Questions for media
Q: Your book is entitled, The
Velvet Hammer. So what is a velvet hammer?
A: A Velvet Hammer is a woman who can lead with grace and eloquence.
She has given up trying to see what works for her male counterparts
and seeks methods that work for her.
Q: How do women lead differently
The items noted, are broad
generalizations. Not every man or every woman behaves as noted
below. For example you often hear that everyone bows in Japan,
but when I traveled there, not everyone bowed.
A: A few examples I mention
in the book are;
Men are amazing
at focus and vision. Women are amazing multi-taskers.
Women use inclusivity
and have a preference towards the team
approach. When women communicate, they prefer face to face conversations;
men do better with activities where they don't face each other
- like golf and fishing when they have discussions. Women would
rather do lunch. They'll want "to talk" it over, and
they typically use more words per day than men.
When men are under
stress they produce more adrenaline (the flight or fight hormone),
and women they've recently discovered
. produce more oxytocin,
(the hormone the female body produces when a woman gives birth
or is breast feeding and provides the need to nurture, friend
and befriend). When a crisis hits in the workplace, a man will
want to fix it or leave it alone, a woman may want to call a meeting.
There are many more examples in the book.
It is good to note here; neither
way is better, it is just different. When we learn to celebrate
and embrace these differences, we can stop coding the behaviors
of one another as wrong, and enjoy stronger more effective organizations.
Q: To what do you attribute these
Science suggests that brains, hormones and cultural expectations
all play a role here. Woman won't lead like men, they are not
hard-wired the same.
Q: How can a woman assess her
own leadership strengths and weaknesses?
A: The book contains several evaluations, assessments, worksheets
and checklists that the reader can use to assess their current
abilities or prepare for difficult management situations (and
if they choose, there is an assessment for their employees, staff
or volunteers to give anonymous feedback).
Q: How can a woman use her tendencies
to lead in a "female" way in male-dominated situations?
A: After 18 years of training and speaking at Women's Conferences
and countless surveys done in my research, I realized that there
were several situations that women found difficult. I worked the
first four years of my career with only men in the prison system.
I realized I had not worked directly with another woman (they
just wouldn't put us together and for good reason), so I had to
come up with my own way on how to fit in. I learned how to push
back without alienating myself and when to just leave it alone,
by trial and error. My life often depended on it.
Situations such as; men
making lewd comments, men huddling in a circle talking
and not inviting the woman in as she stood on the outside and
many more are discussed in the book. I offer several ways to handle
these situations; all depending on the circumstances.
Women should not fear men and male dominated situations. Most
men actually want women to succeed, just ask a father or husband
(many who are buying the book). Their intention is not usually
malicious (unless it is pure harassment - then that is another
story and another book).
Q: What are 3 ways a woman can
lead with grace and eloquence?
1) Don't gossip. Remember
oxytocin may be at play here
often women will want to go
to the water cooler and "talk it out"
not work for a leader, manager or supervisor, especially if it
is someone on the team who may be deemed causing an issue. Call
your Mother or call a friend outside of the arena, if you
need to talk it over.
2) Never attack. Avoid
using the word "You" when giving criticism. Focus
on the issue, point out the impact of the conduct or behaviour
and teach them what it would look like if it was corrected. Men
can be commanding; women might be deemed a ______ (I'll let you
fill in the blank).
3) Never argue publicly.
When someone takes you out in front of others, stand your ground,
don't come to the fight.
If it is not an emergency situation (life or death), delay it
until you can deal with it privately. Try saying; "I see
you are upset, (or try
I see you find this challenging),
we can discuss this after the meeting or let's set up some time
to discuss this. You still have to deal with the issue, just at
a more appropriate time.
Q: You describe your technique
for handling conflict. Tell us about that.
A: I think this is one of the greatest skills a strong leader
demonstrates themselves and when managing teams. When handling
conflict, I teach leaders, that it doesn't matter if you are right,
it only matters if you can find a 3rd way. There is only
one thing that causes conflict - what
you wanted or expected is different than the other person.
Leaders (and especially women who have a tendency toward inclusivity
and peace keeping), can be more readily accepting of other options.
Fighting for a point of view doesn't always work well for a leader,
and it often takes countless hours trying to prove they're right.
In leadership, it only matters if you can move forward and resolve
the conflict. This is not always easy.
Q: In your book, you list 25 Velvet
Hammer techniques. What will those techniques help women accomplish?
The VH techniques work amazingly well for women and often for
men too, depending on the situation. I've attempted to capture
methods that I've known to work through personal experience, and
distinctly for the woman leader. They help women handle leadership
situations with grace
and eloquence, composure and confidence, so that more gets done
and they don't alienate the very team they need.
Q: One of your techniques is:
"There are no stupid people, just people with skill gaps.
Turn into the teacher." What do you mean by that?
A: A leader needs to demonstrate compassion, even when things
don't go as planned, or someone "doesn't get it". I
believe "it doesn't
matter what is said, it only matters what is heard". Often
we get frustrated because we've told someone something three times
and they don't remember it or get it. We start to believe they
are lazy, don't care about what you need or want - or are just
Communication is tricky, for example people have different listening
a) Sometimes we don't have time to truly read our email or hear
what the person is truly saying (or understand the context)
b) the information was given when we were distracted
c) the information may have been given in a manner that is not
our preferred learning style (some people are auditory - try
following help instructions for computer software on the phone
or in the manual, some are visual - need charts, and some
have to just figure it out and do it themselves)
d) the information is new - they truly didn't know or knew you
really meant it (we often feel - "well isn't it common sense")?
As a professional communicator, speaker and trainer
time I'm frustrated with someone who is not getting it, I try
to figure out, how did I say it
that they didn't get it?
I then turn into the teacher,
instead of getting angry and try explaining it another way. People
will only hear you if they have the capacity
and willingness to listen.
Q: You started out as a correctional
officer and also worked as a flight attendant before becoming
a leadership consultant. How did those experiences color your
views of leadership?
A: Don't be intimidated by situations.
As I'd only worked with men for the first four years of
my career, I hadn't noticed that I'd picked up a few techniques
that worked well for women until I was in a boardroom full of
men trying to raise $5 million dollars in capital for a technology
firm. We were around an opulent teak table being served coffee
and cookies by the female secretary. I wanted to jump up and help.
While presenting, I realized I didn't feel intimated by these
older financial gurus who definitely knew more than I did (at
the time), in starched white shirts. I thought; what could they
do to me besides say no?
A woman said to me as I left the meeting, "did you get eaten
alive in there? Are you sure wearing a skirt was the right thing"?
It was then I realized I'd been training women for years how
to act like men (don't tilt your head or nod to say your listening
etc.) and it wasn't working. I couldn't have acted like a man
in the prison or when I managed 1400 flight attendants. Any time
I did, I got put back in line. Women leaders need more access
to female mentorship and learn what works for them and we also
need to educate both genders that these differences are a blessing.
This is what the book was written to accomplish.
When we finally celebrate
and embrace the differences
in how men and women can and do lead, we'll have stronger organizations
in both our corporations and politics. I believe as we blend more
women and men into leadership roles, it will be North America's
secret weapon in the global economy. Is
it different? Of course it is!