Better Learn the Unwritten Rules If You Want To Succeed In A Man

lynn_harris__crop.jpgExecutive coach Lynn Harris got tired of reading about the dearth of women in senior leadership positions.

Why, she asked herself, were women not making it to the upper echelons in the corporate world? And perhaps more important, WHAT could be done about it?

Tongue in cheek, Harris says there’s a lot of contradictory advice floating around about what women need to do to get to the top:
“People say women should be more assertive, but not so assertive that they are disliked. Be collaborative, but not so friendly that they lack credibility. Be more competent than their male colleagues, but in a way that doesn’t threaten the men. Be a role model for other women, but behave more like the men to succeed,” she points out.

“And obviously we also need a good sense of humor!” she quips.
A year ago, Harris set to work researching the lack of women in leadership issue. She unearthed what she calls the unwritten rules behind the popular theories that explain the often-inhospitable organizational environment in which women strive to become leaders.

Her soon to be released book (Unwritten Rules: What Women Need To Know About Leading In Today's Organizations) describes 1) what the unwritten rules are, 2) what women need to do to progress within organizational environments and 3) experiences of a handful of female “corporate refugees” who decided to opt out of the game.
“Women who arm themselves with a clearer understanding of the obstacles that female leaders face will equip themselves to manage their career paths more strategically,” Harris says. “This will enable them to make better-informed choices about their leadership styles and professional development.”
Harris interviewed me a few months ago for the third part of the book, which she was in the process of writing at the time.

I was intrigued by the project, and asked if I could turn the tables around and interview her. Much to my delight she agreed.

Since then, Harris has finished writing the book, she and I have become on-the-other-side-of-the-world friends (we even met for brunch this summer when I was in Montreal), and the book is in the final stages of editing.

I can’t wait to read Unwritten Rules, which Harris expects to be published in early 2010.

In the meantime, here’s what she told me about the project last spring:

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I'm a corporate refugee who started my own public speaking consultancy 10 years ago, after discovering (much to my chagrin), that I really didn't fit in a corporate environment.

I talk about my background and experience transitioning to being an "entrepreneur" in the longish interview (about 25 minutes), that Harris conducted with me. As I get a few requests to tell more about my own story, I've included that interview here as well:

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How about you? Are you in an organisation? Have you experienced unwritten rules? What are they? Or have you climbed the corporate ladder without any hindrances? Please share your comments and/or experiences below :)