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Saturday, October 17, 2009

READ THIS: Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire by Mireille Guiliano

savoir faire \, sav-,wär-fer’ \ n.m. 1: Know how. French savoir-faire, literally, knowing (savoir) how to do (faire). 2: Competence, experience. 3: The ready knowledge of the right course of action: knowing what to do and say and when and how to do so. 4: Operating knowledge of business sense and sensibility.

...but we at Whom You Know believe you knew that!  Just a little reminder from your classes from Mlle Marie-Claire Charton, if you were lucky enough to have her.   Even if you didn't, you can still have Savoir Faire, and perhaps you already have it.  This book will serve as a elucidative life tool for many, a refresher course for some, and entertainment and reassurance for others.  We love her word: smexy.  You must read the book to see what it means; we can't tell you everything in this post!   Whom You Know enthusiastically recommends  "Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire" by Mireille Guiliano.

And to address a point about New York City that Mireille Guiliano brings up, because Whom You Know is of course about the best of Manhattan, we even agree on her politics: "...[prior mayors of New York City's] consensus for their performance was that New York City was just too big and too complex to govern...And then came Rudy Giuliani and next Mike Bloomberg. Wow, what a difference."  

Although Peachy Deegan has not met Mireille Guiliano, she thinks they would get along quite well and we agree with nearly everything Mireille Guiliano says.  After all, she is known to be the second coming of the Widow Clicquot, and you will remember we were quite fond of HER, who proclaimed, one quality: the finest:

We like that Guiliano addresses the whole person and every aspect of life; she is right: we do not live in a vacuum of work.  Her concern for living the best life is one we share and her unique perspective with cross-cultural values add to her unique outlook that we all should listen to.  A outside of the box thinker, Guiliano is successful because of her thoughtful and strategic approach to life.  We love her radio ad idea.  She is direct, honest and helpful to those that recognize that they can personally improve, and who is perfect?

Some of our favorite parts of the phenomenal book:

"So, life and careers are lived in episodes and in stages, but taking some calculated chances (read: risks) also makes all the difference."

"Don't let fear be a barrier to achieving your ambitions."

"Fact of life: A degree from certain 'brand-name,' quality universities worldwide (they number about a hundred is a competitive advantage." (Thank you Dad, thank you Boston College)

"The quality that sets people apart in business is their ability to communicate orally, in small and large settings, their ability to write effectively-to get their points across clearly and efficiently in a variety of forms to a variety of audiences-and to communicate visually, whether through graphic pictorial or verbal messages."

"See, networking is easy, tres facile, and here are my three thoughts again: Go, Talk, Behave. Bonne chance."

"Quality in all things and less is more."

"If I could give women one 'beauty and branding tip,' it would be to get a great haircut and invest in regular blow dries." (Thank you Erica Bennett.  See Salon Peachy!  We believe Erica has even done Mireille's hair.)

"To me and to many others, actor or waiter, artist or banker, you are either an interesting nice person, or not."

"Outperforming market benchmarks and exceeding your goals allows you to keep your job and perhaps pop a few corks of Champagne."

The author of the New York Times bestselling French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Women for all Seasons, Mireille Guiliano knows firsthand the pressures, pitfalls, and pleasures of the working world.  For over twenty years, she was the CEO of Clicquot Inc., the American division of the celebrated French Champagne company.  Under her leadership, the brand grew from less than 1% of the US market to more than 25%.  Mireille is renowned for her reputation as being a champion of women in business, and now, just as she made millions of women step back and take a common sense look at their diet and health in her French Women books, she does the same with their working life in WOMEN, WORK & THE ART OF SAVOIR FAIRE (Atria Books; $24.95; October 13, 2009).
In WOMEN, WORK & THE ART OF SAVOIR FAIRE, you will find a wealth of strategic ideas, lessons, stories, essays, and invaluable advice culled from Mireille’s decades of life experience—showcased in a fresh and utterly original way.

Mireille professes that she doesn’t view herself as a business professor, management consultant, or career guru.  She does view herself, however, as an accomplished businesswoman with a uniquely female perspective on the practice of business in America and abroad, the evolving role of women in business, and the global transformation of the marketplace. For her, WOMEN, WORK & THE ART OF SAVOIR FAIRE, is about helping women obtain the knowledge, know-how (savoir faire!), and the tools for empowerment and balance in today’s business world.

In WOMEN, WORK & THE ART OF SAVOIR FAIRE, Mireille writes, “The need to find a balance between work life and personal life is not restricted to women, of course, and has become one of the great struggles among today’s workers and ‘working wounded.’ But it is especially resonant among women.  Many of us try to be good to everyone else and devote our time doing so.  It’s part of the super-woman ethos—nurturing others before ourselves.”

Replete with helpful hints and vivid illustrative vignettes from Mireille’s own life experiences, WOMEN, WORK & THE ART OF SAVOIR FAIRE covers a myriad of relevant and provocative topics, including:

  • How To Balance Your Talent And Passion With Opportunities

  • Choosing The Right Company—And Right Position—For You

  • The Importance Of Branding Yourself—Making Yourself Truly Unique

  • Managing Your Company’s, Your Boss’s—and Your Own—Expectations

  • The Art Of Conversation And Effective Negotiating

  • The Principle Of Enlightened Self-Interest:  Or…If Necessary, Fire Your Boss And Hook Your Star To An Outstanding Leader

  • Finding Your Personal Zen: The Importance Of Moi Time

  • Identifying And Eliminating Stress Producers

  • Why (Business) Men & Women Are Different

  • Eating For Business & Pleasure

  • & Much, Much More…

WOMEN, WORK & THE ART OF SAVOIR FAIRE is not just another “business” book—it is a book about life: How to make the most of it, and how to find balance when you are working long days and trying to be happy and fulfilled at the same time.  Mireille shares her thoughts on everything from acing a job interview, to surviving the indignities of a long business trip, to hosting a business dinner in a restaurant, and segues easily from the small details (“Should I go to the table if I arrive at the restaurant before my host?) to the big picture (What do I want to do with the rest of my life?”).  In essence, she makes her readers feel like they are her trusted, longtime confidantes. 

As Mireille says, “I dare to talk about style and clothes and food and wine and entertaining and LIFE because we don’t work in a vacuum.  Our work is an integral part of the rest of our lives.” 

Selections From


“We all need a special someone (or two) we can ask questions of and turn to for help…someone we can count on to extend himself or herself for us. I know I do. And I wish I’d had suitably informed people to turn to as my professional life evolved, even people who could speak with me via the printed page. I’ve written this book partly in response to the remarkable number of women who came up to me after I spoke at a conference or business school or who emailed me from all around the world after reading one of my French Women books asking me to write just this sort of book, from my life’s perspective and in my own style.

“As I wrote it, I found myself thinking about the scores of women who have sat across from me in job interviews—those who have worked for me and with me over the years; the people I have worked for (some good, some not so good)—and I thought about the things I wanted to say to them at the time but couldn’t because it wasn’t quite ‘appropriate.’ Now’s my chance.”
—Mireille Guiliano in Women, Work & The Art of Savoir Faire

  • Chance opportunities and new passions don’t strike only women starting their careers; they can occur at any time.

    “I knew a woman in her late twenties who went from working in banking to being the founder and co-owner of what became a successful children’s clothing business.  She loved the change and the challenge (and the kids).  I also have a long-standing friend “d’un certain âge,” as we say in France, whose husband ran a successful and reasonably large family tool and die business while she tended to their six children.  When he suddenly died in his forties, she decided to take over as CEO, in part to serve her family.  So this was a sort of arranged business marriage born out of necessity.  She’d been on the board and knew the business from the dinner table, but she was not (in this case literally) a nuts-and-bolts person. But she is a doer, a natural leader, the outgoing life of a party, and she found out she loved business.  She loved the challenges, the people, the networking, the sales and the rewards.  Under her leadership, the company grew and grew, and she was one of happiest and most balanced business leaders I met over the years.” 

  • It’s important to realize that from a company’s perspective you are not a person; you are a box and a function on an organizational chart.  Sad but true.

    “Am I stating this too strongly?  No.  Your needs as a person rarely figure in corporate decision making, even at small companies.  And even if you are friends outside work with some key decision makers, or at least think you are friends (it is a common mistake to think that colleagues you get along with are really friends when it is only the circumstances of your employment that create a bond), when tough decisions are being made, they will make business decisions in the best interest of the company.  It’s not personal, it’s business, as the saying goes.  That’s why reorganizations are tough on some people.  Your box on the chart can get swept away or modified in a way so that you no longer fit in.  You can understand this reality and use it to your advantage or choose to be bitter and jaded. ”
  •   Learn early the strategic use of “no.”  It will serve you well and more often than not earn you respect. 
    It’s also important to learn to say “no.” And nothing invites you to learn to say “no” more than a new job offer or promotion.  One of the biggest career decisions I ever made was to turn down a promotion…twice.  I did the usual listing of pros and cons, but in the end, it was not the position best suited for my interests or talents.  If you are good at your job, somewhere along the road you will get unsolicited job offers. Some are mighty tempting, and the grass will often look greener over there.  That’s when the ability to say no becomes an acquired talent.  Also remember that the most important veto we can exercise is over demands on our time.  You know the adage: If you want something done ask a busy person to do it.  It’s one way to earn points, but after a while too many “yeses” can destroy you.  If you don’t maintain a healthy equilibrium, you are not going to be effective in your business and career, or ultimately, in your personal life.”
  • In business, communication skills are the key to a successful career, more than intelligence, knowledge, or experience.  The latter might get you the job, but the former gets you promoted.
     “Also always remember power of “Hello” and Thank You.”  We’re all told to have a firm handshake.  As a petite woman in a man’s business world, I practiced “the iron fist in a velvet glove” approach.  I shook hands with vigor, meaning I more or less squeezed (but not bone-crunchingly hard).  That startled a few and got me taken seriously.  And I always looked them straight in the eye (an almost lost art in our multitasking world). People also like to be thanked, though we overdue the superlatives.  Today, if you want to stand out in business, write thank-you notes.  People remember.  Imagine getting a handwritten note of thanks or congratulations from someone.  A lost art and practice?  It makes a statement.  Life is so full that there’s no time to thank or praise people?  Are we so stressed and hurried that we do not make the effort to acknowledge people who impact our personal and professional lives?”
  • Just as established products and brands need updating to stay alive and vibrant, you periodically need to refresh or invent yourself.  You need to be known for your unique qualities, and that means being recognized.  Your brand needs to reflect your distinct offerings and differentiating factors.

    “A concept close to my heart is being comfortable in your own skin—bien dans sa peau.  It is not only part and parcel of achieving balance in business and life, it also relates directly to being your own brand.  Being bien dans sa peau means being true to your unique outward self in addition to your inward, emotional self.  It means developing your own style, a look and manner that feels comfortable and right to you and that you present to the world.  What’s your brand’s DNA and how is it expressed?  Clothes, jewelry, makeup, hair…voice, laugh, touch?  I have a good friend who wears a very distinctive color of lipstick.  I rarely wear lipstick, but she stands out with her deep, dark shade.  I know someone who always wears a large brooch, someone who wears a distinctive religious cross.  I could go on.  I’ll say this about me: scarves, necklaces, sunglasses.”

  • The harsh reality is that women in the workplace are judged on their looks a lot more than men.  It’s important to follow the “Golden Rules on Clothes”:  Quality over quantity; Simplicity in all things; Less is more (not in the sense of showing off your skin, but in terms of composition).

    “Say it’s not fair, but it is a silent reality.  Face it.  Women do not have to be gorgeous to succeed; indeed, there’s the argument that being too good looking can work against a woman in many professions.  A woman, however, needs to be well groomed and presentable, let’s call it soignée.  Period.  Who do you want to represent your company?  Someone with dirty, stringy hair and/or—dare I say it?—an out-of-balance physique?  Brains and personality may still get them hired, but not on the front lines or the fast track, I suspect.  Your appearance makes a nonverbal, emotional appeal, branding statement and often forms the first impression of you.  You’ve heard the phrase ‘you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.’  First impressions count in business and in life.  Here too my mother had words of wisdom: Remember, it is your hair, your eyes and smile, and then your shoes that people check out first.” 

  • Success is about managing expectations—your expectations and those of the people closest to you.  We should also never fool ourselves into thinking good is great.  Being comfortable with ourselves is a better indicator of “success” than the handbag we carry, but that bag or our ability to own it is often tied to our self-actualization and identity.

    “I do not like the word success, never have.  I rarely use it, as it’s a relative term; one person’s “success” could be a disappointment or even a failure to another.  It’s imperative to manage your expectations as well as others.  How many children are told by their parents and grandparents that they are gorgeous or smart or brilliant and they should grow up to be a doctor, lawyer, or Indian Chief?  We know that often they are projecting what they perhaps wish for themselves.  Setting and managing our own expectations defines success and a path to balance and happiness.  My advice is, don’t get too caught up in long-term definitions; chew on manageable short-term goals and benchmarks or you will only get frustrated, depressed or worse.  I’ll never be a great pianist (oh, happy day, when they invented electric pianos with earphones), so my consuming goal is to learn a new simple piece—a great pleasure and reward I appreciate fully when achieved.

  • Sleep is the most neglected state of being in American life.  We think we can cut corners, push ourselves to the limit, but we’re only fooling ourselves.  Lack of sleep makes us listless, decreases our sensory alertness, and increases our stress-response hormones.

    “I once saw a huge sign across the windows of a store on the Boulevard St-Germain in Paris proclaiming, “79% of French people wake up tired…do you?”  It got my attention, and made me think, yes, perhaps on New Year’s Day…and if that many people in France wake up tired, then 109% of the people in New York City must.  Health is not like the weather—you can indeed do something about it.  In terms of achieving balance and reducing stress, nothing is more important than a good night’s sleep.  If you are waking up in the middle of the night thinking of work and can’t go back to sleep, consider it an alert.  Writing middle-of-the-night Post-its? That’s a close encounter of the unhealthiest kind.  The rules for a good night’s sleep are basic. (You were probably taught them in elementary school.)  Sleep in a dark, quiet, cool room with a crack of fresh air.  Follow one or two rituals that help you wind down and prepare you for sleep—perhaps a systematic cleansing of your face or drinking a warm cup of herb tea.  Go to bed at approximately the same time each night. Et voila.  Then it’s safe to drive your kids to school each morning.”

“Effective leaders are real people.  People want to be led—by a person, not a name. They want to trust their aspirations, souls, values, and feelings to a real person; someone they know is sincere and trustworthy.”


Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Women for All Seasons and former CEO of Clicquot, Inc., has appeared on countless national television programs, including OprahDateline, and the Today Show, and has been profiled in a myriad of publications, including the New York TimesTime, and Newsweek.  Born and raised in France, she is married to an American university president and divides her time between New York, Paris, and Provence.  To learn more about Mireille Guiliano and her work, visit her website

WOMEN, WORK & THE ART OF SAVOIR FAIRE: Business Sense and Sensibility
By Mireille Guiliano
Published by:  Atria Books 
ISBN:    978-1-4165-8919-8
Pages:   272
Price:   $24.95 US / $32.99 CAN

Pub Date:  October 13, 2009

Atria Books is an imprint of Simon & Schuster, part of the CBS Corporation, a global leader in the field of general interest publishing, dedicated to providing the best in fiction and nonfiction for consumers of all ages, across all printed, electronic, and audio formats. Its divisions include Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, Simon & Schuster Audio, Simon & Schuster Online, and international companies in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit our website at

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