Biz Talk - A Success Secret

Season #1

This morning I'm musing about the question that I often I've gotten asked, mostly from men in my audiences, "Well, if organizations don't do such a good job teaching about The Missing 33%, how is it the men get ahead?"

Two Reasons Men Advance In Spite of HR

I'm here to explain a couple of reasons that men are able to get ahead more easily than women.

  1. The first I've touched on in prior  podcasts, and that is that men more often get  coached, mentored and sponsored into jobs that are closer to the core of the business.  And by virtue of getting into those jobs, they automatically have an easier time acquiring the business, strategic, and financial acumen they need.  Otherwise, they would fail in their positions.
  2. Here's another more subtle reason that I want to illustrate with an example from a live workshop that I've conducted where, in the first session, I was talking about networking.

The assignment for the class was to go out and practice networking skills and come and report back on their experience.  One of the women went to a business networking event and she came back and she said,

"Holy cow, I didn't do much networking at this event, but I used the assignment to listen to what men were talking about. And do you know what  the first and most frequently asked question was when men were connecting with other men? How's business? "

So think about this.  Think about the men you know when they're in settings with other men.  What are the topics that they talk about?

Probably first thing comes to mind is sports. The second thing that might come to mind is they talk about women, often in denigrating ways.  "Oh, you wouldn't believe what my wife did."  Or, "Oh, you wouldn't believe my mother in law." And the third thing they talk about is business because they assume that they all have that in common.

Talking About the Business

Now consider inside the organization. 

Sports is definitely a topic of conversation among men in organizations.  Maybe even some of them, as a way of bonding over how awful they think women are, will talk about us. But a definitely safe and time honored topic is to talk about the business. And because men expect other men to have business, strategic and financial acumen, and to be interested in advancing in their careers; talking about the business is safe, acceptable, and enjoyable. It's something they share in common.  

I've said before that men don't expect women to have business strategic and financial acumen, nor to be interested in those subjects.  So think about the men that you work with.

When you aren't going through a business agenda or when it's an informal conversation,  how frequently do they raise the topic of the business with you?

 If your experience is anything like mine, they're much more likely to talk about their family. their vacations, the problems they're having with their wife or spouse; and much less likely to talk about the business overall, what's happening in the industry, key customers and their issues and opportunities for sales and the like. 

Because they more comfortably do this with men, men benefit from the conversations we joke that they have in the men's room, or around the water cooler (when people are in offices). I honestly don't know what happens virtually, but there's probably offline conversations that more senior men have with men that they see as mentorable.

Let's Recap

We've covered two ways that men in organizations are able to move up, even if the HR systems insufficiently communicate the importance of business, strategic and financial acumen.

  1. Men are more frequently mentored into positions in the core of the business.
  2. Men are more frequently exposed to conversations about business, finance and strategy and build business savvy as a result.

What's a Woman To Do?

Well, first of all, we have to develop a comfort level with our own business, strategic and financial acumen, because as I explained, when I talk about my discovery of The Missing 33%, men expect other men to be good at business, finances and strategy; but they do not expect that of us.

So to counter that, we have to be comfortable initiating conversations about  the business, about finances, and about strategy.

In order to do that, on a regular basis, tune in to what's happening in our own organization,  in the overall industry, with our competitors and with key customer segments so we can informally say things like: 

  • "Hey Bob, the other morning I was reading about this new initiative at XYZ Competitor, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it."
  • "Hey Chris, I was reading over last quarter's financials and there's something in there I would like to review with you because I don't understand its significance."
  • "Jorge  when the CEO was talking about expanding ABC service line, I started thinking about the impact that might have on our function. I'd like to review my thoughts with you."

Those are a few ideas to get you thinking about how you can raise the subject of what's going on in the business, the stories behind the financials, and what's happening. that has strategic importance.  

Catch you next time.


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Podcast produced* and original theme music by Megan Tuck

*Megan creates a listenable pod from a truly imperfectly created original containing my walking huffs & puffs, footfalls, background noises - birds, waves, cars, dogs, roosters and more. Thank heavens for Megan!