I got a terrible feeling as I extended my hand to introduce myself. We were meeting at a hotel restaurant for breakfast. It was St. Louis or Atlanta. I can’t remember which. I was screening him for a senior role on my team during my tenure at a large IT outsourcing company. I had been coached not to make instant decisions about candidates. We chatted. ‘Let the data make the decision,’ I kept repeating to myself. For some reason I was glad we were in a crowded hotel lobby. I couldn’t put my finger on this feeling I had. Ever been there?
Intuition. This week this breakfast encounter popped into my mind while reading “Dancing on the Glass Ceiling,” by Candy Deemer and Nancy Fredericks. The book offered a fair amount of thinking on transition despite it’s career management bent. Intuition played heavily in its pages. So too, emotion. Honestly the authors almost lost me in the first chapter as they attempted to educate readers on the differences between masculine and feminine leadership traits. I struggled but read on.
The authors hail from services businesses. Law and advertising. While not a page turner the book introduces a series of issues universal to women’s transitions, not just career management. Here are a few:
- Boundaries or rules. The authors challenge readers to think beyond limitations and focus on ‘what if.’ The authors aren’t advocating anarchy. Rather, they offer this ‘what if’ approach so that readers can “examine problems and opportunities from a new and different perspective.” (Dancing, pg 190)
- A reluctance to stretch. Throughout the book the authors refer to a professional development seminar that they’ve developed and taught for years. From this experience they conclude that women have a self-imposed reluctance to stretch. “Men will leap while women prefer to linger.” (Dancing, pg 122) Ever treaded water when a beautiful stroke is in order?
I’d be hesitant to recommend the book but in hindsight it is worthwhile. It replays themes that Novofemina has stumbled upon in the past year. Intelligent risk taking. Big picture thinking. Flexibility & agility. (Dancing, pg 201, 49) It concludes with a powerful list of “career-enriching concepts” that include optimism and a sobering appeal to listen to yourself (only?) for approval. (Dancing, pg 207+)
The book meant more to me after I read Jane Brody’s piece on optimism, “Taking Flight, No Matter the Headwinds,” in Tuesday’s New York Times. Brody reviewed a book about Madam C. J. Walker, a 19th century female entrepreneur. Madam Walker notes, ‘Optimism is not so much about feeling happy, nor necessarily a belief that everything will be fine, but about how we respond when times get tough. Optimists tend to keep going, even when it seems as if the whole world is against them.”
Would it surprise you that I later found out that my breakfast companion had been removed unceremoniously from his former job due to a sexual harassment charge? Of course that came to me via a sideways check. For those unfamiliar with the territory, sideways are all about calling around to see if anyone knows anyone at “X.” It usually doesn’t take too many calls to get the real scoop.
This post is somewhat less patriotic than last year’s July 4th post about Eleanor Roosevelt’s It’s Up to the Women. At their core both posts offer the same message…. Transitions are real work. They require big thinking and a fair amount of optimism. There is a real risk that, “circumstances rather than your own conscious choices (will) control your journey.” (Dancing, pg 28) “Drifting along is too easy to do.” (It’s up to the Women, Eleanor Roosevelt, pg 9).
Remember, you get to decide how you show up everyday. How will you choose to be tomorrow?
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