“The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in managing her flamingo: she succeeded in getting its body tucked away, comfortably enough, under her arm, with its legs hanging down, but generally, just as she had got its neck nicely straightened out, and was going to give the hedgehog a blow with its head, it WOULD twist itself round and look up in her face, with such a puzzled expression that she could not help bursting out laughing”. Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
There is always at least one flamingo in every career woman’s life even if you do not realize it.
Usually it is the person that frustrates you the most, the person that makes it difficult to get your job done and be able to continue down the path to success. This is the person who makes it hard to win because of how they play the game; this is the person who behaves very similar to Alice’s flamingo.
Your flamingo may be your boss, it may be your colleague (the one in the old boys club that keeps steeling your ideas and presenting them), it may be your colleague - the one that is your competition for your next job, it maybe your shift manager or group leader, it may be a customer, or it may be your partner who really does not understand why you stay in your job. But no matter who your flamingo is, the key to success is learning how to control them, how not to become intimidated and how to laugh at them when they look at you with a puzzled expression because you actually learned to control them.
Just as in Alice’s story, managing your flamingo will not be easy, nor will it be predictable.
Why is that? It is because a Flamingo is a Flamingo; because it is a tall and extremely beautiful bird that likes to show itself off. Learning to manage a flamingo begins with understanding its strengths and weaknesses. For example, let’s consider the flamingo’s assets. The long legs and long neck that make a flamingo beautiful also make it quite fragile. They are an asset as well as a hindrance. Maybe that’s why Alice’s flamingo does not want to hit the hedgehog with its beautiful long fragile neck, or have its legs tucked away. In learning to manage your flamingo, examine its behavior, notice its assets and recognize its strengths and weaknesses.
Usually the flamingos in the business world are just as hard to manage as Alice’s flamingo, therefore trying to understand their motivation is a great way to begin the management process. Are they trying to maneuver themselves in order to get themselves into a comfortable or better position? Are they being unpredictable just to throw you off balance or gain advantage? Are they flashing their beautiful colors just to get attention? Once you observe and understand their behavior you can focus on the management process.
Flamingos in the business world, just like the birds, usually stand high and have their long necks and heads up in the air.
They are often so busy showing off their colors and being unpredictable, that they miss the entire meaning of the task, job or game. By focusing on what they do not focus on you can use the flamingo’s weaknesses to take control of the situation and manage them. Focus on the details that are too small for them to see. Bring substance and control to your position by being the unpredictable one. Most important: do not let their behavior intimidate you.
During my years in business I have observed many flamingos in action.
I have seen how their unpredictable behavior has frustrated those around them. Flamingos are in all positions, at all levels. Let me start with one of the most common and dangerous ones you will encounter in your career experience.
The Flamingo Colleague - Female
A female colleague with the flamingos character is probably the most difficult to manage. In the business world, people with this kind of character will be very protective of their career ambitions, just as a female flamingo would be protective of her young. The biggest mistake many women make is getting into too close of a relationship with their female colleagues at the workplace. Friendships and relationships are fine, as long as none of your colleagues have a flamingo character and you are not fighting with them for a promotion, a new position or the boss’s attention. Unfortunately this is rarely the case in the business world; there is always competition and fighting. Therefore I strongly suggest against becoming too close with your peers if you want to climb the ladder.
Why? Because women are often even more competitive with other women when fighting for a position, more competitive than if they were fighting with a man. And if one of the women has the character of a flamingo, then the battle can become very intense.
If you find that hard to believe, think of it in terms of what flamingos would do.
Let’s say there are 3 flamingos, all females and one piece of flamingo food. There would be an intense battle for that piece of food (especially if they all had children to feed). If there were 3 flamingos in total and 2 were females and 1 male, where would the intensity of the battle be? Probably between the two females!
In my 28 years of working, I have observed brutally competitive behavior between females, more competitive than between females and males. I, who could have categorized my younger self as a flamingo, will also admit in my climb up the ladder I engaged in brutally competitive behavior to ensure I got what I wanted. So what is my advice in dealing with unmanageable, unpredictable, female flamingos in the work place?
First, I hope you are colleagues and not friends with your flamingo.
Second, in competing for a position concentrate on what the qualifications of the position are, and how you can fulfill those qualifications.
Flamingos will focus on who they are more than meeting the qualifications. By nature flamingos will try to sell themselves not their capabilities. Most female flamingos are so focused on themselves; they may miss the real picture. Use this to your advantage. Fight the battle for the attention from those whom are making the decision, do not fight against your competitor directly. Be strategic and smart in battling the circumstances, not the flamingo. Never go into direct battle with a flamingo, you will only lose.
In the end have some fun and burst out in laughter at the flamingo’s expression when they realize you are able to predict the unpredictable, and maybe even control the situation. Last, remember in each management challenge with a flamingo there is a learning lesson and if you are a flamingo, then maybe it’s time to pull your head out of the sky and learn from my observations of you.
So, this is my flamingo lesson for today, more advice on Flamingo Bosses, Flamingo Men Colleagues and more to come in the upcoming weeks, and for now just burst out laughing.