In a previous post, I’ve mentioned the “tightrope” that professional women are often forced to deal with. Too friendly and approachable? You’re “nice” but not taken seriously. Too aggressive and insistent? You’re … well, we all know the terms. I was at a meeting yesterday in which one of the “ahas” was that it is nearly impossible for women to figure out where they stand with respect to the tightrope on their own. It takes observation, feedback and lots and lots of practice.
Mentoring and honest talk with key sponsors helps a lot. For instance, my co-author and colleague, Ian MacMillan, forced me to do ‘dry-runs’ of presentations either just to him or to long-suffering visiting scholars at his Center. It was scary. It was painful at times. But what an eye-opening experience! I’ve always been grateful for his insistence that I get it right.
That’s one reason, despite my initial skepticism, that I am so enthusiastic about our upcoming Women in Leadership program, a first-ever joint venture between Columbia Business School and the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College.
My colleague, Elana Weinstein, who is a real expert on these matters, published a blog on the same phenomenon-have a look, I think you’ll enjoy reading it. As she says, we would hope this sort of thing would have disappeared since the Mad Men era. Unfortunately for many women, not so much.