These are words from a dear friend, Pam Lontos, who I met up with her recently for dinner while traveling. Pam was a successful Sales Director working in the radio industry for many decades before becoming an International Sales Trainer and speaker.
Together with our husbands at dinner we were discussing today’s storm of the #metoo and other campaigns women are leading against the fight of equality. Admittedly, I do not agree with some of these campaigns, especially the recent march. Yes, marching for a cause is healthy and can make a difference. But when thousands of women and men march in negativity you are giving your power away. I asked Pam lots of questions and took notes. From her days in leadership positions to today, many of the same philosophy is true.
I recall back when I was working with a local Chamber of Commerce. I was assured by the Board Chair and others that I would be getting a promotion to the Chief Operating Officer (COO). After waiting weeks for the announcement I arrived in my office on a Monday morning to receive an email to the whole organization congratulating Todd as he is named the new COO for the Chamber. I, not walked, ran to the CEOs office to ask for answers. His response, you are not part of the Good Ole’ Boys network. WOW!
Pam, do you believe there is a Good Ole’ Boy network?
Is there a Good Olé’ Boy network in the Radio industry? Of course there is. There’s a Good Olé’ Boy network in every industry. Women in Radio need to recognize this and learn how to use the network to their advantage.
The reason any network exists is to promote the mutual goals of the members. If someone is perceived as not benefiting the group, they will be excluded – whether they are male or female. However, if you are seen as a positive element, you will be welcomed to join. If you’re antagonistic or go around yelling that things are unfair, you will merely isolate yourself and put up a barrier. It will be evident to the group that giving you ore power is going to cause a problem. If you show that you are a hard worker, someone who is willing to work with the group and help them achieve their goals and the company goals, they you’re more likely to get support.
If you’ve been passed over a few times for a promotion and you’re blaming it on the Good Ole’ Boy network, stop and ask yourself what other reasons could there be? What skills do you need to build on to be in the running the next time a promotion comes up? Get constructive criticism from someone you trust on areas you need to improve so that you will be considered for the promotion.
I’ve seen situations where a Sales Manager’s position opens up at a company and there are 10 salespeople eligible for it, 8 being male and 2 being female. A mistake some women make when one of the men is picked, is to say, I didn’t get it because I’m a woman.” They forget there were 7 men who didn’t get it either. The men don’t say,” I didn’t get it because I’m a man.” Instead they say, “Next time I’m going to get it. Or What do I need to do to get to that position?”
Pam, has this happened to you?
It’s happened to me. A man was promoted to sales manager even though I was the top salesperson. What I did was to let management know that I did want to become a sales manager and I was surprised to hear they were unaware that I even wanted the position and that was part of the reason I was passed up. I then began acting as though I already had the job. This was a technique which I learned from books on success: is there is something you want, act as if you have already achieved it.
Pam, what is your advice for women wanting to get ahead?
It was my mission to help other salespeople with their sales and conducting an occasional sales meeting. I would help train the staff and they would go out and make sales using what I had told them. About six months later, when we lost half our ratings and the sales manager left, it was actually asked that I be promoted.
At that point, nobody cared whether I was a man or a woman. They saw me as a person who was going to help their pocketbook. When you benefit someone else, you will get what you want, whether you’re a male or a female.
Pam, it’s a game. I see women fighting against other women. Something at nauseam. Do you agree?
In business, games are played. There is no denying. I went into commission sales at age 15 and I saw back-stabbing women, but I also saw the same game with men. Climbing the corporate ladder, people sometimes step on other people, male or female, to get to the top. Men back-stab as much as women. You must keep your eyes open and not get caught into their game playing because, once you do, there is always a negative payoff.
If you see yourself getting caught up in the game, don’t let it appear to affect you. Simply smile with confidence. If there is inappropriate behavior, immediately speak to someone in authority, protect yourself.
It’s not rejection that’s often the problem, it’s your reaction to it. It’s not negative people that’s the problem, it’s your reaction to negative people.
I found Pam’s advice to not be all relevant today. There are similarities, but differences. Such as, understanding the Good Ole’ Boy network is not as exclusive to men as it has been. In my consulting business I often work in organizations where the leadership team is dominant women and the games continue. They continue because women are more competitive by nature than we admit. Also because leadership roles are still dominant men, women tend to fight harder for a smaller percentage of available positions.
When I was CEO of Girl Scouts of Penn’s Woods Council and National announced the realignment. Which meant only one CEO would survive from a pool of hundreds. Do you think I was motivated to do the best work I could, stay relevant and reliable for the position, your dam right I did. And so did the other hundreds of possible candidates. Even during this time of turmoil I found my closest and reliable colleague to be a man, because I was not threatened by him.
There’s one basic truth that came from this time and underlies all discussions – to put our best effort forward, we must as professional women learn to trust and rely on one another. March for the benefit of women with a positive outcome. When we learn to work together with people different than us, we keep our power and that’s when we all benefit.