Many years ago, one of the most kind and intelligent women I’ve ever met shared some advice with me. It’s simple when I look back on it, but at the time it was immensely helpful. I had heard about writing out a list of qualities that important to you when it comes to finding a partner. People would write down things like want kids, good with money, warm relationship with family. But, I’d never thought to do the same when it comes to a job. Amrita did!
She helped me to build a list of qualities that are important to me in my job and with the organization I work with. At the time, I was beginning a search for a new job. The time I spent on this exercise pointed me in the right direction when it came to looking for opportunities and the kind of managers I wanted to work with.
This is an exercise I ask my team to do now. I love the clarity that comes from it. It helps connect me with a purpose.
Here’s some of my Amrita list:
- An organization that cares about its people
- Achievement and outcome focused
- Doing good for the world
- Strong sense of accountability
What’s on yours?
It took me a while to wrap my head around this concept – different is fair. It flies in the face of my kindergarden teacher’s whole schtick. Everyone gets the same number of blocks. Period.
It didn’t occur to me at five to ask about the kids who didn’t want to play blocks, or were keen to stay at the sand table or wanted to continue reading books.
I get it now. All 20 of us were different people. We were interested in different things and motivated by our own unique needs. We shared the same desire to graduate to first grade, meaning we learned the requirements. But our ‘whys’ were divergent. We wanted to use the gigantic grade one door, or give up the blue cots for nap time, or maybe make our parents happy.
Here I am at work, learning that the same applies – the people I work with share the same desire to experience success, but our whys are our own. Helping people figure out their why can help them find more meaning in their day. It means the manager and the team member can speak the same language. It might even mean that team members can connect around shared whys.
It means that treating people differently IS being fair. Making everyone use blocks wasn’t fair – it was completely uncool for those not into blocks. Just as making everyone approach work the same way is not fair – we are all different. We should all find our own blocks, so to speak.
What’s your why? What are your blocks?
I’m not very good with routine. I get bored. Some people tell me that this just means I should do it harder. Until it’s not boring.
This is not a blog post about that.
What works for me is being consistently inconsistent. I can be consistent about the big picture stuff – personal development, mental health, financial management, goal setting, and so on. Setting aside regular time for personal development, health, spiritual discovery, self care, and so on is easy for me. In fact, it is motivating and energizing.
The idea of going to the same yoga class every Thursday, though, makes my brain go sideways. Setting aside time for myself to do something physical or for my health every Thursday is easy. I just have to be inconsistent about what I do – yoga, walk with my neighbour, batch cooking (not brownies), bike ride, etc.
I spent years thinking ‘I fell of the wagon again’. I was constantly feeling like a failure for not sticking to the same things.
No more! I’m consistently inconsistent. I need more than one wagon. I can stick to my commitment without sticking to just one thing.
I think office aesthetics matter. There, I said it. I feel shallow. But, I shouldn’t. I have good reason for thinking office aesthetics matter. I believe that our environment fuels creativity and mental health. Fresh air is so good for us. Daylight is so good for us. Nature feeds our brain’s ideas. I think we should sit, and stand and walk, in workspaces that inspire us. That fuel new ideas. That calm us when we feel stressed and that amp us up when we need it.
I don’t think we have to run around and gold plate things, rather be thoughtful about creating an environment that is clean, welcoming and thought provoking. The image on the wall in my office is from Ikea. It’s an image of the sun shining through a dense, green forest of maples. It wasn’t expensive, but it does allow my mind to escape for a few minutes. To work through a problem or help generate a thought.
Spend time on the experience of your space. You don’t need to spend thousands on a design. Your mind is full of great ideas, and if your mind is tired, the internet has lots of ideas.
Dear women on my team,
Thank you for coming to a women’s event with me. Thank you for being interested in moving women forward. Thank you for being interested in women at work. Thank you for thinking about inclusion for everyone.
To each of you, please do not ‘suck it up and deal with it’. Whatever ‘it’ is, please do what is right. Be forward looking. Make life better for others.
Our team recently went to an event with a panel of women speakers. One woman told the story of going to the strip club with her executive team. She talked about watching the dancers walk off the stage and then approaching them to hit them up for investment business.
The crowd roared with laughter at her revenue strategy.
Her advice to the women in the room was to suck it up like she did. She joined in and went to the club. She sucked it up and dealt with it.
I did not roar with laughter. I looked in horror at my team.
Women on my team, please don’t just deal with the cards you are dealt. If your team goes to the strip club, demand better. If your team does business on the roof top patio, demand better. If your team does business at the golf course, demand better.
Business takes place where it is accessible to all. If your team is a group of golfers, the golf course might be the perfect place. If four or five out of six or seven of your team golf, the golf course is wrong.
Thank you for being on my team, women. Thank you for being open and honest. Thank you for giving me feedback. Thank you for making me better.
Recently, I’ve been doing some soul searching, the business kind, to figure out my role as the people strategist in the execution of the business plan. Sure we support talent needs, create a productive environment, but what role do we have to push tasks to completion?
We own the tools for performance management and sometimes even own the tool for business plan tracking. But we tend to take a bit of a backseat or administrative role in the process. We tend to leave the driving of the execution to the business.
Let’s not do that anymore. Let’s jump in, roll up our sleeves, and drive the plans forward.
What does that look like? Ask to be the owner of the business plan execution tool if you’re not already. Run business plan update meetings. Set regular update reporting where managers report in. If you don’t already, learn what the roadblocks are and share suggestion for how to solve them if you can’t solve them on your own.
My mind has been blown in the last few weeks as I continue to read about how gender bias plays a role in interviews. Among other places. The simplicity of the placement of words impacts the results of an interview.
Women are more likely to attribute success to their team, hard work and good luck. While men are more likely to attribute success to skills and innate qualities. Thank you leanin.org for the intel.
I often ask an open ended, warm up question, like tell me about your path to here, right now. Boom. Just walked right in to gender bias if I’m not careful. Men are more likely to tell me about their skills and the qualities they possess that got them here. Think, my ability to close the biggest deal got me a promotion manager. While a woman might say, I’ve had really good luck with customers and the deal closed which led to the promotion. Would I walk away thinking that the man was smarter? I mean, the woman got lucky, but the man used his ability.
I learned to spend time thinking about what I want out of my questions. Why do I want to know about their path to here? I want to know about their interests professionally. I want to know about decisions they made during their career path. I learned to take these and make specific questions, to drive out the answers I want and to account for bias. Instead, I can ask, what skills do you think got you here? It specifically asks each candidate to talk about skills. Instead of relying on their own interpretation of what I’m asking.
Mind blown. Bring on the interviewees.
Our organization runs an anonymous survey to our entire employee base every quarter or so before a townhall. We try to gather thoughts in to themes and make sure we speak to them in the townhall. I love the idea of hearing what people think. I love the opportunity to hear what happens at the watercooler or whatever people talk over now. What do people talk over now? Is it still the watercooler? Maybe the foosball table? Espresso machine? Doggy daycare? I digress.
I love anonymous feedback tools. I, like most HR people, would prefer that we have created an environment that is so open and welcoming that people can say anything. But we’re all humans and some days we’re still trying to figure out how to tell our boss that she has a seed stuck between her teeth. So, anonymity can be helpful.
A few months ago, the survey came back saying that I was unapproachable. While this comment didn’t leave me feeling the same joy I feel eating a Starbucks oat fudge bar, it didn’t sting. I took it to heart. Someone was struggling so much and had nowhere else to turn but this anonymous survey. That had to change. More on that in some other blogpost.
I work on a team of wonderful humans. And the humans showed their wonderfulness by being worried about my feelings. In truth, the outpouring was unexpected. Emails, visits, notes, texts, IMs, even a box of doughnuts. It didn’t matter if they agreed or not with the anonymous commenter, they disagreed with the forum. With putting me on the spot like that.
It’s funny that one person’s complaint led to so much support. Life can be like that.
I still love anonymous surveys. I still think they serve a purpose. I’m still trying to create the perfect environment. Where everyone says what they thinks and we solve problems in the open. But, in the meantime, keep surveying!
I am passionate about changing the way we work.
People contribute of themselves.
People aren’t contributing time.
Give them results, goal, outcomes, whatever you want to call it.
Let them do it.
Let’s stop living by a time clock. A believe that business has to take place between nine to five. Or Monday to Friday.
Yes. We have customers.
Yes. We have cars to produce.
Let’s start doing that differently, too. Let’s start exploring how we can work in different ways.
It will not be easy.
It will be better once we get there.
I encourage managers to be able to answer five person questions about their employees. The questions don’t really matter, it’s the conversation and the relationship that matters.
The time invested into having these conversations is what will build more open communication, an understanding of each other and a stronger relationship.
What’s your employee’s favorite colour?
Where were they born?
Do they have any siblings?
If they had to be fired, how would they want it to go down?
What did they want to be when they were a kid?
These questions should spark all kinds of questions. Especially the one about getting fired. If you’ve got an employee who is just answering that with a straight face and without questions, you’ve got a pretty strong indicator that they aren’t communicating with you. That question should, at the very least, prompt a ‘what kind of question is that’ response. It opens the door for all kinds of conversation.