The greatest assets you own are your ideas. You must protect your priceless intellectual property at all times. Seek counsel, take good advice, but keep some secrets (especially at work.) Like church, work is not a building; it’s the role you play among the people accompanying you. The surroundings don’t matter. If you’re with a colleague, a potential colleague, or a former colleague, you are working. It’s unimportant whether you’re in a boardroom, at happy hour, at the company picnic, or at the conference hotel’s indoor pool; never let your guard down. Don’t drink too much or say anything you don’t want broadcast on the world news, Tweeted, or posted. Even better, imagine you’re on Ustream live video 24/7, and all the world is watching. Govern yourself accordingly. Telling the truth does not mean telling everything you know.
Be assured, someone wants your position or simply doesn’t want you to have it. I don’t know why. Some people are crazy. They lie awake nights imagining ways to sabotage you… just because. As working women, we are constantly competing, and America loves winners. Win-win (as in I benefit and you benefit, so everyone is happy) sounds sweet, and it’s great for customer service, but not for keeping your job, keeping your partner, or growing your business.
True, you cannot operate in a vacuum. You must interact with others in order to plan, collaborate on projects, and try to take over the world, or, at least, the bowling league brackets. Just be very selective about when and where you share your best ideas and resources. Don’t brainstorm about your invention with everyone at bingo or save your revolutionary process on a shared computer, even in an “invisible” file. Don’t leave important documents on or in your unlocked desk. Don’t share your personal finance issues. Don’t talk about your relationships or your marriage in a way that exposes the challenges you face or the good fortune your family experiences. Don’t give your password to anyone at the office, including your BFF. Human resource professionals frown on that practice, and there are few feelings worse than having a friend slowly turn on you like a Ferris wheel at the state fair.
The greatest assets you own are your ideas.
Share what you must to ensure everyone’s success because that is team play at its finest, and we all benefit from consistent contribution to process improvements. But never divulge more to your peers than you receive until they have proven they can be trusted. It’s important to notice if they never share important ideas/information with you without prompting. Do they always seem to wait until after you’ve gotten the information from another source to fill in the blanks with their superior knowledge of the situation? Why didn’t they share before? Hmmmm? Is that a pattern?
Of course, this principle doesn’t apply to your boss or partner. Never, ever surprise your boss, except when you are under budget and ahead of schedule. In fact, once or twice a month, send a brief update to your boss on the positive progress of you and your team members. Do the same thing at home, too. Keep the most important people in your life well-informed about what you are doing and why.
Use your instinct, experience, and office gossip to determine who is the least trustworthy among your acquaintances. Don’t supply gossip; just listen to it. Pay close attention to the person who attributes every negative comment to someone else. This person is baiting you to say something he or she can repeat as well. Watch everyone’s behavior. People who steal time by clocking in late or leaving early every day will steal your ideas. Minutes are money. They are stealing from the employer and they might steal from you as well.
This strategy is also applicable to dealing with technicians, salespeople, and others with whom you negotiate, especially males. Have you ever noticed how good men are at answering only the part(s) of your question they feel like addressing? For example, in the middle of writing this book, I realized that someone with whom I contracted to do a job had not followed up as promised. This is the verbatim text exchange with that party:
12:04 p.m. (Dr. mOe) “I’ve inquired about when you can meet in person with my business partner and me twice. You have not responded; it seems difficult to reach you. Do you have another job? ”
1:46 p.m. (Response) “Where are you trying to reach me? This number or e-mail is best.”
Notice he did not say that he didn’t get my previous communications. He did not apologize for not responding to them. He did not apologize for taking almost two hours to respond to my text, allegedly “the best” way to reach him. Most women would have gone to great lengths to explain to me why they didn’t respond sooner. The man simply ignored the question, possibly because he was busy on his other job or (more likely) he didn’t feel the need to divulge that information.
Do not assume that people didn’t hear you, didn’t read all of your e-mail bullets, or didn’t understand you. Maybe they are just keeping secrets of their own. Instead of becoming frustrated and repeating yourself over and over, recognize this type of communication as an intentional action to keep you off balance. My response to him—the following day—was a simple “Okay. Thanks.” He called a few minutes later, and he has been much more responsive to me since he correctly translated that terse response as “You are about to lose a client.” Sometimes less really is more.
This sounds harsh, but reality is harsh. The minute you forget this critical principle, you invite a power struggle. Even the legendary Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra VII, known equally for her guile and beauty, was betrayed by her baby brother and forced into exile. Her alliance with Julius Caesar (and others) restored her status. Now, this is a historic lesson in strategic partnerships. The lesson: love thy neighbor but watch your purse.