I was recently talking with a senior level woman executive
and she was telling me how she was being marginalized by her CEO. “Something is
not right,” she said. Some women would
think, “I’m just dreaming this.” Smart women would go with their gut.
You may not know that there is a neurological link from your
gut to your brain. In prehistoric times, we didn’t have the time to think, “Get
out the Excel spreadsheet. Does the tiger eat me or do I eat the tiger?” Instead we reacted with our gut.
She had been meeting with the CEO regularly to discuss
business strategy for her department and update its progress. Her scheduled meetings with him recently were
postponed or canceled. That trend was
continuing and she was not pleased. Understand
that this is one successful woman. She
developed a marketing strategy that brought millions of dollars in new business
to her firm. She was making her
management –and especially the CEO–look great. My first reaction was
immediate. She had better do damage
Being marginalized will hurt her credibility with the rest
of those in power in the organization. I
asked her some questions about why she thought it was happening. It was clear.
The CEO was threatened by her success. I
told her to go into sales mode immediately.
She’s got to sell her CEO on the value of the meetings with her and why
it was critical for him to provide input.
That meant determining the reasons why it was in his best interest—not
hers—for him to be involved in the meetings with her. These reasons had to be
ones that impacted bottom line results rather than people’s feelings or other
intangibles that he might not value. After all, he might resent her success,
but he would not sacrifice his own success.
Anything that could take away from his future success would get his
She was able to come up with several good reasons why his
input was key and why they should be meeting to discuss and develop business strategies. Their
meetings began again. I also instructed her in her discussions with him to make
sure that when she talked about results that she avoid taking credit for
them. She should simply state results. Sounds
unfair? Perhaps, but it’s not critical. Numbers
sometimes do speak for themselves and people know who produce them. It’s
far more important for her to have access to power than to do something that
would jeopardize that access.
When was the last time you had a gut reaction to something
in business? Did you pay attention to it or let it go? I suggest you pay attention to your gut
reactions and your responses. You may find out that your gut is pretty good at
telling you what to do—and it’s not that salami sandwich you had for
lunch. I would love to hear how you have
responded to your gut and how it has helped your business success. Until then, go with your gut!