Women In Business – The Right Move At The Right Time

The Art of Making the Right Move at the Right Time – Manipulation at its’ finest!

How do you know when to make that very gutsy move; the one that wins it all, or you go home broke? There are a few checklist type questions that you can ask yourself when you take the final deep breath at the moment of decision, but first a personal story.

When I was twenty-one, I interviewed for teaching positions at the top paying, suburban, Chicago public schools. In those days, there were literally two thousand applicants for every open position. I was getting married and moving to Chicago and my betrothed family (who were all teachers) arranged for me to enter into the interview process. Although interviews are a subject for another column, these interviews were grueling; first interview with three separate committee members, second interview with the entire committee and the third with the decision maker on the committee.

I had been in the pursuit of three jobs and I was sitting at the final interview along with the line of the other final applicants. They all looked a little older and that meant “experience” which is the nemesis of first time candidates. After my interview at this school, I was headed for my third call back at another school.

I was the last one to enter the room at the final one-on-one and I felt that I had an edge on the others in every way except for the category of experience in public education. The interview went fine although there seemed to be an emphasis on the fact that I had never taught in a public school. I remember feeling that one of the other candidates would prevail and in that moment I felt that, I had nothing to lose.

I said, “When do you anticipate a decision?”

Answer: “In a week or two.”

I said, “Oh that’s too bad I am going right now to your neighboring school for my third interview and I am sure they will ask me to sign a contract today.”

No answer (good sign).

I said, (trying to be humble after my bold statement) “It’s too bad, this is my first choice, but there just aren’t a lot of jobs and I have to take the first one offered. I was hoping you would make a decision today.”

Answer: “Could you give me a minute?”

I looked at my watch and waited a second, “Sure.” I left the room and knew that I was one of the final candidates; I thought that at least I had smoked that information out of them. I was in the process with two other schools and knew I had back up choices.

It was a long five minutes, but within ten minutes, I was on my way over to the School Board office to sign a contract.

I did not plan that strategy (I wish I could give myself that much credit). Now in my later years, with accumulated experience, I do understand the game and why I evolved as the winner on that day.

I put it all on the line that day. If I had not been offered the job that day, they would have likely offered it to another person assuming that I had withdrawn myself by considering another position or the fact that I was pressing where I should have been more conforming. (I made over $60,000 a year at my first teaching position.)

That day I learned something and I have used the technique repeatedly. Women have it tougher then men in this arena; it is easy to judge a female as a whiner or worse, the “b” word. Men play these tactile games everyday to show the rule of the roost. If you are going to play “balls to the wall”, consider this checklist.

1) You should have nothing to lose, why? You should have a back up. This means that the game you play is not really the “real” game. If you do not have a back up then you must be prepared to accept the consequences (like one of those game shows to go on to win more money). This is the only way you can “play.”

You have to realize that once you throw it back at them, you have not control. It is the “ball in your court” syndrome; the next move must be theirs.

2) You have to detach from the outcome you can push with a different set of reasoning. In other words, you are giving it a fifty-fifty chance and the thought that it is likely to “not” happen. When you have to achieve a certain outcome, you set yourself up like a victim who “needs” something.

3) You have to be willing to lose everything pertaining to this particular decision. If you are going to stick with a low-ball bid on a piece of real estate, you have to be prepared to walk away without the property.

When you play “balls out”, give an undesirable consequence as the other option; always attempt to take something away from the person in power. This may be as simple as taking their choice away.

4) Your back up is your “need” situation and you should put it aside once it is established. Now you go after what you “want.” Negotiating from this position is self-empowering.

5) The piece of advice is once you make your move; sit still, stand still and be quiet. Wait until you are called upon for the next move. Do not make it for them. This is probably the most nerve wracking and it requires discipline.

Lastly, practice. This sounds weird, but here is a game you can play. Try to get someone to do something that you have no concern over the consequence; in other words, it does not matter if the answer is “yes” or “no”, but you are trying to achieve yes or convince someone to do something that they may or may not take your position. (You have added the element of detachment.)

On being an entrepreneur – NOT – “If you don’t do this we’re through!”

-TRY – “If I can’t convince you then, I will do it myself.” (You took away their power to argue against you.)

On being a mom – NOT – “You are going with me to the store, or else!”

– TRY – “You don’t have to go to the store with me; I’ll pick all the treats myself.” (You took away the power of decision or choice.)

On being a spouse – NOT – “We never go out to eat anywhere nice.”

– TRY – “We don’t have to go out to dinner. What ingredients do you want me to pick up so you can cook dinner?” (You took away the expectation that you were going to do something for someone else.)

On being a coworker – NOT – “I have to do everything around here.”

– TRY – “Don’t worry; I can do it by myself. I need the credit anyway.” (You took away their power to achieve credit or accomplishment).

On being a friend – NOT – “Can you just do this for me one time?”

– TRY – “I wouldn’t expect you to do that.” (You took away your high expectation of that person.)

The right decisions are decisions of manipulation and the right time means that you have forced the choice now or put yourself in a position to choose another consequence. Remember that it does not always work either and that losing does not feel good. If you are going to play the delicate game of manipulation, you will experience both sides of the coin; winning and losing.
You truly have to practice these techniques with words to manipulate as it is called so deviously, or convince as it is more commonly accepted or coined. Another important point is that not all negotiations are equal and that everyone has their breaking point and this is where the Sassy Executive has to use her intuition.

Grants For Women-Owned Business Ventures and Where to Find Them

According to Score.org, nearly one-third of all businesses in the United States are woman-owned. Statistics from 2005 reveal that 775,000 new business start ups every year (55%) are women-owned.

So where do women entrepreneurs go to find funding for their start up businesses?

Many assume that federal government programs would be at the top of list. However, there may be more opportunities at the state, county and local levels. Finding these types of grant programs requires a bit more digging, but the effort can be well worth it.

A first step would be to visit Grants.gov and look through current offerings. Next, spend several hours scouring your state’s main web site. Do the same for your county and city web sites. Send emails and make phone calls to see if you can learn of anything new that is not yet posted.

Also it’s important to know about special small business classifications that may apply in certain situations: minority-owned, disadvantaged and veteran-owned — in addition to ‘woman-owned’. If you qualify for one or more of these special categories, your application may get priority over other business owners.

In today’s economy, technology and innovation ideas have a greater chance of special grants and loan programs. Have an idea specific to green energy or recycling? The timing has never been better.

What to do if your start up is not technology or energy related? If the business start up can be made flexible to fit specific projects, such as workforce training, or capital improvements to public facilities, the funding possibilities increase.

Sign up to get information on very specific types of projects at Grants.gov and consider adapting to fit the requirements. Based on current product or service needs, you can construct a winning plan that provides a solution. Your reward for finding that solution could be a grant or low cost loan.

Women in Business: 10 Ways to Be Strategic in Building Your Career

What do I mean by being “strategic”? I believe there are three different kinds of women in business when it comes to managing their career progression and their life at the office in general: the expressives, the conventionals and the strategic.

If you are of the “expressive” kind, you’ll be spontaneous, natural, and living the emotion of the moment with little or no filtering of your communication. Your thoughts come like gum balls out of machine. Your “career management” is authentic and honest. You spend little time on office politics. The moment you think it, they’ve got it.

The “conventional” type is driven by the question: What’s the right thing to do? We learn that we are supposed to behave in certain ways in certain situations, worry about the “appropriate,” about conventions, etc. What are the conventions in your organization, and how are they different from other places you’ve worked? Convention is a safe place to go – no one will hate you but it may not get you to the top. Another possible downside is that you’re seen as boring, or at least dry.

Now if you are “strategic,” you are aware of conventions but don’t always follow them. “Strategic” means asking: What outcomes do I want to produce and what “ABCs” (appearance, behavior and communication) will get me there? What are the consequences of x, y or z? How do I want to be seen? Some people do this more intuitively, others explicitly.

A word of caution: it’s easy to get “strategic” wrong – by being deliberate in a manipulative way, or too intentional at the expense of integrity, or being “real.” The trick is to be strategic and real at the same time – smart, aware of the consequences…and authentic.

So what are some of the more “strategic” things to do for women in business who want to get ahead and build their power to influence? I’m going to differentiate here between “the inner game of career success” and the “outer game.” “Inner” refers to the invisible thoughts, feelings, values, beliefs, ideas etc. that lead to the “outer” elements such as visible behaviors and the tangible environment in which we operate. The “inner” creates the “outer” so we can’t talk about one without examining the other. Lastly, the word “game” reminds us that there are certain rules involved, but that the process shouldn’t be taken too seriously and that the whole thing consists of learnable skills (good news!). So are you ready?

TOP 10 STRATEGIC ACTIONS FOR WOMEN IN BUSINESS

(note: points 1-5 refer to the “inner game”, points 6-10 to the “outer game”).

  1. Examine your beliefs about your potential – whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right (Henry Ford). We act in accordance with our predominant beliefs, and those actions create our results. If your beliefs about yourself, about your abilities or about others do not empower you, ask yourself why you are holding on to them. Beliefs are built on the past: on things we have heard, seen or experienced. They are not right or wrong, they are only opinions. Become aware of your beliefs, understand where they come from and disassociate from them if they no longer serve you.
  2. Build self-confidence – handle your inner critic. We all have it, that little voice inside our heads that tells us that “we can’t”. You need to understand that you are not that voice, in the same way that you are not your foot or your hand. You are more than that. The little voice, your mind, has good intentions: it wants to protect you, to keep you safe. In order to keep you safe it will tell you to stay where you are, to not step out of your comfort zone. Self-confidence comes from “feeling the fear but doing it anyway” (Susan Jeffers), in spite of the little voice, seeing it for what it is: an over protective mother smothering you with advice (add vice?).
  3. Choose your thoughts carefully – what we focus on, expands. You may have heard the saying “energy flows where attention goes.” Truer words were never spoken. What words do you use to describe your experiences? Your life at the office will reflect those words! Want more positivity? Think more positive thoughts. If you think your thoughts express your truth, you’re wrong. They only express one truth about you and the world you live in. You affect your world with your thoughts. Don’t like what you see? Change what you think!
  4. Be open to change – everything flows, nothing stands still (Heraclitus). It’s been said that our mind is like a parachute: it simply works better when it’s open! How open to change are you? Many of us will resist change, we will even negate it if given the chance. The trick is to explore the new opportunities that come with change until we eventually come to accept it (which doesn’t mean you have to like it). Roles, responsibilities, challenges etc. will continue to change as more and more women take center stage in our corporations. If you find yourself resisting those changes, ask yourself if you want to be right, or if you want to be happy.
  5. Know what you want – clarity leads to power. The number one reason most people don’t get what they want is because they don’t know what they want. Make sure you have a clear picture in your mind as to where you’re heading. s your career vision clear? Is it compelling? Can you feel, smell, hear, see and almost taste what lies ahead in your desired future? If so, great, you’re on track! If not, spend some time formulating a clear picture of what it is you want to achieve. Set yourself some deadlines. Invent a slogan, a mantra if you’re so inclined, that will keep you connected to your desired outcome and you’ll be beating the odd
  6. Fake it ’til you make it – our attitudes follow our behavior. What skills do you want to develop? What would you like to change about yourself? Start acting as if you were already the person you want to be around the office. It has been proven countless times that in our desire for internal consistency (the psychologists call it cognitive dissonance) our being will align with our doing. Want to be more influential? Start acting influential. Soon you’ll feel more influential. Others will see it. They’ll start treating you as an influential person. Soon you won’t have to “fake it” anymore, you will have become more influential.
  7. Self-promote – “brag” is not a 4-letter word. Most of us were taught not to toot our own horn, so self-promotion make not come easily, and yes, it’s easy to get it wrong by overdoing it. Yet when it comes to life in the office, it’s not just what you do but also who sees you doing it, i.e. who knows about how great you are, that will determine how far you’ll make it in your field. In the increasingly transparent and flat world economy, your reputation will come to matter as much as your skills and achievements – no matter how junior or senior you are. Are you strategic about the kind of reputation you are building? What is your reputation and how do you know? Do take care of your reputation – and it will take care of you.
  8. Know your ABC’s – master your appearance, behaviors and communication. It’s not who you are, it’s how you’re seen to be. Advertisers know that today’s perception is tomorrow’s reality. Make sure that the way you look, behave and speak reflect the part you’re aiming to play at work. If you’re not sure, ask someone you trust for some honest feedback. Your appearance, behaviors and communication will either be your allies or your biggest stumbling block, no matter how good you are at your job. Not fair? Who said life at the office was fair!
  9. Stay in your circle of control – be happy, don’t worry. Certain aspects of life at the office fall directly under our control. What to wear, how to behave, who to treat well, when to speak, when to shut up etc. Other elements of work lie beyond our circle of control, in our circle of concern. Focus on the things you can do. There’s always something you can do. When you do get concerned about something and worry about it, ask yourself what you can do about it. Then do it, and stop worrying. Your worrying serves no one. And here’s a secret: the more time you spend in your circle of control, the bigger it get. And similarly, the more time you wander around in worryland, the more disempowered you become.
  10. Network – it’s not what you know, but who you know (and who knows you!). I already said life at the office isn’t fair so I won’t say it again. We live in a hyper connected world that has been called a “relationship economy” (2008, Scott Allen et al.). You have to become a relationship manager. Evaluate the strength of your professional network. Are you happy with the people in it? How can they help you? What have you done for them lately? Being strategic also means developing the right relationships, where others become a stepping stone for you and vice versa. And make sure your network is not “limited” to people exactly like you. New ideas and learning often come from those we see as very different from ourselves.

As you will have noticed, this list does not include “doing a good job” and there are two reasons for this. First of all, the fact that you need to be good at what you do is implied, your performance is a given. Secondly, and more importantly, being (very) good at what you do is no longer enough. In the evolving world of work you’ll be required to leverage your performance, to publicize and fully own it. The pervasiveness of the “just world” syndrome (described by Melvin Lerner in the 80′s) would have us believe that the good get rewarded and the bad get struck down. Well, you and I know that doesn’t always happen, far from it. So who does get rewarded? More often than not, it’s the strategic ones! I hope the above helps you become more strategic, more purposeful and more in resolute about your career and what it is you want to achieve.