Being the founder and CEO of an all-girl technology company, and spending most of my life managing in veterinary medicine for over 20 years, where women outnumber the men 5 to 1, it has brought me closer to identifying which women are going to transcend into a leadership, game-changing role and which are going to be the status quo by following traditional “girl rules”.
If you’re not looking to be average, here are 6 tips to power past the limitations of being a girl to achieve and accomplish your personal vision of success.
1. Be decisive
Most girls I know consider it a modest and polite act to let others choose what they want and “go with the flow”. When you show indecisiveness, those around you immediately view you as a follower. So the next time someone asks what kind of pizza you like when placing the office lunch order, tell them pepperoni with black olives and tomatoes on thin crust. It is important, especially in the early days that you don’t be a girl here. Make as many decisions as you are capable of every day. Don’t stand quietly on the sideline and take what you get.
2. Know your numbers
NEVER go to a meeting without knowing your numbers. It doesn’t have to be committed to memory; It’s fine to write them down and whip them out if needed. Even if nobody asks for the numbers, you will experience a higher level of confidence by knowing the actual facts. Then if a conversation ensues during your meeting, you will be well equipped to discuss the topic rather than sitting quietly like a girl.
3. Ask for what you want
I often do this to my employees- I ask them what their target position and salary is for themselves inside our start-up company where literally anything is possible and the ceiling is yours to define. It’s interesting because nearly every girl that has ever worked for me gives me some semi-lofty goal and number. Then I ask them to go home and come back the next day and answer the question like a man. Inevitably (100% of the time), I get a better answer on the second day. So, don’t be shy, say what you want and be proud. It’s your life and no one can take your goals away from you.
4. Act like a duck
Girls in general are the worst at reading into every little thing where as most men take comments for face value and call it good. After girls apply all their filters and “what they might have meant” assumptions on conversation replays in their head, suddenly advanced meaning and implications get applied as if we are living out a Lifetime movie. It is important to remember and focus on the fact that most people don’t have evil alterior motives for your life and instead are just doing the best to manage themselves. Be a duck and let this stuff roll off your back. It’s better to reserve your energy for serious conflicts. And, if you aren’t sure what someone is saying (or you find yourself reading into what you “think” they “meant” to say), then don’t be a girl and just go ask for clarification. It’s much easier.
5. Share your opinions
One of the worst things you can do as a girl is to keep your opinions to yourself. Most girls do this because they are insecure and don’t want to appear dumb, or perhaps think their opinions have a lower value than someone else with more experience. By overcoming this and sharing your opinions at meetings and in conversation, others will recognize that you are engaged and have thoughts and ideas rolling around in your head. Don’t be a girl and wait for the perfect time to share your perfect opinion. Speak up now! Often the people that are deep into the weeds on their topic can’t see the forest and will benefit from your insight.
6. Stop apologizing
It’s never a good idea to apologize for something that wasn’t your fault. And, apologizing doesn’t really make you seem like a better, more considerate, team player. In fact, all it really does is make you a punching bag and the go-to person for teammates that need to redirect their anger. The exception is if you did truly make a mistake, then step up as quickly as possible and say your apology. But don’t be a girl and over-apologize because your boss didn’t give you clear directions on a spreadsheet they needed by the end of day. Instead say, “I’m happy to work on this until we get it just the way you want it.” Over-apologizing (or inappropriate apologizing) will only make you look weak.
Whenever I worry I am indulging my “girl” attitude, I often step back and ask myself what would my male counterpart do if faced with the same situation. Often, it’s pretty clear how to get what I want by not being a girl about it.