Women: Are We to Blame for the Glass Ceiling?

women-we-blame-glass-ceiling

Enough about the glass ceiling.

There’s nothing wrong with talking about barriers for growth for women in the workplace, but much of the conversation today paints the proverbial glass ceiling as if it’s something women have no control over.

That sounds like victimhood to me. Women do have control, and in some ways, are to blame for the glass ceiling’s continued existence.

As a woman, I have spent my whole career working in a male-dominated world. It’s true that men generally make more money. They are also promoted more and, according to a recent story in The Wall Street Journal, they make up 66 percent of middle management, 86 percent of the overall executive suite and 96 percent of CEO positions.

We work just as hard as men and therefore we deserve to be paid equally. But while there are many women’s organizations demanding equality in the workplace, I would argue that these groups are actually doing more of a disservice than they are breaking the glass. Demanding something of someone never solves problems; it just Band-Aids the issue. If the problem were actually solved, we wouldn’t be having this conversation 50 years after the Equal Pay Act was signed into law.

While we’ve made some good progress over the years, I believe some of the choices we have made have held us back from shattering this metaphoric barrier. Do you really want to get promoted just to fulfill a mandatory quota? Does that achieve true success? I would argue not.

Here’s why I believe we hold ourselves back:

We place too much weight on the existence of the glass ceiling. 
Perception is reality, and because we waste a lot of energy believing and put up with the idea that there is this metaphoric barrier in our way, it’s killing our confidence. Everyone faces obstacles in their careers – even men. If you really want to get ahead you must tune out that noise and just go for it. When we pay attention to this so-called glass ceiling, we give it validation and, in turn, invalidate ourselves. Just because there is an obstacle in your way doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Figure out a way to climb over it or maneuver around it. And if you figure out that you are at a dead end in your current job, do something about it.

We make choices and then complain about them. 
The women who complain about inequality in the workplace are often the same women who want flexible work schedules or other benefits so that they can have it all. For many, having it all means deciding that you want to have a career and raise a family – and that’s ok. You can have it all. However, you can’t expect to be the CEO of a large multinational corporation if you don’t put in the time to get there. And let’s not forget that, according to a recent survey of 4,000 employees at big companies, 36 percent of men said they want to be CEO, whereas only 18 percent of woman said the same. Let’s acknowledge the choices we make and not blame others for the results.

We are mean to each other.
This is the No. 1 reason why we hurt ourselves and keep the glass ceiling intact. We do very little to help ourselves in this area. According to a 2012 report by the Federal Aviation Administration on workplace bullying, 68 percent of workplace bullying is same-sex harassment and of that 68 percent, 80 percent of cases are women-on-women harassment. So ladies, what does that say? Why should men respect us if we don’t respect ourselves?

Years ago during my tenure on Wall Street, I found myself navigating through a promotion and the transition was a bit bumpy. Most of my colleagues were helpful and supportive as I worked out the kinks. However, many of the women I worked with were the ones to be avoided. Rather than cheering me on, they were waiting for me to fail and made it clear that they had no interest in helping me succeed. It left me wondering: If we cannot mentor and support each other, if we cannot set aside the pettiness and cattiness to lend a hand to each other, then how on earth can we expect men to?

There is a need for change for women in the workplace, but as with anything, change starts with us. We must believe we can have it all, accept our choices and then form strong alliances with each other. Demanding men treat us in a way that we don’t even treat ourselves is counterproductive and, in the end, will ensure the glass ceiling always exists. -Lindsay Broder

How The Best Leaders Embrace Change

lead changeWe all know change is inevitable. Yet in the midst of transformation, too many leaders abdicate, says Rose Fass, CEO of the consulting company fassforward. After all, it can be hard to let go of a cherished initiative, or a product line that’s been successful for years.

But you have to be strong enough to take charge, says Fass: “The best kind of change comes when you envision, initiate and control it. That type of change creates opportunities, transforms companies and ignites growth.” Otherwise, you’re facing with the damaging prospect of “change that happens in spite of you, rather than because of you.”

Fass offers a list of 10 “transformation topics” that she believes all businesses should discuss. If you have a handle on these questions, you’re well on your way to leading change, rather than letting it control you.

1) New Actions: Which ones do we need to make happen?

2) Core Assets: Do we know how to leverage ours?

3) Barriers to Success: What are ours and how do we knock them down?

4) Competitive Positioning: Where do we stand?

5) Key Differentiators: Are ours still making a difference?

6) Resources & Relationships: Can we get more out of ours?

7) Operating Climate: Where are we hot, cold, lukewarm or frozen?

8) Strategic Imperatives: Have ours been clearly communicated?

9) Strategic Options: Are our best ones identified?

10) Strategic Shifts: Where are ours occurring?

Change, says Fass, is bittersweet. But that realization means “you’ll be more prepared to persevere when the pain points start popping up. The course you follow to change also needs to be consistent or else it will cause confusion and slow everyone down to a crawl.” -Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

How does your company master change?

7 Ways To Keep Your Employees Happy (And Working Really Hard)

Happy Face

It doesn’t matter what you build, invent or sell; your organization can’t move forward without people. CEOs, company founders and managers the world over know that keeping the teams beneath them moving forward together in harmony means the difference between winning and dying.

Prof. Leonard J. Glick, Professor of management and organizational development at Boston’s Northeastern University, teaches the art of motivating employees for a living. He let FORBES in on a few tips for entrepreneurs and managers looking to keep their people smiling and producing.

You’ve got to get employees to feel that they own the place, not just work there. “One of the principles of self-managed teams is to organize around a whole service or product,” Glick explained. In other words, make sure company personnel feel responsible for what the customer is buying.

One way to inspire that feeling is to have each member of a team become familiar with what other team members are doing, allowing them to bring their ideas for improvement to the table and have input in the whole process. If the roles are not too specialized, have your people rotate responsibilities from time to time. “It all contributes to a feeling of ‘it’s mine,’ and most people, when it’s theirs, don’t want to fail, don’t want to build poor quality and don’t want to dissatisfy the customer,” said Glick.

Trust Employees To Leave Their Comfort Zones

Few employees want to do one specific task over and over again until they quit or retire or die. Don’t be afraid to grant them new responsibilities—it will allow them to grow and become more confident in their abilities while making them feel more valuable to the organization.

Though managers might feel allowing their people to try new things presents a risk to productivity or places workers outside of their established place, it heads off other issues. “To me the bigger risk is having people get burnt out or bored,” explained Glick.

Keep Your Team Informed

Business leaders have a clearer perspective on the bigger picture than their employees do. It pays to tell those under you what’s going on. “Things that managers take for common knowledge about how things are going or what challenges are down the road or what new products are coming… they often don’t take the time to share that with their employees,” Glick said. Spreading the intel lets everyone in on the lay of theland and at the same time strengthens the feeling among workers that they are an important part of the organization.

Your Employees Are Adults—Treat Them Like It

In any business there is going to be bad news. Whether it’s to do with the company as a whole or an individual within the organization, employees need to be dealt with in a straightforward and respectable manner. “They can handle it, usually,” said Glick. If you choose to keep your people in the dark about trying times or issues, the fallout could be a serious pain in the neck. “The rumors are typically worse than reality. In the absence of knowledge people make things up.”

You’re The Boss. You May Have To Act Like It Sometimes (but be consistent)

Though this issue is affected by an organization’s overall culture, there are going to be times when you have to make a decision as a leader, despite whatever efforts you may have made to put yourself on equal footing with your personnel. “Ideally they have an open relationship but not necessarily are peers,” Glick said of the manager-employee relationship. “I think the worst thing is to pretend you’re peer… it’s the inconsistency, I think, which is the bigger problem.”

Money Matters (But Not As Much As You Think)

Compensation packages are a big deal when employees are hired, but once a deal has been struck the source of motivation tends to shift. “The motivation comes from the things I’ve been talking about—the challenge of the work, the purpose of the work, the opportunity to learn, the opportunity to contribute,” Glick explained.

When it comes to finding a salary that will allow your employees to feel they’re being paid fairly, don’t bend over backwards to lowball them. If you do, they will eventually find out and not be happy. “If the salary were open, is it defensible?”

Perks Matter (But Not As Much As You Think)

Some companies (we’re looking at you Google GOOG +0.21%) have received attention for offering lavish perks to their personnel – massages, free gourmet lunches, ping pong tables, childcare facilities – but, like money, these things tend to be less powerful motivators for workers than in-job challenges and the feeling of being a valuable part of a quality team that will recognize their contribution. A manager needs to understand that though those perks are great and release burdens from employees’ shoulders, they are not a substitute for prime sources of professional inspiration.

“I don’t think people work harder, work better because of those things,” said Glick. “It may make it easier for them to come to work, I understand that.”

– Karsten Strauss

10 Qualities Every Leader of The Future Needs to Have

10-qualities-every-leader-of-the-future-needs-to-have

The reigning theory in business has long been that “alpha” leaders make the best entrepreneurs. These are aggressive, results-driven achievers who  assert control and insist on a hierarchical organizational model. Yet I am  seeing increasing success from “beta” startup cultures where the emphasis is on  collaboration, curation and communication.

Some argue that this new horizontal culture is being driven by Gen-Y,  whose focus has always been more communitarian. Other business culture experts,  like Dr. Dana Ardi, in her new book The Fall of the Alphas, argue that the rise of the  betas is really part of a broader culture change driven by the Internet —  emphasizing communities, instant communication and collaboration.

Can you imagine the overwhelming growth of Facebook,  Wikipedia and Twitter in  a culture dominated by alphas? This would never happen. I agree with Ardi who  says most successful workplaces of the future need to adopt the following beta  characteristics and better align themselves with the beta leadership model:

1. Do away with archaic command-and-control models. Winning  startups today are horizontal, not hierarchical. Everyone who works at an  organization feels they’re part of something, and moreover, that it’s the next  big thing. They want to be on the cutting-edge of technology.

2. Practice ego management. Be aware of your own biases and  focus on the present as on the future. You need to manage the egos of team  members by rewarding collaborative behavior. There will always be the need for  decisive leadership, particularly in times of crisis. I’m not suggesting total  democracy.

3. Stress innovation. Betas believe that team members need  to be given an opportunity to make a difference — to give input into key  decisions and communicate their findings and learnings to one another. Encourage  team-members to play to their own strengths so that the entire team and  organization leads the competition.

4. Put a premium on collaboration and teamwork. Instead of  knives-out competition, these companies thrive by building a successful  community with shared values. Team members are empowered and encouraged to  express themselves. The best teams are hired with collaboration in mind. The  whole is thus more than the sum of its parts.

5. Create a shared culture. Leadership is fluid and  flexible. Integrity and character matter a lot. Everyone knows about the  culture. Everyone subscribes to the culture. Everyone recognizes both its  passion and its nuance. The result looks more like a symphony orchestra than an  advancing army.

6. Be ready for roles and responsibilities to change weekly, daily  and even hourly. One of the big mistakes entrepreneurs make is they  don’t act quickly enough. Markets and needs change fast. Now there is a focus on  social, global and environmental responsibility. Hierarchies make it hard to  adjust positions or redefine roles. The beta culture gets it done.

7. Temper confidence with compassion. Mindfulness, of self  and others, by boards, executives and employees, may very well be the single  most important trait of a successful company. If someone is not a good cultural  fit or is not getting their job done, make the change quickly, but with  sensitivity.

8. Invite employees to contribute. The closer everyone in  the organization comes to achieving his or her singular potential, the more  successful the business will be. Successful cultures encourage their employees  to keep refreshing their toolkits, keep flexible, keep their stakes in the  stream.

9. Stay diverse. Entrepreneurs build teams. They don’t fill  positions. Cherry-picking candidates from name-brand universities will do  nothing to further an organization and may even work against it. Don’t wait for  the perfect person — he or she may not exist. Hire for track record and  potential.

10. Not everyone needs to be a superstar. Superstars don’t  pass the ball, they just shoot it. Not everyone wants to move up in an  organization. It’s perfectly fine to move across. Become your employees’ sponsor  — on-boarding with training and tools is essential. Spend time listening. Give  them what they need to succeed.

Savvy entrepreneurs and managers around the world are finding it more  effective to lead through influence and collaboration, rather than relying on  fear, authority and competition. This is rapidly becoming the new paradigm for  success in today’s challenging market. Where does your startup fit in with this  new model? -Martin Zwilling

Women and Today’s Culture

glass ceiling, generations, baby boomers

Today’s culture will make a change on its own when it comes to men and women and their resilience and success in the workplace. Today’s culture calls for more empathy, nurturing careers and listening to employees.

Never before, have there been 4 generations in the workplace all speaking a different language with different motivators as to why they are there and how they create value for the organization.

I am finding in my consulting engagements that men are having a more difficult time with managing the generation gap. Not because they don’t have the skill set but because many of them still believe in a hierarchal style of management or that women are not equal to men when it comes to experience and ability. Especially many male baby boomers, who are still caught up in how they were treated or better yet how they rose to their current positions. They want their subordinates, especially the Millenniums to adhere to this same principal.

Unfortunately this just doesn’t work and talent is lost as a result of that. Women on the other hand just naturally possess a more nurturing attitude, empathy and the patience to listen. Perhaps it is because they themselves have struggled for acceptance and acknowledgement. I’m not suggesting that they mother these quick witted, sometimes impatient entitlement acting Millenniums, I am saying that they have a wiser way of hearing them out and coaching them in what they need.

We all wake up in the morning and turn off our alarm clock and tune into station WIIFM. “What’s In It For Me”? These are called our intrinsic motivators, it’s what makes us get up in the morning go to work and “kick some…..” It’s when we get to work and those motivators are compromised that we turn up the sound of station WIIFM and tune others , often our supervisors, out. The workplace is full of everyone wanting what they want and it’s all based on what they value and that is what initiates their behavior.

In my coaching and consulting experience I find that men have more difficulty “giving them what they need” versus “giving them what they want them to have”. Women on the other hand have figured out that if you can create a motivating environment by listening to what employees need to be productive, they are able to keep all 4 generations feeling valued.

This is why I believe the culture itself will make a change as women will eventually make their way up the ladder and they will be much more effective as leaders. Ultimately this will cause the gender gap to narrow. Not every organization will embrace this and not every male manager is stuck in the behavioral model they learned. I was fortunate to have worked in an organization in my mid-twenties and broke through the glass ceiling thanks to some wonderful male role models.

My advice to women is to not get caught up in “this glass ceiling affect”. Do your job well, expect to be recognized and you will be. It is changing, perhaps not fast enough but I guarantee you that the younger generation in the workplace does not see gender, they see talent and equality and one day they will be running our organizations. Hang in there…a change is gonna come.

-Sharon Jenks, President of The Jenks Group, Inc. http://www.thejenksgroup.com

 

6 Secrets to Hiring and Retaining Great Employees

1 GiraffesDrupal Connect’s founder John Florez drives the fast growth of his company by stacking his team with top tier talent. Here’s what he looks for when hiring for his Drupal development company and how he keeps them excited about coming in each day.

peacock
Hire Awesome Personalities

Hire people who are not only awesome talents, but awesome to be around as well! You’re building a team; each member has to be able to work well within a collaborative environment. Hiring someone who is talented but a “lone wolf” is a risky and potentially costly endeavor.

2 Monkey
Positive People Are Contagious

Hire cool people who have a positive outlook on life. The employee you want to take on is someone you can share a beer with at the end of the day. Positive attitudes spread, and ultimately come to define your company as a whole.

3 Dog and Frisbee
Keep People Excited About Work

Be a leader who is welcoming and positive, and sees the best in each of their employees. This attitude will trickle down and make for a more positive work experience overall. People want to wake up each morning excited about coming to work. It’s important for a leader to create an environment and culture that people are proud and excited about.

4 Chipmunk
Don’t Nickel-and-Dime Your Employees

Be mindful of the bottom line – but not at the expense of nickel-and-diming! These are tough times for a lot of people out there. But let’s face it: no one wants to work for a cheap boss.

5 Penguins
Coach Your Leaders

Coach your leaders, but don’t manage them. If you find yourself managing your top people, you’re doing something wrong. You’re not inspiring, and you’re therefore not bringing out the best in your lead employees. If you properly coach your leaders by bringing out their best qualities, they will in turn coach those reporting to them.

6 Hippo
Avoid Stagnation

Make constant growth a priority, and encourage your team to contribute to this evolution. Your company is a living, breathing organism that needs to be fed and nurtured, and employees need to be able to contribute to this growth process. For example, six months ago, a team member suggested we create a support and maintenance program to offer to our clients. Today, this program is a thriving and growing part of our company, accounting for 20% of our overall business!

How to design a road map toward an engaged workforce

Can you prove the ROI of employee engagement? According to a Gallup survey, companies with world-class engagement have 3.9 times the earnings per share growth rate compared to their competitors with lower engagement. The challenge is planning a route to get employees engaged.Here are four basic tips companies can follow to motivate disengaged employees:

  • Pay according to market value. Many executives don’t like to hear it and would rather offer training or take similar steps. But paying accordingly is critical in moving disengaged employees up.
  • Limit organizational reductions in force. While hard to do, it’s impossible for employees to become engaged if they fear losing their jobs.
  • Manage organizational changes. Whether a market change or a leadership change, proactively communicate it to motivate disengaged workers.
  • Increase trust. Make sure all employees see the value in their company and believe in the brand. Executives must be visible and accountable.

While paying accordingly is important, it isn’t necessarily a motivating factor; it’s a baseline. Employee motivation is like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. People need to be taken care of, have the supplies needed to do the job, know what their job is, and be paid accordingly. Once those baseline needs have been met, you can move employees to becoming engaged.

To accomplish a company’s engagement goals, the process starts with an employee survey to determine what areas need work. The survey should be used as a starting point. To achieve the best results, develop the survey with experts from a third party who understand what motivates employees.
Based on responses, develop a plan for areas that require immediate attention. If there’s something that can be done, work on a plan to make a change. If a change cannot be made, explain why. It’s important for employees to know that action is being taken regarding a survey.
After changes are implemented, measure to see if there’s been an increase in revenue or productivity. Generally, a baseline is measured before the survey and six months to a year later to see if those factors increased.
Engagement takes a long time. But if you are genuinely trying to increase employee engagement, you will get a return on your investment.

6 signs your co-workers are out to get you

Knowing what to look for if you think someone might be sabotaging you at work requires going back to grade school in your mind. Essentially, our co-workers are the same people we went to school with and the same individuals that taunted their fellow campers at camp. I hate to say it, but each of us brings both good and bad behavior to work. Many experts will say that it’s the bullies who are insecure, and therefore, in order for them to feel better about themselves, they have to push around the people who are perceived as weaker. More often than not, a bully in grade school is the same bully at work.

It’s human nature to be competitive, of course. And born out of our drive to win, some of us “play dirty” from time to time. Ever cheated on the golf course? Maybe just improved your lie? Almost all of us do little things to try to get an advantage. When the stakes are high, whether it’s about winning a game or a pay raise, bonus, or promotion, we sometimes take the attitude that we must win at all costs. Here are the signs that maybe you’re not paranoid and your co-workers really are out to get you.

Not getting credit where credit is due

We’ve all been in the meeting where your co-worker, or even your boss, doesn’t acknowledge your contribution to the project. I’ve been in team situations in which the leader has taken the credit for winning an account and never credits the “cold caller” for opening the door or the closer for closing the deal. Truth be told, it was the door-opener, the closer, the creative team, and the leadership.

Avoidance

I have a client I’ll call Allen who was asked by the CEO of his company to welcome and support the new president. It was a difficult request, since it was the ousted president who had brought Allen into the company. But after all, he was still an employee. So, out of a sense of fair play and team loyalty, Allen wholeheartedly welcomed Sheila. After a couple of weeks he realized that his fellow co-workers were avoiding him. They no longer would come to his office for the occasional chat, there was no water cooler conversation, and basically they started treating him as an outsider. What Allen soon realized was that his co-workers were sabotaging the new president and that Allen was going to be collateral damage.

Loss of control

Losing control in the workplace is often a devastating feeling, and it erodes self-confidence. I remember one candidate I’ll call Sandy who was working as the SVP of client services at a major healthcare agency. She hired a smart, strategic thinker to work on a major account. At first, the colleague was in Sandy’s office on a regular basis, soaking up, as Sandy puts it, knowledge about the client, the office politics, etc. After six months, Sandy noticed that her colleague was going directly to Sandy’s boss (with Sandy’s ideas, usually). This person was also trying to undermine Sandy’s authority with other people in the client services department. The good news with this situation was that Sandy had a very long and solid relationship with her boss. They both recognized the struggle for control of the office and approached the newbie to fix it.

Being left out of the loop

Ever walked by a conference room to see your entire team gathered for a meeting you weren’t invited to attend? Sometimes, being excluded means something. It almost always does when nobody in that conference room goes out of their way to assuage your concerns afterward.

The sharp elbow game

As the workplace has become more treacherous, a new expression has emerged: being “thrown under the bus.” Just a few years ago, nobody knew what this saying meant. Now, however, when people start throwing colleagues under the proverbial bus instead of defending them like professionals, le jeux sont fait! (This is a French expression meaning, essentially, “the game is on.”)

People talking trash about others

If you hear your colleagues talking trash about others, most likely they are talking behind your back as well. This is the type of behavior that undermines a company’s culture, damages company morale, and ultimately, interferes with the company’s ability to deliver in the marketplace. Do all you can to refrain from talking negatively about colleagues at any time. There’s a reason why the expression “don’t shoot the messenger” is so prevalent. As often as not, the messenger gets shot.

Think about the playground in sixth grade. Remember the bully? The brainy kid? The jock? The popular kid? These and other roles persist in many workplaces. How did you manage when you were a kid? Sometimes practicing the Golden Rule is a great place to start. Stay vigilant though, because in most workplaces, that’s not enough.

By  Erika Weinstein  who is president and founder of eTeam Search.

5 Reasons Your Employees Probably Hate You

employees, boss, leadership, relationship, retention

 

Many years ago I worked for a company whose CEO was a stickler for how many hours employees worked. He made a point to note who came early and who stayed late. He considered anyone who didn’t a slacker.

As far as I know, nobody ever told him how shortsighted his approach was. Instead of rewarding results, he rewarded butt-in-chair time. Instead of focusing on output, he focused on input. Most hated the practice, but nobody told him.

How many of your behaviors drive your employees silently crazy that you don’t know about? Here are five leadership missteps to look out for:

1. You reward the wrong things. 
What gets rewarded gets done. It is such a familiar axiom of management that it is nearly cliché. It is, however, completely true. Where you focus your attention focuses your employees’ attention. What you notice, note and reward will get done more frequently.

Identify and focus on the results that matter. And don’t be like the executive above who confused activity with accomplishment.

2. You don’t listen. 
Even if your employees told you about a qualm of theirs, you might not really hear them. It is too easy to be distracted and pre-occupied.

Becoming a better listener is actually quite easy. When an employee is in your workspace to talk, turn off your email alerts, close your door and let your monitor go into sleep mode. Give your undivided attention to the person in front of you. They will feel you value them, and you’ll likely increase the quality and speed of the interaction.

3. You don’t notice what your employees are doing.
Brittney was a financial manager at a client firm. She was bubbly and outgoing. She also had the ability to draw attention to her “contributions,” though many weren’t that significant. Employees hated her self-aggrandizement. But they also disliked that management noted Brittney’s efforts because they were easily observed. Leaders didn’t pay attention to the good and often better work others were doing.

Great work is often done backstage, out of the spotlight. The glitter of self-promotion doesn’t blind great entrepreneurs. They seek out those people doing good work and make it a point to notice. Pay attention to people who do good work and let them know. And don’t get suckered by people who are better at promoting themselves than producing results.

4. Your attitude sucks. 

Bill is an entrepreneur who constantly complains about how terrible his employees are at delivering customer service. He berates and belittles even their best efforts. And yet he’s puzzled why those same employees treat customers poorly. The irony escapes him.

Attitudes are contagious. Mirror neurons pick up on and are affected by the moods of those around us. Leaders are especially powerful in influencing the mood of those on their team.

Don’t expect others to be more upbeat than you or treat customers better than you treat them. There are a few entrepreneurs who might have dodged this bullet, but not enough to be statistically significant. Your attitude is contagious, so pay attention to how you act at work each day.

5. You can’t keep your mouth shut. 
A young entrepreneur we will call Bob loved to share insider information about others. At one after-work beer session, he shared something HR told him confidentially about a coworker who was not at the gathering. It was less than flattering and was instantly off-putting to those in the group. The employee, a valued and productive member of the team, learned of the betrayal of confidence and was outraged. She left the company soon after.

Don’t think that trust can be effectively compartmentalized. If you’re known to be untrustworthy in your personal life, few will trust you in your professional dealings. If people don’t trust you, they will follow, but out of compliance instead of commitment.

No one is a mind-reader. If you want to find out why your team is dissatisfied to be a better leader, work on building trust and being equally open to both good and bad news. Ask them what they really think. And most importantly: listen.                 -Mark Sanborn

Finding Leaders Starts by Listening

 

 

 

 

This morning I commented on an article in a Group I’m in on LinkedIn. It was an article about the gender gap and why men are still paid more than their female counterparts. My comment on that article is that I believe a change will come, where women will become more recognized for their leadership style and therefore this will eventually cause the gap to narrow. Immediately after I made that comment I saw an article written by Lou Adler and wanted to share it with you…it supports my point!

leadership, vision, execution, CEO, leadership

If I had a bigger napkin I would have written this:

The Less Simple Formula for Assessing Leadership = Identify the Problem, Find a Solution, Develop a Workable Plan, Inspire Others, Deliver the Results

The story started many years ago, but was retold last week while having breakfast with a former client. The napkin was handy. When a client, he was the CEO of a mid-sized company, and my search firm had placed most of his senior management team. Now he’s on the board of a dozen or so different charitable organizations, university groups, and privately held companies. In his new role he’s still confronting the same hiring challenges as before: finding enough leaders. My company today is no longer a search firm. We now help companies set up programs to find and hire leaders of all types. Sometimes these leaders are engineers, accountants or sales reps. Sometimes they’re business executives or someone working on the shop floor. Regardless of the role, it’s not hard to identify leaders when you know what you’re looking for. This is where napkins come in handy, at least as a starting point.

Before I started working with this CEO, I had an assignment with a major LA-based entertainment company looking for a corporate director of accounting. The ideal candidate needed a CPA from a top accounting firm, and at least 5-10 additional years of experience working at the corporate office of a publicly-traded company. One of my candidates for the role was a young woman who was a senior manager with one of the major accounting firms. While her clients were publicly-traded companies, she didn’t have any hands-on industry experience. More challenging, she only had seven years of total experience, not the 10-15 listed on the job description. There was no question she was an exceptional person, and the VP Controller was more than willing to meet her. After the interview we both agreed she was a very strong person, but too light for the position. She never got this message.

Before I could break the bad news she wasn’t going to be considered for the job, she said something like, “I don’t want this job the way it’s currently structured. There is no way anyone could accomplish the overhaul of the department as defined given the resources and time frame currently specified. If you want me to consider this job there are five things that must happen.” She then spent another 10 minutes describing what she needed in terms of resources, staff and system support including a rough time-phased implementation plan. It was a remarkable plan. So remarkable, I never had a chance to tell her she was not getting the job. Instead, I called the VP Controller, and told him he had to hear directly what this woman proposed, even if he didn’t hire her. He enthusiastically invited her back and with a few other directors in the room asked her to describe her plan for rebuilding the accounting department. After about three hours he made her the offer. She accepted. Eighteen months later she was promoted into a bigger job after successfully completing the initial project.

What this woman did was simply amazing. As a result, I started rethinking how the best people I had placed up to that point answered questions. The best engineers could always visualize the technical problem, figure out a way to solve it and put a plan together. One plant manager candidate put a plan together on a flip chart on how to set up a global manufacturing and distribution center. The best sales reps could develop approaches to handle the most difficult clients. YMCA camp counselors could develop daily activities to ensure even their quietest kids would have a great experience every day. And it goes on and on. The best people in any job, regardless of their age or level, can visualize the problem they’re facing and figure out a way to solve it.

But this is just the first step in leadership ….

But this is just the first step in leadership – having a vision and being able to articulate it. It’s not enough, though. Not only do you need a detailed plan once the problem is solved, but you also must implement the solution successfully. This requires obtaining the resources, developing and motivating the team, and committing to achieving the objective despite the numerous challenges and obstacles that will always crop up.

The ability to articulate a vision combined with a track record of achieving comparable results was how the two-question Performance-based Interview described in The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired was developed. One question involves asking candidates to describe how they’d go about figuring out how to accomplish a major objective or realistic job-related problem. The other question asks them to describe something they’ve done that’s most comparable. (Here’s a link to a summary of the Anchor and Visualize two-question process.) After asking these two questions a few times for your biggest job-related challenges, you can be confident about hiring someone who has the ability to both visualize a solution when combined with a track record of having accomplished something comparable. One without the other will be a problem.

Be careful. Too often we’re seduced by just the vision and the lofty ideas. Others become overly focused on technical brilliance, or a track record of years of experience. None of this is good enough. Competency without results is just mediocrity. Results without vision is just more of the same. Vision without the ability to deliver results is just a bunch of empty promises. With leadership, everything changes. It starts by listening.