Monday, October 05, 2009

Balancing Women's Natural Advantages

Creativity, But Not At The Expense of The Rules

Barbara Annis of Barbara Annis & Associates is dedicated to bringing the latest research and thinking on Gender Diversity and Inclusiveness into the workplace. As a recognized leader in Inclusive Leadership, her firm helps organizations achieve a true competitive advantage with their most valuable asset, their people.

She and I recently got to talking about gender differences in how men and women do business, and she told this story:

“Two or three years ago, I competed recently for a $50 million government project for 'inclusive leadership'. My competitors answered every question, and no more. I went more in the relationship way. I thought, 'They’re defining their requirement wrong, because I’ve been delivering inclusive leadership for years! You need diversity but you also need culture intelligence and gender intelligence.' So I added to it, with the best of intentions.

“We lost. In the debriefing, the contracting officers went through our offer line by line and said, ‘That didn’t fit the RFP, this didn’t fit the RFP. We got as far as page 12 of your 200-page proposal, and abandoned it.’ We didn’t answer the specific questions or use their words.”

“The ones who won the contract and went off on a big party trip to celebrate their win lost it three months later because they couldn’t deliver. The government agency is now asking us how they could get the service they need. 2 to 3 years later, we have even better tools and are very much involved in shaping a statement of work that we think is realistic and will achieve their goals.”

Is strong focus on creativity in pursuit of business an inherent female trait? That trait can be a strength for women as well as men in government contracting, but not at the expense of playing the game by the rules.

What would be the warning signs that you need a better balance between creativity and other elements of marketing effort?

I'll be talking about these and tactics to make the most of other gender differences to women Presidents, Owners and Chief Executives of the American Small Business Coalition on Thursday October 8th.

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