HerSpectives® on Careers


Words are the first hurdle for new managers

Paul Glen
March 26, 2012 (Computerworld)

New managers struggle. They also don't get much help -- or sympathy. My last column elicited a lot of heartfelt reader emails about the difficulty of, and lack of support for, the transition from technical work to management. My conversations with those readers also revealed that whatever support they did get left their biggest need unmet. Training focused on skills -- the mechanics of management -- but the new managers still lacked the language to truly understand the value of management itself.

That's right. What they needed most were words.

They can think and speak clearly about technical work and how it adds value. But when it comes to the value of management, they have only vague words and platitudes to guide them. Without the clarity of language, new managers:

• Can't know what's important in their jobs.

• Can't focus on value-adding activities.

• Feel incompetent.

• Feel worthless for not adding value.

• Are afraid to ask for help.

• Don't even know how to ask for help, since they don't know what they don't know.

It's no wonder that so many new managers cling to their technical work like a drowning man to a life preserver. At least it lets them know when they are adding value and being competent.

As I've coached managers, I've noticed that they need to progress through three distinct phases.

Phase 1: The language of engineers. New technical managers come to the job assuming that a manager is just an engineer with power. They believe that managers don't add value; they just supervise those who do. They retain the assumption that value exclusively comes from building and fixing things. So, they talk about writing, developing, designing, building, coding, testing, deploying, fixing, diagnosing and producing.

Phase 2: The language of authority. As they begin to differentiate their former role from the new one, they focus on authority -- on status rather than value. This is a dangerous time. Managers who linger (or get stuck) in this phase get branded as self-centered and power-hungry. In it, they talk primarily about leading, directing, deciding, planning, approving, monitoring, rewarding and punishing. As soon as you recognize this phase, start talking about the next one.

Phase 3: The language of managerial value. Successful managers recognize that authority itself does not add value, but is a tool that offers the opportunity. The value managers add comes from:

• Unleashing the productivity of others.

• Selecting activities with good paybacks.

• Avoiding costly mistakes.

When talking about unleashing others, managers focus on facilitating, coaching, selecting, mentoring, inspiring, organizing and protecting. They emphasize how they help others rather than how they command them.

Selecting valuable activities involves applying judgment, building consensus and marshaling resources. Managers think about analyzing, investigating, influencing, interviewing, presenting, measuring, negotiating, coordinating, delegating, setting goals, prioritizing and allocating resources.

Avoiding costly mistakes is about recognizing, asking, intervening, redirecting, preventing, finessing, resolving and firefighting.

To help a new manager grow into her job, give her the tools she needs. And the first ones are not resources and direction. The first are words to make sense of her new world.

Paul Glen is the CEO of Leading Geeks, an education and consulting firm devoted to unlocking the value of technical people. You can contact him at info@leadinggeeks.com.

Although this article uses engineers as an example, a similar phenomenon occurs with most transitions to management.


Tips for Creative Success

This week I had the wonderful opportunity to watch Randy Nelson speak at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. His topic that day was on "Techniques from the arts to help businesses thrive". Very insightful, especially for those of us who don't work in the Arts. 

In researching Randy's background on the web, I found a fabulous presentation that he did on Creativity and Collaboration. His philosophies on innovation, collaboration and leadership are spot-on in alignment with what Business Women Rising and Business World Rising are all about and certainly worth your time to review (these philosophies are also what Col. Deb Lewis, USA (ret.) and I are writing about in our upcoming book, "Unconventional Weapons for Infinite-Win Leaders").

The text from Randy's presentation on Collaboration is provided below. You can also watch the video of this presentation by Randy at http://www.presentationzen.com/presentationzen/2010/08/tips-for-creative-success-from-pixar-studios-.html

Just so you know....Randy Nelson created Pixar University and was the dean for more than a dozen years. Most recently, he taught at Carnegie Mellon University in its Entertainment Technology Center. Today Randy uses his art, film, theater, animation, software, training and juggling experience daily as the head of DreamWorks Education, providing training and education for all of DreamWorks employees.


Improv and collaboration
Randy2Pixar uses improv as a mechanism of collaboration. Here are two valuable lessons from improv.
(1) Accept every offer. Don't judge it, you'll stop it. It becomes a dead end if you judge it, but unlimited possibilities if you go with it.
(2) Make your partner look good. When you know others will try to make your idea better, not just shoot it down, you become free. And you too have the opportunity "to plus" any idea that is put forth. The idea of "plus-ing" means not to say that the idea (or thing) is bad or wishing it was something else, but to accept it as the starting point and make it even better. This is sort of zen in a way: accept it for what it is — right here, right now — and then try to make it better (to make your partner look good).

What should we be looking for?
Then Randy Nelson goes on to touch on the kind of person they are looking for at Pixar.
• Depth of knowledge/skill in a particular area is important, obviously. But then how do you hire someone for something that has never been done before? So past success alone is not enough as this may also include the absence of failures as much as anything else.
 Failure and recovery. Depth is important, but not the differentiator; lots of people can point to a successful, deep resume. It's not about simply avoiding failure but the experience of seeing failure first hand and then rising above it. "The core skill of innovators is error recovery not failure avoidance," says Nelson. Resilience and adaptability in solving real problems is key. 

Aptitudes for success in a creative world
Designers(1) Mastery of subject (depth). "Mastery in anything is a really good predictor of mastery in the thing you want done," says Nelson. A true master at something is going to be the kind of person with characteristics that you can use in your organization. "That sense of 'I am going to get to the top of the mountain' separates them from all the other candidates almost instantly."
(2) Breadth of knowledge, experience, and interests. You do not want narrowness which sometimes comes with depth. "We want people who are more interested than interesting," says Nelson. A curious, interested person can be a good collaborator because they are not merely consumed with themselves but are deeply interested in the world outside of themselves. "They want to know what you know. They want to know what is bothering you." An "interested" person amplifies others.
(3) Communication. An interested person with breadth has good empathy, an aptitude critical for good communication. A good communicator leans in to listen because they are interested. Communication, says Nelson, also involves translation. That is, having the ability to "translate" your idea into messages that others outside your field (or perspective and experiences, etc.) can understand. A breadth of knowledge and experience should make it easier for someone to translate their own ideas at the sending end so that the message does not have to be translated at the receiving end. Communication actually happens only when the receiver understands; it's not enough for the sender to think he is communicating. "Nobody can declare themselves as being articulate, but a listener can say, 'yes, I think got that, I understand what you mean.'" 
(4) Collaboration. Cooperation is not the same thing as collaboration. Cooperation is just that thing "which allows you not to get in the other's way," says Nelson. Collaboration means amplification. In Collaboration you have people with depth and breadth and a drive and ability "to communicate on multiple different levels: verbally, in writing, in feeling, in acting, in pictures...and finding the most articulate way to get a high fidelity notion across to a broad range of people...." so that all on the team can contribute. I think of collaboration as being like 2+2=5 (or 137, etc.).  

Collaboration and education
SchoolThere are lessons to be learned from Pixar. Depth is necessary but insufficient. The importance of breadth and communication and collaboration skills cannot be overstated. And yet, when you look at formal education it seems like we discourage breadth. "Don't study art," they say. "You'll never get a job in that!" Communication skills are under appreciated "soft-skill" areas, and collaboration is rarely mentioned at all. I am certain that I never heard the word "collaborate" in high school. "Cooperate" was our instruction always, and we were rewarded for it, rewarded for getting along and not "causing trouble." Perhaps today the notion of collaboration is being taught more in schools. Collaboration is hard because it requires mastery, breadth, empathy, and solid communication skills. But collaboration is more critical now than ever before. Are our education systems prepared for it?


No mean girls allowed

By Lacy Kelly


Do you know a mean girl?  Perhaps you are one.  If so - keep reading because I am about to expose the catty, narcissistic jelly roll that you are.  If you are a female that embraces other females and helps them succeed - you go girl!  You are doing good work for your gender.  You are what I lovingly call a “Sista!”

Sistas know the catty type - the vicious carnivore that will claw at some fictional flaw in you, leaving you bleeding in a crowd.  Case in point.  I like to shop anywhere.  I can find almost any wonderful frock or bobble at any store. Sometimes…


I score a fashion find at a thrift shoppe.  I always get couture compliments, so apparently I know what I‘m doing.  One day I mentioned a certain store in a group of gal pals, and cat turns up her nose and says, “I just can’t shop there.  I‘m afraid of bugs.”   …..STOP… for the deafening silence that occurs after this comment…… 

So my brain flashes to the most important immediate action, “Take that wench off my Christmas card list!”  Then I double-take to see her “get-up” and think, “Maybe you oughta wear bugs.  It might turn an eye!”  I often think evil thoughts, but I never say them.  They are purely for my amusement.  But I definitely felt the acute urge to poke cat in the eye.    

Sistas pay only compliments publicly.  If a constructive correction in required, it happens in private.  Example.  Sista 1 says to Sista 2, “Follow me to the bathroom.”  (I always know that my girl is going to save me when she initiates a bathroom trip in this manner.)  We open the door, and she lovingly pulls me toward the mirror by my arm, grabbing a paper towel along the way, and gently whispers, “Honey, you have a bugger in your nose.”  Now there’s a girl that has my back!  Friends for life!

 My Sistas and I regularly engage in a bitch fest over the competitive, divide and conquer Attila-the-Huns.  I call these girls Hunees - get it?  My Sistas think that’s too nice, but it allows me to refer to them on the down-low….“Incoming Hunee.”  Translation - “Watch your back!”

 As if glass ceilings weren’t enough, Hunees aggressively undercut you.  In a business meeting, they pull back their invisible slingshot, and, without warning, peg you in the reputation to make sure they stay one step ahead.  Hunees are usually top professionals -  brilliant, beautiful, admired.  But, they are narcissistic.  They think there is one space at the top - and it’s theirs!!!  They don’t understand that the more women that succeed - well - the more women that succeed!  Ummmm……simple math?  This part of the brilliance equation escapes them.

 This is why I love the “Good ole boys club.”  These guys are smarter than us!  They support and defend each other.  They build a ladder to success and help each other up the ladder.  Good ole boys rarely insult each other - publicly or otherwise.  Rarely do they delve into private issues.  If they do criticize, you’d be hard pressed to find where this goes down.  They are extremely loyal, and every one of them benefits.  Does this sound bad girls?  I can’t see it.  They have game on us!

 Oh, and for those of you that contend the good ole boys club is closed to new or different people.  Wrong.  I have been part of the good ole boys club for years.  It’s not that you are new or different that they don’t like - it’s that you’re a putz!  Quit deflecting.

 And how ’bout that jelly roll?  Seems appropriate for the AM business meeting?  Not so much!  These spineless girls SEE you about to go down in flames.  They don’t comment - they just let you crash, watching the smoke trail, sometimes with pleasure (if they are narcissistic), but always without one ounce of accountability.  Later they’ll say, “I SAW that going bad.“  I think, “You mean you KNEW I was about to burn at the stake and you didn’t save me?“  They put their hands over their eyes, and watch through their fingers. 

 If you‘ve just committed professional hari kari, a Sista will find a way to help you.  When she does, you catch on and follow her lead.  She is saying, “You just blew it.  Let me get you outta this mess.”  The wimpy jelly roll thinks she has no stake in the game, but the Sista gets it! 

So to heck with mean girls  They are the soft underbelly of the female gender.  Luckily, Sistas have the strength of our male counterparts, and there is a market for our club.  No mean girls allowed.  Life is good.

Replublished with permission of the author. 



Survey Findings Indicate Women Make Better Leaders (just about any way you slice it) 

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman



Jack Zenger is the CEO and Joseph Folkman is the president of Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy. They are co-authors of the October 2011 HBR article “Making Yourself Indispensable,” and The Inspiring Leader: Unlocking the Secrets of How Extraordinary Leaders Motivate (McGraw-Hill, 2009).


Are Women Better Leaders than Men?

We've all heard the claims, the theories, and the speculation about the ways leadership styles vary between women and men. Our latest survey data puts some hard numbers into the mix.

Our data come from 360 evaluations, so what they are tracking is the judgment of a leader's peers, bosses, and direct reports. We ask these individuals to rate each leader's effectiveness overall and also to judge how strong he or she is on the 16 competencies that our 30 years of research shows are most important to overall leadership effectiveness. We ask, for instance, how good a leader is at taking the initiative, developing others, inspiring and motivating, and pursuing their own development.

Our latest survey of 7,280 leaders, which our organization evaluated in 2011, confirms some seemingly eternal truths about men and women leaders in the workplace but also holds some surprises. Our dataset was generated from leaders in some of the most successful and progressive organizations in the world both public and private, government and commercial, domestic and international.

In the confirmation category is our first finding: The majority of leaders (64%) are still men. And the higher the level, the more men there are: In this group, 78% of top managers were men, 67% at the next level down (that is, senior executives reporting directly to the top managers), 60% at the manager level below that.

Similarly, most stereotypes would have us believe that female leaders excel at "nurturing" competencies such as developing others and building relationships, and many might put exhibiting integrity and engaging in self-development in that category as well. And in all four cases our data concurred — women did score higher than men.

But the women's advantages were not at all confined to traditionally women's strengths. In fact at every level, more women were rated by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates as better overall leaders than their male counterparts — and the higher the level, the wider that gap grows (see chart; click on the image to view a larger chart):

Specifically, at all levels, women are rated higher in fully 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership. And two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree — taking initiative and driving for results — have long been thought of as particularly male strengths. As it happened, men outscored women significantly on only one management competence in this survey — the ability to develop a strategic perspective (see chart; click on the image to view a larger chart). 
So what should we conclude from these data? Why are we not engaging and fully employing these exemplary women leaders? Yes, blatant discrimination is a potential explanation. If not actual than certainly perceptual. When we shared our findings with a group of women outside this particuar survey and asked them to suggest why they thought their colleagues had been rated so highly on taking initiative and self-development, their answers pointed to the still-tenuous position they feel themselves to be in the workplace:

"We need to work harder than men to prove ourselves."

"We feel the constant pressure to never make a mistake, and to continually prove our value to the organization."

That is, anecdotally, at least, the women we queried don't feel their appointments are safe. They're afraid to rest on their laurels. Feeling the need (often keenly) to take initiative, they are more highly motivated to take feedback to heart.

The irony is that these are fundamental behaviors that drive the success of every leader, whether woman or man.

Why are women viewed as less strategic? This is an easier question to answer.Top leaders always score significantly higher in this competency; since more top leaders are men, men still score higher here in the aggregate. But when we measure only men and women in top management on strategic perspective, their relative scores are the same.

What should leaders and managers do with these findings? Here are our thoughts. Feel free to respond as well with your own.

  • As leaders in organizations look hard to find the talent they need to achieve exceptional results, they ought to be aware that many women have impressive leadership skills. Our research shows these leadership skills are strongly correlated to organizational success factors such as retaining talent, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and profitability.

  • As to the constant state of unease we hear women leaders express — clearly, chauvinism or discrimination is an enigma that organizations (and the business culture) should work hard to prevent. However, that said, think of the benefits every leader in every organization would gain from a mind-set that they simply can't afford to make a mistake. Paranoia or extreme risk aversion is clearly detrimental to a rising career. But in today's economic climate, every leader, male or female, would do well to avoid becoming complacent.

A Global Increase in Women on Boards of Directors, But U.S. Lags

Corporate Counsel

March 9, 2012

© Dmitry Sunagatov - Fotolia.com

Apropos to Thursday being International Women’s Day, a new report shows the global outlook for the number of women serving on company boards is up overall. For the first time in corporate history, 10.5 percent of directors’ seats worldwide belong to women—a slight increase of 0.7 percent from last year. But in terms of the individual rates of increase around the world, different countries are on all ends of the scale, with the U.S. nearly flat-lining compared to some other nations.

France and Australia saw the biggest increases. The percentage of women on boards in France shot up 7.5 percent from 2009 to 2011, reaching 16.6 percent. Australia’s rate accelerated during that time period, too, climbing to 13.8 percent—a 5.4 percent increase. U.S. boards have experienced only a marginal increase—up half a percent, to 12.6 percent. Countries including Norway, Canada, and South Africa all have shown higher rates of women board membership.

“What jumped out at me this year is how extremely heterogeneous the progress is,” says Kimberly Gladman, director of research and risk analytics at GMI Ratings, and co-author of the company’s 2012 Women on Board Survey of more than 4,300 companies in 45 countries. The different rates beg questions about achieving greater representation by women, Gladman says: “What is going to work best?”

Some countries have opted for legally mandated quotas. The spike in France is tied to a law passed in 2010 requiring French boards “to be 20 percent female within three years and 40 percent female within six years,” according to the report. Norway, with a 36.3 percent rate, has the largest percentage of women board members anywhere in the world—though notably still under the country’s own 40 percent legal requirement.

It’s possible the entire European Union will follow suit. E.U. Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding announced earlier this week that the commission is considering quota legislation in order to achieve more gender equality on boards.

Australia has no quota by law. But companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange “are now required to report on their overall diversity policies, as well as on specific objectives for improving gender diversity,” the report says. The Australian Institute of Company Directors has implemented a mentoring program, which has been “credited with bringing many more female directors into the candidate pool,” according to the report.

So why are the numbers so slow to change in the U.S.?

For one thing, there’s a perception that a board member has to have been a CEO, or at least a CFO, in order to serve on a corporate board, says Charlotte Laurent-Ottomane, president of the InterOrganizationNetwork (ION), which advocates for the advancement of women in the business world. Given that only 16 women serve as CEOs in the Fortune 500, “that qualification knocks most of the women in the U.S. out of the game,” she says.

Frustrated with the lack of progress in this area, in November ION and more than two dozen other industry leaders—including institutional investors and experts in corporate governance—formed a group called The 30% Coalition to push for a 30 percent rate of women serving on U.S. boards by the end of 2015.

The 30-percent mark stems from studies that indicate such a percentage equates to a “critical mass” on boards, when women cease to be “token” members, says Laurent-Ottomane. “It then becomes more of an equilibrium.”

The coalition is not advocating for legislative quotas, like those in Europe, says Laurent-Ottomane, who also acts as a spokesperson for the coalition. Rather, she says, they will focus on collaborative initiatives and sharing information. “We want to educate the community at large that there is value to having women on the board,” she says. 

Most of the time, board members are selected based on “who you know,” she says. Laurent-Ottomane believes, however, that “everyone does not need to come from the same mold” to serve on a board of directors.

Operational qualifications can be just as beneficial as a CEO title, she says. At a manufacturing company, for example, a candidate who has a “working expertise” of how to make operations more effective could be a valuable addition. That person “may have never achieved a title beyond vice president,” says Laurent-Ottomane, but they’ll have experience that a typical CEO does not necessarily have.

Similarly, a woman with a background in human resources could bring insights to competitive pay practices and alternative benefit schemes that would help retain top talent. Experts in marketing and investor relations also bring knowledge and skills that should be beneficial to boards, she says.

Facebook took a thrashing on this issue last month from the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, after the company’s pre-IPO regulatory filings revealed that the company’s board would be comprised of seven men. The social network giant isn’t the only company in that boat, Laurent-Ottomane says.

“We could take aim at many companies,” she says. But the Facebook episode “did bring to the forefront the need for change.”



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