In the fall of 2004, my business partner Juliet Rodman and I founded Wellness Corporate Solutions, a national provider of workplace health screenings and corporate wellness programming. Back then, our headquarters was my kitchen table — and for the next three years, Juliet and I were the only employees. We worked every day to become part of an exciting and rapidly-growing industry.
Fast-forward to 2015. We now manage almost 100 full-time employees and thousands of subcontractors across the country. Our corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, is filled to capacity. Over the past ten years, we’ve worked with more than 500 private- and public-sector organizations, including Fortune 100 companies with hundreds of thousands of employees. Inc. Magazine has named Wellness Corporate Solutions one of the country’s fastest-growing privately-owned companies three years in a row.
As an African American and female small business owner, I’ve dealt with my share of obstacles along the way. But obstacles can be overcome, and I’d like to offer a few pieces of advice that may help you on your own journey.
Know your business. The fundamental hurdle most minority business owners face is access to capital. Forming lasting relationships with lenders, investors, and equity firms is absolutely crucial. To be successful, you must understand every aspect of your business and become fluent in the language of finance. Be comfortable discussing your business’s fundamentals: cash flow, revenue, overhead, profit margins, capitalization, and market share. Make it a priority to absorb everything you can find that relates to your industry. Corporate wellness was a relatively new concept in 2004 and I faced a steep learning curve. Even today, I’m still reading about industry best practices, the movement of my competition, shifts in the market, and legislation that could affect my business. The learning never stops.
Become certified. Wellness Corporate Solutions is certified as a minority business enterprise through the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and as a 100% woman-owned business through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). These relationships have given us the opportunity to network with other minority-owned businesses, which I believe is essential. We should seek out and support each other whenever possible. From a business perspective, certification has also helped us connect with large organizations that are actively seeking to work with minority-owned businesses, often to meet internal supplier diversity goals. Certification can and does open doors.
Make the case. In our company’s early days, Juliet and I pitched to (mostly) male CEOs and CFOs time and time again. I met with countless high-level corporate executives who did not look like me. You may find yourself in similar situations, making the case for your business under challenging circumstances. But when you have genuine passion for what you do, difficulties become what I call “teachable moments” that just prepare you for the next challenge, and the next. Never forget the passion that drove you to start your business in the first place. In my case, I often hear from people who attended one of our health screenings and found out they had a serious health condition — serious, but treatable. Knowing that our work is changing lives for the better is what motivates me every single day.
Owning your own business requires tremendous energy and commitment, but if you’re truly committed to your mission and are willing to learn, go for it. You already have what it takes to succeed.
About the Author: Fiona Gathright is the founder and president of Wellness Corporate Solutions, an award-winning woman-owned business that builds customized, high impact corporate wellness programs. WCS clients include media companies, law firms, associations, non-profits and private employers nationwide.
One of the most important functions of HR is to acquire and retain top talent. And since millennials, who will make up close to 50 percent of the workforce by 2020, rank mentoring as one of the most important factors they weigh when choosing between employers, many companies are turning to mentoring programs as a way to set themselves apart from the competition. In fact, three-quarters of Fortune Magazine’s top 25 companies have employee-mentoring programs.
Mentoring provides much more than just a “good feeling” among millennial workers. It also provides an avenue for honing and developing your employees’ talents and skills, while making them more confident in their abilities and more connected to the company. In addition, mentoring helps you discover which employees have leadership potential.
However, mentoring is only effective if it is properly planned and executed. According to How to Build a Successful Mentoring Program, a how-to guide produced from the research of UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, mentoring should include six key components:
- Purpose: There should be a clear, strategic purpose that aligns with organizational goals and objectives. For example, the mentoring may be needed to fill a skills gap. Also, both the mentor and mentee must be committed to the importance of the mentoring process and make it a priority.
- Communication: There are two types of communication involved. The first communication is to introduce employees to the mentoring program and ensure that they know what the mentoring is for and who can participate. With proper communication, even the employees who don’t participate can support the company’s efforts. The second type of communication is between the mentor and mentee. They may meet one-on-one, in groups, by email or videoconference, or by other means, but the meetings should be regular.
- Trust: The relationship must be built on trust. For both parties to feel comfortable sharing at the level that can truly be effective, there must be an understanding and commitment to maintain the confidentiality of the communication.
- Process: The process may be formal or informal. However, there should be a way to match the mentor and mentee, and it’s also important to determine such things as the length of the mentoring and the meeting dates and times. In addition, both parties must be actively engaged to move at an appropriate speed.
- Progress: HR should establish check-in points (two months, four months, six months, eight months and then a final meeting) to ensure that both parties are reaching their goals and milestones. This includes having metrics for measuring the progress of the mentoring sessions.
- Feedback: Both participants must provide constructive feedback and be open to receiving feedback from each other.
Following these tips will help you plan and carry out an effective mentoring program that creates engaged, confident employees, leading to a more unified and productive workforce.
About the Author: Alison Napolitano is the community manager for MBA@UNC, UNC Kenan-Flagler’s online MBA degree. Alison has a background in digital marketing, and account management. As a former college athlete, Napolitano is goal-driven has a passion for helping people and brands succeed online. Her other interests include content marketing, any form of athletics, and family.
Leadership skills are one of the many traits needed to be a successful leader. Women have closed the gender gap in entry and mid level positions, but have yet to reach that in top leadership skills. Susan Colantuono calls this the missing 33%, as women still need to be taught business, financial and strategic acumen to fill this gap. These leadership skills enable people to easily and confidently lead others, skills including but not limited to: ease of communication, natural flexibility, an ability to visualize a goal, thinking critically, and the ability to delegate responsibility effectively.
The ability to communicate effectively is absolutely critical in positions of power in an organization, a small team of people, and even for those not in a leadership position. In organizations, effective communication can save time, can prevent misunderstandings, and oftentimes can relax workers beneath you and above you. We’d all like to think we’re the perfect manager but there is always room for improvement. In a small team of people, the ability to communicate effectively can prevent misunderstandings, assist with visualization of objectives, and make things easier to achieve. Individuals who aren’t in leadership positions can use these skills to better present their needs to management. This skill can be developed through regular practice, and doing things to lessen anxiety felt by the speaker.
Leaders who are naturally flexible in a business are able to naturally shift objectives and methods used to achieve objectives. Flexibility is also vital for those not currently in a leadership position. This skill will allow them to be teachable, and always in line with the end goal of management. Overall, employees with flexibility will become an essential element to the business, increasing their job security. Flexibility prevents all employees from getting terribly stressed in a world where plans change, and where things tend to be less simple than they might have appeared initially.
Visualization of objectives enables leaders to have a set destination. It’s also the first thing a good leader should do, so he or she can recognize when they’ve accomplished a goal. How does this benefit those outside leadership positions? Well, visualization enables these people know where they want to go within their professional lives. Do they see themselves as a manager, or even the next CMO? Visualizing this will help them take the steps necessary to get there. This aligns with the known method of focusing on a single large objective and devoting energy to achieving that goal, while taking other factors into account but not losing sight of the overarching goal.
Thinking critically is a useful skill for it enables an intelligent leader to take factors into account. Leaders use critical thinking to troubleshoot in the moment, and to come up with reasonable solutions. Critical thinking is a skill for all members of an organization. When given new tasks and assignments learning the new process quickly is essential for keeping up with the ongoing business. This is a situation where critical thinking skills will help employees be a quick learner. Ultimately this can lead to an increase in trust from management, leading to more responsibilities.
Delegation in the context of leadership refers to the ability to divide labor intelligently and assigning people to the areas they are the most responsible and able to contribute. Make sure you are an effective delegator. Understanding yourself is a part of this skill, knowing your strengths, your weaknesses. This is an extremely useful skill in business and in the professional area, but in terms of the average employee it can also be used to mean the ability to manage time equally and effectively. Delegate your day and what time of the day will be devoted to specific tasks.
At the end of the day, leadership skills should be a part of your professional life in order to progress and lead effectively. Even those who don’t currently have a management position can be devoting time to the development of these skills. Practicing these skills will prepare employees to promotions and strengthen the organization as a whole.
About the Author: JP George grew up in a small town in Washington. After receiving a Master’s degree in Public Relations, she has worked in a variety of positions, from agencies to corporations all across the globe. Experience has made JP an expert in topics relating to leadership, talent management, and organizational business.
In Human Resources, as much as any professional discipline, we women have hit our stride. Given the opportunity to compete in the field, we’ve succeeded: to reduce turnover, attract and retain those diamonds in the rough, and build reputations for respectable (and even press-worthy) organizational culture. It’s been our ticket to the C-suites of the Fortune 500 – and not a moment too soon. And as the scope of the job changes from “intuition” to data-driven strategy, we have the chance to show our adaptability, too.
But then again, our stature puts us in an awkward position. Despite our best efforts to promote organization-wide diversity and inclusion, all too often we discover unfair treatment – especially of women.
And we want to do something about it.
Really, you want to do what’s best for your own professional development and career goals, but you also want to support the marginalized, underrepresented people in your own organization. How can you do both of these things both effectively and fairly? Even if these distinct goals aren’t completely at odds, how do you send a message to those around you what your priorities are?
It’s a question I’ve seen come up to the surface over and over for a long time. Our exit interview software actually came out of a project to identify the greatest barriers to the advancement of women and minorities in the workplace. We’ve uncovered pivotal opportunities for our clients, but we’ve also encountered challenges that most executives would hope to sweep under the rug.
One of the best – and worst – parts of creating a truly anonymous exit interview system is the abundance of brutally honest answers.
These are the real voices of women at one of our clients. This is a large (10,000+) and decentralized organization, but neither a poor performer nor ideologically backwards. The employees’ reasons for leaving, for example, hardly deviate from our measured industry norms. And yet comments like these are far too common:
“The biggest thing I noticed at [the company] is that if you’re a woman, you had better act ladylike. There was nothing more contemptible than a woman who spoke her mind. As a woman you were supposed to just nod and do as you were told. I was described as “aggressive.” I’m not aggressive. I am passionate and dedicated. I take pride in what I do and do it well. This is not what was rewarded. Being demure seems to be ‘leadership’ quality most desired at [the company].”
“My boss had a very hard time providing accolades, at least to the women who reported to her. She didn’t seem to have a problem telling the men who reported to her that they were doing a good job or even giving them credit for work done by somebody else, but she had a hard time telling a woman that she was doing a good job… Most of the time, my boss would cut me off if I started to speak during a meeting.”
“Men are definitely recognized more than women in the department.”
“I was repeatedly harassed by [a male coworker]. When I demanded it stop… [he] went to management and lied.”
“I was harassed several times and nothing was done about it.”
Of course I’ve picked a few especially unpleasant-to-read examples, but haven’t you felt this way at least once in your career? If not, I envy you. If you’re anything like me, this sounds all too familiar, if a bit distant. And, if you’re anything like me, part of why you’re still in the business is because you believe it doesn’t have to be this way.
But what now?
Imagine these were your findings. Or, maybe you don’t have to. Maybe you’ve already faced this issue within your organization. How do you deal with it? Tell us in the comment section.
About the Author: Deb Dwyer is the founder and president of HSD Metrics, a provider of organizational surveys designed to increase retention, engagement and organizational effectiveness. With over 30 years of combined experience in human resource management and survey research, Deb’s extensive knowledge reaches beyond organizational research to include expertise in work climate improvement, retention, hiring and selection, employee orientation, performance management systems, recognition programs and career development systems.
Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is from Susan Axelrod again features a female entrepreneur and her lessons learned about building a business and leading successful teams.
I started my bakery business, Love and Quiches Gourmet, in my home kitchen in 1973, purely by accident; from just one quiche. I was a clueless suburban housewife with no preparation whatsoever for business ownership. My only qualification was my passion for everything connected to food. I was a very good cook and was cajoled into starting the business by a carpool friend, an equally great cook.
We had no plan, we simply started. We made up some quiches, took them to a few local businesses, and before we knew it we had one customer, then two, and then ten. Adding desserts soon followed. By the end of the first year we were servicing about thirty restaurants, and took the giant step of incorporating and moving into our first tiny storefront where we hired one or two employees, and continued to grow.
We were the Keystone Kops Quiche Factory; two steps back for every step forward. My partner cried uncle shortly after so I bought her out and quickly realized this little business had a will and a pull of its own. I wanted to stick around though, to see how the movie ended. That was forty years ago.
I hired an accountant, and started asking a lot of questions of my customers, my suppliers, my newfound mentor, my peers, my competitors (who didn’t know I was watching), … and I learned from my mistakes, a vastly underestimated learning tool. And this was all before the dawn of the computer age. At the time, I was a one-man band; baker, buyer, salesman, porter and delivery guy.
Across the decades, we grew in concentric circles; Metro New York, Metro Tri-State, up and down the Eastern Seaboard, across the Continent, then across the globe. There were as many obstacles thrown in our path along the way as there were victories. There was brutal competition, key customer loss, key employee loss, location moves and so on. But many obstacles were beyond our control; commodity spikes, 9/11 after which the economy came to a dead halt, the Great Recession among them.
When looking back at it all, one thing stands out. It is after 9/11 that the business had its “Aha” moment and we reinvented ourselves and our business model; with Just-In-Time and Lean Manufacturing methods.
But, by far, our greatest achievement was the rebuilding of our organization from the bottom up— with strong high performance teams, and equally strong directors and middle management.
Our employees are our greatest asset and are valued insiders, each skilled in their particular area. We built it slowly through a combination of promoting from within and bringing in outside talent when needed. They are a passionate group— we have the right people on the bus, and in the right seats.
At Love & Quiches Gourmet we have eight teams- Operations, Quality Assurance and Food Safety, Engineering, Purchasing and Logistics, Research and Development, HR, Administration, and Sales and Marketing. These teams are all cogs in a wheel with its members highly dependent upon the other; keenly aware that one weak link can bring it all to a grinding halt. Some companies promote healthy competition… I think teamwork is healthier. And even more importantly, mutual respect and tolerance during conflict resolution (there will always be differing points of view; after all, this is a business and not a love affair).
We communicate with daily huddles, weekly management and executive meetings, team building, ongoing training, and more. We do not talk down to our employees; we need them. Communication is crucial to keeping us focused and all on the same page. By inviting input across the board, the ideas keep coming.
As a private company, there are fewer layers in our decision making which helps us compete with the giants. We are known for our flexibility and receptiveness to new ideas. From the top we set strategic direction, but our teams provide the “meat and potatoes” that bring the results. All 250 of us have “skin in the game”.
I have chronicled my forty year journey in my recently published business memoir, “With Love and Quiches: A Long Island Housewife’s Surprising Journey from the Kitchen to the Boardroom” where I emphasize organizational development in chapters devoted to our transition to lean and mean, next leveling, and company culture, all told from the Love and Quiches Gourmet experience.
We have come a long way, and it has been a great ride. I take pride that it was my product that put quiche on the map, now served on menus all over the world. And it was my devoted, hardworking and experienced team that got us there.
About the Author: Susan Axelrod and the word “pioneer” go together like cake and frosting! As the Chairwoman and Founder of Love & Quiches Gourmet, Susan’s journey has paved the way for women entrepreneurs. She started her business with no formal training, only a passion for food. Coupled with her energy and tenacity, Susan was able to take her small business, worldwide. Today, these desserts and quiches are found in restaurants and retailers around the globe. Susan chronicles her experiences in her blog, Susan’s Sweet Talk and her book, With Love & Quiches: A Long Island Housewife’s Surprising Journey from Kitchen to Boardroom.
Editor’s Note: Although we typically feature content targeted at HR practitioners and leaders, from time to time we also like to highlight guest authors who bring entrepreneurial experience and advice for HR consultants or business owners. Today’s post is by Ruth Hinds, who has previously been a guest writer for Women of HR, and features her advice on that topic.
When you’re running your own HR business, one of the most important skills that you can cultivate is the ability to attract the right clients and grow your operation. Of course, your HR knowledge matters and is vitally important, but if you can’t sell it effectively to the right people, you aren’t going to have a business for very long.
The truth is though, if you’re solely trading your time on a one-to-one consultancy basis, you’re inevitably going to reach the point where further growth just isn’t possible. What exactly do you do once you find that all your billable hours are booked up, you’re already increasing your rates steadily and regularly, and you also have a family life and other responsibilities to juggle? It’s all well and good suggesting that you should ‘lean in’ to the opportunities that are out there, but as a business owner, you sometimes have to engineer your own.
Here, we’ll look at three strategies for leveraging your time, so you can grow your HR business to levels that you never previously thought possible, without burning yourself out.
Package up your knowledge into information products
If you want to expand your reach and help more businesses to get their HR practice in order, you might want to consider adding information products to your offerings. This is quite simply about packaging up your knowledge so buyers can take it away, digest it in their own time, and implement what they’ve learned. It could be in the form of webinars, online courses, workbooks, or podcast sessions.
The beauty of this tactic is that you only have to create the materials once, and you can sell them time and time again. Having options that are lower priced than your one-to-one consultancy services can also ensure that you have something available for those who are interested in what you offer, but don’t want to make a bigger commitment just yet. If you can create information products that are crammed full of value, your buyers will often go on to work with you in greater depth in the future.
Sell adverts to complimentary businesses in your email newsletter
If you don’t already have a database of email subscribers who receive your updates on a regular basis, you should start at the earliest possible opportunity. It’s one of the best and most valuable assets your business can ever have, and it gives you a pool of people who are interested in what you have to offer and have given you permission to market to them.
The benefits of this are crystal clear. Next time you create a new service or want to run a special offer, you have an engaged audience that already knows, likes, and trusts you, and wants to know more about how you can help them. It doesn’t end there though. Many businesses create a lucrative income stream by selling advertising space in their email newsletters. It’s essential that you always put the experience of your readers before anything else, and thoroughly vet any potential advertisers. Get it right though, and it’s a relatively hands-off revenue generation tactic for your business.
Earn a commission from promoting products and services that you already recommend for free
You’re probably already recommending products and services to your clients, just because you’re passionate about those particular solutions. Maybe there’s a people management software that you think no small business should be without, or perhaps there’s a book that you always shout about to clients.
Many businesses offer affiliate programmes for their products and services, so make sure that you find out whether it’s an option for your business. Amazon offers a scheme that you may be interested in if you’re a big book fan, and many software providers will reward you exceptionally well for sending business their way. Be sure to only consider promoting things that you’re confident of the value of, and always be upfront and tell your audience that you’ll earn a commission if they go ahead and make the purchase. Transparency and honesty are key here.
The bottom line is that you deserve to be rewarded for your skills, and the value that you can bring to the table for your clients. If you’re serious about business growth, you need the right tools in your kit, and you need to embrace the opportunity to step away from the traditional service provider business model. Advances in technology mean that there’s never been a better time to grow a savvy business that works for you, rather than drives you to the end of your tether.
How can you make changes going forward, to better leverage your time and reach your full potential?
About the author: Ruth Hinds is a leading expert in client attraction and business growth for HR consultants, and the founder and CEO of HR Consultants Marketing School. A former HR professional herself, she’s worked in senior HR management roles and has an MSc in HRM. She’s recently released her first Kindle book, ‘Skyrocket Your HR Consultancy: The HR Business Owners Guide To Creating Multiple Income Streams’.
“It’s not what you know, but whom you know,” is a phrase with which many of us are familiar, and in today’s hyper-connected world it’s truer than ever. The power of one’s network can’t be diminished, an essential part of professional life that can further your career like nothing else. The right network can solve business problems, expand your knowledge, and catapult your career. It’s a personal advantage that shouldn’t be understated.
With all that said, I find most of us relegate networking to the bottom of our to-do lists, buried under other items that require more immediate priority. But I’d urge you not to delay developing this powerful tool. Building and maintaining one is easier than you’d think and, as I’ve recently discovered, one of the best endeavors you’ll ever undertake.
In the past 18 months, I’ve spent a great deal of time building my own professional network. Truth be told, I previously gave little thought to the power and importance of my professional network when I was in a corporate role, but once out of the daily grind and starting my own enterprise, I’ve realized the incredible value of active networking.
With that said, I’m keen to provide some quick networking strategies that can help you build a successful network, simple time investments that should benefit you for years to come:
Market yourself – Begin by identifying what you have to offer. Look at networking as a way to build your personal brand, which in today’s social media-driven world is incredibly important. Your network is your means of building connections that matter, regardless of your current level or position, so take stock of yourself and understand what you bring to the table.
Know what outcome you desire – Networks work best when viewed as reciprocal relationships, and you should understand what you could contribute as well as wish to receive going in. Here are the criteria that shape my choices:
(1) I create networks that are international in scope because global reach is important to what I do
(2) I wish to connect with people keen to disrupting traditional thoughts and business ideas, sharing ideas centered on changing how we think about the world of work
(3) I wish to embrace connection with other senior executive women across various industries and interests. I am passionate about what women can do in the workplace, and wish to support other women in our professional endeavors
(4) I desire to build a powerful portfolio of HR professionals at various levels. Giving back to my profession and shaping its future direction is something I am keen to do.
Be clear on your objectives – It’s important to be clear on what you wish to achieve. If it’s building your personal brand, select connections that can raise your profile. Identify people of prominence, and not necessarily in your same field. Also, set clear goals for yourself when it comes to building this aspect of your personal life. For instance, this month’s goal could be connecting with five new female technology executives across the industry. This helps you stay focused and provides you with tangible metrics you can track.
It works if you work it – A network is not something you turn on and off when you need it; those who are successful know it requires a regular investment of time and effort. Be consistent, as you’ll have a harder time reestablishing connection if you disappear for an extended period of time. A minimum of an hour a day networking with others via social media and/or in person via events helps to build your network tremendously over time. View your networks like any important relationship: get to know them, learn what’s important to them, and assess how you can help them reach their goals. The more you give, the more you’ll receive. That’s the true ROI in networks.
What are some of the best ways to connect with people?
Connection is easier than ever. Social media and networking sites, numerous professional associations, charitable connections, online meeting groups based on interest, etc. Before you find yourself overwhelmed with choice, decide on which means suit your intended result. I’ve found LinkedIn to be a superior means of interaction, both professionally and personally. It keeps you active in the eye of a good number of professional bodies, and it’s a great means of maintaining your professional contacts. It’s also a bit less intrusive and overwhelming than email, which can be challenging due to the size of everyone’s inboxes these days.
Twitter is an acquired taste: you either love it or you hate it. For me, Twitter is less about building lasting networks than a means of receiving and sharing real-time information. If used for networking, be certain that communication stays brief, and move it into private conversation as swiftly as possible so others aren’t disconnected by a connection that’s best fostered one-on-one.
Measure the ROI of your network – It helps to periodically take stock of your efforts. Some tangible ways to assess good networking ROI include an increase in connections and social media followers; more requests to contribute and/or share your expertise; an uptick in invitations to network events and in-person gatherings; and an increase in opportunities and social events, from coffee dates to interviews and/or business meetings.
Creating an ecosystem of peers, mentors, business advisors, friends, and advisors will reap rewards far beyond your dreams if you take the time to develop your approach, work diligently, and nurture it well. This ecosystem can support your career for years to come and bear opportunities you can’t imagine. Start networking today!
About the Author: Rita Trehan is the Founder and Principal of Rita Trehan, LLC, a change management and leadership advisory firm focused on corporate leadership, emerging technology, and cutting-edge organizational design. As a seasoned top executive that has successfully transformed organizations at the Fortune 200 and beyond, she has extensive experience working with CEOs and top corporate management on process and organizational improvement for maximum profitability. A soon-to-be published author, Rita regularly speaks at industry conferences around the world. You can contact Rita on twitter at @rita_trehan and connect with her via LinkedIn. Rita’s blog can be found at www.ritatrehan.com.
In our personal career path, we can be our own best friends or our own worst enemies. This is largely due to our mindset and what we believe about our ability. In working with leaders, I find that people have often set their own glass ceiling. Researcher Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University confirms, “Much of what might be preventing you from fulfilling your potential grows out of your mindset.”
Often, the difference between success and failure is your mindset; those with a fixed mindset will be limited as to how much they can achieve, while those with a growth mindset will not limit their ability to succeed. According to Dr. Dweck’s research, those individuals with a growth mindset outperform those with a fixed mindset. Those with a fixed mindset tend to do what validates their talent and are consumed with proving how good they are. Those with a growth mindset have the attitude that they’ll do what it takes and will apply what they learn from mistakes to develop their talent.
Where do you fall? Ask yourself the following questions: Do you believe intelligence is a fixed trait, without room for improvement or growth? When you make a mistake, do you try to cover it up or hide it? Do you make a point to conceal your deficiencies and take on projects only if you are sure you are capable of doing it? If you answered “yes”to any of these questions, you likely are limiting yourself.
Even if you feel that you have a growth mindset, we often limit ourselves in ways that aren’t as obvious. For example, how often do we say to ourselves,“No, I can’t go for that promotion. I don’t know enough. I’m not good enough. What if they find out I’m really not that smart?” That’s a limiting mindset.
Limited mindsets manifest themselves in all kinds of environments. Take, for example, the world record for the 100-meter dash. For years, it was believed that man couldn’t break the “10-second barrier”— it was commonly accepted that no runner could complete the 100-meter dash in under ten seconds. But that record was defied in 1983 by runner Carl Lewis. Once that glass ceiling was shattered, six more sprinters completed the dash in less than ten seconds during the 1980s. Since that time, nearly 100 sprinters have broken the 10-second barrier. All it took was one person defying the “unbreakable”record, and numerous others followed suit.
Our mindset ties directly into our emotional intelligence. Think this is all just mushy, soft- skills stuff? Think again. According to a recent study1from the University of Bonn, published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior in November 2014, individuals who displayed emotional intelligence were more likely to bring home a bigger paycheck than their emotionally-stunted colleagues. Emotional intelligence is a measure of your self-awareness and awareness of others. Are you self-aware about your own limiting beliefs?
So what can you do to grow your mindset? Set “stretch goals”that force you to stretch outside your comfort zone. Try to set goals that are focused on process and mastery, not goals that are solely focused on outcome. And finally, look for opportunities to fail. Yes, you read that right! Although most of us fear failure, we often learn more from our mistakes and failures than from our successes. Mistakes can lead to great ideas and new opportunities. So start looking for these kinds of opportunities. Your brain will find what you tell it to look for.
What can be learned from this? Bottom line: If you think you can’t, you won’t. When you limit yourself and your capabilities, you won’t break that glass ceiling or defy the odds. But when you unlock your mindset to allow for all opportunities, the possibilities open up to allow for remarkable achievements.
1Momm T., Blickle G., Liu Y., Wihler A., Kholin M. and Menges J. I. (2015) It pays to have an eye for emotions: Emotion recognition ability indirectly predicts annual income, J. Organiz. Behav., 36, pages 147–163. doi: 10.1002/job.1975.
About the Author: Kerry Goyette is the founder and president of Aperio Consulting Group, a human capital consulting firm based in Columbia, MO. Aperio’s mission is to help organizations increase effectiveness of their biggest asset, their people. Kerry holds her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Missouri with post-graduate studies in neuroscience and psychometrics. She was also recently elected to the executive MBA Advisory Board for the University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business.
Diversity. What does it mean to you (aside from a pretty handy street dance troupe)? It’s an important topic to mull over because the modern workplace is expected to employ a diverse workforce, with HR departments obviously playing a crucial role in the process.
But as with so many valuable concepts, the risk of the principle being lost in the rhetoric and its substance replaced by an empty corporate buzz word is high. As HR employees – dealing with the people behind the labels – it is our duty to clarify the recruitment process we are expected to implement and highlight any practical issues that arise.
Diversity and the ‘tick box’ culture
One of the measures of a diverse workplace is how closely it reflects the make-up of the society in which it operates. This has led to government statisticians compiling lists of percentages where citizens are divided into their ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation and numerous other categories and the numbers compared – often unfavourably – with the make up of the company.
If we’re not careful, this can lead to diversity being treated as another item to be included on a growing list of corporate targets. ‘Do we have a disabled guy? Good. Five per cent ethnic minorities? Great. We’re running at 55-45 gender split though; need to even that up a bit.’
Here we stray into that contentious issue of ‘positive discrimination’, and whether it is ever right to recruit someone on the basis of their age, gender, sexual orientation or cultural background. Whatever your position about that, it is a very real dilemma that the Human Resource department has to grapple with – diversity in the real world rather than a utopian concept.
Do we still have an appetite for diversity?
Recent world events have even cast doubts on the value of diversity itself. Struggling economies have led to high levels of unemployment and the accusation by some disgruntled citizens that their jobs are being taken by people from minority backgrounds. And there is no doubt that recruiters in many fields have sought to actively import talent where there is a perceived lack of it from amongst the local employment pool.
With the media highlighting the negative aspects of muticulturalism and the dangers of excessively liberal policies, and the rise of nationalist parties in the political sphere, even the politicians’ are displaying quite schizophrenic behaviours as they reflect the public’s ambivalence over diversity.
Companies as diversity in action
The modern workplace, to varying degrees, mirrors the situation in society at large. People from different backgrounds come together for a common cause and while there are inevitably culture clashes and disagreements there is also a lot of solidarity and shared identity. A company’s success seems often to be related to the extent to which its workforce has been integrated, enabling everyone to pull together. But is there more that a diverse workplace can offer up?
Attack of the Clones
In our drive for diversity, we must ensure that the people we recruit are given the support and freedom to actually express their unique qualities and perspectives. In a modern workplace we need to utilise the full richness of each individual’s experience and tap into their irreplaceable skills and strengths, if we are to remain relevant and competitive as a unit.
Employees are not just representatives of particular demographics in society, they are living, communicating windows into the minds and hearts of the people who share significant elements of their background. If one of our employees uses a wheelchair, he or she will be invaluable in assessing how accessible our company is to other wheelchair users. If a female employee objects to the chauvanistic workplace culture then ignore her at your peril. It is highly likely that sexism is coming across in our products and services, alienating women in society.
In some ways, a diverse company is a gift which gives us the opportunity to interact with society at a deeper, more inclusive level. But we must still make the most of the richness at our disposal by treating employees as respected individuals. Otherwise we risk creating a sham diversity rather like the clone troopers in the Star Wars stories. Here, the individual troopers are largely identified by surface differences alone (hairstyle, uniform trim, etc.) to compensate for the fact that they are all cloned from one source.
Is diversity still on the menu? Absolutely, but only the best restaurants can combine all of the flavours into one appetizing dish.
About the Author: Nicole Dominique Le Maire has gained a reputation as a highly valued leader within the female business and Human Resources Industry. As a multi-talented woman entrepreneur and a global people connector, she is also the co-author of two books, including “The Female Leader.” As a result, she has gained tremendous experience guiding startups and entrepreneurs which has supplemented her MBA, MAHRM, and MCIPD and this has catapulted her to become one of the top leaders in the Human Resources industry. Get in touch via twitter @NicoleLeMaire or one of the business websites, humanresourcesglobal.com, newtohr.com, thefemaleleader.biz
Yvonne Sell and Georg Vielmetter recently wrote Leadership 2030, a new book outlining how 6 powerful trends are impacting life as we know it. They identified these 6 megatrends as Globalization 2.0, Environmental Crisis, Demographic Change, Digitization, Individualization and Technology Convergence.
In this series of blog posts, Monick Evans of the Hay Group will cover each of these trends in turn and share her thoughts on how they impact engagement, and what they might mean for us as professionals as well as for us as employees. The first in the series covered Individualization. Today she discusses Digitization.
Digital Help or Digital Hindrance?
With the powerful megatrend Digitization already upon us: what does it means for you and your job and for the way you manage others?
You can do anything you want in the virtual world. There are apps for pretty much everything, insomniacs can find people to talk to any time of the night and you can get advice whenever you ask for it (and even when you don’t if you look at Twitter!). So all this digital stuff should be making our lives easier right?
In many ways yes it should.
Digitization is all about the blurred boundaries between our work and personal lives as a result of technology. It’s about being “switched on 24/7” and it means many of us can work flexibly from anywhere at any time, which helps us find the work/life balance that works for us. Living 2 ½ hours away from my office means I regularly work from home just to stay sane!
In the workplace, Digitization can definitely be a huge advantage; advances in smartphones, apps, Facebook and Twitter for example are a great way to stay connected to our clients and our colleagues across timezones in a simple, engaging and fast way. They keep us agile and flexible, we can react in an instant to the latest bit of news.
So what’s the downside? Well if like me, you weren’t born into a world of Clouds, I-phones, Lync, Messenger and Twitter, you’re not a Digital Native. My kids will be (they can already work the Sky TV box better than I can). That means there’s a whole heap of training we need to make sure that we use technology to save time in our jobs, rather than waste time.
And what if you feel you should constantly be “wired” so you can respond immediately to your client’s late night emails? Aren’t you at risk of getting stressed or burnt out? And if you only communicate with your manager on email, how will they spot the signs and be able to help you?
Then there’s the problem of being discreet. How do we know what’s appropriate for us to share online? The world of social media is so quick that it’s easy to act on impulse, but by doing that we could be damaging our company’s brand – or even our client’s brand – just by a click of a button.
If you work in a role in HR, then these problems are soon going to be your problems. What training do people need and how can you keep them up to speed with new technologies and digital trends? How can you prevent employee burn out? And how can you best engage your people around your brand so that they want to protect rather than damage it?
Research on this new megatrend shows that people’s expectations are changing about how they use technology at work and that if companies want to keep their talent motivated, they’ll need to adapt fast because:
- Younger workers – or Digital Natives – want to be connected all the time. Removing a Smartphone from someone when they turn up for work is like removing an arm. (Interestingly, a major retailer in the UK that banned mobile phones on the shopfloor is now piloting the use of them again to keep people motivated)
- People will demand that their company supports them with different devices and technical support to keep them working, especially if employees are travelling for their jobs
- A pressure to always be online could lead to stress and burnout for some, that managers still need to look out for and manage
- Employees can easily find out online how their salaries compare to other firms (and then they can easily apply for another job if they want to)
- People want to work when they want to work – that might be in the middle of the night, whereas your manager wants to speak to you when the sun’s still out. Managers will need to measure ‘outputs’ differently and look at performance rather than just hours
- We’re all human and we still need some personal contact. Managers can’t rely on virtual communications and meetings – we still want to see people face-to-face
So stop and have a think about your own job for a moment. How do these changes to the workplace affect you or the people you manage? How can you get the best out of using technology and mitigate the worst?
Try answering a few questions to see how well you think you’re doing amidst Digitization:
|Yes / No|
|Is technology helping you save time in your job?|
|Does technology help you stay in touch more easily with your clients or colleagues?|
|Do you feel technology gives you more flexibility to work from anywhere at anytime?|
|Do you have the technical support you need to keep those devices working at all times?|
|Are you using technology to showcase how great your company’s product or ideas are?|
|Be honest, are you slightly addicted to checking your messages? (even if someone is talking to you)|
|Does your Smartphone go wherever you go (including to bed)?|
|Have you ever had an online ‘rant’ about something or someone then instantly regretted it?|
|Does your manager expect you to answer emails 24/7? (and do you expect the same from your direct reports or colleagues?)|
|Have you ever felt totally exhausted and at risk of burnout because you never really switch off from using technology?|
How did you get on? If you generally answered “Yes” to more Help than Hindrance, then you’ve probably found a great way of using technology in your life.
But if you answered “No” to any of these questions, maybe now’s the time to put that device down and have a proper conversation in the real world rather than the virtual world. Given that when I see my kids playing, they’re often copying Mummy on the phone sending messages and moaning when a webpage won’t load fast enough, then maybe it’s time I did just that….
See you next time, I’m off to meet a real friend for a real drink and a real chat rather than a virtual one, it’s much more fun.
How well do you think people in your organization are adapting to the digitization trend? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
About the Author: Monick Evans is an Associate Director at global management consultancy Hay Group. With 20 years experience in organizational research, HR and change consulting, Monick has worked with some of the world’s best known multinational companies to deliver leading edge employee engagement programmes. Monick works closely with key stakeholders, including CEOs, Executive Teams, HR, OD and Communications professionals to help align their employee survey programmes with business strategy. The topics she is discussing in this series of blog posts can also be found in the Hay Group report The new rules of engagement.