Girlfriend, mark my words

August 27, 2008
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, NAIROBI, August 21 – Here is a piece of unsolicited advice to all my ‘upwardly mobile, going places’ sisters.

Stop acting like a man!

Remember all that stuff you picked up when you realised that the ‘honest and authentic me’ approach you were using at work got you nowhere? Yeah, that. Well, drop it.

The ‘I-can-play-hard-ball-too’ approach reminiscent of Russia’s recent bulldozing of Georgia at the slightest provocation; That display of military might, girlfriend, will only get you a ‘Tsk, tsk’ and the boot.

And that’s not just coming from me. It comes from way up the corporate ladder. Like the Fortune 500 tier. Its advice from Dondi Scumaci, the woman this group of elite companies consult when they need to enhance their workplace skills.

Top executives from companies like AT&T run courses designed by Scumaci to make their workplace a model environment.

“Research shows that women who become more man-like have very little success,” she said.

“If we expect it from you, we’ll accept it from you.”

That’s the bottom line for women in the workplace. Men are naturally abrasive, she explained. Nothing comes with chocolate and honey on top. It’s the straight talking, that-is-the-end-of-this-discussion type. But women who see their more successful male colleague and ape everything from his arrogant boardroom presentations to his belch are headed for disaster.

“Don’t try to be man-like, be leader-like,” she says. Okay, fair enough.

The conversation progresses and I try to understand the parallel between challenges facing Kenya’s modern woman and her sister in the so called ‘developed world’.

“I see women with the same challenges. It’s ‘Do I have a good network of support? Do I have a good mentor? Women trying to negotiate,” she says.

And then there’s the infighting locally known as ‘bitching’ at work; Cut-throat competition that won’t let up for nothing. Not when your mother dies, or the cat eats your report.

“It’s because women are trying to get power from each other. It’s a scarcity mentality,” she enlightens me.

Scumaci narrowed it down to the kind of thinking that says ‘my success means your failure.’ In the end, no one wins. You’ve spent all your creative juices trying to pull the rug from under your ‘arch nemesis’ feet that in the end no work gets done and you both look bad, very bad. The workplace doesn’t get any more destructive than that.

She talks and my mind works at 100 miles an hour, trying to see how culpable I am. Hmmm.

“Women (also) have difficulty saying NO. They work harder and nobody realises just how much they are doing because they don’t market themselves. They don’t talk about the difference their contribution makes, what’s the impact. Men have no problem doing this,” Scumaci explains.

“Women also self-disclose too much. They communicate to connect and end up talking about their weaknesses and not their strengths.”

I blush and grudgingly nod. Typical!

“They then end up looking inept, unprepared.”

If women could learn to market themselves, against the flaws any product may have, then their representation in the workplace would turn around completely.

“Marketing is selling you; branding yourself like any other brand. Ask yourself, ‘What am I known for? Not your name and title but your purpose, your goals.”

Scumaci says women must put a positive spin even on their mistakes and say what it is they are learning.

And when all is said and done, women suffer from a lack of the three C’s: no Clarity, no Confidence, and no Control.

“Clarity in terms of what are your goals, what direction do you want to take… confidence meaning you deserve it. You deserve that success, that pay cheque…control is asking for what you need.”

But you may have all these mustered and still feel something is amiss.

Then distinguish between dips and dead ends in your career. “The dip is where we are miserable, unsatisfied. You are going through the valley and if you persevere through the valley you are going to grow. If it’s a dead end you will die. It does not line up with personal goals, dreams or my values.”

The dead end is when all the money in the world is not enough because you don’t feel respected or challenged.

To get to the next level, Scumaci says: “The pain of remaining the same has to become greater than the pain of change.”

The international speaker, author, and expert in professional and personal development was in Nairobi recently to launch her bestseller Designed for Success – a book which helps encourage and advise women in today’s hectic workplace.

She is currently working on her next book, Ready, Set, Grow due for release next year.

Prior to establishing her consulting firm, Elevations Unlimited Inc., Scumaci was Vice President and Director of two of the largest financial institutions in the United States.

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