The Unspoken Code by Marja Norris – book review

Secret handshake. Good Ole Boys Club. Neither has anything over the network of women you will identify with in this book, The Unspoken Code. What I appreciated most about reading Marja Norris’ book was her way of making her points with no hint of poor attitude. Early in the book Norris describes what she calls the unspoken code. “The code is about understanding the behaviors that differentiate power players from the rest of the pack. It’s about exuding confidence from the inside out. It’s about building assertiveness and flexing communication skills and conveying a professional image.” If that sounds on par with jumping hurdles, that’s why this book was written. Marja Norris will be your coach while you learn your way through the process of aiming high and achieving higher. You won’t read a chapter and move on. This author understands the power of commitment and sums up every chapter with a list of Things to Remember and a Plan of Action. As a result of what you learned, what will you stop doing? What will you start doing? And we all know some of what we do is already beneficial so – what will you continue doing?

The Unspoken Code flows. By that I mean the author feeds her readers what they need to know and what they need to practice before moving on to the next thing. For example, she doesn’t bait you with becoming a power player until she directs your thoughts and actions to first laying the foundation.

Setting Yourself Up For Success

Let’s start with the ABCs. Attitude, Behavior, Confidence

We could easily succumb to pressures around us and give up on choosing a positive attitude. Granted some folks are more naturally positive while others lean heavily to the negative. Still we choose our attitudes and we choose our reactions. Norris offers an excellent visualization exercise for creating a winning attitude. The truth is, “No matter what your circumstances, your attitude is a choice you make that affects everything you do.” Dovetailing with attitude is behavior which is a full cycle version of action, interaction, reaction. What does success look like? It looks a lot like good behavior: discipline, integrity, kindness, conquering fear. This leads directly in to confidence. “Confidence is being conscious of your power.” The author shares advice for overcoming Imposter Syndrome and an exercise in Creating an Aura of Confidence.  

Her chapter titled The Hole in Your Glass is Leaking intrigued me. You will instantly relate to the analogy when you read the chapter. We hold a glass in our hand with 6 holes, each representing an area of our life. Water fills the glass and no matter how hard we try, we cannot hold the glass in a way that keeps all holes covered. One is always leaking. The meaning threaded through this chapter is about living our life around our values even though we must choose to tend to one area rather than another as we scramble to multi-task. Learn about yourself as you also create a Master List based on techniques that work best for you. Remember the focus of this book is on helping you become who you want to be and have the life you want to have. It is not selfish to take care of you first. To be the best version of you, make self-care a priority.

Becoming an Office Power Player

You will learn in this section of the book, what the author experienced herself and learned from her business coach and from others. Immediately, we discover that men and women are wired differently. This means we think differently and see things from different perspectives. But here’s an absolute truth. “Despite our differences, men and women must work together effectively in the corporate world to get things done.” By the word ‘different’ we know that what starts out as differences can escalate into conflict, hard feelings, maybe a few grudges, a little gossip. Nothing good can come of that, certainly not the productive, power player that will grow your leadership and earn you a C-Suite position. Norris levels with women, “As women, to know this [differences] and understand that it’s about us shifting to fit the environment, in a healthy way is imperative.”

Dress the Part

I’m not a fashionista. Maybe you aren’t either. Whether you’ve got fashion nailed or not, the final chapters of the book are a powerhouse of tips, hints, and rules for how to dress up or dress down for the occasion. There really is a power look and even if there is no dress code, there are proper ways to dress. The author reminds women that they need to be conscious of what they are trying to achieve, what image they are portraying, and what motivates them to choose the outfits they wear. If you think the business suit has to be straight, navy blue, and unadorned, think again. Marja Norris says you can mix your personal style, fashion, and flare into your wardrobe, and this chapter on how to dress the part has strategies to help you attain the power suit look that looks like it was made for you.

“The code has gone unspoken long enough. You now have tools to handle situations you come across with strength and perseverance.”

–Marja Norris

This article first appeared on BizCatalyst360 in BizBooks.

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