Friday, January 27, 2012

Women in Business: Are They Holding the Line?

English: Meg WhitmanImage via Wikipedia

After reading Jenna Goudreau’s recent post on Power Women 2011: The Year’s Winners and Losers, I felt (in one word) – sad.

I could add a few more adjectives to the list – deflated, overpowered, and worried. For years I have been watching and waiting for strong women to break through the line – and many have. There is no question that there more women are taking on leadership roles than they did when I joined Corporate America more than thirty years ago (and all of the managers in my area were male). There is no question that more women are working their way up to middle management and senior management roles. There is no question that there are more women in the room (and it’s no longer normal to be the only woman in the room).

And yes, there were some big wins for women leaders in 2011, including IBM’s Ginni Rometty, the first female leader of the tech giant, and HP’s Meg Whitman, her second CEO role.

So why, then, am I concerned?

Just like women at all stages of their careers have done over and over again for decades, 2011 saw strong women dropping out of the game. For some the decision was their own, including Avon’s Andrea Jung, yet others, including Yahoo’s Carol Bartz, were reportedly forced out. Meredith Viera left the Today Show saying she wanted to spend more time with her family – an echo we hear far more frequently from women than their male colleagues.

Nearly thirty years ago when I was seeking my first management appointment, I interviewed with a woman – the only female second line manager I had visibility to at that time, and one of very few across the company. She shared with me that she felt – as a woman – that she had a responsibility to go as far as she could in the company, to pave the way for all of the women who will come after her.

It is certainly progress that women in business today can step back and make the decision that feels right for them. Yet, without the women at the top layers continuing to charge forward, will future generations be stalled? What do you think?

Friday, January 20, 2012

What To Do When You’ve Got Nothing To Say

Meetings are sometimes held around conference ...Image via WikipediaYou’re in a meeting. Your boss turns to you to ask for your opinion on a topic you should know something about, and you have absolutely nothing to say.

After a long day of meetings the host goes around the room asking for final thoughts, and you’re coming up blank.

Or maybe it’s an e-mail you need to respond to, and you are expected to have something to contribute.

It happens. Sometimes you’ve just got nothing.

That’s how I felt this week about my weekly blog post. It was Wednesday afternoon and I still had no idea what to write about. I had nothing. And then I realized – having nothing is something we should talk about. After all, we’re expected to have an opinion. We’re expected to contribute. I’ve never seen anyone get ahead by not having anything to say.

So what should you do when you are coming up blank?

1. Start talking. Now, I will caution you, this doesn’t work for everyone (and you know who you are). I’m not talking about babbling, or meaningless chatter. But there are those who rise to the occasion once they start talking (and you know who you are).

2. Agree (or disagree) with what someone else said.
This is also an opener to start talking. Once you put it out there, the idea will form.

3. If appropriate, ask if you can take time to think about it
– but don’t take too long. Respond later the same day, if you can.

4. Start writing. If it’s an e-mail you need to respond, just start writing. There is no penalty for having a lousy opinion on paper until it’s sent. Once you start writing, chances are the answer will come. Just be sure to edit before you hit send.

5. Start with the conclusion.
If you know how to end your point – start there, then back into the why, how, and other supporting points.

6. Prepare in advance. You’ve seen people employ this strategy. There is always someone in the room that has a question to ask or a point to make – no matter what. It’s not necessary to do this all the time, but you don’t want to come up short when you’re the subject matter expert.

7. Compliment the team.
This works extremely well in a group meeting or work session. If you’re asked for a thought or opinion, and you are happy with what’s been done and said so far, play the teamwork card, and thank the group or specific individuals. Everyone likes a team player.

What are your suggestions for what to do when you’ve got nothing?
What has worked for you?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Nobody Likes to Fire People

DES MOINES, IA - NOVEMBER 23:   Republican pre...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeRecently, Mitt Romney has been quoted as saying, “I like being able to fire people.” Left out of context that statement sure sounds like Romney wants to cut jobs, hurt the workers, and keep the economy stalled. But the statement is taken out of context.

Romney actually said, “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” Specifically, he was talking about insurance companies that aren’t providing enough value. In essence, he was making a statement about free enterprise. Romney was making a statement about merits, quality, value, and every individual’s right to choose the insurance that is right for them. It was a statement against bureaucracy and large government (and yes, despite having been accused of flip-flopping on issues, consistent with what appears to be his emerging platform).

I think most of us would agree that if we hire someone to mow the lawn and they do a lousy job that we would find a new lawn service. If we go to a doctor that we’re not happy with, we move on.

As much as Romney can appear cool at times, I don’t believe he likes to fire people. Nobody likes to fire people. What he, and nearly every manager who has worked at a large corporation will tell you is that sometimes people need to be fired. Whether that’s to address an unaffordable business model or a performance issue, sometimes it simply needs to be done.

Does that mean that Romney is against job creation or that he wants to hurt the middle class worker? If he is truly an entrepreneur (as he describes himself) – then at his core, creating jobs is what he does.

Will Romney downsize the government? And will jobs be lost as he does so? If he sticks to his current message, then yes, that will surely happen. But he also says that he is planning to reduce the tax on corporations, keep private sector jobs from moving overseas, and encourage those companies to create more jobs. And if he does so, that will be good for the economy and for jobs. That’s a message I want to hear.

Will Romney stick to that message and follow through once he’s in office? What do you think?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Google+, Plus or Minus?

English: This is one of the huge welcoming sig...I think it’s fair to say that in the past three years we have seen a social media explosion:
  • You must be on Facebook to connect with family and friends, share photos, and stay in touch with classmates.
  • If you’re in business, a Facebook fan page is a must.
  • Blogs and micro-blogs (including Twitter) are the place to find and share information about topics you care about.
  • Anybody who is serious about a career is on Linked In.
And lately it seems that just about every group is building some kind of online community hub with forums, video, and even more information.

Whew! That’s a lot of information to absorb and respond to. Our online lives are already fragmented and time-constrained. And in 2011 there was a new kid in town, Google+.

Google used the same approach to launch it’s “plus” as it did with gmail, allowing only those who were invited to participate in the first round.
When I received my invitation, I was excited to join Google+. I set up my profile and found a few people to add to circles. Now, a few short months later, the thrill is gone. I don’t pay attention to +1’s. I have some people following me (a pure mystery, as I am not active there).

So why have I lost interest? I am simply out of bandwidth. For me, plus has become a minus.

There’s not an unlimited amount of online currency. We can each only absorb so much. And wooing users away from their existing online social structures is a much different game than switching a use from aol mail to gmail. Whether you have just 9 twitter followers or 900, or 9000, the group you have today is established where you are today.

What about you? Are you active on Google Plus?