Her Place at the Table: A Woman's Guide to Negotiating Five Key Challenges to Leadeship Success


Advice for women from women for negotiating their own leadership careers

This is a practical guide for any woman dealing with a demanding role. Drawing on extensive interviews with women leaders, the authors isolate five key challenges: Intelligence; Backing; Resources; Buy-In; and Making a Difference. The three expert authors reveal what women have to teach us about the challenges and opportunities of leadership. As Tom Peters said of this book, "Women roar . . . . will help ...

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Advice for women from women for negotiating their own leadership careers

This is a practical guide for any woman dealing with a demanding role. Drawing on extensive interviews with women leaders, the authors isolate five key challenges: Intelligence; Backing; Resources; Buy-In; and Making a Difference. The three expert authors reveal what women have to teach us about the challenges and opportunities of leadership. As Tom Peters said of this book, "Women roar . . . . will help individual women negotiate what they need to success as leaders and help their firms support them in their efforts. That way we all win!"

  • Describes five key actions for leadership success: Drill Deep, Start from Strength, Assemble the Building Blocks, Gather Momentum, and Make Your Mark
  • Filled with prescriptive advice and a wide range of approaches for helping women with leadership challenges
  • Lead authors wrote the The ShadowNegotiation, which was then released in paperback as Everyday Negotiation

The book includes interviews with high-profile women leaders including Ann Moore (CEO of Time Inc.), Ann Mulcahy (CEO of Xerox), and Harvard's Rosabeth Moss Kanter.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
“Does she have the right stuff? That question follows women whenever they are promoted to visible leadership positions. Her Place at the Table lays out the pragmatic moves that can help any woman in business show she has the right stuff. I encourage all women with leadership aspirations to use this book as a guide.”
—Patricia Fili-Krushel, executive vice president, Time Warner

“Women roar—they are the leaders we need in corporations today but there are still some barriers. This book will help individual women negotiate what they need to succeed as leaders and help their firms support them in their efforts. That way we all win!”
—Tom Peters, management consultant and author,Re-imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age

“This is an important book for any woman who wants to do good—for herself and for her organization.”
—Ann Richards, former Governor of Texas

“Nothing is more vital for women than learning how to negotiate from our strengths. The authors know the hurdles women face—but, better still, they show how we can overcome them.”
—Margaret Heffernan, CEO and author, The Naked Truth: A Working Woman’s Manifesto on Business and What Really Matters

"Women leaders will want this book in their briefcases. It's got all the nuts-and-bolts strategies they need to succeed. Actually, men should read this book if they hope to keep up!"
—Betty Spence, president, National Association of Female Executives

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787972141
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 8/6/2004
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Deborah M. Kolb is professor of management at Simmons Graduate School of Management and former executive director of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

Judith Williams, former investment banker, is coauthor with Deborah Kolb of Everyday Negotiation from Jossey-Bass.

Carol Frohlinger is an attorney and consultant to corporations on the retention and advancement of women.
Kolb, Williams, and Frohlinger are principals in The Shadow Negotiation, LLC (www.theshadownegotiation.com), an e-learning company that provides negotiation training designed for women.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Taking Your Place at the Leadership Table: It’s Still a Test.

Chapter 1: Drill Deep: Negotiating the Intelligence for Informed Decisions.

Chapter 2: Mobilize Backers: Negotiating for Critical Support.

Chapter 3: Garner Resources: Negotiating Key Allocations.

Chapter 4: Bring People on Board: Negotiating Buy-In.

Chapter 5: Make a Difference: The Big Challenge.

Appendix A: A Road Map to Negotiating the Five Challenges.

Appendix B: What Organizations Can Learn from How Women Leaders Negotiate the Five Challenges.




About the Authors.


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First Chapter

Her Place at the Table

A Women's Guide to Negotiating Five Key Challenges to Leadership Success
By Deborah M. Kolb Judith Williams Carol Frohlinger

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7879-7214-2

Chapter One

Drill Deep: Negotiating the Intelligence for Informed Decisions

It is a truism that information is a prized asset in today's complex, often matrixed organizations. Few leaders would launch any new project without careful preparation, yet they frequently take on visible, high-profile assignments optimistic that they can make them work once on the job. By contrast, in overwhelming numbers, the women we talked to who successfully navigated difficult and visible new assignments counted good preliminary intelligence among their most valuable tools. Drilling deep not only enabled them to determine whether the role was a good fit for them, it also helped them negotiate the conditions of their success before they set foot in their new offices.

Moreover, these leaders went after a particular kind of intelligence. By and large they took for granted their command of market trends or the competitive landscape, the technological edge a new product would enjoy, or the distribution channels the company needed to develop. That expertise they counted as part and parcel of any leadership position. As the head of procurement for a Fortune 500 manufacturing company put it: "The hardest part in a leadership role is not the work. That's easy if you are halfwaysmart. It's the ability to read the political tea leaves."

Good intelligence allows the new leader to put those tea leaves to work. Seldom did the successful women in our sample approach new roles confident that they were a perfect fit for the job. Rather, they assumed that the role itself was negotiable and probed for what would tip the odds of success in their favor. Sometimes they tested the breadth of support behind the initiatives they would be charged with spearheading. Other times they used their intelligence gathering to get past the rhetoric and identify future obstacles.

The successful leaders moved quickly to get a handle on the problem they were charged with solving and the expectations circling round its resolution. A high-tech executive offered a promotion to straighten out the company's back-office operations used her networks and one-on-one interviews to discover how deep the troubles went.

The order process had broken down. Receivables were in awful shape. Salespeople were having a fit because no one could figure out their commissions. Financial controls weren't working. It was a disaster.

Armed with that intelligence, she could approach the CEO and accept the assignment-subject to one condition. She would need time to do the job he wanted done. "When things are in that much of a mess in finance, it's usually because processes have gone amok. There aren't quick fixes."

Most of all, the women who seamlessly managed the transition to new roles focused on unspoken codes of behavior and the personal dynamics at work in key relationships. Many new leaders are promoted from within or recruited from outside because something needs to be fixed. Not everyone in the organization, however, will be ready to accept the need for new leadership. No matter how elegant a proposed plan for, say, turning around a faltering division, gaining competitive advantage, or revamping outworn systems, it will find its way to the circular file if it rubs against the organizational grain or fails to garner critical support.

Early intelligence can flag how deep the resistance to change goes and where potential alliances might be formed. When, for example, a human resource executive contemplated joining a rapidly growing construction firm, she had no doubts about her ability to transform an organization that was essentially still run as a mom-and-pop operation. Even though the culture no longer correlated with where the company was on the growth cycle, many of the old guard liked things the way they were. The key to her success lay in determining whether she would have the space to make the changes necessary. Discussions with the president about his vision for the future provided that key. Growth on the scale that he anticipated demanded major restructuring.

It is clear that good intelligence puts a leader in a better position when negotiating the parameters of a new role. Yet women do not always operate with good intelligence. With limited access to the process that led to their appointment, they might not even know why they were chosen for the job. Without that information, they may make assumptions about the fit that influence not only their decision about accepting but also their perspective on what it would take to thrive in the new role.

Good informants are hard to come by when you're being recruited from outside, but tenure does not always provide easy access to information nor guarantee its reliability. Women frequently find themselves excluded from key decision-making networks within their own firms. Simultaneously insider and outsider, their perspective on any new assignment is inevitably colored by past experiences and past relationships. While a true outsider may be positioned for greater objectivity, she faces the formidable task of developing reliable sources of information. Whatever the circumstances, the more you know about a new role before taking it on, the greater are your chances of success.

Common Traps

Access to intelligence can be a challenge for women, yet sometimes unwitting obstacles prevent them from learning as much as they can about a prospective role. From the stories women told us we have isolated four key mistakes that can lead women (and men) to narrow the range of issues they consider when assessing a new position-with unfortunate results. In different ways, the traps short-circuit the search for additional intelligence. By casting an opportunity in black-or-white terms, they still any incentive to search out the nuanced information or multiple perspectives that lead to an informed decision about whether to take on the role. They tempt the unsuspecting to leave unexplored issues that should be put on the table for negotiation. The power of these traps shows up in the frequent refrain: "If I'd only known then what I know now...."

"Fit doesn't matter; it's performance that counts." Some people underestimate the difficulties that can be encountered during transitions into new roles. Casually assuming that they will fit in once on the job, they can downplay the impact of the organization's culture and fail to appreciate the inextricable link between their eventual success and perceptions of their suitability. Others in the organization have to feel that the new leader's style is in synch with organizational norms, and they judge qualifications through that filter. This maxim holds whether the new leader is promoted from within or recruited from outside. New leaders run into trouble when they screen out signals of a bad cultural fit as noise.

Kelly, attracted to a strategic marketing firm because of its cutting-edge methodology and its span across industries, took over a struggling account in the automotive industry. A selftaught marketer, she casually assumed that if she delivered results nobody would care that she did not have the proper pedigree. With a great deal of sweat and little support, Kelly turned the account around and the client into a staunch supporter. "Then they brought in a strategy person from Harvard who had worked at one of the premier consulting firms to take over." The company wanted the account turned around; she was right on that score. But it was also inordinately concerned with its image. That preoccupation surfaced early in the ever-so-slight condescension and patronizing tone Kelly detected during the interviewing process. But she never pursued these signs and never negotiated a safety net tied to performance. "I didn't have a big school name or the proper consulting credentials. ... He's now running a well-oiled machine that is churning out revenue that I developed."

New leaders are not always judged solely on their performance. Intelligence about the strategic business needs driving a particular assignment may not be enough. You have to probe deeper into the organization's underlying norms and values. Ignoring dissonance on this front can prove costly.

"This is such a wonderful job; I'd be a fool not to take it." A role can present such a big step forward in responsibility that intelligence is deliberately not gathered. The opportunity looms so great that it overshadows any need to investigate the downside. The CEO of a neighborhood health plan put the matter succinctly: "I wanted the top job. I didn't want to hear anything that would discourage me." Unfortunately, potential problems do not disappear with the suppression of evidence. They simply go underground where they cannot be worked through.

A prestigious title, a company with instant name recognition and credibility, greater authority-all hold out a seductive promise: "I've finally made it with this appointment." With rose-colored glasses firmly in place, it is easy to overlook the hard work ahead and to forgo gathering the intelligence that makes that work possible. Sheila managed the direct sales efforts to attract first-time investors to her financial services firm. Having grown up at the company, she felt a tremendous loyalty to it, but worried about her future there. The company, following an industry-wide trend, had shifted its growth strategy to focus on institutional investors, and her department was rapidly becoming an orphan, with little visibility and decreasing impact on the bottom line. Sheila felt stuck. Then she got a tantalizing call from a recruiter. Would she consider a move? A discount brokerage firm was in the process of acquiring a trust company to expand its customer base. The move would put Sheila where the action was-with high-net worth clients. After watching her department lose influence, she jumped at the chance to work on the side of the business that everyone watched.

Sheila failed to gather intelligence that would have been hers for the asking-the high rate of turnover among associates and burnout among key executives at the discount brokerage. Without that intelligence, she could not negotiate for the kind of training and development that would be needed to stem the outflow of associates or for the safety net that would provide her some security in the pressure-cooker environment she was thinking about entering.

Blinded by excitement and challenge, it is easy to overlook the things that will block you. The benefits of an opportunity can, of course, outweigh the obvious negatives. The important thing is to take on an assignment aware of the downside. By drilling deep you can get past the sales pitch. Rather than ignore or suppress the bad news, let that bad news contribute to an informed decision and provide the foundation for some serious negotiation.

"I love a challenge; I can't wait to tackle this problem." Successful people are often optimistic, convinced they can tip the odds in their favor by sheer will and energy. Before charting the dimensions of the problem they will face in the new role, they naively assume that they can make it better. "That's an interesting problem; I can solve it."

An executive in health care insurance relished the high-risk profile of turnaround situations or problem areas.

It's a challenge to get in and fix something. The upside to fixing a problem area far outweighs going into an area that is status quo, which everybody thinks is fine. If things are going well and you come on board and change one thing and it messes something else up, everybody says, "Uh, oh."

Zeroing in on the risk profile of a potential assignment is a key part of intelligence gathering. But this analysis tells only half the story. Interesting problems do make for interesting jobs. Problem solving, however, is seldom a solitary undertaking. Cooperation and resources are integral components of success. Focus only on the work-the what-and you might uncover the intellectual challenges ahead. But in all likelihood you will miss significant roadblocks. Intelligence on the how-how the work will get done and how much support it will enjoy-is equally important.

Caroline, a biotechnology executive with enviable connections within the venture capital world, discovered the high cost of the Fix-It syndrome. Wanting to be where the action was in small-molecule drug development, she left a top-tier biotech firm to take a position with a small start-up. The prospect of helping to build a company from the ground up was intoxicating. "I thought I'd be able to fix the problems and turn the company around. I saw some warning signals, but I ignored them."

After twenty years in the industry, Caroline took it for granted that the company's founders knew how to "form and structure a business." She excused some questionable practices as a lack of business sense. That she would supply. "They were spending money on frivolous things like a logo. They were paying consultants way too much for stuff that didn't need to be done." Caroline was sure she could fix that. Not long after she walked in the door, she realized her optimistic assumptions had been overly generous. She had overlooked some serious issues.

The founders didn't lack business sense. They knew exactly what they were doing. Their friends worked for the companies that they were giving business to; they were buttering each other's bread.

Fixing problems is basic to leadership positions. But more is involved than coming up with a brilliant solution. Some problems prove more intractable than expected not because they are inherently more complex but because the organization lacks the collective will or the resources to solve them. However tantalizing the problem, it is a good idea to temper the Fix-It syndrome with concrete intelligence on the problem's prospects for solution.

"I don't have much choice; I have to take this on." A lot of situations can make you feel boxed in. Perhaps your company is going through a merger and you would be grateful to land anywhere. You may have spent a long time with your firm and have a gloomy view of your prospects elsewhere. You may be at a point in your career or with a company where second chances are few and far between. Turn down a promotion and the powers that be will think twice about offering another. In an era of downsizing, mergers, and increasing pressure for more productivity, there may not be much room at the top. Pass up an offer and another will not necessarily come along. Our stories are peppered with vignettes from women who thought they had no choice.

The assumption becomes problematic, however, by extension. Little perceived choice on the initial decision translates into no choice at all.


Excerpted from Her Place at the Table by Deborah M. Kolb Judith Williams Carol Frohlinger Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2005

    Highly Recommended !

    Women in leadership positions will thank authors Deborah M. Kolb, Judith Williams and Carol Frohlinger for their strategic advice. Their book, solidly based on the experiences of 100 women in leadership jobs, clearly identifies obstacles women face in gaining legitimacy as leaders. The authors explain how women executives¿ incorrect - and possibly unconscious - assumptions increase their troubles. The book teaches readers to make their assumptions explicit and to overcome obstacles with step-by-step deliberate solutions. For instance, the book counsels you to get as much information as you can before taking a new position, and then to really think about what you have learned. The main chapters enumerate five major ways to gain respect and credibility as a leader, but the authors also provide advice on negotiation and some relevant questions for job hunters to ask. Although it gets repetitive, the authors accompany the final outline of major points with specific recommendations you can implement. We recommend this book to women in business who want to move up, or who already have.

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