Dancing on the Glass Ceiling – Part II

(When we left off last time, our Well-Heeled CEO (a.k.a. me) was having a conversation with the chairman of the board)

“The board has directed me to offer you the position of CEO….” The chairman  was saying,

“…with a six-month trial period to see if it is working out.”

It took me about two seconds to identify and analyze the risks:

Risk 1 – give up my currently well-paid, well-defined executive job for a trial job whereby my success would be based on the whim of a room full of old men. Risk 2 – accept risk 1 while assuming the responsibilities of a turnaround, knowing that significant impact wouldn’t be measurable in six months.

I laughed out loud.

The chairman was shocked. I guess the board figured I would be so honored at the offer that I would throw my common sense out the window. So I posed a question to the chairman: “Just how, exactly, does the board intend to make this six-month determination?” His enlightened expression was enough to show me that he understood my laughter. So I laid down my terms.

“Here’s how we do it. Give me my goals. Get out of my way. Fire me if a screw it up.”

So they did, and they kind of did, and when the time came I left on my own. But that is getting ahead of the story…..

What’s the point? I have no doubt that I received a conditional offer because I am female; I can’t imagine any group of men extending such an insulting offer to another man. A trial CEO position? Really? How on earth could that even work? My apologies if you are tired of hearing this, but there is still a significant amount of gender inequity in corporate America and I think it is criminal for us to pretend otherwise. Ask any woman trying to break the glass in financial services or tech, just to name two particularly notorious industries.

I have lots more stories to tell if you are interested in hearing them. If you’re not, don’t tune in to The Well-Heeled CEO.

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Dancing on the Glass Ceiling – Part I

I had no aspirations about being a CEO. Being the “Inside Guy” was enough for me. Just by being in the building every day I was had impact and influence in all of the key areas of the organization. So I didn’t immediately jump at the chance to be the CEO. My reason for finally throwing my hat in the ring was less than lofty – I wanted to save myself the trouble of having to train yet one more “Big Banker” on the realities of Community Banking.

So into the ring went my hat, along with a list of why I was ridiculously qualified. With the exception of my non-existent golf game, my skill set was unquestionable. I promised to go get a swing, and I was given the nod.

Of maybe half a nod ….

The board chair came to my office after the deliberations and took a seat at my desk. I noticed I was holding my breath.

“The board has directed me to offer you the position of CEO….” he said.

I exhaled.

“…with a six month trial period to see if it is working out.”

I inhaled.

How would you have felt about this officer? What would you have answered?

Stay tuned for Part II.

Coaching and Leadership in the Boxing Gym

I haven’t punched anyone or anything since I was nine years old. And I apologized to my brother, as the full extension of my first into his nose truly was an accident. So imagine my surprise when I discovered just recently that I love boxing.

Not the kind where you hit and get hit; that scares me. No – I love the boxing you do in a one hour circuit training workout that involves various kinds of cardio torture followed by three minute rounds with the bags. Speed bags, uppercut bags, heavy bags, big brown bags – I love them all.

The first time I walked in the boxing gym my fear was twofold. I was out of shape and I didn’t know jack about boxing. Last week my coach told me that my skills were really improving and that I should consider sparring in the ring. Wow! I declined citing my lack of passion for getting hit in the face, yet I couldn’t help but notice that the rest of my workout was way more focused. I kinda felt like a boxer!

As I evaluated my progression from klutz to Championship Belt (ok – a little over the top) I recognized the brilliance of my trainer. Her methodology is a terrific lesson in coaching. She explained the reason for a technique, demonstrated the technique, waited until I got that one down before introducing another, and encouraged me from class to class.

But what was really impressive to me was her lesson in leadership. When she suggested that I spar, she made the next step accessible to me by making it possible in my imagination. When she stepped forward and asked me to follow, she led me to the confidence I needed to elevate my game. Because of her encouragement and skillful guidance, I now work a lot harder every time I am in the gym.

In a nutshell, the coaching steps were explain, demonstrate, correct, add more, and encourage. The leadership was an invitation.