5 Traps for Asian Female Executives — Page 2 of 3


If you aren’t one of those exceptionally tough-minded women who have no trouble staying aloof from peers to focus on unfettered career development, the only way to avoid getting bogged down by the tug of peer pressure is to pursue a conscious strategy of diversifying your support system. Avoid getting sucked into the nightly happy-hour ritual where colleagues rehash every nuance of office politics. Schedule yourself to be unavailable by attending regular meetings of Asian American professional associations or other industry gatherings, gettogethers with schoolmates and old friends who have no interest in seeing your career stalled. Devote another evening or two to classes or workouts. Let these outside gatherings serve as the center of your social and romantic life. It’s much smarter than putting all your eggs in one basket — especially the wrong basket.

Will this distancing alientate your from colleagues? Probably. But if you have your heart set on success you must accept a certain amount of backbiting by peers as inevitable. Trying to diffuse the negativity is counterproductive. It would merely encourage your peers to step up the pressure in the hope of bringing you back down to their level. That’s why it’s essential to invest the better part of your social energies outside the office.

Unfortunately, the business world isn’t usually governed by the notions of sisterhood and equality that fill books and movies. Most companies simply aren’t democracies — and can’t be. Workers aren’t equal. If we were, communism wouldn’t have failed so miserably and capitalism wouldn’t work so well. Some people learn to be more effective at focusing their energies on creating value for their organizations and clients. If you are one, you just have to accept that peer resentment will be a fixture of your career. The key is to keep it from becoming a fatal distraction for you. John Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln, who are idolized today, were hated and reviled by more people than loved them in their lifetimes. Their greatest successes were achieved only to the extent they didn’t get sidetracked by public opinion.

TRAP 3: Time-Wasting Habits

A few bad habits can turn even an otherwise effective person into a hopeless bumbler. By the time we reach the peak of our career, most of us have picked up a deadly collection of time-killing habits. Two of the worst are TV and the morning paper. Devotees watch their days dawn stillborn, suffocated in the awful banality of pulpy events and canned banter.

Phone chats are deadly. If you need a ten minute chat every hour to get through your workday, you should feel lucky you even have a job. A phone chat costs you not only the time it takes to dial and talk, but also the time and energy to restore your focus to the effort at hand, not to mention the lost momentum caused by the interruption. That’s why top executives avoid personal calls during the business day.

Coffee breaks take big chunks out of prime work hours while adding flab and lowering energy levels. Grabbing coffee and a donut costs 20-30 minutes when you consider the hallways chats and the time needed to refocus on what you were doing. If you must nibble, bring a snack to work and keep it on your desk. Just make sure it’s energy boosters like baby carrots or trail mix. Anything starchy makes you drowsy and costs you the alertness you need for focus.

The trick to dealing with bad habits is to substitute a good habit in their place. Substitute a morning run or swim in place of TV or the morning paper. Substitute a call to a few key clients or associate in place of a chat with friends or a coffee break. Use the impulse to indulge a bad habit as the stimulus that triggers a good habit. The next time you feel the urge to get your third cup of coffee, consciously replace it with the desire to make a business call to a favorite client, or at least reach for a carrot or glass of water. The next time you feel the urge to call your significant other to engage in a long gripe session about your lazy, stupid, ugly boss, condition yourself to call your boss instead and suggest ways to add to the bottom line. That way you’re actually using the conditioned power of your bad habits to trigger a good habit. If Pavlov could do stimulus-response conditioning with canines, you can train yourself to do the same.

Obviously, relaxation and entertainment must have a place in your life. The key is to save them for the end of the workday, after hours or weekends when they help us unwind rather than indulging in them early in the day and causing our workdays to start stillborn.

TRAP 4: Misconceptions About Success

Unrealistic expectations of what success entails is another deadly source of distraction. Even genuinely successful people become confused and distracted when their experiences don’t jive with their expectations of what success should be like. They start second-guessing themselves in the hope of realizing an idealized state that has never existed on earth.

A common misconception involves the regard they expect to enjoy from others. Even those who could handle the hostility of peers as they built their early successes have trouble accepting the fact that no matter how successful they become, the hostility will remain, never to be replaced by universal respect and acclaim until the day they die or are otherwise rendered non-threatening.

There’s good reason for that — your success simply isn’t very important to anyone but you. Those who love you will rejoice in it as long as you don’t forget who you are and who they are. Strangers will accord you a measure of respect and admiration for your achievement. These feelings, however, aren’t nearly as deep or constant as the expectations that will have become fixed in your own mind. Next

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