interesting point is that many assumed the commercial was about the men’s hockey program, and were surprised to discover that the commercial was actually talking about the women’s success on Olympic ice.  the latter revelation came about as a result of the commercial ending with images of the women’s team.

The irony of course is that this was not a conscious response that was meant to diminish the women’s hockey program, but instead reflects a preprogrammed thought process that exists beneath the surface.

Even though it is not a competition between men’s and women’s hockey in Canada, one might based upon the above points, wonder if women have to generally work harder and achieve twice as much as men to receive the same recognition.  My reference here is based upon the women having won four consecutive gold medals versus the men’s two consecutive victories.

Some might even go so far as to suggest that had the men failed to capture gold in Sochi that the women’s accomplishment, while praiseworthy, would not have made up for such a loss.

In the end, I believe that both teams have a great deal about which to be proud.  I also believe that we as Canadians generally celebrate the uniquely different yet heroic efforts of an amazing group of women and men to carry themselves in a manner worthy of being called champions.

Now if we could only find a way to move this sentiment from the ice to the boardroom.

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Don’t fail your daughters (or your sons) by Roz Usheroff

“First, trust your own passions and tastes. Don’t let people tell you who you are or what you’re best suited for — especially when their opinions are based on old-fashioned gender stereotypes. If there’s a job you want or a subject you’d like to study or a career you’d like to pursue, go after it. And don’t apologize.”

Even though I am the proud mother of a wonderfully talented and successful son, when I read the letter that Target’s EVP/Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Jones wrote to his daughters – from which the above excerpt was taken – I was in a word “moved.”  By the way you can read the letter in its entirety through this link.

In my Art of WOW Conferences I talk about how women can find their way out of the Endless Loop Trap, the kind to which Jones referred in his letter.  However, I cannot help but think how we as parents create the blueprints for our children’s success based on the values that we instill in them starting at a young age.

Please do not misinterpret my words as a call for all women to rise up against the enduring prejudices of men.  After all, I truly believe that by casting a hard die relative to traditional gender capabilities and roles in the business world, we do a great disservice to both girls and boys.

The fact is that I would be delighted to one day discover that the need for a specific conference to equip women with the tools for overcoming gender-based obstacles, would be replaced by a conference that empowers the individual regardless of sex.

To get to this point, we have to ask ourselves “what kind of legacy are we creating for our children?”

For the men are you, like Jones, encouraging your daughters to truly pursue their dreams, and in the process smash the illusions of inequality that have limited their opportunities.

What about the women?  Are you setting an example for your sons that demonstrate your true power and capabilities to both individually and collectively make a strong contribution in all areas of the business world . . . and in life?

In short, are we creating the blueprint for a better world.  One that doesn’t focus on perceived or misguided weaknesses, but on strengths such as integrity, perseverance and passion.

The last time I checked, these character strengths were not gender specific.

Letter to children3

Jeff Jones


When the going gets tough does gender equality fly out the window?

In the recent Deal Book article Lessons on Being a Success on Wall St., and Being a Casualty by Susanne Craig, the writer shares the insights she gained from her interview with one-time power executive Sallie Krawcheck.  I use the term one-time in that after rising to the top of major financial institutions Citigroup and Bank of America, Krawcheck found herself in the unemployment line.

Now for those familiar with the financial markets, and in particular the colossal collapse of venerable Wall Street firms such as Lehman Brothers and its impact on the economy as a whole, Kawcheck’s demise would not seem out of the ordinary.  In fact, given the attitude of the general populace towards the blatant greed of these institutions, one might be hard pressed to find anyone who would feel sympathy for a senior executive in the financial industry losing their job.  After all, how many people lost their life savings?


This of course is a fair consideration.  However, if one looks beyond the justified feelings of indignation and frustration with Wall Street, you will find that during a crisis situation, financial institutions tend to throw female executives to the wolves.   Disagree?  I’d like you to consider the following; in the above article, Craig highlighted the fact that beside Krawcheck, there were many female casualties of the financial meltdown including the former co-president of Morgan Stanley – Zoe Cruz, Lehman Brothers – Erin Callan and JP Morgan Chase senior executive – Ina Drew.

Once again, one may reasonably point to the fact that the reason these women lost their jobs is due to the market crash.  To a certain extent this may be true.  However it is the manner in which their careers imploded that stands out.

According to Krawcheck, when faced with a crisis, male CEO’s will invariably turn to those people with whom they are familiar and feel most comfortable.  In the case of Wall Street, this means that men will turn to other men instead of women during a period of upheaval and uncertainty.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this because it is natural during times of trouble that we all turn to those with whom we feel most comfortable and most confident.  The problem is that women have only recently begun to scale the heights of corporate leadership and as a result are not strategically placed to play the role of trusted CEO confidante or go to person – at least not as much as we thought or would like.

Now we can rail at the moon and bemoan the fact that this is an unjust situation, or we can learn from these setbacks and take positive action.

For example, women need to become better at networking.  We need to identify those individuals with whom we can connect who can serve as sponsors and mentors.  And yes I disagree with Krawcheck in this regard and her position that we need sponsors as opposed to mentors.  We need both.  In fact, Harvey McKay’s book on networking reminds me of the best advice I can give to clients: Dig Your Well Before You Are Thirsty.

Women also have to learn to brand themselves better, which includes not waiting until all of our proverbial ducks are lined-up before having the confidence to step-up and stand out.  A recent purchasing industry poll found that women believe that they need to have all of the prerequisite skill sets before going for a position, while their male counterparts feel that having some of the required skill sets are enough to get the position now, and that they can learn the rest on the job.  I call this the perfect star alignment syndrome that undermines our value and therefore our confidence to properly brand and promote ourselves.

While my new book The Future of You! Creating Your Enduring Brand takes an overall genderless view of branding, there are many references to successful female executives and business owners who have adeptly weathered similar storms to that of Krawcheck and have come out on top.

The key is to avoid dwelling on the apparent unfairness of situations such as what is happening on Wall Street and focus on those things that empower women to not only rise in the corporate ranks, but to also establish their creditability as go to people that can deliver when the chips are down!


Women in Business Series: Persuasion, Influence and Authenticity – Are Women More Genuine Than Men?

In his book titled “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” Dr. Robert Cialdini offered six principles you must follow to become a skilled persuader.

The six principles are as follows; Reciprocation, Commitment/Consistency, Authority, Social Validation, Scarcity and Liking/Friendship.

There is no doubt that after more than 40 years of what has been referred to as “rigorous, evidence-based research along with a three-year program of study on what moves people to change behavior,” Dr. Cialdini is as the book claims the seminal expert in the field of influence and persuasion.

But here is the question that immediately came to my mind . . . what about authenticity?

I am not suggesting that any one of the six principles listed by Dr. Cialdini is disingenuous.  In fact, they all reflect important relationship building values.

My point is simply this; attempting to apply these six principles if they do not truly reflect who you are and what you value will ultimately undermine your efforts.

For example, in discussing Dr. Cialdini’s principle of “Authority,” the website had this to say:

“People are more willing to follow the directions or recommendations of a communicator to whom they attribute relevant authority or expertise. One study showed that 3 times as many pedestrians were willing to follow a man into traffic against the red light when he was merely dressed as an authority in a business suit and tie.”

While people followed someone into traffic against a red light merely because the individual wore a suit and tie, the end result is that they would have in following this person ended up getting hit by a car.  This is hardly an outcome that would build sustainable creditability and influence.

I believe that merely learning a few parlor tricks relative to human conditioning does not imply the existence of true influence.  True influence is something that is both built and earned over time through producing consistent results that are beneficial to all stakeholders as opposed to just the individual that can best play the game.

Now I do not want you to think that I am discounting the need to understand how the game is played.  I do believe that politics exist on many different levels within corporations. Becoming more politically savvy is essential in order to survive and thrive in business.  Being politically savvy is a reality of how the world does business.  What I am saying is that being politically savvy or mastering Dr. Cialdini’s six principles in the absence of authenticity of self will eventually come back to hurt you.

This of course leads to another interesting question.  Who is more inclined to apply the six principles in a business setting if it means compromising on their authenticity -a man or a woman?

According to a recent study by Professor Roger Steare, which included 60,000 participants from 200 countries, women are more moral than men.  Steare’s “Moral DNA test” reached many conclusions based on the results that included the assertion that “when it comes to work, men have to grow up, put their ego to one side and show some humility and compassion – qualities they all too often have in their personal lives but put to one side when they walk into the office.”

This last point in particular speaks to the authenticity question.  For some reason, men have qualities they demonstrate in their personal lives but are able to check at the office door.  What is disconcerting is that women feel compelled to do the same.  However, for females, this compartmentalization of character is far more difficult a task.  Women tend to feel torn or even tormented when they believe they can’t express what they are thinking. Perhaps this is why there are only twenty female CEOs that head up a Fortune 500 company.

Does this mean that women have to become more like men when it comes to being true to who they are?

If one is to believe the findings in Hanna Rosin’s newly released book “The End of Men: And the Rise of Women,” the answer is no.  The author’s revelation that a “new state of affairs” in which there is a radical shifting of “the power dynamics between men and women at every level of society” suggests that being authentic and politically savvy is indeed reflective of complimentary attributes.

So what is my advice to you?

To start, remember that if you’re not playing the game, you probably aren’t getting what you want. .  Honor your authenticity but sell your value proposition.  Use some of Cialdini’s teaching  with the purpose of sharing your wisdom.

The above being said I have always believed in Polonius’s last piece of advice to his son Laertes “to thine own self be true!”  And now it appears that the rest of the world is catching up.


Women in Business Series: Find Harmony beyond Balance

Can women really have it all?

Back in the 70’s, a television commercial about Enjoli perfume was launched with the catch phrase, “the 8 hour perfume for the 24-hour woman.”  It was indeed a heady time for us ladies in that an unlimited world of opportunity awaited any woman who had the gumption to seize the day.

After all, and as the commercial’s catchy jingle proclaims, we can do everything from putting the wash on the line, feed the kids, get dressed and still get to work by five to nine.  Let’s not forget about our ability to bring home the bacon as well!

The real question is whether or not we bought into the ‘have it all‘ mantra at the expense of our own well-being, especially since it is not an issue with which men in the business world have to deal.

Simply put, having it all is all about perspectives.

I personally see myself as having it all but I do not put pressure on myself to have it at the same time. Life presents many challenges so I may have to give more to my personal life and work may need to be less of a priority. There will also be times when I may need to reverse priorities. In truth, having it all requires us to redefine success on a continual and collective or big picture basis that consists of interchangeable or shifting objectives.

In addition, as women, we need to understand that if having it all means perfection; i.e. everything has to be working 100 percent at the same time, we will never feel contented.  This is why achieving harmony as opposed to finding balance should be the standard by which we judge success.  Harmony, as defined in a 2010 article by Robert Driscoll, is being in a state that represents “an order or congruity of parts to their whole or to one another.”

Putting things in perspective, laying the foundation for future successes and seeking harmony are mindsets that can make females feel successful and not defeated.

Conversely, trying to have it all or being the 24-hour woman makes no sense if everything has to check in at the same time.

Perhaps we need to learn some lessons from men in this area.  Men measure success by more than one criterion.  Business success is different than personal success.  Playing a lousy game of golf does not define the individual.

The fact is that women need to redefine what can be possible and stop playing the Superwoman Role. For years I believed I could have it all using the Superwoman model as my guide. The irony is that even when it felt that I had reached my ambitious goals, I was often too exhausted to celebrate my successes.  We need to question the price we pay for aspiring to achieve our goals and if it is worth the investment.

In this context, replacing balance with “harmony,” failure with “learning,” and imperfections with ”courage to accept what is” should serve as our ultimate guide.

Or to put it more succinctly – now is the time to stop being the 24-hour woman and get a good 8-hours night sleep.