A Management Shock Jock

Posted by: Jena McGregor on October 24, 2007

If the management world had a shock jock genre, a book that landed on my desk the other day would be a perfect candidate. “What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business: Opening Up the Heavily Guarded Alpha Male Playbook,” by Christopher V. Flett, a “reformed alpha male,” executive coach, and owner of the eponymous (of course) Flett Group, intends to target women readers with lessons about how to get ahead in an environment still dominated by men.

Appropriately, Flett spends eight of the first 10 pages of chapter one writing about himself—he boasts that his teenage lawn mowing business netted him more money in one summer than a lawyer makes in one year. And he bows to gross stereotypes in explaining the types of “masks” women wear (geisha, mother, whore, etc.) when dealing with men.

Flett writes from the point of view that women should change their ways to earn the respect of men obsessed with cars, toys and watches (all of which he addresses in the book) and who refer to “women who are continuously on maternity leave” as “breeders.” He spends almost no space suggesting that these egotistical men should change their ways to learn from women who are better at collaborating or cultivating relationships with clients.

To be frank, I found the book’s braggadocio tone too off-putting to finish it. Perhaps most disturbing of his comments: “Alpha Males absolutely put the glass ceiling in place, but it has been the professional woman who has held it there,” which appears on the preface’s very first page. With comments like that, it seems unlikely many other women—his target readers—will spend much time reading the book, either.

Reader Comments

Diane

October 24, 2007 3:41 PM

I marvel at the number of books lately that play off gender stereotypes. One that just came across my desk: "Seducing The Boys Club (Uncensored Tactics From A Woman At the Top)" ... It's by the Chairman of McCann Erickson New York. The blurb states "A big-time realist, she figured out that the art of S&M--seduction and manipulation--is the secret to winning over men."

My question: Why does the sitting chairman of a major ad agency feel like she has to fall back on this stuff to write about her career? I guess it's just more proof that any publicity is good publicity in the eyes of some people.

Thomas

October 24, 2007 8:19 PM

What a disservice to women everywhere, especially young women. Let this "alpha male" (code for "loser") guy keep his lawn business. He certainly doesn't speak for all men. Ultimately if you want to be promoted and run the company, make the company money. Save the company money. Protect the company's money. In the near future, companies will be clamoring for talented women executives in order to diversify their management make up. If you're a woman it's a positive, not a negative. Keep at it and don't let men like this guy discourage you. Thomas

Rich

October 24, 2007 8:46 PM

Christopher Flett sounds like a teenage boy. His book is not worth anyone's time.

Cynthia Taber

October 25, 2007 10:12 AM

I saw this guy last week in Sacramento with 3,000 women. He is a bit 'in your face', but his message is real and is shocking. I find it interesting that a journalist would suggest women not read this information. I went to his keynote, to his afternoon presentation (women were arguing, trying to get in because the room only held 300 and double that wanted in).

I think as women, it is time for us to look at things from both sides and stop only listening to women talk to each other about how to deal with men. I'm half way through the book and see myself in a lot of his examples.

Jena, I'd be interested in what he said during your interview with him that made you so mad. Go back and read the rest of the book. Maybe somethings touched close to home that you don't realize? We as women need to consume what we can and lead from the front, not continue to believe that we are fine and men have to change. In his talk, he isn't suggesting we change who we are, he is suggesting we adjust the way we interact with these alphas and stop giving up our power. Why wouldn't you want women to know that? I know why Rich doesn't and my guess is he hasn't even seen the book.

All and all, I can only talk from my own experience, but I saw the looks on women's faces when he was telling the truth and they were lined up all day to buy his book from the seller at the conference.

Jena

October 25, 2007 10:33 AM

Cynthia:

I appreciate your comment. Interesting to hear that you found his talk useful. That's great.

I didn't speak to Mr. Flett. I just found some of the things in the book off-putting. I also never said women shouldn't read the book, just that many women may have a similar reaction that I did when, out of the starting gate, he says women have kept the glass ceiling in place.

Maybe there is some truth to that. We certainly shoot ourselves in the foot sometimes. But I also believe it works both ways: That the workplace--and business--would be much better if more of these alpha males took a page from "women's playbooks," too. One of my male colleagues, a top performer in our group, plans department parties and remembers to celebrate life events (new homes, birthdays, etc.) of people in our group.

How about this: I'll finish the book, and blog again with my thoughts when I'm done?

Cynthia Taber

October 25, 2007 12:56 PM

Jena,

Thanks for responding to my message. I think guys need to change as well and Chris says that they are forced to. The model of business has changed and old boys alphas just aren't competitive any more. That's why he calls himself 'reformed'. He was an 'ass' when he started, but now he tours the country sharing with women the 'inside scoop'. I think he is a champion of ours, not an enemy.

I also hear you on the glass ceiling comment, but his example he used at the event was the first "Apprentice" show. The women and men got split up onto teams by gender in the beginning. For 6 weeks the women beat the men's team hands down, but when Trump had the two remaining guys split up and choose teams, the women forgot their alliance with each other and ended up attacking each other. At the end of the show, there were the same two guys left after the women voted each other off. This shows that women have to STOP trying to get on the guy's team and lead from the front (which Chris suggested to us).

Chris really put his heart on his sleeve when he talked to us and I can confirm for you that he is both authentic and real and I feel that his writing of this book is a gift to us, not a judgement.

I think we all need a little more honesty in business from men and I think this is a start. Please let me know how you find the rest of the book and read it as if your brother or father was writing you a letter. I think that's the intention he had. That's how I'm reading it. Not as a criticism, but as a 'inside' look.

Looking forward to your comment and thanks again for writing back. I'm really impressed that you did.

Cynthia.

Mizbiz

October 25, 2007 7:12 PM

I agree with Cynthia. Recently, I heard Chris present and I was blown away. His style is brash, but, it's refreshing to hear someone tell it like it is. You state that you are offput by his "bragadoccio" style? Would you prefer he understate his accomplishments ... like we women so often do?

Jena, I think you are short changing yourself and your readers by not looking past Chris' style. He is a huge supporter of women and his advice is invaluable. He talks passionately about the need for women to support one another. Why not lead the charge?

Mizbiz

Jann Taber

October 26, 2007 8:34 PM

Jena, I absolutely agree with Cynthia Taber(no relation)and MizBiz. I had the rare privilege of having a couple hours of face time with Chris while he was in Sacramento for the Professional BusinessWomen of California conference on Oct. 16.

It was clear to me from our conversation that he is a rare champion for women's entrepreneurial success.

Having access to the alpha male playbook is priceless for women in business. His information is long overdue.

Finish his book with an open mind. I look forward to hearing more from you.

Jann

Christopher Flett

October 29, 2007 9:39 AM

Good morning Jena,

I think your article created some excellent discussion and I'd be interested in your take after your finish the book. My intention of the book is not for women to become men. Rather, for them to understand how to engage with men. The Old Boys are not going to change and are clinging on to the old model of business (hence the lack of women sitting on senior boards). Young Alphas (including those reformed) understand the power of women in business and are looking to partner with, rather than suppress these female colleagues. Comments like Thomas' "good for you" is not good enough. It is one thing to be supported; it is another to have all the facts.

However, when women give up their power to us, it is impossible for us to see them as equals, even if they can do the same job. This isn't about women getting equality from men in the workplace, it is about women KNOWING they are equal. Women are in the position to lead, but if they are checking in with men, making excuses, putting personal issues before professional, it is going to be difficult for men to see them as leaders and only continues the stereotypes.

Your response to my message (and especially my delivery of it) is common. 50% of women think I'm trying to tell them to be men and close down. The other 50% are itching to see if I will be honest. Read the book as it a blunt friend were telling you the truth.

As the son of a powerful women, the husband of a powerful woman, and having worked with 2,700 professional women, I have nothing but the highest regard of respect for business women. What I'm not prepared to do is sit back and have women continue to mentor women on how to deal with Alphas while Alphas laugh in the board room on how women sabotage their careers. I could soften the language, but it wouldn't be truthful. It would perpetuate the 1/2 truths that men tell women in business. It is time for all of us to get very honest if we want things to change.

Sincerely,

Chris.

Brad

October 29, 2007 10:09 AM

Hey... the guy releases this book, gives away our 'insider' info and then the ladies whine about it. If you don't like what he says, fine, stop reading it. I have heard that he is 'in your face' and 'brash' but that's the way men talk to each other. I think the reason why women are 'shocked' by what he has to say is because he has thrown the whole 'PC' talk out the window and says it 'like it is'.

Heather White

October 29, 2007 10:24 AM

Jena, I hope you go back and finish the book from a different perspecitve. As stated in the book, Mr Flett's intention was to start a conversation and judging from this blog he has accomplished just that.

I think this is a must read by women in order to gain a new awareness of their male colleagues in business. I think it's fair to say when we know better we do better.

I don't believe it's Mr. Flett's intention to have women change their ways at all, but, rather to know exactly where the other players are at so that women have the ability to shape their "game" accordingly.

Tell me an NHL coach who wouldn't want to see the oposing teams lines pre-game, or an NFL coach to be privy to the other teams plays before the game even starts.

Mr. Flett is doing a service for women in business. He acknoledges that it is women who "are now in a position to lead because theirs is the only model that works in the new glowbal business environment".

I think the blog is a good example of the law of polarity: There is only room for criticism of this book for the simle fact of it's merit.

Jena

October 29, 2007 10:27 AM

Wow, a great response and conversation. Which I do recall Chris hoping for in the book. As promised, I'll finish the book (it may take me a week or so) and blog again.

Ted Loo

October 29, 2007 11:12 AM

Many years ago I was taught great managers adapt to different personality types. The message I get from Chris is the same, that women need to adapt their style when dealing with the Alpha Male personality type. It's easy to say that egotistical men should change their ways but in the end a person, male or female, is accountable for their own success.

Chris is my business coach and not only has he taught me how to adjust my approach when dealing with women but now with the book he is helping women learn how to better deal with me. If read with an open mind the book is a win-win for both sexes.

Cris Rowan

October 29, 2007 1:36 PM

Like Ted, Chris is also my business coach and has been my inspiration and light...on a fast track! In addition to business structure and mgt. support, Chris has shown me my own "launch pad" and has helped me truely believe that the world is MY oyster.

Chris has a vision of the business world that is beyond equality, where every person, no matter who they are, can achieve greatness. Isn't it in everyone's best interest to get curious and strive to better understand their colleges? Whether it's race, gender, or age differences, we have so many skills to offer each other, but "belief" in skill is key.

Jena, you probably should meet Chris, and you too would see the greatness he inspires in us all.

Angie Weid

October 29, 2007 3:20 PM

Jena, take the time to meet Chris. After working 8 years as an engineer at a MAJOR motor company. Being young female engineer, I learned quickly how men play. If I didn't, I could not have survived. Chris's message rings true. His intent is to educate women. Sometimes the truth hurts. But once you learn the truth, it all makes sense.

Rana

October 31, 2007 1:13 PM

I've had the pleasure of meeting with Chris several times and all I can
say is anytime I get a chance to sit with him it is so valuable to me as I have never had anyone push me so hard to go get what I deserve. He's done nothing but inspire, motivate, and encourage me in getting to the next level with my business career. Chris truly does care about helping woman succeed and if woman can't appreciate his honesty and bluntness then frankly I don't see them reaching their highest potential in their careers. Thanks for sharing the truth with us Chris!

Susan

November 6, 2007 2:35 PM

I find it really ironic that Chris writes about how he wants to "give" women what we "need" to be in business with Alpha Males - isn't that contradictory?

Strong, powerful women don't need a man to tell us how to handle men. We've been doing it for thousands of years.

The reason we're not sitting on senior boards is that we've found better, more fulfilling things to do with our time, such as start our OWN businesses. Here's the truly subversive truth: Women don't need to know how to play with the alpha males - we can create our own wealth and success, on terms much more satisfying that material gain or fancy titles on business cards.

Women, we only lose if we decide to play THEIR game.

Sherri

April 2, 2008 3:08 PM

As a woman I can honestly say. No Susan you are wrong "Women, we only lose if we decide to play THEIR game."

Women lose when they fail to recognize there is a game going on and that winning requires understanding the strategy so as to play to win. You have already lost because you have determined it is their game - with your mindset. The game belongs to the one who wins. To effectively beat the competition one has to understand them - closing the mind hands away the win.

Andy

September 9, 2009 7:30 PM

I get bewildered with women and their games.

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