Posts tagged: leadership

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.

Judgement is Easy, Integrity is Hard

joanofarc

This week I had the privilege of meeting a woman who has battled the forces of judgment and sadness with grace. She also has translated the difficulties of her life into beautiful art. The journey of integrity is often a very lonely road. Principles are expensive;  financially, psychologically and physically.

During our conversation, I was reminded how easy it is to judge others. Often, we’re not conscious of our negative feelings; we don’t deliberately set out to be judgmental or cruel. It’s just that these OTHER people…

– look different from us – It’s no longer just someone’s skin color – now we judge them because they wear a hijab or a turban

– don’t share our ‘values’ or religion. Religions are full of judgements. If someone ‘shares’ our religion we automatically assume they are ok. But the mafia killed people regularly and were ‘good’ Catholics. Just because someone is a different religion than yours, doesn’t automatically make them good or bad. People need to be judged on the content of their character. Hmm… where did we hear that before?

– have different life or work experiences. Maybe they worked only in start-ups or only in one company. Does this make their opinion or their input any less worthy?

It’s much easier to think that these ‘strange’ people are wrong or misguided than try to understand where they are coming from.

Even worse, these ‘different people’ threaten the safety of our ‘little world.’

As the world becomes more connected and collaboration becomes the norm for innovation and customer management (along with most other business functions) we need to closely examine our definition of who’s okay in the world. And it begins with our our private lives. Teach your children well – they learn by what you do, but they are tremendously affected by what you say.

I recommend that we actively seek out diversity in our friends and colleagues. Have lunch with someone who is 30 years your junior/senior. Seek out the people at your organization who are different. Talk to them, learn about what’s important to them. You will be richer for the effort and your organization will reap the benefits for years to come.

Photo credit : Joan of Arc

Long Haired Freaks Need Not Apply (Then), Tatooed Workers Need Not Apply (Now)

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In the world of work there is a lot of discrimination. Yup, I said it out loud. Not the kind that can be legislated or regulated against but bad nevertheless. In the 1960′s it was long hair, today, it’s ‘body art.”

In a recent article titled, “Top personal attributes employers hate about you;” piercings and tattoos are listed among several ‘undesirables’. The article states if people have these, employers are less likely to consider them for promotion. Yikes!

I don’t really understand why. Look, I’m a Boomer, I get all the dress for success ‘stuff’ we’ve been raised on and understanding one’s customers is very important. It is never a good idea to appear disrespectful to your clients. However, I believe that most people would continue to ‘buy’ from you whether your IT, HR or sales person has a tattoo or not.

Not considering them for employment or promotion because they look different from you is a big problem.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. admonished us to, ‘judge on the content of a person’s character,” (or in this case, their work output) ” not on the color of their skin,” (or in this case whether or not they have a tattoo or a piercing. ) Let me clarify… if someone is inappropriately dressed for an environment for safety or collegial reasons– then that’s not acceptable. But I don’t think that sneakers, flip flops, jeans, or some tattoos etc. are inappropriate in most environments.

The millennial generation (20 something’s) love their body ink. It nearly a rite of passage for many.  In 2010, nearly four in ten persons age 18 to 29 had at least one tattoo. (Pew Research)

Get used to it folks, it’s here to stay and there’s nothing wrong with it.

Photo credit: Big hand, small hand Xurble

Ditch Your Dress Code and Other Interesting Advice

I am a child of the 60′s;  a hippie and a non-conformist. I worked in Corporate America for over 2 decades. I enjoyed it and I learned so much. What I didn’t love was figuring out what to wear.

First… there’s no such thing as business casual for women. As much as I’d like to show up in a pair of Dockers and a sport shirt (NOT) … or it’s equivalent… I’d be glad to.. but there is no equivalent.

Second … The idea that “clothes make the man” is passe and needs to be rethought.

Third… Check out this article titled,” 5 Reasons to Ditch Your Dress Code”  You may get more out of having a culture of flexibility in employee dress than maintaining strict standards.

Fourth… Diversity of  people can lead to creativity in thought and action.

This doesn’t mean having no standards in dress. Clearly there are certain clothes that are inappropriate in a business environment. Also, a culture that allows casual dress but tolerates disrespect isn’t doing itself or it’s employee any favors. Hard work, communication, listening and customer focus are more important than whether someone wears jeans. Build trust with your employees and peers and we’ll all benefit.

Photo credit: Photographer Irum sneaker

Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants – The War is Over

At work, the war between the kids (20 somethings) and the old people (50 somethings) is over. The kids have won.

For those of you who think this isn’t true, let’s consider the facts.

– The workplace is officially  BYOD – Bring Your Own Device… in a short 5 years the IT department has gone from “we don’t support that” to “we’ll help you get your job done on whatever device you need.”

– Bye bye Blackberry– 5 years ago, in “Corporate America” — the Blackberry was  the go-to device. Their market share has fallen from 41% to 10%.  A person no longer needs a big corporation’s network and device to be mobile & productive.

– Letting technology do what it does best is a win/win. When we can use technology to remove distance barriers between people…e.g.  online learning, online petitionsFacebook and collaborative tools like Google docs, dropbox and flickr– we substantially improve productivity and outcomes.

However, we need to keep pushing on the very important HUMAN side of the equation. The things machines can’t do (and likely never will) are the keys to making this new digital, “cyberspacy” world work for all of us.

These include:

- Empathy, Passion, Listening, Respect, Courage.

Listen to Marc Presnsky (who first talked about digital natives and immigrants in 2003) talk about the responsibility of educators in using technology. We can all learn from this.

Photo credit: familymwr -eye of the holder

Feedback: Electric, Real-Time, Nasty or True

I work with companies on multi-generational workplace issues  because I heard so many complaints about the “younger generation’s” poor “communication” skills. Gen Y employees may be different in many ways other from other generations; but that doesn’t mean they’re bad or wrong — they’re just different.

One common complaint I hear is that younger employees want to give and get “constant feedback.” Most of us oldsters are uncomfortable with this. Being stoics, we think everyone ought to just ‘get on with it.’

When Jimi Hendrix (my favorite musician of all time) burst onto the rock scene and created new sounds with his guitar…including standing in front of a wall of amplifiers.. many people thought it was awful… the rest of us… thought it was awesome. A new kind of musical sound was born… music to some… noise to others.

So it is with workplace feedback. Let me introduce you to Cleargears.com, take a quick video tour here. Conceptually, these tools allow your workforce to provide you (bossman or bosslady) with regular feedback and in turn, allows you to understand whether your feedback is being accepted and implemented. Wow – what a concept. Real time feedback. Making you uncomfortable? Get ready – this is the world is headed.

Take a look at Rypple.com; they call it social performance management–  “a web-based social performance management platform that replaces the traditional performance review with an easy and collaborative approach. People always know where they stand and are accountable for achieving their goals.” By the way… so are you.

Whatever the tool and no matter how you feel about providing feedback to your team, I suggest you figure out how to listen better. The future of your organization depends upon it. Remember the shark… survival goes to those who adapt.

Photo credit: Milt. Retirement and Financial Freedom