Thursday, July 10, 2014

Because I Was Told Not To

Tonight I went to a book signing by author Karin Slaughter.  Her most recent book, Cop Town, tells the story of two women police officers in the 70’s.  It was during a time when to rent an apartment a women had to have a man cosign for it. Needless to say if it was a tough time to be a woman on the police force.  Slaughter interviewed retired cops as part of her research.  When she asked the women why they signed up- the most common response was “because I was told not to”.  J

The talk given by the author inspired me to write this post (I was long overdue).  The topics of women in leadership & women in technology have been swirling more and more around me for the past year.  I happen to be a woman in technology leadership.

Last year I heard Becky Blalock, former CIO of the Southern Company, speak at a Women in Technology event in Atlanta.  I just finished her book Dare and identified with much of what she discussed in her book.

I thought I would share a couple of topics that resonated with me the most.

“Toot your horn”.  Women are taught from childhood to focus on fitting in and collaborating with others while men are taught to compete.  One of the ways it manifests itself in the work environment is that we don’t do a good job in promoting the great work we do.  We’re likely to attribute our success to others.  There are ways we can graciously promote our successes and it is something we need to do more of. This will help us compete better in the workforce and showcase our value.

“Getting over your need to be liked” – I find this a lot more with women in leadership than I do with men.  One of my favorite quotes in the book is “Change makes people upset. You can’t take it personally or let it distract you. Dogs don’t chase parked cars.”  In my current role, not everyone has liked every decision I’ve made – and initially that was hard for me. I work to be thoughtful in the decision making process and stay true to my core values and the values of my organization. I understand not every decision will be right and/or liked – but am getting more comfortable with those facts and am getting better at taking things less personally.

“Dare to fail”-  she asks how many times have you failed in your career?  If the list is short it likely means that you haven’t taken enough risk.  Failure can be a good thing if you fail responsibly and learn from it.  Lack of failures over the course of one’s career means you’re likely losing out on experiences and opportunities to learn. The lack of failures also typically shows lack of risk which means we're not having the big successes either. We need to learn to take a more positive outlook on risk and how to approach it.

Those are just tidbits of leadership information covered in the book. If you get a chance, it is a great book.  Books like these as well as networking with others in leadership roles are the best way to learn, improve as well as understand how to get to a leadership role.  The power of many is stronger than the power of one – and I’m personally lucky to have a strong network of people in leadership that helps me improve every day.  The book is also a great reminder to give back and share one’s knowledge.  If you want to connect, here’s my linkedin profile. 

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite songs by “Geek Girls & the Doubleclicks"

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