Women Who Make Their Own Rules


FountainBlue’s September 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series was on the topic of Women Who Make Their Own Rules. Below are notes from the conversation.
We were fortunate to have a great panel of wise, experienced and successful women who so candidly shared their challenges, their advice, their tips about working with rules within and outside a corporate setting, to benefit all. Despite the differences in backgrounds and perspectives, one overarching theme of the conversation centered around being genuine and authentic and self-aware enough to know what you want, why you want it, and how to get it, working with current circumstances, with current stakeholders, many of whom are resistant to accepting the involvement and participation of a woman.!
Another theme centered around perseverance and resiliency. These women knew exactly what they were attempting to do, and especially that it will not be an easy task, yet they acted despite the critics, despite the norms and rules, and achieved results which helped redefine perceptions, expectations and ambitions for both men and women.
Our panelists agreed that many rules are full of assumptions, that rules should be treated as guidelines, that successful women know how to change and bend the rules to achieve better-than-expected results, that bending the rules sometimes actually makes a bigger, better reality. But there *are* some guidelines for deciding when and whether to bend and break a rule and why:
1) Always honor the Golden Rule – Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.
2) Focus on delivering the results, and questions rules which spell out *how* results should be produced, as they may actually be (unintentionally) limiting the results you’re seeking.
3) Consider the purpose of the rule from the perspective of different stakeholders before deciding whether to change or stretch that rule.
4) Consider that different rules are important under different circumstances. New and improved rules and better ways of doing things may come from the oddest places. Be open to them.
5) Be suspicious of rules that encourage/reward complacency, while discouraging initiative and passion. Don’t just go through the motions and follow rules blindly out of habit. It will limit your success, and that of others around you.
6) What worked in the past may not work in the future. What worked for others may not work for you . . . so consider each case as a separate incident.
7) With that said, learn from the rule-breakers and change agents around you. Learn as much from mistakes as from successes!
8) When looking at who wants/advocates a particular rule and why, don’t focus on ancillary things like gender and culture, but more about individual and their perspectives and motivations.
9) If you decide to change a rule, look not just at how that helps you and others directly, but also the indirect, long-term, and short-term impact of changing that rule and factor that in as you work to forge that change.
10) We have too many rules, and many of them outlive their purpose and need to be changed.
However, as different as each of our panelists were, they each shared secrets about how they had their own style, their own way of making things work. But each method involved ten key things:
1) Proactively communicate and function with authenticity, intelligence, and self-awareness.
2) Consistently deliver tangible, measurable results, communicated well.
3) At times bend and break rules in a way where all stakeholders can accept. To do this well, consider the motivations of your stakeholders.
4) Value, nurture and build key relationships to help achieve results,
5) Expand perspectives by welcoming mentors, sponsors, advocates and actively engaging in networks,
6) Possess and project the desire to succeed, with the track record to support it, and a BHAG at the end of it,
7) Learn and grow from every experience, good and bad.
8) Have the confidence and fortitude to excel and succeed despite the odds.
9) Foster a re-questioning and a re-definition of rules and norms, which open up more possibilities, and better serve all.
10) Continually raise the bar for herself and for those who follow.
So breaking, reshaping, bending, stretching, redefining rules is part of the brand of each of our panelists, and in a *good* way. When you consider your own brand, think deeply about whether your job is worth doing – what aspects are and aren’t? If it’s worth doing, how can you keep it that way or make it more so, and if not, what can you change to make it so?
• Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders – YouTube, Dec 21, 2010 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18uDutylDa4
We would like to thank and acknowledge our speakers for FountainBlue’s September 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series was on the topic of Women Who Make Their Own Rules:
Facilitator Roberta LaPorte, RAL & Associates, Career and Leadership Consultants
Panelist Wendy Wei Liang, Director, Program Management and Globalization at Oracle
Panelist Judy Priest, Distinguished Engineer and Engineering Manager, Scalable Networks Group, Cisco
Panelist Merline Saintil, Chief of Staff to VP of Architecture, eBay
Panelist Yvonne Thomson, Senior Director, Internal Communications, Symantec
Please join us in thanking our hosts at Symantec for their support of this event and this series. Thank you also to our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts.


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