Six Thoughts on Debunking the Steve Rule

Next month’s Code PaLOUsa 2014 will see me having a couple of roles.  One of those is as a contributor to the ”Debunking the Steve Rule” panel.  What, you might ask, is the “Steve Rule?”  It is this:  at any given conference for software developers, there are usually more men named Steve than there are women.  In imaging for myself what the women in the software industry must be facing, I am reminded of my own experience in the male-dominated IT, Automotive and Diversified Manufacturing and Financial Services worlds.    No doubt, we trailblazing women have a lot to learn from and share with each other.

Here are six thoughts on how to discredit the Steve Rule:

  1. Be in it for real.  If you love what you’re doing, stick with it.  Do it authentically, not trying to impress, or show-off to, anyone.
  2. Let your confidence speak for itself.  When you believe in what you do, you don’t need to compare your work, apologize or second-guess yourself.  Do the great job you know you are capable of and let the rest go.
  3. Notice what mood  you are in.  How well is it serving you?  For example, cynicism and distrust will likely not win you any favors.  Better to move on to something else.
  4. Choose a mood that will help you be more effective.  Curiosity, ambition, support:  these tend to attract healthier interactions with people.
  5. Build relationships.  Like it or not, relationships = results.  We must develop close ties with people at all levels and roles in the organization.  Be genuine as you do so.
  6. See conflicts as opportunities for growth.  The Chinese brush stroke for conflict can be translated into the words danger and opportunity.  While often uncomfortable, conflicts – when worked out appropriately – can be the bridges toward understanding others better and allowing them in to the way you tick, too. This is one way that connections can be strengthened.

Women of male-dominated fields, have no fear.  Together we can accomplish a lot more than we can alone.  I look forward to learning from all of you.

What is Your Change Barometer?

“All things must change to something new, to something strange.”  These words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s point to the inevitable nature of change and the discomfort that it engenders for most of us.  Change generates a diverse reaction in people.  Some people love change and thrive on what they see as the opportunities that change brings to their lives.  Others hunker down and seem only to survive whatever change is amidst. Still others will do anything to avoid what they see as the threat of change.

While nearly all of us can agree that change is bound to happen, how much of our acceptance or resistance to change comes from the way we see it?  As organizational and life leaders who are called to navigate change on a daily basis, it’s helpful to be able to recognize obstacles to change so that we can, to the extent possible, plan ahead.  Being aware of positive influences for change is also important so we can inspire ourselves and others to thrive and grow through transitions.   What creates blocks for one person may be a source of inspiration and movement forward for another.

Five factors, in particular, appear to color the degree to which we are change-ready:

1.       Values:  Core beliefs and values can lead a person to perceive change as an opportunity, something to survive or something to resist at all costs.

As an organizational leader, if you know that clear, frequent communication is a core value of several team members, then you will be sure to set up regular town hall meetings and to distribute monthly newsletters so all stakeholders feel informed about the structural changes.

2.       Relationships:  If you are surrounded by positive, supportive people, then you will likely live the change much differently than you would with a group of nay-sayers around you.

Leaders at work can organize fun team building events like dinners out and “Field Day’s” to create bonding for otherwise –distant co-workers.

3.       Surroundings:  Old, worn-out furniture and appliances, broken down computers and cars and a high noise level from telephones or traffic can affect your ability to handle the stress caused by change.

Making sure to create surroundings for your team which are conducive to productivity will only enhance your own reputation as a leader.

4.       Wellness:  Your physical, emotional and spiritual state can impact how well – or not – you thrive with change.

In the midst of a stretch of hard work and long hours, a leader may organize a healthy lunch or recommend a day off to bedraggled team members.

5.       New Priorities:  Overtime, you and those you seek to influence may shift their priorities.  This has the potential of causing challenges and conflicts.

Becoming a first-time parent would bring any professional to question the number of hours she is working.  A proactively aware leader knows this and will be ready to offer flex-time to their star players.

 

Reflecting on how you can use the foregoing factors, and perceptions of them, to shift toward more solution-oriented thinking will make you a more inspiring, motivating and successful leader.

Managing Up With Unavailable Bosses

So your boss, typical of high-level leaders, is extremely busy and hard to get a hold of. He may even have little patience for engaging in small talk or hearing the details of a particular situation.  Yet your success absolutely depends on cultivating a relationship with this person whose presence is fleeting at best. You must get his approval on that budget item, make sure she understands what it is you specifically take care of or clarify why the latest executive decision is not a good idea for your team.  You have tried several times to get her attention, to no avail.

What to do?

Here are six suggestions.

  1. Get clear on your intention.  Get everything you want to say on paper.  Write it or type it out.  You chances of getting what you want will increase by knowing exactly what you are going to say and how you will say it.
  2. Focus on what is most important to your boss.  Center your discussion around what matters to him.  If high revenues are his thing, then show how your recruiting more staff will maximize revenues for him.   Maybe what she is most concerned with staying on budget. In that case, make sure to back up your request for more funds by proving that the bottom line will not adversely change.
  3. Be concise.  On-the-go leaders have no time for verbosity.  Scale down what you would normally say into as few words as possible.  Rather than the long story behind your proposal and your feelings about it, be matter of fact. Simply state your position and how this will benefit your boss.
  4. Make sure your emotions serve your goal. Before instigating any conversation, ask yourself what mood or emotion is going to best serve you in this conversation.  Knowing what’s going on for you internally is a key step toward understanding whether or not you are ready to effectively engage in a challenging discussion. If you happen to be in blame or resentment, it’s likely not the right time to launch into an arduous negotiation.  If, however, you have taken the time to cultivate a mood of curiosity or support, you are probably ready.
  5. Embody self-confidence.  Take a deep breath. Stand with your legs shoulder’s width apart. Hold your shoulders back and down.  Look him in the eye.  Keep your voice steady and matter-of-fact. Nonverbal cues make up 93% of our communication to others.  Make yours count.
  6. Practice.  Putting all of the above together, stand in front of a mirror and spill it out or role-play with a trusted friend or adviser.  While practice may not necessarily make perfect, what it will do is appease any lingering doubts you may have about your own ability to successfully carry out this conversation.

While managing up with an unavailable supervisor can be tricky, it also offers the opportunity to expand your leadership skills. You deserve it!

Make an Affirmation, Impact Your 2014

The dawn of this New Year allows us the opportunity to reflect on what changes we want to make in our life and in our work.  This is the time of year when we hear a lot about resolutions, the vehicle through which we resolve to accomplish some goal.  Resolving calls to mind an element of pushing, or forcing things to happen.  After all, in our resolve, or determination, we often embody the physical stance of barreling through or of getting there “no matter what.”  Oftentimes, it is precisely because we are so headstrong about our goal – with blinders on to our motivation behind it – that we are also blocked from seeing other, perhaps better paths for us.  “This year, I will become Partner, no matter what,” without even checking in to see if we even like our job, the company where we work or the field we are in.  If Information Technology (IT) bores us to tears, how much would being a partner in a renowned IT consulting firm really serve us?

How much lighter and freer would we feel if we could say what it is we really want to happen and then let go of what that looks like precisely?  “I am now in a role which deeply satisfies and generously rewards me.”   There’s no striving to get there, no trying – at all costs – to become.  We already are. In this loosening, there is lightness and openness to potentially better outcomes for us. To take the IT Consulting example, rather than tunnel visioning a partnership in a field that leaves us feeling empty, affirming that we are now in a role which fascinates us and challenges our intellectual curiosity allows for many other possible roles to open up to us, roles that would likely lead to  our greater fulfillment.  Saying our intention out loud – or, affirming – and then letting go of specifics is a powerful step toward getting what we want.

This isn’t to say that all there is to do is affirm and our dream job will land in our lap automatically.  Of course not.  We also need to act.  But our actions will come from a place of softness and acceptance of ourselves, which makes us more effective in our roles. By affirming and “tricking” our minds to think we already are experiencing that which we have set out to arrive sometime in the future, our approach changes.  There is less gripping.  We already are.  Because there is no need to worry about not getting there, we are happier and more present.  So, rather than fearfully insisting on contacting 100 prospects a week, we have a much more enjoyable time – and better results – speaking with the 30 prospects we are able to.

To reach our objective, affirmations must be stated in the present tense:   I am now in a role which allows me to have lots of quality time with my children. I am now earning $xxxx per year in a job which is fulfilling to me.  I am now ready to receive all the good things which I deserve.  Affirmations set the stage for our dreams to come true – likely much bigger dreams than we have allowed ourselves to nurture.   Most of us want to achieve greater results in our lives.  One sure-fire way to do this is with affirmations.

 

5 Steps to Increasing Your Visibility at the Office – Even When You Seem Unseen

During the Women’s Leadership:  How to Increase Your Influence and Visibility webinar I gave last week through Progressive Business Executive Education, several participants wanted to know how they could raise their influence even when they do not see their colleagues on a regular basis. They are not alone.   Indeed, today’s market has more of us than ever before working from away from those who drive our careers.  According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.Com, 2.6% of the U.S. employee workforce (or, 3.3 million people) consider home their primary place of work. This number does not even take into account the self-employed, night-shift workers or those operating with global teams.

So what is it that we who work on our own can do to grow our influence among peers and superiors?  Here are some ideas:

  1. Be present.  You can’t be physically with your team, but you can really be there when you do have contact with them.  Answer every email.  Participate in every call.  Ask questions.  Provide answers. Show that you have done your homework. And that you care.
  2. Skype.  Whenever possible, choose Skype, Facetime or another “face-to-face” tool for teleconferences.  Actually seeing your business partner – and letting her see you is a literal way to increase your visibility.  Additionally, eye contact adds a personal touch to any business relationship.
  3. Visit the business office as often as possible.  While your main place of work might be located away from the powers that be, make it a point to get to the home office at least once a month.  If your teams are spread out across the world, aim for quarterly in-person meetings.   Similar to #2 above, being physically together helps to build relationships. And, as any savvy professional knows, good relationships drive careers.
  4. Be proactive.   Volunteer for company-wide programs that will bring you in touch with new-to-you associates.  Better yet, come up with your own value-producing project which requires people from a variety of departments.  Then ask to share your wins / learnings at an upcoming leadership team meeting.
  5. Reach out to others.  From your desk, you can send birthday or holiday greetings, congratulate coworkers for a job well done or simply ask how someone is doing today.  Once at the office, invite others to coffee or lunch and organize in-the-flesh meetings.  Remember that developing rapport is key to getting out of our shells (literally and figuratively).

 

In doing the above – or any other visibility-expanding exercise – be your authentic self.  Not only is disingenuousness a turn-off to others, but it also does not allow for your true qualities to shine.   And it is these qualities which ultimately will bring you the influence and visibility which you deserve.