The Velvet Hammer Approach to Success

I’ve been fortunate enough in my own career to take advantage of opportunities that are not always so apparent. Sometimes it’s a matter of being at the right place at the right time and other times it’s about asking when the right place and time is going to be and planting the seed of your ambitions. It’s about gaining the respect of others and communicating what you want.

I would offer two pieces of advice for women entering the business world:

  1. Act as a “velvet hammer”
  2. Be impressed with others vs. being impressed with yourself

Velvet HammerBeing a woman in business can be very effective if we complement our softer approach with decisive decision-making and strong execution. We need to be the ‘hammer’; a direct communicator who works hard, leads by example and consistently gets the job done in a professional, efficient manner.

While acting in a hard driving manner can be effective in business, when complemented with soft qualities that are natural for many women such compassion, empathy and listening skills, it can be highly effective in business. Women need to act as the ‘hammer’ while applying the ‘velvet touch’!

To build on this advice, humility is a very important quality for leaders in business. If we internalize the motto “to be impressed with others versus being impressed with yourself,” it reinforces the way we should interact with others. It is not about being self-centered and letting your ego get in the way, but rather treating others with value and respect in all aspects of your life.

Acting as a ‘velvet hammer’ combined with the skill to make people at all levels feel comfortable, valued and important, is an exceptionally strong combination to that can make women highly successful in business.

I’ve held many roles at EMC including stints in direct and channels sales, strategic alliances, global field marketing, industry marketing and global operations. In all of them, I’ve taken the velvet hammer approach which works particularly well in our entrepreneurial-style culture.

When it comes to leadership, I’ve come up with a list of 10 tips that have helped guide me in my own career progression and I believe will help others as they take ownership of their professional success.

My Top 10 Leadership Principles:

  1. Decide what is right for your company first, followed by what is right for your organization next and then yourself last. Using this decision filter will ensure you are making the right decision.
  2. Embrace change! Those that embrace change and lead change succeed. Normally 20% of the people lead change, 60% follow change and 20% fight change.
  3. Take the initiative to solve problems. Every manager has a list of problems they want to address each quarter, but rarely are able to execute on the entire list. Proactively offer to take a leadership role to address a problem. By taking the initiative, it demonstrates your leadership skills and your interest in solving bigger problems beyond your responsibilities.
  4. Integrity is the foundation to success.
  5. TeamworkWork as a team. High performance teams produce much greater results than high performing individuals. High performance teams are made up for high performing individuals that work together and complement each other’s skill set.
  6. Set goals with timelines, document it and communicate them to your management to get feedback to ensure they are attainable or to identify skills gaps. This is a good method to ensure clear expectations are established with open communication.
  7. Share best practices to encourage teamwork and collaboration.
  8. Understand the balance of co-opetition – Win the war, not the battle. In today’s complex business environment, we must understand that on one day we may compete with a company for business and the next day we may partner to win business together. Those that understand co-opetition will succeed in the 21st century business world.
  9. Offer to be a mentor and get a mentor –The pay it forward concept. Mentorships can prepare individuals for management roles. Mentorships can be of tremendous value in guiding career decisions.
  10. Work hard all the time, it shows!

To me, success is the ability to have a sense of balance between home, work and personal life. I truly believe it is impossible to have an equal balance with all three facets of life but the key is to ensure each element is present in your life, with the balance dictated by you – the one in the control seat.

About the Author: Linda Connly