Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Changing my consciousness

I spend a lot of time on the internet finding free things that expand my knowledge and consciousness. Suddenly, I really get that changing a lifetime of attitudes, beliefs and behaviors REQUIRES surrounding myself with new messages for many moons.

The messages about doing what I love, being a great inclusive leader etc., are still a minority consciousness in our command/control culture. There is pressure from the old style leaders to continue their ways, and from the current money culture to ignore human capital, human values.

For example, I ran across this quote in a fascinating article about employee satisfaction and profit:

"[Costco's] management is focused on ... employees to the detriment of shareholders. To me, why would I want to buy a stock like that?" Equity analyst, quoted in Business Week

That question is partially answered by Professor Alex Edmans of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in his paper Does the Stock Market Fully Value Intangibles? Employee Satisfaction and Equity Prices. Dated June 23, 2008, the "paper analyzes the relationship between employee satisfaction and long-run stock performance."

Contrary to popular opinion, a focus on employee satisfaction also provides greater profits. From the paper's abstract:

A portfolio of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in America earned an annual four-factor alpha of 4% from 1984-2005. The portfolio also outperformed industry- and characteristics-matched benchmarks, and the results are robust to the removal of outliers and other methodological changes. Returns are even more significant in the 1998-2005 sub-period, even though the list was widely publicized by Fortune magazine. These findings have three main implications. First, employee satisfaction is positively correlated with shareholder returns and need not represent excessive non-pecuniary compensation. Second, the stock market does not fully value intangibles, even when independently verified by a publicly available survey. This suggests that intangible investment generally may not be incorporated into short-term prices, underpinning managerial myopia theories. Third, certain socially responsible investing screens may improve investment returns.

It is affirming to know that my values are emerging as good for business as well as being good for people.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Rebuilding Trust

In my experience, rebuilding trust in an organization is achieved when there is both admission of wrong and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is really important. The person who was wronged or betrayed needs to be willing to forgive the betrayer. It's healing for that person to put down the grudge, to lay down the burden of anger and hurt feelings. However, the entire burden for healing the broken trust does not lay on the wronged person's shoulders. Both sides need to do some work.

It's quite difficult to forgive if the person who broke trust doesn't acknowledge that they were in the wrong, that they understand that it was a breach of trust, that they know why it was a breach, and they accept that the other person/people have a good reason for feeling betrayed. Without such an admission of responsibility AND an apology - a heartfelt one - I doubt there can be healing because there will still be hard feelings on the part of the betrayed one. I've seen situations deteriorate over time even if there is a bandaid agreement to work together for a period of time.

Private mediation between the two people most concerned has helped me in the past, with later public acknowledgement to the whole group that the two people now understand each other, that one repents and the other forgives. The rest of the group may then need to voice their feelings about the aftermath of the conflict. Obviously, that has to be mediated, and time-limited.

Having some kind of common understanding of each other and each others' values can help heal a breach and reduce the possibility of future betrayals. I've used the Myers Briggs and DISC instruments as non-judgemental mechanisms to get information out and increase mutual understanding. Myers Briggs is my preferred tool because there is so much great support information for it, and the interpretations are more nuanced.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Great consulting/job advice from NAFE

I just read this very useful article in the National Association of Female Employees' (NAFE) newsletter. Hope it's helpful to you!

5 Tips for Deciding Whether to Take That Job or Consulting Assignment

You finally get the offer for that new job or consulting assignment you interviewed for. And, of course, you could certainly use the money. Before you decide to accept, big-business escapee and NAFE member Babs Ryan (former GE new product division head, Citibank VP of business development, now a small business owner with clients in 207 countries) recommends you give the offer this Five Tips sniff test. These tips and more can be found in her book America’s Corporate Brain Drain.

1. How was the interview process? Companies are on their best behavior when trying to attract talent. You will never be treated better than you are during the interview process. So, if it took four people and two months to make a decision and get you an offer in writing, multiply that times three, and you’ll have about the number of people and time it’ll take to get a decision made on your business proposals. If no single person is empowered to make a decision, you will never be empowered in your job either.

2. What will you own? Is it a process job? Process jobs are those where you are responsible for getting others to do their jobs but have no authority over those people. Process jobs rarely have budgetary responsibility. Typical titles of process roles are project manager, new product development guru, service quality/Six Sigma manager, or strategy chief. Businesses create these roles because the people who do have the authority and budget aren’t doing their jobs and they won’t fire them. You’ll be the scapegoat. Own the budget and authority over staff, or don’t take the job.

3. Can you escape? That retainer or two-year contract sounds great, until you realize that Godzilla is your boss and there’s a massive financial penalty if you want to leave before being chewed up. Never sign a contract without an out that won’t bankrupt you.

4. Who was doing the job before and why isn’t that person there? Dig deep, real deep. Bully managers cause a target to leave every 17 months, and find a new target in 2 weeks. And women bullies target women 84 percent of the time. Make sure you’re not next. Go on. Ask the manager if he/she “liked” the person who just left, and the one that left before that.

5. Big or small? Seventy percent of workers in big companies are unhappy at work. Big company employees are not only three times more likely to be bullied, but exponentially less likely to ever create, develop, and launch a new product. The majority of women who started their own businesses said “nothing” could get them to return to a big company. If part of your job will involve bringing change to the organization, if you have multifunctional skills, or expect a broad scope of responsibility, it’s probably better to think “small”-- and go for a smaller business.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Clearing Emotional Paths and Finding my Direction

Someone just let out a lot of toxins from the past and shared them with me so I can help her focus on positives. Clearing the path is so important!! At some point, it's important to vent the crap so can get through to identifying the next steps.

I believe it's important not to confuse the result with the commitment. It's helpful to focus on small wins - part of learning to depend on oneself one day at a time, to count on oneself - to build for bigger steps.

Change - even if it's for the better - is scary. I like to take fear around the shoulder and say "OK, fear, let's go!" And there are other steps I find helpful.

I observe myself to learn how I learn, how I take on new challenges, how I approach life, how I develop a new habit. I do that with small habits I want to develop and change. Then I know what to expect of myself and my process, so I can be patient with my process when I decide to start something new that is bigger.

Instead of feeling bad about my lack of follow-through on a project I haven't completed, I can observe my behavior and start again with no judgment. Why would I start anything again if I've judged myself harshly? I don't want to feel bad again when I stop again (which I probably will...). Correct and continue!

By having a focus, it's possible to see how other intriguing things fit into it and support it. I may question whether the direction is really the one for me. I find that I don't have to know the answer to that question. "More will be revealed" as I continue in the direction I've set for myself. My path will shift over time, and looking back, I'll see how it happened without my even realizing it. My focus needs to be right here, right now.

While it's easy to get lost in the past and the future, I find I can't really get lost in the present. My reminder to myself is to stay in the now, in my present - the present that is a gift to me. And in that I can be stable, focused, safe.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Changing culture one hire at a time

I have a client who graduated from Georgetown and then Columbia Law, got a prestigious clerkship, worked at white shoe law firms and now has transitioned into working for non-profits. She's African-American.

We talked this morning about how she always felt this undertone of "you should be grateful we hired you" at the white shoe firms. She thinks it was a reflection of their bad opinion of affirmative action, that somehow she didn't deserve her success. I agree with her. My question is "why would you think it was simply affirmative action that got her into your firm? After all, don't you have standards of work that are required?" So why should she be grateful? If they hired for reasons other than her abilities, isn't that their problem? She's doing the work, after all.

Plus, last time I checked, law schools teach the same things to all students. There isn't a separate track for affirmative action. Either you can handle the material or you can't. So what if someone got a chance to succeed because s/he was a woman, black, Asian, Latino/a? Either you can do the work or you can't.

Are there support networks to help non-dominant groups succeed in a dominant culture and environment? Sure. Just as there are groups that help those in the dominant culture succeed. Needing support is a great thing. We try to teach our kids to ask for help, and then somehow when they become adults, it's "weak" or "incompetent" to ask for help.

I wonder why it's OK to look down on someone who takes advantage of opportunities. Isn't that what our market system supposedly is all about? Or are opportunities only for certain people, the ones who control the market?

Once she proves herself, my client will have put one more chink in the wall separating people by race and ethnic background, and gender. The rub? To some people, she will never be able to prove herself. That's really their loss.

How to Find Work You Love

The work as I see it (mostly in this order):

1) Zero in on what you really want to do. What do you love doing? What do you do well? In what environment and culture do you thrive? What's your "live with" number for compensation? This is your "must have list."

2) Develop a final profile and resume. The profile and resume content will be linked together for a seamless document that presents you exactly as you want others to see you.

3) Come up with your networking spiel (otherwise known as the "elevator pitch"). This is essentially your intention regarding what you want to do and what skills you want to use in service of x, y or z.

4) Identify people with whom you can (and want to) network, and look at how to connect with people you don't yet know. This includes using LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networking sites.

5) Find jobs that interest you, and decode the job description to see if, on its face, the job matches or could match a majority of your Must Have List. Job descriptions contain lots of clues to job scope and responsibility level, organizational culture, and core skills you need.

6) Develop a powerful and persuasive cover letter "format" that will help you get interviews. Getting interviews is the only goal of the cover letter.

7) Go through your interview concerns, perhaps including some role play for difficult questions.

8) Talk through any issues and strategies as you move through the interview process.

You're going to be so much more successful if you have a person to help you through this process. A coach, a friend with whom you make an agreement for weekly contact, a mentor - these are all options.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


A topic I've long studied, good leadership to me is characterized by two key things: vision and compassion.

Good leaders - the ones I will follow and the kind I strove to be - have a compelling vision of the future, a vision that seems achievable and reachable within a reasonable period of time. Kennedy's vision for reaching the moon in a decade seemed possible even if not probable. And in fact, it was achieved one year before Kennedy predicted.

Obama's vision for getting the US independent of foreign oil also is possible. Just as there were for Kennedy's vision, there are obstacles and many interests lined up against this vision. Yet, the fact of setting out that vision puts Obama in the leadership role. If he can successfully mobilize enough people behind that vision, we can overcome any obstacle.

Yet...is Obama's a compelling vision? Well, I don't think so. It's a little fear-based - and I don't believe that a fear-based vision is ever really compelling. It's usually much less compelling to run away from something instead of toward something. Can Obama rephrase the vision more positively?

More compelling to me is a vision that states "the US will generate half its electricity from renewable sources within 10 years." It's a huge goal, it's measurable, and it's possible. Sure, there are some big "ifs." If enough people support it. If enough resources are devoted to building the necessary infrastructure (e.g. a national grid, better storage capacity, affordable technology). If the private sector and public sector work cooperatively.

That's the vision piece of good leadership.

Compassion is the other piece of good leadership. I define compassion as caring about other people - their life circumstances, their opinions, their hopes, their fears. It's about knowing enough about people as they really are and where they really live that you can talk to them and be understood. It's about beginning where people really are so that you can lift them up, appeal to their dreams, and encourage them to believe those dreams are possible.

Compassion is about understanding that people have fears and sometimes think they are not good enough or strong enough or smart enough - and then connecting with them to help them find their strength and worth and brains and other resources. It's about helping others find their own abilities and belief in themselves.

With compassion, a good leader can enlist people in the movement toward the vision. With compassion, a good leader can be a great human being.