C-Suite Confidential


By Henna Inam

So you have a leadership problem. Who do you turn to for help? Do you ever wish you had a personal board of directors who could help give you “no-holds barred” advice to your thorniest work, leadership and advancement issues?

Welcome to C-Suite Confidential: women with C-suite experience who have faced many of the issues you face. They tell it like it is… everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask. So join the conversation – submit your question to editor@littlepinkbook.com and comment on the answers below.

Contributors to C-Suite Confidential include Astral Health & Beauty CEO JuE Wong, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Senior VP Jacqueline M. Welch, Newell Consumer Group President Penny McIntyre, former Southern Company SVP and CIO Becky Blalock and Red Hat, Inc. Executive VP of Strategy & Corporate Marketing Jackie Yeaney.

From January 23, 2012

Dear C-Suite Confidential,
I consider myself a fairly intelligent and articulate leader. I can express my ideas well and usually speak up when I know what I’m talking about. The problem is when it comes to large meetings. I find it hard to be “heard”. Something I state will often get ignored and then when another colleague (usually male) says the same thing it is acknowledged and he is given credit. What do I need to do to get heard?

How you are heard in a meeting has a lot to do with what is going on in the meeting, and what went on prior to the meeting.

A lot depends on what kind of confidence you project when you raise your ideas. If your own tone of voice is uncertain or if you are posing your ideas as questions, people quickly read into that. Are you in one of the “power seats” at the table? Many times in large meetings women don’t get a seat at the table where they can be clearly seen and heard. The power seat is often facing the door or at the head of the table. Are you willing to jump up and take notes and write on the white board? This gives you more power. The bottom line is that YOU have to feel powerful and confident in order to be heard.

Factors affecting how you are heard also happen prior to the meeting. What kind of expertise or credibility have you established? Have you pre-aligned with powerful people who will attend? Some organizations have a culture of pre-alignment. Another tactic if this happens often is to discuss this issue with a “buddy” who can jump in and reinforce your point of view if it has been ignored. Finally, get a mentor or boss to give you feedback on whether you are truly as articulate, concise and persuasive as you perceive yourself to be. If not, get trained in how to communicate more effectively.

From December 13, 2011

Dear C-Suite Confidential,
I have a great relationship with my boss. We have worked together for five years. He has given me many opportunities and continues to “have my back”. However, he highly values loyalty. What this means is that I cannot disagree with him in meetings even when I have a different point of view. My peers and others have noticed this. They believe I am either quiet because I lack courage or worse that I don’t have the right knowledge of our business. I don’t want to undermine the relationship, but I also believe his leadership style is holding me back. What do I do?

First, make sure you are fully understanding the dynamics of the situation. Is this a perception you have or is it reality as experienced by others as well? If the situation is real, the fact is that some bosses have an ego and do not like it when they are disagreed with in public. There is a way to respect the work style of your boss and still establish your credibility. When it comes to managing others’ perceptions of you as a leader, look for other forums to demonstrate your leadership, expertise and credibility, perhaps when the CEO is not in the room.

As it relates to your boss, discuss your point of view and influence his thinking and the outcomes 1 on 1. It is critically important that you do not give up your responsibility to be an active participant and influencer in the decision making process because this is what will help you create value for the organization and feel a sense of accomplishment.

From November 28, 2011

Dear C-Suite Confidential,
My boss is a woman and she sees me as competition. She takes every opportunity to undermine me. Forget giving me credit for my work! I am considering leaving my company to find better opportunities elsewhere. What’s your advice?

First, understand what is reality and what is your perception. We all see the world through our own filters, so take a step back and get some facts before you decide to leave. Ask yourself, is there something I may be doing that I am totally unaware of, that’s causing issues with the boss?

Start by having a conversation with her to reassure her that you are out to help her be successful and that you would like a discussion on what you both can do to support each other better. Also you need to ask for candid feedback on what you may be doing to keep your relationship from being all that it can be. Another strategy is to get feedback from others who you trust and who are neutral, about what they observe. There is simply nothing more powerful than two women working together for a common cause.

After this open and non-defensive fact seeking mission, hopefully the two of you will get back on track. If not, you may need to look for an opportunity within your company. Or you may need to seek out other sponsors inside and outside to help you find the right job for you. The most important thing is to fix the situation or find something else. You don’t want to be stuck in this situation as it is not healthy for you or for your workplace.


Have you faced this issue before? How did you respond? Comment and let us know.


C-Suite Confidential is compiled by Henna Inam, CEO of Transformational Leadership Inc. Henna is a C-Suite Executive Coach for high-potential women leaders and CEOs. She brings 20 years of experience running P&Ls and leading in C-Suite roles.

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