Stephen R. Covey is known for his super-bestseller “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. It’s a valuable book and I agree whole heartily with the habits he encourages for success. But what about the habits we think are good which are actually hurting our success? Nobody talks about them. Most of these habits were ingrained in us as children. For the most part they served us well in our early years. However, once we hit the business world these very habits can become our enemy.
Most of these habits started by rewarding girls and boys for being the typical ‘good’ children. Most boys begin to abandon some of their good boy ways as they grow up, realizing that in a male-centric world, they will be eaten or beaten if they continue to practice the good boy habits. Women, on the other hand, continue to be rewarded for good girl behavior in college and are sometimes punished or even ostracized if they behave more like men. When women arrive in the business world they are confused by why they are no longer rewarded for being a good girl, and why so many of the boys – now men –in control don’t reward women with promotions and plum assignments for continuing to be good girls.
Times change, Until the feminist movement many women didn’t even realize they were stuck in the “Madmen” generation and that change was necessary. Here we are 40 years later, and many women still find themselves stuck in their careers doing the good girl thing, especially in male dominated fields like finance and technology.
So what are good girls or even good boys to do? As Bob Newhart says in his famous TV/video solution to life’s problems – “STOP IT! “ Make a shift. Change what you are doing. What worked in kindergarten does NOT work in the business world. It’s time to replace some of the good habits with new ‘bad’ habits that will serve your career.
Here’s five good habits to STOP and five ‘bad’ habits to START:
- Be Prepared. That’s the Boy Scout and the Girl Scout motto. Women turn down jobs, promotions and opportunities if they believe they are not 100% prepared. Most men welcome and seek out jobs when they are 50% prepared figuring they will learn the other 50% while on the job. Guess what? They get the jobs the women turn down! You don’t always need to be 100% prepared for a new job.
- Be independent. Don’t rely on anyone but yourself. In the business world this definitely doesn’t work. Boys learn early to be part of a team that evolves into the tribe at work. Men help each other, open doors to new positions and assignments. They look out for each other. Women may not be able to be a member of the male tribe, but we all can surround ourselves with an entourage of collaborative, supportive people who we trust and who trust us. How do you get a great assignment? People need to know you, trust you and like you. Operating alone is lonely and it will kill a career.
- Be polite. Always show good etiquette. Men have learned to interrupt and disagree with each other without being sensitive. If the rest of us don’t learn how to comfortably interrupt the conversation or the meeting and get others to listen to us, we will not be able to communicate effectively and express our own views and ideas.
- Help others achieve their goals before your own. When you are a leader your goals and your company’s are most important – not the individual goals of your team. Your job is to inspire your team with your vision so that your team sees their success in achieving your goals. It was philosopher Fritz Perls who said, “Take care of yourself so you can take care of others.”
- Achieve life/work balance. This is virtually impossible. If we try to keep our lives equally balanced all the time, we will be frustrated and unhappy. In life priorities on the business side and the personal side will call the shots. Find ways to integrate our unbalanced lives and careers and identify people to support us during the challenging times. Women try to do it all and that’s not possible. Get help from spouse, family, friends and paid help. It’s worth it to have a fulfilling happy life.
This blog was adapted from a speech presented by Leslie Grossman , NYC Vistage Chair and author of LINK OUT (Wiley), at the Long Island Association Women’s Collaborative on March 10, 2015. Read how the presentation was received by the 150 women (and a few men) professionals in the audience at http://lesliegrossmanleadership.com/events/