Americans need to learn to separate entertainment from news and politics as a bloodsport. “How” the news is presented is as important as what is and what is not presented. Start to notice the words, the tone, and the emotion that is evoked.
Storytellers and novelists want to evoke a reaction and conflict creates drama. Media often uses these same techniques to draw attention. I’m not suggesting I know where the exact line is — but I do think we need to be aware of how and when these techniques are used, and to choose our news according.
Check out these headlines from a fake news source I found on Facebook. They make it clear what the viewer should think with terms like “slam” and “exploit” and “blaming.” More than that they are generating the conflict between liberals and their viewers. (fact: as a “liberal” I have never blamed Trump for the weather). Watching the actual video – the tone and intonation is theatrical at best.
“I don’t worry about contract negotiations – I let my agent handle that. I just focus on playing.” The other day, a client mentioned that comment from a famous football player.*
“Wouldn’t that be nice?” she commented, referring to how much more efficient it would be to not worry about jockeying for the next job — but instead to focus on the work?
“Absolutely,” I agreed, “that is the dream.”
Agents help minimize the emotional cost and labor of rejection and help focus professionals on the work that matters. From my experience, and following the work of folks like Adam Grant and Adam Galinsky, it is also very common for people to be much stronger advocates for themselves than for others.
To take a non-professional example, consider matchmaking. I am nature wing woman, since
- I am often way more confident in my friends’ value than they are
- My emotional detachment from the outcome allows me to be much bolder
- My natural sensitivity helps me shield my friends from the fall out of rejection
- My ability to reframe situations allows me to understand when a rejector was a dork clearly wasn’t good enough for my friend anyway, and
- I’m wired so that helping other people gives me way more energy than focusing on myself.
When planning your next transition – consider and plan for how you can use agents, both paid and unpaid, to accelerate your results.
*sorry, I’m showing my lack of NFL knowledge here and I don’t honestly remember who it was.
Richard Branson once said that if you put your employees first, they will take care of your customers. I’ve worked for many organizations that put customers first and I have to say, I think Branson has it right.
Client-first organizations can often lead to disrespecting co-workers. (“Oh I’m sorry a client emergency came up.) High status / low-status dichotomy, with those with access to clients on top. To me, lack of dignity creates value dissonance and is a sign of a broken culture.
For 18 months, I worked on a digital app that used predictive analytics to identify “High Performers” at risk of quitting. After reviewing longitudinal data for thousands of employees – we found that certain high performers were 5X more likely to quit after getting a pay raise or promotion. This was counterintuitive because one would normally think a raise would engender happiness and loyalty.
A couple of theories were tossed out including “market validation” and “poaching.” However, after some digging and interviews, we found that such defections were an indication of deeper dissatisfaction. When you have a cultural fit, where people feel challenged and respected – people are happy and loyal – they are less extrinsically motivated, less expensive and less at risk to leave.
That experience reminded me of this facebook post – about a truly broken sytem.
It’s hard not to be struck by the visible emotion and the heartbreak displayed by these teachers struggling to take care of themselves and their families – over their calling. In the corporate world, discussions abound about organization’s higher purpose. In my opinion, this situation demonstrates an abuse of leadership. Smart, heartless, politicians use these teachers’ conflict between their values (serving kids + their financial security) to keep them “trapped” in a thankless and undervalued job. It is interesting that everyone in this video expresses some kind of guilt for quitting. Even though, they intellectually understand it is because of their government’s decision not to play them what they’re worth.
Sidenote: “Guilt” blocks the third chakra – i.e. the source of self-esteem, ego, and pride.
I’m struck by how hard many of them seem to have tried to do the work that is aligned with their values — and I am disappointed in a legislature and a society that takes advantage of that motivation. Finally, what I like about this video is the end where the teachers catalog their different jobs – because I think it demonstrates their market value and the opportunity costs of their labor. Sadly, I think a lot of politicians are pretty heartless and don’t value kindness, empathy, and human decency. Which should concern anyone interested in how are future generations are being taught.
This clip of Beto O’Rourke has been making the rounds on Social Media. Politics aside (and I think you know where I stand on such things) — it is a great example of communicating and collaborating. There is a lot in this response that I really appreciate. I think it is one of the best examples of responding with empathy and communicating with stories that I have seen in a while.
Below is a quick annotation of my favorite points.
0:13 Beto O’Rourke, listens and nods acknowledging the question.
0:28 Thanks the questioner, honestly and sincerely
0:33 Acknowledges that it is a difficult topic (read: emotional and polarizing).
0:35 Repeats the question concisely – confirming that he has heard the full question.
0:54 Confirms a shared value, i.e. respect for those who have served in the military
0:58 I love the short answer. It’s clear, direct and honest.
1:07 Reiterates his respect for people on both sides of the issue.
1:20 I love that he reiterates that we are all on the same team (American) — and can still disagree. As someone who is craving respect and civility in public discourse, I am 100% here for that. Divisiveness only benefits those currently in power.
1:46 Compassionate and consciously Beto starts to bring in the stories of the counter POV – i.e. the experiences of black folks
2:02 “The young girls who dies in the church bombing” — man that KILLS me.
2:26 “dragged out by their collar at the Woolworth lunch counter” — as a story teller – details are key in evoking the image of other people’s stories.
2:33 Beto connects both sides – THROUGH military service.
3:15 After providing a history lesson – connects that back to the REAL protest.
3:30 “They are frustrated with people like me” – Wow I love the personal responsibility there!
3:35 “frustrated by those in positions of public trust and power.” — I think we ALL can relate to that sentiment!
I’m still not sure I believe in the universe, or god, or cosmic energy or Buddha or whatever. That said, whether or not he/she/it is real, one thing is certain – he/she/it has a sense of humor.
It’s like the universe has been saying, “Heather, you don’t have to believe in me or fate or anything — that’s fine — but I’m just going to keep tossing signs and coincidences your way, just to keep you guessing.” Continue reading “2. 4. 6. 8 – Who Do We Appreciate?”
I didn’t expect to write this, however, learning about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain hit me hard. I’m going to get personal and go all over the map with this article – you’ve been warned. I’ve been aware of the link between depression and creativity since childhood. “Crazy” runs in my family (i.e. bipolar, multiple personalities, ADD, ADHD, depression etc.) so does creativity. People I love have attempted suicide, a few have succeeded.
For a long time, I assumed extreme emotional vicissitudes – fluctuations between highs and lows was simply the price of being weirdly creative. I tried therapy. For me, it didn’t do much and kind of pissed me off.
I eventually found my therapy in sports, friends and yoga + meditation. Continue reading “Talking about suicide”
The George Washington Parkway is one of my favorite drives — for many reasons, not least of which is that it offers many fantastic views of our nation’s capital and scenic natural vistas. It was during a pre-dawn commute on my way to teach a 6 AM yoga, that I found myself contemplating creativity and the chakras.
Watching the scenery flow by, I noticed the Washington Monument across the river before exiting to jump on 395 past the Air Force Memorial. Thinking about balancing our physical need and metaphysical needs – it struck me that there were few more perfect symbols for yang & yin — than these two monuments. Continue reading “Dual Monuments to Our Nation’s Creative Destiny”
Instead of working on your resume – which most folks only do when they need a job — consider developing and maintaining a “Me Guide” which will be helpful to you and your team!
I needed this guide when I went through a series of five leadership transitions in less than three years. It occurred to me that it would be helpful to have a document that would get me and my directors on the same page. I was working with the digital UX team who had just launched a slick onboarding tool, for new hires. The next, obvious step would be … Continue reading “How the “Me Guide” can make you a better teammate”
“Everyone has a side-gig these days, I have a side gig!” Michael Dumlao, Booz Allen’s Director of Brand, exclaimed after his presentation on their re-branding efforts. I was impressed with his response. I’d been skeptical when Mr. Dumlao described Booz, the grandfather of management consulting firms, as “a 100-year old start-up.”
I’ve been part of enough change initiatives with large organizations to know the difference between “talking” about being more creatively innovative and actually making it happen. Mr. Dumlao’s answer suggested that their brand transformation had indeed crossed the talk/do chasm.
Earlier that week I had been discussing potential opportunities at a well known consulting firm, let’s call it Firm A – only to discover it has a policy not to allow “side-hustles.” Needless to say, I was bummed.
I left my last company; let’s call it Firm B, because a similar policy left me feeling stifled and bored. My old firm had good reasons for its policy, it was risk-averse, and had strict compliance rules, especially relating to their audit work, and it makes sense not to allow employees to “compete” with the firm.
The reason the Firm A gave me for disallowing side gigs was that they expected all their employee’s energy to go to their work. (As a creative consultant I have to say, that logic reflects a lack of understanding and appreciation for the creative process.) For firm A’s policy to make sense, there has to be perfect alignment of interests between the firm and the individual and very probably perfect information exchange, as well as a shared view of risk. While I can imagine this to be possible, I think it unlikely.
These policies mitigate both value & risk
I remember reading once that in Silicon Valley, investors should look at what programmers work on in their spare time. Looking at these passion projects makes sense. Whenever I was assessing pilots and proof of concept pitches for the data innovation group, I found that the enthusiasm of the data scientists and programmers was a significant indicator of a project’s success, exceeding even the impact of senior leadership’s enthusiasm, and far exceeding expected financial gains. IMO, passion projects are incredibly efficient in terms of time management because folks access flow – an optimized often generative energy state. Also,
People learn by doing
Restricting side projects to a “hobby” – i.e. you can’t test out market viability, means that your best people can’t test and calibrate their impact. Such policies are disempowering and kill entrepreneurial drive. This is a problem if you want to retain “impactors” – a term I lifted from Jenny Blake’s book NYT best-selling book, “Pivot.”
Off the top of my head some benefits for allowing employees to engage in side-gigs
- Potential cross-pollination of ideas – across industries
- Empowering under-represented groups to understand their impact
- Helps employees mitigate financial risk
- Encourages employees to think like an owner
- Mitigate “boredom” and develops new skills
- Encourages external networking
- Allows impactors to “test” out ideas without the constraint of firm oversight or approval
Lastly, and most obviously, side gigs are rapidly becoming the new norm. According to Upwork, it’s estimated that 50% of millennials are engaged in the gig economy and that number is only expected to grow. I suspect that the most prestigious firms will find that side-gig restrictions will hurt their ability to attract and retain top talent.
Interested in understanding how side-gig can factor into your career habit?
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Blind-sided, crushed, devastated, hurt, frustrated, confused, that’s how folks have described the feeling of an unexpected negative annual review.
Communicate like an adult
Long before I became a consultant I came up with the fundamental rule with roommates. “If you don’t tell me something’s wrong – you can’t be annoyed.” It’s a solid rule that has held up in multiple aspects of life and is increasingly important for the relationship economy. I had learned the hard way that if you don’t establish clear expectations, i.e. no dishes in the sink, no borrowing my shoes, no cheese fondue parties chaos reign and issues build up that ultimately wreck your friendship, sexiest coral pumps, and sweet pad.
Mary Rose McCaffrey, Vice President of Security at Northrup Grumman did not hold back in her keynote address to McLean High School Women Leaders. In this age of #metoo, she reminded the young women assembled that there are still be plenty of men who will block you and tell you women can’t do the work. Her advice?
“Smile and do it anyway.”
Taking questions from the audience, her gaze alighted on one impossibly slender hand thrust up from the crowd.
We all have stories.
Her solution? Document it. She kept track of ever occurrence for well over a month. When she had more than enough examples she went to his boss with her evidence.
Long story short, he was removed from that position and she took over as director. I’d like to report,
The crowd went wild.
Well as wild as a bunch of high school girls on their best behavior can be. It was the sort of encouraging Lean-In kind of story that women need to hear to take on the world.
Still, I was uneasy, sitting there with over twenty years of work experience, the story made me pause. Frankly, I resent the need for CYA maneuvers. I admire Mary Rose McCaffrey, her poise, her stoicism and her strength. I don’t think I could have done what she did. The truth of the matter is,
I wouldn’t want to.
I’ve been in similar situations and have not handled them with such grace. By the time I realized just how biased and messed up the situation was, I didn’t feel like it was worth my effort to document it all. During the networking fair that followed the speech, I mentioned my response to another mentor. She reminded me,
- Objective Power. She had enough perspective and “power” to recognize that her director was gaslighting her. Too often as junior members of a team, without explicit power, we’ll defer to authority – and conflate objective truth with subjective difference. That got me thinking about where her power comes from.
- She was married. Clearly, she is extremely talented, but it also helps that she is married. As women put off marriage fvariousous reasons is important to consider what impact this will have on mobility. I remember a 2002 Women in Management leadership panel I attended right before business school, specially that 5 out of 6 of the women panelists were married. All of those that were married credited their success, at least in part, to having a supportive spouse. As a single woman this struck as kind of scary – truth be told it still does.
- She was committed. She wanted to be where she was, which speaks to her grit, but also that she had some agency. She was fortunate to have selected a field which was aligned with her strengths. All of which combined to make it more likely that she would put up a fight. Unfortunately, I see too many under-employed folks getting stuck, depressed, and disengaging.
- Luck. Finally, there is some modicum of luck having a supportive male leadership. All of which was helped on by her talent, her reputation and frankly her stoicism, which is typically a male style of leadership.
Women need to cultivate their personal power on their terms.
Career advice is not one size fits all.
Things got a little spicy at last week’s panel discussion on “Imposter Syndrome (IS).” This was not entirely unexpected – as Robert Dempsey explained in his intro, he’d purposely put together a diverse mix of forthright folks who weren’t afraid “to go there.” With that kind of permission, how could we not? All four panelists, myself included, are upwardly and have experienced feeling “outside” the norm – be that by gender, economically or culturally.
The inmates are running the asylum
How this plays out in the workplace
Some of my takeaways from the panel
- Imposter syndrome often makes you feel like you are alone, or isolated. One counter to IS is to actively seek out and actively cultivate and maintain a trusted tribe, who can give you the right kind of feedback.
- IS seems to affect innovators and folks creating their own path — with that in mind one can consider it to be a part of the process.
- IS also seems to affect those who are humble and possess a modicum of humility — as a coach or a manager, it should be considered a GOOD sign of an intellect that is confident enough to question themselves.