Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman: What Men Know About Success that Women Need to Learn

Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman: What Men Know About Success that Women Need to Learn

by Gail Evans


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An honest and practical handbook that reveals important insights into relationships between men and women and work, Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman, is a must-read for every woman who wants to leverage her power in the workplace.

Women make up almost half of today's labor force, but in corporate America they don't share half of the power. Only four of the Fortune 500 company CEOs are women, and it's only been in the last few years that even half of the Fortune 500 companies have more than one female officer.

A major reason for this? Most women were never taught how to play the game of business. 

Throughout her career in the super-competitive, male-dominated media industry, Gail Evans, one of the country's most powerful executives, has met innumerable women who tell her that they feel lost in the workplace, almost as if they were playing a game without knowing the directions. In this book, she reveals the secrets to the playbook of success and teaches women at all levels of the organization—from assistant to vice president—how to play the game of business to their advantage.

Men know the rules because they wrote them, but women often feel shut out of the process because they don't know when to speak up, when to ask for responsibility, what to say at an interview, and a lot of other key moves that can make or break a career.  Sharing with humor and candor her years of lessons from corporate life, Gail Evans gives readers practical tools for making the right decisions at work. Among the rules you will learn are:

• How to Keep Score at Work
• When to Take a Risk
• How to Deal with the Imposter Syndrome
• Ten Vocabulary Words That Mean Different Things to Men and Women
• Why Men Can be Ugly, and You Can't
• When to Quit Your Job

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780767904636
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/11/2001
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 311,995
Product dimensions: 5.19(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.53(d)

About the Author

An executive vice president at CNN, Gail Evans oversees the network's talk shows (Burden of Proof, CNN & Co, Crossfire, Both Sides with Jesse Jackson, Evans & Novak, Capital Gang, and Talk Back Live), the booking and research department, and recruiting and talent development. Evans's programs have received numerous awards, including a Commendation Award from American Women in Radio and Television; the Breakthrough Award for Women, Men, and Media; and several Emmy nominations. She lives in Atlanta.

Read an Excerpt



Action is the antidote to despair. Joan Baez, folk singer and activist

As the young man in my business class asked, isn't the object of the game to win?

But what is winning? Does it mean being the most powerful CEO? Does it mean being the one with the biggest bank account? Or is it the person who's the most feared?

For me, the object of the game is simply to feel great about what you do. That's the most important directive of all—because that's how you end up feeling fulfilled, and that's how you win.

I know for a fact that I have been successful because I've always loved my jobs. And believe me, these haven't all been well-paid positions in glamour industries—I've done everything from run the addressograph machine to fetch the coffee. But no matter what I've done, I've always been able to enjoy myself doing it.

For instance, when my kids were little, I took several years off to take care of them. To earn a little income along the way, I found a part-time job as a sales representative for a clothing company at Atlanta's semiannual merchandise mart. I then created a game out of it, seeing how much I could sell to stores even if they didn't need the line. I couldn't have done this forever, but while it lasted, it was fun. And I bought all my children's clothes (as well as mine) wholesale.

Similarly, not everything I've done on Capitol Hill or at CNN sounded exciting when it was originally proposed. But I've usually managed to make it so. For example, at one point my boss announced that I was going to revamp CNN's intern program. This came at a time when two of my children were already in college, and the last thing I wanted was to worry about other college-age kids. But I made the job challenging by taking on more responsibility than I had been offered, which turned out to involve recruitment and talent development. I gave my job so much visibility that when the new vice president of that area was announced, she was told to report to me.

So the ultimate winner in the game of business is not necessarily the person with the most power or the most money or the most fame. Rather, it's the person who loves his or her work. I know many miserable people with important titles. But I don't know anyone who loves her job who's miserable. It's that simple.

There's more: If you can love your business life, you'll be playing the game the way the guys do. They don't run out on the football field or stride into an important meeting wishing they were elsewhere. They are enthusiastic, eager to have an opportunity to satisfy their competitive urges.

Loving what you do is self-empowering. It makes you more brilliant, it gives you the ability to become a visionary, it helps you become the best businesswoman you can be. You improve your chances of rising to the top.

For some men, of course, loving the game is synonymous with material success. It's a basic cause-and-effect paradigm: If they get to the top and they get rich, they love it.

Women aren't as likely to love success as an isolated entity. We want to love our entire life. And that's fine. Unlike men, we don't tend to compartmentalize the various aspects of daily existence (see Chapter 5: Think Small). So it's hard to feel upbeat when we take a job that isn't intrinsically interesting—even if we see the possibility of success somewhere down the road.

Why do women have such a hard time understanding the importance of loving our work? My sense is that in our society, women are raised to feel comfortable in the role of nurturer, the ones who make things better for everyone else. We don't get permission along the way to love ourselves, or to love what we do, outside of our caretaker's role. Only in the last few decades have we learned that we can be the center of our own lives. And that means we, too, can start loving our jobs with the same enthusiasm as those guys who rush out onto the sports field and into the boardroom.

When you have a new baby, changing her diapers isn't drudgery, because it's not the diaper you're changing, it's the baby. You want to do everything you can for her. But when she's three years old, the focus shifts to the diaper, not the baby; so you toilet train her.

Likewise, in an office, you can teach yourself to do any job you're given and be okay with it. But ultimately, if you don't feel good about your job, you'll just be going through the motions, which means that you're turning off that button that I call possibility.

You can't play any game well if you don't enjoy playing it.



I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only a woman can explore. Georgia O'Keeffe, artist

A few years ago I asked the students in my business course at Emory to interview successful executives, both men and women. Their assignment was to uncover the qualities of good leaders and write up a report.

The assignment wasn't intended to be a gender discussion by any means, but it was hard not to notice that the words both the students and the executives used to describe men differed from the words they applied to the women.

Some of the most common terms describing male executives were: "quarterback," "absolute winner," "aggression," "boastfulness," "the desire to win," "holding power," "tough-skinned," "having fun," "part of a dog-eat-dog world."

These were the words and phrases used about women: "cooperation," "social involvement," "teamwork," "respect for others," "uncompetitive," "willing to share power," "concern for the harmony of the group," "feeling that everyone can be a winner," "wanting to be liked by all," "caretaker."

In the course of every discussion I've ever had about men and women, certain themes seem to appear; fair or unfair, professors, students, businessmen, and businesswomen all share the same vocabulary.

The same broad categories of women as "social" and "cooperative," men as "aggressive" and "tough" hold true in this book. Whereas not all men learned to play football or chess or poker, and not all women played with dolls or ignored competitive games, the majority of men and women were socially acculturated according to their sex.

Now, I know many men never played competitive sports or games while they were young. Certainly some women are stronger and more competitive than any number of men. And I'm not suggesting you should dismiss this book if you're a woman who is more comfortable with rugby than with dolls. I was a high school athlete, making all-Westchester County (New York) hockey goalie.

For the most part, however, the women's game was and is different from the men's. This is because men and women are wired differently, and we are brought up differently.

And when we are adults, we work differently. It is important for women to understand these differences, because the more aware we are of them, the more possible it is to gain access to power. Ignorance is never bliss. You cannot know too much.

Following are four fundamental ground rules underlying the strategies you need to understand if you are going to play.

1. You Are Who You Say You Are

Playing any game means being faced with a variety of choices, and the game of business is no exception. You will do well only if you make your decisions from a position of power rather than a position of weakness.

Whenever I sit on panels I am always amazed at the wide variety of backgrounds among the women—they have seldom traveled the same straight and narrow path the men do. A woman's way has many more obstacles, mostly because we face this huge issue called family. I've never met a woman so alone that she didn't have an important personal relationship somewhere in her life, whether it's parents, sisters, brothers, or children. That means that many of us have gone back and forth between family obligations and careers, sometimes having to leave work, or change our hours, or take jobs in other cities.

Men generally don't feel that pull between staying home and advancing within the organization. So your career will be colored by a greater number of factors than his—your game board is more complicated.

Don't make your life more difficult by seeing yourself as a victim of this system. For instance, one of my closest friends has been with the same Boston-based conglomerate for 25 years. She's very successful, but she has reached the point where she's not going any further. She takes care of outreach seminars, she writes proposals, she orga-nizes meetings, but the guys have taken her off the core line businesses. She complains that they don't appreciate her, that her boss is horrible, that her work is boring.

"Your kids are grown, you have money, your husband is prospering," I tell her. "If you're that miserable, get out."

She looks at me as if I've suggested she vacation on the moon. She accepted the role of being a victim years ago, and she's comfortable with it. In fact, she took on this role before anyone else in her company ascribed it to her, but now it's impossible for them to imagine her in any other way.

Too many of us tolerate the role of the passive, put-upon person, probably because it's the one most often taken by our primary role model—our mother. Remember when you used to get up late on a Saturday morning? Dad was calmly reading the paper, while Mom was complaining, "I've got tons to do so I'll drop you off at your ballet class on my way to grocery shop because your father's parents are spending the weekend with us and I don't have anything for dinner."

How many of us ever heard her say: "If you need to get to your class, tell your father. Also tell him what you want for dinner, and remind him to pick up his parents so they can spend the weekend. I'm meeting a friend for lunch."

Women have tended to live in the complaint, to grumble to our friends and our daughters about it—but until relatively recently, we haven't taken action to fix it. Like women who remain in unhappy or abusive marriages, we are often more comfortable remaining with the devil we know, no matter how unpleasant or disagreeable, than making a proactive (and therefore potentially risky) change.

As I see it, women have two options: to structure our world around our own choices, or to let someone else make the choices for us.

In the 1980 Olympics, the U.S. hockey team was expected to lose to the Soviet team. But no one told this to the U.S. players, who were clear they were the best team in the world. Eventually they said this to themselves enough times that other people began believing it too. By the night of the finals their conviction had become truth, and they won the gold medal.

If you want to take charge of your own business life, begin by sending out the equivalent message about yourself. Pick your goal and say it aloud to yourself. "I could manage this department. I would do an excellent job."

Picture yourself actually doing the job. What would it feel like? What does it look like? Try to make your positive fantasies real. The first step to being successful is convincing yourself that you are successful.

2. One Prize Doesn't Fit All

Have you heard the story about the couple who was seeing a marriage counselor to help save their disintegrating relationship? The husband says, "I don't understand—we have a great house, we have great kids, we have a great car—what do you want?" And the wife responds, "I just don't feel fulfilled." The man looks exasperated; he has no idea what she means.

Women demand a greater sense of fulfillment from our jobs than men do. The standard male-oriented rewards—money, power, prestige—don't necessarily have the same sway with us.

Today women are learning to pay attention to our own needs, as well as everyone else's. This is helping us discover a new sense of freedom and independence in the workplace. Our jobs are not about our husbands or our children or our parents. Ideally, they are about us.

But can we handle this change? Many of us aren't always clear about what we want from this thing called a career. We anguish over whether it will be a career at all, or just a job to provide supplementary income. We obsess about whether it will have any real meaning to us, or whether we are doing it solely to please our family. We have incessant internal discussions over where we are going, and the route never seems to be as direct as we thought.

We live in what I call divine discontent. The work is never quite right, the company isn't either. Now, this feeling can keep smart women on their toes, because it can make them strive a little harder. But even so, such needless turmoil eventually wastes energy.

For most men, the actual job content isn't crucial. The trappings of success, such as title, prestige, and/or money can ameliorate the boring, unpleasant daily grind. Men reconcile doing work they don't like by getting high-profile rewards.

Consider the following: Over many years of public speaking I've often run into the CFO of a large manufacturing company who always tells the same story. Starting off in the accounting department, he slowly but surely worked his way up through one uninteresting position after another until finally, at the age of 60, he received his Glorious Reward and got the one job he'd always coveted. He is a smart and decent man. But every time I hear his speech, I shudder.

Unlike this male CFO, we women are much more likely to find an area in our company that we find fascinating and remain there for years. We tend to ignore the stars, bells, and brass rings that men consider necessary markers of success. For us, the ultimate reward can simply be the ability to say: "I feel great about what I'm doing."

Remember: Loving your job means you are the ultimate winner. But you must remain alert to all potential pitfalls along the way. No matter what the game, if two players are looking at a different goal, the manner in which they advance with the ball will differ.

Let's say you and John Doe start work the same day at the same level. John enters Sales, because he wants to be rich, and you enter Human Resources, because you're fascinated by interpersonal behavior. Fifteen years later, you look up to see that John is a vice president making $250,000 a year, and you're a vice president making $125,000. You think, "Did I do something wrong?"

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