A is for Alpha

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differenceYou women out there, do you ever wonder why you play second fiddle to the men at work? Maybe, like me, you tend to break one of the unwritten codes of male business behavior, namely “Never make excuses for failure”. Excuses are self-sabotage in the male dominated business world, and they will get you nowhere, says Canadian Chris Flett, the “reformed alpha business male” writer of “What Men don’t Tell Women about Business

Morphing from a “kill-it-and-bill-it” prototype into an economically far more successful modern collaborative type, Chris Flett wanted and needed more women on his team. But he needed them to know how to play the business game and win. So in his book he takes the reader into the board room after the women have left, and what he shows us is crude and sometimes annoying. But learn from it, and you will possibly come out stronger.

Men will typically look at Flett’s book and say “so what else is new?” But it will make us women look a little differently at how to force men to take us seriously: being more confident, learning to lead, taking the credit we deserve, being cooler, not looking openly for affirmation and dealing effectively with men who put us down. His most important message lies in the strategy of combining our assertive behavior with measures that will build an alpha male’s confidence: keeping his secrets and working strategically hand-in-hand to build a winning team. Since alphas are driven by insecurity, the single most important thing is never to make an alpha male wrong. There is clearly nothing else that will create a stronger bond with a strong partner than to build his confidence through loyalty and authenticity.

Unfortunately, Chris Flett over-generalizes, saying that women are detail-oriented (as opposed to big-picture-oriented) and feeling-oriented (as opposed to thinking-oriented). But as Peter Vincent reminds us in his comments on the book, it’s all about the bottom line, namely money:

“A recent StatsCan report showed that in 2005, women earned 85 cents for every dollar paid to men in the 25 to 29 year range. And the older you get, the larger the income gap becomes. The numbers haven’t changed significantly in the last five years. What does that mean? Despite all the rhetoric, the glass ceiling is still firmly in place. If you are a woman, in any age group and profession, you need to deal with this … by guerilla tactics. You need a plan.” – Hear Peter Vincent’s complete comment for CBC

Chris Flett may be a little difficult to take, but he definitely has a few angles covered that, if properly followed, might just open up that glass ceiling for women. So, women, this one is for us. Do you want to run with the pack? Then listen up: A is for alpha.

See Chris Flett’s interview with Chrissi Lee on New England Business Day:

sheryl sandbergSheryl Sandberg, 38, has worked at the World Bank, the Treasury Department, was Vice President at Google and is now COO of Facebook. In a video at the Women’s Media Center she says,

“I watch my friends call their daughters ‘bossy’… Little girls aren’t bossy, maybe they’re assertive. It’s just not sexy to be smart and powerful. You learn this as a young girl … It needs to be sexy. Strong, powerful, smart, attending Princeton. It needs to be sexy.”

Learning the ropes – Vokabeln für’s Leben

A is for Alpha – A wie Alpha (Telefonalphabet)
play second fiddle to – die zweite Geige spielen
break the code of behavior – gegen den Verhaltenskodex verstoßen
make excuses for failure – sich für Fehler/Scheitern/Niederlagen entschuldigen/Ausreden finden
self-sabotage – Selbstsabotage
reformed alpha business male – reformiertes Alphamännchen
to morph – wandeln
“kill-it-and-bill-it” – vernichten und in Rechnung stellen
collaborative – kooperativ
the board room – Das Vorstandszimmer
crude – grob
annoying – ärgerlich
So what else is new? – Das ist doch hinlänglich bekannt!
to take someone seriously – ernstnehmen
confident – selbstbewußt
to lead – führen
take the credit you deserve – den gerechten Lohn in Anspruch nehmen
look openly for affirmation – offen nach Bestätigung suchen
dealing effectively – effektiv regeln
to put someone down – demütigen
assertive – durchsetzungsfähig
build confidence – Vertrauen bilden
keeping secrets – Geheimnisse wahren
driven by – angetrieben von
insecurity – Unsicherheit
over-generalizes – übergeneralisieren
income gap – Einkommenslücke
despite all the rhetoric – trotz der Phrasendrescherei
the glass ceiling – die unsichtbare Barriere, die einen am Aufstieg hindert
run with the pack – zum Rudel dazugehören
listen up – genau hinhören
bossy – herrisch, rechthaberisch

Learning English tip of the week

There is a lot of confusion about the term “I’m afraid” at the beginning of sentences in English. Many non-native speakers have a problem with this phrase, because they think it makes them sound weaker in some way.

That is a misunderstanding. We simply use it to announce bad news, and it’s a very civilized communication marker. It has exactly the same meaning as “leider” in German. It doesn’t make you sound weaker at all. On the contrary, it shows that you fully understand the communication situation, that you’re fully in control and responsible for the message you are delivering. It helps your conversation partner save face (das Gesicht wahren) if the message causes him or her a problem.

You use it like this:

  • I’m afraid I can’t make the meeting on Thursday. (Leider schaffe ich es nicht zur Bespechung.)
  • I’m afraid I didn’t get your question. (Ich habe Ihre Frage nicht ganz verstanden).
  • I’m afraid we can’t supply you with that model, but… (Dieses Model können wir Ihnen nicht liefern, aber…)
  • I’m afraid I don’t agree. (Ich bin da anderer Meinung.)


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