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Archive for March 2015

Creating Successful Women Leaders

There are times when I get so discouraged, like when I see a Catalyst report that says only 6.7 percent of the top-paying positions in the Fortune 500 belong to women. But then again, there are times like this moment when I see the potential that exists because of who we are as women. We are growing into our power—together. We are learning from our mistakes and triumphs—together.

The first time I tried to get an interview with former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, I got the same answer that I’d gotten from the other women CEOs on the Fortune 500—a polite-but-firm no. The reason was the same, every time. The CEOs wanted to be viewed as CEOS—not as “women CEOs.” It was as if the qualifier suggested “less than.” But I asked Whitman’s spokesman if he would pass on a memo that I would write. He agreed, and I spent quite a bit of time composing my argument.

It came down to this: Some successful women know innately what it takes to break through in difficult environments. They know how to use their strength without being punished for it. They know how to fly above the politics and build teams that perform. It doesn’t come so naturally to all of us. That doesn’t mean the rest of us are less able or less deserving—it means we need a little guidance so we can get our chance to prove our mettle.

If the intuitive leaders don’t share what they know instinctively, they always will be viewed as “women CEOs” because they will be the only ones up there. If they share their wisdom and enlighten the rest of us, they won’t be so rare. Whitman wound up giving me an incredible interview. I loved her. The other “women CEOs” didn’t come around, and I couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t share their mentoring wisdom.

Fortunately, a new lineup of great women is in power, and they not only agreed to participate this time—many said it was their duty. You are their legacy. What you do with what they teach you will play out over years and even decades. Just don’t do it alone. Remember the women coming up behind you, and help them along. The more success you create for others, the more you will succeed for yourself.

Be a Leader, Not a Boss

You need a better reason for doing something than “Because I said so,” even though there are times when you have to be the decider and drop the illusion of management through democracy.

Listen, listen, listen. I saw that theme in several of the interviews I did with some of the most senior executives in American business.

Some of those leaders made critical communication errors—by accident. They thought they were simply sharing their opinions with their people, but because they outranked those who were listening, it was assumed the executives were shutting down the discussion and the decision was made.

Some admit that they made decisions without hearing their people out—and that was to their peril, because their people already had answers that would have prevented bad decisions and the subsequent fallout.

Sometimes it is hard to communicate because subordinates are intimidated by the people who outrank them.

I asked several of the leaders about the intimidation factor and they said they understand it, but they don’t like it. That intimidation makes their jobs more difficult because their people may not feel comfortable enough to give them important information that may be negative or upsetting. They have to work to break down that intimidation so they can get to the truth. They know they aren’t always successful at it.

If you are in a position of leadership, recognize that you may be intimidating others just because of your title.

I remember being a new bureau reporter at The Miami Herald and getting nervous every time managing editor Vicki Gowler walked into the office. A chill followed her! I am not kidding. I was twenty-six years old and I was so intimidated by her position. She broke that down the day I ran in with a huge story that was due in less than an hour. I had to write the story and type in a large chart—but there was too much to do and no time to do it. Gowler walked over to my desk, asked for my notes for the chart and sat down and typed it in herself. That’s when I decided to be a leader, not a boss when I move to a higher position.

Nearly two decades later, I still remember that gesture, because it said everything about how she valued the newspaper, the story, her team—and me.

Fawn Germer delivers more courageous and creative performance to the organizations that hire her to work with their people. For more information, write or call 727-467-0202.

The Campaign for Women’s Equality In The Workplace

Not that long ago, women were banned from the Harvard Law School Library

because we might distract men from their studies. We couldn’t get credit in our own

names. Employers fired us if we got pregnant, or didn’t hire us because we might con-

ceive. We were excluded from jury duty because, apparently, our opinion didn’t count.

There were male bosses who freely demanded sex from the women who worked for

them—without consequence.

It wasn’t so long ago that classified ads used to be split in half, with one set of

jobs—the good ones—for men, and the rest for women. It was legal to pay men more

because, well, just because.

Our history inspires me because our gains were the result of a brilliant, deliberate

campaign for women’s equality that began with the most crucial battle—the fight for the right

to vote. Ninety years ago, we couldn’t even vote! But our foremothers knew that, if we

could vote, we could make change. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Women’s Liberation

Movement and the National Organization for Women executed a strategy that made

discriminatory laws fall like dominoes. Reading that history is so exciting and inspiring.

The women who are now in their fifties, sixties and seventies fought those battles—for

us. We have a legacy to protect—and create.

Accept That Everyone is Different

As a newspaper editor, I couldn’t understand why other people didn’t behave like me.

Why would a reporter start writing a story at 6:10 p.m. if it was due twenty minutes later and there was no way he or she would meet deadline? Why would so many people want to linger an extra two hours at work when they could get their work done and leave? Why would they turn in stories they hadn’t proofread? Why would anyone do a lousy job on a routine story like a weather story if it was going to be seen by a million readers and his or her name was going right on top of it? Why didn’t people take pride in their work?

That lesson—that we aren’t all alike—took a long time for me to learn. Some of the leaders I interviewed for my books had the same experience and had to learn that people are motivated by different things and inspired in different ways. They learned to accept that everyone is different.

Good leaders know people are different and don’t try to nudge or push their people into cookie-cutter performers who will deliver the same thing as everybody else. Doing that requires a great deal of good communication and humility.

Fawn Germer works with organizations that want more courageous and creative performance from their people To book Fawn, write: or call 727-467-0202.


Building Employee Loyalty

How do leaders begin building employee loyalty? I asked them. In hundreds of interviews for my books, I asked top leaders what it takes to create the loyalty that makes them successful as leaders. Here’s what they said:

• Talk to and value everyone from janitor to president.

• Help your people grow and expand. People follow people where they know they willgrow. Great leaders make them stronger.

• You get more when you show that you value somebody’s efforts, acknowledge that their work was difficult.

• People want to be listened to. They want to be recognized for their accomplishments.

• Remember small things like anniversaries, birthdays, special occasions.

• Say thank you—all the time.

• Share power.

• You can be efficient and get something done yourself, but are you being effective? You need consensus. You need to get people involved.

• As a senior executive, learn to lean back in your chair and hope the answer comes out of someone else’s mouth.

• When the other person flat-out loses on everything in a battle, you end up losing, too.

• You don’t have to get an A+ in every subject. Have people around you who get the A+ in the subjects that you don’t.

• Don’t hover and micromanage your people. Develop them.

Fawn Germer works with organizations to drive the bottom line by getting talent out of the pipeline and into leadership. Book Fawn for speaking or coaching at

Is Your Role to Boss or Lead?


Is your role to boss or lead? Bossing may work at the lower levels, but if you want to ascend to the greater positions of influence, your role has to be to lead.

So many of the leaders I interviewed for my books took jobs in areas where they had no expertise, and they credit their ultimate success to those risky moves.The way they survived and actually succeeded wildly in those situations was by leading people, not managing minutiae.

Once you attain a certain level on the hierarchy, it doesn’t matter whether you know the technical details. It matters that you know human nature and have the right people around you who do know the details. It matters that your people want to help you succeed because they know you will help them succeed. It matters that you have a vision and can communicate it and build the alignment to execute it.

Also, share the glory—or just give it away. When your people succeed, you succeed. You don’t have to put your name on every victory, and when someone else deserves credit, boost them up by sending notes of kudos up the chain.

Appreciate everyone, from the janitor to the CEO You can’t boss people to excellence. You influence them by valuing them.

Time and again, I was told how important it is to value every single person in your organization, from the janitor to the president. Talk to and get to know as many people as you can—at every level.

I keep thinking of the story former Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes told about her first post-college job—on the night shift at the post office. The bosses were inhumane, and that taught her everything about how not to lead. She knew she was nothing without every level of employee contributing and serving to their greatest potential.

People want to be heard and valued. They want to know that the organization appreciates them and will grow them. Do the small things to show how much you value your team. Praise. Say thank you. Remember anniversaries, birthdays, and special occasions. Recognize the “whole person” who is coming to work. Get to know their families.

Be human. Be approachable. You don’t own the team — you lead it.

Fawn Germer works with organizations that want more courageous and creative performance from their people To book Fawn, write: or call 727-467-0202.