Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Do you have the guts to go against the crowd?

Many people at work hold themselves back from saying what needs to be said, taking care not to step on others' toes. And many women and men go along with the loudest voices in the room because they assume that everyone knows what they know, that their ideas are not as valuable, that others don't want to hear them. This is not about a lack of confidence, although it may sound that way. You can advise these quiet folks to stand up for what they believe and nothing will change. Usually it is not that they don't have a backbone but that they believe in waiting their turn politely. And their turn rarely seems to come.

In her article for LinkedIn's series, "Best Advice I Ever Got", Sallie Krawcheck, Past President of Merrill Lynch, US Trust, and Smith Barney, writes that her mom's advice to "ignore the chattering crowds" enabled her to "find her voice." Krawcheck made numerous decisions throughout her career that went against the crowd and nearly got her fired, yet each time her actions proved correct. 

Who has advised you to exercise your voice at work? What do you think are the barriers to ensuring all voices are heard?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Do managers need to *make* their employees happy?

stockimages from freedigitalphotos.net

I used to tell management students that they don't need happy employees. I was wrong. Read here for why: http://j.mp/VRbuC0.

However, I stand by my underlying assumption that managers cannot make their employees happy and that should not be their first goal with employees. Managers create the conditions for happiness; employees choose to be happy.

Happiness at work, while unique to each individual, is often the product of:
  • Challenging, engaging work. Bored people are not happy.
  • Seeing the work as valuable and important.
  • Being immersed in a psychologically safe environment, where each person is free to, and expected to, speak his mind even when disagreeing, and where each person's speech and behavior are respectful of others.
  • perceiving pay, hiring, and promotion systems as fair
Managers are responsible for creating and maintaining these -- they delegate tasks, they demonstrate appreciation and link their employees' work with the organization's goals, and they set the tone of respect and candor. Beyond that, employees must take responsibility for their own happiness.

For some people, working with people with whom they have an affinity is also a necessary ingredient for happiness. If you are one of these folks, I recommend choosing your job carefully: be sure to meet as many coworkers as possible before taking a job and if possible, attend a meeting and/or a lunch with them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Women: Succeeding in school is not the same as succeeding at work

In their recent HBR blog, Women Need to Realize Work Isn't School, Whitney Johnson and Tara Mohr demonstrate that the keys used to succeed in school will not open the door to success at work and offer 5 tips for achieving work success:
  1. Figure out how to challenge and influence authority: school often rewards students who meet teachers' expectations; work rewards employees who solve problems and persuade others to implement their solutions.
  2. Prepare, but also learn to improvise: school rewards students who answer the questions "right"; work rewards employees who figure out new questions and discover new answers.
  3. Find effective forms of self-promotion: in school, we tests provide opportunities for us to demonstrate learning and performance. At work, we not only have to perform, we have to let people know we're performing. Tests with objective outcomes are rare at work.
  4. Welcome a less prescribed, full of surprises, career path: while schools often have course requirements for graduation, career paths must be self-directed. The HR office does not have a list of positions to complete to become CEO.
  5. Go for being respected, not just liked: as young women, many of us downplayed our strengths in order to fit in. To succeed at work, we must let go of behaving in "popular" ways and focus instead on gaining respect.

While what we learned in college prepared us for work, the behaviors to succeed in college are not the same as those that lead to success at work. What are your thoughts?