Category Archives: Executive Development

Are They Discriminating Against You? Probably.

iStock_000011070043XSmall

Discrimination

Not only is it likely that someone (or several someones) are discriminating against you, it is also likely that you are discriminating against someone (or several someones).  It is human nature that we like/trust/believe in/select those who are like us more than those who are different from us.  So . . . Europeans choose Europeans, Americans choose Americans, young people choose young people.  Then there is the problem of stereotypes.  We believe them–without even being aware of them for the most part.  We believe that ‘old’ people aren’t as capable as people our age. We believe that young people aren’t ambitious (at least the latest generation).  Asian people are smart at math.  Women aren’t ambitious because they’re going to go have babies. White men are more ambitious than black men.  And on and on and on.  These stereotypes cause us to discriminate, sometimes without our even being aware of it.  Stereotypes are as  wrong as they are right.  In fact, those of us who are the subject of the stereotypes usually believe they are wrong–period.  I say all of this to acknowledge that discrimination is alive and well in all of our behaviors.   I’m not in any way defending it, just acknowledging it.

So what?

There are laws against discrimination.  There are rules against discrimination.  There are lots of reasons for all of us to struggle against discrimination by others and ourselves.  There are people whose whole existence is focused on the struggle against discrimination.

Can you wait?  Can you wait until everyone stops discriminating against you?  I can’t.  I think it’s time to take the battle on directly.  I think it’s time to work around/through/over and under discrimination.  Just because the decision makers at your organization think you are too old or too young, that doesn’t mean that that is the case at other organizations.  You have a responsibility to yourself to find a place to work that values you for who you are and what you bring to the table.  You need to find a way to make a living that values who and what  you are.

I talk to people who are absolutely sure that they are being discriminated against.  That makes them feel like there is nothing that they can do about it.  They are the age they are.  They are born black or Hispanic or Asian or female, and nothing can change that. True.  There are places, organizations, friends, decision makers, and opportunities where it doesn’t matter.  Go find them.  You are not sentenced to the status quo.  You choose it.

Do something different.

You are not stuck.  When you graduated from high school you didn’t think about this the way you do now (unless, of course, you just graduated from high school).  Life and your experiences have made you believe that people are discriminating against you.  Wipe all that experience off your radar and ASSUME that someone out there can and will believe in you and what you can do.  Go FIND them!  Where are they?  Make people prove that they don’t believe in you instead of assuming that they don’t.  To be clear, I’m not saying they AREN’T discriminating.  I’m saying, don’t let that rule your life.  Go work someplace else.  Go work for a different boss.  Find a way to make a living (including working for yourself) that doesn’t let those who discriminate against you prevent you from doing/being/having what you deserve.  I know that it might be hard.  I know that it would be a lot easier for all of us if discrimination wasn’t a factor.  Don’t let it prevent you from living your life, making a living, being successful.

And then focus on your own discriminatory behavior.

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Filed under Derailment, Diversity, Executive Development, Inclusion, Job Hunt, New Job

Who Are You And How Did You Get That Way?

In the mirror

Understand Yourself

One of the most important tasks of becoming a great leader and a successful Executive (and those things are not necessarily the same thing) is to REALLY understand yourself.  You need to understand what makes you tick–what motivates you, what slows you down, what scares you and what gets in your way.  You need to understand how others see you.  You also need to understand that what goes on in your head is absolutely invisible to those around you.  They don’t know why you do what you do and they certainly don’t know what you are thinking.  You need to understand your strengths and your weaknesses, your learning style and your interpersonal style.  And then you need to show enough of your internal workings and motivations to help others understand you.

We all think we know ourselves.  We are mostly wrong.  That is why it is really good to get feedback from others.  I highly recommend getting 360 assessments done–pretty regularly.  These are assessments that get feedback from you, your boss and your subordinates.  When you look at your opinion of yourself against that of your boss and your subordinates, you frequently get a surprise.   If your boss doesn’t agree with your opinion of yourself, then it’s important to note the differences.  If your subordinates don’t agree with you and your boss about your strengths–another important factor.  These instruments just measure behaviors, though–what can actually be seen.  When you get feedback that indicates behaviors that can derail your career, it is important that you CHANGE that behavior.  It is possible for you to change your behavior without understanding how and why you do what you do.  You just change.  Right?  Most of us can’t do that.

The Why of Your Behavior

When I identify that I need to change a behavior–interpersonal interactions, eating, exercising, time management–it really helps me to understand WHY I do (or don’t do) what I do.  For example, I used to get feedback that I was “unreadable.”  As I tried to figure out why people thought that, I also tried to figure out WHY I was unreadable.  What did they mean that I was unreadable?  I started asking people (not the one’s who had given the feedback, but others):  “What does it mean when people say I’m unreadable?  Why do they care? What could I do differently?”  The answers surprised me.  It turns out that I used few happy facial expressions.  I wasn’t aware of this.  Whether I was happy, pissed or someplace in between, I was using the same facial expressions. I had very neutral (or so I thought) facial expressions.   I really wasn’t aware of this.  When I thought long and hard about it,  I realized that some things had happened in my childhood that made me very guarded about my thoughts and feelings.  OK.  That was legitimate.  Then.  Those things no longer existed.  And not only that, it was interfering with my effectiveness as a leader because when left to their own imagination, people frequently assume the worse (that I’m pissed AT THEM).  I was able to (deliberately) change this because I was made aware of it, I asked about it to understand it, and then I could persuade myself that the coping behavior from my childhood was no longer necessary.  I was able to change more easily with this realization.

Some of the things that can impact the way your are and can shape your behaviors as a leader are:

  • Your birth order and your relationships with your siblings
  • Your relationships with your parents
  • Your beliefs about how things work (your mental models)
  • Your beliefs about the “rules” of organizations
  • What you believe about hierarchy and how that fits with your organization, your boss and your subordinates
  • Your beliefs about what makes people tick (Theory X, Theory Y)
  • What you believe about people’s responsibility to the organization and the organization’s responsibility to people

Start With Feedback

It all starts with feedback, though.  You can’t know what behaviors are really working and not working unless people tell you.  They probably won’t tell you unless you ask them.  Once you know the behaviors that you should address, think long and hard about where those behaviors come from.  Then do something about it.

Then Change

Sooner rather than later.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Derailment, Executive Development, Feedback, Personal Change

Does Aggressive Leadership Work?

BadBossThe Rutgers Coach

I had breakfast with a group of friends this morning, evenly divided male/female.  The topic of the Rutgers coach who got fired came up.  I don’t think anyone in the discussion had seen more than a brief clip of the video that detailed the coach’s aggressive behavior toward his athletes.  “Like Bobby Knight” was a quick comparison that came up in the discussion.  Then someone said, “That aggressive style works.”  Participants (all male) in the discussion cited their own experiences with aggressive coaches or bosses and defended that style as effective.  (Since none of these folks had seen the video, they were not defending this coach’s behavior specifically, but an aggressive coaching/leadership style generally).

My position was that aggressive leadership styles work as long as the leader is physically present or likely to be in the vicinity, but that “when the cat is away” the style stops working.  In fact, it is my experience that aggressive (or worse, abusive) styles are more destructive than constructive because they create negative reactive behaviors, damage employee/leader  (or coach/athlete) relationships, and are short term effective, long term destructive.  They rely on bullying rather than inspiring.

So, I throw this out to you.  What do you think.  Does the aggressive style used by some coaches and lots of managers work?  Is it ok?  Is it productive or destructive?  Is it more acceptable for those who have experienced it in their lives than for those who have not, but have only watched it from afar?

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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Filed under Executive Development, Leadership

Mentor Me, Mentor You

Find a Mentor.  Use a Mentor. Be a Mentor.

I’m sure you’re always hearing the advice that you need a mentor.  In fact, you’ve even heard it from me.    Why do people keep giving that advice?   There is research that  supports the theory that people with mentors are more successful, get promoted faster and are happier on the job. It certainly has been my personal experience.   My mentors guided me over rough spots, taught me things that I needed to know, and told me things straight that no one else would.

What Do Mentors Do That Helps?

  • Provide One-On-One Support
  • Provide A Different Organizational Perspective (and Usually a Better One)
  • Provide Help With Organizational Politics
  • Provide a Power Boost to Your Network
  • Provide a Different Generational Perspective
  • Provide Some Problem or Task Specific Guidance
  • Hold You Accountable
  • Help Make the Unknown Knowable

Help and support signpost

Types Of Mentoring Relationships

  • Developmental– These mentors help you grow your abilities and skills.  They teach, model and guide.
  • Sponsorship–These mentors can open doors to you–help you get into a school or an organization.
  • Hierarchical–Most of us think of mentors/mentees as  a ‘Senior Person in Organization/Junior Person in  the Organization’ model.  This is probably the most standard kind of mentor relationship in career development.
  • Expertise–This relationship between an expert and a novice can be based on knowledge, skill or experience.  This mentor can help with specific or global learning.
  • Boss Mentors, Boss’ Boss Mentors, Boss’ Peer Mentors–Bosses can be good mentors, as can their peers or bosses.  These mentor relationships have to be handled with a little more care since there are potential negative ramifications if it doesn’t work out.
  • Career, Dream, Life–Mentors come in many flavors.  They can help your career trajectory.  They can also help you achieve your dream–start a business, write a book, learn to cook.  They can also help you with other aspects of a great life–being a good husband, father, golfer, healthy.
  • Generational Mentors–Most mentor relationships are between older mentors and younger mentees.  Consider getting a younger mentor–they definitely have a different perspective.  If you can get over thinking that your perspective is “right,” through a relationship with a younger mentor, then you will be far better off than you are now. Younger mentors know things that you don’t know and their mental models are different.  Sooner or later, you will work for someone younger than you.  Who better to help you get good at than than someone of the same generation.

How Do You Find A Mentor?

What Do You Want From A Mentor?

Get very clear about why you want a mentor.  ‘Just cause’ isn’t good enough.  When you think about your career, or your life, or your progress, what is missing.  How do you think a mentor can help you?  What are your goals?  What do you need to know?  What do you need to do?  Investigate whether your organization already has a  mentoring program that would help you.  Even if you aren’t eligible for some reason–find out how it works, how mentors/mentees are chosen.  You might want to model it for yourself.  Based on your goals and gaps, who could help you?

How Do You Pick?

  • Think of someone who is where you want to be.
  • Think of someone who you like.
  • Think of someone who knows how to do something that you need to know how to do.
  • Think of someone who is well-connected to people who could help you.
  • Think of someone who is a thought leader in your field.
  • Think outside your organization.  Is there someone in another organization (not a competitor) who can help you understand? (Try using LinkedIn’s Advanced Search)
  • Think virtual–your mentor doesn’t have to be physically present–not today.
  • Think more than one–I once worked with a very successful man who had three–two for different aspects of his business and one for balance.

How Do You Ask Someone to Be a Mentor?

First of all, don’t wait.  Mentors can be major accelerators for career performance.  Just the questions they ask can cause you to change your performance.  I know it is hard to approach someone, especially someone you don’t know well, and ask them to help you on something as personal and important as your career.  Push yourself to do it.

  • Start small.  Ask for some advice.  Reply to a blog post.  Go speak to the person after a presentation or speech.  Comment on a book.  Ask for an interview for an article, a blog, a presentation. Seek an introduction through LinkedIn.
  • Gauge the reaction to the first encounter.  How did it feel to interact with the person?  How open did the person seem.  Don’t give up after the first encounter.  Find another way to interact again.
  • Be proactive.  Get noticed.
  • Once noticed, ask.  Ask if the person would be willing to be your mentor.  Or ask if the person would be willing to have an occasional conversation about your career.  Ask if the person will advise you about how your project.  Or, based on her experience and career path, what she would suggest as next career steps for you.
  • Don’t get too formal too quickly.
  • Be clear and honest on who you are, what you need, what you can provide.  (In a recent LinkedIn survey on women mentors, most women said they had never been mentors because . . . wait for it . . . they had never been asked.

If your first or second encounter with the person doesn’t “feel” right, then don’t continue.  Mentor relationships are dependent on the chemistry between the two parties to work well.  You certainly can learn from people you don’t ‘click’ with, but a long-term, ongoing mentor relationship works best if there is a connection between the two.  It works best if both people genuinely care about each other and want to contribute to the success of the encounters and each person’s goals.  If the person you seek out declines, move on.  I know you hear it all the time, but IT ISN’T PERSONAL.  He is busy.  She feels uncomfortable at the idea of being a mentor.  He doesn’t want to run afoul of your boss.  She doesn’t believe bosses are good mentors.  Whatever his/her reason, articulated or not, move on.  Find someone else.  There are thousands of people (at least) out there who can be just as good a mentor as the one you just asked.

How Do You Get the Most Out Of A Mentor Relationship?

  • Straight Talk:   The most important thing in a mentor relationship is to create an environment where your mentor feels comfortable being straight with you.  It is an incredible gift to get clear and unencumbered feedback about yourself, you skills, the way others perceive you and WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT.  If you overreact, get emotional or aren’t straight yourself, you will have some nice conversations, but you will not have a powerful mentor relationship.
  • Work It, It’s Up To You:  The success of the relationship and the subsequent results are UP TO YOU.  You do the work.  It is your career or dream or life.  You get the answers, the feedback, the ideas and THEN YOU WORK IT.
  • Don’t Waste Their Time: Treat the relationship and its output like the gift that it is.  Be grateful.  Reciprocate.  Don’t think that because you are lower down the hierarchy or are younger or less educated that you don’t bring something to the table.  You bring a different perspective.  Anytime you (or your mentor) sees things differently, you become more powerful and more capable of better solutions.

Become A Mentor Yourself, And Get Even More Out Of It

If you think having a mentor is good, being a mentor is better.  Having to articulate your knowledge, perspective, theory of success or providing “how-to” knowledge makes you better.  It opens you up to new ideas and provides you with energy and motivation.  It is a really great experience.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development, Mentor

Leaders Don’t Give Up

Don't give up

Leaders Come In All Flavors

I have recently had the opportunity to watch some really good leaders in action.  They were all different kinds of people.  They were different genders, ages, backgrounds and experience.  The thing that I noticed that they had in common was that they didn’t give up.  They were persistent.

They Don’t Give Up

One leader said, in the face of overwhelming frustration among his followers, “Let’s just muscle through this.”  His followers were definitely ready to throw in the towel–they just couldn’t figure any other way.  The task in front of them felt insurmountable.  I watched as the group collectively shrugged–without much hope–but with a willingness to follow.  The leader asked questions, got answers.  Others asked questions, got answers.  The energy of the group started to go up.  Suggestions started to fly.   These were countered by other suggestions.  Solutions were identified.  Action plans developed.  Schedules.  Commitments.  The group left with a plan and energy and hope.  And it started with a mere statement.  “Let’s just muscle through it.”

Another leader coached members of a group on how to start again when their jobs had gone away.  Her job had also gone away, but she was completely focused on helping the others to see the possibilities.  As I watched, the leader and her coachees devised a plan to start a business.  It was a brilliant idea and it bubbled out of the blended despair of the followers and the persistent support and hope of the leader.

Leaders provide hope. 

They provide clarity.  They provide direction, and pull more direction out of their followers.  They don’t accept the status quo.  Even when they can’t specifically see the way forward, they keep looking.  They don’t let others give up either.  They see that the solution might be just around the corner.  They keep looking and keep pushing.  If one direction is wrong, they turn and try another.

What about you?

Do you give up?

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Stick with Your New Year’s Resolutions: Find Your Gateway Habits

new years resolutions

Another Year, Another List

Do you make the same New Year’s Resolutions year after year?  Save money.  Lose weight. Get a new job. Get a promotion.  Spend more time with the family.  Do you ever get your resolutions done?  How about trying something new this year.

Look at your resolutions.  What is the one key thing that you could do that would make a difference on all of them?  What behavior could you change that would help you achieve your goals for the year?  For example, if this were your list of resolutions:

  • Lose weight
  • Start a blog
  • Spend more time with the kids

What behavior change could you make that would help achieve all of them?  What about if you increased your weekly and daily planning?  What about if each week–let’s say on Sunday–you planned your meals for the week, calendared exercise and writing and time with the kids-and then followed up each morning (or evening if that works better for you) with specifics re:  food you’re going to eat, review of what you have eaten, when/where you’re going to exercise and activities with the kids?  If you put weekly/daily planning into your life, then your success with your yearly goals is much more likely.  If you add a “gateway” habit into your life that serves your goals, then you are much more likely to be able to stick to achieving your goals.In this case, the weekly/daily planning would be a gateway habit.  If you want to increase your exercise, parking far from the door or walking up the stairs could be a gateway habit.   If you eliminate an existing gateway habit—eating in the car, starting your day with the Internet–then you can impact the follow on unconscious habits.

Gateway Habits

A gateway habit is a habit that leads to other behaviors and habits.  According to research done at Duke University, more than 40% of the actions people take each day are unconscious habits.  Autopilot.  We’re aren’t thinking about it.  We just do it.  Like what we eat for lunch.  Like the snacks we grab as we walk through the kitchen.  Like the TV in the background.    One of these unconscious habits leads to the next–drinking and smoking, watching TV and eating–and at the end of the year, we’ve made no progress.  The secret to making changes is to identify key gateway habits that will lead to other changes that get you to your goals.  Changing gateway habits helps make all the related habits conscious and puts us more in control.

For example, if you need to lose weight, you could cut out eating after 7 pm.  Make your eating after 7 a conscious no-no.  Once you’ve mastered that, all of your eating will be more conscious.  Then focus or what you eat for lunch, or decide to always eat breakfast.  This will make your eating much more conscious.  Before you know it, you are in control of your unconscious eating.  Losing weight is easier when you are focusing on specific eating-related habits, rather than all the deprivations of losing weight.  Add new habits as you succeed with changing and before you know it, you’ve succeeded.  You can have as much success through eliminating existing gateway habits.

Great books to help you with getting control of your unconscious and conscious behavior:

Try Something New This Year.  What Do You Have to Lose (or Gain)?

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Filed under Books, Career Goals, Executive Development, Goal Setting, Personal Change

Should Your Subordinates Like You?

Should you be liked OR respected?

iStock_000019473325XSmallThis post is a follow on to my last post, Underground Relationships.  One of my readers said that he had a boss tell him that people working for you shouldn’t like you, just respect you.  He asked what I thought about that.  I have heard people say this, and in fact I myself have said a variation of that.  I have said that you don’t have to be liked, but you should be respected.  Different, but maybe someone who heard me say that could interpret it the same way.  I think it’s a great question:  How important is it that your subordinates like you?  Should you work to be liked? Is it ok if they like you?

There is a reasonably good argument that if your people respect you, if you do the right things, if you are kind and thoughtful and a clear communicator, then your people will like you.  There are a lot of reasons, though, that this may not be true.  Some people just don’t like managers–no matter who they are or how they act.  Some people react badly to peers being promoted to be their manager.  (See Promoted to Manage Your Peers?  Awkward.)  Whatever the reason, there is no guarantee that subordinates will like their bosses.

So how hard should you work to get your subordinates to like you?

Let’s start with my reader’s boss’ statement: “the people working for you shouldn’t like you, just respect you.”  I have to say that I don’t agree with this statement.  In an ideal world, your subordinates should both respect you and like you.  The quality of work life is significantly better if there is both respect and a level of affection in both directions.  The important thing is to be very clear on where your responsibility as a manager lies.  You are an employee with a fiduciary duty to the organization to deliver strategic results.  As an employee of the organization, managers must do what the organization needs.  Sometimes those things don’t make subordinates happy.  Sometimes those things don’t make managers happy.  On the other hand, managers also have a responsibility to adhere to their own ethical standards.  Those standards include what they are willing to do for the organization and how they must treat employees and co-workers.

Now let’s look at the statement that I’ve made in the past: “you don’t have to be liked, but you should be respected.”  What I meant by this was that you should do the “right” things, things that make you respected, but you shouldn’t do things with a goal of being liked.  The question my reader posed has made me rethink this.  It is my experience that there are some people in management positions who have a really hard time doing things that will impact their likeability.  I believe that this is the wrong thing to use as a guideline when you are a manager.  Your responsibility is first–what is right for the organization, second–what is right for your people, and I don’t see a time when your likeability should be a factor.

Unfortunately, though, it isn’t as easy as that.  It’s really hard to find the lines that divide these things.  What is right for the organization may be bad for the people; what is right for some people may be wrong for others; what is right for your subordinates may be wrong for other parts of the organization.  Finding your way through these  mazes is easier if you have strong relationships with people at work.  If they trust you, and if you communicate clearly as to your reasons and the context, it is easier to find a balance between hard decisions that create unhappiness and sustaining organization performance and relationships.

So what do you do?

  • Get clear on what your personal ethical belief is about how people should be treated and how those decisions should get made
  • Get clear on what you believe is your responsibility to the organization as a boss
  • Find your personal balance between these (understand that whatever you decide here could cause you problems–with your boss, your organization or your subordinates–but you’ve got to live with your decisions/behavior)
  • Listen to HEAR what your people are thinking and going through
  • Communicate clearly with your subordinates about the context and reasons for why decisions have been made, acknowledging the costs to people who are affected–this is absolutely the most important action in being respected/liked
  • As long as you are comfortable with your personal decisions about how you navigate, live with the consequences

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Filed under Career Development, Communication, Executive Development, Leadership