Global Leadership Speaker and Premier Work-Life Balance Speaker
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Archive for November 2015

You are a Manager

Welcome to management. Regardless of your title or position, you are a manager. It doesn’t matter whether you are the Queen of England or a hot dog seller at the stadium. You are always, always, always managing people. Sometimes you do it as the leader, but often you do it in your role as a team player, trying to be effective. The key to effective management: diplomacy. Sometimes, we have to tone down certain things or play up other things in order to get our message heard. In no way does that signify selling out. The challenge is to lead effectively while staying true to our own values and beliefs.

Think about the advantages of communicating with diplomacy, and the disadvantages you face when it is lacking. Manage a waiter or waitress wrong and you might get bad service or, perhaps, be served somebody else’s leftovers. Bully your kid’s principal and you might make things even tougher for him or her at school. Use the wrong tone with your neighbor and the next thing you know, you’re in front of Judge Judy because your dog barked. Be too tough on the volunteers in your organization and suddenly you’re not just the president, but the one stuck stuffing envelopes, too. For some people, the concepts of tact and diplomacy are innate, and for others, the art of restraint is completely foreign. It’s hard to believe that seemingly innocuous statements can cause resentments that destroy work partnerships or lifelong friendships.

The right words at the right time can create an unforgettable moment of goodwill and appreciation. That doesn’t mean you should become smiley and fake in order to be heard. It means you need to think about what others want.

True Success

True success is an inner quest. It’s something you define for yourself when you get up each morning, and you either achieve it or don’t achieve it by the end of the day. The only thing you can really have is this moment — this day. You can achieve huge emotional success on any day, and every day.

Or you can live by default.

Your success in this day has nothing to do with a to-do list. What matters is how you are living this day.

Most people define their day by having to be in a certain place at a certain time to do a certain thing to achieve a certain outcome.

Instead of measuring your days by how much you get done, measure them by how well you have lived and how deep you have gone. If you define your day with challenge, hope, people, passion, maturity, growth, learning, development, spirituality, and other such things, you can achieve meaningful success every day. You’ll be happier with a personal checklist like that.

It may not make others happy because there are many people who want to hand you a set of priorities, but you get to decide why you are here. You — and only you — define your purpose.

You are in control. You don’t have to “give” this day to anyone or anything. You aren’t required to relinquish the present to anyone so they can give you some sort of prize later on, like a paycheck or a promotion. Yes, you have to show up for work and do a good job. Yes, you have other obligations in life. You have to pay bills and tend to daily living. But you have a choice in how you do those things.

You are allowed to keep your own emotional space. You can tend to your many obligations. But don’t hand over your emotional growth just because you have so many demands on your time and energy. Your life, your soul, your day is yours.

In the Midst of the Fray

When you are in the midst of the fray, it’s hard to simply wipe your hands and be free of it. It’s much easier for men who grew up with the rules of friendly—and unfriendly—engagement as they competed in sports. When the game was over, so was the battle. Most women didn’t have that, so we know the aloneness that comes with being “out there.” That’s why it is so important to bolster yourself with support networks inside your office, inside your profession at large, and outside the office.

When you need support, ask for it. When you are in the discomfort zone, say so. Commiserate. You can’t protect yourself from everything and everyone, but you can insulate yourself from some of the fear and uncertainty by putting good, reliable people around you. And, always be mindful of your role in helping others when they are in their discomfort zones.

I will make one point again and again, and that is this: Give support so you’ll get support. You don’t deserve to get any more than you are willing to give. So, when you see someone else struggling, go help! It may be as simple as saying, “How are you getting along?” Or as difficult as listening to someone venting frustrations for several hours.

If you want people to listen to you, then you have to listen to them. If you want people to care about you, you have to care about them. Do it actively, not because you will get something out of it, but because we all will. Find ways to remind yourself to be a good friend and mentor for people when their problems aren’t on your radar screen. Train yourself.

One of my mentors, Stephanie Allen, jokes that the word “bitch” really means, “Boys, I’m taking charge here.” Maybe we shouldn’t take it so personally because it really is the label of first resort by others who are intimidated by our force. Instead of getting lost in all the negativity that
can arise when that label is lobbed at us, perhaps we should remember something: hundreds of thousands of truly admirable women have also gotten that label. It’s a label. It’s not who you are. Keep raising hell.

Fear Strong Women

There is a saying, “Only weak men fear strong women.” Well, weak women fear us, too. So do some strong men or women who think that they lose something when we win something. In order to truly succeed, we have to readjust our styles without losing our essence. Readjust my style? Wait a minute! Why should I readjust my style if I am a mustang who lives to be true to myself? Isn’t that hypocritical?

Learning to be strategic and diplomatic is not destroying the self, but preserving it. Self-preservation is everything if we want to be effective because we have to come to operate in a way that lets us continue to operate. One of my mentors, a woman who is especially adept at survival, reminded me, “First and foremost, you must survive to fight another day.” What good is a mustang who vanishes in her own dust cloud, never to be seen again?

This never means selling your soul. It means doing what you’ve got to do so you can get the job done. Change your approach, change your tactics, but don’t change your self.

Competent, powerful women can terrify incompetent or insecure rivals. People who are so set on criticizing or bringing down others who threaten their own standing or progress can resort to being destructive, cruel, and absolutely untrustworthy. So, what do you do when you pose a threat? Just keep on keeping on. “I’m very threatening to people,” said Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. “So be it. I try not to throw that up in people’s faces.” I remember being struck by how casually Fiorina wrote that kind of tension off. So. Be. It. All this time, all we’ve needed to do when we hear others muttering about our being castrating bitches or undermining our work is say, “So? And your point is?”