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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Book Review: Naked in the Boardroom, Robin Wolaner

This is a good read. Robin looks back and reflects on her career to date. In an easy conversational tone she writes about what she did, how she did it and provides plenty of business insights with her “81 Naked Truths”. She agrees with Marcus Buckingham's view on working from your strengths:
The lessons I learned in business all pint to one broad truth: Success follows when you use what you've got. You will succeed because of, not in spite of, your personal traits. The trick is to make your aptitude and flair work for you in a style that is uniquely yours. Page vii
If this work is a reflection of Robin's style, then I could work for her.
In the hundreds of conversations I've had with women on the cusp of greatness – whether over late night pizza or waiting at crowded airport gates – I've always ended up saying the same thing in different ways: Business is personal. Every necessary decision-making tool is already inside you – your experience, brain, and gut will tell you what to do, if you can access heir messages. This is a skill that can be honed, and this book – and taking on the challenges presented to you – will show you how to do that. Page viii
The personal approach in the book is somewhat unsettling when she gets into the parts where the men she meets look to take advantage of her as a woman. The perspective is insightful. She approached a situation as a simple meeting and yet there were already opportunities for it to be something other than the simpleness of her perspective. Hindsight is usually 20/20 but the outside observer I think would have raised red flags earlier than she acknowledges. Other than that, the situations are handled appropriately. I wonder how some of the men she writes of would have written of the same event?
Naked Truth #4
Terrible things can happen to a women in business; the victims let it ruin their careers, the victors move on.
Moving on is a good thing. Good or bad, recognize the learning experience and go forward. Dwelling in the past, especially on the glory of a past accomplishment is as hindering to an individual as continuing to dwell on a wrong done. The chip on the shoulder is far more obvious to those around.
… early jobs helped me develop an important skill: finding satisfaction in achievements I could measure myself, and not to rely on praise from my boss. Page 25
She has been a life long learner. She appears to be a good observer of people.
Think about it: If progression up the career ladder is tied to achievement, the law of averages means that your bosses in your early jobs will be the least skilled ones you will encounter. You will need to measure your own performance and create your own report card. This is a skill worth developing, because if your boss later in your career is like I am, she will ask you to do a self-evaluation rather than give you one out of the blue. (It's less work for her.) So early on, learn to figure out the measures of success, and hold yourself to them. Page 27
The key aspect of success in life is where you start. If you can look at yourself in the mirror, know and accept who you are, and be able to execute within that arena, Robin says this in several ways during this book.
Become your own toughest critic, but don't share the self-criticism. Page 27
Definitely good advice. People think that are being helpful and honest when they share their faults. On the one hand, they are. On the other hand, it can easily be spun to be a negative. Don't put yourself down. Acknowledge needing to learn but done reveal the specifics.
Learning happens in every job but you have to pay attention. Page 34
Attention is so critical to life and business. By paying attention to what is happening you should be able to recognize what is an opportunity, a door opening especially for you to take, or a dead end where you need to sit back and evaluate the situation before proceeding.
I can picture Robin sitting in a hotel lobby, settled in one of the comfy chairs, legs crossed and talking through the chapters in this book. She would punctuate some of the stories with laughter, some with sternness, some stories even with some brief bitterness, but always with a drive forward. A willingness and eagerness to do something different and successful. While she apparently was sitting on the sidelines to work on this book and raise her daughter, I can not see her sitting on the sidelines for long. She needs to be back in the business world.
For good business advice in an easy read, I heartily recommend Naked in the Boardroom by Robin Wolaner .
PS - she sorta has a blog, that is it was started in October 2004 as she prepared to launch the book but has not been updated in months. Most of the postings are of the book reviews. I wonder if mine will get posted?
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