A friend gave me an advance copy of Briefcase Essentials: Discover Your 12 Natural Talents for Achieving Success in a Male-Dominated Workplace by Susan T. Spenser. Briefcase Essentials is the author’s story, and she demonstrates how she attained success by using her “femaleness” in male-dominated positions and industries.
For the first few chapters I was very wary because of the conclusions that Ms. Spenser drew regarding women’s natural talents. I wanted to know how she arrived at her conclusions, were her conclusions based on her experience only, or did she interview other women and compare their experience to hers? In the About the Author section I noticed that her Masters Thesis was on “The Role of Women in Business during the Revolutionary War, 1770-1785,” but was that enough for her to draw the conclusions she did?
It wasn’t enough for me. She also cited information from many sources, which is good for me from the standpoint of someone who has over 17 years of research experience. The biggest problem I was having is that I was comparing what she was saying with my experience and the experiences of other women who I know. Ms. Spenser has attained phenomenal success in areas that are non-traditional for women, so I decided to focus on her experiences which she outlined in Briefcase Essential. Just doing this alone makes a great case study.
UPDATE: First Published November 2010
The 12 Natural Talents that she talks about that women have are teachable, so men can use them. Success is very personal and people attain success in a variety of ways, but if professionals did the following 12 things, they will arrive a lot closer to success.
- Ask for help
- Be inclusive
- Be knowledgeable
- Stand your ground
- Be resourceful
- Be empathetic
- Be a perceptive communicator – look at what is being and not being said, and pay attention to body language and other non verbal cues. Email and texting are great but they shouldn’t replace face-to-face or telephone interactions
- Build professional relationships
I enjoyed the author’s story and I found it very instructive. In one of her roles, she was legal counsel and General Manager for the Philadelphia Eagles football team and she made some gutsy moves to cut expenses: increasing ticket prices, the first time in six years, replacing luxury travel on a jumbo aircraft with a smaller plane, and changing the menu from gourmet lobster and filet mignon to hot dogs and Philly cheesesteaks. The press who was accustomed to traveling on the jumbo plane now had to take commercial flights, and they were no longer impressed with the menu. They dubbed Susan Spenser, “The Wicked Witch of the Vet.” (The Eagles had their home games at Veteran’s Stadium)
Yes her father owned the football team at the time, so she was given an opportunity. I respect Ms. Spenser because she worked very hard and did not squander the opportunity that was given to her. Later she owned a distributorship, which supplied specialty food to casinos, and she was also in the meat business for a couple of decades.
Reading Ms. Spenser’s story, and coming to it from the perspective of a researcher, here are some key things which made her very successful. She is very detailed oriented so was always prepared. She asked many questions to understand a situation, and she collected information on key players, so she would know how to proceed and deal with them. The one incident where she didn’t perform due diligence came back to bite her.
When she was told no, she persisted. If things didn’t go as expected, which they seldom do in life, she adapted, was extremely resourceful and improvised. And most importantly, she was courageous, fearless, stood up for what she believed in and honoured commitments. I enjoyed the book because I learned a lot. And even if you are like me, and may feel uncomfortable with the conclusions she draws, if you strip that piece away you will still find Briefcase Essential worth reading. I like her 12 Essentials, but I won’t say that they are unique only to women.
I do possess those traits, and many of them are very strong in me because I grew up in a developing country. In the end, I do believe that where there is a will, there is definitely a way. I recommend Briefcase Essentials: Discover Your 12 Natural Talents for Achieving Success in a Male-Dominated Workplace.
Briefcase Essentials: Discover Your 12 Natural Talents for Achieving Success in a Male-Dominated WorkplaceLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadLeading Gracefully: A Woman’s Guide to Confident, Authentic & Effective LeadershipThe Little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black WomenHow Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and LifeIn the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs