Do Your Habits in Small Groups Give away Your Power? – To Be the Boss, Don’t Act Like a Secretary

Whilst researching the role women play in small groups in the MBA environment, a group of women studying at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, found that women often fell into the ‘compiler’ role – an important, yet undervalued, position that has implications from the classroom to the boardroom. As a ‘compiler’ many women take the job of compiling the team’s deliverable. The research found that they took this role almost five times more frequently than men, and it was considered by the group to be far less critical to team success than other roles, making the women’s contributions often go unnoticed. Men on the other hand tended towards the ‘thought leader’ role – a role which both men and women in the group thought was the most important to team success. When coaching female executives I recommend that they step out of their comfort zone and make sure their contributions are being recognised in order to increase their chances of promotion. It is easy to pick a role within a group where you feel you will add most value – and the ‘compiler’ role typically uses all the skills of a good secretary – but if you want to be the boss try being the group’s ‘thought leader’ for a change.

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  • G Adams

    This is certainly a hot topic among my cohorts in terms of ‘who should take the minutes’ in meetings, whether it be a peer-led or multi-tiered one. It certainly helps if it is discussed and agreed upfront, otherwise the unfortunate predictable outcome will be to either issue this task to the lowest grade employee and/or or  the woman/women in the room. 
    The way I like to handle it is if it is my meeting, I will take highlights and top level actions and I’ll get someone to work with me to take more detailed notes during the session. We’ll then cross reference and send out actions on the same day,  driving true ownership and pace. If it someone else’s meeting, make the suggestion to them prior to the meeting to assign someone to the task. Preparation is key in these situations!