Jacqui Walford

The Ringmaster not the Juggler

female ringmaster , leaves the circus

I was listening to a radio interview the other day. I can’t even remember now who the celebrity was. All I remember is the female announcer asking the female celebrity about her “growing brood” and how she manages to “juggle work and family”. Her answer was she has a lot of help, but that’s not the point. You hear the term ‘juggle’ a whole lot, in relation to women and careers, and frankly, I’m over it.

Juggling suggests that it takes some skill to keep all the ‘balls’ in the air – great – but it also implies that you could drop any one (or all) of said balls at anytime. Meaning that you are only marginally in control. Someone could throw you a new ball that you aren’t prepared for and they all come crashing down.

I think this metaphor, whenever it started being used, has had its day. It’s part of the rhetoric that is keeping female leaders from reaching their full potential. Language is extremely powerful and if we continue to talk about our lives in terms of juggling all the aspects of it, we’ll continue to believe our lives are about this balancing act and not about living our fullest and most rewarding life – all important elements of it included.

I prefer to think of myself as a ringmaster. I manage all the different aspects of my life with (practiced) control. Organised chaos. Like a juggler, the ringmaster has to learn these skills, and it’s not without the help of partners, family and friends. My husband and I are both ringmasters. I’m just changing the metaphor for my life, so I’m not limiting myself to ‘juggling’ imaginary balls. I’m ‘ringmastering’. Yes, it’s a word. I looked it up.

ringmastering
The work of a ringmaster; the action of directing or managing something as, or in the manner of, a ringmaster.
(oxforddictionaries.com)

I’m directing and managing and enjoying the thrill of the circus as I go. Let’s not limit female leaders to the role of a juggler. Women are capable of directing the multiple aspects of their lives with skill, agility, flexibility and flair. If we continue to talk about balancing and juggling we will continue to make women feel like the different aspects of their lives are somehow precarious, uncertain, insecure, and risky.

I want women to feel like every part of their full lives is meaningful, rewarding and completely manageable. In the circus of life, let’s not denigrate women to the role of the juggler, let’s recognise and celebrate them in their rightful role of the ringmaster.

How leadership can increase brand engagement

People Brand

Companies spend a huge amount of time and money on building a strong brand, but often fail to recognise their most valuable brand ambassadors, their people. Building a strong brand, regardless of the industry you’re in, requires a strong connection between the employee’s sense of purpose at the organisation and the brand aspirations of that organisation.

Employee Engagement = Brand Engagement

The equation is simple. A great corporate culture with engaged, connected employees equals a great corporate brand. Even luxury consumer goods brands have people at their core. It’s never just about the product. They generally have a founder or a founding family who cared, and continue to care, deeply about the quality of the product and have created the brand as a lifelong passion. The generally have a story to tell and their employees like being part of their journey.

Organisations with great corporate brands do these five things well:

1. They have a clear brand, vision and values

2. Have employees who enthusiastically deliver what the brand promises

3. Make sure that all activities are aligned to the brand including recruitment, induction, training, communication, reward and recognition, processes and culture

4. Leaders and managers ‘live the brand’ through their behaviour – it’s not just rhetoric

5. They measure brand awareness, understanding and delivery, internally and externally.

The key to all of this is leadership. Leaders who inspire their employees to care about the organisation’s future. Leaders who draw a direct line between the employee’s day-to-day role and the vision of the organisation. These leaders are inspiring the employee to give the organisation their very best. This translates into effort and care with client/customer service, diligent, accurate and efficient administration, care for other employees, and a more energised and innovative corporate culture.

Applied Personal Branding

One of the most common (and most damaging) branding misconceptions is that the personal brand and the corporate brand compete (rather than cooperate). William Aruda says:

Nothing could be further from the truth. The most successful companies help employees understand their personal brands, capitalizing on the integration of these individual traits with the broader corporate objectives. It’s called applied personal branding, and it’s a powerfully simple strategy. It’s based on the principle of personal plus corporate, not personal vs. corporate. When employees are clear about who they are and what makes them exceptional (a process that you can easily implement by promoting self discovery), and they have been educated with an understanding of the corporate brand objectives, they can apply their unique skills and expertise to activate the corporate goals. Think consistency, not conformity, and you’re following the lucrative path of Southwest Airlines and Apple’s Genius Bar. A consistent brand does not emerge from conformist employees. Each individual needs to determine how he or she can deliver on the corporate brand promise in a way that’s authentic, leveraging the corporate identity with what ignites them and makes them exceptional.

I call this CheerLEADING™. Developing internal cheerleaders to be your brand evangelists. This development of the employee’s personal brand can, and should, be done alongside the development of the corporate brand. They are one and the same. Your internal advocates create external advocates and, in turn, create an engaging brand.

Social media plays a huge role in all of this today. Look out for future posts on this.

 

Leading with Empathy: Why do we Still not Believe?

gandhi190714

A lot of people when they hear the word “empathy” in a business context still think of it as soft, somehow lacking authority and conviction. That leaders who have empathy for the people they lead aren’t making the difficult decisions or commanding the appropriate respect.

We now have conclusive evidence this is not the case.

In her Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, The Hard Data on Being a Nice Boss, Emma Seppala cites research by Harvard Business School’s Amy Cuddy:

Leaders who project warmth – even before establishing their competence – are more effective than those who lead with their toughness and skill. Why? One reason is trust. Employees feel greater trust with someone who is kind.

Seppala goes on to cite studies by Jonathan Haidt at New York University Stern School of Business:

Jonathan Haidt at New York University Stern School of Business shows in his research that when leaders are self-sacrificing, their employees experience being moved and inspired. As a consequence, the employees feel more loyal and committed and are more likely to go out of their way to be helpful and friendly to other employees. Research on “paying it forward” shows that when you work with people who help you, in turn you will be more likely to help others (and not necessarily just those who helped you).

So, with these and many more studies, there is no reason to still be skeptical of empathy as a trait of a great leader.

Tony Norton, in his article Why the empathetic leader is the best leader, talks about Simon Sinek in his best-selling book on team-building.

Empathy—the ability to recognize and share other people’s feelings—is the most important instrument in a leader’s toolbox, Sinek believes. It can be expressed in the simple words, “Is everything OK?”

It’s what effective leaders ask an employee, instead of commanding “Clean out your desk” when he or she starts slacking off. It’s what you ask a client when a once-harmonious relationship gets rocky. “I really believe in quiet confrontation,” Sinek says. “If you had a good working relationship with someone and it’s suddenly gone sour, I believe in saying something like, ‘When we started we were both so excited, and it’s become really difficult now. Are you OK? What’s changed?’ ”

Sinek has been training himself to be more empathic by paying attention to everyday gestures, such as holding elevators for others or refilling the coffeemaker. Even small acts of kindness release a tiny shot of feel-good oxytocin. What’s more, “These little considerations for others have a building effect,” Sinek says. “The daily practice of putting the well-being of others first has a compounding and reciprocal effect in relationships, in friendships, in the way we treat our clients and our colleagues.”

I have no doubt that empathy will become further recognised as one of the traits of a truly great leader. Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the list goes on and on. As we recognise true leaders in history, and analyse what makes them great, we’ll come to understand the importance of empathy.

In the business world, leaders need to have emotional intelligence and the ability to truly listen and hear what their employees are telling them. True leaders in business will think about how management decisions will affect their employees, they’ll clearly communicate the changes, and will minimise any adverse effects.

When employees feel their leaders truly hear them, and understand where they’re coming from, they’ll feel more comfortable and trust that leaders ‘have their back’ and are making the right decisions for the organisation. This leads to more engaged, happier employees who are more productive.

I’m a believer.

Internal cheerLEADING™

How do your employees become brand ambassadors? How do they speak the language of the business at every single touch point, in unison, naturally and comfortably, believing in what they’re saying? How do they “live and breathe it” and feel passionate about it. In short, you need to develop a team of internal cheerleaders. Cheering for the organisation and cheering for the brand. They need to love what they do and be happy to tell everyone about it.

There are many different ways to engage employees, but the trick is aligning brand messages. The best way to do this is to create an internal culture which is synonymous with the external brand. Google do this extremely well. Google is the number one cited organisation for corporate culture. Google employees are called “Googlers” and being an employee means being “Googley”. This infographic illustrates their philosophy.

Google-Company-Culture-Infographic-1024x912
Infographic: Corporate Culture Mindset via HumanResourcaMBA.net

At Google, culture is guided from the top. The leadership team drive the internal employee initiatives. If they don’t believe it will add to being ‘googley’, and achieve results, they don’t do it. They also have a very solid foundation of trust. Trust in employees, trust in leadership and trust in the culture. Of course innovation is key and employees are encouraged to fail and try again.

A few things Google does:

GOOGLE’S BEST PRACTICES FOR BUILDING CULTURE

  • Engineers are ½ of the organization. Engineers like to “do cool things.” After one year, an engineer can bid to work on anything they want to. “Popular projects” get more bids, less popular ones don’t. Project leads have to learn to sell/pitch their ideas to appeal to engineers.
  • “Innovation from Everywhere.” Innovation is expected at Google, in every segment of the business. You can use 20% of your time on anything – people vote and pledge their 20% time to projects that are seen as promising or cool. It’s “a license to pursue your dreams” says Marissa Mayer. “If I don’t have a good 20% project yet, I need one. It could negatively impact on my review.” Half the new products and features launched by Google are said to come from work done under the 20% rule.
  • Google is constantly building “dog food teams” – the groups who work to make all products better.
  • Google products are always in Beta. It is a Silicon Valley punch line that Google products stay in beta forever. Mistakes are celebrated. There was a product launch in 2009 that didn’t catch on – a big failure, externally and internally. That product launch team was celebrated, given a bonus, AND given a Founder’s Award (prestigious). Eventually that workstream rolled into what is now Google Plus.
  • TGIF – every Friday, Larry and Sergey stand on a stage and answer ANY question. People log on and ask and then vote on the questions they most want answered. They go through the screen and take every one on, candidly. It is common to hear someone say “I think you made a mistake with _______.” And they will come back with “Here’s why we did it.”
  • “Hiring is the most process-driven thing we do.” (Shannon Deegan, VP of HR). They have 2 million applications for 500 jobs. The screening process is rigorous – they will leave a role open a year if they don’t find the right fit.
  • All people decisions at Google (in fact, all decisions period) are based on data and analytics. Google VP Marissa Meyer once said “If a Google employee is meeting with Larry and Sergey to talk about users’ needs, they’d better come with more than their own conclusions – they had better come with data. Their immediate question will be “How many people did you test?””
  • Nooglers (new to Google) are given lots of on-boarding support. They are taught early on:
    • It’s fun to work here – have fun.
    • Think big and take risks.
    • If it’s broken, fix it or find someone who can.
    • Invent solutions not yet thought possible.
  • One of the most-asked questions at Google: “Wouldn’t it be cool if…..”
  • We take employee surveys very seriously. There is a 90%+ response rate (very high compared to most large organizations) and most people elect to reveal their identity, although they don’t have to. Recent changes from surveys:
    • Make it easier to find a mentor
    • Simplify internal mobility (transfer) process by making it transparent and user friendly
    • Provide more tools to help Googlers define, articulate, and plan for career development
    • Reduce bias during performance reviews
    • How closely does employee perception of the value of benefits, match reality?
    • Is employee networking valuable to the organization?
  • Create internal agility by putting in place only as much structure as absolutely necessary. Managers are RESOURCES not bosses. They work FOR the team.
  • Give people the tools to make innovation easy: New computers every 18 months. Also, lots of server space, 24 hour help desk, Radio Shack on-site.
  • Peer bonuses – anyone can log on and give someone a $200 peer bonus, no approval needed. (the person just cannot be in your direct team.) We have never seen it abused.
  • Everyone at every level gets stock on the day they start, which vests at one year.
  • Teams are responsible for the culture globally – all offices watch the Larry & Sergey TGIF chat on video and are accountable to create an office that “feels Googley.”*

I love these best practices, but what can we learn from them and actually implement in our own organisations? On top of trust, other key elements include staff benefits, rewards and recognition, bonuses, responsibility and accountability, on-boarding support, leadership, communication, and a flat organisational structure.

At the core of it all though are Google’s values or what they call ‘being googley’. I think this is the real key. Their values are ingrained, intrinsic to the organisation. It’s an expected way to behave. You don’t get a job there unless you behave this way and you certainly don’t keep your job if your behaviour is anything but ‘googley’. The meaning of being ‘googley’ is well communicated and staff can articulate it. It’s what makes Google Google.

I think you have to start with your core values. How you want your people to behave. Every single person in the organisation needs to subscribe to your core values and be engaged with them.

I think if we concentrate on defining ‘googley’ for our own organisation and focus on being ‘that’ everyday, through everything we do, we can build a team of internal cheerLEADERS™ and build an organisation achieving real success.

*Source: “THE REAL SECRET OF GOOGLE’S CORPORATE CULTURE” corporateculturepros.com.

 

Positive Psychology and CheerLEADING™

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Wikipedia says “To Martin Seligman, psychology (particularly its positive branch) can investigate and promote realistic ways of fostering more joy in individuals and communities”. Don’t we all want some of that? Team members need it more than anything. People need to have a goal to work towards. Something positive to look forward to, to give them the motivation to keep working hard.

I’m not pretending to be an expert on Positive Psychology, but, from what I have heard and read, I think it’s a really useful scientific discipline which can be easily applied to the work environment, particularly when it’s applied to leadership.

Martin Seligman is considered to be the founder of modern Positive Psychology. Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote, in their article “Positive Psychology: An Introduction“, “Because negative emotions often reflect immediate problems or objective dangers, they should be powerful enough to force people to stop, increase their vigilance, reflect on their behavior, and change their actions if necessary.” I think this is the key to Positive Psychology as a leadership discipline. It takes just that, discipline, to practice it effectively.

It takes a conscious effort, everyday, to be aware of how one’s actions impact others, particularly those who work for us. It is easy not to take notice, but we need to take notice and we need to adjust our behaviour if necessary. “Positive Psychology represents a commitment to the sources of psychological wellness, such as positive emotions, positive experiences, positive environments, and human strengths and virtues (Lyubomirsky, 2007).” I believe that leaders have an obligation to provide a positive environment for people at work.

Leaders also have an obligation to provide positive, as well as negative, feedback. In fact, the positive feedback should outweigh the negative. It might sound overly simple, but I believe leaders forget this. If people aren’t receiving positive reinforcement when they are doing a good job, they tend to cease doing such a good job.

“Queen Bee Syndrome” – Women sabotaging other women at work

Queen-Bee

Instead of cheerLEADING™, some women are being the “Queen Bee”.

Wiki defines it as this:
Queen bee syndrome was first defined by G.L. Staines, T.E. Jayaratne, and C. Tavris in 1973. 1 It describes a woman in a position of authority who views or treats subordinates more critically if they are female.”

“Although significant steps have been made towards gender equality in workplaces, research shows that, on average, women are still paid less than and achieve fewer promotions than their male counterparts. Some researchers have hypothesized that Queen Bee Syndrome may be developed by women who have achieved high workplace positions within their respective fields, as a way to defend against any gender bias. By opposing any attempts of female subordinates to advance in their career paths, women with Queen Bee Syndrome hope to fit in with their male counterparts by adhering to the cultural stigmas placed on gender in the workplace. Belittling female subordinates allows “Queen Bees” the opportunity to show more masculine qualities, which they see as more culturally valuable and professional.”

This research is still very valid and I see this phenomenon myself in the workplace. These “Queen Bees” are, in fact, bullying other women in what then develops into a very negative workplace culture.

We need to reverse this phenomenon, and begin to counteract it, by cheerLEADING™, encouraging other women to develop into their full potential. By encouraging others to rise through the ranks, we have a far better chance of having more women in positions of power and achieving more equality. We want more women, not less, feeling like they can follow their passion and fulfill their dreams. I think we need to be conscious of our behaviour towards other women in the workplace and make sure we’re not being “Queen Bees”.

Peggy Drexler, professor of Psychiatry at Cornell School of Medicine, talks about the “Queen Bee Syndrome” in this Bloomberg video:

http://www.bloomberg.com/video/are-women-sabotaging-each-other-at-work-koBsKgg3T2a0_3JR6MBNIA.html

1. Francine D. Blau and Jed DeVaro (2007). “New Evidence on Gender Differences in Promotion Rates: An Empirical Analysis of a Sample of New Hires”. Cornell University ILR School. p. 16. Retrieved 26 May 2010.

 

CheerLEADING™ for women in business

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What can women do to be cheerLEADING™ others better? I believe it begins with an awareness of how your behaviour has an affect on others. Your attitude to work and the people around you determines how they feel about working for you.

As I said in my last post, cheerLEADING™ is all about positive psychology, encouraging, praising and guiding the people who work in our teams. Taking the time to really lead with integrity and compassion.

There is some excellent material around about positive psychology. I’m not a psychologist, but I can see how using positive psychology as a coaching method can really encourage the people around you to be the best they can be.

I like this Youtube video:

It explains the coaching (or cheerLEADING™) process. Being positive encourages others to be positive. The women in leadership who are doing this well are naturally positive, encouraging, compassionate people. I believe they think about others as they make decisions, they make sure people understand what their role is, and they guide people through change.

People need to see the end goal and why they should contribute to reaching that goal. Whether the end goal is one for them personally, or working towards achieving a shared end goal for the company, people like to know why we are trying to achieve it and what will happen when we do achieve it.

Just like in the video, people also need to feel you have their best interests at heart. Like the metaphoric safety net, they need to feel you ‘have their back’, they have your support and you are there to help if they fall.

People also need to be given the tools to achieve their goals or the company’s goals. Sometimes they need to be shown the steps, sometimes, just by having your support, they can work out the steps themselves.

We can all work towards being better at cheerLEADING™ others.

CheerLEADING™ and women in leadership

I’m just going to put this out there – some women in leadership are not doing this very well. They should be CheerLEADING™ other women but, instead, they act in ways that discourages the women in positions lower than themselves. In other words, sometimes, we can be our own worst enemies.

I think that some women are so used to competing in a ‘man’s world’, that they naturally compete against other women coming through the ranks and can actually make other women’s career paths quite difficult. I hear of women in leadership roles being a ‘hard marker’ when it comes to working with other women in their teams.

Women in leadership should be making life easier for other women. CheerLEADING™ is all about positive psychology, encouraging, praising and guiding the people who work in our teams. Taking the time to really lead with integrity and compassion. I think women should be showing men how to do this well. Communicating encouragement and praise should come easily. We do this naturally in our everyday lives.

I’m not saying there are not some fantastic women doing this well, as there are, I’m just saying that maybe we should be working towards doing this better. Women in business need to stick together. It’s a tough enough place for women, well, in some workplaces and in some industries. Often all we need is just one other person looking out for us. Blazing the path and making the path easier, rather than making it more difficult.

I would love to see some comments on this. Am I the only one who has experienced this?

 

CheerLEADING™ 101

Cheerleaders

I’m calling it cheerLEADING™. I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but bear with me.

It means leading with encouragement and by inspiring others to be their best. It means leading with compassion and heart. Inclusion, rather than exclusion, and leading with integrity.

Interestingly, it works in much the same way as consumer branding. People buy products from companies like Apple, because of the vision of the brand, the brand attributes, and the personal attributes they feel by association. They also feel valued and ‘heard’ as a customer. They have a positive experience with the product (and/or service) and the brand.

There are some amazing examples of cheerLEADING™ in the world. In order to truly inspire people, a leader needs to embody the attributes that other people aspire to. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech is one of the most rousing, inspiring cheerLEADING™ speeches in world history. Barrack Obama does it well and Anna Bligh, former Premier of Queensland, showed immense strength of character during the Queensland floods of 2011. She kept people’s spirit’s up, with honesty and integrity (and a lot of communication).

Martin Luther King, Jr Delivering His "I Have a Dream" SpeechObama Campaigns Across The U.S. In Final Week Before Election  Queensland Holds State Elections

Give people a positive, attainable company Vision, which aligns with their personal values and vision for their own life, openly display gratitude and encouragement along the way, and they will be happy to come to work and give 100% to you as their leader.

I’ll explore this further in future posts, including the difference between men and women in leadership roles.