Why Aren’t We Mentoring Women?

Study after study shows that over 50% of the Millennial generation would like to have a mentor that spans both their private life and their public work realm. Yet, in the workplace, I find that most organizations do not have a mentoring program and if they do, it is not thriving. What is going on?

There are many reasons to make the case for mentoring, including:

  1. Gets employees engaged
  2. It helps to relieve stress and anxiety, especially for new employees or those in new roles
  3. Creates connections that help people thrive in their work life and at home

These are just the tip of the iceberg. In HR, the case for mentoring shows low employee turnover, increased motivation, increased employee satisfaction, lower conflict and even lower number of sick days taken. There are countless benefits to the morale and psyche of the employee.

Even in churches, the idea of discipline and helping someone grow spiritually has finally taken root. I believe that people are taking mentoring more seriously, especially with the increasing number of baby boomers who wish to impart some of their amazing knowledge to help others grow.

In the old days, apprenticeship used to be the way to pass on tricks of the trade and teach a young person how to take over the business. People used to groom the next generation for decades and bring them along in the ways of the world. Today, that idea has gone by the wayside for most occupations. It still exists in some areas, namely medicine, the arts, and technical jobs, but it is more of the exception than the rule. Men, for some reason seem to take mentoring in stride, allowing succession planning to take place. They also are open with networking and making business connections.

In my 20+ years of working in business, I have not found that to be the case for women. Women for some reason seem to have a harder time sharing their contacts and information. They find other women to be more of a challenge to their authority and thus will not take another under their wing. I don’t find many senior level women welcoming younger women to an open exchange of ideas. Not all women are averse to this, mind you, but again this has not been my own experience.

On the contrary, I find that men are more willing to share ideas, give you advice and support and help you make connections – even as a woman.

I don’t think all the reasons for the failed woman to woman connection are sinister. I think they are a reflection of what is going on in the workforce and that they may not even be aware of the circumstances.  In my last blog, I mentioned that women make up almost 50% of the workforce today, but that less than 10% are in the Executive level of organizations. That is one of the biggest reasons why I haven’t found many women mentoring. Many of them aren’t even in higher positions. Typically, you will find men there and thus, men are more readily accessible than women.

Another reason may be due to added duties in traditional women’s roles: workplace role, wife, mother, care provider, single bread-winner, etc. When there are home duties that are not shared with anyone else, it can become a massive burden for a woman to take on yet another role as mentor. This is supported by a study done by DDI in 2014 that found over 65% of women never had a mentor and a whopping 75% said they would not mentor due to lack of time due to family obligations.

So, what can YOU do?

If you are a woman reading this article, I encourage you to join our Community of Christian Women‘s Group in OKC. It is a group that is getting ready to launch a mentoring  program in the Fall of 2018. If you don’t want to join a group, think about the work relationships you have and see if there is someone who might be interested in a mentor. You could also take the first step and ask someone you admire to be your mentor – it’s a sweet compliment and a great way to establish a positive relationship – even if she doesn’t have time to be your mentor.
Steps to take :

1. Meet monthly! It doesn’t have to be a weekly thing

2. Meet during the workday. If you have time to go have a cup of coffee… You have time to be mentored or be a mentor to someone

3. Start small – you don’t have to join a big formal program with a workbook. Just meet, talk & get to know one another first

4. Join a group that supports and recognizes the value of mentoring (like CCBW for women and CBMC for men).

5. Ask me if you don’t know where to start in your organization! I’d love to help! 

The bottom line is to start somewhere – start in at your workplace, start in your neighborhood, start in your church group… GO and  reach out to someone. You will be blessed far greater than you think and you will find that all those reasons against being a mentor to someone else will melt away.



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International Women’s Day

 

 

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Today is International Women’s Day was established in the early 1900’s to raise awareness of Women’s rights and issues around the world. With the technology we have today, it is much easier to address and raise that awareness. However, things still do not remain equal when it comes to gender bias, especially in the workplace.

Here are some statistics about women in the workplace that you may not know:

  1. It will take at least 100 years to close the wage gap between men & women in the US (money.cnn.com)
  2. As of Dec. 2017, the US fell to spot #49 in equal pay (mainly due to companies that don’t provide paid maternity leave) (www.pewresearch.org)
  3. Over 42% have experienced gender discrimination at work
  4. Over 22% of women say they have been sexually harassed at work
  5. 1 in 2 women experience discrimination as a result of being on maternity leave or after.
  6. For every dollar a male makes, women earn approximately 80 cents (or less if they are a female minority) (equal payback project).
  7. More than 1 in 8 women live in poverty.
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www.dol.gov

Now for a little bit better news (kind of):

  • In 2017, Women outnumber men for the first time in college: 56% to 44% men (US Dept of Education).
  • There is a substantial effort being made in education for empowering girls
  • Women are Integral to Today’s Workforce
    • There are 74.6 million women in the civilian labor force.
    • Almost 47 percent of U.S. workers are women.
    • More than 39 percent of women work in occupations where women make up at least three-quarters of the workforce.
    • Women own close to 10 million businesses, accounting for $1.4 trillion in receipts.
    • Female veterans tend to continue their service in the labor force: About 3 out of 10 serve their country as government workers.

 

  • Trends in Women’s Employment  over Time
    • Women’s participation in the U.S. labor force has climbed since WWII: from 32.7 percent in 1948 to 56.8 percent in 2016.
    • The range of occupations women workers hold has also expanded, with women making notable gains in professional and managerial occupations. In 2016, more than one in three lawyers was a woman compared to fewer than 1 in 10 in 1974.
    • The unemployment rate for women is currently 4.8 percent, down from a peak of 9.0 percent in November 2010. (Source)

 

There’s still a lot of work to do and each one of us can step in to help another woman. Mentoring, supporting, encouraging women should be a duty for all of us! We can start easily:

  1. start at home – encourage your daughters with positive role models (no, I’m not talking about Pilot Barbie, but about learning about a REAL person like Amelia Earhart).
  2. start in your community – join a positive role model group like the Community of Christian Business Women in OKC!
  3. start at work – meet with women, build peer relationships and succession plan with awareness.

STOP complaining about it. START DOING!

 

HR View on Mike Pence’s Stance on Women

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USA Today photo

Some of you may know that I teach Human Resources (HR) and do Corporate Training. I have taught many courses including  Business Etiquette, Business Ethics, Human Resources regulations and Cultural Diversity. When I do Executive Coaching for Businesses, we discuss not only business related topics but also personal conduct in the workplace.

I try not to watch the news or read the paper. The news bothers me and I find it depressing for the most part. Yet, I find that my friends always fill me in on what’s going on as it relates to my passions. A sweet friend told me on Friday about the media frenzy surrounding Mike Pence following the Billy Graham rule about not being alone with a woman (other than his wife). This was reported first by Laura Turner of the Washington Post article here about Karen Pence and her support of her husband. The description at the start of the article is surprisingly sweet, giving examples of how Mike Pence and his wife support one another and care deeply as a faithful, married couple. It’s towards the middle of the article that raises questions about the current times, stating “But colleagues and employees engage in a relationship between grown-ups who ought to be able to have an appropriate work-related conversation or a meal together” [bold & italics mine]. True, if we all could get along, then maybe people who are grown-ups wouldn’t sue one another or talk about each other behind their backs either. The very next line gets to the heart of the matter “Affairs start in secrecy, and to guard against them is good.” This is why Billy Graham started his rules – so that all he did was out in the open. As an Evangelical Pastor on the global stage, he had to protect himself and guard against things that could be misconstrued by others.

I am shocked at the media backlash this has garnered. Given the amount of lawsuits served up in the HR field, male and female relationships in the workplace are tenuous. For people in higher positions, this can mean being at further risk for workplace lawsuits and also personal lawsuits. For example, I generally advise managers to keep the door ajar when doing performance reviews (good or bad ones – doesn’t matter) so that employees will not charge them with duress or false imprisonment. Before you balk at that, there have been cases where someone of the opposite sex claimed both sexual harassment and also duress during a closed-door performance review. She stated that her male boss made inappropriate comments to her, said that he would raise her ratings for sexual favors and then wouldn’t let her leave because the door was closed (not locked, but simply closed). He denied all accusations, he was well-respected by his staff, but the company settled the case out of court because they did not want to go through the expense of fighting he said/she said in public.

The same holds true for lunch time conversation or long car trips. Why put yourself into that position with someone of the opposite sex? Why not invite someone else to go with you? My recommendation is always this: if you are a female in a position of authority and you want to invite a male to lunch to discuss something, have lunch in the company break room or cafeteria, where others can publicly see you and you are accessible. Do not go to another location outside of work by yourselves. Invite another person to go. This way, if there is an accusation of wrongdoing, at least you have another witness present.

I believe that both Billy Graham and Mike Pence are both correct on this issue, not just from a religious viewpoint that honors and protects their spouse and marriage but also from a secular, business viewpoint. Placing yourself into a situation that can cause doubts and show favoritism can cause tongues to wag in the workplace. This is a great way to invite lawsuits. I’m not the only one with this viewpoint. In a blog  titled “When Genders Matter” by Molly Donovan for The Muse, the same idea is supported. It’s not just a matter of male and female anymore either. The same principle holds true for transgender and LGBT orientation. The person across from you could be another female who may make sexual advances towards you as a female boss. It could be a male employee having lunch with a gay manager who might make inappropriate advances.

In this day and age, it’s good to error on the safe side. Yes, you may offend people when you leave the door slightly open. Yes, you may offend people when you ask for someone else to join you on the one hour drive to the client meeting. However, at the end of the day, you may find that it’s a bit easier to sleep at night knowing that you are not crossing the lines or sending out messages that could be misinterpreted by others.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and profound insight, 10 so that you can discern what best, that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.… Philippians 1:9-11

As Christians, we are held to a higher standard by God. We are to look towards Christ and not allow ourselves to be placed in situations that may mar our witness. May we choose to err on the side of caution and use the Holy Spirit’s gift of discernment to conduct ourselves in a way that’s stated in Philippians 4:8 ~ “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. ”

Think about how the world will perceive you when you go out for lunch or go for drinks with that ONE female employee after work. Think about what that does to your reputation (man or woman) in the workplace. Think most of all about what message that is sending out about you as a child of God. Mike Pence is suffering from media backlash, but from the examples given about his daily choice to not be alone with women, his witness as a Christian man is to be blameless in his interactions with others. May we all strive to focus on what God wants and not what the world wants. Amen.

Let’s Talk

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My husband & I are Marriage Mentors. We developed the Marriage Mentoring Ministry at our last church and by the grace of God, are helping to create a new Marriage Ministry at our new church. It is an amazing blessing to work with couples who are either seriously dating, are engaged to be married or are newly married. We are NOT counselors, nor do we give advice. This is how mentoring differs from other things. More on that later in another post.

I have taught Business Communication for Undergraduate Business schools since 1997 – coming up on 20 years! Much of what works well for the workplace can and does work well for the home. It’s just that we tend to be more polite to those we work with than those with whom we live. It’s a fact. Familiarity adds to the casualness with which we approach relationships that are close to us. While we take care to watch our words at work, it doesn’t always happen to me at home. I am mostly talking about myself here… I don’t want to point a finger at you because when I do that, I know that four other fingers are pointing back at me (in my case, that is literally true, as I have one husband and three kids! Ha! Ha!).

I taught a Conflict Resolution course earlier this week to College Interns. They were absolutely NOT interested in the session or me, until I asked them how many of them were in a relationship. Most raised their hands and that’s when they got connected into the topic. Sometimes, we think that this stuff we are learning at work does not apply to anything other than work. When you can link things at work to home, that’s where learning becomes valuable and memorable to others.

Talking to others about personal matters is not easy. In the study of Conflict Resolution, I usually start off the session by asking them to think about how conflicts were handled in their home when they were growing up. Did their parent(s) yell? Were they passive aggressive or always trying to keep the peace? These behaviors can definitely influence how you react to conflict.

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There are several ways you can approach conflict resolution – I also wrote about conflict & perspectives in my blog titled “Bridges, Balconies, & Burquas“. The first is to know your behavioral style. Most inventories (DiSC, Myers Briggs, Jungian, etc) are based on two dimensions: Task & People (horizontal axis) and Direct & Indirect (or in the figure, Outgoing/Reserved). There are free online tests you can take (& I encourage you to take them!) to find out how you fall into these quadrants. No matter what you take, the main questions are:

  1. Do you tell people directly how you feel about certain things or do you beat around the bush in order to spare feelings?
  2. Does interaction with others (maybe 20 min or more of talking) energize you or leave you making a mental laundry list of all the things you needed to get done in that time you just spent?

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Answers to those questions will allow you to figure out which side you land on – if you are energized with interactions with others, you will fall near to the “I” and the “S” side. If you are not, then “D” & “C” are more your style. If you are direct, you will go towards the top half of the circle and if indirect, then “C” & “S” may be more like you. Nothing is etched in stone, but knowing how you like to be approached is a good start to communicating with others.

Lack of Communication is one of the top reasons for divorce in a marriage. It is also one of the main reasons why employees leave (1. My boss & I didn’t get along OR 2. My co-workers & I didn’t see eye to eye). That’s it. It’s really that simple. When we start to see where someone might fall into the style spectrum, it’s easier to understand that them being quiet doesn’t mean they don’t like you – it simply means they are processing information & are being Contemplative! In other words, they are actually taking the time to think about what you just said! How many times do we misunderstand what we just saw in another person and shake our heads? The answer: I just did it today! 🙂

So, before you decide to say “Let’s Talk” to someone, you may want to consider how they like to be approached, how they view the world (=differently than you) and also what you may need to do in order to come to a good resolution. If we thought things through on a daily basis, maybe we wouldn’t waste so much energy in assuming a negative situation. The Bible says “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.(NASB – Philippians 4:8). That is a great place to start. In addition, Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” When you watch your words and think for just a second before you speak, it can make a complete difference in the way you approach others and in return, how others approach you.

If you would like to learn more about the DiSC assessment or any of the things I wrote about, I would love to hear from you!

Being Transparent

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There’s a trend in business today to be TRANSPARENT. An organization I have done consulting for goes as far as to have glass walls for their Executive offices so that nothing is hidden from employees. There is a sense of vulnerability there – being exposed for all to see. They can tell when you are on the phone or goofing off on the computer or simply zoning out.

With the Millennial group, the desire to be transparent shows up in church connecting groups, at work and also in friendships. They want to go deep and fast. This can be really off-putting to others who have been told that you should have a line between business and personal, between how much you share and how often. Social media has also impacted this desire to have everything be shared. When I log on to my social media accounts, there are pictures of everything – from what their cat coughed up to the latest pair of shoes they purchased. Do I need to know all that? No. Do I care about all that? Not really (especially not the cat bit). So why share all of it – what’s really behind this?

In Psychology, there is a model used for self-awareness called the Johari Window. This has degrees of what you hide and what you share. Trusting others with information you normally hide will allow you to learn more about yourself that you didn’t know or even understand.

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I did some work with a woman who was completely put together. She had a habit of fixing her make up, hair, etc before each meeting even though not a hair was out of place. Her dress and mannerisms were impeccable. To me, she looked like she stepped out of a magazine with her crisp clothes, polished manners and manicured nails. It was a bit intimidating at first to be around her. I felt like the dumpy friend that some girls take on as a benevolence project to help them become more socialized.

As we worked together more and more, on projects that took us long into the night, she began to disclose more about her hidden self. Not many people know much about her. She was sweet and kind, but had a sharp edge to her that came out now and then. One day, I mentioned to her about how immaculate she always appears and how it can be intimidating so someone who doesn’t know her. It seems like she is absolutely perfect.  She looked at me and said “I was homeless. I lived in a car with my mother until I was 8 years old.”

It blew me away!

What a confession. Still, it didn’t explain why and how she behaves and also how she got to this high paying job with an advanced college degree. She said that a woman who lived nearby noticed that there was a little girl who was always in a car when she went to work in the morning (her mom simply drove her to her work and she waited patiently in the car all day long for her to return). The woman stopped one day and asked my friend why she was not in school. She told the woman that she was waiting for her mom and gave her mom’s name. The woman went and found her mother and got them help from others, helped to place my friend in school and have some type of a home. She worked extra hard to put herself through high school and then college. The way she looked was done on purpose. It was a huge facade that she constructed so that no one else would see what she had to deal with and her past would not come up due to her credentials today.

These are the walls that we set up before us so that we don’t have to share certain things that are painful reminders of the past. Not everyone wants to be transparent. Also, being transparent doesn’t mean that you take pictures of your meal and post it online for your 500+ closest friends to see.

Real transparency comes from being AUTHENTIC. Are you who you say you are? Or are you moody, changing your behavior from one meeting to the next? Are you unpredictable to your staff or to family? Do you say you are a nice person and then chew out the cashier who puts your canned tomatoes on top of your bread? These are the things that allow someone to develop trust in others. Trust is the key to building relationships. Without consistency in who you say you are (=Open Self) and then acting in a way that’s contrary without even realizing what you are doing (= Blind Self), you may not be trusted.

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photo from Kingspeech

In business, if being transparent means not having a hidden agenda, not back-stabbing others to get what you want or throwing them under the bus for a poor decision you made, then that’s not only good but also ethical behavior. In life, sharing difficulties you might have and not just the highlights of trips, awards or other accolades to make others feel inferior might be a great way to real – to be transparent. I know that at church, we sometimes don’t share the hard things of life. We don’t share about our children dropping out of school or doing things they shouldn’t do for fear of being cast out. When we begin to let go of a little bit of the Hidden Self, you increase the window of the Open Self. That’s where you can invite others to share what might be a difficult time in their life and help them to heal from hurts.

This is something we can apply daily in our walk. Just like my friend, even though outwards we may look alright, inside we are not perfect people. Stepping away from being transparent via facebook or instagram to being authentic is a good start to building trust and enhancing all relationships. This becomes an exercise in telling the truth, in doing what is beneficial and also in helping one another see their true self – not just the mask they want to hide behind.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ~Phil 4:8-9

Managing Across Cultures

cultureYesterday, I taught a course on Cultural Intelligence for the State of Oklahoma Office of Management & Enterprise (OMES). Just as your own Intelligence Quotient (IQ) can be measured, so can your Cultural Quotient (CQ). Harvard Business Review defines it as “Cultural intelligence: an outsider’s seemingly natural ability to interpret someone’s unfamiliar and ambiguous gestures the way that person’s compatriots would.”

The biggest thing I noticed when was an immigrant to the United States is that this is such an amazing country with many cultures living side by side. Oklahoma City has a Vietnamese district of restaurants and a large grocery market. There is also a large Southeast Indian, Persian, Hispanic and of course, a rich Native American culture. The universities in the area have flourishing International Studies programs. All of these are reasons why in 2016,  Oklahoma City was named one of the nine metropolitan areas for creating an inclusive culture! Surprised? Don’t be! There aren’t many areas in the US that don’t have a cultural impact (inclusion and race). I usually tell my students that you don’t have to go further than your local Wal Mart to find the varied diversity in any US city. If you are even more curious, go to the Ethnic Food aisle at Wal Mart and see how many languages are being spoken there.

Americans don’t give ourselves credit for taking inventory of how much we already know about a particular culture. Growing up with friends from different areas, educational level, socioeconomic status and even generational differences all account for cultural diversity. However when the term “Diversity” is mentioned, we focus on black and white – we are the ones who make it about race only, missing out on the rest of the things that make diversity exciting.

One can easily measure their level of cultural knowledge by taking a Cultural Intelligence quiz online (there are several free ones available – just do a search!). It’s a quick test that takes a look at the four quadrants of Cultural Intelligence (Drive, Cognition, Meta-Cognition and Action). A high score is NOT what you are after on this test. It’s more to show you where you can improve in each area. This is the first step in developing and increasing your cultural knowledge. Application and adaptation are the next two steps.

CQ is quickly becoming a need for managers and leaders. Knowing how to work across cultures to increase productivity is KEY in any workplace or organization. It’s important to note here that the term “culture” also include generational differences. This is one of the main areas I have had to address over the last few years, as the Baby Boomer population decreases and the Millennials increase in the workplace.

The main question that arose from the Cultural Intelligence session yesterday was how far do you go to accommodate another culture before you blur the lines between who you are and the values you hold?

This is a good question to consider. It is truly based upon your own values, beliefs and also your organizational culture and beliefs. If those are in alignment, then the decision making comes easily. If they are not congruent, then there can be dissonance. As a manager, it’s very important to allow for “reasonable accommodation” for an employee’s ethnicity, religion, or other consideration. Flexible time and PTO help to give tremendous creativity on how that time is used. The issue becomes more blurry when ethics come into play. I believe it’s important to stress that when a leader focuses in on one person’s needs or issue (due to inclusion or diversity needs), that that they don’t alienate the other 99 in the office. So taking the big picture into account is a good way to start. Solving issues in a team is also another approach. This will actually allow others to learn more about the culture and do creative problem solving together. The only caveat to this is if the employee wants the issue to remain confidential, so before taking a team approach, ask employee permission.

The bottom line in any diversity or inclusion initiative is to address each employee with dignity and respect. That is a common ingredient that crosses global, ethnic, and cultural boundaries. If we stop for a minute to think about what is getting ready to come out of our mouth and take time to analyze the situation, then CQ is already at work. The knee-jerk reaction rarely works when all these factors are involved. Take a moment, think, analyze and give benefit of the doubt to the other party. That is something that will help a manager not just handle cross-cultural issues but most communication issues.

 

Lost in Translation

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It’s not a secret that the English language is hard to grasp. There are grammar rules that differ from the other Latin languages, idioms, cultural variances, and top of all that, there are words with multiple meanings. Right after the attacks of 9/11, my poor father received a notice on his email that it had been monitored and that he needed to explain what his involvement was in a “plot in Pakistan to bring money over to the United States to fund the three in his charge.” Sounds incredibly suspicious doesn’t it?

My dad didn’t know if he should get mad or laugh. The word “PLOT” can have multiple meanings. One is to scheme or plan as in “a plot to topple the king,” which even the Merriam Webster online dictionary doesn’t even use. Another is used by farmers to designate parcels of land for a purpose. Third is used by authors to design a series of events that are critical to their writing, such as the main plot of a book. Fourth is to chart lines, as in plotting a course or to plot coordinates for a straight line. Last is to designate a parcel of land for usage as a unit, usually for real estate purpose. It was this last definition he was using in his e-mail. He had purchased a plot of land a long time ago in Pakistan that had three sections as an investment for his three daughters. These are the three in his charge.

I don’t disagree that it was probably not the best time to leave out details of the “three in his charge” or to use the word “plot” instead of land, but one can easily see how our communication can easily take a wrong turn, especially during emotionally charged situations. The word “run” is similar in its multiple meanings, except that instead of four or five meanings, it has a whopping 177 definitions!

When I teach business communication, it is usually to native English speakers. English was my second, almost third language (I was taught Arabic, English and Urdu almost simultaneously when I was little, living in Saudi Arabia). I try to stress the importance of why we have issues in talking with one another especially in culturally diverse settings. If you add non-verbal (body language), tone, inflection, listening, written (e-mails, text, Instant Messaging), and slang or jargon into the mix, it is an absolute wonder we can understand one another at all!

With the English language changing all the time, communication becomes more difficult even for native speakers. Consider for example, the new speak that the Millennials and Generation Z (yes, we are on the last letter of the alphabet now) are using in texting. If you don’t know what “totes” means (no, not the ones you store or carry stuff in), then you might not understand some of the messages that are being thrown around out there on social media (like, totes cray). There is an article by the Washington Post that just came out in January that addresses the new way to speak. You might want to check it out if you are over the age of 40 – no offense, but just want everyone to be on fleek (yes, that’s a new word too – just not in the dictionary yet).

To help foster good communication, whether it’s with your spouse, teenager or co-worker, we have to start somewhere. Here are a few things to consider from the authors of Crucial Conversations on Stereotypes, Distrust & Bias:

Focus on the Facts. We tend to jump in with an emotional appeal and don’t look critically at the facts surrounding the situation.

Examine the Story. Re-examine the conclusions drawn from the facts. Again, emotions can color the situation and make it seem amplified when it’s really a small issue or something that was overlooked by the other party.

Visibility and Exposure. Reconsider your initial views, and to be open to new information.

Own the Problem. No blaming. Taking accountability for actions is critical for both sides

Follow Up. Sometimes we walk away, thinking things are resolved, but it may just be the other person agreeing to something so the situation will just go away. It is important to follow-up not just for clarity in communication, but also to review and reinforce the relationship.

By doing the suggestions above, we will not only clarify misunderstandings but will be able to lead by example to make a foundation of trust with the other person. Misunderstandings can get cleared up in a new way, with new information that you may not have known about that individual’s background or a different way of speaking.

As for my dad, he is still plotting the course with consideration to the sale of his plot so he can plot another chapter of language communication issues with e-mails…

 

Lottery – A Perspective on Decision Making

Delaware lottery

The Lottery was the big topic on Thursday morning and I was doing Corporate Training for a business here in OKC. The participants were even talking about it as I walked in the door. The payout of 1.2 Billion dollars was just inconceivable to me and it reminded me of this decision making example. On the way to training, I was listening to a Christian radio station. It really irritated me that they were ALSO talking about the lottery in the morning. For some reason, I continued to listen and they did something very interesting: They interviewed “regular Joe’s” on the street about what they would do if they won the Lottery. Their answers were pretty much the expected: buy a new car, a new house, etc. One man even said that he would buy a yacht. When the interviewer asked why, he answered “why not?!”

Then they interviewed HOMELESS people. They went out and asked what they would do if they won. The answers got me really choked up! One man said that he would first feed as many people as he could – like a big party for all who were on the street. Then he said he would donate money to some of the organizations that were out there feeding other people like him. He would of course, buy a home and get himself off the street so he could help others get homes to do the same.

The next man said that he would instantly help some of his friends who were living on the streets. He said that most of his money would be donated to the churches that were down in that area who had helped him personally. When the interviewer asked him if he would buy a yacht, he said “What? Why would I do that? A yacht never helped nobody.”

I wanted to talk about this because problem solving and how we make decisions are not done in a vacuum. There are outside influences that shape each and every decision we make. For example, I had everything taken away from me when we moved to the United States – not because my parents were mean, but only because we were moving across continents and could only bring 6 suitcases with us! It was quite terrible for a girl of 10.  Today, I still have a problem letting go of stuff. The only thing that saves me is JESUS telling us to not store things on earth but to store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).

19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…

In addition,  I am blessed by the knowledge that all things come to me from God and that I need to give them away. Giving gifts is something that I DO love, so I will accumulate and then one day, go to the Veterans Administration or Cancer Center and give them 20 new crocheted hats or jewelry or pajamas and socks or something like that.

There are reasons deeper than the workplace (or church or soccer team) that can come into play. I think we have to be mindful of that when we see others having control issues or when they hold on to a project or concept and even get angry when you suggest any type of change! It doesn’t always have to revolve around you – they may not be angry or upset at you, but at what that decision may represent for them (letting go of control, insecurity in their personality, or even abuse in the past).

I think  there’s a great lesson to be learned in all this – when you make decisions, you can either choose to look at them as they impact you OR you can choose to look out first and see how they impact others.

LeadHERship

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What’s the deal with women in power? As a young, driven woman who was just starting out her career,  I made many mistakes and let power get to my head. Some mistakes were small and others could have impacted or even curtailed my career, like the error of not following chain of command in a traditional organization like Campbell Soup Company. Fortunately for me, I had a kind and generous mentor named Chuck Hatz who was able to step in and guide me through management pitfalls.

As I look back on that experience, I realize that not many are blessed to have another give them advice on how to maneuver or even advance on the corporate ladder. In fact, I realized slowly that the ones who were the least helpful in my career path were WOMEN. Before I heap accusations on those women who did not mentor me or even lend a kind word of encouragement, I need to look at my own actions as a manager as well.

When I joined the management ranks, I was a supervisor. I worked mainly with two men, so things were good. When the opportunity to rise higher into a manager’s position, however, the battle lines were drawn and I quickly found out that I didn’t have many friends. In fact, most of my competition were women of equal rank. It was cut throat. I found out after I got the position mainly due to my education, that a woman closest to me had said something personal and derogatory about me to the VP. He thought it to be unprofessional (especially in Human Resources), so he did not even consider her for the position. Her desire to hurt me ended up getting her booted out.

This woman was a colleague. She was someone I had lunch with on a regular basis, so it didn’t rest easy with me. It was around this time that I had been looking at Japanese management traditions of Kaizen (collaborative management) and found that before making any big decision or doing problem solving, they went to their peers individually and got input. I thought that to be a huge waste of time! Why do that when I knew what needed to be done and go do it?

This very thing turned out to be the key in why women were not getting the larger promotions and why there seemed to be a general lack of trust among us. No one wanted to consult with another. All of us were very competitive and sabotaging the other’s efforts. In an attempt to be noticed by Executive management (=men), we were setting each other up for failure and being petty. What an eye-opener for me.

As an HR manager, I knew I could personally do something to change this. Using collaboration and not competition as my incentive, I set about asking the other female management their input on ideas and projects. I was immediately met with distrust, criticism and even sarcasm – what, is this job too difficult for you, that you need to ask for help?

Fortunately, not all of my peers were like this. I found a lifelong friend in Christine who was kind and helpful to me. In addition, I had women in my department who were caring and driven to help others. We formed a small but close-knit team. The easy collaboration in HR training began to be evident as we shared leadership roles. There was a desire to help one another and to share our strengths as a team.Other women began to look to this team as an outreach and support within the organization. Several women began to gain promotions and opportunities to excel, including me.

I share all this to make a point. Until women begin to set aside the competitive nature of business and our own prejudices against other women (she’s not career-minded her clothes are not right, etc), we are not going to be looked at as serious contenders for executive level positions. Women do not have to set aside our feminine qualities of being able to talk to one another, to empathize, to nurture relationships in order to get ahead. We don’t have to be so driven that we get a calloused edge that doesn’t take others into account. In a culture that feeds the “me, me, me” ego, climbing the corporate ladder means stepping on other women’s heads in order to see our own star rise.

As a Christian, this is made even more clear to me by Jesus Christ’s teachings, especially when he said “So the last shall be first, and the first last ” Matthew 20:16. That doesn’t leave much room for corporate ambition, does it? What one doesn’t realize right away is the blessing you get from helping others and putting your desires off for a minute or two. Getting promotions was nice (I won’t lie!) but it wasn’t nice to not have a peer to peer network of women you could trust. Getting recognition was nice, but I didn’t realize that it meant that I took it from others and gave no one else credit. When we started sharing and helping one another, we began to celebrate each other’s contributions and victories. Our enthusiasm, relationships and strength multiplied.

Bill Gates said that “As we look ahead to the next century, LEADERS will be those who EMPOWER others.” So what steps can we take today to help those around us? This Forbes article gives a great list of strengths women have that naturally lend themselves to helping others. In addition, I have a few to add that can apply to both men and women:

  1. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Look for opportunities to help fill the gap.

  2. Ask for the worst assignment. Your colleagues will thank you (& think you’re nuts!) and your bosses will appreciate you.

  3. Be willing to help not only at work, but outside work. When you see your co-worker as a mom, wife, daughter, or in a different role, you will gain respect and learn to set aside any prejudice you may have formed against them.

  4. Pray for them and for yourself to be placed in situations where you have to serve others.

We need to build each other up – both men and women. When you break others down, you get torn down right beside them. There is collateral damage. The true hallmark of a leader is when you help to develop others’ skills and strengthen them. Along the way, your own skills will be strengthened, built and sharpened.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

Elusive Happiness

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In the Undergraduate Business class I am teaching this week, as well as in a training seminar on Stress & Time Management last Thursday, the theme of “Happiness in the Workplace” kept coming up. There are so many things out there that are telling us as individuals to be HAPPY – in the 80’s, the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” sparked a whole marketing array of T-shirts with smiley faces that reminded us to be happy. Pharrell Williams’ song is so HAPPY that I cannot listen to it without wanting to dance! 🙂
The more I ponder this, the more I think that much of that has spilled into the workplace. Leaders and Managers somehow believe that they are solely responsible for the “Happiness” state of their employees and that there should be a general feeling of well-being at the workplace. Employers are also convinced that if their company is not making them happy, maybe they should leave.

Where did this idea come from and is it something that can be achieved?

There are many companies out there that state they love their employees and put them first. I think this is not a bad place to start. Disney is simply amazing in this category of employee well-being! They even have a book called “Inside the Magic Kingdom” and it shares some of the things that they tell their employees to do in order to help make the customers happy. One of the most interesting parts of this book is where they explain to their employees that the whole park is a stage and they are simply characters playing a part. So, if you are a Disney Street Sweeper, you are playing the part of the Street Sweeper and you must do that well!

I have a friend who took her family to Disney World a few years ago. I got so tickled from the story she told me when they got back. While at Epcot Center in France, her elderly mother-in-law asked the Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast “Where are you from?”  She dutifully answered “I grew up in  a small village in France.” Then, the grandmother said, “you are so very beautiful, is your family here now?” She gave the answers from Beauty & the Beast, about how her father, Maurice was an inventor and he was sent to prison for no reason at all; how she loves to read books and how she ended up at a large estate (the Beast’s) – the grandma never caught onto the fake movie answers… she simply believed it!

I think there might be something to that approach Disney takes. Belle cannot have a bad day (well, she can, but she has an important job to do). If you have your employees, especially those in Customer Service take on a role, they may see things a bit differently. For example, every time I go to teach or train, life is not always rainbows, roses and sunshine! I have had to go into some very tense situations at work. You cannot just bring your own junk to the party. You have to address what is going on and cope with today’s issues.  So, I play the role that I was hired to play that day- as a trainer, teacher and motivator. I have to deal with what I am supposed to be doing that day. Jesus had a saying for that…

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own ~Matthew 6:34

Think about this… if you could just deal with what’s in front of you (instead of going on a flight of fancy for all the other things that you need to get done that week), I think your attitude might be a bit different. A friend once told me that she heard someone ask “What if tomorrow, you would only get the things that you were thankful for today?” Yikes! Did I thank God for my health, my home, my marriage, children, my job, shoes (yes, lots of them!), food, bank account, car…? What if we take just a moment out to think of all the things we should be HAPPY about and not dwell on the negative? Glass half-full is not just a philosophy, but is a commitment to CHOOSE one thought over another. It is known as Cognitive Behavior Therapy in the Psychological world. In the Bible, it’s known as 2 Cor 10:5

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5 [emphasis added]

When will we learn that our thoughts and negative thinking can multiply and poison not only our minds, but of others around us? How about weeding out that negative thought in the mind as it sprouts forward, not allowing it to grow and take over the flower bed? If you do take those thoughts captive, not only will you find happiness, but also JOY – that is a more permanent state of the fleeting happiness we see daily. JOY comes from a deeper place, a calm and restful place that says “It is well with my soul.”