Winning and Losing for Women

I hope that you have heard about the new book, Top Dog:  The Science of Winning and Losing by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.  Better yet, maybe you have read it.  From what I have read so far, the concepts are fascinating.  The book explores the differences between winning and losing performances and why are we not always up for the challenge.  It gives insight into how we all can become better competitors and uses scientific evidence and wisdom gained from politics, finance, genetics, neuroscience, psychology, military training, sports, economics, and education to help readers identify their competitive styles and make game-changing decisions on the way they compete.

Although the book addresses competition in both sexes, there is so much here for women.  With so many women in the workplace today, including in law practice, the competition is keen between men and women, but, as you will read in the book, that does not mean that men and women compete the same way.  They don’t.

According to the research included in Top Dog, women and men choose competitors differently, differ in their approaches to winning or not losing, judge circumstances differently, approach risk differently, and choose who they will compete against differently, to name just a few distinctions.  These distinctions definitely amount to differences that can be outcome determinative in settings like job interviews, board meetings, managing and mentoring.

The authors urge women to be more competitive in their work environments and explain why it is important for women to play to win and not to be so dependent on calculating odds of success before trying something new.  They downplay the importance of coalition building and encourage women to speak up without being invited into the conversation.  Raising your hand and waiting to be acknowledged can short circuit your opportunities to make valuable contributions.

I often have made the sports analogy between the behavior of men and women in business in my books and in my programs.  And, here it is again in Top Dog.  You will read there that men approach their careers like sport—they play hard and they are prepared for both victory or defeat.  Women, however, are much more cautious and want more assurances before they get in the game and “leave it all on the field.”

It reminds me of that great quote from Dwight Eisenhower that I posted as a Thought For the Day recently:  “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.” In Top Dog, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman reveal the size of the fight in all of us and help us to take it to the next level.

I absolutely cannot wait to read more of this book.  I am jumping on a plane later this week with book in hand.  Stay tuned to see if my high expectations are met.  I also am following up on a recent program at Georgetown University where author Merryman spoke about the book.  Unfortunately, I was not able to attend, and I have inquired about any recording of the program that may be available.  When I get that information, I will pass it on to all of you.

Until then, what are you waiting for?   Take a risk.  Speak up and do not wait to be invited into the conversation.  Play hard to win, and be confident.  Make people notice you by your confidence and your willingness to take on new challenges and move out of your comfort zone.  Get in the game!


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