The REAL story

I have had the material for an amazing book for much longer than I can remember. All of the stories, anecdotes, failures, and successes of my career – and that of my friends – are perfect reading for any woman wanting to know how to climb up a corporate ladder. And stay there should she choose to. As with most writers, I experience the “reluctance wall” as I have come to know it; that block between where I am standing or sitting, and the chair in front of my computer. Kind of like the block I feel when I consider how I will respond to the alarm going off to prompt me to the gym.

 

Sheryl Sandburg, COO of Facebook, wrote a book along the same theme that I am passionate about. Her book came out to mixed review about both content and sincerity. One of the biggest complaints is that her advice only works for women who have plenty of money and who can outsource the parts of their lives they aren’t interested in. Like laundry. And child care. And, to my particular rant, writing their own book.

 

I have spent countless hours talking about the content of “Dancing on the Glass Ceiling.” Gathering it, testing it, philosophizing about it, and repeating it. I wish I had the luxury of having a “co-writer” following me around through all of those conversations.  I would have a tome by now rather than a simple self-help-business book.

 

But I don’t. So I will struggle to write my book the same way I struggled to climb the corporate ladder. I will reach into the tool box and pull out my discipline and time management skills. I will look around my house and decide it doesn’t need to be perfectly clean. I will forego happy hour in order to study technique, create an outline, or perhaps even finish a chapter. And I will get there just as surely as I made it to that ceiling dance.

 

And all of you other successful women who got there? Maybe you don’t want to write a book about it. But maybe you have a story that you think is worth telling. I would be honored to be your co-writer. Contact me and tell me YOUR story – I will make sure it gets out into the consciousness where those who are seeking can find their muse. I am convinced that the next women walking the plank will get usable information from the stories of real people with real families and real children and real dust. Help me tell the story of us – the scrappy ones who got there in spite of the odds.

 

 

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Get Outta Here!

I have identified a particular goal that every successful leader embraces: Cultivate an environment that allows your employees and managers to SAFELY send you back to your office when you stick your nose into their business. And when they do, know they are right.

If this sounds “soft” and simplistic, it isn’t. It is a very systematic approach to creating success in your organization. The commitment isn’t insignificant – it is about building a culture. It must hold the forefront so the goal informs decision-making at every level of the company. Here are some considerations to getting there:

Consider first your people. Not only do they have to be the right people, they have to be trained to perform, communicate, and look around corners. Teaching them the technicalities of a job is the easy part. Mentoring them on how to think and make decisions is an ongoing journey that you all take together. Their training is based in the reality of your day-to-day issues, and the time you spend guiding them transfers your finesse to them.

Consider next your management reporting systems. Stepping up and aside does not mean you should adopt a “trust me” culture.  Your systems have to be structured to provide you with information that clearly shows the intersection of all the moving parts in your organization. Budgets, KPI’s, feedback processes, and third-party input are just a few examples of the things you need to monitor in order to remain above the fray.

Last but not least, consider yourself. Are you comfortable having others be better at their jobs than you are? Can you let their decisions drive actions even if they are different than the way you might proceed? This system thrives on trust; ego and fear have no place. Your comfort level will grow over time; it is the logical result of the right people combined with the right systems.

I think I’ll go back and rewrite this post. Consider yourself and your role first.

 

 

Name It to Change It

I was listening to the CEO of a manufacturing company wax on about his disappointment with his general manager. “I want him to create a plan for growth and profitability that includes how we manage x, y, and z and that produces results 1, 2, and 3” he said to me. “And he just hasn’t done it.”

Before I assumed we had a performance issue to deal with, I asked the million-dollar question. “Have you told him that’s what you want”

I’m sure you can guess the answer.

It is not uncommon to meet an executive who seems to prefer harboring disappointment over talking to an “Offender”  regarding performance.  Sometimes Execs tell me they don’t want to be a micro-manager or a heavy hand. Sometimes the cone of silence has been in place for so long that  the Exec fears changing the rules in the middle of the game. We all  know how unsporting that would appear! In exploring the facts, the Exec and I always reach agreement that the employee needs to change in order to positively impact the company; we also always agree that nothing will change without a chat. And at this point in our conversation it is typical for the Exec to be a little embarrassed and mutter a sheepish “I know, I know”.

I asked this particular President what was most important – the success of his company’s or maintaining his  strategy of silent anger.  The answer to that question was obvious as well. Yet he had been paralyzed for more than eight months.

It is my personal belief that leaders who put their own emotions before the performance of their organization  aren’t doing their job. Not only that, I judge their behavior as abdicating and perhaps even self-indulgent. And when I “suggest” my judgment to them, I ALWAYS see a shift of perception. Obviously there is no President who doesn’t have a deep caring about his company; he has just been stuck behind a lens of judgment that is inward facing. When we give that behavior a name, we aim the lens right back at the bottom line. I watch executives  visibly rise up before my eyes, and say “Thank You – I know exactly what I have to do.”

Naming behavior  is one of the most powerful ways to help people shift their focus from themselves to their company’s great good.  You can name your own behaviors simply by looking at the conversations you AREN’T having. It is always a self-centered motivation that keeps those words inside of you. Find the fear and you can slay your own dragons.

Dancing on the Glass Ceiling – Part II

(When we left off last time, our Well-Heeled CEO (a.k.a. me) was having a conversation with the chairman of the board)

“The board has directed me to offer you the position of CEO….” The chairman  was saying,

“…with a six-month trial period to see if it is working out.”

It took me about two seconds to identify and analyze the risks:

Risk 1 – give up my currently well-paid, well-defined executive job for a trial job whereby my success would be based on the whim of a room full of old men. Risk 2 – accept risk 1 while assuming the responsibilities of a turnaround, knowing that significant impact wouldn’t be measurable in six months.

I laughed out loud.

The chairman was shocked. I guess the board figured I would be so honored at the offer that I would throw my common sense out the window. So I posed a question to the chairman: “Just how, exactly, does the board intend to make this six-month determination?” His enlightened expression was enough to show me that he understood my laughter. So I laid down my terms.

“Here’s how we do it. Give me my goals. Get out of my way. Fire me if a screw it up.”

So they did, and they kind of did, and when the time came I left on my own. But that is getting ahead of the story…..

What’s the point? I have no doubt that I received a conditional offer because I am female; I can’t imagine any group of men extending such an insulting offer to another man. A trial CEO position? Really? How on earth could that even work? My apologies if you are tired of hearing this, but there is still a significant amount of gender inequity in corporate America and I think it is criminal for us to pretend otherwise. Ask any woman trying to break the glass in financial services or tech, just to name two particularly notorious industries.

I have lots more stories to tell if you are interested in hearing them. If you’re not, don’t tune in to The Well-Heeled CEO.

Dancing on the Glass Ceiling – Part I

I had no aspirations about being a CEO. Being the “Inside Guy” was enough for me. Just by being in the building every day I was had impact and influence in all of the key areas of the organization. So I didn’t immediately jump at the chance to be the CEO. My reason for finally throwing my hat in the ring was less than lofty – I wanted to save myself the trouble of having to train yet one more “Big Banker” on the realities of Community Banking.

So into the ring went my hat, along with a list of why I was ridiculously qualified. With the exception of my non-existent golf game, my skill set was unquestionable. I promised to go get a swing, and I was given the nod.

Of maybe half a nod ….

The board chair came to my office after the deliberations and took a seat at my desk. I noticed I was holding my breath.

“The board has directed me to offer you the position of CEO….” he said.

I exhaled.

“…with a six month trial period to see if it is working out.”

I inhaled.

How would you have felt about this officer? What would you have answered?

Stay tuned for Part II.

Step Back to Move Forward – Five Reasons NOT to Micromanage

Whether you are the owner-operator in your business or an executive with a talented team, your business will be postured to move forward when you consciously move back.

Here are some reasons you should learn how to monitor without having to be “in” all the time:

1. You hired people to do stuff. Let them do it. And let them do it their way. Don’t insist they do it your way if the end result is the same. Who knows – maybe it will even be better.

2. If you insist on things being done your way, no one will be able to make a decision without first consulting you. Depending on how many “consultees” you may have, this could be a 24/7 job. That leaves very little time for strategic thinking and guarantees sluggish growth.

3. Your employees will never grow in their own skill sets because their job is guessing what you would like to see rather than performing or producing.

4. The really great people will leave. They will go to a place that allows them to grow.

5. And then you’ll be stuck doing the day-to-day work while you look to replace your team. See the vicious cycle?

How do you answer this question: What would happen to my business if I were run over by a bus (or won the lotto – your choice)?

Your goal should be able to answer “My business will continue to thrive because I have put the right systems in place and have the right people managing them.”