The Negotiator Magazine

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Reader's Review

John Baker

Her Place at the Table: A Woman's Guide to Negotiating Five Key Challenges to Leadership Success
By Deborah M. Kolb, Judith Williams, and Carol Frohlinger
304pp. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004
Hardcover Edition: (US) $ 27.95

Deborah M. Kolb is professor of management at Simmons Graduate School of Management and former director of the Program for Negotiation at Harvard Law School. Judith Williams is a former investment banker and co-author with Professor Kolb of Everyday Negotiation. Carol Frohlinger is an attorney and consultant to corporations on the retention and advancement of women.

The authors are principals in The Shadow Negotiation, LLC, an e-learning company that provides negotiation training for women. Readers of The Negotiator Magazine will know them for their works which have appeared many times in this publication (most recently in the September 2004 edition).

Her Place at the Table is an extraordinary work by three talented authors who understand their topic and know how to bring it to life for their readers. As the authors correctly note in their introduction, "the stories in this book carry substantial lessons for anyone - male or female - trying to puzzle through the challenging landscape of today's organizations" (p.15). They are right on target. This book is a "must-read" for every person at any level in an organization.

Having spent many years in a wide range of organizational settings, this is one of those unusual books that not only rings true on every page, but offers a realistic strategy for achieving success to leaders at every level of the hierarchy. If you are just starting out in an organization or poised on the ladder for the top job you will find solid practical and indispensable advice on leadership success.

The book draws upon Kolb, Willliams and Frohlinger's extensive experience in working with women in organizations. Using interviews and discussions with more than 100 women across a wide spectrum of leadership positions, the authors present and examine the key challenges, the probable traps along the way and the strategic moves that leaders must negotiate to achieve success. What emerges is an outstanding hands-on guide to the process that is precise and illustrated with well-told and aptly applied experiences from their interviewees.

This book arrives at a time, as the authors point out, when women in the United States hold over 50 percent of the middle rank positions in management and the professions, but occupy only one percent of top leadership positions. Obviously, this work will be a valuable contribution to the success of women and men seeking to fill these management positions.

The authors begin by exploring the reality that "a woman seeking to establish herself at the leadership table must negotiate her way through a number of tests that her male colleagues often bypass" (p.3). A brief discussion of these gender hurdles forms the important context for the larger work.

The focus of the book is on negotiating "five key challenges critical to [the] ability to lead" (p.14). Its "lessons," the authors correctly note, apply to " anyone -male or female- trying to puzzle through the changing landscape of today's organizations" (p.15).

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October 2004