Encounters with your boss aren’t really random, I guess, but I had an unexpected encounter with a boss when I was a young leader moving up in the organization.
I was one of a very few women in the middle management of the firm and was being promoted to the next level. After accepting the new job and agreeing to deliver the outcomes as described, I praised my boss for being one of two executives in the company who had a track record of developing and promoting women into management positions.
He looked at me like I was a little nuts and said, “Are you kidding? Any time I have a women who is even marginally qualified for a management job I’ll give it to her. She’ll work twice as hard and produce three times the results – for half the money!”
Heart stopping, right?
Now, he was a good guy. He had hired me and promoted me twice already. I knew he was pretty chauvinistic – what male boss wasn’t in the early 1990’s? But here’s the thing: he thought he was being complimentary. He thought that telling me that he noticed that I worked harder than anyone else and produced results better than everyone else was a good message. But you know, all I heard was the “half the money” part.
A few months later I got my bonus. It was fantastic. The biggest check I’d ever seen. But you know what I wondered? I wondered if this bonus was a “half the money” bonus. I didn’t know what anyone else got and I didn’t know the bonus formula. So even though I thought the check was huge, I didn’t know what it meant. And I always suspected that, although it was big, perhaps i
t was less than I would have received if I had been a man.
I came to peace with that pretty quickly. He really was a good boss. In the best way he knew, he was trying to acknowledge my performance and contributions. But I’ve always remembered that experience and have used it to be sure I’m clear in my communication with my team – communication about performance, money – and what it means, career opportunity and more. Making sure that highly valued – and other – employees know I value them for what they do, how they do it, the results they produce and how those dynamics impact their career progress is critical in building manager/employee relationships.
I think back to that time and am glad he promoted me – even if his motive was a little suspect. We all got what we wanted: the organization got a highly effective leader, he got a region that blew out its numbers, and I got higher into management with a larger compensation package. Win-win-win.
Funny how those random conversations can change your perspective forever. I chose to learn an important management communication lesson that I never forgot. I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said, “I can learn something from any man – even if it’s what not to do.”
About the author: China Gorman is CEO of the CMG Group, connecting HR to business and business to HR, and author of the Data Point Tuesday feature at www.chinagorman.com. Connect with her on Twitter as @ChinaGorman.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
Do you control your environment or do you let it control you? How do you maximize what is at your disposal to get it done, make it happen, meet the deadline or just accomplish a simple task?
Recently I attended a unique experiential learning program. In this program, participants experience various circumstances designed to simulate actual working conditions. They are presented with real business situations with limited resources, time and information. The goal is to make your journey while overcoming various obstacles and complications in order to be considered victorious or successful. As this is aligned to mirror an actual work environment, you begin to feel the same pressures and anxieties you experience in a normal hectic work day. Teams must rely on the collective knowledge and efforts of team members. At the onset of the program teams must make an action plan. These decisions will most likely determine the outcome.
As you journey along, you face the fear of the unknown, fear of failure, peer pressure, deadlines and team dynamics. Personally, I was struck with one important but pivotal lesson,
Do not fear the unknown, find a way to make it known.
How many times are you placed in a situation where you do not know the answer or can not anticipate the outcome? You have probably stumbled though knowing the end is near and you can retreat back to your desk and recover. (Side note, if you do find yourself stumbling make sure it is a convincing stumble combined with a strong confident delivery.)
Find a way to make the unknown known. What do you fear? Failure, peer pressure, desire to achieve, competition, inexperienced team members or overload. Find the trigger and take action. Talk to colleagues, customers, leaders in the area of specialty, read reports or research the Internet. Value the knowledge you receive.
This translates so well in Human Resources. HR is no
t a known science; there is gray in what we do. So often our decisions are based on interpretation and judgment. Fear creeps in and we question if our decisions are sound. We are professionals; we know our business and we know how to appropriately leverage or channel that fear to yield strong persuasive arguments and be equally credible activists and advocates for our organizations.
In the end, you are measured by maximizing critical decision making skills, project management skills and ultimately the success of winning or achieving your given goal. My take aways can be summed in a few impactful statements:
- Decisions made up front most often have the greatest impact on overall productivity, so take the time necessary to make the best and wisest of choices.
- Gather as much information as possible; when your decisions are based on little or none, it will impact the desired result.
- Do you control your environment or does it control you? It is your choice.
- Value ALL your resources.
- Maximize but do not compromise, otherwise it will lead to a road of mediocrity.
In the end it was about collaboration, team dynamics, leveraging team member’s strengths and utilization of the allocated resources, time and information. The results were surprising and will influence the way I approach work.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Michelle McLaren, PHR is a Human Resources Business Partner for Wincor Nixdorf, a Global IT organization and has over 18 years progressive human resources experience. She is the Chair for the Austin HR Management Association Certification Committee, blogs regularly for AHRMA on various HR topics and lends her talents to other HR projects and initiatives. You can connect with Michelle on LinkedIn.
We’ve all seen them lined up in impressive displays at Barnes and Noble. We’ve read some of them. We may have even been told we need to take some cues/lessons from them.
Books on Leadership. Just googling the phrase gives me 138 million results.
Now I’ve read my share of books, articles and posts from a diverse group of authors on this subject. I’ve immersed myself in academic materials and skimmed through excerpts in business journals. I’ve definitely gleaned bits of wisdom and invariably, when reading these materials, find a nugget or two that I can place in my pocket and use to make me a better leader. I enjoy reading stories of successful leaders who have transformed themselves and transformed organizations. But I think I’ve latched on to the two ingredients necessary to develop one’s leadership capabilities. Just as when making a roux, it seems to me that being an effective and ultimately inspiring leader requires just two ingredients to start:
- Continuous curiosity
- Appropriate use of one’s social skills
So let’s break these down.
As children we explore, learn and test out new things by touch, by taste, by just ‘doing.’ Successful adults still retain that thirst and desire for new knowledge for ongoing learning and acquisition of new knowledge is necessary for a successful leader who needs to regularly ask “what’s happening in the world beyond my four walls?” “How does A impact Z?” “What do we need to do to spur innovation or growth or sustainability?” “How can I acquire the knowledge that I need to get myself – and my team – there?”
Social skills are those skills that allow us to communicate and interact with others and socialization (which begins when we are infants) is the process by which we learn the norms and expectations for how we socialize with others. Refining one’s social skills is necessary for business success of course – any time a new employee enters a work group or organization, they must be socialized to the culture. Naturally, managers and team members need to have the ability to interact with others and resolve conflict while managers must tap into their social skills in order to delegate, manage, counsel and coach others, and model and reinforce expected behaviors. Leaders take this one step further however by harnessing the power of their social skills to drive this process for others; adjusting as needed to fit situations and people. But make no mistake about it … a leader must be able to succeed in social interactions.
Peter Northouse has a definition – “Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.”
So is it a tad too simplistic – putting together a complex dish like LEADERSHIP with just two ingredients? Perhaps. But just as with a recipe, we can start with a few basic ingredients as the foundation of a scrumptious dish. Layer in the rest.
And flavor to your taste.
I don’t hide the fact that I’m a huge Florida Gators fan living in the middle of Alabama. I catch a lot of flack but that doesn’t stop me from cheering for my team.
If you follow college football, you know that Florida had about four years of awesomeness. Then, we played Alabama for the SEC championship game last year and lost. Most of our winning team has graduated or been drafted to the NFL, including our quarterback Tim Tebow, who some apparently think carried the team on his oh, so broad shoulders.
This season’s team has been less than stellar. We’ve lost two games in a row, one to Alabama, and the games we won were by the skin of our teeth. I’m so tired of hearing about Tim Tebow I could scream. I would bet good money that the team is tired of hearing about him too.
So what does this have to do with HR? Leadership and moving on.
The leader of the National Championship team graduated and moved on with his life. Leaders in our organizations move on to bigger and better things all the time. What we can learn from watching Florida football this year is that just because something worked really well for one team doesn’t mean it’s going to work for the new team.
Leaders have different skill sets and they have different ways of working toward the same outcome. If you try to force a leader into a mold he or she doesn’t fit, you’re looking at frustration and probably failure. Learn from the past, adapt or change your methods. Learn what your new leaders bring to the table and utilize those skills.
And for crying out loud, stop saying ‘well, Tim did it this way.’