Managing Boss and Expectations Positioning for Influence
Miriam Rivera, Vice President/Deputy General Counsel, Google

Teaching Guide for Women Inspired Program


In today’s world, highly talented women continue to face challenges that limit their success, career potential and general life satisfaction.  In partnership with the GSB Women's Task Force, the GSB Alumni Relations Office makes these resources available to spark thinking and discussion on important topics of career navigation, leadership through awkward dynamics in the work place, work-life balance, and diversity. 

These resources are designed to challenge you to grapple with the forces driving your own internal compass and gut reactions as you watch, discuss, and share a combination of both the Capstone Perspectives and Video Case Vignettes.

Women Inspired Program Vignettes

This content is designed from real stories and perspectives of diverse women with the simple assumption that career satisfaction and life success are driven by the ability of a woman to make consistent value judgments and decisions that are driven by an inspired perspective of oneself and ones life vision.  The vignettes and cases are structured to spark personal reflection around one's own values and decision-making process, which will lead to transformative learning of practical ways to address challenges.  The video case resources are made available to all alumni and the content is designed to be experienced individually, in a group discussion or with a professional coach.

The collection includes two different types of videos: Capstone Perspectives and Video Case Vignettes.  The Capstone Perspectives feature a woman’s perspective, experience or advice on a particular topic or theme.  The Video Case Vignettes focus on a particular challenge a woman faced, decisions she made, and what she learned from the experience.

Video Case Vignette Format

These case vignettes feature leaders who share their experiences and insights to help you understand the opportunities you have to hone your own thinking and career design.  The case vignettes are broken into 3 clips: the background and challenge; the decision or action taken by the leader and the results of the case with lessons learned.  At the end of each clip, take time to consider or discuss how you might handle the dilemma, whether or not you agree with the action that was taken, or what you might do differently and why.  Take heed of the lessons learned and see what advice you can take from leaders who have gleaned important insights from their experiences.

How to Make the Most from the Video Vignettes

Try to watch a combination of Capstone Perspectives and Video Case Vignettes from different leaders.  In many cases, you will see that leaders may handle the same question or challenge very differently.  Consider which approach or perspective works for you.

As you watch the videos, reference the scrolling notes next to the video, which includes a brief background on the leader, a summary of the vignette, take-aways, and questions to consider.  For every vignette, ask yourself whether or not you agree with the leader.  Try to understand what values or frameworks are driving your reactions.  If you have not yet faced a similar challenge, consider how you might use the challenge to prepare for what may lie ahead.  You may also recall a very different challenge you have faced that brings you to a similar conclusion as the challenge in the video.

As the leader shares her challenge, imagine yourself in her shoes and how you would handle the situation.  Pause the video to consider and/or discuss the challenge, how it is handled, and the lessons learned.  Think about what you might do differently or what was done well.  Use these stories and insights to consider the values and decision making processes that drive your own internal compass.

Take time to reflect on your own situation, goals, values, plans and future.

After you watch the video, ask yourself the simple question:

What will you continue doing? Start doing? Stop doing?

Additional Readings and Resources


Video Vignette: Positioning for Influence

Featuring: Miriam Rivera

Summary: A lawyer must advocate for herself when she is being excluded from the team about to handle a pivotal case for the company.

Background on Leader: Miriam is the co-founder of Ulu Ventures after a role as Vice President/Deputy General Counsel at Google.  She joined Google in 2001 as the second attorney and then proceeded to build and lead an award-winning, global legal department of 160 while Google grew from 160 to 15,000 employees and contractors. Every major deal and every dollar of revenue generated by Google from $85M to $10B used an agreement crafted or approved by Miriam during that time. Prior to joining Google, Miriam worked for Ariba as counsel, after having co-founded angel and then venture-backed Outcome Software. Previously, she worked as a strategy consultant for Accenture and as an associate at the law firm of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison.  Miriam serves on several Boards and has taught at Stanford as a lecturer. As a first generation college student and scholarship recipient, Miriam graduated from Stanford University where she earned the AB, AM, and JD/MBA degrees.

Takeaway: Do not let stereotypes about women shape your ability to have an impact in your work.

Considerations and Questions (Segment 1):

  1. How would you manage this situation with your boss, in her shoes?
  2. What dynamics are important to manage in this situation?
  3. What do you need to do to have an influence in your company and be seen as a leader?
  4. What do you need to do in your company to be seen as someone with influence and power?

Considerations and Questions (Segment 2):

  1. Do you agree with how Miriam handles this situation and what would you do differently?
  2. How can you gain confidence and trust from your organization’s leadership to be invited to participate and make significant contributions?
  3. How do you manage your image at work when you prioritize your family?

Considerations and Questions (Segment 3):

  1. What surprises you about how this situation turned out for Miriam? 
  2. Do you agree that it is important to, “speak truth to power” in order to get the benefit and presumption that you are on board to do the most important things that the company needs?”
  3. What lessons can you apply from Miriam?
  4. How can you evaluate different work opportunities to strategically select those that will have the biggest impact on your success in the organization?

Key Take-Aways

Realize colleagues and supervisors form perceptions and make important assumptions about you based on bias or your personal situation, which may strongly influence your professional status and success.

Be aware of what messages and signals you send that may shape the assumptions others may make about you.

Be aware of subtle decisions or organizational shifts that reveal negative perceptions others may have of you.

Consider how you can influence decisions or misperceptions others may have of you and your commitment to the organization.

Be intentional about creating the image you want others to have of you and reinforce this image with visible and consistent actions, a commitment to tackling tough challenges, and a willingness to make sacrifices for the organization’s success.