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The role of women in society is undergoing a continuous makeover. There are leadership lessons in every situation every day. Think about this: 60 percent of women work and we comprise 46 percent of the labor force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women now occupy 51, yes; you read correctly, 51 percent of managerial and professional jobs. More women graduate from college than men and 75 percent also say they make most of the shopping decisions.
Hmmm, shopping decisions; back to when I was first married many decades ago. I really thought that being the good wife meant collaborating. Sounds right; except my version of collaboration was checking in with my husband, my supervisor at work, and then doing what they wanted more than what I wanted. Yea gads! I really did believe that! I really had that pleaser behavior pattern.
There was one day that just popped into my mind. I was a newly minted bride and had gotten an expensive and very ugly decorative dish as a wedding gift. My mother and I were shopping and stopped into the lovely shop to make an exchange.
I found several alternatives and as I mulled over them I said “I have to come back with my husband to decide”. The saleswoman smiled, my mother blinked. And then she asked why I needed to have him come to the store to decide on a small accent dish for a side table.
I thought for a few moments. I was usually a fairly decisive individual; I was always on the leading edge of change both at home and especially at work. I was always saying “Well, how about this idea, or that concept”. I had a rebel streak; except when it came to important men in my life. That is where the pleaser took over.
So, why was I so bemused about a gift exchange that was, well less than $100?
Isn’t collaboration about always checking in? Isn’t collaboration about hearing the other person’s perspective?
My mother smiled her older woman smile and said “Look, if you really need to check in with Steve why not give him a call and describe the dish to him. The saleswoman wanted to be done with this exchange and saw I was not about to buy anything else without my husband. She handed me the business phone.
So I called and he said “Do whatever you want, after all it’s really just an ashtray no one will use since no one we know smokes anymore.”
I bought the one I liked the best. When we left my mother said quietly “I hope your leadership classes teach you about when to check in and when to make a decision on your own. It’s what women need now more than ever.”
Over time I learned to be as tough as a man in decision making and when to collaborate. It is one of the major areas we will focus on in our new “Women Leadership Formula” week end retreat at end of May. It’s a complex dance and an important one to master; not every single project can succeed with constant consensus.