Shared Leadership for the Future
The most important lesson women in business can learn is how to stand out NOT stick out! There is a big difference, particularly for women, who in many circumstances and industries are still in the minority. Standing out means being able to attract attention for all the right reasons. Sticking out means distracting those who can help you get ahead.
Women entrepreneurs wonder why their women employees seem to be asking the above question: "Is this a new phenomenon in the business world? Is this question asked by women in business more often than businessmen? Is this desire to feel appreciated and loved by one's peers, customers, company, and business world age-related? The answer to these three questions is YES!
Ask any women born in the 1940s or 1950s about choice and you'll learn that women of that era (and, yes, I am one of them) didn't really think much about making choices. We just plodded along in the direction that felt right at the time. Some of us went to college, got married, had children, worked part time or full time or stayed home and threw ourselves into the role of caretaker and community participant. And, some of us even started our own businesses. Women born in the later 1960s and beyond have been given the dream of many more choices. But with those choices comes the burden of making key decisions on which choice to make.
There are only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week and every woman entrepreneur I know already has her hands full with her business and her home. So, when I hear the question, "Do I have to network to be successful in business?" I know exactly what each woman client means -- (I get up at 5 a.m. and put in 2 to 3 hours at home and traveling to work. I have 6 to 8 hours, if I'm lucky, to do the work of 4 people before I have to head home and take care of everything at home. When do I have time to network, anyway?
There is no better way to ensure business success than to see yourself attaining it. For some reason, men have been given permission at an early age to believe that they can be or do anything they want in life. On the other hand, too often, women have been encouraged to only color within the lines, in other words, limit their dreams. Every successful woman entrepreneur or woman in business I have ever met believed that she would achieve her vision of success and when asked how answered using her mind's eye.
First, let me say, I only write from personal experience so, YES, I had the opportunity to go into prison and listen to and question two male prisoners. The takeaways can help all entrepreneurs be more successful in business and life. But, women entrepreneurs, particularly, should pay close attention because in our minds we might be more like inmates than we want to admit.
I believe that one of the most powerful motivations for women entrepreneurs is other women entrepreneurs. Having visible role models is something men have had since the beginning of time. Communities, newspaper, radio and, yes, even the internet is much more likely to tell the stories of accomplished men in business. It is the reason I have always believed that it is a responsibility I must take on to promote greater visibility of women entrepreneurs. Of course, Tory Burch needs no introduction, but her recent commencement speech at Babson College is worth noting.
Women entrepreneurs, like many entrepreneurs, are too often afraid of change. Change can seem risky and women are risk-averse, or at least that is what the "experts" tell us. Change is also uncomfortable and requires courage. In my opinion, women deal well with discomfort and actually have a lot of courage. But, still, women entrepreneurs tell me that the number one reason they avoid change is "because we've always done it this way".
Everyone who starts a business is selling something? Right? The question is do you really know what it is you are selling? This is a question I ask every woman entrepreneur that I meet. Whether or not she becomes a client, I make sure I don't leave until she recognizes what she is really selling!!
If you are a regular viewer of Shark Tank you know how important it is that an entrepreneur, male or female, build a company not just develop and sell a product. Women, particularly, are more likely than men to turn a hobby into a business. So the question for women entrepreneurs is: Is what you BELIEVE to be a business just an expansion of your hobby?
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