Not Their Problem

As well as a glass ceiling, women who are successful and become CEO’s also face a “glass cliff“(1). If you work twice as hard and are twice as smart as your male counterparts and actually land a CEO position, you face more challenges as a CEO because you are a women(2).

Glass Cliff?

Women CEOs are more likely to be recruited to companies that are in trouble to begin with. Either because the “first string” (of men) passed on the job, or the board needs to show that they’re thinking outside the box and recruiting a relationship-strong leader (i.e., a woman).

Then women CEOs are more likely to be the target of activist shareholders. Boards and CEOs used to be able to ignore them, but now they can create real headaches while owning a minority of the company stock.

Lastly – and this will sound familiar to many women out there – women CEOs get more negative attention from the press. Even when they objectively do better in comparable situations.(3)

What Does the Research Say?

Diminishing, denigrating, and dismissing 50% of the potential brain-power and creativity available to solve hard problems in an ever-connected and accelerating world based on their gender our one’s own ego is stupid ineffective.

For a long time women were told they’re the problem, they need to change, that they need to lean in – even by other women.

I argue that women’s attitudes and behaviour isn’t the problem. It’s men’s attitude and behaviour that’s the problem.

For example, this research analysed calendars, emails, and sensors attached to people in an office setting. Their hypothesis was that women had fewer mentors, less face time with managers, or weren’t as proactive as men in talking to senior leadership – all factors in determining future promotability. Turns out none of these were true when they analyzed the data.

So the researchers concluded that it wasn’t the women’s behaviour, but how the women’s behaviour is perceived by men. The way that people with the decision-making power perceive them. Which is another definition of bias.

When I shared this with my sweetie – who is a strong and successful woman in her own right and doesn’t need any of my damn help thank-you very much – she gave me the eye-brow. The one that says “thanks for playing, Captain Obvious”. Then we laughed and laughed.

The Bare Minimum

What do we men need to do differently?

First, I want to acknowledge that some people will have stopped reading at this point. Either because they don’t agree with me, or they think it’s not their problem, or they think they aren’t biased against women, or maybe I’m just boring. If you’re still reading and look forward to picking up your game, thank-you.

The bare minimum:

  • Don’t be a creep. Don’t stare at her chest, don’t make comments about their appearance, don’t flirt, don’t ask for dates, don’t encroach their personal space, so so so don’t touch her, and don’t make creepy comments behind her back to fellow creeps(4).

Some men never figure this out: the waitress at the restaurant doesn’t smile at you because she likes you. She does it because it’s her job and because she works for tips.(5)

Also, you don’t get credit for not doing these things. Remember, it’s the bare minimum.

The Next Level
But let’s assume you’re not a creep, which you probably aren’t. Here are some other things you might want to watch out for in your own behaviour:

  • Don’t interrupt. Let people finish their sentences. You may think it’s just the give and take of a conversation, brain-storming, or debate. At best it’s rude, at worst its verbal bullying. I am guilty of this, especially when I get excited about a topic or issue. I used to wonder why people thought I was obnoxious…
  • Stop mansplaining. Don’t explain things to women they already know and didn’t ask you to explain. If you didn’t know what mainsplaining is, start watching for it. Imagine what it’s like to be a woman having her own book explained to her and you’ll understand how oblivious and obnoxious it is. Again, I’m amazed how often I catch myself doing this, even though I’m trying really really hard not to (and no, I don’t get to take credit for not doing something.)
  • Don’t hepeat. Don’t repeat what someone else said and take credit. This happens often enough that it has its own word and twitter hashtag.

Advanced Leadership

What are some positive things we can do, to be a good ally and a good leader?

  • Set the example and expect others to do the same (see above).
  • Start questioning your own bias, and fight to overcome it. This is also a great exercise in better decision-making all around.
  • Promote women. Fill the leadership pipeline with people of ability, especially that first critical promotion to management.
  • Step on the creeps – you may not be a creep, but leadership means setting the example. You have a responsibility to stop others who are “misbehaving”. If you tolerate creepy behaviour, you are complicit.
  • Set ground rules for meetings that include respectful listening (see above).

I hope you found something helpful in this article. If you did, please let me know.

 

Thanks,
Bernie

 

(1) I was listening to NPRs “Secret Life of a CEO” series, which is interesting in itself. I recommend it.
(2) Because it’s never just one thing ever when situations go south.  And if you’re a woman, to hell with you in particular, apparently.
(3) Yes, I know you too can use Google to cherry-pick counter-factual arguments, research, and articles. I’ve read them, thanks.
(4) Think of it this way: the consequence of a bad date for men is a wasted evening. The worst case for a women experiencing a bad date is rape and death. It’s not fair, but you can empathize why some women might be a bit sensitive when it comes to these things. The consequences are wholly disproportional.
(5) Maybe you are that charming. I really don’t know, but I doubt it. Maybe it really is a genuine office romance, but those are usually are really really bad idea. Especially if it’s someone who works for you or you work for them.

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I Can’t Change Other People – Ten Things I Know to Be True #6

(or “I Can’t Help Other People That Don’t Want to Be Helped”)

leopord

The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. This isn’t true of stock markets, but it is true of people. People seldom change unless they’ve been through a life-changing event or under sustained, focused effort over time. Studies show our personality traits are pretty much set by first grade, if not earlier.

Which means I’ve wasted a lot of time and effort up to now wondering why people can’t just do what they’re “supposed to”. To behave in a rational way, for whatever value of rational you want to define. I can’t make people change, and I can’t make them behave or do things that I want them to. And now that I write it down, it makes me sound like a bit of a jerk, doesn’t it?

I might be able to influence others with my example. I may be able to hold them accountable for their actions and explain what impact it has on me. I may be able to clearly communicate my wants, needs, and expectations. But the choice about what to do about it, and how others choose to act, is totally up to them. Not me.

So what am I going to do when people make choices that I don’t agree with or like? How do I not get frustrated when the change that I *know* they need to make doesn’t happen? My only control is over myself and what I’m going to do about it. Up to and including changing or ending the relationship if that’s what’s right for me.

How other people feel is always valid, but how they act is their choice. Hoping, wishing, expecting somebody to change how they behave because it benefits me, or because I have a persuasive argument, or logical argument, is silly. Especially when their past behaviour doesn’t line up with what I expect or am hoping for.

Part of my Ten Things I Know To Be True series.

Start With the “Why?”

You must inspire people to drive business executionDan Pink argues that three surprising things motivate people: mastery, autonomy, and purpose. In business execution, I argue, you need to start with the purpose.

That’s what I wrote for this month’s article at RESULTS.com – You must inspire people to drive business execution. Check it out and let me know what you think?

Question for the Comments:
What is your purpose for working or running a business, beside just making money? How do you inspire people?

Other articles you may find interesting:
Why Are You Hiding Your Values
Deep Survival: Business Lessons From the Wild
What Do You Want to Be the Leader Of?

Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that not to do anything about bad leadership once you know about it is abuse. Check out what he does with RESULTS.com

Stay Calm and Carry On

Photo by Shayne Kaye. Used under the Creative Common Attribution license.

Sometimes things happen you can’t plan for. Like riding your bike up the back of a bear. My trainer says she didn’t see the bear until she was on top of it. Literally, with her mountain bike.

She came around the corner, peddling furiously, looking over her shoulder and trying to stay ahead of the Scout troop following her. Scouting in Calgary has many advantages. Access to the mountains and wildlife are some of them.

The bear was sitting in the middle of the single track, facing uphill. The way she told us the story at the training workshop, she didn’t understand what had happened until the bear turned to look over its shoulder at her. It’s one of those “no sh*t, there I was” stories that’s funny only later when you’re telling it around the campfire.

She backed down slowly, keeping herself between the mother bear and cubs and the Scouts. By hand signals and whispering they got back to the last branch in the trail and took a different route.

That’s the kind of leadership I prefer. Calm, competent, cool. There are many things that could have gone wrong with this scenario, and any drama on the leader’s part wouldn’t have helped.

What do I mean by drama? In an already emotionally laden and potentially dangerous scenario adding more emotion is drama. If she’d screamed, or panicked, or froze, or attacked, things could have gone very horribly wrong.

Worst places to work? One sign is when your day depends on the boss’s mood. “Better keep your head down. Ian is in a foul mood because the budget is due.” Managers and executives need to control and manage their emotions instead of letting their emotions manage them.

Be enthusiastic, be positive, have fun. All good. But if you’re angry, or yelling, or throwing things, or even quietly calling people names now you’re either out of control or you’re a bully. Now you’re a “boss-hole”. Not inspirational nor effective in the long run.

It’s a simple thing outstanding managers do well – keep calm, be consistent.

Why Are You Hiding Your Values?

I was in Rogers on Tuesday (they’re a local  cell phone service provider), on the 29th anniversary of my engagement to my bride, trying to get her a phone upgrade.  I thought it would be a simple process, and a nice gesture on our “asking” day.

Silly me. Three hours later we walked out with a new phone, bitter and disappointed at the service we received from Rogers. The only reason I didn’t switch was because the clerk couldn’t get through to her own customer service to cancel my contract, and I didn’t want to spent my entire anniversary waiting for this to get sorted out. But that’s not really what I want to talk about today.

While waiting I noticed the Roger’s one-page strategic plan lying on the counter. It seems I’ve inherited my grandmother’s faculty for reading upside-down. At least somewhat.

That skill had something to do with why she spent a few years living in Argentina after the war. There’s also something about her burning her then-dead German husband’s papers on the roof of the apartment in Switzerland under cover of doing laundry before fleeing. That’s also another story.

I asked the clerk if I could take a look at her company’s values, and she said no. She hid it furtively. As if she’d been caught doing something wrong.

This puzzles me. If a company is going to go through all the time and effort of discovering a set of expected behaviours for the company, then why can’t its customers see it? Are they embarrassed? Are they afraid that customers will laugh? In Roger’s case, given my treatment by them that night, that might realistic.

I began wondering how many other companies have values that they’re not willing to share with their customers, suppliers, and partners. Are they afraid to be held accountable to them? If you set out values and expected behaviour for everybody in your company, and you know that that’s not who your company really is, then I might understand your reticence.

I challenge you to publish your values. I dare you to make a public commitment. Commitment that is necessary for accountability and results. If you’re not willing to make that commitment, maybe you need to go back to your executive retreat and have another think.

If it turns out you don’t have any values, besides just making money, which I doubt, then don’t make something up. You’re not fooling anybody. Share who you are as a company, and be willing to be held to it. Otherwise the public will make up its own stories about why you behave the way you behave, or treat them the way you do.

Then make sure there’s a way for your clients, staff, suppliers to tell you when you are – and aren’t – living up to them. Listen. They’re already talking about you anyway. If you’re not hearing them it’s because you’re not listening.

If you’re not willing to fire employees behaviour that  consistently violate your core values, or you’re not willing to fix internal systems that consistently violate your customers humanity (such as making a phone upgrade a byzantine, three-hour gauntlet of bizarre rules and contractual obligations that require approval from an unreachable customer service representative in some overwhelmed call centre), then don’t waste your time.

There is a direct line between integrity and execution. If you don’t understand the this linkage between vision and engagement, values and execution, purpose and urgency, then stop wasting your time. Don’t waste it on “values” and “strategy” if you’re not going to follow through, or are doing it only because all the other “good” corporations are doing it.

That’s how I got started smoking – because the “cool” kids were doing it. It took me more than 29 years to quit and permanently damaged my health. But that’s another story.

My Own Personal Values

For the record, here are my own personal values:

  1. I will keep my word
  2. I will not lie, steal, cheat, hate, nor tolerate those who do.
  3. I will leave this world better than I found it.
  4. I will deal with reality, and face my fears. The only easy day was yesterday.
  5. Family first and last

How Your Body Language Is Hurting You

Imagine the following unfolding in a boardroom: the CEO is holding his head in his hands, both palms covering his entire face. The person reporting to him is leaning back in his chair, ankle on knee, hands behind his back. The subordinate seems to be totally oblivious to the CEO. Even without hearing the words being spoken, what conclusions can you draw from this scenario?

My perception of the message was: “To hell with all of you. I didn’t meet the commitments I made. I don’t care, and there’s nothing you’re going to do about it.” Without intending to, and totally undermining his own credibility and long-standing relationships.

Was this his intended message? No. He works in a high-stress, highly volatile, deadline driven world. He’s good at what he does. I assume he wants to see the company succeed and grow. So why the subtle (or not so subtle) but loud message that contradicts this?

When I asked him, he told me “that’s how I think”. Pretty much the opposite of what other people were getting.

Bottom Line:

Watch your own body language, how it effects others around you, and what message they might be getting from you.

Try This:
Be aware of your body language and how it affects the people around you for the next week. What did you learn? What changes do you think you might need to make?

Other articles you may find interesting:
Body Language Basics for Dates and Job Interviews
How Science Can Teach You to Spot a Liar
How To Build Relationships Without Talking

Grow Your Business By Killing Uncertainty

An interesting article from Chip and Dan Heath about how people hate ambiguity, the thought experiments that illustrate people’s aversion to it, and how to turn ambiguity into action.

So what? Take this example from Tesco’s:

Good leaders excel at converting something ambiguous into something behavioral. Take Terry Leahy, one of the leaders responsible for reversing the fortunes of Tesco, now the U.K.’s No. 1 grocer. One of Tesco’s ambiguous goals was to do a better job “listening to customers.” Leahy broke down that goal into a set of specific actions. For instance, cashiers were trained to call for help anytime more than one person was waiting in the checkout line. In addition, Tesco received 100,000 queries per week from customers. Leahy’s team made sure that all Tesco managers had access to customer concerns. (If you want to listen to customers, you had better make sure your managers can hear what they’re saying.) As a result, they learned counterintuitive lessons, such as that customers dislike stainless-steel refrigerators, which remind people of a hospital — not an ideal association for a grocer.

To convert strategy into action, decompose your goals into specific, doable actions. If you can see, hear, or feel the result of the action you’ve probably got it.

What You Should Look For When Hiring From the Outside: Look Inside

Interesting article from Inc.com, most of which is fluff, but has one good piece of advice:

5. For behavioral traits you want, look at existing employees.