Posts tagged: leadership

Are You Part of the “Other Backward Class”?

I found this homeless man with his dog, he was ever so gentle and loving with man's best friend. Chris told me his dog, Brandy, was all he had in the world. His last dog was taken away from him by the police because he did not have tags or a ...

I read an article about the unexpected death of an Indian politician named, Gopinath Mundie. Mr. Mundie had risen to prominence from, what in India is known as, a low-caste grouping called the “Other Backward Classes.” When I read this, I almost cried. Can you imagine growing up in a country where you, your family and friends are referred to by this derogatory term?

I am not judging the Indian people, their culture or their politics (in fact, we could learn a lesson from them in democracy… if you haven’t seen this Daily Show segment on voter turn out… check it out.)

I am simply asking you to think about your life in America. We have a long way to go in many, many aspects of our young country’s democracy and fairness to our citizens. There are many problems. But one thing we don’t have are Backward Classes. Of course, we have ‘classes’ that ‘we’ consider ‘less than’ – so we all have a lot of work to do on understanding, kindness, sharing, fairness, etc.

Related to this… I hear many people complaining about our economy, but I see the restaurants are full. People complain about fuel prices, but we still drive everywhere. We worry about climate change, yet we leave our lights on, use drive-throughs and in general don’t pay much attention to our individual contribution to the problem.

I’m not blaming anyone… I have many improvements to make in my own life. For today, I am asking you to think about how lucky you are that you live in a country (with all its flaws) where education is universal and opportunities are abundant. The chance to live a life that most people on the planet would give everything to have a chance to experience. So the next time your dry cleaning isn’t ready on time or the grocery store is out of your favorite ice cream, will you stop and be grateful for the abundance that being born American has given you?

P.S. One other item of interest about Mr. Mundie… “His home district of Beed is infamous for female foeticide (where they find out if a fetus is a girl or a boy and then abort it if it is a girl) and given that he has three daughters and no son, he was often hailed as an example for others to follow. One of his daughters, Pankaja Munde-Palve, is a member of the Maharashtra state assembly.” Mr. Mundie.. you will be missed but your legacy lives on.

Photo credit: His Entire World: Homeless Man  Beverly and Pack

Feel Sorry For the Ferrari Driver

When you see someone driving a Ferrari, are you envious or do you feel sorry for him/her? Do you wonder, what do they, “do for a living” or do you think, ” that poor schlub really needs attention”?

Feel sorry for them? What are you talking about? They have money, probably a big house, lots of friends…

But the truth is that money doesn’t necessarily translate into happiness.

In a meritocracy (a society in which hard work, energy and skills are valued above other qualities), people thrive regardless of where and to whom they were born.  Those who give less and don’t try, end up at the bottom. Of course, this type of society doesn’t exist in the ‘modern world but we can adjust our attitude about effort and ‘success.’

We now view failure as something personal. We don’t see failure as a learning process.

I highly recommend this wonderful TED talk (15 minutes well spent) A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success.

We think we know what success means, but do we?

Anything Worthwhile Will Take a Long Time

We live in a hurry-up world so I think it’s discouraging for many of us that the world is not a ‘better’ place.  We feel helpless when we don’t know what to do to fix things.  This is a reflection of how much information we have about the 7 BILLION people who live on our planet. 100 years ago, we knew a lot about our block but not that much about the next city, state or country. Positive change requires effort and patience. To highlight this, think about; “Presence is far more intricate and rewarding … than productivity.” We focus a lot on productivity (I’m all for that) … I’m suggesting we spend time thinking about how we present ourselves in the world.

The reality is we may be limited in our ability to change things quickly, but there are things we can do:

  1. improve our personal awareness (strengths,weaknesses)
  2. establish a personal presence that truly reflects our values and unique perspective (without being rigid)
  3. have faith in ourselves
  4. take small steps towards improving the world – get involved in something!
  5. listen more, talk less
  6. be kind

For today, maybe you could read something that takes some effort and reach out to someone who needs support. Other than being present for those you love, do what you are called to do today. If you’re not sure, you might just need to be quiet and be patient. Two things we are short on in this hurry-up world.

I found the quote in the picture in an article titled,  7 Life Long Learnings from 7 Years of Brain Picking. Check out Brain Pickings.

Do you know Debbie Millman? She’s a writer, educator, artist, brand consultant and host of a radio/podcast show Design Matters. Check her out too.

photo credit: Israel Smith

I Hate Being A GrownUp

One of the good things about about being a grown up is that you get to choose when you act/think like a kid. The problem is that many of us never choose that path, even for a few minutes. Once we’re grown up, we think it’s wrong to be silly or color outside the lines. This is a shame.

The older we get the more invested we are in ‘the same'; what Seth Godin calls lizard brain. Our prehistoric need to stay in the cave, “to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise.”

The idea is to live our lives according to what we (and our loved ones) need at the time.  This doesn’t mean I have to work at this job or this career forever. Just right now.

People forget this. They also forget that they can change their minds. I am not recommending arbitrarily job hopping. But trying several different paths to build skills and ‘try things on’ is a legitimate path – AT ANY AGE.

The problem is the judgement of other people, specifically our fear of it. When I requested and got approval (in 1984) to manage my team while working part time, many of my colleagues were upset. Here’s what they said; “why does she get to?” “she can’t be serious about your career” and my favorite “I wish I could do that.” Blah, blah, blah. I showed them how to do it, they were too afraid. That’s cool. You do it your way and I’ll do it mine.

But if you think you can go your own way and not face judgement from others, stop. it. right. now. Accept the fact that for whatever human reason, the pack doesn’t like lone wolves. If you choose a path that isn’t like everyone else’s, people are going to be upset and many will let you know.

Insofar as you can (and still pay your bills) stop thinking/worrying about what everyone else wants/thinks. You will NEVER please everyone so you might as well please yourself.  For me, this was a tough lesson, but once I learned it… I was free forever.

It’s hell in the hallway but the difficulty doesn’t last forever. But when you’re in the hallway… it sure feels like it will.

Want a laugh? check out my daughter Jenna’s take on ‘grownuphood” (alert: fbombs & other foul language included)

Photo credit: Why Do We Work?

 

Listen My Children And You Will Hear…

I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?Barry Goldwater 1981

I’m not here supporting one political party (I’m an independent) or religion or school of thought. I’m here to ask each of us to look inward. We often say, “they” are wrong, “they” should speak up/be quiet. “The government” should do more/less, defend me, help me, support me, stop them, arrest them, defend them.

But the truth is we are “they.” We are “the government.” This is America; it is up to us to change things we don’t like: vote, participate, read, discuss, listen, ask, accept responsibility. Democracy requires work.

It doesn’t matter what religion we are. What God we believe in. Where we grew up. What political party we support. What matters is that we stop blaming and start figuring out how to participate in solutions. Think you are not part of the problem? Try this.

Find someone whose opinions are radically different than yours.  Pick a topic that you agree you disagree on. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Each of you take 5 minutes to explain your position. The other person takes notes. The listener’s job is to reiterate the speakers key points. That’s it. You don’t have to discuss it further. Now talk about something else. Kids, whatever. What we all need is practice listening to each other.

Each person can then pick one point the other made, and think more about it. I’m not asking you to change your opinion. I am asking you to think about the other person’s point.

Imagine the world if we could teach our children this simple (not easy) skill.

Photo credit: Words As Visuals: Unity

Leadership: Handout or Hand Up?

As leaders do we see ourselves as coaches, mentors and teachers or as managers, bosses and the person “in-charge.” The distinction may be subtle but the influence you may have on people and the results you drive may not be subtle. In the book, “Leaders East Last,” (title derived from the Marine Corps where enlisted men always eat first), Simon Sinek says, “whether a leader puts themselves or their people first, determines if they are worthy of our love and loyalty. Leadership is a decision not a rank.”

Many people think that the ‘younger generation’ is lazy and entitled. I say every generation has this type of person. I see so many 20-30 somethings doing such great things; I hope you see them that way too. I loved this article, “Meet 6 Entrepreneurs Who Use Tech to Change the World.” Each young entrepreneur is doing something simple to solve a problem. My favorite is HandUp started by a young woman named Rose Broome.

“HandUp is direct giving for homeless people and others in need in your neighborhood. Your donations are redeemed for basic needs like food, clothing, and medical care through our partner organization Project Homeless Connect.”

Like all start ups, this one will have critics and bumps along the way. What I like is that Rose didn’t just give the homeless woman a dollar and forget her. She’s looking for a way to help stabilize her situation. It may be a handout right now, but hopefully a hand up is on it way too.

Photo credit: photo leroys

“Failure is a Process … You Have to Fail Over and Over”

“Failure is a process … you have to fail over and over and over again to get anything that’s worthwhile.” Jules Feiffer cartoonist

Feel like a failure? You’re actually winning. Watch this 40 second video about the power of failure. According to Mr. Feiffer, you need to continuously try new things and fail in order to create anything worthwhile. Think about raising children. If you think you didn’t fail over and over again… I suspect you are kidding yourself.

Think about nature. Evolution is a series of failures in order to find the best way forward: the flower that is drought resistant or the leaf that absorbs water more effectively.

I am teaching a new online course. Learning the software is driving me crazy. Just when I think I have learned something, it appears that I forget it. And this is happening live, in front of my students. Humbling to say the least.

Think of the last time you failed. Did you curl up in a ball? Did you try to deny it? Were you ashamed? This last is the worst of it. Failure is a sign that you are trying. If you can’t think of the last time you failed, then you are either not paying attention or you aren’t trying anything new. The old saying, nothing ventured, nothing gained, warns us to keep trying new things. To live fully we need to fall on faces from time to time.

Photo credit: Fig leaf John Leach

If you are unfamiliar with Jules Feiffer’s delightful cartoons (as well as the rest of his body of work), check him out.

 

 

No Boss, No Office and My Peers Decide My Pay… What?

“Imagine a company where everyone is equal and managers don’t exist. A place where employees sit where they want, choose what to work on and decide each other’s pay. Then, once a year, everyone goes on holiday together.”

There is such a company, it’s called Valve.

For those of you who think this is: stupid, could never work, is just an experiment and could only work in a handful of cases, perhaps you are correct. I’m not here to argue with you. The point of this post is to challenge our ideas of what is ‘necessary’ in the work environment.

You can read the Valve Employee Handbook here. It is titled: “A fearless adventure in knowing what to do when there’s no one telling you what to do.”

If you are in any kind of leadership role in ANY organization… I encourage you to browse their handbook.

… if you are a 10 year old company that has worked hard “to recruit the most intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling, them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates 99 percent of their value.”

The handbook goes on to outline what to expect and how a new employee can find their way through this new way of working.

Check this out: “While people occasionally choose to push themselves to work some extra hours, at times when something big is going out the door, for the most part working overtime for extended periods indicates a fundamental failure in planning or communication. If this happens at Valve, it’s a sign that something needs to be reevaluated and corrected.” And then they give you guidance as to how to get help to resolve the problem.

Would you like to work here? If not, why not? If yes, why?
Most importantly, what about the Valve culture can you adopt at your organization to make it more effective?

Image Credit: Banksy

Career Advice: Give

This blog is a rant.

I’m probably getting old and cranky (ok, not probably) but I am tired of people who want ‘help’ — get it through the generosity of selfless people and then boom – they take and take and largely never give back. All the ‘takers’ just stopped reading! I didn’t really expect to change any ‘takers’ but I am hoping to get to the ‘matchers.’ (read on!)

In his research-based book, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success Adam Grant (Wharton School)has identified three types of people — givers, takers, and matchers. Matchers return favors tit-for-tat (they care above all about fairness), Takers try to tilt most things in their own favor (focus on themselves), Givers are generous (focus on others).

Most people are givers in their personal relationships. Interestingly, at work, people change. Grant notes,  “An extraordinary number of people who are in a giver mindset at home are a matcher or taker at work.” Only 8% describe themselves as givers at work because most people think “givers are chumps who will fall behind in the game of work”.

Grant’s research shows that givers are among the most successful people in business and may also be the happiest. “There is powerful evidence,” “that givers experience more meaning in their work than takers or matchers.”

Back to my rant. I have probably met one on one with 500 people in the past 5 years. Many people thank me and that’s all I ask. But there’s a whole segment of people (both men and women) who act like they’ve never met me when I see them later. They are so focused on themselves… they don’t even remember meeting me! Often these are the same people who.. didn’t offer to buy the coffee (when they asked to meet me), never asked me one question about myself, never bothered to write an email saying thanks or following up in any way. In the tug of war of life — are you helping to pull for the greater good or shoving people out of your way?

Ok. I’m done.

Photo credit: Navy & Marines in tug of war   NYCMarines  (I wouldn’t bet against any of these fine human beings)

10 Blogs I Love…Learning and Laughing

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One big difference between adults and kids is their attitude towards learning. Kids just go with the flow. They seek out new ideas and adventures. As adults, most of us are pretty complacent. This is normal, but not good. One way to keep learning while keeping up with all our daily responsibilities is to read blogs. People tell me they don’t have time… to read, think, learn, etc. Really? Do you have time to be a role model for your children? Here are the ones I like…

1) Mashable.com bite sized news of the digital world & relevant biz stuff.

2) Occam’s Razor web stuff including analytics, measures, etc. clear, lucid and insightful

3) Escape Into Life  awesome art of all kinds

4) In Over Your Head  Julien Smith’s occasional writing on hitting life — head on

5) Laughing Squid various music, stuff and nonsense

6) Soulpancake.com art, science, humor, philosophy designed to open your mind

7) The Atlantic Monthly blog short and long thought -provoking articles, photos

8) The Inspiration Room “a global effort designed to influence, affect and involve creative communities in the development of a world standard for inspiration”

9) The Cynical Girl “Hard core punk rock pixie of the apocalypse. Blogging about work, money, power and politics. And cats.”

10) Outside Innovation Patty Seybold’s blog on enabling customers to lead the design of your business processes, products, services, and business models.

Photo credit:  Hand Over Mouth Mel B.