I Was Told I Was “Too Nice” To Succeed in Business

I Was Told I Was “Too Nice” To Succeed in Business

Fran Hauser, 46

Startup investor, Former President of Digital at Time Inc. and Author of the Forthcoming Book, The Myth of the Nice Girl

Startup investor, media executive and author, Fran Hauser, has a knack for building things. Instructed early on in her career to be tough in business in order to be successful, Hauser instead took on a leadership style that was both approachable and assertive. After a series of career milestones, including the acquisition of Moviefone by AOL, and helping to build people.com into one of the most profitable businesses at Time Inc., Hauser has proven that you can kill it in the business world by being both kind and strong, and her forthcoming book, The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate, explains exactly how.

1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?

I’ve worked across several industries, but have consistently gravitated toward roles that allow me to do what I love most: build things. At Time Inc., I was passionate about collaborating with startups and building digital extensions for iconic brands like People and InStyle. As an investor, I help smart entrepreneurs build successful businesses and introduce creative products and services into the marketplace. My greatest achievement has been my ability to reinvent myself throughout my career, most recently transitioning from digital media to investing. Leaping into the unknown can be scary, but it’s how I got to where I am today.

“I’ve learned over the years that the best female leaders are confident and authentic…”

2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?

I was told throughout my early career that I was “too nice” to succeed in the business world. I got the advice that I needed to behave like a man if I ever wanted a corner office of my own.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Mullowney
3. Do you find this is a common stereotype in the media industry, or in the business world at large?

A lot of women, including myself, face the same Catch 22: if you’re too nice, you’re labeled a pushover or ineffective. If you’re not nice enough, then you’re a bitch. These stereotypes are harmful and divisive. I’ve learned over the years that the best female leaders are confident and authentic – whether they’re tough, nice, or some combination of the two.

4. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?

I swaayed the narrative by focusing on delivering results while staying true to myself. I played a central role in the acquisition of Moviefone by AOL, helped build people.com into one of the most profitable businesses at Time Inc., and developed a robust investment portfolio focused on female-led startups – all without sacrificing who I am​.​ I showed the doubters that you can be kind and strong and still kill it in the business world.

“If it doesn’t feel authentic to who you are, don’t do it.”

I was sick of feeling powerless and not honoring the tiger within me. But I was also afraid to write about my inner most feelings about sex, power dynamics, social status, money and all the issues I felt compelled to unravel. I was afraid to show my anger. I was afraid people wouldn’t like me anymore and that I’d shatter that passive, sweet girl image I had cloaked myself in. Well, I think I shattered that and thank God!

5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?

If it doesn’t feel authentic to who you are, don’t do it. Trying to be someone you’re not usually doesn’t end well, and it can leave you feeling unfulfilled. Being genuine and confident will lead you to opportunities that bring out your best self. You have the power to create your own reality.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Mullowney
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