I’m still thinking about that last book I reviewed. One of the other questions is something like – are you willing to pay the cost of your dream? Most people don’t even think about the cost of their dreams. Even small dreams have a cost. Big dreams have a huge cost. You need to know what it is, and if you’re willing to pay it.
One of my dreams is to own my own business. I vacillate between a high tech business and one that is not. There are benefits and detriments to both. I’ll touch on the non-high tech options a bit. There are a lot of costs. Here are but a few.
- Loss of salary – ok – I’m already there, starting a business now doesn’t mean I will lose anything. However I might delay how long it takes to get back to a good salary.
- Loss of identity – I’ve lived and breathed high tech my entire career. It is part of who I am. That would be gone. This one really hurts. I have a strong resume and I would be turning my back on it.
- Loss of stability – I’ve always had a “job” working for someone else. This is all up to me!
- Loss of expertise – Time to learn something new – and not be an expert anymore.
- Closing a door – Once you leave high tech, it is almost impossible to get back into it because the technology changes so quickly. Is it worth it?
What’s the cost of your dream? Do you think it is worth it? I’m still trying to figure that out.
I finally got around to reading this book – “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker after hearing it recommended time and time again for dealing with potentially dangerous situations and to help determine if a relationship is abusive.
This book has been on my list for a long time, but it has always been a lower priority, in the context it usually is recommended (or that I’ve seen it recommended) it didn’t apply to me at all. How wrong I was. This book applies to everyone. I was amazed at some of the common sense advice that can be easily applied to many situations at work and in your personal life.
One of the key messages that hit me revolves around how do you fire someone, and when do you do it. If you are going to fire someone for reasons other than pure performance – for example due to behavior that is threatening or otherwise intimidating you need to do it as soon as possible. This doesn’t mean that you don’t tell the person directly why their behavior is inappropriate in order to remedy the situation. The problem is that most people are loath to approach someone like this in the first place. They wait and wait until a seemingly small infraction becomes the straw that broke the camel’s back. This is bad news. First off, the behavior has been implicitly condoned rather than immediately addressed. Secondly, the perpetrator has become more and more invested in their job over time. And third, since the firing appears to be over a small matter it may be taken badly since the person knows they have done more egregious things in the past.
Another key point of this section is to make sure to treat the person with dignity. If you’re afraid of them, don’t bring muscle into the meeting. No security, no cops, no escorts. This is counter intuitive, but showing your fear and the expectation of a bad outcome actually empowers the person to create one. You are showing that this is what you expect, no? This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be available if a situation escalates, but this backup should not be visible.
Clearly another key item is to not beat around the bush when you tell someone they are fired. Be clear. You don’t want them to assume that it is just another performance appraisal and a request for change. Also do not negotiate. I loved the boomerang line – “If you had made the decision to leave we would have respected it, and we expect the same from you.”
There are many more lessons in here that can be used in running a successful business. I’ve also added more intuitive skills to my arsenal due to reading this as well. As a woman who has extensively traveled, I’ve become accustomed to late night arrivals and dark parking lots and garages. This book helps me to be better prepared to recognize a situation before it becomes a bad one.
“…found that members of a social majority are more likely to voice unique perspectives and critically review task-relevant information when there is more social diversity present than when there is not. Moreover, this is true even when the people who are “different” don’t express any unique perspectives themselves. Our research suggests that the mere presence of social diversity makes people with independent points of view more willing to voice those points of view, and others more willing to listen.”
Hmm. Interesting. I wish that I could provide some perspective here, but considering that I always provide an element of diversity to the discussion I am involved in, it is difficult to know if this is true. In engineering I have found that I am typically the only female (or maybe there are one or two of us) in a room full of white men. I am curious what others think about the findings of the article. Does having a person of different race, color, creed or gender participating change the dynamic?
Recently I had the opportunity to reflect back upon all of the training I’ve received in order to become the leader that I am today. In my career I was extremely fortunate that I received a significant amount of management training before I was even considered for promotion into the role. I find the coaching of potential, junior, and mid-level managers to be critical to longer term success. Even as a senior manager I believe that it is important to continue learning, and to not always fall back on previous experiences.
Early in my career I worked for a company that had a mandatory training and assessment course for all potential managers. It identified if someone was ready to manage people, and the areas in which they were weak and strong. This was a course that could be failed and a person wouldn’t be promoted to a management position if it was. I remember this class as being very stressful. There were timed prioritization of work assignments, interviews, and video taped role playing exercises in which instructors acted as difficult subordinates and customers. This course started my foray into management.
I’ve also had some training that wouldn’t be classified as management training, but it helped me become a much better manager. One form of this type of training that I received is often dismissed by staff as being irrelevant – and that is diversity training. I found it helped me understand how to be sensitive to race, religion, and gender as well as realizing that different people have different motivations for what they do. Engineers may seem to all be very similar but in fact they are not. You can’t expect someone to want to do the same things that you want to do for all the same reasons. Some people care about money, some about life balance, and some about challenging work or career development. I find this to be key to being a good manager because by understanding what a person’s motivations are, you can assign them work that they can be successful at. This training course also was very clear about what is and what is not appropriate in a work environment. In a similar vein, I also took a class that included the Meyers-Briggs Inventory. This was an eye opener for me because it showed how much diversity there is in the various personality types and how the different types are perceived. It also provided suggestions for how to deal with the different types. In engineering there are a few common ones, but there are always some people that are different and harder to read and work with. I happen to be an INTJ in case you are familiar with this method of personality evaluation.
As my career progressed, I signed up for more intensive training courses that spanned longer periods of time. Another company that I worked for footed the bill for a year long class that required me to travel to San Francisco monthly. This program was designed for high potential women managers with a minimum of 7 years of supervisory experience who were being groomed for senior management positions. The program and others like it are run by an organization called Women Unlimited. If you are a woman manager or if you have one reporting to you, I’d suggest investigating this. I found it to be one of the most useful training programs that I ever attended.
Once I got to Director and VP level positions my training focus changed. Now I find it to be a lot more self-directed and individualized. I continue to read books and articles voraciously to learn about new trends and ideas. For the last few years at my last company I met weekly with a psychologist who works with leadership teams at small companies as a career coach. He taught me to depend not only on my analytical capabilities but also on my intuitive abilities. He also taught the leadership team as a whole to be more focused and to use empathy in dealing with one another as a way to speed resolution of issues. This was invaluable. A lot of times in business we focus solely on the analytic and reasoning aspects of our work and little on the people and relationship issues.
These days I also enjoy sharing the knowledge that I have accumulated. As those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know, last year I presented at the IGDA Leadership Forum. I enjoyed preparing my presentation and sharing my management experiences so much that it compelled me to start this blog and become more active in the Web2.0 world. There are a number of pages on this website that give management instruction through examples. I also frequently post and comment upon interesting articles and topics that are personal growth, business, and management related. I am experimenting with the use of twitter to share additional articles that I find interesting that I don’t necessarily feel the need to comment about. I have a regular following on both of these mediums, and it is growing. This is really cool.
Keep on learning. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like you have enough time or that it is worth the effort involved. Do it, you never know when what you’ve learned might come in handy.
One of the lessons that I have learned in my career is that if you want to move into more senior roles, you need to look the part in order for people to take you seriously. This clearly is different depending on the industry that you are in, but I think that everyone knows what I mean. A new grad tends to dress differently than a manager, and a manager tends to dress a little differently than a director and so on up the chain. If you want to be able to fit in on that next ladder rung, you should already look like you belong there. Watch and learn to see what you should look like. The rules are relaxed a bit in smaller companies, and sometimes the chief executive is the worst dressed person in the company. However, with the way the economy has changed the business climate I’m definitely seeing more of a shift toward more formal business dress. Sloppy t-shirts and jeans are definitely the exception in the management ranks these days.
As a woman, I find that creating the wrong appearance is fraught with peril. A lot of times there aren’t role models to learn from. I’ve been in companies where there weren’t any senior women leaders. What do you do then? For men it is so easy. Business casual is a pair of khaki pants, a polo shirt, a nice belt and a pair of loafers. Done. A guy can get away with that, even if it is a little rumpled. Formal business dress is standard – a dark suit, starched shirt, tie, and dress shoes.
For women there are so many questionable areas.
Hair and makeup:
- Don’t wear too much makeup or constantly touch it up.
- Hair needs to look well-groomed and well cut, but you don’t want to look “high maintenance”.
- Nail polish – I tend to vote no on this – too distracting unless it is very neutral. It also looks horrendous when chipped or dull.
- Don’t show too much leg or cleavage.
- Too tight is bad – don’t want to look like a stuffed sausage casing now do we?
- Too loose is also bad – that comes across as sloppy.
- Sandals may or may not be appropriate. Some industries still expect pantyhose – and that is a rat hole a mile deep in itself!
- Boots? Are they ok with a skirt? Depends on your industry. If they are fine leather dress boots with a heel they are probably ok. No Uggs please!
- Heels or flats? Too high is too suggestive. Too flat is not a “power” look.
- What about sleeveless blouses? I think Michelle Obama finally put that one to rest – thank goodness! If you have the arms to pull it off – go for it. I happen to love a sleeveless blouse in hot weather.
- Pants or skirts? Pantsuits finally are mainstream – thanks in part to Hillary Clinton’s standard garb. I really don’t like skirts in the winter – too cold. For casual business: dress pants and a nice fitted sweater or blouse always look put together.
- Beware – business casual khakis and polo shirts sometimes come off looking like soccer mom gear. No you can’t just dress “like a man”. You are always better off with a pair of dress pants.
- Jewelry is necessary for a polished look, but too much or too big or too loud is distracting.
- If you are going to wear a suit, make sure it has some personality in cut or appearance. If not – add a colorful blouse or an interesting pin or scarf. Women are expected to look a bit more pulled together even in a suit.
The bottom line is that you don’t want to come off looking “too young” or “too sexy” nor “too old” or “too frumpy”. There is a fine line here and it is so easy to teeter off of it one way or another. Image is everything. There are a lot of people who can’t look past someone’s outward appearance when doing business. It is a reality that the care you take in making a good impression is noticed.
Sadly, this also extends to your physical attributes. Overweight people are treated differently in business. This is especially true of women – there is a double standard here as well. Your clothing choices are extremely important. If you can, get your clothes tailored to fit your body as best as possible. If you are heavier on the top or the bottom, buy for the larger size and get the other piece adjusted! This is back to: too tight is bad, and so is too loose.
Older people, if they are not extremely well put together in appearance also are treated differently in business. You don’t want to look like a has been. Get a good stylish haircut that fits the times. There are too many older women who still style their hair like they did back in high school or college. That will date you faster than your wrinkles do! Don’t wear that 10 year old suit – especially to an interview. Styles really have changed. We all remember those behemoth shoulder pads from the late 80s – ok, well at least I do. You wouldn’t catch me dead in one of those old suits.
My inspiration for this post came from the article: Appearances Matter from the Wall Street Journal.
This morning I spent a few hours rewiring a bunch of outlets and switches in a room that I had just painted. When we built the house, we put in the ivory outlets… well, they have gone totally out of style so I’ve been working my way around the house replacing them all with white ones as I paint the rooms. I can’t explain why – but after you build a house or two you start to notice the little things that are off. For me this is one of those things. To do them myself only costs about a dollar an outlet. Not a lot of money for a bit of satisfaction.
Electricity is one of those things that a lot of people just won’t mess with. Don’t get me wrong – I have a healthy respect for it, but I’ve always lived in a house where doing wiring wasn’t something out of the ordinary. I think my dad taught me how to replace my first light switch when I was about 12. When I was even younger he used to let me play with batteries, pieces of scrap wires, switches, small motors, and low voltage light bulbs. I had a lot of fun, and I sure learned a lot about wiring circuits. Little things like wrap the wire around the screw in the direction the screw tightens so that when you tighten the screw the wire tightens down too. My dad never had a son, and he surely didn’t differentiate in how he treated me as a little girl. That’s something I have to thank him for. I helped him build out a playroom in the basement, I went on long hikes and sat in blinds looking for wildlife, I forgot more about SLR cameras and photography by the time I was 15 than most people ever know, and I was the kid who ran out into the yard to hold the snake in my PJs. Don’t even get me started about the deer mice I kept in an aquarium in my room – thank goodness we didn’t think about the hanta virus back then.
When I got a little older I remember a boyfriend getting pretty upset with me when I rewired the plug on a vacuum cleaner. I think he thought that women shouldn’t do such things. He didn’t last too long – go figure. I ended up marrying a man who was one of those kids who stuck things into outlets and tore appliances and clock radios apart to see how they work. I guess we’re made for one another, though these days he is the one who does most of this type of work around the house. Until this year I haven’t done any electrical wiring in a while. I’ve done phone and cable and pulled what felt like miles of bundle (2-cat5 + 2-coax) in new construction but nothing “live”.
Today was a “fun” day. After wiring 2 switches and about 10 outlets I flipped the breaker and it immediately tripped. Oh crap! The hunt was on. I ended up pulling every outlet that I had wired and inspected them all. Of course it was the VERY LAST one that I had botched. I short circuited the entire system. DOH! Not something that I am especially proud of, but the second I saw what I did I KNEW I found the problem.
There’s nothing like the feeling of solving a puzzle, it always makes me smile. When was the last time you did something out of the ordinary and had to solve a problem that was unusual for you? How’d you feel?
Well, this article comes right on the heels of the Confidence one that I posted yesterday. I think that they are related in more ways that one.
From the Wall Street Journal “Silencing the Voice That Says You’re a Fraud”
I think that every successful person succumbs to this problem now and then. I know that I do. There are days that I am hyper critical of myself. Nothing that I accomplish seems good enough. There are two outcomes to this – I’ll undertake herculean efforts to make what I am doing absolutely stellar and I’ll nearly kill myself in the process, or sometimes I’ll just walk away from what I am not feeling up to snuff about. I really try not to do the latter but it does happen on occasion when I feel that there is no way for me to succeed at what I’ve attempted. Why beat a dead horse right? The former isn’t all that healthy either. Sometimes we all just need to realize when something is “good enough”. Over the years I’ve learned to recognize when I am doing these two things and I’ve gotten better at moderating my behavior. I don’t always succeed and get it quite right, but I’m a lot less prone to the silliness than I was earlier in my career.
I’ve also heard the internal thoughts about being a fraud called the Imposter Syndrome. That’s when you think that other people will realize that you have no idea what you are doing. Eventually they will find you out and they will laugh at you. Many successful people feel this way. I took a class with a group of about 30 up and coming women leaders a few years back. When the facilitator explained this syndrome and asked who felt that way – I think every single hand was raised. It is good to know that I’m not alone… and I suspect it was good for the others to realize this as well.
If you don’t think that what you’re doing is good enough – you are NOT alone.
This is going to be a short post.
Watch this video. It is really cool. I got it from my friend Tom who showed it to me today. Can you imagine owning a product like this? I’d love it!
Here’s the video