We all know them. The inspiring leaders of our time who make us want to do, say, feel and ultimately, be more than we are today. It’s not just their many successes that catch our interest, in fact, many times it’s just the opposite. Their real-life, relatable traits are what make us stop and realize that just like you and me, they’ve made and will continue to make mistakes, but come back stronger in their wake. The fact is, that these leaders are all imperfectly perfect. They share multiple characteristics that contribute to their success in ways you wouldn’t expect. While developing a few of these may not make you the next Cheryl Sandberg, it can certainly help you find your way to becoming a better leader in the office, at home, or any time you find yourself in a leading role. To give you a better idea of what these characteristics include, we’ve created a list of the five most prevalent we’ve seen in today’s top leaders. Check it out!
Getting to know your team and welcoming, questions, comments and ideas can help you become the leader they’ll remember for a lifetime. Whether this means getting more involved in projects or simply sending an email asking for feedback, letting your team know that you are open to their input is not only a great way to build trust and camaraderie, but also the most beneficial tactic in making sure that your company is achieving the best work from a diversely talented team.
2. Ability to Delegate
Knowing that you can’t possibly be the best at everything and delegating work to team members based on their unique talents and abilities puts you leaps and bounds ahead of the average leader. Once again, get to know your team and determine how and when you can best utilize the strengths of each member to most effectively move the project forward. Throw bias out the window and understand that every hard worker deserves a fair shake at showing you what they can do.
3. Willingness to Learn
Great leaders understand that they can learn anything from anyone. Whether it be the CEO of their company or a child they met at the store, top leaders make the most of every opportunity by listening to what others have to tell them. Rather than shut down the next time you encounter criticism, really listen and take each point into consideration to create opportunity for growth. Also try to pick up on both verbal and non-verbal cues from your team to understand how you can best reach and motivate them.
4. Quick Thinking
The ability to think and act on cue is invaluable as a leader. Your team is looking to you to make decisions quickly and effectively at the moment they’re needed. While making a mistake at some point in your career is inevitable, quick thinking sustains project momentum and keeps your team on track regardless of speed bumps. Don’t get backed up waiting for a complete strategy when time is of the essence. Consider your options, inform your team members, and run with your decision.
5. Effective Communication Skills
Carefully considering your expectations and effectively communicating them to your team will help you achieve the best possible end result. Reminding your employees of your company goals, objectives and standards will help them stay on track and rise to the optimal level of quality. Be sure to relay your expectations in a way that is respectful, effective and consistent. Also try to relate to your individual team members to better understand how they can be motivated and inspired to produce their best work.
About the Author: Taylor Cotterell, Executive VP of NaviTrust Search & Recruitment. Since starting in the recruiting industry in 1998, Cotterell has become uniquely skilled at identifying top performing candidates who are currently employed and not actively looking to move. Cotterell joined the NaviTrust group in 2004 and currently manages a recruitment team, dedicated to local searches. Their focus is on permanent placement, contract, and contract-to-hire roles, mostly in the Utah market. NaviTrust holds a spot as one of the top Utah executive search firms, while also extending to achieve international, reach and recognition.
Much has been written about integrity. In fact, in the hundreds of team meetings and board retreats I have facilitated, integrity is, seldom, NOT a team value. However, I intend not to focus on what we perceive integrity to be; yet, what integrity is not.
Let’s start with a common definition: Webster defines integrity as a firm adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. Here are a few examples, from real life, which I believe shine a bright light on what integrity is not.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- A person hears a fabulous key note or presentation; and they believe it to be so fabulous, they take portions of it – change a few words – ‘just to be honest’ – and begin to tout this as their own brilliant idea.
- A person asks someone for a treasured family recipe. They don’t really want to give it; yet rather than to say no, they give it to that person – less an ingredient. (Yes, that has happened to me, and yes, it does happen….often in the South)
- A person/s are exposed to an idea, a word, a term or philosophy which rings true to them, on which someone else has built their methodology and often their company. They think that term is so unique and powerful; they take that term, a few key phrases, and build their approach around that same approach.
- A person has the opportunity to speak the whole truth about an issue – personally, socially or professionally – and they opt to tell the truth. However, they don’t tell ‘everything.’ They just tell portions of the story – they omit key points; most often swaying the point, certainly to their favor. (You know the drill….think about a sales person’s sales participation and their quest for sales credit/quota commission, think about sales/consulting methodology aspects – the consulting world is full of intellectual property wars – even social and political issues…..just turn on the TV or log onto YouTube.)
- A person says one thing to you, another version of what they have said to you to someone else, and yet, another version to another person of the same story. I wish I had a nickel for every time that has happened to me in my life!
- A person is newly hired onto a team from outside the company and that person begins a quick study on how to usurp the person that hired them in a quest for fame, fortune, and power. Discrediting, sabotaging, back-stabbing, hording of ideas….the list is long.
I have had every single one of these happen to me in my career … some in the past few months.
Many in big business will say: this is why we have trademarks, copyrights, and intellectual property infringement law; and this is learning to ‘play the game;’ survival of the fittest. If someone doesn’t ‘have it’ – then they are ‘fair game’. Sure, I ‘get it’ – remember, I lived in that world for over 25 years. It goes without saying that we must protect ourselves, our company, and our work product.
However, the issue I am raising is much more systemic in our culture. For I am quite certain there are many in business today who don’t share everything with their internal counterparts for fear of being ‘poached’ of the good ideas. I am also quite certain there are those in business who perhaps don’t lie by commission; yet lie by omission – just not sharing everything, just sharing ‘enough.’
Where do we think this behavior is taking us? To a constant shade of grey? To a moral stance that is our interpretation instead of one that is based on honesty and integrity?
So what, you may say? “That is life.” Well, I firmly believe that is wrong.
We have an obligation to own up to our responsibilities – and that means stopping this insanity of stealing and poaching and, not respecting one another as creators, individuals, contributors, and builders of our companies, our communities, our nation, and our world.
Two things to consider:
First: Be Impeccable with your Word. A fabulous book: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, A Toltec Wisdom Book became a ‘book of the month’ for many of my teams over my career. If you not have read it yet – read it. One of the agreements is to “be impeccable with your word.” This basically means telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Often in today’s world, the operative word is ‘whole.’ Many just simply omit key facts or nuances. This is an interesting observation – just listen to national news, politicians, Fortune executives, Oprah, even personal acquaintances. It is amazing to watch the ‘spin factor’ and the power of just ‘omitting a few key facts.’ What is the whole truth?!
I will offer one personal test case of integrating this philosophy into life. With one of our most successful teams in a publicly traded software company, we used this book as a gauge for how we could grow and learn together as a team; and this book and particularly this agreement of ‘being impeccable with our word’ became our mantra. We were in the fast paced world of dot com frenzy, software sales and mergers, and greed was rampant. This agreement saved our team and company in more ways than we will ever probably realize. We were not always the most popular at the time; yet I know from the CEO through the ranks, we were the most respected and valued at the end of the day.
Second: Stop stealing. A person’s original ideas will always be more authentic, rich, and potent than anything they ‘borrow’ or steal. Period. A person can rationalize due to complacency, laziness, or their perceived belief that they can ‘take this idea and really make it come to life’ (yes, I have heard that one of late, as well).
What I would suggest is simply this: If a person loves the idea, thinks it had merit, power, brilliance, cache, etc., then simply get permission, give credit or notice to that company, and source the source. It is truly that simple.
Again, this conjures up ‘legal jargon’ and it certainly gives many an attorney a steady annuity stream; and yes, there will always be a need for the law. Yet, it does not have to be that complicated. Just give notice to those that deserve it! Also, folks, please realize that YOUR ideas will be so much more powerful if they are truly YOURS. That is the beauty of pure authenticity and the power of telling your story… not plagiarizing someone else’s.
This philosophy and principle of integrity starts with each one of us. One person at a time. A germ of an idea at a time. It does not have to be on a soap box, on the national stage, or even in a national court of law. It is in the small acts, small companies, and small businesses which have often set the stage for many of our greatest achievements.
- We are responsible for protecting it.
- We foster all ideas – ours and others.
- We blow on all the embers of ideas of our fellow workers, our colleagues, our friends, our clients, our coaches, our partners….we don’t steal them.
- We give credit. We give public and private recognition.
- We make referrals expecting nothing in return.
- We are frightfully honest – in all arenas.
- We ask the questions of which we are afraid of the answers.
- We own the answers.
We are impeccable with our word – written, spoken, acted – regardless of the consequences. That is what integrity looks like.
About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.
Being a successful manager or high-ranking executive within a position dominated by men involves much more than being able to generate profits. While success is frequently measured in dollars and cents, profit and loss, or income and expenses, those statistics are only part of the total package that equals successful management and it seems that women need to work twice as hard.
Successful management consists of a set of core values that are essential for women to succeed:
- Knowledge: Knowledge is not limited to that which was learned in college, it also consists of having a broad industry-specific knowledge base in which a person is involved. It includes a detailed understanding of management skills and abilities that are conducive to getting desired results. Taking it upon yourself to learn as much as you can go a long way.
- Versatility and Adaptability: Successful women leaders cannot be rigid in their business outlook, because of the ever-changing landscape in which they work. Not only do businesses need change frequently, but there are also changes to applicable laws and regulations, relationships with suppliers and vendors, and modifications to the company’s organizational structure. Being flexible and able to adapt to anticipated and unexpected changes is essential and causes others to take notice.
- Effective Communication Skills: It is impossible to manage a business if you lack a strong ability to communicate effectively. Managers and executives must communicate frequently with a variety of individuals, and they have to be able to express clearly their opinions, instructions, and objectives. Effective communication also includes the ability to dictate those things to people in a positive way that creates a desire in others to carry out directives, share opinions, and fulfill business goals. This is one of the harder things to learn, so mastering it will give you a competitive edge.
- Leadership Ability: In nautical terminology, a captain is expected to go down with the ship when it sinks, but the captain is also at the helm of that ship when it is forging ahead into uncharted waters. This analogy also applies to members of management, who should possess leadership qualities that inspire and motivate others to follow where they lead. A good leader is one who seems to attract effortlessly a following of loyal staff members who admire, respect, and look up to that leader as a positive, influential role model.
- Commitment: Being committed to the success or failure of a company is a quality that many employees and supervisors possess, but successful leaders are also committed to the success or failure of every member of their team. Commitment includes being able to “see” desired goals and objectives being met in the future and motivating employees and other managers to move continually forward and focus on attaining those goals for the good of the company.
Successful management also includes other qualities that could be viewed as being equally important, but these five core values are those which should be fundamental, especially for women. Without these values, it truly is impossible to manage successfully and having just one or two is not good enough. To be a truly successful woman in management you must stand out. Going above and beyond, and showing everyone that you have what it takes to be a successful leader in not only your business or company but in your industry.
About the Author: Dee Fletcher is a freelance and ghost writer. See also enjoys guest blogging, and does it as often as she can to build her online presence. She has previously been a guest writer for Women of HR. Dee writes mostly about current trends or events relating to business and technology, but will occasionally write about various industries as well. She works from her home in Southern California and loves to visit the beach as often as she can.
“Don’t just stand for the success of other women – insist on it.” - Gail Blanke, President and CEO, Lifedesigns
Maybe being a man writing this undermines all credibility. My career has been all about embracing the importance and value of a diverse workplace. Having a silent or marginalized voice isn’t easy. Being an ignored or disrespected voice is soul crushingly depressing. I’ve long been having this conversation with my female colleagues about the importance breaking the silence and finding my voice.
Let’s not kid ourselves though, there’s still knuckledraggers wandering the workplace halls. The staff room at times is more like a locker room. You need hipwaders every time you pass the watercooler, because there’s so much BS and testosterone fueled bravado surrounding it.
There are talkers in your midst. They’re also getting ahead by only talking a good game. It’s time to rise above the bad smell, of less pay, less recognition, and lesser titles. You’re educated, you’re smart, you have skills, and you work harder than most. You’ve got game. Communicating a great game will raise the bar in your workplace.
Improving your verbal and non-verbal communication skills will get you noticed, will help get you ahead, and make for a better workplace. Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Being overly apologetic is undermining. It’s not your fault the network is down, or the caterer messed up the the lunch order. Working late to meet a deadline, don’t apologize for asking your team to join you.
- Your behavior shapes the universe. Your competence and confidence always need to be on display. Showing courage and conviction will inspire and mobilize others to take action. Turning your words into action will get you noticed. Remember the fine line between arrogance and confidence. Speak directly with authoritative tone. Being loud, condescending, or defensive won’t carry the day.
- Do not talk down your achievements or undervalue them when working in a successful group and alongside men. Teamwork matters. Undervaluing yourself in group situations, in front of co-workers or employers, will hold you back. Take the credit and recognition you’re due. Kudos aren’t just a man’s domain.
- Of course there’s merit in wanting to be helpful, and having the get things done attitude to achieve your teams goals. Remember the delicate balance between taking on meaningful tasks versus the busy grunt work nobody else wants to do. You want to be a meaningful and effective contributor. Communicate with the boss about projects that excite you. Let them know what you’d like to work on.
- Ideas are essentially gender neutral. Work at generating good ideas, communicating the value of those ideas, as well as helping others articulate their ideas.
- If direct and open feedback is constructive, don’t personalize or internalize it. Be direct and open in receiving it. Take action on it.
- Be authentic. Know and respect what you are about, and true to your beliefs. You’re more than just what’s on your resume.
- Focus on your own growth and contribute to the growth of the people supporting you.
A truly diverse workplace embraces different voices, with different perspectives. By making your voice is heard and your presence known, you’ll be making a difference.
“Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.” ― Tina Fey, Bossypant
About the Author: As VP of Marketing, Bimal Parmar manages the global marketing strategy and execution at Celayix. With over 20 years industry experience, Bimal is responsible for making sure the world learns about the benefits of Celayix’s solutions that include: advanced employee scheduling, time and attendance, employee communication as well as integration modules for payroll and billing. Before joining Celayix, Bimal was Vice President of Marketing at Faronics, a leading provider of IT solutions for the Education vertical where he helped grow revenue over 50% and launched exciting new solutions. Prior to that Bimal held senior marketing and product roles at technology companies such as Business Objects and McAfee Security where he gained significant international experience working with global companies such as Microsoft, Dell, Sony, HP, Orange, Telefonica and Ricoh.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Lois P. Frankel is the President of Corporate Coaching International , an executive coach, speaker, and best-selling author. She has just released an updated and revised 10th anniversary edition of her book Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers. In it she reveals a distinctive set of behaviors that women learn in girlhood that ultimately sabotage them as adults and discusses how to eliminate those behaviors. Today, she has shared her Top 10 tips with us. Some you may agree with, some you may not. Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Top 10 Tips For Claiming the Corner Office
1. Body Art: Don’t get a tattoo or an unusual body piercing if you’d had even one drink, toke, or snort. You’ll be likely to regret it. Similarly, don’t be goaded into getting one by your sorority sisters, girlfriends, or someone you’re dating who thinks they’re hot.
2. Communication: Resist the urge that screams incomplete when you don’t say everything that’s on your mind. Women, fearing they haven’t explained well enough, can use about twice as many words per day than men (and then wonder why they’re not listened to). We think when we talk more, we make a better case – when in fact the opposite is true. This is a case where less is more.
3. Inappropriate Use of Social Media: Once you post something on the internet, getting it off is like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube. You have no control over where it goes. Play it safe. Put nothing on the internet that could cause someone to doubt your values, your brand, or your reputation.
4. Giving Away Your Ideas: Get in the habit of asking a question after expressing an idea or making a proposal. Something like, “Are there any objections to immediately getting to work on this?” is ideal. This increases the likelihood of acknowledgement and discussion.
5. Feeding Others: Unless your name is Betty Crocker, don’t bring food to work or have it sitting on your desk. It softens the impression others have of you. Of course if it needs softening because you’re a tough broad, it could be a good strategy!
6. Skipping Meetings: If you think meetings are just a big waste of time, think again. They’re called “meet-ings” not “work-ings.” Even when a meeting seems unproductive, it provides you with the opportunity to market you brand, get information, and be on the radar screens of those who making decisions about your career.
7. Being a Doormat: Pablo Picasso said, “There are only two types of women – goddesses and doormats.” Avoid being the latter by learning to manage expectations about what you can and can’t realistically do (take a negotiations class if you have to), asking for what you want or need rather than waiting to be given it, and trusting your instincts. If you think you’re being taken advantage of or abused, you likely are.
8. Protecting Jerks: Women are like jerk flypaper. Not only do we attract them more than men do, we tolerate them longer than we should. Consciously distance yourself from jerks (and jerks can be men or women) so that you’re not found guilty by association, when you get blamed for the actions of a jerk re-direct the blame to where it belongs, and when the jerk is your boss it’s time to look for another job. You won’t change a jerk, so protect yourself.
9. Making Miracles: Miracle workers get canonized not recognized. In every organization there’s a baseline for hard work that everyone is expected to toe. If you consistently work beyond the baseline you’ll be seen as a worker-bee and just be given more work to do. Learn to not only do your job well, but also be strategic in how it gets done so that you’re seen as more than just a worker-bee. Use all the extra “free” time on your hands to build relationships that will serve you throughout your career.
10. Branding: We are all brands in the workplace. It’s what distinguishes you from everyone else. Write down 3 – 5 words you want people to use to describe you. Then identify the behaviors in which you must engage for others to actually see those traits. When you act in concert with your brand, people will come to trust you.
As I was reading a recent issue of Time Magazine, I stumbled across a feature article entitled “The Art of Being Mindful” and it immediately piqued my interest. The focus of the piece was an exploration of a fairly recent movement centered on learning to shift focus back to the present moment, a remedy for the fractured attention spans and constant multi-tasking that has become not only prevalent, but normal and even expected in our fast-paced, technologically driven society. Though this idea is certainly nothing new, it seems in a world where there are increasingly more distractions and demands for our attention as a result of devices that allow us to be connected around the clock, more and more people are realizing the benefit of focusing on being mindful.
In fact, enough people have begun to see the benefits of mindfulness that there is now a growing industry surrounding it. The article talked about “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR) classes that people regularly pay hundreds of dollars to attend to learn mindfulness techniques. In 2007, Americans reportedly spent $4 million annually on mindfulness related alternative medicine, a figure that will be updated later this year. And there is even an Institute for Mindful Leadership, a Wisdom 2.0 annual conference for tech leaders in Silicon Valley, and numerous mindfulness and meditation apps available for our smart phones.
This fascinates me. As I already mentioned, the idea of being mindful is certainly nothing new. I recently began practicing yoga, and one of the key elements of the practice is focus on being present in the moment, most often by paying particular attention to your breath. Yoga and meditation have been around for centuries, long before MBSR classes began to be offered. What interests me most is the idea that more and more people are realizing there is a need to bring more awareness to being in the moment; that too many of us are multi-tasking to the point of complete distraction.
As HR professionals regularly interacting with other people and/or dealing with various people related issues, it would seem to be common sense that we would always be mindful in those interactions. But are we?
How often can you honestly say you are totally and completely in the moment in your interactions with others? Are you really listening, or do you find your mind wandering to the next task on your to-do list, or the next meeting on your calendar? When you have an employee or one of your team members in your office, do you focus on the conversation, or are you multi-taking by reading or answering emails? Are you likely to take a phone call if it rings in the midst of that conversation, or will you let it go to voicemail and center your attention on the person in front of you?
Mindfulness in interactions with others is important for all leaders, but in HR, when we’re often dealing with emotionally charged situations, it’s even more critical. If you can honestly say that you are 100% mindful in all of your interactions, great – keep up the good work! However, if you are like many of us (myself included) and tend to find your mind wandering and your attention everywhere but where it should be, I challenge you to consciously focus on keeping yourself more in the moment. Bring just a little more mindfulness to the work you do each day. It may just make you not only a better leaders and HR pro, but by truly giving undivided attention to the person in front of you, may actually help strengthen your relationships with those around you as well.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has 15 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
When it comes to attracting and hiring top employees, there are several things you can do to help employ the best and the brightest. On the other hand, there are other things you may do, without even realizing it, that will drive your best employees away. In my experience, here are the seven fastest ways to lose employees – and how to turn those negatives into positives for your business. These are tips that Human Resources should share with every manager, and make sure they are practicing within the company.
#1 Unreachable Expectations
The first way to lose an employee fast is to set unrealistic expectations. This does not mean managers should lower their standards. What it does mean is that they should be in tune with the business and what it takes to succeed.
Instead of setting goals and deadlines that cannot be met, managers should come up with realistic goals for employees. This doesn’t mean they should be easy; goals and expectations should involve hard work. The difference is the expectations should be attainable for those who work hard for the good of the company.
#2 Constantly Criticize
Another thing that managers do to drive employees away quickly is to constantly criticize them throughout the workday. It is difficult for a person to do any job well if they feel that everything they are doing is wrong.
Instead of criticizing every wrong move, managers should acknowledge employees for what they are doing right. You can help them by teaching them how to turn a negative comment into a positive one. Constantly reinforcing this within the company will help others learn to manage this philosophy in a daily work environment.
#3 Managing the Micromanager
By the same token, some managers may find it is easy to be critical when they are constantly looking over their employee’s shoulders. It is difficult enough to do your job without the added burden of having a manager within reach, second-guessing every move you make.
Instead of micromanaging employees, managers should learn to give their employees some room to work and occasionally make mistakes. As long as the mistakes are not career or business ending, this will help them learn the right way to do business in the future.
#4 Pass the Blame
Part of being a good manager is sometimes accepting the blame when things do go wrong. It is not possible for a manager to control everything, and mistakes will happen. It is what happens next which will chart the course for the company’s future.
Instead of passing the blame, Human Resources needs to foster an environment where it is acceptable to make mistakes without fear of a person losing their job. This will make it much easier for both managers and employees to accept both success and an occasional mistake.
#5 Expect Long Hours and Overtime Without Compensation
There is no doubt most top employees work hard, and that is what likely keeps a successful business thriving. However, no one should expect to work long hours and put in a lot of overtime without the understanding there will be some type of compensation or job security gained because of it.
Instead of demanding mandatory overtime every week without any extra pay or benefits, build in a structure that compensates employees in some way. If an employee is constantly working difficult extra hours, without an end in sight, it is likely they will soon set their sights on a new place to work.
#6 Fail to Offer Rewards, Incentives or Bonuses
Along with compensation and pay comes the need for some type of system that rewards employees. No one wants to put in a lot of hard work with nothing to show for it. Big or small, rewarding your employees can go a long way.
Instead of avoiding all rewards, incentives and bonuses due to the drain on a company’s finances, Human Resources should lead the charge in finding creative ways to support employees. An occasional treat, a prime parking spot, or even a paid day off can go a long way when it comes to emotionally uplifting employees.
#7 Treat Employees Only as Employees
Finally, managers and executives within a company need to understand that employees should be treated with respect. If workers are acknowledged simply as “employees,” they will not work their hardest for the good of the company and likely be eager to leave.
Instead of creating a division within the company, Human Resources should encourage managers to create a respectful environment. It is important that employees feel valued and that they feel their opinion is respected.
While the economy may still be recovering for many U.S. businesses, employees will not want to stay with any company that does not respect them or value the contribution they make to the business. Ensuring your company understands what drives employees away will help make it easier for you to retain the employees the company values most.
About the Author: Cassy Parker, social media advocate for CreditDonkey (@CreditDonkey on Twitter), a credit card comparison website, has experience helping small business owners thrive. As the content manager for the business section, she keeps a pulse on the challenges small business owners face.
Frankly, as rich as so many of these books are, we often have a tendency to read them, even have the best of intentions to integrate the principles into our personal and professional lives; yet particularly when we are under pressure, these values are put to the test and we may fall short. We all know full well that it is better to tell the truth than to tell a fib and to be loyal rather than to cave under pressure. Most of us also fully embrace The Golden Rule: ‘of doing unto others as we would have done unto us.’ We are certainly not ignorant of the virtues of the spiritual truths, Biblical principles, and even the many current writings on these values.
Yet, how many of us are really honest with ourselves with how and when we practice our beliefs and values pertaining to ethical behavior? How many of us hold ourselves and our team mates accountable for modeling ethical behavior? What can we do to help each other hold fast to these principles? So, in addition to our own spiritual practices and support groups, what are a few additional steps we can take to truly exercise our ethical muscles?
I read a wonderful article in Talent Management a few years ago which really stuck with me. I am integrating a few points I read in this article by Robert J. Thomas – as I believe he had an interesting and pragmatic perspective. One key point he made, which I thought was particularly ‘spot on,’ was that none of these observations or exercises will work unless we are ruthlessly honest with ourselves. So, keep that in mind – only read further if you are willing to look in the mirror of authentic self reflection and be ruthless about what we find.
Step 1: Honestly evaluate our commitments to others.
At the end of each day, (or if you are really strapped for time, do this on a Saturday morning), think about all the commitments, approvals, obligations, and promises you have made. There will be many – as so many of us say ‘yes’ or ‘I will get that to you’ or ‘I will read that and give you feedback’ without even really thinking about it. We are trying to be supportive, polite, or simply not thinking about it being a real commitment. What happens if we don’t come through? What is the cost to ourselves and to the others to whom we made these promises? Some may say that this has nothing to do with ethics. I disagree. Again, when we say we are going to do something – regardless of how small it may seem to us – it is our word to another. Sure, sometimes we forget, get busy, and it falls off the radar; that can happen. The difference is when it does – do we follow-up, admit our mistakes, make it right, and make a commitment to ourselves to do better the next time? This is how we learn and grow. We observe ourselves, put a practice in place to be aware of our behavior, and from here we can improve.
Step 2: Create a personal “Board of Directors” and career support system
Most of us have support systems of some sort: spouses, families, friends, Bible study groups, civic groups, etc. However, how many of us have a pseudo ‘board of directors’ for our professional growth? Just like a corporate board, our own personal board needs to be chosen for their experience, knowledge, skill set, and unrelenting commitment to the company’s success (in this case the company is YOU). These people will care enough to shoot straight with you – even when their observations may not be what you want to hear.
My suggestion is that these conversations need to be deliberate, not episodic or social in nature. They need to focus on you, your adherence to your values, your foibles, areas for improvement and honest observations. So, what’s in it for them we may ask? Well, in addition to the fulfilling nature of ‘paying it forward’ which they will undoubtedly experience when helping another; we can also offer to serve in that same capacity for someone they may want us to help. This is the cycle of leadership – and this is just one step we can each take as a matter of practice going forward.
Step 3: Establish values which will stand the tests of crisis, challenge, and temptation
Most organizations spend days (and often weeks) establishing their value system. Often, these values end up on the bulletin board or a plaque in clear view for everyone to see and read. I wonder if we would really know what the values were within these organizations without the plaque. Would the behaviors the individuals (and teams) exhibit in the organization represent those values? That is the truth serum, isn’t it? The same is true for us.
We may espouse a certain set of values – yet do we live them? What values would our co-workers say we live? Are they consistent with what our families and friends would say? Are our values the same in moments of stress, crisis and potential conflict?
Imagine all the whistle blowers in the news…..do we have the backbone to truly live our values when we are really tested? Think Sherron Watkins (Enron whistle blower). Then think about Eileen Foster – the Countrywide whistle blower who was ignored and then fired for calling suspicious actions into question. Finally, consider Katsuaki Watanabe, the CEO of Toyota, and all the other companies who had to face the realities of product recalls in recent years. What values and strength of conviction were represented in each scenario? What will we do when our ‘Tylenol moment’ happens? Will our values and ethics remain intact when we have to face the music? Establish values, declare them, and hold ourselves accountable to them.
From my perspective, in life and leadership, exercising ethics is a non-negotiable. As Albert Schweitzer (Civilization and Ethics, 1949) offers: “Ethics are nothing but reverence for life. This is what gives us the fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, promoting, and enhancing life.”
What I also believe is that without putting ethics into action any success we may achieve will be fleeting, unstable, and unsustainable – like a house built of sand. And we all know what happens to sand castles when the tides come.
About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.
Women in the workplace, and in particular acceptance of women in leadership roles has come a long way over the years. But despite the progress in this area, women in the workplace still face unique challenges, especially as they assume management roles. A good leadership training program can help give women the confidence they may be lacking due to these challenges.
Women Are Not The Same As Men
The gender difference goes beyond just the physical aspects. The talents, attitudes and problem solving skills differ significantly. So does language. Women find their strength in different ways, and good leadership training recognizes and develops this.
For example, women often have greater powers of persuasion than men. Women are great at absorbing information from multiple sources, and they rely heavily on intuition whereas men are more fact-based decision makers. Women are also more in tune with the emotional motives behind people’s actions. This wide perspective and insight into motivation are great assets when it comes to leadership situations requiring persuasion. Focused management training understands how to cultivate these skills.
Women are empathetic which serves them well in understanding, and overcoming, the prejudices that might present themselves in the workplace. Some men have great difficulty taking orders form women. With the proper management training, women can be equipped with the right skills to handle delicate situations without yielding their authority.
Strong Interpersonal Skills
Women in leadership roles can be trained to take advantage of the natural ability women have at being more flexible, social and empathetic. These are great team building skills that proper training help make even better.
Resistance and Resilience
Men have stronger egos than women in general. This doesn’t mean, however, that women have to transmit an inferior or weak self-image. In areas where women are naturally less skilled than their male counterparts, training pays off big time. Women can adapt to situations faster than men in general. So training them to have a stronger self-image is not only possible, but can bring stellar results to their leadership profile.
This might be a woman’s greatest strength. She is typically more inclusive which leads to strong teams since everyone feels like they are involved. Women are better listeners than men in general, and women like to hear all points of view before making a decision.
Some might find it surprising, but women are more likely to take risks than men. Men are more structured and cautious. Women on the other hand are often more innovative as they are willing to bend rules and not get caught up in worrying about details. Again, these natural skills might not be fully developed, and that’s where good management training can help.
Specific Objectives Matter
A general understanding of the female management psyche is only useful if we have clear objectives for better management skills. Some objects could be:
- Establish a clear picture of strengths and weaknesses
- Set definite personal and professional priorities
- Learn how to lead by providing and receiving feedback
- Decide where to invest energy based on personal cost and benefit
- Acquire networking strategies
- Understand the reach and limits of authority
- Learn how to ask for and interpret feedback
We have seen how women differ from men, and the special challenges that women face as managers. Specific training can help women no only fully develop their natural strengths, but also overcome developmental needs. All this leads to strong leadership in the workplace.
About the Author: Mark Arnold has many years of experience as a HR consultant. He enjoys sharing his perspective and experience with the business community. One of his favorites is focused management training, like that provided by K Alliance. He has worked as a HR manager and consultant for many online and brick and mortal companies. He focus on boosting company’s productivity and culture.
There are lots of ways to do it. You can book yourself into a training course, work longer hours, strive for top sales figures, or even use your network of contacts. Whichever way you decide to do it, managing your career advancement is an essential part of career progression. However, whilst your colleagues are working into the night, you can be more creative, and seize the opportunity of your next 360 as the key to unlocking your future.
As part of performance management, 360 degree feedback continues to increase in popularity, and there are five key reasons women should embrace it.
A comprehensive approach
In traditional appraisals, a boss would comment on an employee’s performance. However, with 360s, comments are considered from other colleagues, customers, and even suppliers. It is a more complete approach, and, as such, gives a comprehensive picture of you and your skills. As a result, you can easily identify any areas for development and act on them to improve your chances of career advancement.
Being comprehensive is good for everyone, but it’s particularly good news for women as it shows clear progression from the male-designed linear process that went before.
The 360 approach gives a more accurate portrait of you. Previously, the boss-versus-employee appraisal system was far too narrow. By involving those around you, 360 feedback gives a truer picture. Importantly, as it provides the participant with a wide-ranging set of views, it is unbiased.
360s provide real evidence. Participants receive hard and fast scores, which can be compared to other participants, so not only is it readily accepted as a valid input into your career development, but it also provides you with data to prove your track record of achievement.
The fact that 360s are accurate and trusted removes the potential for any favouritism based on gender. The 360-degree approach doesn’t entertain any notion of ‘jobs for the boys’.
It’s about how, not what
360s emphasise the importance of how you achieve your objectives. It’s an opportunity for your methods to be recognised, not just your results. Real leaders are identified and promoted not just because they can achieve, but also because they can marry this achievement with the kind of behavior that’s constructive and desirable.
If there is still a perception that men are more concerned with the ends and not the means, then the 360 system is a much fairer one.
What’s mine is yours
When a 360 degree feedback programme is implemented well, it should directly link with a company’s competency framework. There can be no easier way, therefore, of ensuring that your own personal targets directly tie in with a company’s requirements for its people. Career progression can more quickly be brought about when you can prove that your achievements are aligned with how a company wants its employees to behave.
Ensuring individual targets are in line with a company’s competency framework, through the 360, helps women to come to the fore, and is a further way in which balance in the workplace is being redressed.
360s are only the start of the process. If you are to achieve real career progression, the targets drawn up from such a process must be acted on. After all, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “the best way to predict the future is to create it” and a 360 can help you do just that.
About the author: Samantha Arnold is a senior business psychologist at ETS, an HR consultancy. Sam works predominantly in the field of employee engagement for private sector clients and offers consultancy to support clients in utilizing the research to take engagement to the next level within their business. She is currently working towards Chartered status as an Occupational Psychologist, with a particular interest in organisational development.