Success Gears

Glass Ceilings Aren’t Holding Us Back… It’s Old Habits and Misused Gears

By Susan Ford Collins

Did you ever wonder why women… without whom none of us would be here and none of our progeny would be either… are so under-recognized in our history and under-paid in our economy?

How many male corporate heads can you name quickly? Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeffrey R. Immelt, Rupert K. Murdoch, Leslie Moonves (Oops, he’s a man.). How many female corporate heads come to mind? Carly Fiorina, Sheryl Sandburg… why is this question so much harder?

Even going by a male name can give a woman an advantage. Outstanding writers have used pen names… male or ambiguous names… so their femaleness wouldn’t get in the way. Mary Ann Evans, the author of Silas Marner, called herself George Eliot, while Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin called herself George Sand. And, just in case you think this only happened in the past, J.K. Rowling, author of the fabulously successful Harry Potter series, was told by her publisher to use her initials instead of her first name (Joanne Kathleen) because boys wouldn’t read a book by a woman!

Today women lead top major corporations and create billion dollar startups, but most people still unconsciously think “a woman’s place is in the home.” But now, “a man’s place is in the home” too! And we’re trying to figure out how to divvy up the responsibilities to everyone’s advantage… especially our kids!

To succeed, a society has three gear-like functions

1st Gear is for starting and restarting… new lives, new skills, new methods and technologies. Familiar 1st Gear keywords are: safe, dangerous, right, wrong, good, bad, can, can’t, should, shouldn’t, have to, must, always, never, possible, impossible… words we remember hearing our mothers and fathers using! (Keep in mind, the word familiar comes from the word family.)

2nd Gear is producing and competing, for providing enough goods and services to meet everyone’s needs now and in the future. 2nd Gear keywords are: more, better, faster, cheaper, quantity, quality, win, lose, deadlines and profits.

In today’s money-oriented, fast-paced business arena, most of us spend most of our time accelerating in 2nd so it’s hard to slow down to listen, or to imagine another way. But, every once in a while, a creative thinker, male or female, comes along and introduces breakthroughs.

3rd Gear is for creating and innovating, for supporting new ideas, methods, and approaches, new products, businesses and technologies so we can prosper now and in the future. 3rd Gear keywords include: aha, discover, create, invent, innovate, and startup.

Historically we’ve thought of women as mothers, teachers and nurses, so even today, we don’t immediately picture women leading boardroom meetings, or heading billion dollar startups, entertainment and government entities, but they are! Marissa A. Mayer is president and CEO of Yahoo!; Sheryl Sandburg is COO of Facebook; Janet Napolitano is Secretary of Homeland Security; Margaret Hamburg is Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; And Oprah is a multi-billion dollar entertainment mogul.

Lesser-known women inventors have made our lives easier and safer. Marion Donovan created disposable diapers; Patsy Sherman devised Scotchgard to repel stains on fabrics; Mary Anderson invented windshield wipers; and movie star Hedy Lamarr co-invented a “Secret Communications System” to stop the Nazis.

What produced these drastic changes? It was nothing less than war

With our men fighting in Europe and Asia, women went to work in factories and, took over their positions temporarily, like the fictionalized Rosie the Riveter. After the war, returning soldiers, backed by the GI Bill, cranked out The American Dream.… with a home for everyone and more children than usual to fill them, plus washers, dryers, refrigerators, cars, TVs instead of radios, and stay-at-home moms. Then in 2008, the housing boom slowed and The Great Recession pushed male-oriented manufacturing jobs overseas… to China and India. Wives went back to work again to stabilize family incomes… leaving displaced men at home, unprepared, and frequently unwilling, to take on 1st gear childcare, cooking and homecare.

Societal gears needed to shift but they didn’t

“It’s not my job” is a hangover from the homemaker-breadwinner/”Father Knows Best” division of labor many men were brought up on and still unconsciously expect their wives to provide… even though their wives’ lives have changed drastically.

Struggles and resistances led to divorces and divided families, and the number of single mothers accelerated. In 2011, there were 13.7 million single parents in the U.S. raising 22 million children. But contrary to stereotypes, 76% of custodial single mothers are gainfully employed. According to the U.S. Census, poverty isn't the norm for most single parent families, even though custodial single mothers and their kids are twice as likely to live in poverty as the general population.

Today 50 % of women work outside the home. And 40% of working women are the primary breadwinners

According to the Harvard Business Review, women are starting businesses twice as fast as men.” Why? The Wall Street Journal reports it’s “to seize control of their time and schedule at work.” And no surprise, “The women who make it to leadership roles perform better than their male peers. And more women are C-suite executives (CEOs, COOs, CIOs, CTOs and the like) than at any time in our nation’s history.” Some women started making more money than their husbands so Innovative couples decided to “change traditional places”… leading to the advent of stay-at-home dads. Other men have moved into formerly female professions such as nursing, healthcare and education.

Today “women’s work” is “men’s work” too. Busy-working-mothers are teaching their busy-working-husbands how to use the washer and dryer, how to manage lunches, homework and bedtime, how to share drop offs and pickups and care for elderly family members. To handle the squeeze, men and women are getting creative. Jessica Alba is CEO of a billion dollar Unicorn (a Unicorn is a start up that reaches one billion dollars!) The Honest Company evaluates the safety and quality of everything that touches your family; Adi Tatarko and husband Olon Cohen, cofounders of another billion dollar Unicorn, Houzz, share online what they learned when they decorated their own home.

And “men’s work” is “women’s work” too. Ginni Rometty is CEO, Chairman and President of IBM; Marillyn Hewson is CEO, Chairman and President of Lockheed Martin; Indra Nooyi is CEO and Chairman of Pepsico; and Ellen Kullman is CEO and Chairman of DuPont; and Mary Barra is CEO of Barra, our nation’s largest auto-maker; Alison Overholt is the new first female Editor-in-Chief of ESPN The Magazine; and Linda Cohn recently made history for hosting SportsCenter for the 5,000th Time.

Glass Ceiling or Gear Errors?

No, it isn’t a glass ceiling that’s stopping us. It’s men and women failing to gear up, and down, at the right time… pressing ahead in 2nd when they need to shift to 1st to nurture and teach; or working longer and harder in 2nd when they need to shift to 3rd Gear. It’s employers and managers mistakenly over-incenting, over-salarying and over-bonusing 2nd Gear activities, squeezing out the time needed for 1st Gear learning and relearning, and 3rd gear creativity, innovation and startups.

The stalling, lurching, and cracking glass is because we’ve been “gaming the workplace”… paying Success Gears and sexes preferentially. And it’s costing us our health and our wellbeing, and our children’s. Now that you know how and when to use all three Success Gears, you can be a more skillful “homeplace and workplace driver.” And a happier and more balanced example to your coworkers, families and kids.

Susan Ford Collins…“America’s Premier Success and Leadership Coach” CNN… is the creator of THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS, the powerful leadership system used in more than 3,000 training programs in major corporations and organizations, in startups and turnarounds. Audiences begged Susan to write about the 10 Success Skills so after shadowing Highly Successful People (HSPs) for 20 years and coaching them for 20 more, she wrote The Joy of Success, Success Has Gears, and Our Children Are Watching, all now available on Amazon. or

Home-Based Professionals Need to Understand More About Success Than Their Big Corporate Counterparts!

By Susan Ford Collins

Working from home gives you the freedom to forgo exhausting commutes or be there for your kids, but it also means you need to understand success and leadership in more detail. Everyone needs this information today, but most of all you!

Success has gears

As you drive, you use gears to move ahead, slowly at first then more rapidly and easily. As you succeed, you use gears too. No gear is better than any other; all are essential. Each has its own timing and use. Like a skillful driver, you must shift up and down as circumstances require.

The 1st Gear of Success is for starting and restarting, for becoming effective at new skills and technologies. 1st Gear is signaled by familiar* keywords:can, can’t, safe, dangerous, right, wrong, good, bad, should, shouldn’t, have to, must, always, never, possible, impossible, rules, test, retest, certify and permission. (* Keep in mind, the word familiar comes from the word family.)

The 2nd Gear of Success is for producing and competing, for deciding which 1st Gear rules you can eliminate to become more efficient. Keywords include: more, better, faster, cheaper, quantity, quality, win, lose, produce, compete, deadlines, irritation, longer hours, frayed nerves, missed deadlines, higher stress, injury, illness and burnout. The 2nd Gear of success is for winning new clients and satisfying those you have, for making more money by getting more work done… on time at top quality. Most business people spend most of their time in 2nd Gear, but regularly gearing up to 3rd Gear is essential in today’s highly competitive, rapidly changing world.

The 3rd Gear of Success is for creating and innovating, moving past what used to be productive to what will work now, and in the future. For trusting hunches and embracing serendipity so you can discover new approaches your customers may not know they need yet, but they do. Keywords include: aha, realize, breakthrough, discover, create, invent, innovate, and startup.

Leadership has gears too

Each Success Gear has a corresponding Leadership Gear designed to meet the needs of individuals and teams using that gear.

Your greatest challenge as a home-based business is to be able to shift out of the gear you’re in… into the gear someone else needs you to be in…your customer, your provider, your spouse or your child. If you can’t shift immediately, you need to make an agreement to shift in a few minutes or at the end of the day. And then keep your agreement so they’ll believe you next time and they make, and keep, similar agreements with you!

When you lead in 1st Gear, you supervise new learners, building and rebuilding their self-confidence and enthusiasm, monitoring progress and intervening quickly to avoid injuries and setbacks. You are responsible for deciding when learners are ready for the increased decision-making and quality/quantity standards of 2nd Gear. (A quick reminder: Next time you meet with a new customer or provider, be sure to shift into 1st Gear and allow yourself plenty of time to learn about their outcomes and requirements, and share yours in detail.)

If you’re home-based, you need to remember that children are in 1st Gear most of the time. So if they’re around, you’ll be starting and restarting, supervising and supporting a lot! Sometimes their needs will conflict with your customers’ needs, especially when your kids are sick or on vacation from school and you’re pressing to meet deadlines. Or when someone you count on can’t come as expected. “Oh no, I don’t know that program! Where is the manual?” Even though slowing down from 80 mph to 15 is hard, once a solution is found, you’ll be ready to speed up again.

When you lead in 2nd Gear, even though you’re not physically working beside them, you are still in charge, managing their performance… in advertising, social media, design or accounting… via weekly reports, phone calls, emails and texts. You manage from more distance, explaining the job, answering questions, and providing timely feedback. (Be sure that you teach your collaborators how to use these gears too so they will know when they need to gear up or down! And ask you to do the same.)

When you lead in 3rd Gear, you are responsible for nurturing creative ideas, yours and others’. For finding the support and expertise needed to bring “out of the box” thinking into reality and profitability. And for holding dreams when setbacks wipe them out temporarily. (Remember, your customers want you to help fulfill their dreams so they especially appreciate when you remember details they forgot, or add features they have never even considered… creating a new sale and a delighted customer.)

It’s time to break a business-destroying habit… waiting for permission!

What keeps most people from gearing up to creativity is an old habit. As you grew up, you had to get permission to shift from 1st Gear control to 2nd Gear independence. But the shift from 2nd to 3rd is one you must make yourself… in your own timing and according to your own instincts. You don’t have to ask for anyone’s permission. Simply stay alert and gear up when a great idea presents itself out of the blue!

Most business people spend most of their time accelerating in 2nd and most of their coworkers… hearts pounding, nerves jangling… race along with them. But this overuse eats up the time you need to gear up to create new approaches (3rd) or down to learn and relearn skills, technologies and information (1st). Bottom line: Spending too much time in 2nd Gear makes business development and people development, including yours, next to impossible.

Who do you know who is constantly doing more, better, faster, pushing longer and harder to earn promotions and bonuses… sometimes making productivity and competition more important than future thinking, creativity and growth? Who do you work with who needs to gear down to relearn and restart (keywords: missed deadlines, stress, frustration, illness and burnout). Or gear up to create a new dream?

When financial push comes to shove, instead of listening to and supporting creative ideas, do you sometimes subtly, or not so subtly, incent yourself and others to stay “in the box”? Do you over-reward or disproportionately bonus more-better-faster behaviors? Or under-reward the learning and relearning your business and life needs? What support systems and incentives do you have in place for nurturing new approaches that could bring you, and your customers, greater success in the future?

Home-based business professionals need to understand more about success and leadership than your Big Corporate Counterparts do! Gear Flexibility is vital for those of you who have to be CEO, head of sales, admin, advertising, marketing, training and maintenance… all in one day! And who work with kids nearby, requiring you to stop, listen, get stuff, and refocus on the task at hand in between. So, especially for you, using the right Gear of Success and Leadership at the right time is essential for your sanity and future success as well!


Susan Ford Collins is a sought-after speaker, trainer, and the founder of The Technology of Success. She began her career as a young researcher at the National Institutes of Health with a radical idea: to focus her research on healthy, highly successful people (HSPs) rather than dysfunctional ones. Her Technology of Success book series includes: The Joy of Success: 10 Essential Skills for Getting the Success You Want, Success Has Gears: Using the Right Gear at the Right Time in Business and Life, and Our Children Are Watching: 10 Skills for Leading the Next Generation to Success. Find Susan Ford Collins on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and

Why Couples Argue… Relationship Gears are Clashing!

By Susan Ford Collins

Happiness and satisfaction, as well as upset and disappointment, are sourced in something very few people understand… the Three Gears of Relationship!

Like cars, romances start in 1st Gear. Connecting with someone new is scary. You don’t know that person’s rules yet… his or her rights and wrongs, goods and bads, have tos and musts, preferences and dreams. You slowly get to know each other, spending hours together learning what each of you likes and dislikes, wants and doesn’t want so hopefully you will be liked or even loved. And your relationship will last.

Years later happy couples look back to 1st Gear nostalgically…“Honey, do you remember when we first met, when we talked half the night and spent all our free time together.” They keep pictures of their precious 1st Gear startup memories in scrapbooks or on their computer screens.

When the relationship shifts into 2nd Gear, things speed up. You’ve been obsessed with each other for months. Your friends have been asking whether you’ve fallen off the earth or moved out of town. But all that initial time and conversation was well worth it! You are happy together, compatible and in sync. Now it’s time to de-focus on each other and re-focus on the rest of your lives. Time to straighten up your homes, reconnect with friends, catch up on your workload, finish your now-dusty sales proposal or mid-year review. (Thank heavens relationships don’t stay in 1st Gear forever. We’d never get anything else done!) In 2nd Gear it's more-better-faster and more-better-faster still. Productive, efficient, competitive, you work longer and harder to afford your upcoming wedding or trip, to establish your home, to afford children, fund IRAs or 401Ks, buy stocks and put aside money for college or retirement. Wow, you’re accomplishing so much together!

Well, not really together. Now you're spending more and more time apart… living in different worlds, roommates passing in the night, picking up kids from school, babysitting so one or the other can attend a meeting or take a client to dinner. You continue moving farther and farther apart, spending less and less time in the same place at the same time.

Until Boom! You hit a shifting point. That 1st Gear feeling is gone! Do you love each other anymore? Do you even like each other? (Ironic, isn’t it, since all relationships shift up and down through these three gears? So, even if you start over with someone new, sooner and later you’ll be accelerating ahead in 2nd Gear in that relationship, too.)

What do you do now? Do you stay in the relationship the way it is and sink into anger or depression? Do you separate and start again with someone else? Or do you shift into 3rd Gear and get creative together? Honey, I do love you. What can we do to re-new our relationship? To make time to talk again, to get to know each other again, to plan and dream again? Maybe we need counseling?

Oversimplified but nevertheless true. Let’s look at an overview:

1st Gear is for starting anything new.

2nd Gear is for doing more-better-faster, for accelerating into efficiency and productivity.

3rd Gear is for dreaming, innovating and renewing, for becoming creative.

In every relationship, understanding the gears matters! Sometimes you’ll be in the same gear at the same time… learning together, producing together. or creating together. But sometimes you won't, and there'll be Mis-Gear-Matches... or upsets. Like when you’ve slowed your energy down to a quiet purr and finally gotten your baby off to sleep and your husband or wife rushes in (still in high 2nd Gear from his or her work or workout) and wakes up your sleeping child. Arggg!

Special note... upsets between you and your spouse frequently occur when you’re in 2nd Gear and your kids are in 1st Gear. When six-year-old Sally needs you to slow down and listen to the upset she had with a friend who didn't speak to her on the playground. Or three-year-old Tom’s frustration over not being able to fit his puzzle together. Or thirteen-year-old Harry who has just come up with a new way to run your business. Keep in mind, his creativity might even work!

Here's an important heads up... don’t expect your kids to shift gears. The responsibility for gearing up, or down, is always on you! That's what makes parenting even more gear-challenging than romance and work.

Slowing down and gearing down is challenging in today's more-better-faster 2nd Gear world. It takes high intention and tremendous caring to manage the 2nd Gear pressures Corporate America exerts on us, to constantly push longer and harder, to produce more quantity and quality and profits, to stay revved up day after day, quarter after quarter... not just 9 to 5 but 24/7!

Remember, to avoid arguments and disappointments, it’s important to truthfully and sensitively acknowledge what you can’t do, or haven't done, and arrange a time when you can do it. “Honey, I know you want me to slow down and talk right now. I know you asked me yesterday and I was busy then too. But I promise I’ll make time this weekend." Yes, that's a great start! But be sure you keep your word… or the upset will get worse. Much worse! And you won't be believed next time you promise anything else!

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email

* For more on Success Skill 2, Shifting Gears, read The Joy of Success, Our Children Are Watching or Success Has Gears.

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful…

the perfect toolbox for today’s “always-on” global world.

$14.95 paperback$3.99 eBook

Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins



A Bad Year in the Life of a Top Sales Rep

Here’s important news! Success Has Gears… and so does Leadership

By Susan Ford Collins

As we drive, we use gears to move us ahead, slowly at first then more rapidly and easily. As we succeed, we use gears to move us ahead too.

First Gear is for starting anything new. Second Gear is for accelerating into productivity and competition. Third gear is for breaking through into creativity and innovation. No gear is better than any other; all are essential—each one has its own timing and use.

Each Success Gear has a corresponding Leadership Gear which specifically meets the needs of individuals and teams who are operating in that gear… the 1st Gear of Success/the 1st Gear of Leadership, the 2nd Gear of Success/the 2nd Gear of Leadership, the 3rd Gear of Success/the 3rd Gear of Leadership. Today most of us spend most of our time accelerating in 2nd Gear (more-better-faster-cheaper). And most of our managers are accelerating in 2nd Gear with us. Unless something unexpected occurs.

It was a peak moment. Bob had just returned from Pharmco’s national convention where he had been appointed to the President’s Council and invited to speak on how to be a successful sales rep. Because of Bob’s consistent high performance, he had won every mixer, toaster, bonus and trip, even one that landed Bob and his wife, via helicopter, on top of a volcano high above the clouds in Hawaii.

Finally Bob and Ellen felt secure enough to start a family and they had just received the long-awaited call: Ellen was pregnant. Elated, they took the steps they had been planning: they bought a larger home and a kid-friendly mini-van.

But a few weeks after the conference, Pharmco lost its contract with a major healthcare provider. The loss was over profit margins and had nothing to do with how well Bob was servicing their account. But instead of backing their loss out of Bob’s next year’s sales numbers, management simply tacked on the usual 6% increase.

Bob was staggered. He would have to produce a 31% increase just to make his numbers! Six per cent was a stretch but 31% was outrageous. He tried talking to his boss Howard and suggesting alternative approaches but, instead of being supportive, Howard accused him of having a bad attitude. That stung! Bob had always been seen as “positive and resilient.” In fact, those were the words his managers had included in past appraisals.

The next twelve months were tough. Bob had felt valued when he was exceeding expectations. But now he felt he had become upper management’s personalized message… no matter who you are or what you’ve done in the past, you have to increase your sales 6% each year. Or else.

Even though Bob was making steady progress, Howard kept delaying his appraisal. When they finally met, instead of acknowledging Bob’s successes and reaffirming his confidence in him, Howard was critical. Weeks later, his feedback was threatening. “Unless you start getting the job done, we’ll be forced to find someone else who can.”

It was time for the convention again, but this time Bob didn’t walk away with all of the prizes; in fact, he didn’t get any. But most devastating of all, this year’s top sales rep only exceeded his plan by 10%... and not 31!

Weeks later Bob was offered a job with a competitor. And despite lingering feelings of loyalty, he accepted it, eager to find a company that would be loyal to him as well.

What would skillful 1st Gear Leaders have done?

How would responsible leaders have behaved when they heard about the loss of the SMB account? As soon as they found out, they would have immediately asked Bob to meet. Let’s imagine sitting in and listening to what is being said. “Bob, we’ve just learned that we’ve lost the SMB account due to pricing, and we know this is going to affect you and Ellen profoundly. That’s why we’ve asked you to come in and think this through with us.” “SMB? Whew, it sure will. What happened?” asked a stunned Bob. “We simply couldn’t make the price point they insisted on. These things happen from time to time, but we don’t want it to hurt you. We would like to help you lay out a new plan and rethink your goals for the upcoming year.”

This kind of support would have been great, but it didn’t happen. If they had, Bob would have felt Pharmco’s leaders were there for him, and he would have reached his goals and taken home an award. And even if he hadn’t, he would have felt good about his company and been a far more motivated and loyal employee in the future! Instead they lost him to a competitor who gave Bob the support he needed and (with his inside track on the moves Pharmco would probably make) Bob soon became number one in their company. Unfortunately, millions of valuable employees are being lost in just this way because companies fail to understand this crucial shift leaders need to make from the 2nd Gear of Leadership back into 1st Gear... at times like these.

The mantra of today’s business is more-better-faster-cheaper. But when circumstances force you to gear down, to rethink and restart, will your company's leaders have the skills they need to help you? Or will they force you to move on and take the experience and inside-information you’ve gained into the open arms of a competitor who is all-too-eager to take away a significant chunk of their business?

(c) Susan Ford Collins. Contact me for permission to use it.

* For more information about the 2nd Success Skill, how to when to use all three success and leadership gears, read The Joy of Success and Success Has Gears.

The Technology of Success skill set empowers team members to move ahead together, instead of forcing one or more to leave and take their ideas and expertise, and your ideas and expertise, with them to a competitor.

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful…

the perfect toolbox for today’s “always-on” global world.

$14.95 paperback$3.99 eBook