The other day I was walking through Barnes & Noble and I was overwhelmed with the amount of self-help and career advice books that are filling the shelves. Don’t get me wrong, most of us need a little direction from time to time, but so many of these books seem to tell women exactly what they should do to get ahead in business, which may be all fine and dandy, but if you don’t have the knowledge of how to behave as a confident, successful business woman, then I fear that a lot of these actions are a bit of a lost cause.
You may be thinking, “But actions and behavior are the same thing, Karen, what on earth are you talking about?” Let me explain.
Those are the verbs in our lives. Walking, eating, networking, putting in face time, giving a proper handshake. These are our actions and, while many of them come to use naturally, some actions are things we are told will help us get ahead in business. They are external and, to an extent, they can help us make career strides, but without an internal force behind them, they are shallow and have little actual meaning. If you don’t have intent behind your actions, sooner or later, someone will pick up on it.
Our behavior is the intent behind our actions and it comes from within. For example, shaking a new client’s hand firmly is something you may have read in a book, but if it’s not coming from the heart, it seems a little calculated. You give someone a firm, enthusiastic handshake when you are genuinely excited to meet them. The action is shaking hands, but the behavior is enthusiasm.
So many books today are written for businessmen, not business women. Imitating the same actions that men take in order to achieve corporate success may result in financial and career success, but it will be built on a persona that has been fabricated to build success. There is only so long you can continue to work this way.
When you start behaving like yourself and treating each new situation with a good, professional intention, rather than action, people will respond to your authenticity. Granted, this may not be the fastest way to climb a corporate ladder, but it is a way to succeed in business without changing who you are and that’s really the most important goal any woman can aim to achieve.