radioiconIt doesn’t have to be lonely at the top. Sometimes women feel they have so much more to prove than men, that they keep every task, project, or issue to themselves. This can lead to destruction if you’re not careful. Ladies, you can be a leader and still delegate critical tasks to others, while maintaining control. There’s no rule that says in order to be successful you HAVE to do it all. Join me as my guests and I discuss how women in top positions handle leadership and delegating. We will be discussing how to learn how to delegate in order to lead effectively, the pitfalls of not delegating, hiring the right people and deciding what should be delegated, and how to create an environment where people will gladly follow your lead because they believe in your vision and mission. Tune in live at 9AM EST at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/viewsfromthetop and join the conversation in the chat room. Call in with questions or comments at (347) 215-9362.

Here is a break down of women in top decision making/reporting positions in the Fortune 500.

<i>
* Top women legal officers of Fortune 500 companies consists of 75 white/Caucasians (non-Hispanic), 6 African Americans, 2 Hispanics, and 1 Asian Pacific American.

* Only three Hispanic Women made it to this year’s <a href=”http://www.forbes.com/2009/08/18/worlds-most-powerful-women-forbes-woman-power-women-09-angela-merkel_land.html&#8221; target=”_blank”>Forbes World’s Most Powerful Women</a>

* Only one African American Woman is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company (preceded by a Caucasion woman who groomed and mentored her for the role)

* Only two Asian Women are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies (Indra Nooyi & Andrea Jung)

* No Latinas hold a CEO spot in Fortune 500 companies

* Only <b>15 women</b> period <a href=”http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2009/fortune/0904/gallery.fortune500_women_ceos.fortune/index.html&#8221; target=”_blank”>hold the CEO spot in Fortune 500 companies</a></i>

We’ve got some work to do!

<a href=”http://money.cnn.com/video/fortune/2008/06/27/fortune.mentors.dupontexec.fortune/&#8221; target=”_blank”>Watch Mentoring the Next Women CEOs</a>.

businesswomanI was listening to the pastor deliver his sermon yesterday and a few things he said struck a chord with me. His words moved me to blog, but I had to get my thoughts together before blogging.  The one consistent message he delivered was about changing your circumstances and making your own way. If you don’t like the circumstances you’re currently in, CHANGE THEM.

I’ve always been a firm believer that nobody should be stuck in a job that they can’t stand. Yes, I understand that REALITY dictates we need a paycheck to pay the bills. But I choose not to live my life by that edict.  I was never the type to commit to a long term position with any one company. My agenda was to get in, do the job, learn all I could and make as many contacts as I could before heading off to another position. This kept my skills from getting stale and kept me from getting bored. Once I’ve mastered something, or have completed my goals, it’s time for me to move on and find another challenge.  With a full time permanent position, in recruiting anyway, this was not possible.  My job has a beginning, a middle and an end. Once the mission is complete, there really isn’t much more for me to do. Many companies don’t want someone to come in and change the way things are done. Shame on them. I’m all about innovation and change.  That is why I love being a contractor.

Being a contractor allows me to create my own work opportunities. I get to pick and choose the companies I want to work with and how long I work with them. I can work on just one or several projects if I like and as long as my work is done and my deadlines are met, I don’t have anyone to answer to but me. I wasn’t always a contractor though.  When I first took a chance on contracting, I was what is referred to as a Temp.  Yes, there is a difference.  A temp is someone who works a job for a specific period and is in a sense “owned” by the agency who places them.  The agency sets their rate, places them with a client, and handles their payroll and taxes.  A temp also has specific work hours they have to honor.  A contractor is one who works with companies independently, handles her own billing, files her own taxes, and, in a sense, is running her own business.  As a contractor, I determine the number of hours I want to work and what hours I will work.  A temp works for someone else, a contractor runs her own business and manages her own projects and clients.

As I learned the difference, I had to make the business decision to outfit my home office to accommodate my business and clients.  As a recruiter, there are certain tools I need that big companies often have exclusive access to. Thankfully, these tools have been made affordable for small businesses and independent contractors.  One such tool is an applicant tracking system. I use this to manage not just my candidates, but also my projects and clients.  Since this was a vital component to my work, it made sense to get it.  I also have the other standard tools (computer, internet access, headset, Blackberry, etc). Not only can I be independent, I can also work anywhere in the world I want.  With my recruiting business and the work I do as a writer, coach and webinar facilitator, I can create my own opportunities.

I have always been entrepreneurial in spirit.  This is not my first business nor will it be the last.  I have had a catering business, promoted career fairs and seminars, and I even had an adult toy business. Yes, I did.  But it wasn’t through that Passion Parties or any of those other vendors.  I found my own distributors and  did my research so that there was no middle man.  I made my own way.  My point in sharing this is that I don’t like to wait for opportunities to find me. I make my own. And you can too. You just have to step out on faith and make a conscious choice to make your own way.

Take an inventory of your skills. What can you do well? Are you a whiz at cooking? Start a side personal chef or catering business.  Are you a math genious? Well, if you don’t have a CPA, start a part time bookkeeping and/or payroll company. If you’re great at taxes, you can do taxes part time.  H & R Block has a course you can take to become certified as a tax preparer.  Or if those kinds of numbers don’t appeal to you, start a math tutoring business.  If you’re a teacher or aspiring teacher, a tutoring business may be right for you.  If you have strong organization or administrative skills, a virtual assistant business is a good idea.  Have a bunch of grandma’s home made soap and lotions recipes sitting in the draw collecting dust? Start your own product line.  If you have skills with jewelry, start your own line. Can you channel your skills into consulting? Do it! Just make sure you investigate all of the logisticvs and legalities of starting your own enterprise.

There are a million and one ideas out there.  All you need to do is tap into your self. Bring what your good at to the surface and you could be making your own way.  Never settle on “just a job” or “just a paycheck”. That line of thinking keeps people poor or just getting by.  You must not be afraid to stretch your limits and do what you love. Maybe your side venture will only serve as just a side venture to go along with your day job.  That’s ok. At least you’re still creating your own opportunity. Or, if what you do doesn’t make a good business for you, figure a way to apply those skills to your current job.  Set your mind for achievement.  Don’t be content with staying in that one job.  Always look for ways to move up and out.

Some people are destined to be in the corporate world.  And that’s ok too.  But if you choose to remain in corporate, have a plan for advancement.  Don’t get too comfortable in any one job. When you see yourself getting complacent, or stuck in routine, it’s time to explore growth opportunities. Find mentors who are willing to help you advance. Get more visible within the company. I know you’ve read my other blog posts about branding and networking. Establish yourself as an authority in your area of expertise.  Get others to see and believe in your work so they can be legitimate references for you.  Volunteer for more projects and always continue your education.  And the most important thing you can do is surround yourself with positive people. That is self explanatory.

We all have the capacity to do more. Not everyone has the desire. If you have the desire, keep that going.  As long as you train yourself to not settle, you will be able to achieve and good enough will no longer be good enough.  Don’t be resigned to complain about your circumstances. You do have the power to change them.  Lie throws some unexpected curves at us all. But how you adapt and recover is in your hands. You can remain a victim and always wonder why you can get ahead, or you can be a proactive agent for yourself and achieve any professional goal you want. Read inspirational stories about other women who have taken their fate into their own hands.  Magazines like Black Enterprise, Working Mother, Inc, Fast Company, etc. often showcase stories of women who did it. Maybe this will inspire you to step out on faith.  For me, those stories are affirmations. But the real motivator for me is wealth building.  I’m building professional capital for myself and wealth for my family.  Marinate on that for a little bit. Then go out there and make things happen. You can do it.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

22873766It’s no secret that I am not a corporate type person.  I thoroughly enjoy the freedom of being a contractor and running my own business.  I get to meet so many wonderful people and long term connections in my dealings and I get the luxury of variety.  That means I never get stuck in one place for too long unless by choice.  I get in, do what I do and get out.  I love it.  Every now and then, I run into a situation where someone feels threatened by me (nonsense) or I get false promises of heading projects.  Let’s face it, I take contracts based on the ability to flex my skills and challenge myself.  Rarely do I let much get under my skin.

But I don’t want to talk about me.  I’d rather address the collective.  How many of you have been promised something at the office and then find out you were either thrown under the bus for someone else or not included in the decision to go in a different direction?  It happens a lot in corporate America, and it can be really discouraging.  But how you handle it determines a lot.  Sure, the easy thing to do is throw a temper tantrum, or your boss. But in reality, you just can’t do that.  I know you WANT to, but you can’t. I’ll be honest, the “old me” would be livid and would let the boss have it (that’s why I’m not in corporate LOL).  But these days, I choose to be more strategic in my thinking. 

You have to look at the potential consequences of acting out.  There’s a chance you demotion, being placed on warning or probation, or even of being fired.  That’s never a good thing, of course unless you are looking for an out. but even then I would advise against acting out.  Instead, make it simple on yourself.  Start by documenting.  Always document every conversation and keep every email and voice message that has anything to do with what was promised to you.  That’s your leverage and your proof.  Make sure in each conversation, you ask the other person (or persons) to clarify points so everyone is on the same page. Then repeat back what was said and ask if you’ve got it right.  Don’t rest your hopes on anything unless it’s in writing.  I’ve found over the years that some people’s word means absolutely nothing. I believe things when I get it in writing.

If you’ve been slighted or passed over, after you’ve calmed down, request a meeting with your boss.  Prepare a list of logical questions that will make him or her deal with the situation and give it to you straight.  Don’t allow them to double talk or wiggle out of an explanation.  Don’t go in there like you’re the District Attorney, but by the same token, expect honest answers.  You may or may not get them, but expect them none the less.  Ask if there was something you did or didn’t do that contributed to the change.  If there was something, find out how it can be rectified.  Ask your boss to reconsider.  If you’ve been a proven talent at your company, come into the meeting with documentation to back it up.  Show your boss why you are the one for this project or lead position.  The more compelling ammunition you have, the better you can make your point. The calmer you are and the more confidence you exude, you might just be able to turn things back into your favor. 

A special note for my sisters. You know automatically, regardless of what the relationships may be in the office, Black Women are labeled as hostile or attitudish.  Even the most friendly woman is viewed as having the “potential” to get ghetto when necessary.  Personally, I hate that stereotype. But I never give anyone the satisfaction of saying “I told you so”.  It is vitally important that sisters maintain their cool.  I have a friend who is a high level director for a major company. One day, she called me sounding stressed. She unloaded about her day and how the offending party was rude and disrespectful to her.  But she maintained her professional demeanor. She had a colleague sit in on the call with her just so she’d have a witness. She said when she left the office, she sat in her car very upset. When we spoke I told her she needed to be proud of herself. I am known (in my past days) to have a jump off attitude when necessary. But there’s a time and a place for everything. I learned to pick & choose my battles.  I don’t do disrespect very well.  With that phrase, she felt better.  See, she’s the only Black Woman (in a power position) in her group.  She felt like nobody would understand what she was feeling.  But I did. She saw the situation for what it was and decided it wasn’t her and she moved on.  Sometimes we don’t have that outlet, the luxury of having a friend who understands and can talk us down in the heat of the moment.  So we need to always be on guard and mindful of the “time and place.

The bottom line is you cannot allow people to walk all over you. In corporate you must command a respect and do all you can to keep yourself in the forefront of people’s minds as a hot commodity.  Don’t allow things to go unchallenged. If you’re a diligent worker and a super start producer, protect that status by standing up for yourself and constantly producing “A” game work.  Corporate America is one big strategic game. The better you learn how to play the game and position yourself for success, the further you’ll go.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Hi all,

I came across this article in Fortune Magazine and wanted to share. This is part of the article, but I’ve provided the link.

How women are redefining power

The traditional male style doesn’t appeal to many women, says an eminent executive coach, and that’s okay. Women’s own style works just fine, if they let it.

By Anne Fisher, senior writer
October 10, 2008: 9:40 AM ET

(Fortune) — Not long ago, in a workshop with a group of senior executives, coach Lois Frankel tried a little experiment.

“You look like a pretty powerful person,” she remarked, in a friendly tone, to one of the female honchos in the room. The woman reacted by demurring: “Who, me? No, no, I’m not really powerful…”

A few minutes later, Frankel made the same comment to a man in the group, whose executive rank was roughly the same as his female peer’s. His response was radically different. He preened a little, acknowledged the compliment, and accepted it as his due.

“Women are often uncomfortable using the word ‘power’ in relation to themselves, and no wonder,” says Frankel. “If we had to let men define power for us, we wouldn’t want it.” A Ph.D. in psychology, Frankel runs Pasadena, Calif.-based Corporate Coaching International, whose clients include Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500), Procter & Gamble (PG, Fortune 500), Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500), and Disney (DIS, Fortune 500), and many others. Frankel is also the author of several bestsellers, including Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office (Business Plus, $19.95) and, most recently, See Jane Lead: 99 Ways for Women to Take Charge at Work (Warner Business Books, $22.95).

Earlier this year, Frankel and three female colleagues launched a blog called The Thin Pink Line that serves as a forum for executive women.

“The thin pink line women managers have to walk is that invisible but ironclad space between seeming ‘too girly’ or ‘too bitchy’ to be accepted as leaders,” says Frankel. She’d like to see women widen that line by cultivating their natural abilities and creating their own leadership styles, and she thinks that is happening now. A few excerpts from our recent conversation:

http://money.cnn.com/2008/10/09/news/economy/women.power.fortune/index.htm

Enjoy!

Adrienne Graham

That is the question of the day. I was doing some research and came across an article and discussion about Forbes Life Executive Woman. FLEW is a relatively new magazine that Forbes decided to launch earlier this year or late last year targeting executive women. I subscribe to Forbes so I automatically get it each quarter. I’ve read through them and at first I was a little thrilled that Forbes decided to do a magazine for executive women. I figured it would be chock full of articles from the perspective of power women. The first issue I received was good. I was impressed and it even featured a woman in France who is a headhunter, so that spoke to me because of my industry. The articles weren’t whiny and full of the girly woe is me stuff. I looked forward to the next.

The next issue I read was focused on fashion. That kind of worried me because I thought OK, let’s not turn this into a doctored up version of Elle or Vogue. We want the business world to take us serious. Still had some good articles but I was less impressed. At this point even though I’m on my 3rd issue, I’m confused about the focus of the magazine. I’ve seen great stories about women who powered ahead to the higher ranks within corporate (still haven’t seen any ethnic women, but I’m willing to give it a chance to get better with that). I have not seen anything in there that gives strong advice to up and coming corporate women. I’ll give it one more issue.

Hey Forbes! If you’re reading, how about some diversity in your magazine?  There are some successful women of color too you know. If you look hard enough, you’ll find them.  I’d be more than happy to suggest some names for you.

But the reason for this blog post is not to discuss my opinion of FLEW. I was a little shocked by the response to the new magazine even before they barely got past the first issue. There was a lot of resistance to this magazine (mostly by women believe it or not). They said that the need to always separate and compartmentalize women is actually setting us back and not helping us. It was an interesting conversation. Here is the link: http://www.mpdailyfix.com/2007/03/do_women_need_genderspecific_b_1.html

Now I believe that the glass ceiling has long been shattered. We have some phenomenal women who made sure of that and I dare anyone to discount their contributions to breaking that ceiling. However, I do acknowledge that there are still inequities. The problem though, is not the inequities themselves, but (in my opinion) how we respond to them. On the one hand I do believe we will always need to continue the good fight. In some industries it’s going to take a much longer time to balance out. But on the other hand I feel we can’t keep playing the “girl” card all the time. Sounds weird coming from a woman who has her own women’s networks and this very blog. But you know what? I don’t limit myself. I learned a long time ago that I have to toughen up and “roll with the fellas” on occasion. It’s par for the course. But it’s up to me as an individual, as a woman, to set boundaries and expectations. It’s up to me to present myself in a manner that let’s people take me serious. I can’t play the girl card when something doesn’t go my way.

That said, if a magazine is published and it has information in there that I can take serious, or focuses on issues that men deal with but from a female perspective, I can take it serious. One such magazine I’m keeping my eye on is Pink Magazine. I happen to like the magazine and never miss an issue. I like that they don’t oversimplify the magazine or message. Yes, it’s called Pink but when you open it, there are thought provoking articles. The minute they start switching to the “girl” format, I’m done. But I think there is a need for business magazines for women. Not a ton of them, but maybe one or two that get it right. There are some magazines I’m a little disappointed in.  I really, really miss Working Woman. I’m not too happy that they converted to Working Mother because it lost some of its bite after that.

So how do you feel about having separate women’s business magazines? What are your thoughts on the comments made by women in the article above?

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Good morning.

I came across an interesting set of videos this morning regarding IBM’s Black Professional Community. In the clip, the young woman mentions that our parents couldn’t teach us the nuances of navigating and etiquette of corporate life because they didn’t have the same advantages and experiences as we have today.

This video made me think. Is this true? Most likely it is. But that shouldn’t be an excuse. We all have to learn how to navigate in different situations throughout our life, social, professional and personal. Sometimes we have guides to help us along, sometimes we have to go it alone. But should we allow the fact that our parents had it “different” than us to be used as an excuse for not conducting ourselves or attempting to learn the rules properly? My parents were not entrepreneurs. I didn’t have any entrepreneurial “role models” per se. But I made it a point to be a continuous learner.

So give me your opinions on this comment. How should we navigate through Corporate America?

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

In life, we are called upon to make decisions. As an entrepreneur, decision-making is a daily part of life’s agenda. I speak to so many women on a weekly basis. Many want to chat about their experiences, some want to express fear about moving forward with an idea. Some want to just have someone to bounce ideas off. I welcome it all.

I have always been one to take risks and go against the grain. Sometimes to a fault. I went home to New York last week to attend another funeral (twice in two months).  While speaking with my various cousins, I was amazed at how some of us had excelled, and some of us had remained stagnant.  One cousin, Debbie, is older than I am.  She was commenting how she had never been out of the Bronx and that she knew there was a whole world out there but never made an attempt to step out beyond the borders of New York.  It made me sad.  Here she is, a grown woman and a grown child and two teen granddaughters, and she had never ventured out of her comfort zone.  I told her “Debbie, there’s a whole world out there.  Live your life.  Do something you never thought of doing before.  Go to Atlantic City.  Take a trip up the coast.  Go to Disney World.  ANYTHING!”.

My point in sharing this story is simple.  There IS a whole world out there.  The sky is the limit if you believe so.  You’re not happy in your current job? Do something about it.  Build your skills so you can explore other career options, companies or departments.  Corporate isn’t your thing?  Take a leap of faith and start a business.  Do something today that you never imagined yourself doing.  Whatever you do, don’t remain still.  When you’re still, you’re stagnant.  When you’re stagnant, your trapped.

I don’t know about you, but I am compiling my “Bucket List” and I’m going for broke.  I plan to do things to push my intellectual limits.  To stretch my skills.  To expand my horizons.  Not sure what you want to do, consult a coach.  So do your thing.  I know I’m doing mine.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Black Business WomanAll of us have a similar common goal….to be empowered and have control over our professional destiny.  To have true empowerment, you must take responsibility for who you are, what you do, and what course you chart for yourself. It would be nice to have someone do it all for you.  I would have loved to have someone give me a road map to plotting my professional life.  But alas, it doesn’t work that way in the real world. At best, you can surround yourself with mentors and associates who will guide you along your journey. But in the end, it’s up to you to make the decisions and changes that need to be made to reach empowerment.

Here are a few steps you can take to True Empowerment:

1. Let go of past baggage. We have a tendency of holding on to what does us no good. Remembering a fight, worrying about bills, being upset about how someone else lives their life, holding a grudge because someone else took credit for a project we worked hard on. All of this is negative energy that takes up space in your world of positivity.  In order for positive blessings to come your way, you must get rid of the old negative feelings and thoughts.  Let go and let them fuel you to push even harder to achieve your goals. Come to new situations with a free and clear mind and heart.  Baggage keeps you from bringing your “A” game and from experiencing true success.

2. Get educated. Now I don’t just mean go to school. Education comes in many forms.  Yes, a college education is a good foundation, but continuing to learn well after you’ve earned your degree comes back to you ten-fold.  You can take continuing education courses.  Find topics that interest you and can help boost your career.  You’ll even get credit units for taking them.  Attend seminars, workshops and conferences.  Some organizations give you continuing education credits by simply attending.  Take advantage of events to leverage new relationships and show off what you know (and what you learn).  Read a book or three.  Trade journals, magazines, newspapers, online content and of course books help to continue the flow of knowledge.  Create a binder of important articles that are beneficial to your career or industry.  The internet is right at your fingertips.  Do your research and reading.

3. Find mentors. Notice I didn’t say find “A” mentor.  Mentors are all around you.  They don’t have to be a specific age, gender, position title or even in the same industry.  Study people whom you admire.  What makes them tick?  What paths have they blazed in their industries?  Reach out to them and ask if they would be open to being your mentor.  Don’t limit yourself to just one.  There’s a lot to be learned out there.  Don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with people.  More often than not, they are willing to share their knowledge.  But be careful not to monopolize their time, and definitely make it a value added relationship for both of you. I’m sure there is a way you can give back to your mentors.

4. Polish your image. You’ve got to look the part.  There was an article I read about dressing like a CEO.  I believe that no matter what level you are in your career, you absolutely must dress to impress.  Don’t go out to buy the Georgio Armani suit so quickly.  Buy classic tailored pieces that are timeless.  Have a couple of good staples in your wardrobe that you can mix and match with the Target wear.  Be sure to bring your own flair to your image.  But follow the tone set by those who are where you want to be.  Even law firms are slightly relaxing their corporate attire…but not too much.  Everything from your hairstyle to your accessories say something about you.  Are you portraying the appropriate image?  Invest in some classic shoes, handbags, jewelry and scarves.  Depending on what field you are in, a stunning briefcase can add value to your look.  And most importantly, buy a dress coat that is professional and classic. You must always be cognizant of your outward appearance. Confidence attracts confidence (and opportunity).

5. Build a solid network and use it. There are so many people who tell me “I can’t network. I don’t know what to say to people.” Well I usually tell them to get over it.  You cannot succeed in the business world without interacting with people.  You don’t necessarily have to become best friends forever. But you must have the ability to strike up conversations and the timing skills to know when to strike or move on.  As much as I hate to admit it, there is still an unspoken truth that it’s all in who you know, not what you know.  Learn how to network online, but don’t let that be your end all be all.  Use it as a starting point to building relationships.  The internet is a wonderful thing and I am grateful that I have it to make my job a little easier.  But it can make you lazy.  You must cultivate your business relationships that you form online.  Let’s say you meet someone on Linked In or Viadeo, or any other online professional networking tool.  Immediately suggest a phone conversation.  Take the time to introduce yourself and let the person know how you see them networking with you.  And then continue the dialog.  You don’t have to speak every week, or every month for that matter.  But you do want them to keep you in the forefront of their minds.  Don’t approach your relationships with a “set it and forget it” mentality.  It takes real work.

True empowerment is there within your reach.  Whether you are a college student, entrepreneur, or corporate riser, these principles will work for you.  Education + Action = TRUE EMPOWERMENT(tm).

Til next time.
Adrienne Graham

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