Play Like A Man, Win Like A Woman

Who, better than Gail Evans, could represent The Pioneer Communication style, in the series about Women Speakers

  • This is the second post, after Meg Whitman, The laser Light with a Big Smile, next will be about Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox. I will also write a post about the 12 Communication styles, based on the SPM profiling model. I’ve been using this integrative tool to provide feedback to corporate executives at Cranfield School of Management for more than 6 years and would like you to discover its implications in presentation skills.

I believe in the power of examples and picked 12 women leaders to illustrate each style of communication and leadership.

  • Key characteristics of The Pioneer Communication Style:

“Enthusiastic, expressive, bold, risk-taker, not discouraged by failures, daring, independent, ambitious. They do not hesitate to change their minds to adopt a new course of action. Full of confidence, brimming with energy, Pioneers bring to their organisation a capacity to initiate change and an ability to deal with the unexpected.” (from the Spony Profiling Model Feedback Guide)

  • Why is Gail Evans best to represent The Pioneer Communication Style?

Gail Evans has been in the playing field long enough to learn the rules of the game. She was a pioneer in The White House in the 60s and the 70s. She began working at CNN at its inception in 1980. By the time she retired in 2001, she was its Executive Vice President.

She’s the author of the best seller Play like a Man, Win like a Woman, famous speaker, teacher, and author of She Wins, You Win.

After her speeches, Evans wants the first question to be,
“When are we going to have a woman president of the U.S.?”
Her answer:
“The day women decide they want one!”

Watch her interviewed by Larry King about the unwritten business rules women need to learn in order to even the playing field.

What is her message to women?

  • You first need to know the difference between how a man plays the game and how you play it.
  • Recognize that for the time being, it’s still a man’s game!
  • Decide if you want to change the way you play.

Out of the 14 rules she lists for success, I highlighted 7 rules for communicating successfully:

  • Make a request. Asking is the only way to get what you want.Don’t take no for an answer. For women, no means “Absolutely not, how could you even ask!”.Men won’t personalize the no and they’ll keep trying.
  • Speak out. Men speak out a lot and make mistakes too. Talk and be yourself.Don’t strive to be perfect.
  • Speak up. Don’t ask for permission to speak. Learn to use the power of your voice effectively.
  • Toot your own horn. Get noticed and take credits for your accomplishments.
  • Wear your game face. Look as if you’re going to win. Girls are brought up to be nice, pleasing and anguish for others. Anguish in private.
  • Confidence is half the game.If you cant’ make it, fake it. Take risks. “When we make a presentation, we make sure that nothing is missed: thoroughly over prepared and over educated.The problem is that you’ll never be 100% ready””
  • Sit at the table with the Big Guys. You can’t play if you can’t be seen. Make your presence visible and be fully present.One of the key to success is to show up!

“You are who you say you are. Pick your goal and convince yourself that you can be successful. Don’t complain or accept the role of the victim.” Gail Evans.

For me, I know I still struggle with number one, ask for what I
want, directly. I tend to circle around my objectives, and certainly
take no as an answer!

Now , your turn: Out of these 7 rules, which one is crucial for you, now, if you want to succeed?

19 thoughts

  1. Marion,
    I think you’re doing a great job using examples. However I had to look twice to find something I agreed with. I realize much of what she said is accurate, but I am seldom attracted to leaders like that. The bullets above seem to encourage people to focus on themselves rather than their organization or their team. I realize that’s not the point, but that’s the impression I got. I’m attracted to leaders, male or female, who put the team first.
    The one crucial item I saw was #2 Don’t strive to be perfect.

  2. Re: TypePad: [Geronimo Leadership Coaching ] Mike Henry submitted a comment on "Play Like A Man, Win Like A Woman"
    Thanks Mike for this judicious comment.
    You pointed out one of the pitfalls of this kind of leadership, focused on risk taking, freedom and autonomy of action. I can’t make assumptions about Gail Evans Leadership Styles, and she may be or have been very team oriented, however, her communication style represents the characteristics of “The Pioneer”, and served as a superb example for the model I want to illustrate.
    You stressed that this kind of leader “encourages people to focus on themselves rather than their organization or their team”, there’s some truth in it since the pioneer’s vision is to be a successful entrepreneur, whose values are risk, adventure, fun and  independence.
    Here’s a description , taken from the SPM model “ They adapt really quickly to change and swiftly tackle new challenges, can be daring. They have little attachment to the organisation, and their independent nature may sometimes be perceived as sheer individualism. They really need to pay attention when involved in team work.”
    In launching this series on women speakers and leaders, my intention is to show the diversity of communication styles, according to different leadership styles. None is perfect, and I believe each one is appropriate to a specific context, according to people’s values and depending on a vision.
    You might enjoy more the next posts when I will be speaking about The Facilitator, The Humanist and The Moderator.
    I am very honored that you joined the discussion, Mike.

  3. I agree that number 2 is often the most important point for women. We are often afraid to do things unless we are 100% confident that we will succeed. I often see this in presentations, people think they have to be perfect and forget that it is ok to make a mistake.

  4. There were a few points that caught my attention of being important perspectives in both the interview and the points listed. One of the first points was a statement in the interview, “…its not personal its business.” Second, was the seven bullets listed stemmed around two points to me: 1) assertive communication; 2) self confidence or self esteem. From each of these that caught my attention, the most important aspect was self confidence, and the rest are best served within a balance. I know from experience that, dependent upon the organizational or team climate, that speaking out can have both a positive or an adverse effect. From research and case studies it is known that some friction is conducive for innovation and creativity, but too much creates a break down. For me, the leaders who apply the right balance are those that are savvy or inept with social and emotional intelligence. However, a confident person (not egotistical) is usually more capable of handling these situations, but can still be personable without it impacting them personally.
    Enjoyed the post…

  5. Re: TypePad: [Geronimo Leadership Coaching ] mary langan submitted a comment on "Play Like A Man, Win Like A Woman"
    Thank you Mary for pointing this out! I must say I have to prevent myself from always researching more and gathering data before I write a post (like this one, which started like a very short one), or when I’m preparing for a training or a seminar. Most of the time, I have enough data and information. Less is better, makes presentation lighter, more direct and to the point. Saves time and energy for engaging with the audience, too.

  6. Marion, I like your idea of presenting different leadership styles and believe we can learn valuable lessons from each without necessarily espousing everything about that style. I agree with Mike–I am not particularly attracted to leaders like this. However, by way of the video, she appears to be a woman who had to play with the big guys when doing so was still unheard of; women who have had to create breakthroughs in a man’s world sometimes appear to be aggressive and even arrogant. In a way, it’s a form of protection: if my aggression keeps people at a distance, I’m less likely to be vulnerable–at least in public. The lessons of asking for what you want and speaking up are good ones, and I believe we can do this in a manner that does not alienate others but gains their cooperation.

  7. Re: TypePad: [Geronimo Leadership Coaching ] submitted a comment on "Play Like A Man, Win Like A Woman"
    Thank you Dale for pointing out the interview, too! I also liked the distinction between personal and business.That’s what is meant also in the first point “make a request”. Men won't personalize the no and they'll keep trying…
    Speaking of the interview, there’s also an idea I didn’t develop, but which is really key for women’s success, is the idea of different stages, sequences in life. We don’t have to do it all at once, before 35 or 40, we could adapt the rhythm to life’s events (both for men and women, by the way).
    That’s what Anne Perchell  (@bizshrink) calls The Work-Life Flow
    (read her brilliant article on Germane Consulting Blog)
    About assertivity and confidence, there’s such a deficit among women in business, that if they get a little more, it will only do them good!
    No risk of becoming over confident yet!
    That’s why it’s so vital to promote a wider range of communication and leadership styles and promote women who are “brimming with energy”, enthusiasm and adventurous spirit! Women pioneers!!!

  8. Marion
    Thanks for a thought provoking piece. There is a tension between the rules of the game in contemporary corporate culture and one’s ideals for leading. Evans make some valid points about playing the game well because she has a good understanding of corporate culture. A conundrum is that corporate culture leaves a lot to be desired. It takes a steady focus to operate so well in that highly competitive culture while maintaining a focus on core values. Necessary for success in that arena, but fraught with peril.
    That boundary between work and personal can be a challenge at times.

  9. Re: TypePad: [Geronimo Leadership Coaching ] Michael Leiter submitted a comment on "Play Like A Man, Win Like A Woman"
    Exactly, Michael!
    Thank you for bringing this word “Tension” to the discussion.
    One of the strengths of the Spony Profiling Model is to represent tensions or “dilemna” between sometimes conflicting values.
    It measures differences in work values (motivations) according to different individuals, different corporate cultures, different national cultures. It can also support individuals in team working and in the context of organisational culture change.
    Here, the tension is indeed represented between a focus on risk orientation, change, informal style, entrepreneurial spirit AND cautiousness, perseverance, loyalty towards the organisation, calm, respect of tradition and organisational rules.
    The same leader could very well score high on both dimensions, however it might represent a big challenge for him and it’s interesting to get this information depending on the corporate culture and of the national culture.
    The pioneer marked leadership orientation can prove to be a powerful asset when implementing change in a company.
    Like for each of the twelve styles (and it works for any solid leadership model,from Blake & Mouton to  Hersey Blanchard), the question is, for each individual, to be able to act according his core values, respecting the organisation he belongs to and immersed into a highly competitive world where the main value are result, achieving short term objectives, raising performance, productivity, efficiency and increasing profitability.
    An everyday challenge where, you’re right, Michael, “It takes a steady focus to operate so well in that highly competitive culture while maintaining a focus on core values.”
    Thank you, I have written a part of my next post, presenting the SPM model, thanks to you!

  10. My weakness is wanting to please – while that is a good thing in some respects, it isn’t helpful when other parties are playing power games, or their ideas are wanting.
    I liked Mikes’ comment about teams, and at the same time, can see the validity of all the points for women needing to be more confident and wisely assertive when it’s needed – that will help the team too.

  11. Thank you so much , Mary, for insisting on the necessity for women of “creating breakthroughs” in a man’s world.
    Focusing on Presentation Skills, what Gayle Evans is recommending is all about assertivity and clean communication.
    Women can only gain from these lessons and done properly,respecting others, I agree it also fosters cooperation.
    The big majority of women I coach hardly ever suffer from being too assertive: they under estimate their skills and wait for being asked politely when to open their mouth.
    I am grateful for pioneer women like Gayle Evans, without whom, change wouldn’t be possible.

  12. Exactly Radha!
    I went to muse on your Baby Boomer Girl Blog
    and for me, you certainly represent a mix of Pioneer, Innovator and Humanist in the way you express yourself and your personality.
    And I love it! Thank you for visiting and stopping by to have a chat! Make yourself comfortable and hope to see you very soon!

  13. Marion — while Gail has a few warts (who doesn’t?!), one of her rules resonates as it applies to women and that’s “speak out.” I’m teaching a class at the Center for Women about purpose, passion, performance and power; and the attendees had a rich discussion at the last session about their reluctance to let their voice be heard. Concerns ranged from “wanting to be seen as a good girl” to “I don’t know how to make myself heard.” This is a huge area of opportunity for women leaders today, and for the women leaders of tomorrow!

  14. Thank you Jane for your cheerful comment.
    It couldn't be more appropriate as today I have a workshop with women professionals and the American Chamber of Commerce of Lyon.
    I ll keep you posted about the level of speaking out during questions and answers.
    My experience is similar to yours, women find it hard to even be heard, be listened to. They would very politely wait to be called.The most common complain is "but it's exactly what I said and nobody cared then. Suddenly someone says it with confidence and authority and people listen.
    No. Training, practice, repetition.
    It's worth it!
    Speak out and speak up and make the first move!
    ( this is what I tell myself, too!)
    Marion Chapsal
    Geronimo Leadership Coaching
    Helping you develop Leadership and Communication skills in a Cross-Cultural environment 
    A member of  CoheChange International

  15. Marion – Thank you for another thought provoking post. Your series is terrific and helpful in seeing communication through a different lens.
    I attended one of Gail’s keynotes and it is clear that she is a woman who made it in a man’s world long before there were many women who even considered being in such roles. She had to learn how to play hard ball and does it very well. I understand Mike’s concerns and your comments are spot on. When Gail talks about being assertive, asking, not taking “no” for a final answer, she is typically not asking for something on her own behalf or to satisfy her ego. She is also a powerful advocate of women reaching out to other women and helping them through the leadership labyrinth.
    About asking. Recently I read a discussion on LinkedIn that suggests women reframe the word – As King. By doing so we ask with an expectation of “yes.” I like it and as long as we don ‘t infuse the ask with ego, I think we will be just fine.
    Anne Perschel aka@bizshrink

  16. Is “rising to the top” what you want? Men sacrifice a lot to get there and they do lose out. There is a big drive for them to balance more even in the face of success. I believe women do not accept that tradeoff. That will need to change anyway, and when it does, women might want to play. I agree with Ms. Evans about the fact that it does not have to be simultaneous. As women we have the resiliency to come back after raising kids, after we have learned from life and trials of parenting. The trick is to stay in the know, find a way to stay in touch with work at that time! Yet, the 7 rules you map out here I could not agree more with! You pinpoint how to counter that “being a good girl” that she mentions. Great tips to move forward, and to teach our daughters and sons about 😉

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