8 Ways Women Can Win the Game

businessmen and women

Men and women “play” differently in the workplace. By knowing how to use different leadership styles, women can win the game.

Women–how many times has this happened to you? You’re sharing an idea in a meeting when suddenly you’re cut off–by a man.

According to participants in my women advancement workshops, it happens A LOT. The women view this behavior as a sign of disrespect and obliviousness where the men think it’s reasonable behavior and healthy competition.

This is one of many ways in which men and women “play” differently at work. And, these different styles can create friction and hold women back. But, if women learn the game and switch their leadership styles when necessary, we may be able to start taking up more space in the C-suite.

Here are eight ways women can play like women and win like men:

Pat yourself on the back.

A lot of women feel uncomfortable drawing attention to their accomplishments. They’ll say “we” when it’s really “I” or say nothing at all.

Gail Evans, the author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman, says because the workplace is run by a game where winning is the apparent objective, self-promotion is a way to show power. She advises not to be afraid to toot your own horn. If you don’t, no one else will.

Don’t be afraid to say “no.”

Men often have no qualms about turning down a project while women take on more and more.

Many women fear saying “no” is a sign of weakness–a sign that they can’t hack it. But Christopher Flett, author of What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business, says it is exactly the opposite. He says, “No-one promotes a ‘pile-on'”–a term he uses for someone who takes on more and more, never saying “no.”

I advise the women in my workshops that it’s okay to prioritize. “Work less and get promoted” is the statement I use over and over again. It’s getting women to think differently.

Speak up.

In the new book The Influence Effect, released this week, the authors from coaching firm Flynn Heath Holt reveal research that shows about half of women have significant difficulty inserting themselves into crucial meeting discussions. That’s while half of men say the most important thing women should address in meetings is being more confident and direct, less equivocal and apologetic.

Not speaking up in meetings is a tremendous missed opportunity to sell your ideas and yourself. Don’t be cowed by louder or more aggressive colleagues, or wait to be invited into the conversation. Force yourself to speak up more and defend your point of view. The authors of The Influence Effect share this advice–arrive early, speak early and ask questions.

Be confident.

In The Confidence Code, co-author Katty Kay says that research shows confidence is more important than competence–and women tend to focus firmly on the latter.

Don’t be afraid to take on something new and then figure it out. See it as an opportunity for growth–and believe that you can do it, even if you’ve never done it before.

Get to the point.

Men are generally conditioned to act, and so their communication style tends to be more solution-oriented and to the point. When communicating with men, women should aim to be succinct, direct and use declarative statements as opposed to finishing sentences with question marks.

Be specific with feedback.

If you’re leading men or collaborating with them, be specific in your directions–and especially your criticism.

Many men are hard-wired to let criticism roll off them. Rather than generalities, offer specific action items for them to act on.

Hit the water cooler.

The women at Flynn Heath Holt see “networking” or “schmoozing” as using the “power of the informal.” That means women can gain influence by working behind the scenes and using informal networks to strengthen relationships and get the support they need.

So, circulate the office or stay late at a meeting to find common ground with your male colleagues–talk about your kids or mutual interest in movies. This bond will extend to your working relationship and help you in the long run.

Don’t take things personally.

Because men and women communicate differently, often men’s way of doing things can be off-putting to women.

Remember that men aren’t likely trying to insult, offend or alienate you. And if they are, it’s even more important to put it back on them. You can use it as a coaching moment for yourself–and for them.

Working across gender in the workplace is more of an art than a science, but knowing these gender differences may quell some misunderstandings and even help more women get into the C-suite.

A version of the post was first published on Inc.

How to be a Good Ally to Women at Work

image-of-woman-at-work

As the #MeToo movement grows in strength, it seems there just might be a silver lining to the Harvey Weinstein scandal. We have a chance to change workplace culture. And one of the places to start is for men to understand the need to be a good ally to women.

The list of women who say they were harassed by film studio exec Harvey Weinstein is astonishing long–and growing by the day.  And sadly, much-admired men, like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Russell Crowe, are being criticized for standing by and allowing–or even aiding in–Weinstein’s cover-up.

This has precipitated an important discussion on just how many women in the workplace (and life) suffer in silence. And, I believe this discussion of these atrocities has a silver lining.

Through awareness and speaking out, we–men and women–now have an opportunity to change society and workplace culture for the better radically. Men, specifically, can be allies to women.

Men? Here are seven ways you can help.

1. Listen. Listen. LISTEN.

Have you ever been in a conversation where it seems like the other person isn’t getting the message you’re sending? They are on their phone or going completely off topic. It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

We all need to work on our active listening skills–that is, those skills that help you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words a person is saying but try to understand the complete message being sent.

Repeat what’s being said. Ask clarifying questions. And, be patient even if the person could get to the point faster.

2. Learn how the other sex communicates.

Yes, it’s true. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus–at least in how we communicate. The sexes do it quite differently. For example, men have been socialized to take risks quicker. Many women need to formulate a plan and talk through their decisions to feel reassured before they leap.

If a female colleague is feeling uncertain about a decision or task, hear her out and reassure her.

3. Tell them a job well done.

It always feels good to hear when you’ve done something well, but this is especially true when you may feel subpar as compared to your male colleagues.

Call out your female team members’ good qualities. Tell them when they made a good point in a meeting or aced a presentation.

But, stay away from commenting on appearance or dress. That can be taken the wrong way!

4. Don’t underestimate.

2015 study found that one in three women have been sexually harassed. Now with allegations coming to light from scandals like Bill Cosby or Roger Ailes, this statistic is becoming more believable.

Don’t underestimate what women have gone through to get where they are. There’s a good chance they’ve been treated poorly just because of their sex.

Take them seriously and treat them as equals. And, understand that women may be suspicious of your behavior because of past treatment. Be aware of how you act and how it may be received.

5. Be inclusive.

Here’s a news flash. Not everyone likes to play golf.

Women might prefer to bond doing something else–a wine tasting or a 10k run, for instance. When planning an outing, think about if everyone will feel comfortable and included, but don’t assume. If you are going to play golf or any sport, be sure to invite your female counterparts, too.

6. Think before you ask.

There’s a salient point made in The Confidence Code about the difference in the way men and women ask for things–in that, many men see asking as being weak and instead make demands. But women view asking as a way to foster goodwill.

Men, bear this in mind. Use collaborative speak. Don’t forgo niceties. If you do, you’ll be seen as selfish and pompous–and far from being an ally.

7. Speak up.

Should you observe a woman being treated poorly, demeaned, or harassed in any way shape or form, support her. Encourage her to go to human resources.Offer to go with her and share what you’ve seen. Don’t be afraid to speak up and make your work environment one that is welcoming and inclusive. Be a good ally to women in your workplace.

If there is any positive to the atrocities that have come to light from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and all the others, it is that they are now in the open. We–men and women–are on the precipice to change what’s gone on for way too long.

If you need help with understanding how to be an ally for women, or if you are a woman who is interested in advancing her career, contact me.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Image: cafuego, CC 2.0