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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the August 7, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Power Tools for Women — An Inventory

In this excerpt from her new book, "Power Tools for Women"

(Three Rivers Press/Random House), Joni Daniels sets out an inventory

of essential equipment for women.

The contents of your toolbox will include:

Safety Goggles — for Safe Vision. This most basic

tool provides you with clear vision and allows you to see and sell

the big picture. You can’t make progress if you can’t envision where

you’re going and then communicate it in a persuasive way to others.

The goal is to keep from getting lost and from losing others.

Electrical Sensor — to Decipher Clues that People Send

and Your Internal, Intuitive Responses. Get a better sense of what’s

going on behind the "walls" — that is, behind the social

facades. You were trained from the time you were a child to ignore

your intuitive responses to the behavior of others and go with what

parents, teachers, and the culture told you. A lot of subtle messages

get sent your way every day. If you develop the ability to pick up

on the external signals people send you and your internal reactions

to situations, and to interpret them accurately, you can plan instead

of being taken by surprise.

Demolition Hammer — to Smash Outmoded Rules. Sometimes

the many unwritten rules of life can harden around you like concrete.

With your Demolition Hammer — awareness, strength, and tact —

you can smash through policies and protocol that are dated, dysfunctional,

detrimental, or downright foolish. As you learn how your deepest fears

of bucking the system — of being a rebellious little girl —

keep you from pursuing your goals, you can also learn how to gracefully

yet effectively tear down the unwritten rules that get in the way.

The goal is to be civilly disobedient.

Tape Measure — to Establish Limits. Master carpenters

always need to know where one room ends and the next begins. The ability

to judiciously use the word "no" allows you to set appropriate

boundaries. As a woman, you are encouraged to be nice, which means

always saying yes to requests. But it’s vital that you develop a comfort

with refusing requests so that you’re not sacrificing your needs to

others’. And it’s equally important that you accept their refusals,

too. The goal is to learn how to measure, respect, and enforce your


Power Saw — to Cut Away What Holds You Back. Rather

than making excuses, covering the mistakes of others, or trying to

keep things afloat, cutting your losses will allow your whole ship

to sail ahead more easily. With a Power Saw, you can eliminate whoever

or whatever is preventing you from achieving your objective. The goal

is to embrace change and the risk that accompanies it by severing

yourself from outdated, unproductive ways of doing things, including

relationships that don’t work.

Power Drill — for Precise Questioning. If you want

to create openings, you need to find the exact bits — that is,

ask just the right questions — that allow you to progress. When

you know how to drill with precision, you understand when and what

to ask, what not to ask, and when to figure something out for yourself

at a later time. By becoming proactive about requests and diminishing

the guilt that may accompany them, you can be much more effective.

The goal is to communicate precisely and genuinely with others.

Soldering Iron — to Create Strong. Connections. Being

able to forge durable bonds in both your personal and professional

life with those most important to you will help keep you strong. This

will be especially apparent in times of stress, when you need the

support of others. The goal is to reinforce all relationships that

can provide you with support and strength.

Power Sander — to Smooth Out the Rough Spots with Others

and Buff Up Your Sense of Humor. The person who knows how to polish

relationships and smooth down the edges between herself and others

is the person most likely to succeed — and to help others succeed.

In fact, all the tools in your toolbox will work much better if you

develop the ability to reduce the rough spots. An understanding of

what brings joy into your life and inspires smiles from others makes

everything you do easier. The goal is to reduce the roughness in your

life and your relationships by replacing it with smooth rapport and


Battery Pack with Recharger — to Generate Energy.

There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a task and not having

the stamina and resiliency to see it through. If you know where your

energy comes from, why it becomes depleted, and how to conserve what

you have, you can avoid ever running dry.

Voltage Meter — for a Reality Check. Your power can

flow only if your voltage can flow — if your inner wires aren’t

loose, broken, or tangled. You can keep track of what’s going on internally

when you learn how to assess your strengths and weaknesses honestly,

monitor your well-being, and address any short circuit that might

develop along the way.

Duct Tape — to Apply in an Emergency Situation. There

are times when the best tool, no matter how well honed, may not get

you the desired outcome. These are the "when all else fails"

strategies: the rolls of duct tape you can use to slap together a

quick — or permanent — fix when nothing else more obvious

has done the trick. The goal is to have an infinite roll of plan Bs.

Depending on the situation, you may find that you have room

for other Power Tools. I suggest, however, that just like any skilled

artisan, you start with the basics and add to your tool collection

as needed.

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