While we are heads down at our day jobs, we don’t often have, or make, opportunities to learn from people in other fields. Their perspectives, different from our own, can be a spring board for shake-’em-up ideas, creativity, and innovation. So, I was delighted to be among a group of professional women listening to the perspectives of women in the business of sports, during an event sponsored by The Boston Club.
It was a mind feast, brain candy, motivational fuel drawn from the field of women in the business of sports. Here’s what I learned and want to share with you.
1. Stinky jobs are golden opportunities. Grab ’em!
Remember Rumpelstiltskin, the fairy tale character who weaves gold from wheat? These four women in the business of sports are real-life Rumpelstiltskins. They each wove success from stinky problems. The problem was something no one had a clue how to address or one others had failed to address effectively. Each and every one of the four women saw the situation as a golden opportunity to challenge the notion that “It can’t be done,” or that SHE couldn’t do it. “Telling me I can’t do it, is one of the most motivating things anyone can say to me. I’m all in to prove that I can.”
One of the panelists, was a beautiful woman of average height, a slim but not too thin, mother of three, and a physician. During medical school, she spoke of her interests in orthopedics and was told, “You’re too small. Choose another specialty.” That’s all this former lacrosse player needed to hear. Many years later she is practicing orthopedic surgery and is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.
Another panelist was tasked with creating a customer management system in a company that had never heard the term, didn’t understand what it meant, and had no idea what it could or should achieve. Several others before her had already failed in the role. A pile of wheat or a golden opportunity? She chose the latter and the company now has a first class customer management system that integrates five formerly separate business silos. This weaver of gold, built and leads a department of over 25 employees.
Each of the four women in the business of sports exceeded expected results, got promoted, and became known for her success in challenging situations. It didn’t occurred to any of them that they had been handed wheat and asked to weave gold. They saw only the shiny gold opportunity.
2. Gender differences
(Disclaimer: Generalizations are exactly that and never exactly true across the board.)
These women broke through fields where no women had gone before. They had to learn and play by men’s rules while preserving themselves as women. Then, when more women entered these fields, the ground-breakers had to adjust once again. They’ve “looked at life from both sides now.” Here’s how they generalized man-woman differences.
- Women have less ego needs and will give themselves over to achieve results, therefor:
They are willing to be vulnerable, to not-know and call on others’ expertise, to achieve results. In other words, women ask for directions when they’re lost or about to be.
- Men are direct. Women prefer softer communication.
When giving feedback to men, it’s okay to expose sharp edges. When delivering feedback to women soften the edges, and you may want to throw in a soft cover as well.
3. If you want more women in your industry, make it happen
- Each of these women had male mentors and sponsors (If you want to see more women, mentor and sponsor more women.)
- Each of these women were presented with big challenges and were promoted for conquering them. (Give women challenging assignments. Promote them for success.)
- Each of these women are mentoring and sponsoring other women, lots of them. (Mentor more women, sponsor them for opportunities.)
4. If you want an important job, do important work …
that matters to the business. Think,
- Money adds points to the business scoreboard. When you consistently contribute to your team’s winning scores, you’ll be a starting player with a role and a voice that matter.