Do you understand the rules of the game?

Instead of asking WHY AREN’T WOMEN SUCCEEDING at our company, we should instead ask this question: WHY does our culture not fully leverage the talents and potential of over HALF our talent pool?

At a recent speaking engagement for leaders of women’s networks, I spoke about how we have not sufficiently focused our attention on helping women understand the culture of their organizations and the rules of the game in their workplace. I challenged us to think about our work of advancing women.

When we keep asking WHY do women not succeed, we keep trying to fix women. Women don’t need fixing! We’re just great the way we are – just like the men are, great the way they are.

Lately, we’ve been talking so much to women about the softer skills – confidence, interpersonal skills, and networking. While this is important, we have NOT talked enough about the following harder skills that are required to get ahead.”

Extracted from the video of the session, here are some of the important rules of the game:


  • Are you producing results in the area your company values?
  • Equally important, can you talk about them in business language and the numbers people (yes, the men) understand? If you can’t talk about your accomplishments in numbers and metrics, people will not value your contributions.


  • Do you know which experiences matter most at your company? Do you have experiences in these areas?
  • Typically the experiences that matter most in a company involve generating revenue and having a  profit and loss impact – versus being in staff roles, but…it depends on your company.


  • Do understand your company’s strategy?
  • Do you know the financial levers of performance that impact your company?
  • If you don’t understand and can’t speak to strategy and financials, you will not be seen as ready for senior and executive management.


  • Do you exhibit professional poise and presence?
  • Do you communicate in the language of business and about customers, results and the bottom line.
  • Are you polished in your appearance?

It’s also about your competence

These four areas: producing results, having the right experiences, business skills, business and executive presence – are about your competence. They are as important as your level of confidence and your network. To succeed at work, you need BOTH competence and confidence.