Aspiring Executive Women:

You didn’t get the memo, “How to Prep for Executive Dodge Ball.” So I’m offering advice on the topic. Begin by developing your village. First we’ll discuss why aspiring executive women need a village. Then we’ll highlight various villager roles and tips on selecting your people.

Aspiring executive women

Aspiring executive women

Aspiring Executive Women - Not the Same Old Hash

There’s no shortage of articles describing the challenges aspiring executive women face. There’s an equal abundance of advice on how to address these challenges. Much of it is hash - leftover meat cut into small pieces and served again, usually with potatoes.

That’s why I’m excited to introduce you to a new dish, Why Women Aren’t CEOs, from Women Who Were Almost There. It features two main ingredients.

  1. Loneliness
  2. The gym (aka executive suite) where some competitors (aka peers) knock you down to raise themselves up

If you counteract the first, you’ll find it easier to digest the second.

Aspiring Executive Women - The Missing Dodge Ball Memo

The vignette below illustrates a day at the executive gym. Not all days are like this. But it only takes one to knock you out of your seat.

“I got a guy his C-suite job, I’m sitting there at the C-suite table and he takes a massive swipe at me on my business: ‘She’s not doing this right.’ I go down the hall, and I go to my friend and say, ‘What the hell just happened?’ And she said, ‘Did you forget the boys play a 24/7 game of dodge ball? You just walked into the gym. He whips the ball, and if it happens to knock you on the head, so what?’ 

Growing a village, ensures you get that kind of advice before you join the executive gym. Mentors and sponsors tell you what games people play there. They share their own stories, the moves that work, and those that don’t. You need a coach in your village. Someone who’s played game. Trust me, I’ve been there. Find someone who knows the deal. She’ll explain that your male peers aren’t bad people. They’re human beings built for survival, doing what human beings do. Understanding helps. Judging and being resentful, not so much.

Resources are important when times get tough. Times get tough. In the executive gym, the most powerful person gets the most and best resources. So players compete for power. You’re there to demonstrate surviving and thriving by different means:

  • Cooperation
  • Collaboration
  • Support
  • Building resources together

First, you have to survive the game as it’s currently played.

Ultimately at the top of an organization there are fewer and fewer spots, and if you can eliminate an entire class of people, it makes it easier. Women are prey, Men can smell it in the water. Women are not going to play the same game. She walks into the gym and the men think, ‘If I kick her, she’s not going to kick back, but the men will. So I’ll go after her.’

This scenario explains, in no uncertain terms, why you need a village. Your village coach helps you find your superpowers and hone your skills. Healers help you renew and restore before the next round. Villagers listen as you describe what happened. Together, you watch the replays; develop and practice better moves. Having a village means you’re not in the game alone. The entire village is by your side, cheering you on.

Who’s Who in Your Village?

Village roles are listed below. Identify who’s in them. Fill vacant positions now.

Note: Some people fill multiple roles. A coach or best friend may also be an emotional guide and/or healer.

  • Coach
  • Mentor
  • Sponsor
  • Emotional, physical and spiritual guides/healers
  • Supporters
    • Best friends
    • Family
    • Long standing and trusted colleagues

Tips on Choosing Your Villagers

Wise aspiring women executives don’t wait until they’re in the major leagues to build their village. They grow it on the way up. They also pay it back and forward by joining other women’s villages.

Include men and women villagers. Make sure some of your people have experience playing in the major leagues. They can tell you how the game is played up there. They show you moves others will make against you. They demonstrate the offensive and defensive plays that work best.

You need to translate those moves, because with rare exception, what works for men doesn’t work for women. (See the 2016 U.S. election campaign if you have any questions.)  This is why you also need a woman mentor. She knows the narrow range of styles and moves you’re allowed. Too aggressive and you’re a —–. To soft and you’re weak, not capable of making tough calls.

I hope this memo helps. We, the entire global village, need you in the executive suite to change the game and how it’s played. To the men who don’t want to play executive dodge ball, we know you’re out there. Please reach out and work with us to change the game.

For additional advice on building your village, see Jesse Stoner’s post, Why My 5 Around Group is Important to Me and Why You Should Start One

Anne Perschel
Anne Perschel
When she is not consulting; coaching; reading and writing about leadership; or enjoying her work in other ways; Anne can be found:

Listening to ocean waves receding over stones.
Enjoying the spontaneous expressions of young children who haven’t yet learned to hide their emotions.
Taking in the scent of freesias, lilacs or salt water.
Enjoying the great, or not so great, outdoors and all variations of nature’s gifts.
At the gym.

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Aspiring Executive Women: Advice on Growing Your Village