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Posted: February 01, 2010

Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight—A Motto for Life

Association for Corporate Growth Special Section

Sherry Law

Once told by her boss that she was going nowhere, best-selling author and international speaker Fawn Germer knows how to pick herself up, brush off her self-esteem and never look back. Since getting up that first time, Fawn has earned four Pulitzer nominations for journalism, interviewed hundreds of America's most famous leaders and trailblazers, written five books and won praise from Oprah - solid ground for sharing her stories, strategies and optimism.

Fawn_Germer1.jpg

You've talked to a lot of successful women. What impressed you most?
I always say that I get a million dollars worth of free therapy every time I do another book. The two greatest lessons have had a profound impact on my life: First, learning that so many accomplished women also have self-esteem issues showed me that the negativity we play in our heads is not based in reality. To have some of the world's smartest and most beautiful women tell me that they feel inadequate tells me plenty about the number we are doing on ourselves.
The second lesson was that you have to take a risk and bet on yourself if you are going to accomplish anything. Almost every woman I interviewed credited her success to her ability to take risk. Most of us avoid risk, and studies show that women are more risk averse than men. But these great women showed me that you have to fail a little if you are ever going to test your limits, and that you get a great education when you swing and miss.

What advice would you give women about leaning on each other to make change happen?
It used to be that there was so little opportunity available for women that we'd see other females as rivals or threats. It was like there was one slice of pie, and if you got it, there wouldn't be any for me. Women are learning that we can work together and get more pie. I love that. So I always tell women to make allies out of rivals. We do so much more when we are pushing each other along. It isn't important that you get to the top first - it's important that somebody gets there and brings others along. So cultivate an environment where everyone succeeds.

What tips can you offer bold women leaders so they don't, you know, get referred to as the "b" word?
I love this question because I just wrote a column on it in The Huffington Post. How easy is this? I didn't understand that strong, bold women give off an energy that threatens insecure people. We have to watch every word so we aren't misinterpreted. So if you're wondering what to do to be more effective, try these steps:
• If you're angry, cool down before you write anything.
• Always re-read your correspondence out loud in the bitchiest tone of voice possible - because that may be the way it is interpreted.
• Don't immediately defend yourself if you are told you have messed up. Make your point with a plan, not when you're emotional.
• Avoid crying.
• Understand that your job is not to win every battle, but to survive to fight another day.
• Ask others what they think you are communicating and make sure it's a match.
• If others are gossiping about you, don't be afraid to confront it and say, "I would much rather we talk directly and keep our communication open."
• Build a strong, powerful support group to validate you when others are tearing you down.

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Sherry Law, Evergreen Communication, helps companies communicate effectively with employees, customers and other stakeholders. She can be reached at: sherry@evergreencommunication.com and 303-494-5326.

 

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