The Ripple Effect

I alone cannot change the world. But I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples. – Mother Teresa

I have many memories from the years I spent working on Wall Street—most of them good, but some not. I clearly remember the year that I was determined to have ‘the conversation’ with my boss about my annual bonus.

These are not easy conversations to have.

I’d done some preliminary research via several conversations with one of my male colleagues. He educated me about how he’d handled past salary negotiations to good effect. I thought the same positive outcome would result if I just followed his lead.

I was prepared with the data to back up my argument and went into the meeting anticipating success, despite my nerves. I was armed with my accomplishments of the past year and comparisons to what my colleagues (mostly male) had done and were doing. Instead of the favorable outcome I expected, my boss said to me, “Stop complaining and go back to work.”

I admit it rankles a little in memory, even after the passage of many years. No doubt there are other things I could have done and different approaches I could have chosen. I shoulder some responsibility for the outcome. But I think there was little doubt that no matter what I did, I was going to come up against a systemic barrier.

I read by Sally Helgesen very early in my career, even before this unfortunate episode. Sally is our podcast guest this week. You will hear in our interview that she was formative in my thinking as a professional woman. One of those people whose pebbles thrown has created a ripple in my life.

More recently, she wrote a book titled . This is a collaborative book with Marshall Goldsmith and results from some important conversations about how they coach and the results they see. Sally discovered Marshall was coaching men to do things out of the norm for them, but many of the practices and tactics he was suggesting to men mirrored what many women were already doing and had done for a long time. But these techniques, though often game-changing for men, weren’t working for women and never had. Marshall and Sally put their heads together—Mars and Venus; and How Women Rise is their intellectual offspring, a terrific and practical book.

In our , Sally shares the wisdom she’s gained through the years. She advises women, as well as men who want to coach women–it is illuminating. Sadly, many of the strategies that work for men still don’t get results for women in the workplace. But at least we can outfit ourselves with a toolkit of strategies that have a better chance of working for, rather than against, us.

And, for extra fun—because I’m feeling exceptionally lighthearted this week, now that the manuscript for my next book is with the publisher. Along with a podcast interview with one of my heroines—I’m sharing the first piece I ever published with HBR almost 12 years ago. It’s titled and it includes the story of another early-career negotiation experience of mine, one that worked out a little better.

The great news is that I’m getting better at negotiating, AND some of the systemic problems are resolving. As Sally says in our conversation, while there is still much to do, there has been much progress.

Thank you, as always, for being here!

My best, Whitney

P.S. If you’d like to be eligible for a copy of Sally and Marshall’s book How Women Rise, hit return and say, “I want to help women rise up the S Curve.” We will choose five winners at random.

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