Women In The Boardroom: Can You Be Nice and Succeed?
Succeeding in the world of business can be difficult. If you’re too quiet, you’ll get skipped over when it comes to dishing out the credit for major project successes. If you’re too pushy, people will think that you’re bossy, high maintenance, or always out to put others down.
The problem is even more challenging for women, sadly. A man that stands up for himself, makes sure that the people who deserve the credit always get it and refuses to be pushed into working longer hours or accepting less than he deserves is usually seen as secure, in control, or command.
Even a man that yells and shouts may be seen as “intimidating”, or perhaps “aggressive”, but those qualities are sometimes thought of as being positive. It takes several serious episodes of lost temper for people to see anger as being a serious negative issue.
Women that lose their temper are often seen in a different light – terms such as “over-emotional”, or “hypersensitive” are more likely to appear than “commanding” or “stern”. This isn’t necessarily a sign of deliberate discrimination; simply the way that the two genders are portrayed in popular culture.
Fortunately, there are leadership development lessons that both genders can learn from, and that can make the boardroom a better place to be. When stress levels are high and deadlines are looming, it’s easy to feel that shouting and ultimatums are the only options, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
The first thing that many people are taught in executive coaching sessions is to leave their emotion at the door. The office isn’t the place to be worrying about what people think of you, or whether or not someone’s slightly terse message means anything more than just “I was in a rush when I typed this”.
That doesn’t mean that you have to turn into a robot, though. The most successful leaders, male and female, have learned how to communicate effectively.
If you want to make an angry response, wait a minute or two and think about how to respond clearly, but without the anger. Explain what is important to the success of the project and the wellbeing of the team, and leave the other things for later.
If you do need to get involved in a slightly confrontational situation, be honest about what the problem is. Don’t attack your co-worker personally, simply explain the situation at hand and stick to the facts. If you’re putting yourself forward as a potential leader for a project, back up your position with facts.
Saying “I want to do this and I’m better than the other guy” makes you look power hungry while saying “I believe I am the best person for the job because of the contribution I made to [X similar project]” is hard for anyone to argue with.
If you aren’t confident in your communication skills, a leadership development course could help you. Some executive coaching courses are available for entire teams, and these can be useful for clearing the air in a difficult work environment. At the end of the day, however, the only person who can improve how you communicate is you.