Category Archives: Blog

Women Leaders: Master the Art of Emotional Intelligence!

three-girls-1057194-1279x852Women leaders are scrutinized at work for how they handle emotional situations.  To be successful, follow these five tips to improve your emotional finesse.

  1. Be emotionally flexible

One of the biggest challenges for women leaders is to navigate the fine line between being “too strong and decisive” (a.k.a. masculine) and “too friendly and nice” (a.k.a. feminine).  Eagly and Carli call this the “double bind” in their book, Through the Labyrinth: The truth about how women become leaders.  In other words, it’s important to be able to flex your leadership style and hence your emotional expression.  Learn the contexts in which expressing warmth is beneficial and when stern would be a better approach.  Learn which people need friendliness and have earned your trust and which people would do better with a firm handshake.  Practice being able to move in and out of these modalities so people respect you as both a leader and a woman.

  1. Acknowledge the limitations of rational thinking

“But it’s a rational decision!”  “Why don’t they see it’s clear from the data?”  Even rational, data-driven decisions involve emotions.  Data can be disappointing and saving face might be important.  Emotions are there whether we like it or not.  Assuming people will check their emotions at the door is like wearing blinders into the workplace.  By acknowledging that emotions are present, you are taking more information into consideration when you plan your strategy and make decisions.  The book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is a great resource.

  1. Look for signs of emotions

As a leader, it is particularly important to take note of where others in the room are coming from.  Are they in agreement?  Are two team members not getting along?  Does your team suffer from a lack of motivation?  Use your senses to “feel the temperature in the room.”  The first sense is sight.  Use your eyes to see how are people are sitting.  Are they slumped back, facing away from each other (or you), avoiding eye contact, crossing their arms, or frowning?  This is valuable information for you to use as you try to influence the team.  If there’s a lot of negativity in the room, you’ll need to start from a different place than if people are in alignment.  Too many leaders skip this step and find themselves floundering in deep water without understanding why.

  1. Learn how to talk about emotions

It’s hard to talk about emotions and most of us aren’t very good at it.  Moreover, as women leaders, we may fight the temptation to talk about emotions to avoid being negatively stereotyped.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Women (and men) who are able to articulate their own and others’ feelings tend to be effective leaders because they connect with people and manage difficult situations.  Talking about emotions doesn’t have to sound soft.  Look at these examples.  “That sounds frustrating.”  “I’m anxious about the upcoming deadline.”  “I’m really glad you’re back. We missed you while you were gone.”  “It’s crushing to lose a sale that big. How are you handling it?”

  1. Allow people to express emotions

Have you ever been in a meeting where nothing got done because there was an underlying tension that kept people from being productive?  Sometimes it helps to start a meeting with a 10-minute check-in or vent.  If you give people a chance to let it out, they can get it out of their system and move on and stay focused.  The key to success in this situation is to close the vent or celebration session and tell people it’s time to get down to business.  Usually, people are calmer and can move on.  If someone is holding on, however, you may need to invite them to take a break and come back when they’re ready or offer to set up a one-on-one after the meeting.

What Does a Bad Hire Cost You? 3 Tips for Hiring Good People

working-with-laptopWhat does a bad hire cost you?

Research shows a bad hire can cost your company at least 30% of their salary, but there’s more than just money at stake.  Your personal success is on the line too.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you working too many hours because you’re covering for an ineffective employee?
  • Is a single employee dragging your whole team down?
  • Are you getting pressure from above to deliver more than your team can accomplish?
  • Are other teams performing better than yours?
  • Is your boss telling you to be tougher on your employees?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, you should consider what action to take.  Whether you choose to give the person a chance or let them go depends on a number of factors.  However, you can learn how to avoid this situation in the future by following a better hiring process.

No one is perfect, so the key is to hire someone who has or is able to develop the necessary skills and characteristics to succeed at the job.  Determining that requires a systematic, objective process.

It’s worth investing time and money into a solid assessment of job candidates.  It pays for itself when you have a successful employee and it avoids much greater costs when you don’t.  Plus, it helps protect you against unfair hiring practices that could bring about even costlier litigation.

3 Tips for Hiring Good People

1.      Create a detailed job description

A good assessment process starts with a detailed job description that includes specific behaviors and characteristics necessary to be successful at the job.  For example, an engineering job description might include: “operates computer-assisted engineering or design software or equipment.”  A logistics manager’s job description might include: “maintains metrics, reports, process documentation, customer service logs, and training or safety records.”

2.      Choose predictive assessment methods

Whether you conduct interviews, tests, or job trials, it’s important to do them in a systematic and objective way.  For example, structured interviews with job-relevant questions are better predictors of performance than casual interviews that differ between candidates.  A test of emotional intelligence might be a good fit for candidates for a team leader position.  With tests, however, it’s important to have a qualified person read and interpret the results.

3.      Train people how to assess candidates

Invest in assessment training for those involved in the hiring process.  Teach employees and managers how to interview and how to rate candidates.  Help them understand what questions are good and which ones are either ineffective or illegal.  Walk through the job description with them so they know what they’re looking for in a successful candidate and make sure they ask the same questions to all candidates.

Alternatively…

If your team is strapped for time or just not interested in learning this skill, hire an outside firm to do the assessment for you.  It doesn’t cost that much and it can save you a bundle in the long run.

3 Ways to Say “No” to your Boss Using the Word “Yes”

business-man-modified-1241003For most of us, it’s hard to say “no”—if not all of the time, at least in some situations. One such situation is when you think it might harm your career.  Ironically, sometimes, not saying “no” might actually hurt your career more.

For example, it’s important to say no when you are being asked to do something illegal or immoral or something that you are not likely to succeed at.  You might not succeed at a task because you are too busy to do it well or because you aren’t skilled enough to do it well.  In either case, it will reflect badly on you when you fail.

When I tell people they need to be able to say ”no,” they often balk and say that they can’t say “no” to their boss.  Then I say, “How about if you say ‘yes’ to your boss?”  Their eyes light up when I tell them it’s possible to say “yes” and “no” at the same time.  Try the models below.

Model 1: “Yes…  If I do this then I won’t be able to do that…  Which do you think is more important?”

Example:

Boss: “Could you take on the budget proposal for the new product we’re developing?”

You: “Yes, absolutely.  I’m currently working on the financial analysis of the old product though.  If I take on the budget for the new product, I won’t be able to finish the analysis as quickly and I had originally estimated.  Which do you think is more important to do first?”

Model 2: “Yes…  If I do it in that time frame, however, it won’t be my best work.  I could offer to do this instead…  What do you think would be best?”

Example:

Boss: “Could you write up the 40-page report by tomorrow morning?”

You: “Yes, I’d be happy to.  If I write 40 pages in one day, though, it won’t be polished.  If I had till the end of the week, I’d have time to go over it a second time and proofread it.  What do you think would be best?”

Model 3: “Yes…  Would it be okay to delegate that to …?”

Example:

Boss: “Could you manage the offsite planning?”

You: “Yes, I’d be happy to be responsible for it.  Would it be okay to delegate the work to Marnie?  She’s looking for more leadership opportunities and is good with logistics.”

These exact phrases may not fit with your style, but you get the idea.  You accept the work with full disclosure of the sacrifice (not completing other work, not your best quality work, or not you actually doing the work) and give your boss the opportunity to decide what is more important.  If your boss says, for example, that she doesn’t need your best quality on a 40-page report, just a rough draft, or maybe even an outline, then you’ve brought it down to a reasonable task in a short time frame.  If your boss says he needs it to be top quality and would rather wait, then you have turned it into a reasonable time frame to complete the task.

Bosses don’t want their people to fail.  It reflects badly on them too when you fail.  They want the work done and done well and done on time.  You need to speak up when you won’t be able to deliver.  A positive way to do that is to help the boss find solutions, rather than raise obstacles.  Bosses like solutions.  And the bosses who don’t like to hear “no” like to be able to decide what is more important.  If you give them that opportunity using the models above, then you will be able to keep your head above water too.

Are you hiring the job candidate or their parent?

parent-at-interviewIncreasingly, parents are getting involved in the job hiring process.  This presents a challenge for employers because you don’t know how much of the candidate you’re getting vs. their parents.

Things parents do for their adult children today:

  • Go to job fairs and open houses.
  • Write resumes and cover letters.
  • Fill out job applications and send them in.
  • Call employers to set up interviews and follow up.
  • Attend lunches and interviews.
  • Negotiate salaries with employers.
  • Decide which job to take.

Too much parental involvement in the job hiring process is detrimental to both the candidate and the employer.  The employer needs to assess whether the candidate is qualified and is a good fit for the job.  The applicant needs to assess whether the organization and job are a good fit for them.  When parents take over, neither side gets an accurate picture of the other.

What can employers do to move parents to the sidelines?

  • Make it a policy not to talk to parents during the hiring process.
  • Discourage candidates from involving their parents.
  • Politely but firmly refuse to speak to parents when they call or show up.
  • Put your no-parents-during-hiring policy on the website for all to read.

A bad hire is detrimental to both the employer and the employee.  Too many times I’ve heard employers complain that the person they hired “looked great on paper” and had “all the right things to say” in the interview, but wasn’t able to perform once hired.  This is a bad situation for the employer but an awful situation to be in for an employee.  Failing at your job, especially your first job, has long lasting effects on self-esteem.  It’s better for everyone involved—including parents—if the employee is hired for a job they can and want to do.

How can employers tell parents to back off?

Pushing parents away can be touchy for both the parents and the candidates.  How do you do it without losing good candidates?  Here are some suggestions from College Recruiter: How Employers Should Deal with Helicopter Parents.  One of the suggestions is mine.

 

Like It or Not, Trump Is Your Kids’ Role Model

young-male-face-2-1428084-639x514An eighth grade girl had a concussion and dropped her books at school.  An eighth grade boy walked by her and laughed at her in front of his friends.  Did any of them stop to help her?  No.

As parents, we’re mortified to know our sons and daughters are going to school with people like this.  Yet, we turn on the TV and see Trump mocking Clinton for stumbling when she’s ill.

How are we supposed to instill the value of treating people with dignity into our children when they see high profile leaders behaving like bad kindergartners?

Role Models

Indeed, “the Trump effect” has been identified as a cause of bad behavior at school, but mean behavior is much more pervasive than that.  Reality TV is the archetypal example of mean behavior in the popular media, with Trump as one of the meanest television hosts. But the contestants themselves are goaded on to be mean too.

Even seemingly benign kids’ shows on the Disney Channel turn mean behavior into fodder for sitcoms.  Jessie is one of the worst I’ve ever seen, presenting comedy in the form of a 12-year-old rich girl belittling her nanny for wearing inexpensive clothes.

Albert Bandura’s famous 1960s Bobo doll experiment illustrated how children learn aggressive behavior by observing adults behaving aggressively.  In the experiment, children tended to imitate an adult who was praised for beating up an inflatable Bobo doll.

Whether fiction or reality, on TV or at home, kids pick up aggressive behavior from the adults they see modeling it.  Therefore, it’s up to us, as adults, to model respect and dignity if we want children to learn it.  We cannot rely on schools to teach it to them; we must show it to them.

This means we have to check our own behavior.  What are we saying?  How are we treating others?  What are we watching and laughing at?  Are we calling others on it when they disrespect someone?

Dignity

Donna Hicks wrote the book on dignity, with that very name.  She defines “dignity” as “our inherent value and worth as human beings; everyone is born with it.”  She contrasts dignity with respect, saying respect is earned through one’s actions.  In other words, people don’t have to earn dignity; it’s inherent in being human.

“The desire for dignity is universal and powerful. It is a motivating force behind all human interaction—in families, in communities, in the business world, and in relationships at the international level. When dignity is violated, the response is likely to involve aggression, even violence, hatred, and vengeance.” –Donna Hicks, Ph.D.

It doesn’t have to be an “us vs. them” world out there.  If we honor that inherent desire for dignity as we interact with people, we will likely get it back.  Even if we don’t, we’ll be teaching the next generation of leaders how to treat others with dignity for the future safety of our world.  If we don’t start, bad things are likely to happen.

The Quarter Life Crisis

puppy-2-1379050I saw the play Tiger Style! last night.  The story is about two seemingly successful 20-something Harvard grads who are actually falling apart inside.  As a doctor and a computer programmer, they both have achieved success in their parents’ and society’s eyes, but they are in crisis because they don’t know who they are.

They blame their parents for promising them success and assuming happiness came along with it if they dedicated their lives to achievement.  But when they are finally in these high-status, well-paid jobs, they realize they never stopped to figure out if this is what they wanted along the way.  Indeed, these empty careers mean nothing to them.

Who am I?  Where does love fit in?  Where’s the fun?  What’s this all for?  These are the questions of the “quarter life crisis.” 

The quarter life crisis is a newly coined phenomenon, an accelerated form of the midlife crisis.  Why is it happening?  Why are so many 25-year-olds having identity crises that there’s a new name for it?  Because this generation of kids was never allowed to explore their identities during adolescence.  Instead, they were directed (and often pushed) into the singular path of going to the best college they could get into.

The fallacy of the college dream is that it assumes this path leads to happiness and success in life.  Sadly, it’s taken a generation of 20-somethings in crisis to show us the error in our thinking.

College is one path to success and happiness in life.  It is not the path.  There is no one-size-fits-all solution to success and happiness in life.  Each person has to figure it out along the way.

Probably one of the biggest disappointments in life is when your child wants to do something different from what you want them to do.  Face it: there is a good chance that will happen to you, no matter how much your force your dreams down their throat.  They are their own people and they have to figure it out for themselves.

The Quest for Comfort is Killing our Ability to Adapt

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”  –Viktor F. Frankl

geometric-chair-1425313-639x619The principal of a school was concerned about a complaint from a parent regarding the size of the desks in the third grade classroom.  “Some of the children are this tall [pointing low] and others are that tall [pointing high], but the desks are all made for kids of this [average] height.”  “Therefore,” she continued, “some of the kids will be uncomfortable. Are you okay with the kids being uncomfortable?”  Feeling trapped, the principal wondered if he needed to go out and buy new desks of varying height.

school-1465744-640x480If I were the principal, my answer would be very simple: “Yes, I am okay with them being uncomfortable.”  Yes, it is important for kids to learn how to adapt to their environment.  If we keep customizing the environment to make each person comfortable, not only will we go bankrupt, but we’ll also keep them from being able to adjust to the world around them. Continue reading The Quest for Comfort is Killing our Ability to Adapt