Farnaz on Featured, Media Coverage, Negating Stereotypes, Redefining Archetypes, New World Trends, New Realities, Women, Emerging Power

Cultural Change Expert explains why women don’t need to man up to be successful leaders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (by Tate Publishing)

ATLANTA, GA. – It’s The New World Marketplace afterall, and women, youth and multiculturalism are shaping our future.  A rapid cultural shift has occurred over the last decade, but author and thought leader Farnaz Wallace believes it’s not being addressed by businesses and leaders.

“With all the great empowerment initiatives for women today, we are still looking at massive gender inequality in corridors of power,” she said.  “Many great women thought leaders point to re-evaluating business policies to eliminate obstacles that force talented women to choose between family and career, and others point to women’s ambition calling us all to man up–but I believe there are 4 missing links from this important dialogue.”

Wallace breaks these down into four essentials for women to succeed in The New World Marketplace Leadership: Inner-authenticity, Being the woman leader other women want to work for, Re-defining Power, and Avoiding all gender stereotypes.

“I’ve always believed once you gain trust and respect, love always follows,” she said.  “But how can women gain trust and respect if they’re trying to be someone they are not?”  Wallace believes it’s far more important to find the richest, fullest expression of one’s authentic self, and spend majority of time in strength and passion and generate results, versus trying to fit into a perceived cultural norm.

“Research shows that women have a tougher time working for women,” she said.  “To be a successful leader, people of all ages, cultures, race and gender must want to follow and work for you, specially other women.  Men and women largely agree on life goals. It is the position of power and domination that differentiates us, not just between men and women, but also among women ourselves.”

“That’s even more of an important toptic than gender inequality because the old business culture of command and control doesn’t work for men or women,” she said.  Wallace believes it is time to redefine power as less need to limit or control others, and define power as affiliation, linking and partnership–a blend of hard and soft powers, she calls it “smart” powers.  “Women don’t need to man up to be successful, they need to possess smart powers,” she said.

“Women are different than other women, just as men are different than other men, why the continuous focus on gender stereotyping?” she asks.  “I believe if we want to achieve gender equality, we must first stop gender stereotyping for it serves no purpose other than protecting traditional orthodoxies that have held women back for generations.”

Wallace is a thought leader, speaker, and strategic consultant focused on helping companies capitalize on cultural macro trends in today’s fast-changing marketplace. She is the published author of the book, The New World Marketplace, and presently resides in Atlanta.

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4 Tips on How to Become A New World Woman Leader (Video/Blog)

With all the great empowerment initiatives for women today, we are still looking at massive gender inequality in corridors of power.  Many great women thought leaders point to re-evaluating business policies as it relates to the flexible work schedule and eliminating obstacles that force brilliant women to choose between family and career.  Others point to women’s ambition calling us all to man up.  While I think there is truth in both, I think there are 4 missing links from this important dialogue.

In my keynote speech at Possible Woman conference two weeks ago, I addressed what it takes to be a successful woman leader in The New World Marketplace.  Here’s a 5-min video highlight of this keynote address followed by my written summary of the 4 tips I shared:

 

 

1.  Be authentic, focus on your own unique differentiation, gain trust and respect

I wasn’t just a woman working hard to advance my career in Corporate America, I was an Iranian-American woman….so you can just imagine the brutal stereotypes I had to face and overcome.  I wasn’t just an Iranian-American woman, but I had multi-colored hair and tattoos.   A far cry from a traditional image of a successful businessman.  But at the end of the day, results speak for themselves.  Under my CMO leadership, we drove 5 years of consecutive same-store-sales growth.   So, I built trust and respect instead of focusing on changing myself to fit into a cultural norm…and I’ve always believed once you gain trust and respect, love follows.  Trust and respect are two most important shared values in relationships in The New World Marketplace.  But how can you possibly gain trust and respect of your collegues, employees, bosses, even your customers, when you’re trying to be someone you’re not?

It’s far more important to always find the richest, fullest expression of your authentic self, and spend majority of your time in your strengths and passion, versus trying to fit into an exclusive image of the professional businessman, which is no longer the success archetype in The New World Marketplace. Because being good at what you do has nothing to do with how others see you…but it has everything to do with how you see and feel about yourself.

I not only believe the inner authenticity translates in to your own power and success, but I believe authenticity in branding strategies also translates in to your company success.   Strategy is not about being the best, it’s about being different and unique.  Your own branding strategy has to be the same….about your own uniqueness and differentiation.  Be authentic, focus on your own unique differentiation, gain trust and respect and let the results speak for themselves.

2.  Be the woman leader other women want to work for

Beyond my non-traditional image and my business and financial performance, it was my style of leadership that differentiated me.  I was determined to become the woman leader other women wanted to work for.  As an emerging leader, I was always promoted every 2-3 years by working hard and driving results.  And I’ve had just as many female bosses as I’ve had male bosses….yet the women bosses weren’t the ones promoting me.  I always questioned whether it was a scarcity mentality that there is just not enough abundance to go around for all of us…or a flaw in leadership training for women.  I decided then that I wanted to be a woman leader other women wanted to work for and that I’d provide an environment for women to thrive and succeed.

As I was doing research for my book, I came across this data from Time Magazine:   More than 2/3 of women still think men resent powerful women…yet 45% of women say female bosses are harder to work for, versus only 29% of men.  This is a major issue not often addressed.

Believe it or not, men and women of all races and ages largely agree on life goals.  It is the position of power and domination that differentiates us, not just between men and women, but also among women ourselves.  That’s even more of an important topic than gender inequality, because one of my biggest fear is reaching gender equality but maintaining the same business culture of domination, command and control.  Because that model is not working, and simply switching gender without redefining power and success will not address the core issue.

3.  Redefine Power as a blend of hard and soft powers – SMART powers

I believe it’s time to redefine power as less need to limit or control others and define power as affiliation, linking and partnership.  In fact, the need to control and dominate, in reality, is a feeling of powerlessness.  That means leaving behind the hard, conquest and domination-oriented values.  I don’t believe you need to man up to be a successful woman leader.

Feminine values or soft powers are loaded with polarizing reactions, but they are meant to refer to values associated with creation, life-generating, nurturing powers, caring, relating…human and relationship values that have become a business imperative and taught in almost all leadership materials…versus taking, conquest and domination.

It’s time to use feminine and masculine powers as qualities and values in all women and men, instead of gender stereotyping.  Let’s face it…there are many women who lead with masculine hard powers, and there are many men who lead with relating, nurturing, caring & soft powers.  It has nothing to do with gender.

I believe we all need both…. and it’s a matter of knowing when to use which… Blend of hard powers and soft powers….let’s just call it “SMART POWERS.”  It’s time for women leaders to re-evaluate how they view power to succeed and use SMART powers.

4.  Stop gender stereotyping, avoid focus on gender differences

Men are from Mars.  Women are from Venus.  Ask yourself why do we persist to focus on gender differences.  Men are logical.  Women are emotional.  If that’s true, and marketing is designed to get an “emotional” response and attachment from customers, why do we bother market to men at all?  Men are different from other men.  Women are different than other women.  Why the continuous focus on how men and women are different?  Haven’t we confused our next generations of leaders enough?

I, for one, have defied all gender stereotypes, but that doesn’t mean I forgot how to be a caring, nurturing woman as a leader.  I used my masculine powers to gain competitive market share and drive financial results, but I led my team with feminine powers of caring, relating and partnership.

The focus on gender inequality must be different than our continuous focus on gender differences.  In fact, I believe if we want to achieve gender equality, we must first stop gender stereotyping for it serves no purpose other than protecting traditional orthodoxies that have held women back for generations.

 

In The New World Marketplace, it’s neither the man’s world nor a woman’s nation.  It’s a dynamic, cooperative shared reality that is under constant evaluation.  And the template of success and happiness is very unique and personal to each individual, and is gender neutral and color blind.  If you lead with authenticity, purpose and passion, power and success will follow.

 

If you liked this blog, please “share”…. and I love to read your comments, too.

 

 

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3 key issues to address in 2013 (yea, just 3)

Happy new year.  I really don’t know of anyone who is sad 2012 is over—are you?  We’ve had another tough economic year filled with so many predictions and prophecies that didn’t come true–and some did.  As we start 2013, pundits with crystal balls start forecasting trends everywhere…top 10, bottom10 …hey, I did my own last year.  But this year, I realized that I’ve been among many reading and analyzing trends all year.  What am I expecting or forecasting to happen as the clock turned at midnight on January 1st?  Are we confusing trends and forecasts with new year’s resolutions, or simply creating a marketing need?

Unlike new year’s resolutions, most meaningful trends are long lasting, creating long term evolutionary changes.  So this year, instead of adding to your long list of bookmarks of what’s hot and new, I’d like to give you 3 simple key issues that have been of critical importance these last few years that were ignored by most….and still remain critically important in 2013 and beyond.  That isn’t to say that you should ignore trends and forecasts, but instead of staying glued to your rear-view mirror, you need to start using your peripheral vision and address these 3 key issues for your company in a meaningful way in 2013. What better way to predict the future than to create it yourself.  Ignore and blow off at your own peril, but at least take a quick look:

Economy trumps other emotional needs:  The world has been in an epic economic crisis since 2008.  Economic forecasts may vary slightly from year to year, but a full recovery is still far away.  More importantly, economy continues to be top of mind issue for people in general—not just business people concerned about taxes and fiscal cliff, but also consumers who want to know what your company can do to pitch in and make their lives a little easier.  Unless you represent a luxury brand, you should get moving.  You don’t have to be the giant Starbucks focusing on driving job creation through small business loans and housing financing…I don’t know how that program is working for them, but it’s highly visible and talked about.  But at the very least, your marketing campaign should tie-in and relate to your consumers’ needs and expectations during tough economic times.  Economy and price are no longer rational decisions, they are very much an emotional need and decision that needs to be addressed in a meaningful way in your marketing campaign.  Simply dropping your price is as just as dangerous as passing all your operational cost increases to your customers.  Price relative to your competition is a strategic decision that should not only accompany a re-evaluation of your delivery systems, but also a marketing communication strategy that tells the story of your brand relationship to your customers.

Step into The New World Marketplace:  If you’ve ignored my top 3 major macro trends so far, you no longer can afford to do so in 2013.  Women, youth and multiculturalism are shaping our future.  If you were following our recent Presidential election closely, you’d know that despite our tough economy, these 3 macro trends led to President Obama’s re-election.  Women are 50% of work force, 51% of population and control 85% of consumer buying decisions…Gen Y is 3x the size of Gen X, soon to be the majority of work force and your consumers, and the most diverse generation in human history….for every 2 men graduating from college, 3 women are and with better GPAs….1 out of 4 kids being born in the US has a parent who is an immigrant…multicultural population accounted for ALL of the US under-18 population growth in the last decade and in just 12 years (2025) more than half of US families will be multicultural (excerpts from The New World Marketplace).  If you haven’t re-evaluated your target yet, do so now. Are you still treating women, youth and multiculturalism as a marketing niche or segmentation add-on?

Differentiate authentically: Growth of digital communications and technologies have changed the marketing game for some time now.  We are continuing along that path, and there will always be something new every hour–and that’s not a new trend in 2013.  Your consumers have so many choices, so many alternatives, and so much control, and they see the world so noisy that they can’t hear or see you.  They are in hot pursuit of truth and authenticity and willing to engage with you if you are.  Differentiation is always a strategic gate keeper for success, but it is no longer enough just to differentiate—because people and companies spin, exaggerate and lie.  So the consumers may not believe you when you say you are better or different.  Proof is only useful if it leads to belief.  You have to gain their trust, attention and engagement by holding true to core values and principles through authenticity and transparency.  Only then, you can change your customers’ beliefs and consumption behaviors…and are ready to chew gum and do social media at the same time.

I know…I know…. I gave you a list too, because I’m a marketer at heart and I want you to open and read my blogs (see I’m being authentic and transparent).  But it’s only 3 things that you should remember….3 key issues that should’ve been addressed by now, and are critical for your success in 2013.

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A Different Look at Gen Y

If I was born from 1982 to somewhere close to 2000, I’d be feeling pretty unique and awesome by now.  Let’s look at some Gen Y characteristics that are stereotyped:  idealistic and socially conscious, confident, ambitious, achievement-and-team-oriented, authenticity seekers, attention cravers, culturally liberal, virtual relationships, engage or loose me, ask and guide me, immersed in the digital world from an early age….  This is known to be a generation of self-confident optimists due to years of helicopter parenting and unconditional positive reinforcement from work-centric and goal-oriented Baby Boomer parents who over-compensated for how tough they had it.

While all that may be true, when was the last time we asked a Hispanic, African American, Asian or multiracial Gen Y if these so-called core traits apply to them?  Did they have helicopter parents hover reassuringly above them?  I’m not convinced that socio-economic groups other than white affluent teenagers display the same Gen Y attributes we read about.  It’s not that multi-and-cross-cultural parents don’t want to treat their kids as special, but they often don’t have the social and cultural capital, the time and resources to do it.

Since the 2000 Census allowed people to select more than one racial group, Gen Ys have asserted their rights to have all their heritages respected, counted and acknowledged. 2010 Census showed 32% growth in multiracial category from 2000, and on track to grow another 25%.

I think we can look for cross-cultural commonalities and find these shared values and characteristics:

  • Yes, first era of reality TV, rise of dot-com, virtual relationships
  • Change is mandatory, make it meaningful
  • Demand for authenticity and honesty
  • Culturally liberal, color and gender neutral if it weren’t for parents influence & 9/11
  • Family centric with much closer relationship with parents, unlike the “individualistic” Gen X’ers
  • Delaying some rites of passage into adulthood (for more on this, click here)
  • Love flexibility and work-life-balance even more than Gen X’ers
  • So, yes, perceived as a bit lazy by workaholic Boomers
  • Less employed than any other generation due to the economic situation starting up in
  • More educated, purchasing power rivals that of the Boomers
  • Leverage the digital world to connect, engage & motivate – but want it personal & real
  • Freedom, equality, opportunity, inspiration & honesty are cross-cultural shared values

How do you think all this will re-define Corporate America as Baby Boomers start to retire?  You’d have to be willing to make a difference to make a living.  Think of Lady GaGa and her message of “be who you are”, and Black Eye Peas, a group as multi-culti as you can get.  Cross-cultural messaging through commonalities works.  Start now.

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More is Less: Future of Branding

One more blackberry, one more orange juice, one more sandwich, another credit card…just slightly better.  Incremental differences are not game changers.  Sometimes more innovation can degrade a brand equity and position you in the manufacturing mindset– don’t speed up the line or it will never slow down.

Yes, freedom of choice is essential in pursue of happiness, but too much freedom can cause anxiety and confusion. Too many choices numb us, forcing us to opt out or make uninterested decisions.

Marketers often find another new & improved product, and create a campaign around it.  Much more effective is to find a small and eager target, find a branding story, then make a product that resonates and makes the story work.

At the end of every business line, there is a human being.  Think of these tips for future branding and relationships:

  • Use and align values and beliefs as the blueprint for growth – earn trust and attention and you will have loyalty.
  • Consumers will pay more for superior service, or give it up just for cheap.  Don’t bite more than you can chew, know your benefits and trade-offs.
  • Be transparent and authentic.  Consumers know when you’re not being honest, so do your competitors.
  • Satisfy higher human needs and connect through Purpose.  Sell a story that people want to believe.  Content that broaden their horizon, even when uncomfortable.
  • Endorse brand humility.  Once you believe you are exceptional, you stop innovating.  Become your own future rival.  Re-earn trust, attention and loyalty.
  • More is Less…unless you want to be Netflix or itunes, and put everything out there letting the market sort it out.  But where is the lever?

What type of 4-letter word is profit? It is and should be “good”.  Over-branding can kill profit.

 

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6 easy tips to remember…

1. Value should really be defined as the ability to exceed the needs and expectations of your changing customers….penetrating the built-in resistance to commit.
2. When it comes to innovation, customer is not always right. Let’s face it…do they really know what they want next?
3. Use research to better understand your customers and how they interact with your products – not asking them what they want or what should come next. Do you really expect them to tell you that they want you to make lots of money from them?
4. Don’t use data to replace insight….data doesn’t tell you what to do, insight does.
5. Deliver a kick-ass product, and be honest. Authenticity is the branding era of the New World Marketplace.
6. Be clear on your product differentiation…. Zappos primary product is service, not shoes.

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