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Do you panic when you discover that you've left the house without your purse? I do. It contains my wallet that holds cash and credit cards, my driver's license, and the required insurance information. It's got my Palm Pilot ready with my schedule, every phone number I could ever need, and a list of the things I must remember to do.
These are my essentials, what I need to stay on track. Your essentials might include a cell phone, Filofax, or paperback. You might sling a small tote or a major briefcase. But no matter what you carry or how you carry it, you probably feel you're packed and ready for whatever might come your way.
It's also important to remember your toolbox. Your "toolbox"? Sure. It's as vital to your success in business and at home as your other bag of tricks. Think I'm joking? No, I'm not suggesting you carry around thirty different screwdrivers or a fifty-pound steel sledgehammer. I'm talking about powerful interpersonal skills like a Power Saw to cut away the people and situations that drag you down, an Electrical Sensor to pick up the signals you miss from other people and the clues your internal voice wants you to hear, and nineother tools I'll show you how to pack and use in this book. As it increases your effectiveness and efficiency, the right Power Tool can make a world of difference in your success both in the workplace and at home.
You Already Own a Toolbox
Whether you spend your days in the boardroom or the classroom, in the administrative office or on the sales road, in the skyscraper or the split-level, there are certain essential tools you need to build a structure for personal satisfaction and professional success. And, unlike those other gadgets that you shed with your panty hose when you arrive home, your toolbox, if you use it often and consciously enough, will stay with you wherever you go. The good news is that you probably already own a lot of Power Tools, but you haven't learned how to apply them universally. In this book, I'll show you how to use every Power Tool and how to exploit them to your best advantage. This book will allow you to view situations at work and at home with the same clarity, and to deal with your boss, coworkers, spouse, children, and friends more effectively using the Power Tools that you have at your fingertips.
Who Needs Another Gimmick?
Does the idea of the toolbox strike you as too gimmicky to be useful? Some women who attend my seminars are initially reluctant to embrace the metaphor. A few even admit to some not-so-gentle ribbing they've taken from men about my whole Power Tools concept. However, as I explain more about the concept, these same women are quickly converted to Power Tool owners and supporters, because the messages resonate with their own experiences. As girls, many were told they couldn't handle real power tools, but today women are putting hammer to nail and plaster to wallboard in growing numbers. In the workplace, they receive both implicit and explicit messages about their inability to handle genuine authority and position, as well as the extended dues paying that's required to qualify them for advancement and opportunities. They now see that the idea that women can't handle authority is another work of fiction.
Some people may joke about the Power Tools concept, but it's an efficient shorthand. There are lots of smart gimmicks serving as memorable attention-grabbing devices: chicken soup makes you feel better; you can understand just about anything explained for dummies; people from different planets, like Mars and Venus, need help communicating; and Power Tools are portable devices that make you more effective wherever you go.
Why Write Power Tools for Women?
For over twenty years, as a business and management consultant, I've talked about Power Tools to both men and women. Without fail, the men ask for validation that the solutions they already use are the best ones. But the women often hesitate and instead ask, "How can I become more powerful?" We don't seem to know that we already hold powerful tools in our hands!
I also realized that men can turn to their dads, mentors, friends, or bosses (aka the "old-boy network") to learn about Power Tools, but women can't ask their mothers about Soldering Irons to forge stronger interpersonal connections on the job. We can't question our book club sisters about Batteries and Rechargers to get the energy we require to struggle through an upcoming ordeal. And if we don't get a grip on our own toolbox, we won't ever be able to equip our own daughters with such fundamentals as Safety Goggles, which allow us to picture a clear goal and share it with those who will help it become a reality.
That's why you have this book: to level the floor and learn the secrets that men already know and women are longing to learn.
Baby boys and baby girls start life with identical Power Tools and equal potential for their use. Traditionally, Industrial Arts class was the boys' domain. Girls were encouraged to become adept at developing expertise with the tools of the kitchen and sewing nook. We became masters of the pinking shears and the electric mixer. Consciously and unconsciously, girls learn a discrete set of "girl skills" and are encouraged to forget some of our more universal tools completely.
The women in my seminars give me the same examples of this compartmentalization of skills over and over. Lisa's mother told her to "hide her brain" to attract boys. Sheila figured out in class that she should never show her real feelings. Meg's boss told her that arguing would alienate managers. Sandy learned from TV and magazines that she should focus on her appearance. Lila, who is single with three children, once declined a promotion because she felt her male colleague, the primary breadwinner in his family, "deserved" it more. Today, they're amazed by their willingness to accept such limitations. But at the time, they behaved according to the loudest voice in their brains, the voice that pushed for them to relinquish their power.
When we were boxed out of shop class, we were also boxed out of the power and autonomy it would have provided us. Those messages didn't disappear when we became women. They were stored away in our brains for later use. Now, when we are asked to pick up a drill, it feels unfamiliar and cumbersome in our hands. We don't think of power tools as instruments for women. Do you want something done that requires a power tool? Call your dad, brother, husband, or son, or hire a handyman.
Times have changed. Shop class is encouraged for the entire student body, but it's still not a place where the girls outnumber the boys. The corporate doors have opened wider for women, with business schools and law schools touting their highest percentage of women graduates ever. But managing partners and CEOs are still predominantly male, even after years of women filling the pipeline for the top slots.
Women reflect their discomfort with Power Tools even in the way we speak. Men use the declarative voice. Their sentences are strong statements that end with a period or an exclamation point.
"I have an idea that you'll like."
"I'm going to the meeting."
"I'm not interested right now."
"This will be great!"
Women use other punctuation. Their sentences are generally more tentative and end with dashes, commas, hyphens, or question marks.
"I think I have an idea that you'll like-"
"I'll be going to the meeting?"
"I'm don't think I'm interested right now ..."
"This could be great?"
Women need to embrace not only all kinds of punctuation but also every skill that can be used to our advantage, setting aside gender bias. We can speak in the declarative voice. We can acquire new skills with each of our Power Tools and add to our current proficiency. We need to use our tools, not trade them.
You possess the skills required for success in any shop class. Imagination, dexterity, and persistence are abilities you use, though maybe not at a workbench. Remove the gender-laden smoke screen from the hardware store, and you can plug in a Power Saw and eliminate unnecessary barriers. With preparation and practice, it's fun to have power in your hands and use it with precision to accomplish your goals. It's easier to use Power Tools than you thought. You'll wonder what the big deal was, and you'll want to use your Power Tools more often.
What Holds Us Back
Patty had been employed with a local college for many years when a dean's position became available. As she reviewed the requirements, she recognized that her previous positions had provided her with the experiences needed to qualify for the job, yet she didn't think she had much of a chance at being considered for it. Patty assumed that this position would go to someone who had a Ph.D., but at the prodding of her counterpart at another college, she submitted her application. She was astonished when she was offered the job. Patty had been paying attention to the voice in her head that was whispering, "You aren't a dean."
Given Patty's wealth of experience and great employment history, where did that voice come from? She told me that when she was in the fifth grade, she struggled with math. When her math wizard brother would tutor her, he was amazed at how much trouble she had with the subject matter. "How stupid can you be?" he would ask, annoyed with her inability to replicate his success. Patty learned quickly that in order to avoid that terrible sinking feeling when a poor test grade was returned, she would have to work harder to get the same grades as her classmates. Even then, she inevitably fell short of her brother's success. At fifty-six, she still feels driven to work twice as hard to be considered for the same positions as her male colleagues. The excessive efforts she makes to bolster her confidence sufficiently have become a burden. The voice in her head was created for a struggling fifth-grade math student, not a grown woman with an impressive work history. Patty is ready to bring her toolbox with her to the office.
Patty, like many women in my seminars, works hard to avoid appearing "less than" in any way. To avoid that feeling of discomfort, and to reduce our feelings of inadequacy, many of us overcompensate with overkill. Cautioned to be careful while our brothers are encouraged to take risks, we work vigilantly to insure our safety, supporting ourselves with a long list of accomplishments, even better if it's a longer list than a male counterpart's. We need the confidence of Power Tools to enjoy our accomplishments; not hide behind them.
Nothing to Fear but Fear
You may not always feel like using your Power Tools. Not everyone is interested in doing home-improvement projects over the weekend. You may be more inclined to delegate or decline some tasks. But having the ability to grab your Power Tools and use them with skill means you have the advantage of determining if and when you will use them.
The factors that make women disinclined to use Power Tools are many: society, mothers, fathers, school, religion, corporate America, the media, and history all play a part. But while the other factors may be out of your control, you can control your thoughts and your actions. When it comes to using Power Tools, the biggest problem is your own behavior.
Logic alone is not persuasive. If it were, we'd read the warning on a pack of cigarettes that smoking causes cancer and toss it in the trash. You'd read this book and determine that using Power Tools in all domains of your life is the obvious choice. The logic would be linear, pure, and simple:
I own a set of Power Tools. ? When I use them, I can accomplish my goals. ? My goals are important. ? Doing important things makes me happy. ? I want to be happy. ? I'll use my Power Tools.
If it's so reasonable, what's the problem? Well, logic is one thing, and fear is quite another. Logic doesn't address the emotional component that makes up a big part of our fear.
Fear of consequences
What happens if I don't use a tool well?
What will people think if I use this tool?
What happens if I look foolish?
What happens if the tool doesn't work?
Fear of using power
When other people use power, I lose out. Therefore, if I use power, someone will lose out.
It isn't ladylike to be powerful.
A woman who uses power is a bitch.
If I don't use power, someone will come along and help me.
Fear of appearing disingenuous
I don't want to be someone I'm not.
Using tools should come naturally.
I don't want to manipulate others.
Fear of failing
If I can't use my Power Tools, things really are hopeless.
If I don't do this well, I'm a failure.
If I can't improve in my use of tools, I'll disappoint others and myself.
I'll feel worse if others can use Power Tools and I can't.
How can we handle our fear of consequences?
* What happens if I don't use a tool well? Since you already have some experience with this tool, you have the potential to get better at using it.
* What will people think if I use this tool? They'll be impressed that you are seizing your own power.
* What happens if I look foolish? You will look like you're learning. (And after some time has passed, you may be able to laugh at yourself.)
* What happens if the tool doesn't work? Then something else will.
How can we reduce our fear of using power?
* When other people use their power, I lose out. Therefore, if I use my power, someone will lose out. Just because other people abuse their power doesn't mean you have to do the same or that you will. You can also choose to use your power to help others.
* It isn't ladylike to be powerful. Power is a noun, not a gender.
* Power = Aggressive = Bitch. The B-word is a strategy used by others to keep you from using your power. A bitch uses power without respect. You can choose to be powerful and respectful.
* If I don't use power, someone will come along and help me. Don't bet on it. You don't need to wait for someone else in order to be more effective. You shouldn't wait.
how can we reduce our fear of appearing disingenuous?
* I don't want to be someone I'm not. You're not pretending to be someone else when you use Power Tools. You are just behaving in new ways.
* Using tools should come naturally. Some of them do come naturally. Some will require a bit more effort. Driving your car is an acquired skill.
* I don't want to manipulate others. Power Tools are used to exercise more control over yourself, not others.
How can we reduce the fear of failing?
* If I can't use my Power Tools, things really are hopeless. You can use them and you already have used them.
* If I don't do this well, I'm a failure. As long as you're working on using your Power Tools, you aren't failing.
* If I can't improve in my use of tools, I'll disappoint others and myself. Realistic expectations will buoy your spirits. Improvement comes in small increments as well as larger ones.
* I'll feel worse if others can use Power Tools and I can't. You can use every single Power Tool. The degree to which you excel in ability is unique to you. Using your Power Tools is not a competition.
We Are Ready and Willing, But Something Holds Us Back
There are times when the idea of taking hold of our Power Tools is appealing but something holds us back. We compare ourselves to others and feel inadequate.
Grace was very eager to start working with Power Tools. She was earning a great income, owned her own home, and was raising a daughter from her first marriage when she met John. Remarried at the age of twenty-nine, she found herself quite willing to hand her hard-earned independence and power over to her new husband. She quit her job and became a stay-at-home mom. Grace felt that she had already proved to herself that she could accomplish a great deal and was eager to live a life of relative leisure.
However, when Grace was forty-one, a new clarity about her life emerged. She now wanted to reclaim her power, return to school, keep her marriage strong, and determine what she wanted from the next phase of her life. She said it wasn't always easy to figure that out.
Excerpted from Power Tools for Women by Joni Daniels Copyright © 2002 by Joni Daniels . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted March 26, 2002
I liked Power Tools for Women because it really hit home. I could identify with many of the real-life examples the author wrote about. I kept thinking, 'Yeah, that's me she's writing about!' Daniels' advice helps you figure out how to make things work whether it's on the job or at home. She shows that you probably already have the ability to tackle something tough, you just have to recognize it. She also gives suggestions on how to develop that ability. This book is packed with great ideas and is one that I'll keep referring to. It's smart, funny and right on target.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.