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10 Little Things I’ve Learned as a Female Executive

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years, and continue to learn every day.

1. Work Hard

There really is no substitute for hard work. The law of sowing and reaping and Newton’s third law hold true in nature, and are equally applicable to everyday life. Don’t expect to ever get more than you put in. Don’t expect to ever be paid more than you deserve. And if it happens, don’t expect it to last long. Compete only with yourself; strive every day to be better than you were the day before.

2. If You Don’t Ask, the Answer is Always “No”

One of the main reasons some women succeed at landing the tough assignments and earning salaries comparable to those of their male counterparts is because they’ve learned to speak up. Life is not fair and neither is the work place. Take an active role in making sure you convert your diligence into rewards — this will not happen automatically. Ask how you’re performing, ask for more responsibility, let others know when you’re being treated unfairly and toot your own horn.

3. Don’t Scratch with the Chickens

Choosing the wrong people to keep company with at work can really drag you down. Gossips are great at identifying who did what wrong, but don’t put any energy into making things right. Similarly, complainers cast blame, but take no personal responsibility. Both consistently expect the worse and both tend to consistently get the worse. When you’ve suffered a set-back, take it in your stride and move on. It is a mistake to whine or bitterly complaining to whoever will listen. Hone your skills and keep your eyes peeled for the next available opportunity. Prepare to soar with the eagles instead.

4. Flaunt Your Skills, Not Your Sexuality

Make the office a strictly “no-flirting” zone. Being inconsistent on this point may land you in compromising situations that may be difficult for you to recover from. On the other hand, celebrate the fact that you’re a woman. There is no need to forgo lipstick or try to “be one of the boys” to be taken seriously. Maintain a balance; people will find it easier to listen to what you’re saying if they aren’t being blinded by your fluorescent blue eyeshadow.

5. Lighten Up

Take the time to get to know those around you. Don’t be afraid to share a laugh or have fun at work. Embrace the concept of LBWA – leading by walking around. When people like and connect with you as an individual, they will be much more likely to support you when you really need it.

6. You Can’t Fix Everything

Being a perfectionist is an incredible waste of time and energy. Get your priorities straight, and make a habit of always working on your most important tasks first. Make a list every day. If you start your day tackling the easy stuff and then reacting to every email that pops into your in-box, you will find yourself both inefficient and over-stressed. Always put first things first, and learn to delegate or drop the things that aren’t worth your immediate time and energy.

7. Trust Your Passion

The more you enjoy what you do, the greater the likelihood of being successful and enjoying that success. Figure out what you enjoy and find ways to do more of the things you love in your job. It won’t necessarily happen overnight, but create a plan and work with it.

8. Make Time For You 

Make time to enjoy your life, and be happy and healthy. Cultivate interests outside of work – stimulate all your senses, eat well and move your body. Most of all, spend quality time with your friends and family.

9. It’s Okay to Cry

Frustrations will come, and so will the tears. When you break down emotionally on the job, it leaves people wondering if you can handle the task you’ve been entrusted with. Crying in front of bosses and coworkers will make you to lose credibility fast. Be tough on the job and save the tears for the drive home.

10. Never Stop Learning

My boss shared this gem with me just recently in a rare one-on-one moment. I embrace learning by reading voraciously on subjects that interest me. What he was talking about was learning the art of extracting ideas and solutions from everyone around. Asking others “what would you do?” is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of real strength. It could make the difference between success and failure, particularly in really challenging times.

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Thank You, Steve!

David Suchet as M. Hercule Poirot

As a child, between the ages of eight and ten years old, I devoured books. I have a natural love of learning, and the reading program introduced at my elementary school really stirred this. We were treated to weekly visits to the public library, and our parents were given the opportunity to purchase in bulk from Scholastic books. The rich and imaginative world of literature opened up to me as I read classic children’s novels such as ‘Veronica the Showoff’ and ‘The House on the Hill’ and every Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mystery novel I could get my little fingers on. I read Agatha Christie, and fell in love with Monsieur Hercule Poirot – detective magnifique! I also kept long lists of the books I’d read, and wrote book reports about my favorites in my journal.  I was even selected winner of a book report competition I entered and had the chance to read one of my reviews on the radio.

In my early teens, my insatiable appetite for books seemed to be diminishing. In high school, most of my friends had their noses buried in the Sweet Valley High series and serial romance novels. To me, these seemed like a waste of time, and I only ever managed to get through one of them. My love affair with books had come to an abrupt end.

Throughout my twenties, I read only while on vacation, between jobs or during other periods down time or transition. I had several bookshelves lined with books – most of which I actually did start reading, but never quite got around to finishing.

Fast forward to April 2009. Now in my mid-thirties, I received the gift of a sparkling new iPhone, a white one. Delighted, I quickly learned the truth that belied the catch-phrase “there’s an app for that”. It turns out there was an app to fix my twenty-year reading slump. Using the Kindle app, which I downloaded for free, I could buy and read the titles I wanted, whenever I wanted with just a motion of my finger on a sleek touchscreen. What a relief it was to no longer be at the mercy of the narrow offerings at the local bookstore. No more did I have to wait weeks for international shipping to the Caribbean.

Frisky on one of Antigua's famed 365 beaches

With my iPhone with me all the time, it became so easy to read in my spare moments. I took to reading in all while walking my dog, Frisky, early every morning.  As strange as it may sound, reading while walking my dog was not much of a challenge. As you can see, Frisky is a little terrier, with very short legs. At fifteen years old, she is content to walk quite slowly, pausing to sniff at  blades of grass, rocks or most anything that takes her fancy – every few paces.

When the new iPad was released, reading became even more of a pleasure.

Last year, on August 21, 2010, I added the most powerful weapon to my new arsenal – audible.com. Using Audible, I could now purchase audio books and devour them while driving, washing the dishes or getting ready for bed. Suddenly, the morning and evening commute moved from being largely an exercise in frustration, to real “me time” I could look forward to.

With these new gifts of technology at my disposal, I decided that it was time to catch up on the twenty years of reading I had missed. Even with the demanding job of running a company, I set myself a goal of reading 50 books in the course of the coming twelve months. I committed to reading about one book per week, no excuses.

It’s July, and I’ve surpassed my goal. I’ve consumed 77 books in less than a year. Some of them I have read using the Kindle app on my iPod touch or iPad, and some I have listened to via audible, but none of them has been made of paper. Thank you, Steve Jobs!

End note: If you love reading, but think you’re too busy to do it, now is the time to log on to www.audible.com and become a member. With a monthly subscription, Audible will deliver a minimum of one book credit per month. You will have the flexibility of being able to download and listen to your books on your laptop, blackberry, iPhone, iPad and a range of other platforms. You won’t regret it!