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.

Leadership Lessons from the Music Industry

The music industry continues to change. Falling album sales eroded by on-line streaming, questions on how artists get paid and make a living, and technology making it easy for anyone to become a producer. It’s another industry that got hit by the internet twenty years ago (remember Napster?) and continues to get sucker-punched over and over again as the technology evolves(1).

With a young step-son who’s been a professional musician since age 15, and is now recording his sixth album, it’s a topic of interest to me personally – how is he going to make a living doing what he loves,  in an industry famous for manipulators and scumbags, and keep being that good person I know him to be? He’s a talented guy and decent human being, and I look forward to helping him figure it out where he wants my help.

I got to sit in on The Gathering(2) afternoon’s music panels on Friday, and came away impressed with the thoughtfulness and depth of discussions. There seems to be an intersection between artists, brands, marketing, and the people who act as in-betweens.

There are successful artists who have become their own brands (not only making music but also clothing and other products, and doing their own marketing); brands that bring marketing in-house (for example Dr. Dre headphones, who started as a musician(3)); and marketers who love music doing amazing things in the world even though they don’t make music (like Andy Cohn from the FADER).

Turns out music is more than just music. Social justice, innovation and creativity, self-identify, story and narrative, commerce, influence and motivation all get mixed up in a wonderful goulash(4), or maybe a Chili Verde(5). You decide.

Music is unique in the human experience, but it costs money to make it. Surprisingly people want to be able to make music and eat at the same time. Go figure. So music is also commerce, and not surprisingly music also overlaps business and leadership. This became clear to me while listening to the panelists and hearing themes that leadership and business people have been talking about for decades now: values, vision, and people.

Image result for nobody speak
“Nobody Speak” by DJ Shadow, currently on heavy rotation at my house

 

Here are some of the things I heard:

Your Values

Be really clear about what you’re offering, what you expect in return. You can trade your talent and identity for fame and money if you want to, and that’s okay, but don’t expect it to last, don’t expect it to have an impact, and don’t expect anyone to have your best interests at heart.

You can do better than that. There were some powerful stories told on the stage, but they’re not mine to tell. Let’s just say that music not only influences and changes lives, it also literally saves lives(6).

…or as Joe Belliotti put it, “You don’t have to be an asshole to be successful.”

Your Vision

Overused, oversold, and yet so important. What’s the thing that you would be doing even if you had to pay to do it?

Of all the panelists who shared their “vision statement” (and they all had one, it’s de rigueur don’t you know), authenticity was believable, even if it wasn’t messianic: “Feed my family.”, “Take care of the people important to me.”, “Protect my fans, because they got us here.”

People

“Touch your people every day, because you’ll be sad when they walk out the door.”  – Jason White

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory, but I will add this from my own experience: if you think you’re doing this well enough, you’re not. Very few people actually do, many fewer than think they do.

It’s more than likely that you’re just fooling yourself. No shame in that, it’s easy to do. It even has a name: confirmation bias. Take a long hard look at how well you treat your people, and what you tolerate in terms of how others treat them, and do better.

 

(1) See also publishing, newspapers, manufacturing (robotics), transport (self-driving cars), entertainment (pirated movies), etc. Next up professional services such as lawyers and doctors (artificial intelligence). Time to buy an acreage and some goats and move to the country?

(2) In its fifth year, it brings together brands and marketers. Three years ago they added music, integral to telling any story, which is what good marketing does. Plus I love any excuse to head to Banff despite the tourists – they’ve done a really good job of extending tourism past the summer holiday & winter skiing crowd, and I admire that.

(3) If you haven’t watched “Straight Outta Compton” you should, even if rap isn’t your thing. Good movie.

(4) My mother’s signature dish. That and rouladen. Mmmmm.

(5) What’s in the slow cooker right now, and it’s making me drool. Pardon me if I’m distracted by food.

(6) For one example, check out Paul Brandt’s #notinmycity campaign, imagined and executed by marketing students from Mount Royal University. As an added bonus the campaign has ruffled establishment feathers, which delights me because that’s what’s necessary to drive change.

The Difference Leadership Makes

I was watching one of those pseudo-documentaries about the American Navy SEALs on the History Channel the other night(1), and an interesting little tidbit came up during the part where the teams are trying to get their boats past the surf and out into the ocean. If you’ve never seen this exercise (or “evolution” in Navy-speak), it’s actually an entertaining spectacle.

Instructors divide the class into boat teams, each with a student leader. Then there’s all the usual running around with the inflatable dingy carried above their heads, yelling and screaming, push-ups in the sand, and so on. When the surf conditions are just right (the ideal seems to be a combined high-tide and a storm surge, with multiple metre-high waves), the instructors send the boat teams out in the surf. The first team past the surf gets to sit out the next evolution. Everyone else, on the principle that “second place is first loser”, gets to do more running around with the dingy above their heads, push-ups in the sand, etc.

You just can’t get past the surf without everyone working together. You can see a clip of the exercise here: Navy SEAL BUD/S Training – Surf Passage(2)

Image result for surf passage

In the episode I was watching, the instructors noticed that one team was consistently last (and therefore earned their special, unwanted attention), and one team was consistently first (and got the break). So the instructors decided to run an experiment. They took the crew leader(3) from the worst boat and switched him with the leader from the best boat.

The two crews switched results in the race, dramatically and immediately. The last place boat became the first place boat and vice-versa.

Without clear purpose, direction, and motivation provided by somebody, anybody, the team fails and the team suffers for it. Without changing the other members of the team, changing the leadership changes the team’s performance,

When There are Too Many Leaders

I was mentoring at a student civic innovation competition last year. The students were from several different institutions and disciplines (architecture & design, finance, business, marketing, social innovation, etc.) The challenge was to take an under-utilized civic space and research, analyse, and propose a low-cost, community-centred update of the space in a weekend.  Then pitch it to a panel of judges.

It’s an interesting human-centred design exercise, and an interesting team-work exercise. Also they don’t get a lot of sleep.

One team ended up going in circles. They were unable to decide on a design, agree on a way forward, or complete the work. In the end it came down to having one too many leaders. Two of the students in particular saw themselves and driving the process forward. What they didn’t realize was that by pushing so hard for “their solution” they were shutting down the creative process, collaboration, cooperation, and frustrating everyone else on the team with their bun fight.

Listening was non-existent and ego ruled. Despite attempts by myself and another mentor, they never really overcame this friction and failed to win in any category at the pitch competition.

What Kind of Leadership Do You Need?

So what? We need to think carefully about the culture, structure, and ground rules of our teams – how they’re put together, how decisions get made, its purpose, and how it’s going to succeed.

In a military context teams need high levels of trust. The ability to resolve conflicts and make decisions quickly, to coordinate effort, and to motivate members (such as promotion up the chain-of-command.) Hierarchy has its advantages, but…

Not everyone is a soldier. Collaboration, creativity, problem solving, and execution are the order of the day. This means everyone pays attention to the other team members(5), everyone contributes, and nobody hi-jacks the process. Leaders need to be comfortable with messy, even uncomfortable conversations while making sure everyone contributes and stays focused on the task. It’s hard and requires a high emotional intelligence, but then good leadership always has.

 

 

(1) Don’t get me started on how the History Channel doesn’t have any history on it, although my sweetie and I really enjoy watching Forged in Fire together. As long as you know what you’re in for (not history, but rather entertainment) then it’s all good.

(2) I find the music overly dramatic and unnecessary, but some people like that sort of thing. The camera shots from the drone are pretty cool though.

(3) This is a common feature of military training – assigning leadership duties to the students. It lightens the load for the instructors, trains the students in leadership and accountability, and is invaluable in motivating everyone to do their best to make sure everyone cooperates when it’s their turn. It’s a great development tool in any context.

(4) Nothing wrong with consensus, if that’s what you need. Just be ready to take a very long time to make decisions, and have a very clear process for collaboration, discussion, and conflict resolution.

(5) This is where women have an advantage over men. So if you’re trying to solve a really difficult, complex problem, one way to stack the deck is to have more than one woman on your team.

Creating a Workplace to Thrive In

Peter Economy (yes, cool name for a business writer) describes a seven ways to create an extraordinary workplace. I totally agree with expressing gratitude, and the “frequency over size” idea is also great.

You could apply that one to measuring progress towards goals, giving feedback, and many other leadership activities.

Can You See It? – Setting Goals That Get Done #2

Child pulling down grandfather's hat
If you can see it, you can do it

Part Two of  Series that begins with Setting Your Intent (and Deciding What You’re Not Going To Do)

Visualize Your Goal

The part of your brain that makes decisions and drives all human behaviour has no capacity for language. So, if you want to motivate somebody, including yourself, you could literally draw a picture. Tell a story. Use concrete language. Have a tangible outcome.

Use all your senses. Imagine success. See, hear, feel, taste, and touch it, as if it is real to us already. When we know what success looks like, our brains starts filling in what we need to do to get there. Athletes have used mental rehearsal for years, and the performance improvement they get from visualization is almost as great as actually physically practicing.

This is where setting SMART goals get it right, mostly. The “S” in SMART stands for specific. But you can set very specific but intangible goals. Like (and I wish I was making this up, but I hear this all the time when coaching executive teams) “Increase EBITDA by 10%”.

Would everybody in a company be able to get excited about this? Would they even understood what it means? It’s certainly specific enough, but it doesn’t say anything about the why or the how, which are also important.

Here’s a personal example. When I was trying to quit smoking for the 99th time, what finally got me over the motivation barrier was imagining going for a hike in the Rockie Mountains with my grand-children. I don’t have any grandchildren yet, but I a) wanted to be around if and when they do show up, and 2) wanted to be able to carry them, not an oxygen tank. I can see the picture in my head. I can even show you on the map which trails I’d like to take them on first.

So if your have to set a financial goal, perhaps describe what the money you hope to earn will allow you to do, instead of just imagining the money. Maybe don’t get trapped by being specific about the amount of profit (or growth, or weight you’re going to lose). Instead fixate on what the specific outcome will allow you to do.

If you can draw a picture or describe the outcome to somebody else in a concrete way, then you’re there.

Next: Imagine the Milestones

Some Early Thoughts on Leadership

I came across a couple of excerpts that I used to have up on my wall when I was a signals officers. They were printed out on a dot matrix printer, which should tell you how long ago that was.

Reminders of the demands of leadership…

How to sack a divisional commander: Tewkesbury, 4 mAY 1471

Lord Wenlock

LORD WENLOCK not having advanced to the support of the first line, but remaining stationary, contrary to the expectations of Somerset, the latter, in a  rage, rode up to him , reviled him, and beat his brains out with an axe.

— Richard Brooke – Oxford Book of Military Anecdotes p. 104 – Oxford University Press

it is not infrequently the case that when an officer falls on the battlefield, enquiries are made as to which side shot him

An officer of the 15th Foot

There is a story of a Major of the 15th Foot who, on the field of Blenheim, turned to address his regiment before the assault, and apologized for his past ill behaviour. He requested that, if he must fall, it should be by the bullets of the enemy. If spared, he would undertake to mend his ways. To this abject performance, a grenadier said: “March on, sir; the enemy is before you, and we have something else to do than think of you now.” After several attacks, the regiment carried its position and the Major, gratified, not doubt, to be still alive, turned to his troops and removed his hat to call for a cheer. No sooner had he said “Gentlemen, the day is ours” than he was struck in the forehead by a bullet and killed. There was a decided suspicion that the bullet was no accident.

E.S. Turner – IBID p. 145

(Re) Starting Your Career #3 – Volunteer

When I’ve been asked for career advice, whether somebody is stuck or just starting, there are a couple of things I always recommend, including keeping up your professional relationships, and learning to speak coherently in front of a group of people

At some point you’re going to need to put your learning into practise. Not many jobs will allow you the daily practise of doing your job and preparing for the next one. Unless you’re very lucky, have a great boss, and the ideal situation. In which case why are you wasting your time reading blogs? Don’t you have better things to do?

Volunteering meets your needs. It allows you to network. It allows you to practise leadership, teamwork, negotiation, public speaking. You’ll get training you wouldn’t get otherwise. And last but not least  it’s good for the soul.

Personally I had a great time being a Scout Leader. I have a great time volunteering for PMI. Both together led me to the business consulting I know and love today.

So find something that helps you give back to your community or the world, and if it helps you become a better person, then it’s win / win for you and the world.

Bernie works with small, medium (and sometimes) large companies, start-ups, and volunteer organizations to help them set a vision that is executable, effective, and to surround themselves with people who will help them succeed. I believe the workplace is a place to thrive, not just survive. Call me if you want help transforming your business. 

On Being Nice to the Waiter (and Everybody Else) (All the Time)

pork and beansThere’s a saying that “A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, isn’t nice.”

My first sergeant said it differently: “There are two people in the squadron you never want to piss off: the quartermaster and the pay-clerk. No beans, no bullets, and no way to pay your bar tab.”

That man had his priorities straight. 

He had a point: everybody is important. Everybody can and will contribute the company’s (squadron’s) success. We all depend on each other. We can’t do everything ourselves, so corporations (teams, squadrons) organize by task and specialities. With that comes the need to cooperate, collaborate, and communicate.

I’ve actually heard executives call employees in their company “little people”. Why is beyond me. Everybody on the payroll should add value to the company, and it should be clear how they do it. If they don’t it’s because the same executives haven’t designed their own organization properly.

It’s the “little people”, if you say hello to them in the hallway (better yet learn his or her name) who will let you into the building when you forget your swipe card, who will find a coffee for your client after hours, or who will help you get home when you’ve lost your wallet.

This happened to my father (losing his wallet) on his first business trip to Western Canada. No identification, no credit cards or gas money. It was the front desk clerk, whom he’d been pleasant to when he checked in, who helped him get home. Nice guys don’t finish last. They get things done because they’re nice.

They get things done when things go wrong because they’re always nice.

Emotions are Contagious

There’s a joke I used to tell my Scouts around the campfire, when it was late and that youngest ones had turned in:

There was a pirate captain who, when attacked by the British Navy, called for his cabin boy to bring him his red vest. The captain fought bravely and his men, following his example, repulsed the Royal Navy ship trying to arrest (and then inevitably hang) them.

The cabin boy was curious but hadn’t worked up the courage to ask the captain why he called for a red vest when they were under attack. It seemed odd to the boy that a change of clothing be at the top of the captain’s mind at such a time.

The next time they were attacked, this time by three Royal Navy ships, the captain called for his red jacket. Again, he and his men fought bravely and barely managed to escape. The cabin boy couldn’t hold himself back any longer.

“Captain, sir, if you please. Whenever we’ve been attacked you’ve called for your red vest. The last time we fought off three ships, but not until you donned your red jacket, sir.”

“Yes, that’s right.”, replied the captain, “And you want to know why?”

“Yes sir, if I may.”

“Well, whenever there’s a chance I may be injured in a skirmish, I don my red vest or jacket so that the men won’t know if I’m injured and bleeding. That way they won’t lose heart no matter how dire our situation, and fight on.”

The cabin boy nodded and smiled, because he know knew how the captain inspired his men. “I want to be as brave as the captain one day.”, he thought to himself.

The next day six ships of the line came over the horizon, spotted the their ship, and made sail to catch the dread pirate.

“Shall I bring your red vest, sir?”, the cabin boy asked.

“No.”, said the captain.

“Shall I bring your red jacket, sir?”, the cabin boy asked again.

“No.”, said the captain.

“Then what shall I do, sir?”, the cabin boy asked a last time.

“Bring me my brown pants.”

Your Second Most Valuable Personal Resource

Barrack Obama has one colour of suit. That way he doesn’t have to spend any time in the morning decision which shoes, belt, tie, or shirt match. They all do. Fewer decisions to make at the beginning of the day. He also has the same breakfast every day. He has more important things to do, apparently.

It’s part of his personal strategy of reducing decision fatigue. He learned that the more decision you make in a day, the worse each next decision is. So he’s spent years reducing trivial decisions he makes keep his strength for the more important, complex, and challenging ones.

Making decisions burns energy. Holding two or more options in your mind and comparing them is one of the most expensive executive activities our brain engages in. Stress, poor nutrition, poor fitness, and insufficient sleep will also contribute to a fatigued brain.

Making Good Decisions

We have only so much energy we have for decision-making during a day. The more fatigued we are the poorer decisions we make, and the more easily we fall into decision-making traps. Which contributes to stress, lack-of-sleep, etc.
It’s kind of the opposite of a self-licking ice-cream cone. It’s more like a death spiral.

One of the frequent complaints I hear from busy executives and managers “lack of time”. When we dig a little deeper if often comes down lack of focus and poor time-management habits. They’re trying to everything and end up accomplishing nothing. Currently I have nine clients, seven of whom are doing well. Who’s businesses are growing and improving as we work together.

Take Care of Yourself

Most of them are physically active and robust. They’ve learned to take care of themselves. They exercise, they eat well, they don’t smoke (except for the occasion cigar when on vacation in Cuba), they have good sleep habits, and they don’t drink to excess.

smoking ncoYou don’t have to do all these things to be a good leader. Being perfect is not a prerequisite to success. Goodness knows I’ve met a few smoking, drinking, swearing men and women that get the job done and have the respect of their team. Even been one on occasion. But it’s harder.

Business is not Olympic diving. You don’t get points for difficulty.

Eat That Frog

If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, you can go through the rest of the day knowing that probably nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day. The frog in this case might be the thing you’ve been procrastinating about the most, or that task that will have the greatest positive impact on you life right now.

Tackle tackles things first, and and second things not at all. Tackle the work that requires your best focus and brain-power when you’re at you’re best. And if you have two big frogs to eat, eat the biggest, ugliest, oldest one first.

Guard Your Brain

Husband your decision-making energy carefully. Guard it jealously like you guard your time. Be conscious of your physical and emotional states, and how they affect your behaviour and decisions.