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"Nice Grrls" Finish First

By Guest Blogger, Mary Schmidt, Marketing Troubleshooter

 Images NYT: Ursula Burns, Aiming to Redefine Xerox's Culture  

"...Her elevation marked two milestones: the first time an African-American woman was named C.E.O. of a major American corporation, and the first time a woman succeeded another woman in the top job at a company of this size."

In a past corporate life, I watched a woman I once loved like a sister sell her soul and (figuratively speaking) eat her children trying to reach a VP title.  She eventually made it - at another company; she got fired from the one where she (may have literally) sold her soul.  And, even before she lost all perspective in her all-consuming quest for the big title, she was a terrible manager (as much as I loved her, even I had to admit that. I spent a lot of time on damage control.)

Thus, it's heartening to read of Ursula Burns' rise to the top of Xerox, mentored by another woman, Anne M. Mulcahy.  Ms. Burns' response to the accolades speaks to both her individual winning approach...and how good women managers operate. 

“The accolades that I get for doing absolutely nothing are amazing — I’ve been named to every list, literally, since I became the C.E.O.,” Ms. Burns says. Apart from working on the Affiliated Computer acquisition, she asks, “What have I done? In the first 30 days, I was named to a list of the most impressive XYZ. The accolades are good for five minutes, but then it takes kind of a shine off the real story. The real story is not Ursula Burns. I just happen to be the person standing up at this point representing Xerox.”

Can you imagine - say - Jack Welch demurring that he did absolutely nothing at GE?   (Jeff Immelt, his successor at GE, said that "anybody could run a business in the 1990s. A dog could have run a business."  Meowrrrr...Those big dogs can do catty with the best of us, can't they?) 

There's "nice" and then there's "nice."  According to the article, She wants its 130,000 employees to get over the past, take more initiative, become more fearless and be more frank and impatient with one another to ratchet up performance.

“Terminal niceness,” is how she describes an aspect of Xerox’s culture, during her all-hands speech. “We are really, really, really nice.”

Maybe the “Xerox family,” she says, should act a bit more like a real family.

“When we’re in the family, you don’t have to be as nice as when you’re outside of the family,” she says. “I want us to stay civil and kind, but we have to be frank — and the reason we can be frank is because we are all in the same family.”

And that's why I typed "grrls" NOT "girls."   Happy Friday to all my fellow grrls out there.


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