Well, here is the sad fact: women are still considered “less than” by far too many (by the way, including some other women). The progress has not been great enough or fast enough.
So, here is a whopping piece of insight from a recent NPR Diane Rehm program (NPR — this session guest-hosted by Susan Page). The title for the hour, (March 24, 2011) was: Women in the Work Force: Critical Issues (listen to the program, and read the transcript, here). One of the guests was journalist Hannah Seligson, author of New Girl on the Job: Advice from the Trenches. Here is a key excerpt:
Well, I think what’s happened now is that the consciousness raising used to happen in college. There was all this bra burning, women were very aware of the inequality. And now college is a cocoon of equality. Women sort of run laps around men academically and we know that women graduate in higher numbers from college than men. Even law school, medical schools have equal number, if not more women.
And then something interesting happens in the workforce, and I think this is one of the big mysteries. They get to the workplace and they realize that the world is not equal, that they make less than their colleague Joe who’s sitting next to them. They may not be getting advocated for promotions as much. And so the sort of success that they had in an academic environment isn’t translating into the workplace. And I remember interviewing a professor at the Harvard Business School a few years ago and she said, you know, women think that the workplace is a meritocracy, and it isn’t and so women do very well in an academic environment where it is a meritocracy.
This uneven meritocracy really is not much in dispute. Women are at least tied with men, exceeding men in many instances, in the educational arena. The grades, the assignments, the graduation rate – this sets up a genuine meritocracy. But after the years in the university, then what?
The uneven meritocracy… This is a serious problem, and one that every woman and man in the workplace needs to address – don’t you think?
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Linda A. Hill and Kent Lineback for the Harvard Business Review blog (February 23, 2011). To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
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When is the last time you said words like these to the people who work for you?
“I don’t know.” ”I was wrong.” ”I’m sorry.” “Would you help me?” “What do you think?” “What would you do?” “Could you explain this to me? I’m not sure I get it.”
First, it will keep you from learning. If you’re in a first-level manager’s position, you may know more than your people because you once excelled as an individual in the work they do. But, as you advance, you’ll soon rise beyond the level where you can be expert in the work of all those you manage. Sooner or later — probably sooner — you must learn to manage those who know more than you and know they know more.
Linda once worked with someone in a global investment bank who took over a trading desk where he managed a group of experienced traders. At first he tried to give detailed instructions for adopting or closing specific positions or pursuing different trading strategies. The traders, who knew he lacked experience in many of the foreign markets where they were active, resisted his directions and demanded to know his rationale. He interpreted their resistance as a questioning of his authority, and tension grew between them. However, he did know he lacked knowledge of foreign markets, and one day he asked a trader to explain a certain aspect of pricing. The trader gladly spent several minutes on the subject and even volunteered to talk more at the end of the day. The incident, the manager said, provided an important insight. Because of it, he stopped talking all the time, and began to ask questions and to learn. And as he learned, traders stopped questioning his decisions so much, and tension in the group dropped.
The second reason to acknowledge error or ignorance is the issue of trust. The foundation of your ability to influence others is their trust in you as a manager, their belief that you will do the right thing. Pretending you know more than you do, or failing to recognize and draw on the expertise of others, is a good way to keep people from trusting you and your judgment. People know when you don’t know something; they know when you’re wrong or made a mistake or need help. They’re reassured when you know it too and are willing to say so. People expect you to understand the business and how it works and to know enough to make sound judgment calls. But you needn’t be the expert-of-experts.
Having said that, let’s be clear. This is another of those fine lines that managers must approach but not cross. On one side of it, people respect your ability to recognize your own shortcomings and your willingness to learn. Without those qualities, people are less likely to trust you. On the other side of that line, however, too much expression of weakness, error, and uncertainty will also diminish people’s trust in you. In every situation, you must find that line and remain on the positive side. Straying too far from it, one way or the other, will make you less effective.
[To check out more free resources on effectuve communication, visit the Communication Insight Center.]
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Linda A. Hill is the Wallace Brett Donham Professor Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Kent Lineback spent many years as a manager and an executive in business and government. They are the coauthors of Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader (HBR Press, 2011).
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Jeff Haden for BNET (March 17, 2011) The CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.
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Risk is a lot like speed.
Our perception of risk like our perception of speed, follows an ever-decreasing curve. The difference between 30 mph and 60 mph feels huge, the difference between 60 and 90 less so. Going from 90 to 120 is noticeable but not dramatic. And the difference between 120 and 150 is certainly perceivable but not significant. (It really isn’t unless you pop your head up above the fairing, in which case the wind resistance makes your head feel like it’s going to pop off.)
Gambling is a classic example of an ever-decreasing perceived risk curve. Once you overcome your hesitance to place the first bet, placing subsequent bets is a lot easier. Tossing down another $100 after you’ve already bet $400 doesn’t seem like so much — even though it’s still $100.
The same is true with owning a business. (You took a major risk simply by taking the entrepreneurial plunge.) Invest $20,000 in a project, and by comparison tossing in an additional $5,000 doesn’t seem like a lot of additional risk. Mortgage your house to raise capital, and borrowing against credit cards doesn’t seem too much riskier. Extend credit to four customers, and extending credit to one more customer is fairly easy.
After you’ve taken on a lot of risk, taking on a whole lot more risk just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal anymore.
Sound like I’m risk averse? Obviously I’m not. As a business owner, if you don’t take calculated risks it’s nearly impossible to succeed. But for every success story of an entrepreneur willing to borrow against 5 credit cards, get a second mortgage, and raid the kids’ college funds on the way to business fame and fortune, thousands of people take on too much risk and fail.
Those stories don’t get written because those stories aren’t uplifting or sexy.
So today, do this: Start thinking of risk in absolute rather than relative terms. Evaluate your current risk exposure, then any risks you’re considering. If you’ve invested $20,000 in a project, fine. If you’re considering investing an additional $5,000 in the project, don’t compare that $5,000 to your initial investment and think, “Well, really, I’m not risking that much more, since I’ve already got $20,000 in it…”
$5,000 is $5,000. When you evaluate whether or not to take a risk, don’t think about chips already in play; those chips are irrelevant. Make sure you consider every risk you take in absolute terms, not in relative terms.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about management as he worked his way up the printing business from forklift driver to manager of a 250-employee book plant. Everything else he knows, he has picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs he knows in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon’s bestseller list. He’d tell you which ones, but then he’d have to kill you.
Visit his website at: www.blackbirdinc.com.
Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Doreen Lorenzo, president of Frog Design. She says that one-on-one meetings are vital for business leaders. “Though you’ve talked about the vision 5,000 times,” she says, everyone can learn from a private talk.
To read the complete interview and Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.
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What’s the Mission? Your Troops Want to Hear It From You.
Bryant: What were some big influences for you early on?
Lorenzo: Certainly my parents. Their view was, whatever you want to do, we’re fine with it. I wanted to major in theater. They said: “Fine, that’s terrific. Go for it.” And they were incredibly supportive. And my father told me, “Don’t ever say no to anything.” That is always in the back of my mind, and it’s something that I use in leadership, too. You’re presented with an opportunity. Maybe you’ve never taken on a challenge like that before. But don’t say no. You take that leap and you take that risk.
Bryant: How has that played out in your life?
Lorenzo: I went to film school. I’m running a company now. How do those two things connect? I’m a storyteller. I love telling stories. I love listening to stories. I feel like the business that we’re in is storytelling. And in filmmaking, I was really involved in managing the process, putting the pieces together. My business is like that today. It’s a lot of different pieces. We have a lot of different kinds of people who work together. It’s a very team-based environment.
Bryant: What kind of films did you work on?
Lorenzo: I was the producer on anything from documentaries to corporate videos to commercials. I did it all. I held the purse strings, made sure that all the schedules were set, worked with the directors. I love to be around creative people. I’m very good at managing the chaos and pulling it all together to make something that’s really tangible and creating that environment where people can thrive.
Bryant: What were your leadership roles in high school?
Lorenzo: I was involved in theater. I worked on the newspaper. I did speech. I was always a very outgoing personality, and I think outgoing people have natural leadership capabilities. I remember reading an article that said that the No. 1 fear that people have is public speaking, and the second fear they have is death. But I have never had a fear of public speaking. It was something that just came very naturally to me.
Bryant: When you first joined Frog Design, how big was the company?
Lorenzo: Fifty people. We’re 600 now.
Bryant: What were some leadership lessons for you as the company grew?
Lorenzo: I think that what creative people want, more than money or fame or power, is to be listened to. They want to see their ideas be made into something. They love when something we work on actually goes to market. That’s more exciting to them than anything else you can give them. So it’s very important to get really, really interesting projects, with hard problems to solve. They might say, “Oh, this is so difficult.” But at the end of the day, they really love that.
Part of this is just having, I think, an instinctual knowledge of people. I’m a people person. I like people very much. My mom always said I should have been a psychologist, because I can read a person pretty quickly and I have a lot of empathy for people. So I kind of pick up where there are weak points and use that. So part of this is just using your instinctual knowledge to make it work, and sometimes you fail. But that’s part of innovation. You fail fast. You move on.
Bryant: Can you talk more about the culture of your company?
Lorenzo: The small things matter. We have many rituals. One is something called coffee time: every day at 4 o’clock, in every one of our studios around the world, everybody stops and they have the opportunity to go into the kitchen and people just socialize. They might play a game of Ping-Pong, they might play a video game, and there are pool tables, foosball. Different studios have different toys. That’s a ritual and that’s just accepted. That’s what we do.
Bryant: Why do you do that?
Lorenzo: These are intense people. This is a time for them to take a break, to talk to people they might not work with, and to listen to things. That’s every day, Monday through Friday. We often joke that if we ever took coffee time away, we think everybody would quit. And we have 10 o’clock Monday-morning meetings at every studio, where they go over anniversaries, birthdays, projects, and share stuff that another studio has done. That’s something that’s really important to people.
Then each studio has a little bit of its own culture to inspire creativity. They might go on field trips. There’s a “sketch jam” in one of the studios every Tuesday at noon, and people come in and they just practice their sketching skills. But that’s all accepted. That’s part of the culture.
Bryant: How do you preserve the culture as your company continues to grow?
Lorenzo: You can only lose it if you want to lose it. I remember somebody telling me: “Oh, you can’t have a creative studio bigger than 30 people. If you’re bigger than 30, you’re going to lose it.” Then they said, “you can’t have it bigger than 70 people.” And then, “you can’t have it bigger than 100 people.” So now we’re up to 150 in one of the studios, and you know what, we’re still creative, we’re still driving it.
The mission statement at Frog has always been to change the world, and our people are really passionate about that. And if you keep that in the front of your mind, it is amazing that no matter how big you get, if you hire the right kind of people, that’s their mission. And you have to empower people. Micromanagement is the death of creativity, so you have to create an environment where they can succeed, and where the environment can expand.
Bryant: So how do you hire?
Lorenzo: There’s a certain type of personality you look for, because the business changes so rapidly and it moves so fast. As I always say, “Jump on the train, it doesn’t stop.” So you’re looking for people who are, obviously, very talented, very smart, who like process but understand that process has to change, and who are very eclectic in their thoughts and are passionate. I look for people who have that sensibility. They come from diverse industries. They have conquered something.
They have to be very articulate, because, in our business, you have to explain complicated ideas that have never been done before. Let’s say a designer presents something to a client, and the C.E.O. asks, “Well, why did you choose that?” You don’t want somebody to say, “I don’t know — because it’s cool.” That’s not going to work. You need somebody who can really explain why you’re doing what you’re doing. Being creative is just not enough. And sometimes you get very, very creative people, but they can’t work in a team — it’s their idea or it’s the highway. That’s not going to work, either.
Bryant: So what questions do you typically ask?
Lorenzo: One of the questions I always ask them is, why don’t you want this job? What are the things that scare you about this job? You learn a lot about a person that way. And if they say, “Well, what scares me about this job is it’s too chaotic,” they’re not going to thrive here. Or if they say to me, “You know, I like to be in charge,” then you’re thinking, this person’s not going to thrive in his group.
You’re really looking for that person who understands the mission. Not that they agree with everything that you say, but they understand the mission. I want to hear someone who says: “I can contribute. I want to be part of this team. I feel like I can add some value and these are the reasons why.” That’s important. You want people who can put in and not take out.
Bryant: Have you been given feedback about your leadership and management style that led to you to make some adjustments?
Lorenzo: People want to hear from me. I thought I was being very communicative. But they want more, so I send out updates constantly. They are usually pretty passionate and it’s about what’s going on in the business.
I’ve added companywide phone calls. I’ve added town hall meetings and then I make my rounds to all the studios. And as I do, I just try to meet people one-on-one. I’ll set up a day and book my calendar to have one-on-one’s with people, because I’ve found that you learn so much that way.
So that was an adjustment I had to make. Somebody said to me, “Well, how do you manage the time?” But you have to recalibrate. If your people are asking you for something, and you’re a people-driven business, you’ve got to listen to that. I think that’s part of being a good leader — really listening and making those adjustments and letting people know that you are serious about what you say. It’s not just lip service.
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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times‘ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.com that he started in March 2009. To contact him, please click here.