How to Manage from the Middle


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Today we have a question on managing in a male dominated company from a reader in India.

Q. Do you have any words of wisdom for the scenario of being a middle manager in a largely male organization? In my new role with my company. I often interact with the CEO. I’m looking to use these opportunities to position myself as a reliable professional, and really work my way up the corporate ladder. There are no women in leadership positions and the room for me to grow within the same field in the company is quite restricted. But I’d like to create my own horizons as I believe they will let you run the course, if you can prove you’re worth it. Eagerly looking forward to your response. – 20-something. India

A. I was in a similar situation.  I was in my early 30s, working on a project where the SVP of strategy was my boss and the CEO was our client.  The biggest difference was the company’s senior management was probably 25% women, so at least I wasn’t alone in that sense.  Ultimately, I was successful in the role because I added value.  I listened to multiple perspectives, I recommended solutions, I took ownership of pieces of the project – I was seen as valuable.  I stayed true to who I was – dressing and acting professionally, but not necessarily in a “male” way – and the results spoke for themselves.” – Chief Impact Officer, Global non-profit, San Francisco, former innovation director, multinational CPG company

A . Getting access tends to be the most difficult challenge so in light of your frequent interactions with the CEO you are well positioned to build a direct relationship, prove yourself a reliable professional and make him/her an advocate of your efforts. Couple that with a ‘can do’ professional attitude who looks to move things forward, solve problems and exhibits good follow through and you are bound to make a good impression and set the stage for further growth and continued opportunities. – financial advisor, wealth management, NYC

A. To consider your long term potential it’s important to understand the culture. Take the opportunity you have now to observe the CEO and your environment. Look for cures as to why there are no women in leadership? It the environment too traditional? Are they too resistant to change? I would try to find a female mentor in another company where you want to work to seek advice ….and support to transition if you! If there is really no potential for change, move somewhere more diverse and return to at a level of seniority where you affect.

In the meantime, some tips on succeeding in a male dominated environment, I would say own your accomplishments. Don’t take things personally. And work on your personal skills. Develop confidence or fake it until you make it. In this type of environment you will need to show your confidence.  –VC, startup advisor, former corporate consultant, UK

Gook luck and keep us posted. Readers if you have more advice…pitch in!

You may find some great advice here from one of my 7×7 panels. Leadership Advice From Industry Leaders


Or this story from a women who got promoted to a role she didn’t’ think she was ready for….and was suddenly sitting at the board table with the president of the company and top management….in her 20s!. Failure is not an option

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