A Female Leadership Conference Unlike Any Other!

It’s an experience. We aim for guests to leave with a sense of self-discovery they hadn’t expected. With new insights about their own career journeys and contacts who can be an integral part of those journeys. That’s what our female leadership conference is all about!

This past November marked the seventh annual RSM Signature Event, a day-long female leadership conference geared to a mixed audience, unlike anything you’ve seen. The vibe, the energy, the intense interaction never fails to turn the day into a memorable, shared experience.

Group picture at RSM female leadership conference

Group picture at RSM female leadership conference

What’s different about the RSM female leadership conference

From the beginning we built this event on three principles:

  1. We all have something to teach and something to learn from each other at all times, therefore, there wouldn’t be a distinction between “speakers” and “audience.”
  2. Audience and organizers would co-create the content of the event.
  3. It would be a mixed audience. Women and men, all backgrounds, a wide range of roles, ages and abilities from college students to the C-Suite.

True, this is not an easy feat to achieve. And it’s much harder to maintain your principles when people who only know traditional female leadership conferences constantly ask you to adjust your model. Yet, year after year we persisted, tweaked and improved our delivery, and here we are. With a hyper successful event that never fails to surprise and to teach each one of us something new and unexpected.

A female leadership conference that involves all stakeholders

Female Leadership Conference unlique any other

Female Leadership Conference unlique any other

One of the aspects that strikes participants from the get go is the wide range of career stages and backgrounds of attendees. It’s by design. Our method only works when you have people at every experience and hierarchy in the organization, the most diverse the better. So it’s a very unique opportunity for an analyst or a recent college grad to sit at the same proverbial table as a senior vice president or Chief Marketing Officer and give each other advice. It’s an exchange that enriches them both and leaves them with an entirely new perspective on what’s possible.

Engaging leaders in two distinct roles

Executives get to practice a different role at the RSM female leadership conference

Executives get to practice a different role at the RSM female leadership conference

It can be a challenge to engage leaders in a learning model that requires that they wear a different hat than they are used to. We interview our keynote guests, and they interview the audience. We ask executives to play the role of Explorer, asking questions instead of providing advice. We are really lucky to count on a remarkable group of influencers at every conference who not only play along but also help us create an even better event.

Aha moments shared by guests of the RSM Signature Event

We can tell you how wonderful the event was until we turn blue in the face. Yet nobody can describe the experience better than individuals who went through it. So here are a few insightful testimonials.

Claudia Vazquez of Prudential shares her insights from the RSM Signature Event

Claudia Vazquez of Prudential shares her insights from the RSM Signature Event

“The RSM event reminded me in a very vivid way that we all have the ability to add value based on our expertise and unique strengths. That I should always find that one thing that makes me different and that is the same thing that makes me stand out from the rest. That I should continue to be bold on expressing my aspirations and be resilient on the pursuit of them!”  — Claudia Vazquez, Director, Product Management, GI/WSG, Prudential

Maria Jose Gomez Silva, Novartis, at the RSM female leadership conference

Maria Jose Gomez Silva, Novartis, at the RSM female leadership conference

“Excited, inspired and empowered by the Red Shoe Movement  panel demystifying Failure. Failure is the key to grow! So instead of focusing on avoiding failure, re-learn, re-tool and re-engage!” — Maria Jose Gomez Silva, Commercial Director Latin America and Canada, Novartis Pharma

Beth Marmolejos strikes a pose at the #RedLookBook

Beth Marmolejos strikes a pose at the #RedLookBook

“It was a transformational experience and reminder that we need to use our influence and power to support each other.” — Beth Marmolejos, Executive Advisor and IT Account Manager, Anthem, Inc.

Lorena Kuri, Novartis Oncology, at the RSM female leadership event

Lorena Kuri, Novartis Oncology, at the RSM female leadership event

“In one of the mentoring circles I was able to see the healing power of a group of women that never met before, and how they impacted someone in need. Collective love, collective, true selves.” — Lorena Kuri Murad, AD Jakavi Brand Lead / D&I Champion Latin America and Canada Region, Novartis Oncology

The extra touches that make a difference

You can’t have the words “Red Shoe” as part of your company name and take yourself too seriously. That’s why we remind people we are at the intersection of self-empowerment and fashion. The fashion piece gives us the perfect excuse to keep humor as part of the courageous conversations we inspire. A little lightness goes a long way to get men and women to work together towards a more equal future.

Farylrobin's designs for different Red Shoe Movement Signature Events

Farylrobin’s designs for different Red Shoe Movement Signature Events

As every year, we gave away over 50 pairs of red boots and over dozens of ties to participants.  Thanks to our committed partners Farylrobin, once again, many of our female guests walked away with a new pair of boots to celebrate #RedShoeTuesday. And many of our male guests took home our new Signature Tie, by our partner Cyberoptix. Now they have the perfect accessory and a specific hashtag #RedTieTuesday to take a stand for gender equality every Tuesday. You can read more about the meaning of the tie here.

Our RSM Signature Tie for #RedTieTuesday. A great way to engage your male champions.

Our RSM Signature Tie for #RedTieTuesday. A great way to engage your male champions.

We also added a little extra sweet touch. Thanks to our partner Charbonnel et Walker, fine chocolatiers to the British Crown, we put a small “handbag” of chocolate stilettos in the hands of every attendee. Mmmmm… chic, and delish!

Charbonnel et Walker stilettos gave the female leadership conference a special touch

Charbonnel et Walker stilettos gave the female leadership conference a special touch

A female leadership conference as a culminating event

Patricia Mejia of Microsoft, attended our RSM Signature Event to receive her Red Shoe Leader Award. In the video she shares how the Step Up Program helped her grow in her career and gain additional visibility inside and outside her organization.

Patricia Mejia of Microsoft, attended our RSM Signature Event to receive her Red Shoe Leader Award. In the video she shares how the Step Up Program helped her grow in her career and gain additional visibility inside and outside her organization.

Year after year we work with scores of female talent inside medium and large organizations to provide specific tools that elicit self-leadership and mutual mentoring. It’s particularly poignant to see one of our past participants win the Red Shoe Leader Award for the work she’s done to promote inclusion inside and outside her organization, Microsoft, as a result of her involvement with the Step Up Plus program. More exciting yet, to have the chance to meet her in person —she’s from Guatemala— as she joined us in New York City for the Awards Ceremony and the RSM Signature Event.

Here’s Patricia Mejia of Microsoft in her own words (in Spanish.)

So you see, it’s not just one thing that makes this female leadership conference unique. It’s a constellation of people coming together to think about the experience of participants. What they are taking away. How they are truly transformed. How they will pay it forward by impacting others with their new insights. And as that experience is a moving target, we try to always be ahead of it, offering what guests didn’t know they needed and they are so happy they found.

 

 

Leadership legacy: a journey built on details and values

When your leadership legacy is a 130,000-ton cruise-ship that redefines the meaning of luxury, there’s little wiggle room for mistakes.

At the end of a two year journey ideating, designing and building the Edge, Celebrity Cruise’s CEO, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo can be proud that is almost impossible to find any areas that need improvement. Celebrity Edge is so close to perfection that probably only Lisa can detect the deviations from her vision.

So much so that when a guest who was walking out of a Spa shower said: “This doesn’t work,” I asked astonished: “Did you actually find something that is wrong on this ship? Do tell!”

The woman said that there weren’t any hooks to keep the towel handy after you showered. Wow. The ship is missing a few hooks in convenient places. Take a second to digest that. A 130,000-ton ship, with the most innovative technology you have seen anywhere, let alone in a ship, it’s missing a few hooks. I’d say, mission accomplished, Lisa!

Celebrity Edge leadership legacy is in the details

Celebrity Edge leadership legacy is in the details

Building a memorable leadership legacy

I was invited by Lisa herself to join the inaugural sail of Celebrity Edge. And to describe my experience on the ship is to minimize it right away. Because some things are hard to put into words. After a few minutes on board, the Wows and OMGs don’t do justice to what you’re feeling.

For starters you should know that I’m not a frequent cruiser by any stretch of the imagination. If you ask me to choose, I’ll arrive to my destination by plane and walk once I arrive to my destination. But Celebrity Edge completely changed my mind. When you step into this self-contained universe, you quickly realize not all ships are created equal.

Magic Carpet on Celebrity Edge. A very unique detail created that undoubtedly is part of Lisa Lutoff-Perlo's leadership legacy.

Magic Carpet on Celebrity Edge. A very unique detail created that undoubtedly is part of Lisa Lutoff-Perlo’s leadership legacy.

When she took the reigns of Celebrity Cruises, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, or LLP, as she’s known to her team, had a powerful vision. She wanted to revolutionize the cruise industry and particularly redefine the luxury category. She got started right away. One of her first decisions was to increase diversity and inclusion on the bridge and at the executive level in the organization. (We talked to her about this in her Hall of Fame interview.)  That step spoke volumes about her commitment to affecting change in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

But pushing boundaries is never easy, whether it is gender stereotypes or established ideas of what a luxury experience should be. And here, LLP’s inability to hear “no” is without a doubt one of her strongest assets to push forward. She threw away the book and invited her team to think as if the sky were truly the limit. And she did it with a level of care and intentionality so all associates could take her at her word and be at their best proposing innovative solutions and totally out of the box ideas.

A deliberate focus on facing the sea includes the Gym's equipment.

A deliberate focus on facing the sea includes the Gym’s equipment.

The cave: The secret place were a legacy is built

When I visited Royal Caribbean’s offices in Miami for our “Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas with Celebrity Cruises,” a Red Shoe Movement Gender Equality global initiative, I saw The Cave. The secret place to which only a selected group of Celebrity executives and designers with special “clearance” had access.  They got together with their counterparts in other parts of the world and used virtual reality to ideate and design the Edge. Every detail of the ship from the cabins to the chairs, from the circular theater to the incredible art pieces was created in this space.

An unimaginable number of hours and sharp attention to detail went into this process. The result is pure magic. It’s a magic you feel in the smile and polite “hello” of every crew member you meet; in the ocean-facing lounge chairs; in the way the infinite veranda in the staterooms brings the sea indoors, and in the three story Eden— the garden-like bar where actors are in a seamless interaction with the guests. One of Lisa’s most remarkable legacies might be the sense of awe that this ship inspires at every turn, a hard task if there ever was one. At a time when sensory overload seems to have dulled our senses, you feel them come alive on Edge.

A number of iconic villas that range in size up to close to 250 square feet offer an amazing travel experience.

A number of iconic villas that range in size up to close to 250 square feet offer an amazing travel experience.

Highlight of my trip

One of my most memorable experiences on the ship was dinner at Le Petit Chef— an unassuming restaurant with just a small, one-page menu. The dinner was arranged for a group of six and as we sat at the table, we noticed each plate was lit up from above. We would soon find out why.

As the lights in the restaurant were dimmed, a projection over each plate and seating area began. It was the animated, brilliantly illustrated story of a competition between four chefs. While all of us stared in utter joy, laughing like five year-olds the little characters walked across our plates in an endless back and forth preparing a specific dish. Once the dish was finished and the image of it projected on our plate, waiters would simultaneously place the real food— which looked exactly like the illustration— on everyone’s plates. Voilà.

The food tasted delicious but the immersive experience was incomparable to anything I had seen before. And that’s the point. The constant surprise, the lasting feeling of having been through a unique moment, the relentless upending of assumptions. And underneath it all, a warm sensation akin to… love? Yes, you feel the love with which each detail has been planned. The love that every person involved with any part of this ship, has put into it. I know it sounds corny, but it’s true.

Animated and interactive dinner at Le Petit Chef on Celebrity Edge

Animated and interactive dinner at Le Petit Chef on Celebrity Edge

Building a leadership legacy that redefines what can and can’t be done on a ship

When LLP and her team set out to redefine luxury, it’s not only the luxury segment of the cruise industry that they ended up redefining. In the end, they are part of a larger industry: Travel and leisure. You feel it in your bones when you step into the Spa, my second top highlight of the trip. A 22,000 square feet area that has nothing to envy the best ones in the world. And very likely as close to walking into paradise as you and I are ever going to get. The kinds of treatments that they offer hail from all over the world. You can tell that they’ve researched the most innovative, effective and pleasurable treatments out there to bring onboard not only the best, but also the least well-known.

I lay down on a warm waterbed while I got rubbed down with a special brush that activated my metabolism and then got covered in a seaweed paste. Wrapped in foil like a human taco, the music in my headphones was helping synchronize the right and left side of my brain while my feet were being massaged. By engaging all my senses I was transported to a different dimension.

An unforgettable massage session on Celebrity Edge

An unforgettable massage session on Celebrity Edge

This is what legacy looks like

One evening, Adora English Avalos, LLP’s PR person, and the woman behind a lot of great things that happened on the Edge’s inaugural trip, shared a very revealing story with a group of us. We were ending a wonderful evening together and we headed to the rooftop bar. After a round of stories about the ship and how we each had met Lisa, Adora said: “You know, I was with her on the bridge when the Edge came into Port Everglades for the first time. She stood there, leaning forward, hands on deck, staring ahead and I could clearly see that she owned the moment. She was probably thinking, ‘Yes, this is it. This is my legacy.’ It was beautiful to see.”

What does it take to get to that point of sheer satisfaction with your work? Knowing that you brought to life your vision, that you steered your team in the right direction? What does it take to fully own that accomplishment so you can build on it?

It takes a solid, humble leader who knows that the most important legacy you can leave is a set of unbreakable values that outlive you. Values like passion, a sense of fairness, and real love for those around you. Values that point North regardless of where the winds blow from. That keep your hand firmly on the steering wheel looking forward, always leaving the future behind.

The circular theater on Celebrity Edge offers top innovations in technology like the rain curtain.

The circular theater on Celebrity Edge offers top innovations in technology like the rain curtain.

 

It’s Easier than Ever for Male Allies to Make a Statement

#RedTieTuesday Has Arrived

Starting now, it’s become easier than ever for male allies to make a statement of support of women’s career growth and be true change agents. Enter #RedTieTuesday and our new Signature Tie!

Male champions support women careers by wearing red ties on Tuesdays #RedTieTuesday

Male champions support women careers by wearing red ties on Tuesdays #RedTieTuesday

The origin of #RedTieTuesday

It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been celebrating #RedShoeTuesday for 7 years! The day when women wear red shoes and men wear red ties or socks to support women’s career advancement. A visual reminder to keep alive the conversation on how to change the culture in our organizations so that everyone has an equal chance to reach the top.

Here's the meaning of red shoes for the Red Shoe Movement.

We were ready to roll out a separate hashtag for men a few years ago and suddenly, the political climate in the U.S. made it hard to highlight a red tie as a way for men to stand by women. But our male allies persisted. They wore their red ties every week and advocated for 100% of talent inclusion both inside their organizations and publicly, in social media. They supported our initiative week in and week out with a level of enthusiasm that pushed us to take make the hashtag a reality.

So last week, at our first ever Celebrating True Inclusion Stars Awards Event, the evening prior to our 7th RSM Signature Event, our annual leadership development conference, we debuted our signature tie and our new hashtag #RedTieTuesday.

But it’s not just one tie. We actually created a collection of ties alongside Cyberoptix, the Detroit based woman-owned business, that makes these handmade beauties. We chose two different widths, three tones of red fabric, and several colors of ink so that each male ally could make a statement reflecting his style.

RSM Signature tie collection with Ampersand by Cyberoptix

RSM Signature tie collection with Ampersand by Cyberoptix

It has been a fascinating road to see how men found visually appealing ways to stand next to women every Tuesday across the globe and thus become strong change agents. We’ve seen the most creative socks, bow ties, shirts, and scarves, not to mention the number of gentlemen that confessed to be wearing red underwear! (We always take them at their word…) Having an official tie makes it easier to continue working together towards a global leap of consciousness when the proportion of men and women at the top becomes balanced overnight. And as I’ve said in the past, standing for inclusion is not only the right thing to do, but a proven career booster for men.

Male champions support women's career growth with red socks and ties on #RedTieTuesday

Male allies support women’s career growth with very creative red socks and ties on #RedTieTuesday

The Ampersand gets us closer than ever!

“In 1440, Guttenberg introduced the ampersand (&) in his first printing press. In 2018 the Red Shoe Movement introduces the ampersand on its first signature tie,” said Gustavo Carvajal, #IDEAcatalyst, on a recent post on Twitter and Instagram.

It’s the most inclusive symbol in the alphabet. We chose it because it’s the very representation of inclusion. And. Women and men. All of us working together towards the same goal. It’s one of the most simple and recognizable ways to show inclusion in any language. We selected this particular font, Caslon, because its Ampersand is abstract and artistic, turning it into a small piece of art. We are hoping it becomes a conversation starter. That men wearing the tie get asked what the symbol represents. That they have a chance to explain what it stands for. What they stand for when wearing it.

It’s Easier Than Ever for Male Allies to Make a Statement with our Ampersand Tie

Philip Klint, anchor NY1 Noticias, debuts the RSM Signature Tie

Philip Klint, anchor NY1 Noticias, debuts the RSM Signature Tie

We debuted our signature tie with Philip Klint, the Emmy award-winning journalist, writer, producer and anchor of NY1 Noticias in NYC and the EMCEE of our Awards event hosted by WarnerMedia. We then gifted ties to our Red Shoe Leader honorees —all of them strong male champions who support gender inclusion, the 7 RSM Principles and #RedShoeTuesday initiatives— as they were called to the stage.

And following our tradition, we gave away a number of ties the following day at our 7thAnnual RSM Signature Event at MetLife.

Use your tie to start culture-changing conversations and actions

Clearly, #RedShoeTuesday and #RedTieTuesday are excuses to have relevant, culture-changing conversations.

Here are a few questions you could ask your female colleagues any Tuesday:

  • Is there anything I could do to help you achieve your career goals?
  • Is there any particular person I have access to that could help you?
  • Is there any meeting you are interested in that you think I could arrange for your participation?
  • Is there anything I may be doing that may be interfering with your career opportunities so I can do less of it?
  • Is there anything I may be doing that is helping your career opportunities so I can do more of it?
Red Shoe Leader Award honorees receive a Signature Tie

Red Shoe Leader Award honorees receive a Signature Tie

Here are a few simple actions you could take to help level the playing field for everyone in your organization.

  • Offer equal chances to women and men to present at meetings so they gain equal exposure.
  • Make sure men and women take turns to do the support activities around meetings and events. (Reserve rooms, deal with logistics, prepare folders and takeaways, etc.)
  • Change your after-hours get together to lunchtime so more female colleagues can attend.
  • Praise female colleagues publicly highlighting specific achievements.
  • Make soft introductions for your female colleagues in person and via email to valuable contacts. Focus on their achievements and hard skills rather than on effort.
Don't miss these key diversity and inclusion strategies!

Most importantly, join us. Whether you wear our Ampersand tie or any kind of red tie, let’s celebrate together next Tuesday, and the next. Wear your red tie to work and use it as an opportunity to become an even stronger change agent. Share your pictures, thoughts and the effect your red tie had in your environment using our #RedTieTuesday. Nothing happens until you join this conversation.

5 Tips to Stay Cool Under Pressure When Things Don’t Go as Planned

What happens when the worst November snowstorm in history hits New York City on the inaugural day of your leadership development event? You roll with it baby! Here are a few insights on how to stay cool under pressure when things don’t go as you planned.

The snow had already piled high on the ground and was falling at a fast clip as my team and I were arriving at the WarnerMedia building in Columbus Circle. We tried to keep our boots out of the puddles that were quickly forming in the sidewalk while keeping our heads down to avoid messing up our hairdos. It wasn’t easy.

The worst snowstorm to hit New York City in November had caught it unprepared. And of course it had to fall on the day when we were hosting “Celebrating True Inclusion Stars” with a Cocktail Reception and an Awards Ceremony. It was the evening before our 7thannual RSM Signature Event and we were honoring leaders who had won the Hall of Fame and Red Shoe Leader awards during 2018. Guests were coming from Europe, Central and South America, Canada and the U.S. Thankfully, the out-of-towners had arrived right before the storm. The biggest problem for most people was to get to the venue from their hotels and homes.

As you can imagine, we were bombarded by messages from people being stuck in the highway, or without a cab. And from executives to honorees to our team members who had a role in the event who couldn’t make it.  It was one of those moments when your patience and trouble-shooting skills are sorely tested. One of the opportunities to truly practice your executive presence.

Cynthia Hudson welcomes the Red Shoe Movement audience to Awards Ceremony

Cynthia Hudson welcomes the Red Shoe Movement audience to Awards Ceremony- A great example of someone who knows how to stay cool under pressure.

Insights on how to stay cool under pressure

1Have a back up person for every key player

As can be expected when you put together a major event, last minute challenges are the norm. The day before the Cocktail Reception, we almost lost our EMCEE who wasn’t feeling great. As we anxiously searched for a replacement (and luckily found one) he called back to inform us he was doing better and was pretty sure he’d be fine for the next two days. But the truth is we hadn’t even thought about having a stand-in for our EMCEE. Big mistake. You should treat your leadership event as theater producers treat every play. They have understudies at the ready for each main actor.

Some of the male champions at our Awards event #RedTieTuesday

Some of the male champions at our Awards event #RedTieTuesday

2Train every member of your team to play more than one role

Some of the most important “losses” we experienced as a result of the storm were in our own staff. We didn’t learn about these absences until the very, very last minute as they were trying to reach our location and got stuck for several hours on the road. So a decision needed to be made right then and there to tell them to turn back and go home safely while we reassigned their responsibility to someone else. Now, how can you do this if nobody else knows the task at hand? We had a large team who knew what the event needed to look like, and what was expected of each person. Everyone had a general idea of what the others were responsible for. So it was relatively easy to delegate the roles to different people on the spot.

Audience at Celebrating True Inclusion Stars

Audience at Celebrating True Inclusion Stars

3Script as much as possible

I don’t mean to suggest that you should micromanage the team. But when you put together a leadership development event or any other kind of event, there are certain key aspects that need to be scripted. From the remarks everyone in your team will deliver, to the flow of the event, to the bios of key participants, and so on. The more you can put into writing the easier it becomes to provide the script to someone that has to quickly stand in for someone else.

Ilya Marotta, EVP, Engineering, Panama Canal, receives Hall of Fame award

Ilya Marotta, EVP, Engineering, Panama Canal, receives Hall of Fame award- In charge of the Panama Canal expansion, Ilya led for years this massive infrastructure project staying cool under the most intense pressure.

4Use humor and engage the audience

Resorting to humor when things don’t go as planned is one of the best tactics to stay cool under pressure. Being transparent about what’s happening and what’s wrong fosters empathy and as a result builds patience. It helps you get people to cut you some slack.

As the storm delayed some of our honorees, we had to shift the order in which they were being asked to come up to stage to receive their award and say a few words.

The slides had been prepared with the AV department as a PDF, however, and they could not be shifted from their original order. So, we went around changing the name signs on the seats to keep straight the order in which each honoree was supposed to go on stage. But we couldn’t change the order on the slides projected on a movie-size screen. We had to play with the clicker moving the slides back and forth to find the right honoree. As this job fell on me, I made fun of the situation: “Moving back in time, we now call x” or “And now, we enter the time machine again and we move forward to y…” Making the audience part of the joke helps to keep things light and irons out any wrinkles in your perfectly planned presentation.

Even one the directors of our event, Teresa Correa,  opened up the Award Ceremony by saying that the snowstorm showed the power of the Red Shoe Movement to give guests a true New York City experience.

Marcelo Fumasoni, global HR leader, Novartis, receives Red Shoe Leader award

Marcelo Fumasoni, global HR leader, Novartis, receives Red Shoe Leader award

5Be present with those who are present

When it comes to putting together a large event, there’s a common reaction when something happens (like a snowstorm) and not all the people who had confirmed their attendance can make it. I’ve been in many a conference when the organizers spent an inordinate amount of time complaining about those who didn’t come. The truth is that you should have the best event for those who did. And rather than spending time disregarding the audience you have, you should always be gracious, and grateful to them for showing up. That’s what we always do and this time was no different. Although, surprisingly, we hit the numbers we were hoping for, we could’ve had a lot more. We acknowledge the unsuccessful efforts others had made to join us and left it at that. The rest of the evening was focused on making our guests have a wonderful time.

Yes, this post is about a professional event and a snowstorm. But many of these tips work for any other kind of situation when you need to remain cool under pressure.  When you have a seemingly impossible deadline, when you’re faced with any type of work-related crises or with the upcoming holidays. Preparing for it, using humor and rolling with the punches is a strategy that always works in your favor.

Gladys Bernett, USF, Ciudad del Saber, Panama, receives Red Shoe Leader Award

Gladys Bernett, USF, Ciudad del Saber, Panama, receives Red Shoe Leader Award

Negotiation tactics and insights that women shouldn’t miss

If you tend to shy away from negotiations you’re not alone. Many women do. So I sat with a negotiation expert to find out some negotiation tactics and insights we could all use. Read on!

If you had a chance to pick the brain of negotiation expert Dr. Beth Fisher-Yoshida, the Academic Director of the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program at Columbia University, what would you ask her? Leave your question in the comments section!

I chose to focus on proven negotiation tactics that women don’t usually take advantage of. Granted, Dr. Fisher-Yoshida wears many hats. She’s the Co-Executive Director of the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity (AC4) and the Director of the Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) Program, both housed in the Earth Institute at Columbia University. She also has her own consulting firm, Fisher Yoshida International which leads organizations through change by improving communication and aligning their mission and vision. But negotiation seems to be weaved into all her activities.

Negotiation advice and insights for women from one of the leaders in the space.

Negotiation advice and insights for women from one of the leaders in the space.

Mariela Dabbah— You have a Ph.D in Human and Organizational Systems and an M.A. in Organization Development from Fielding Graduate University, and an M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University. At what point in your career did you decide to become a negotiation expert?

Beth Fisher-Yoshida— It was early in my career. I started my work in negotiation while doing cross-cultural communications while I lived in Japan. There I learned intercultural communications and conflict resolution. I had started my career in Special Education but realized that I wanted to advance beyond being a teacher. I was interested in working with people, not in advancing as an administrator. So I started to work with adults in learning and development in Japan where I had gone to learn art. I became involved in intercultural communications, moved into working with adults in organizations. And then I went back to school for my second masters and my doctorate. I find that intercultural communications, conflict resolution and negotiation are overlapping areas.

MD— Why do you think negotiation has always been a sore subject for so many women? I confess that for a long time it was a difficult topic for me too.

BFY—I think there’s a stigma attached to it. Women are fearful of it because the traditional way of negotiating is very male oriented so women shied way from it. They didn’t think they were good enough for it. It had an image of you have to be tough, play hardball tactics, bang on the desk with your fist. It’s counter cultural to how women were raised to be: Nurturing, empathetic, consensus builders. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Many women are naturally inclined to build relationships. So if I think of negotiation as a way to build relationships, I have a natural tendency to negotiate. It’s all about how we frame it. Men and women in some way can use the same negotiation techniques and in some ways not, because their behavior is not understood the same way. When a man is tough, it works. For a woman it comes across as a being the “b” word.

Don't miss: 3 Key Negotiation Strategies for Women!

MD— What situation comes to mind when you think of one of the most difficult negotiations you undertook through your career?

BFY—I had a very difficult negotiation in Japan when I was having a performance review with my manager. I was negotiating my performance review and was questioning how I was being measured in order to try and understand. He misunderstood my line of questioning. It took months…

Another example. I’m an expansive thinker, I like to brainstorm, and to me, rules are something to be looked at but with which you can be flexible. So for me, a challenging negotiation is when I work with people who think rules are very strict. They become very stubborn about sticking to the rules and they become contentious when they see you’re trying to be more flexible. Unless I back down and take a strategic look, the negotiation will stall. They feel backed into a corner and they need to defend their honor or principles, and when people are not relaxed their brain becomes more rigid.

A good sign to look for is when someone repeats something over and over. It means they are not listening any more. They may feel threatened and they feel they need to defend themselves. They lose ability to entertain possibilities. This is called cognitive rigidity. They get stuck in a certain mindset. Earlier in my career I would’ve continued to push my agenda. Now, I know that I have to take a step back. My suggestion is first, try not to create that scenario but if you see the negotiation going that way, back away from that scenario. It can be even worse when you both go into a space of rigidity.

5 Successful Negotiation Tactics and Insights You Can’t Miss

MD— Could you highlight for us some of the most successful negotiation tactics you’ve seen?

BFY— Let’s look at a few.
1Relational orientation. One of the most successful negotiation techniques is a willingness to collaborate. When people are attuned to what they want and what others want in the negotiation and everyone wants to be flexible on how you come to an agreement. There are different ways of getting there and it’s a question of exploring what works best. They care about the other party because they want to have a long- term relationship. Relational orientation is a very successful negotiation tactic to keep in mind.

2Manage your emotions. If there’s a situation where people are getting emotionally elevated, they are losing their perspective or their calmness, a good tactic is to disturb that moment. Practice breathing and mentally or physically (suggest a ten-minute break) separate from the situation and come back to it. Stop it from escalating out of control.

3Good listening. Listening at multilevels. Not only listen for what you want to hear but also listen for what’s not being said, and for what’s important to the other person. Ask yourself: “What’s going on here? What do I really want to know to open up the other party?” People reveal more than they think. If you listen well, you’ll find out a lot. Ask the right questions. Not just the yes or no kind of questions.

4Preparation. Most people don’t take enough time to prepare. They want to wing the negotiation. As long as things go a certain way you are okay but if they detour you don’t know how to do deal with the situation. If you prepare backup plans you can turn the negotiation in several different ways. Otherwise you get stuck and then you walk away frustrated. You waste an opportunity to build the relationship and have a good negotiation.

5Clarify the issues you’re negotiating. Sometimes we think we are here for the same issues but we may not. At the beginning of the negotiation set the scope to make sure you are negotiating the same issues.

Sometimes junior women in their careers have said to me “I didn’t know I could negotiate that.” It’s important to know what’s negotiable for you and for others. And you learn what those boundaries are for yourself and for others. When you hit a wall and you’re offensive to the other person, you need to know what that person’s boundaries are so that you don’t continue pushing and closing the door.

Dr. Beth-Yoshida leads groups discussions on negotiation tactics

Dr. Beth-Yoshida leads groups discussions on negotiation tactics

MD— If you had to say which negotiation tactics women tend to shy away from, which ones come up?

BFY— Women tend to shy away from negotiations when they start to tell themselves they are not experienced enough, or not good enough so they don’t challenge themselves or the other party. They want be nice, they don’t want to ruffle feathers. So it’s about asking for what they want but also about how they ask. Men and women can’t assert themselves the same way. Women have to find their voices. They shouldn’t sound like they are whining or getting emotional when they ask for what they want.

It’s hard for women to have a strong self-advocacy because they don’t want to sound as bragging or egotistic (even if they qualify for whatever they are asking.) They want to be noticed without having to brag about themselves. But the truth is that they won’t. Other people will pass you by.

Another area where they shy away is if they are working mothers they don’t want to be seen as not carrying their weight. So they don’t ask for any accommodation in order not to be seen as weak, even if it’s at the expense of burnout. Some women feel that if they ask for accommodation they are side tracked. It depends on the organization.

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Negotiation Tactics and Insights You can Learn

MD— You are the Academic Partner of the WIN Summit in New York City, which focuses on helping women learn negotiation tactics, so you obviously believe this is a learnable skill. What would you say is the first step women can take to shake off their discomfort around negotiation? And then, what is a good way to learn some of these key negotiation tactics you talk about?

BFY— Everything starts with self-awareness. Start focusing on all the things you have accomplished and the things you know how to do well. Know your strengths, your impact on other people, and acknowledge your achievements and your success. Focus on all those great things you did that allowed you to get to this point in your life. Then you can look at what holds you back. More often than not it is the lack of awareness of what you’ve done.

Then find negotiation techniques that fit with what you know and with your personality. Start small, negotiate with people you know, identify what you did well and build your confidence. Reframe for yourself what negotiation means. People negotiate all the time. As long as you get scared about what you think negotiation is, you’ll avoid it. But if you deconstruct what it means and you realize you’ve already been doing it for a long time, it will be easier.

A good negotiation tactic is to listen to what's not being said.

A good negotiation tactic is to listen to what’s not being said.

MD—You work with clients helping them develop customized interventions to improve the organization’s performance. What is the role of negotiation in an organization?

BFY—In the workplace there are formal and informal negotiations going on all the time. The obvious formal negotiations are: Title change, promotion, salary increase or if you are in procurement and you negotiate with a vendor. Then there are all the informal negotiations you do all day long. You are part of a team and you negotiate work assignments, responsibilities and deadlines. You build relationships with other teams and negotiate with them too. People who don’t negotiate well, don’t do well in all of these daily situations.

It’s a lot about communication. I take the negotiation principles and apply them to communicating effectively to get what you want. I don’t need to call these situations “negotiations” but you need to understand the principles and practices of negotiation in order to function effectively in an organization. Especially when organizations are going through change management. When they need to implement new procedures, and people resist and push back. They’ll say “we’ve always done it this way” and they don’t want to do it in a different way. It’s a negotiation to get them to change and communicating effectively is part of it.

This is a different kind of negotiation because you’re all working at the same organization and you are all there to fulfill its goals. You need to figure out how all the parts work together towards those goals. Identify what each part needs and how you’ll make it all work together.

Dr. Beth Fisher-Yoshida does intensive work in Colombia

Dr. Beth Fisher-Yoshida does intensive work in Colombia

Negotiation Tactics in Different Cultures

MD—Do different cultures use different negotiation tactics? Could you give us an example of how Latinos might negotiate with Anglos, for example?

BFY— Different cultures manage personal and professional relationships differently. Some groups need to build first the personal relationship so they can trust you, like Latinos or Japanese. Whereas Americans first want to negotiate and then socialize. This is the efficiency model. But for people with a different concept of time, building the personal relationship can take a long time but then the decisions can be made quickly because they know you.

The concept of saving face is different in different cultures. In Japan for instance, you need to go around to everyone before the meeting and make sure to get their support before you speak at the meeting. Nobody likes a surprise at the meeting. So by the time it comes around it’s just an opportunity where everyone is agreeing to agree. Here in the U.S. people can go into a meeting and brainstorm ideas, be creative. In Japan people won’t take the risk to be creative because they don’t want to be criticized or come across as being different, or make others feel uncomfortable. And if you have a more senior person in the room you don’t want to step on their toes. There’s a lot more sensitivity toward “the other” in Japan than here. Here, if I want something I’ll say it. If I step on your toes, I’ll say sorry but I’ll still move forward with the idea. In the U.S. you may see some of that orientation towards other in women who are relationship oriented.

MD— You have a new book coming out on this very topic of women and negotiation. Could you give us a small advance on some of the book’s highlights?

BFY—I’ve interviewed women about their experience negotiating in and out of the workplace. I was interested in how they developed their negotiation orientation. What influences in their lives shaped the way in which they negotiate. How they model the way they negotiate.

MD—What influences did you receive?

BFY— I always pushed myself not to back down. I felt that if you don’t try something that feeling would grow and get trapped in you. I always admired people who asked for what they wanted. For example I had an art teacher when I was 12 and she had a nice way of deflecting questions she didn’t want to answer without offending people. She negotiated that communication very well. You could feel her boundaries. Then there were women along the way that were role models. I saw what they were able to accomplish. And I also didn’t want to be the person who was silenced or lost confidence. I always pushed myself to accept challenges and figured out how to do things afterward.

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