Words, Ideas, Stuff
Some ideas and thoughts, captured with the view to help you.
Words, Ideas, Stuff
Some ideas and thoughts, captured with the view to help you.
Reading an article this morning, it had an extract from Ravi Gupta's blog, so here's a blog about a blog.
Well, not the whole blog but the key point of it – which is summarised beautifully here:
"Most people think of demanding and supportive as opposite ends of a spectrum. You can either be tough or you can be nice. But the best leaders don’t choose. They are both highly demanding and highly supportive. They push you to new heights and they also have your back."
As a leader, we’ve all seen the stats and heard the rhetoric that there’s a gender bais where women have to been seen as ‘warm’ and ‘credible’ to be perceived as capable, but for men it’s all about the ‘credibility’. They can be aggressive and pushy and that’s seen as okay by all genders.
So how do women lean into being both demanding and supportive? No easy answer here, style and timing will play a role of course, but it’s more so about choosing to be. You can choose to be liked, popular, ‘warm’, and be a leader who endlessly gives to others, or you can lean into the moment, adjust your style to suit the context and that means at times the way you give to others will be hard, gritty and results focused – basically, whatever is effective in helping them lift performance in the best way.
That means your style will flex – for the times when there’s a helluva road ahead and everyone needs to step up, or you’re aligned in achieving something great, that’s often the time for a different leadership style than when it’s plain sailing and you’re achieving, and it seems Ravi (and he credits Adam Grant for this concept) has nailed it with being both demanding and supportive.
Ravi’s blog talks about his experiences building InstaCart where they were burning a stupid amount of money each month and needed to really turn things around. He then sums this concept up further as:
What I’ve come to realize over time is that, far from being contradictory, being demanding and supportive are inextricably linked. It’s the way you are when you believe in someone more than they believe in themselves.
Read the full article: https://rkg.blog/demanding.php
As social platforms evolve and change, many of the OG users are rallying against the change, yet the platforms are loving the shift as it’s often bringing new growth, new users, more engagement – all good things if you’re a tech giant. We all know Insta has become a TikTok copycat, and that Facebook is a hard-to-win game for businesses and nothing more than an ad-roll for users, then there’s LinkedIn.
In a recent NY Times post it was reported that LinkedIn "has more than 830 million users who generate about 8 million posts and comments every day". That’s a big beast.
LinkedIn reps also comment on how the pandemic accelerated its growth, and that this was also the conduit for the content shift to more personal stories. Almost as people sought connection while working from home, LinkedIn was the place for it as it felt like a 'work' space.
No doubt there's also credit for the personal narrative playing a bigger role at work and in work spaces thanks to the social shift lead by Brené Brown et al, with the very encouraging view that effective leaders showcase character, strength, vulnerability and authenticity.
While we’re champions of strong personal branding and sharing what’s at the intersection of what you value and can bring, and what your audience is interested in (relevance is key for any business or personal brand), we’re certainly a little fatigued by the inauthentic LinkedIn posts and the carefully scripted ones that are designed to garner likes and clicks.
Having a clear brand for yourself and/or your business, with some consistent, relevant content arcs or themes is great and helps your audience build trust as they know what to expect from you. As to whether you should share on LinkedIn that your cat is unwell, or create dance videos on TikTok, that's for you to decide - our recommendation is to share what is authentic to you and relevant for your audience. And what you're comfortable sharing, trust your instincts on that one - if it feels like an overshare, it likely is.
Have a listen to the half hour podcast episode here to hear more about defining or refining your personal brand and a few comments on the ‘Facebook-ification of LinkedIn’ and decide for yourself what role LinkedIn or other platforms can play in your career.
There’s a well-known saying that we join organisations, but we leave managers.
Research conducted by Gallup, Inc. supports the statistics from Kenexa and Forbes. They go on to quantify the qualities employees want in a manager. The top four are:
If you’re not getting these things, does this make your manager a bad manager?
Unfortunately it’s not as clear cut. There’s a spectrum and it can be quite obvious at each end of this spectrum as to what a good manager looks like and what a complete a-hole is like, but there’s a murky middle and a wide range of styles and actions that can impact you and your performance.
That means it’s up to you to decide where the line is for you to thrive, whether you can shape it to get what you need, or when you need to bail.
This is a little tongue-in-cheek but JA Culture writes about bad bosses and the six toxic personas you might know.
1. Hawk-Eye (Micromanagement en mass)
2. Dictator of Expectations (Always searching for proof)
3. The Scream-ER (Reckless & retrospective)
4. Culture Undertaker (Careless about culture)
5. Manic Manipulator (Agent of passive aggression)
6. Captain Titanic (Living in the past)
It’s scary how quickly one or two people will jump to mind as you read that list. It seems so many business focus on developing technical skills yet it’s how someone manages a project or others, and ideally, their leadership style (firm believer that leading and managing are two different things), that ultimately determined sustained performance. Anyone can be an a-hole and push a team to deliver once, but that crew will hit eject as soon as they can, and those that are unable to, will drop in performance too. So it seems crazy how the average $1000 learning and development spend doesn’t go on helping people be great managers and leaders. I’ll save that soapbox session for another day, but will just give you an elbow in the ribs to ask for this kind of training when you’re in the space to do so, it’s invaluable and even if you’re ace at it, there will always be a new tidbit to take in and develop.
As this post has been forming, I’ve had several conversations with people in my world where they’ve been on the receiving end of really bad behaviour. One was in event management, the other in health. In both situations, the person with power, the manager, has behaved poorly. I would say in the event space they were a mix of 2,3,4 and 5 and in health it sounded like a lot of number seven which I’ll add to that list = the General of Goal Post Shifting.
Actually the event ones did that two. This General sets expectations and continues to change them and add to them so at some stage you’re over loaded and it’s muddy AF as to what the priorities are, all the time you feel like you’re failing as you never quite get it right and the days seem to short to get it all done.
If I had to distil it down, there were some commonalities with the managers making a lot of ‘you’ statements, not allowing time for discussion (assuming their view is correct), giving directives, and seemingly being focused on their own interests and perspectives.
Needless to say, both of these very capable women are considering new roles, one has actually been offered an awesome new role with a tech start-up where the early indicators are the founders behave like respectful, competent adults – the bare minimum of what’s required. Thankfully they also have a reputation for being good leaders too.
To help break down whether there’s a chance to work better with this person or whether it’s time to look elsewhere, here’s a couple of red and green flags to consider:
In 2019, Stuff shared a summary of the four worst habits of New Zealand managers Ralph Bathurst, a senior lecturer at Massey University’s book “The Good, The Bad and The Downright Ugly Side of New Zealand Business”, these need to be added to the watchlist above! They are:
There’s gems here too for each of us as we develop into management roles, to ensure we also develop the competencies that allow us to be good managers and lead engaged teams.
If you’re in a position where you’re dealing with those kinds of things, it’s up to you to make a call to stay and manage your manager so you’re able to work how you wish, address it directly by speak to them and asking for what you need or asking to understand why they’re taking that approach.
If they’re really toxic, get the hell outta there. Sadly, being treated like that will likely erode confidence and you’ll shrink under that kind of boss, where was work should atleast be tolerable, ideally enjoyable. Share your work experiences with people you trust to calibrate it, it’s often surprising how what you start tolerating as ‘normal’ is actually really toxic, and often those around us can reflect that back to us and help us see it’s not okay. It’s amazing when you have a manager who’s draped in green flags, your work and things outside of work are so much more manageable and enjoyable when you have that kind of support.
You’re worth it. If you need permission here it is - quit if you have to and keep quitting until you have a manager that manages well and you feel valued, engaged and supported to do great work.
Do you like your manager? Do you like to be liked? It can be easier when you do like your manager, but liking them is actually less important than respecting them.
Sometimes the best managers are ones who we don’t necessarily like, certainly wouldn’t have Sunday brunch with, but they’re really competent and good at their job. Staying open to having a great working relationship with your manager, even when they’re not someone you like is important, it can take a little more effort to stay open and engaged especially if your styles are different, but it is worth it. It’s also good to remember as you lead others, that being liked can be a trap.
Sadly there’s a gender bias here worth noting – for men to be seen as good leaders they need to be perceived as competent, women need to be perceived as competent and warm.
There’s a lot of research on this and it’s anchored in old fashioned gender norms and expectations. Women as nurturing and emotion-led, men as ‘hunter gatherers’, a binary and polarising view, and no gender wins when we accept these old-fashioned ideas.
Jessica Bennett in her NY Times article “But Is She Likeable Enough?” writes “The idea that a “likability trap” exists for women has been well documented. It’s a phrase used to describe how women who behave in authoritative ways risk being deemed difficult, brusque or bossy, while those who are too nice risk having their competence questioned.”
Jessica then shares this harsh and true quote from Joan C. Williams, professor of law, on the “likability trap” that continues to plague powerful women:
“Women who behave in authoritative ways risk being disliked as insufferable prima donnas, pedantic schoolmarms or witchy women.”.
Yes it’s a risk, but should you water down your drive? Hold your tongue when you want to challenge the assumptions made about a piece of work, or always be the one to bake cakes on birthdays? No. Do those things if they feel authentic to you. Not because it’s ‘expected’ or to be ‘liked’. Alicia Menendez, podcaster of The Likability Trap reminds us that “despite even the very best efforts, no one has a say in how much other people like them.”
Best we put our energy into other things then huh?
Perhaps that energy can be channelled to changing the definition of leadership. Jessica’s NY Times article says :
“As the economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett once told me, it’s not women who are the problem. It’s that we still define leadership in male terms.”
Melissa here, this is a post I shared a while ago but realising it's all still so true, and as we navigate low unemployment and rising interest rates, the pressure can feel hotter to 'choose' well when it comes to work and banks, so this might be helpful for perspective - basically, you can't get it wrong, you can only do you best now with the information you have and as you know more, you can change the approach if you wish. Cue Kelly Clarkson "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger"!
A good friend of mine who also happens to be a creative and respected marketer, posted on LinkedIn recently - a link to this HBR article The Art of Blooming Late, along with the words “it's been an interesting journey for me ... what's your journey been like?” and his career pathway.
I replied (to help his LinkedIn algorithm and just to see what mine looked like). It’s a little unpredictable! But as the late and great Steve Jobs said:
“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
Mine goes a little something like this … Nanny - trade based Mechanical Engineer – Retail Sales - Technical Support - Account Manager - Product Manager - Project Manager - Strategic Sales – Area Retail Manager - Area Sales Manager - Head of Marketing and Key Accounts – Tech Business Manager – Head of Strategy and Marketing – (mid life crisis phase: Volunteer – Traveller – Founder) back into it - GM Attraction Economic Development - COO Tech Startup - Founder x 2 - Strategy and Marketing Consultant - Governance/Independent Director - and now a Founder again, podcaster and aiming for published Author.
It’s been an unpredictable, winding and super interesting road for a farm girl from Southbridge, who got suspended from boarding school I tell ya! There’s no way I could have ever even dreamed of some of the responsibilities I’ve had, the travel and places I’ve been and the incredible people I’ve met.
If I had to unpick it, there was a theme of having a ‘north star’, some far off goal of how I wanted to work and what impact I wanted to have, and a promise to myself to say ‘yes’ to cool shxt that came my way that in some way might align with that north star.
A few of those yeses, with hindsight, should have been a no, but I don’t really believe in regret as each one either …
Sounds magnanimous now, but I assure you, the three roles I’m thinking of, as I was living them there was a lot of stress and swearing! Time and perspective do wonders. If anything though the thing I would have done sooner was leave as soon as I realised I was really off track.
“If you’re not working toward reaching your unique potential—as Mozart did—it’s normal to feel dissatisfied”
Reading that HBR article this part also stood out “The philosopher John Kaag, author of Hiking with Nietzsche, agrees. “The self does not lie passively in wait for us to discover it,” he writes. “Selfhood is made in the active, ongoing process, in the German verb werden, ‘to become.’” So taking those chances, saying yes, being bold and spending a little time outside the comfort zone is important.
Many of you reading this might be starting out on your path or figure out where the hell the path even is, and that’s a great place to be while reading this as hopefully your expectations will be shaped now that it’s rare to ‘know’ with certainty what your calling exactly is and how to achieve it. For many of us, it’s about trial and error, learning about and trusting ourselves and being brave.
This is pretty much why this book and community called Careering. We often have this idea that a career path, or the path to finding meaningful ‘work’ is like walking along the footpath – clearly marked, enter however you like, stay on it till you get where you want to go. Reality is much more like a snow covered mountain track, slippery, on an angle, some sun blindness and in many places, absolutely no control over what happens next!
There’s no easy way to know what’s right, all you can do is know yourself, trust in your ‘north star’ or try things until you find that, and back yourself. Life is for living, be intentional with how you spend your time and energy ... enjoy your life!
Image source: Melissa - Lake Hayes 2017
Anyone else break into a cold sweat at the thought of walking into a room of strangers knowing you just might have to force an intro and mingle? Odds are some of you will break into a sweat and others will be smiling ear to ear and will thrive in that environment.
Most likely, it’s a situation we’re all going to have to navigate. It’s up to us to choose how we show up and how we answer the inevitable “What do you do?” question. Once we’ve uttered something, we’ll also likely return the serve. Anticipating this and knowing
What about day one of the new job? Terror or titillation?
It’s natural to put a tad too much emphasis on what the ‘right’ thing to do is in these environments. Where its new and we’re wanting to make a good impression. It’s risky and an unknown, and we can tie ourselves up in knots in advance playing out scenarios, yet, we can prepare in a different way, one that will keep our autonomic nervous system under control. Because there is no ‘right’ way. There might be an outcome you’d love to achieve, a perception you’d like to create, a connection you want to make – great to have intentions, and you’re prepped ready to do. Let’s chat a bit about what that can look like.
“What you do will never define you for long.
There’s so much to unpack in Abby’s quote. The clear message is gold - our character, not our ‘title’, is what’s important.
It also is a wonderful prompt for us to consider how we answer that “what do you do” question.
We don’t have to answer with our title – be that student, Professor, parent, dancer, artist or founder. Of course we can, especially if it’s something we love to chat about. If we’re keen to connect on that topic, we can do so by giving a little insight into what it is that we enjoy about our work or what makes our approach a little different. That allows the person we’re connecting with some grounds to develop the conversation too or find points for deeper connection.
“I work as a personal trainer” compared with “I help people achieve their amateur athletic goals”
“I’m learning to code Ruby on Rails” “I’m designing software that X and Y” or “I was inspired by Z so now I’m learning to code so I can …”
This reminds me of a lovely lady I met at the Hi Tech Awards Event in Auckland in 2021. We did chat about work, I did ask her that question and she said ‘I’m just in sales” … luckily we had a laugh when I realised I had fallen into the easy trap of asking that question, but also chatted about how that word ‘just’ is dangerous.
We talked about both of those points, and why in New Zealand we see sales as ‘less than’ and in many company structures, sales teams aren’t celebrated and we’ve somehow bought into the stereotype that sales people are untrustworthy. This is an area I do have a lot to say on, but this probably isn’t the right chapter or even the right forum!
Let’s just say that yes, it’s an unregulated space, not all sales people are the same, some sales professionals are awesome at what they do, bring professionalism and expertise, and genuinely focus on ensuring patients or customers receive the value they expect. It’s important to remember too that without sales professionals, many organisations won’t succeed as without delivering services or exchanging value for goods, many organisations don’t have income, and it’s near impossible to stay afloat without that!
An article on The Muse reminds us that the “what do you do?” question is actually a shortcut to deciding who someone is, and we all make sweeping assumptions from the response. Their article gives these examples:
“You Say: I’m in sales.
They Think: You’re a pushy, sweet-talking charmer.
You Say: I’m a lawyer.
They Think: You’re the argumentative type.
You Say: I’m an accountant.
They Think: You’re a numbers geek.”
Back to the Hi Tech Awards and meeting Melisa. She is a really articulate, dynamic, capable and successful salesperson for an AI startup. The more we talked, the clearer it was that she was passionate about doing the right thing by her customers, them having awesome experiences, and her venture’s savvy technology. So we talked about all of that. We really clicked and even shared an Uber after the event.
Imagine if we hadn’t stayed in that chat – we would have missed that chance to connect with an inspiring woman doing cool shit, and I know I got a lot from meeting her.
I’ve also just checked her LinkedIn bio some nine months later, and it’s such a goodie.
Melisa’s intro is how we can choose to introduce ourselves digitally or in person – it’s so engaging, and there’s a fair few things in here for others to connect in with. Most importantly, it’s authentic. This is who Melisa is.
“What makes me unique is my obsession with doing things well. Mastery is about not sacrificing everything to get to the finish line, it’s how we get there.
I’m a proud sales professional who has a personal interest and curiosity in using data, innovation and technology well, both in our personal and professional lives”
We can choose to offer up a work or career related response, but we don’t have to. We can answer however we choose. Maybe answer with the thing you’re passionate about right now? Things like …
If you want to chat about work, do that, if you want to share something else, just know it’s okay to do that instead. Often when we’re asking someone “What do you do?” it’s less about seeing if there’s a chance to do business, and more about finding some common ground. Same with the “where are you from?” one too.
This one needs a little chat too – it’s a question that can seem insensitive in some contexts, especially now we live in a gloriously multi-cultural society, so a word of wisdom from one experience I had. A few years ago I did a lot of volunteering for the Christchurch Women’s Refuge (now Aviva) and worked for them one weekend on a promo stand at an event. This was alongside other volunteers, and one lady I worked with was warm, upbeat, engaging and super fun – we chatted effortlessly between engaging with people at the stand, and at the end of the day she thanked me for not asking where she was ‘from’, as to her, that felt like she was not ‘from here’ and impacted her sense of belonging.
Now I’d love to claim this as a conscious choice not to ask, but from memory, it was perhaps more that there were so many more interesting things to ask her as she was a vivacious and accomplished lady. It has always stuck with me how a question, even one asked with the best intentions from our own perspective, can unintentionally alienate someone or remind them of their ‘Otherness”.
“The creation of otherness (also called ‘othering’) consists of applying a principle that allows individuals to be classified into two hierarchical groups: them and us.”
So without meaning to, a simple question can actually push someone further away from you when during dialogue you’re actually seeking to form a connection, or at least pass the time in a pleasant way. Not saying this question is to be avoided, just be mindful when you ask it and what your motive for doing so is.
The hot tip before you roll into the room:
“Clothes maketh the (hu)man”
This is an olde worlde quote that’s referenced as originating somewhere in 1400s, also attributed to Shakespeare and Mark Twain. Either way, it’s worth pondering as to how much importance this has in today’s world where some careers are virtual, some we shape as we design new teams and ventures, and as we have a blend of cultures in many spaces.
It seems there are no hard and fast rules as to what clothing is ‘right’, the best advice we have is where what you feel good in, and that is appropriate for the nature of the work you need to do - the old steel caps on a mine site is a classic no brainer, but outside the obvious health and safety requirements
When it comes to interviews or the likes, it can be nerve wracking. If you’re ever unsure, it’s okay to ask the recruiter or person you’re meeting with what the expectation is or what the organisational culture is. If all else fails, wear what YOU feel great in!
It does matter. Like it or not, as humans we’re curious and critical critters. First impressions are really important – first impressions are often lasting ones too so if you get it right, you can enjoy the benefits of the "halo effect." In other words, if you're viewed positively within those critical 4 minutes, the person you've just met will likely assume that everything you do is positive. The same is true of the reverse.
Within a mere 10 seconds, that person will begin to make judgments about our sense of professionalism, social class, morals, and intelligence. People focus first on what they see (dress, appearance, eye contact, movement). Next, they focus on what they hear (rate of speech, tone and volume, articulation). Finally, they focus on the actual words.
We’re not saying it’s good, or how it should be, it’s just how humans are wired. So it's a relevant reminder for any of us in the hiring seat to challenge ourselves to see beyond this, and when we’re in the hot seat, show up with your best attitude, prep and know that the packaging will be assessed too, so choice it, make it intentional and kick ass!