Many of my followers and friends are aware that I’m an attorney and own a law practice in addition to my work with Women of Purpose and the HERsuasion™ movement. What may not be so well-known about me is that in my early practice as a lawyer, I was so assertive (some would call it aggressive) in case presentations that I was dubbed The Barracuda - a scary BIG fish in the pond.
Thinking that I had to take an in-your-face, tough as nails approach when it came to representing clients molded my persona. I was good at being a badass as a labour attorney and social justice advocate. And I wasn’t alone. Many women are conditioned to believe that the only way to be successful in the business world today is to bring a competitive, masculine, ‘take no prisoners’ approach.
In 2013, Sheryl Sandberg published Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. It caused quite the sensation with its suggestion that women need to start to ‘lean in’ to the corporate world to ensure a seat at the table.
In a chapter called "Success and Likeability", Sandberg sums up the catch-22 that confronts women professionals by citing a study by Frank Flynn (Columbia Business School) and Cameron Anderson (University of California, Berkeley). The study concluded that woman are more acceptable to the business world at large when advocating or being assertive for someone else rather than themselves.
Her own history is interesting. In 2008, Mark Zuckerberg interviewed Sheryl Sandburg for weeks before offering her the position to run Facebook operations. Mind you, Ms. Sandberg served as the Chief of Staff for the U.S. Treasury and a Google Top Executive, both male-dominated entities.
Ms. Sandberg was/is a heavy hitter. Night after night, they spoke about the job, company, the vision and mission, and how Ms. Sandberg needed to "fit in." Despite her knee-jerk reaction to accept immediately, her husband convinced her to negotiate a little (I don’t think enough). She winced at the first offer and settled on something (likely less than she could have). The rest is history. Today, Ms. Sandberg is worth almost 2 billion dollars.
While I agree that the rise of the feminine voice is key to a better future (in fact it was the topic of my TEDx talk, I worry that advocating for women to lean in to the existing competitive model with a few tweaks will simply perpetuate and exacerbate the problem. In fact, that’s what led me to my current path.
Fast-forward several years after my ‘Barracuda’ phase, I practice and teach "HERsuasion™," a 180-degree transposition. It's so much more satisfying, attractive and effective when women (and men) lean in to their feminine strengths and attributes. Let me clarify – when I say ‘attractive’ I don’t mean in the sense that women ought to look or act in a particular way. I’m referring to the law of attraction. Competitive approaches attract and breed competitive relations – as opposed to approaches based on collaboration.
For too long, the so-called ‘soft skills’ were regarded as weakness in the corporate world (and beyond). It’s time we recognized that bringing empathy, rapport, flexibility, and trust building to the table are significant assets and indicators of success. Collaboration over competition leads to better buy-in, longer lasting agreements, better relationships and more creative outcomes. Abundance mindsets will yield better results than coming from a place of scarcity. Pushing against others is not as effective as attracting others i.e. allure versus resist.
If you feel the need to be a BIG fish, forget fighting over your little pond and instead focus on the bountiful bodies of freshwater available to occupy. Today is an environment where there is more money in circulation than in the history of human beings. There's enough for everyone, but it's the angler that understands where the fish are, what attracts them, and how to best cause them to swim at your "allure" that will win the day.
My mission is to serve as your captain in your search for the BIG fish you seek, but I will also make sure you consume enough little fish along the way to sustain you until your allure is significant enough to attract the trophy vision you deserve. As for the corny play on words of the title, as a lover of the written word I just couldn’t pass on the opportunity.
You’re welcome to reach out to me to learn more about HERsuasion™ if this resonates. Book a Discovery session to see if we’re a fit to work together.
Cindy Watson – Follow Me Now!
Links: H.B.R. Report - Negotiation Strategies for Women
The 8th Habit Stephen R Covey Audiobook