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How to Stand Tall in a Man's World: The Five E's to Cause Your Money and Influence to Rise
By Dalonika McDonald, Texas Department of Criminal Justice/Parole Division
Published: 12/09/2013

Femaleofficer I like being a woman, even in a man’s world. After all, men can’t wear dresses, but we can wear the pants. -Whitney Houston

My first night entering the prison was scary to say the least. I had always worked in an environment where there was a majority of female presence. There was not a guide provided for me at the prison's central control unit, concerning my new work environment. When I entered into our meeting room, it did not go unnoticed by my colleagues and shift supervisors, I was the youngest correctional officer there. I would soon learn as I conducted my first area check, it was less than five female correctional officers in our entire male prison. It took me a few bumps in the road to obtain the skill sets I have gathered, to train many women throughout the years. The following qualities have placed a vast amount of women at the top of their league. Pull up a chair and get comfortable to read what I am getting ready to share with you.

Establish Yourself by Knowing Your Purpose
No matter what you do, your job exists for a reason. Once you understand that reason – and when you fully come into the knowledge of how your efforts contribute to make the world a better place for someone else – you have found your purpose. In the interim of your new position, it is imperative you comprehend and substantiate your goals for your new job. Here are a few questions you must ask yourself; is it to make money? Soar to the top of your career? Do you need to have an abundance of cash flow to begin your own business? Do you need a career to retire in with good benefits? Or, is your number one goal to aid agencies nation wide, by creating innovative policies? Whatever your purpose is at your new occupation, it is your purpose which will help you maintain a burning passion; keeping you from being side tracked and quitting when trouble comes your way.

Why is Purpose Important?
When you are sure about your purpose, then nothing can set you array. When others are fighting about office politics, and bureaucracies, you will be arriving to work every day with a centered focused and not become entangled in these common snares. You must refuse getting off track and becoming misguided by others or false friendships. You do not come to work to build a life on the job - hopefully you will be well planted in your own personal life.

How will you be known?
My Mother says often, "if you don't learn to stand for something, you will fall for anything."

See yourself as a leading lady as you enter on the scene. Soak up knowledge as a sponge, becoming an expedient learner. At the onset, others will see you as the new girl who is pretty sharp. Position yourself around the 'office greats'. Begin to adopt calculated strategies to enhance your work knowledge. Remove yourself from your resume, take the higher road and establish your reputation as a lady who is known for her skills, knowledge and work ethic. It is a known fact; many women find it challenging to establish their own identity when surrounded predominantly by men. If this is not the kind of reputation you would like to have, then it is important to set a deliberate Plan-of-Action and get into a profitable motion.

Effective Networking
Be professional with your new co-workers. Observe your work world. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Find ways to get to know your new comrades. Join them for breaks, let them know you can be professional and yet have a sense of humor. Remain gregarious with a friendly persona; an unapproachable attitude makes it difficult to establish good working relationships with others. Reflect for a moment on the men you know. Men understand they need team members with certain attributes to reach their goals. As stated very well in the book HARDBALL for WOMEN: women, in contrast, choose to be with people who are "nice". If we feel we can't trust a colleague, we want nothing to do with him. As a result, we may unintentionally limit the resources available to us.

Here are some additional ways to network. Remain faithful and flexible to meetings. If you are planning on skipping out on a meeting, this is a sure way to miss an opportunity to put a finger in the climate and learn how decisions are being made. Spend time with each co-worker as well as identfied department heads; become accustomed to taking a helicopter view and see from management's perspective. This will feed you insight on how to bridge gaps and become a powerful, sharp-witted instrument for your agency. The more you become involved in solving problems, you will increase your dependability and credibility.

Educate Yourself on Time Management and a Laser Focus
You will have a hard time staying focused if you feel the work you are doing is meaningless. If you are having trouble staying focused at a job and there is no motivation for you other than a paycheck, this is a RED ALERT signal to re-think your goals and assignment. Find keys to your success which has meaning and gives you a sense of purpose, you will find your motivation and focus spring forth (which you can gather in my article, Steps To Success: Lieutenant at 25).

Use your time wisely, it is the moments of our life we can never get back. One way to eliminate wasting time is utlizing the Laser Focus Method, instead of multi-tasking. One of my mentors, self-help guru Brian Tracy writes in his book Eat That Frog; the first thing you should be working on, is the task that will get you closer to achieving your BIG goal.

FOCUS first on the task which will cause you to excel in life. Instead of depleting your energy by spreading your attention across multiple tasks, establish a habit of forming a specific target daily. For an example, writing my book-The Unimaginable Life of an Ordinary Man, I had to place the task of writing first, before any other projects. I knew, once I completed my book it will become an avenue to help others take charge of their life and another door for financial cash flow. Remember, do not allow a - Lack - of - Focus on the RIGHT project to destroy the original goal: unveiling the high achiever in you! A final word on focus...

Peace of Mind:
A lack of focus also means a cluttered mind; if you have too many task coming at you, this can lead into over load and discombobulation. Focusing eliminates clutter and allows you to think of solutions- thereby growing larger than ANY problem a woman can have on her road to success. Learn to play with the hand your dealt, instead of throwing your cards down and quitting.

Evaluate Continually Your Growth Chart to Excellence
Visualize how you desire your day to evolve. If you do not know exactly how you want your day to go, how can you expect to succeed? Another mentor of mine Clifton Price, taught me how to take advantage of every opportunity. He visualizes, sets a plan, obtain necessary skills and execute-thereby becoming unstoppable. He has the same work hours in a day as his associates, but you could not tell by his success, he snatches every chance he SEES to take quantum leaps forward into success. I learned from training in corrections it is how to combat random events and unknowns by picturing your desired outcome. When learning how to apply the tool of positive visualization to control certain reactions, you have just promoted yourself to become known as, 'The sharpest of the sharpest'. Do not allow what you have heard about other women's failures to affect you. Stay focused. Have your own rules to regulate yourself. Arrive early. Do not be the first to rush out the door. Write your reports, and memos with excellence, you never know who will read or view your writings. Some people in your agency will never lay eyes on you, but form an opinion about you based on your work ethics.

It is imperative to clearly illustrate the reputation you aspire to portray. Colleagues should begin to see you as a strong force, but not a threat. Although you are new to the agency, your senior counterparts should view you as a new strong team member to depend on as you continue to develop in OJT-(on the job training). I created a book mark I distribute called, Plan Your Way to Success, the first action key on my book mark is: Commit yourself to personal development. Never stop educating yourself on your job/career. Set high goals, acquire the knowledge to get there. Write your desired accomplishments down on paper, "I will manage all three prisons in our city by 20--. Two years later I will become the first woman Regional Director for our State."

Make yourself known as the lady with a pleasant attitude and clear boundaries. One thing about being a lady, YOU ARE JUST THAT, a lady...and that is a wonderful quality. Believe me when I tell you, if you learn how to perform your job with excellence, your presence will be greatly appreciated. You are an addition to the environment. Do not allow yourself to feel less than because you are not one of the guys. Do not conform to your male co-workers, by taking on manly characteristics just to fit in. Through your actions let the people you work with know you can still do your job and be the lady. This is the time to become innovative!

Eradicate All Complaining, It's Not Attractive or Professional
When I first started my career in 1997 in corrections, I was placed on the perimeter truck every night by EVERY shift Lieutenant. After a few weeks, I became very offended and I began complaining to a senior corporal, who we will call Laura. Corporal Laura began to educate me on the Do's and Don'ts of my new job. A word of wisdom which stood out to me was, "do not let them know what bothers you, figure out a way to enjoy your assignment and become good at it."

Learn what it takes to manage your assignments. Practice and write down instructions; this eliminates the need to ask unnecessary questions. Partner with others who will not exploit your weaknesses but help mentor you until your performence is proficient.

Develop the skills to triumph over conflict and communication barriers. To learn how to overcome these common pot holes: a recommended read is- Her Place at the Table, a woman's guide to negotiating five key challenges to leadership success.

Bonus Tip:
When you began working your new job, do not join the crowd and start complaining. You are not in position to make changes yet. Graduate to a position of leadership, get involved in departmental groups which promote team work and solution-oriented change, with NO complaining! Look at the positives, see where you can be a part of growth and effective change.

Here is a re-cap of the 5 E's which will cause you to rise high:
  1. Establish Yourself by Knowing Your Purpose
  2. Effective Networking
  3. Educate Yourself on Time Mangement and a Laser Focus
  4. Evaluate Continually Your Growth Chart to Excellence
  5. Eradicate All Complaining- It's NOT Attractive
Through the years I have learned it can be difficult working in any environment structured predominantly for men; but only when I allowed it to be. It was my male leaders in the prison who taught me the power of knowledge, staying informed and ruling with with a strong arm. Within three years after entering my new career, I was promoted to lead my peers.

Corrections.com author Dalonika McDonald is a former Lieutenant for the Nebraska Penal System. She was promoted by The Texas Department of Criminal Justice to supervise staff to promote security first, and then provide resource services and programs to ex-offenders and their families. 
The scope of McDonald's professional experience encompasses more than inmate relations, she is a highly accomplished criminal justice and public relations specialist poised for her role as a community liaison, instrumentally contributed to recruitment initiatives, training and development and strategic building of relationships with corporate leaders, as an active member of many local and national organizations including: National Association of Women Business Owners, American Correctional Association, Executive Women in Texas Government.

Other articles by McDonald


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