Post by Jane K. Stimmler, contributing Women On Business writer
When I opened the morning newspaper recently, I noticed a headline which piqued my interest. It read “Going for 2nd, she wins 1st.” The story was about a Sodoku Championship. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Soduko is a puzzle whose objective is to fill a 9×9 grid so that each column, each row, and each of the nine 3×3 boxes (also called blocks or regions) contains the digits from 1 to 9 only one time each. The story related that the two-time world champion apparently finished off his final round puzzle at a breakneck speed, looked around confidently, and was about to congratulate the woman who finished next, when he realized he hadn’t won at all. It turned out that three of his puzzle boxes were incorrect.
So the big prize went to a woman, a Los Angeles programmer, who – though not quite as fast as the former champ, finished with a commendable time and won her first competition. She was flabbergasted as she heard the audience applaud, and she said that she had been aiming for second place. The champion she had beaten admitted that he had several minutes to check his work, but simply looked at it to make sure everything was filled in. He said, “It was a mark of hubris.”
I can’t help but think of this story as a metaphor for the dynamics of men and women in the workplace.
It’s about confidence and believing that you deserve to be number one. Men usually expect the top prize. Women are more humble and willing to settle. In this story, the male was so confident he had won – and so intent on speed – that he didn’t even bother to check his work. The female winner was careful, measured, and she would have been happy with a respectable second place. How often do we see the same traits and attitudes in the workplace? As we discuss in the book, Breaking Into the Boys’ Club (2009), men and women have starkly contrasting styles. Men are more comfortable in their strengths and accomplishments than women, and are greater risk-takers. Many women have not been conditioned to have the “killer instinct” to compete with everything they have for the top positions and the power that goes with them.
Happily, in this case, it turned out well for the women who won. I would encourage her – and all of us – to always aim for the top prize and truly believe we deserve it and can attain it. Develop confidence in all you do and if you see that you need to tweak your style, do so! We don’t need to become men to succeed, but it’s just plain smart to assess your goals and to see if your style and attitude will get you there.
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