...Beyond the Good Old Boys Club
A SpeakStrong Approach to Balancing Power


In the pyramid of social power you’ll find alpha males at the apex even today. That’s how alpha males like it and want to keep it. It’s rare for anyone to give power up willingly. Power has to be won, coaxed, or taken.

Ask any woman, minority, or non-alpha male who has ever had a run-in with the Good Old Boys Club. Oh, non-alphas have come a long, long way. In fact, non-alphas have come so far that many don’t know there is a Good Old Boys Club (GOBC). They may not know what hit them when they see it.

Yes, the GOBC is alive and well, and savvy women, minorities, and other non-alphas know how to work with or around it. For a GOBC stories, read my article: Good-bye to the Good Old Boys Club, located here.

And to get past the GOBC grip, read the article below.

1. Know the GOBC when you see it
If a group of men back each other up regardless of circumstance, it’s the Good Old Boys Club. If a group of men favor their own when objective criteria favors an “outsider”, it’s the Good Old Boys Club.
Example #1: A recent technical convention had 100% male presenters despite the fact that the industry has 40% women members.
Example #2: I once had a vendor flagrantly misrepresent his service to me while presenting at an association meeting. The vendor attacked me when I complained, the meeting planner threatened me, and the association president suggested I drop the issue. They all knew each other and they were all male.

2. Don’t assume GOBC dynamics when there are none
Yes, the GOBC is alive and well. But don’t assume all lack of diversity is a consequence of the GOBC. It’s not.
Example: Roger created resentment when he formed an all (white) male task group to research changes in the performance management system. There was a highly qualified woman that employees thought should be on the team. They later discovered Roger bypassed her for this team because he planned to promote her to the executive level and wanted her to be available when the executive she was to replace left.

3. Be aware of the ways you yourself feed the GOBC
If you defer to men because they’re men, you feed the GOBC.
Example #1: In the 5th grade I voted for the boy running for Student Council President because he was a boy. That despite the fact that I was running for Student Council Vice President.
Example #2: Cindi suspects that she loses sales to men in the office because clients are predisposed to trust men in her industry more. She overlooks the fact that she often favors men over women herself.

4. Don’t let the GOBC define you
If you react to the GOBC, you allow it to define you. If you try to beat it at its game, you allow it to define you. If you play by its rules, you allow it to define you.
Example: Susan doubts herself when faced with the GOBC. Karen gets angry. Robert has been trying to prove himself worthy for years. Shawn uses sales tactics he’s uncomfortable with to break into the “big leagues.”

5. Create a GOGC – Good Old Girls Club
Create your own network of women, minorities - and men - who are willing to play fair.
Example: Kim knows “everyone.” She nourishes her relationships by staying in touch with clients and business contacts, making referrals, attending business association meetings and spreading business and goodwill around. She also has formed a mastermind group of professionals with varied expertise to support each other. Her group refers business to her.

6. Point out lack of diversity when you see it
People don’t often miss what they don’t see – until someone points it out. You can be that someone.
Example: Joho declined an invitation to speak at a conference because the list of speakers was 100% male. He suggested that his spot be offered to a woman.

7. Acknowledge inclusion
Let people know you appreciate inclusiveness when you see it.
Example: After years of presenters who are predominantly Conservative Christian, the NSA National Convention finally included other perspectives at their 2007 convention. Those who felt included for the first time let the organizers know they appreciated it.

8. Ask for inclusion
If a group is missing a culture that you represent, ask to be invited in.
Example: Krista lobbied her local hospital board to include more women and offered her services. She became a member two years later.

9. Don’t whine
While the GOBC needs to know when it crosses a line, don’t inform them by whining. Whiners come from a point of weakness. Address your issues from a position of strength.
Example: Whiners complain about not having access. People who come from a position of strength let the GOBC know what it’s missing by exclusion.

10. Create your own game
If you can’t climb the mountain, go around the mountain. If you can’t be who you are and get what you want because of a GOBC, find a place where you can, even if you have to create that place.
Example #1: After years of making minor inroads in his attempt to incorporate alternative medicine into the hospital his worked in, Arthur left to work with an herbal company. Eventually he left that and now works as a digestive health specialist. He loves being able to work according to his own vision and expertise.
Example #2: Departments were operating like islands, but management couldn’t be persuaded to address the problem. Jane took it into her own hands, and created interdepartmental lunch-and-learn meetings to get people from different departments talking to each other. It was highly successful, and management took notice – particularly of the increase in productivity it brought about.

Another approach
Here’s one thing the GOBC has going for it – it recognizes the power available to it and it uses every ounce of power they have. Non-alphas often don’t.

Non-alphas have more power than they know. The GOBC is in the minority. Remember that, and use the power at your disposal to advance your own vision, to promote what is right, and to reinforce a broader, more inclusive base of power. Don’t expect the GOBC to willingly surrender power because it’s the right thing to do. You don’t need them to. You can balance the power your own way.

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Meryl Runion and Speak Strong (SpeakStrong) provides Power Phrases (PowerPhrases) and other tools to help you improve communication skills at work and at home. You can read more about her at www.speakstrong.com.

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