SOUND BITES FROM THE WISDOM OF VERY SUCCESSFUL WOMEN LAWYERS
A panel of senior (in status) Boomer and Gen X law firm partners and corporate counsel imparted, with both wisdom and humor how they mastered their career trajectories at the Women in Law Empowerment Forum’s (WILEF East) March 19, 2014 program. The women, in several cases, described how their careers evolved in surprising ways, sometimes the opposite of what they thought they wanted until they gave it a shot.
Here is a collection of sound bites (not necessarily in their exact words) from the discussion that I found both appealing and valuable for the lawyers in the audience and even beyond the legal profession/industry.
Opportunity favors the prepared.
Listen for your boss’ priorities.
Have your boss’ back so he/she can trust you.
Propose solutions; don’t just do the rote thing with an assignment.
Be your authentic self and try to assure that everyone perceives you the same way.
Never say “never.”
Don’t consider what you at first perceive as failures to be failures.
Don’t cover up mistakes. Own up to them and immediately suggest a solution.
Show you are constantly thinking beyond what is required.
Never confess (especially to a man) what you don’t know. Go find it out.
Always look for both mentors and for opportunities to mentor others.
Wisdom only comes from an accumulation of experiences.
On the theme of POWER:
People give up power by thinking they don’t have any
Men define power as control. Women define power as influence.
Assert yourself from the beginning when you negotiate compensation.
People perceive power from symbols
Project a sense of self-respect to be perceived as powerful.
Power is when people more experienced than you respond and do work for you.
Act confident and you will attain power.
Which ones resonate with you, whether you are a lawyer or not, a woman or not? Share your thoughts in comments here.
HAS THE MISSING PIECE ELUDED YOU? – Find the Inter-Generational Solution
Generational differences in attitudes inform and influence attitudes and behaviors toward all the other types of diversity and individuals’ worldviews. They are integral, “joined at the hip,” so to speak.
If you are approaching attracting and retaining clients of different generations all the same way
If you are approaching attracting and retaining employees of different generations all the same way
If you are pitching your fundraising, member drives and engaging alumni of different generations all the same way
If you think the members of multi-generational teams all have similar wants and expectations
If knowledge transfer among generations has more speed bumps than fast lanes
then you are missing the piece that makes the ultimate difference to your long-term success rate.
Most firms treat different types of diversity as separate silos and approach their programs as if one solution fits all and will make the crucial emotional connection that is necessary for attitude and behavior change and cultural transformation.
In the last several years, many organizations have realized that something different is going on and not going away, and their personnel need to learn about generational differences. Usually they bring in a speaker (sometimes that’s me) for an hour or so to explain the basics– and then check off the box that they addressed the issues.
It’s a good first step…but for real change to occur deepening understanding, repetition and practice is necessary. Savvy organizations are undertaking yearlong or longer initiatives and community building to address inter-generational challenges locally or globally, as relevant. That type of dedicated effort will earn them an advantage in recruiting and retaining both engaged employees and loyal clients/customers.
IBM and American Express have realized how central inter-generational initiatives are to productivity in their core businesses. IBM is leveraging learning resources and building employee communities in person and online in many countries to strengthen collaboration. With surveys and other means, IBM is assessing what different generations need and is providing recommendations to business units globally on attracting, developing and retaining talent of different generations. American Express, realizing that its shift in business strategy away from travel to financial services and other technology-oriented businesses required younger demographics, also has been focusing on inter-generational challenges.
Educational institutions are getting sensitive to the large demographic changes as at least a third of their faculty and administrative staff heads toward retirement age. For example, Cornell University’s Alumni Affairs & Development department, having done some generational programming in the past, is starting on a yearlong generational focus as one of its diversity initiatives required of all colleges and administrative units by the University.
Some of the strategies to include in your cross-generational diversity initiatives are:
Small facilitated group discussions
Educational materials and interactive courses appropriate to different markets
Mutual and reverse mentoring and mentoring circles
Significant roles for senior management as advocates and participants
Knowledge transfer and succession strategies
As firms, other organizations and institutions develop affinity or employee resource groups (ERGs) or business resource groups (BRGs) and other internal and cross-cultural communities, they need to be sure to cross-pollinate them. Just as gender diversity groups focused on furthering women’s careers and as leaders greatly benefit from bringing men into the conversation, diversity and inclusion initiatives for each specific focus need to bring all the generations into the conversation. Cross-generational conversations will facilitate understanding of all the views and attitudes that must be part of the solution and the pursuit of harmonious change.
Instead of “siloing,” make the cross-generational perspective the foundation piece.
Please comment and share your thoughts. Do you see this as a business imperative?
TIPS FOR GEN Y MANAGERS WITH AN OLDER TEAM – Part Two
Part two follows a previous post about stories of some CEOs who were faced with the upside down reporting relationships early in their careers and happened upon a formula that became one of the pillars of their considerable business success.
In anticipation of the younger manager/older staff challenges, over the last five years I have written articles, done videos and webinars and conducted workshops and delivered talks on this topic as a component of professionalism, succession planning and cross-generational conversation.
Here are 7 more learnings we can take away from the two young manager success stories:
Senior managers were willing to take risks on these young new managers and thought they could do the job.
“Sink or swim” is a tough initiation for a leader or manager but a great learning experience and can build confidence and resilience.
Include. Don’t try to boss.
Build relationships through inclusion.
You aren’t expected to have all the answers. It’s better not to think you know better or you know everything.
Be confident enough to show some vulnerability. People will help you.
Respect breeds mutual respect.
Reminder to the older members of the team who might feel discomfort:
Keep focused on the common objective and the external or internal client or customer.
Collaboration will benefit all long-term.
Your mentoring and coaching can also be your reward.
What if they all stayed – those 52% of all full-time U.S.
workers who said in a new Gallup poll that they are not involved, enthusiastic
or committed to their work? And worse, the 18% who are actively disengaged?
What if they conveyed their attitude to customers/clients? What if their
frustrations caused by differences with managers and work colleagues of
different generations meant they had checked out mentally or even undermined
their colleagues’ and team’s work?
Obviously that’s bad for morale, but what does it cost?
Gallup estimates that due to declines in quality control, lost productivity,
turnover and high absenteeism, actively unhappy workers cost the U.S. $450
billion to $550 billion a year. Those are difficult numbers to relate to, but
each organization with disengaged workers is likely to be leaving a substantial
chunk of change on the table.
The Gallup stats indicate that women, managers and new hires
record higher levels of engagement than other segments of the workforce.
Company and team size looks to be one of the best predictors of engagement.
Small firms and teams of fewer than 10 people report the most engagement. (Note:
Other studies have come to different conclusions about who is more engaged.)
Though age diversity tension factors were not studied in
this poll, we’ve observed that inter-generational dynamics are a significant
factor too. Differences in attitudes by generation - how one approaches work,
demeanor, communication styles and media, perceived work ethic, definitions of
teamwork and work-life flexibility - can and do reduce engagement and productivity in many
organizations if not diagnosed and addresse
In fact many polls and studies confirm that generational
influences underlie and inform attitudes and opinions on other aspects of
diversity and cultural conflict. Organizations
and managers who recognize that, surface the tensions and gaps and adapt workforce
friendly methods that facilitate cross-generational conversation and
collaboration can emerge as the frontrunners for talent recruitment and
retention and great customer relations.
Wouldn’t you want yours to be one of them? Please comment.
What do we lose by continually cramming more data into our
brains? Most of us are doing that these days, and perhaps Gen Y/Millennials
most of all since it is a hallmark of their education.
Let’s look at the contrarian view: How we gain by
Matthew E. May, author of “The
Law of Subtraction: 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess
Everything,” quoted the teaching of 2,500 year old Chinese philosophy Lao Tsu.
“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, subtract things
every day. Profit comes from what is there, usefulness from what is not there.”
In support Mays quoted management guru and author Jim
Collins: “It is in the discipline to discard what does not fit – to cut out
what might have already cost days or even years of effort – that distinguishes
the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a
symphony, a novel, a painting, a company or, most important of all, a life.”
Mays’ advice as given in the New York TimesPreoccupations column (1/20/13) in a
nutshell is to:
Create a prioritized list of your goals and your
projects and tasks.
Create a “to do” list referring to the first
list and eliminate the bottom 20% of the items entirely – he says forwever.
Ask all the stakeholders in your life
that matter to you what they would like you to stop doing.
Mays says when you remove the right things in the right way
“good things happen.”
To really simplify and achieve this you need the
stakeholders’ perspective. It’s best not to rely only on your own assumptions.
It’s hard for us to let go of ideas, “bright shiny objects” that distract us ,and
no longer useful to us activities and involvements. I confess to being guilty
of that hardship.
Does this approach feel like a relief or threat to you? Please comment and also share your
experiences with trying to subtract from your work and life.
Many CEOS and coaches give their definitions of leadership,
and there are many similarities. I pass on this one from the Corner Office column in the New York
Times Sunday Business section (1/6/13) from an interview with G. J. Hart, CEO
and president of California Pizza Kitchen.
Be the best you can be, including honest about
your good and bad qualities and things to improve.
Dream big. Stretch or you don’t get started,
even if you never get there, it’s a motivation.
Lead with your heart first, showing your
Trust the people you lead. Let go when
appropriate. Allow others to grow. Leaders pick people back up if they fall
Do the right thing, always, including giving a
second chance to people you believe in.
Serve the people you lead. Put the cause before
yourself, and be willing to see it through.
Hart says #4 is often the hardest for young people. It takes
time to build confidence in yourself and get over the insecurity that may come
from lack of experience as a manager or leader.
What do you think of these steps or principles? Do they
resonate with you? What would you add or subtract?
Whatever generation you belong to, whatever stage of your business as a trusted advisor, you are more likely to encounter inter-generational challenges than ever in the past. That’s because external forces and formative influences have resulted in greater differences in how the generations view money, lifestyle, investing, philanthropy and relationships.
Money may not be the root of all evil, but it often leads to the primal “fight or flight” response.
Talks about money are often the hardest discussions among work colleagues, family members, friends and even in instances of our own self-talk. It’s an emotional thing tied up with perceptions of our self-worth or somebody else’s. For some people money is more important as a scorecard than the actual value of what they can do with the money. In families it’s tied to how much one is loved compared with others
So it’s easy to see why money talks are avoided, even before taking such huge steps as marriage, living together and having children. Yet it’s been documented that relationships turn out happier when money conversations do take place before major decisions.
As I work with financial services professionals, I witness the tensions that can occur over money. Advisors often find it difficult to get their clients to talk with family members or business associates about money in order to do estate planning and decide how they would like to donate money philanthropically. And advisor teams may have their own money conflicts when they neglect to discuss in advance their attitudes, expectations, transitioning and exit strategies.
So, yes, money discussions can be volatile, but it’s worse to avoid them. Instead:
* Establish a shared language about money.
* Identify and avoid “trigger words.”
* Understand what key words connote for each party.
* Identify and be aware of your own “trigger words.”
This last point may be the most important for anyone trying to facilitate the discussion, whether among clients or family.
2012 MARKETPLACE IS PREDATORS' PARADISE: BTI'S ADVICE
I recently attended a webinar by The BTI Consulting Group, Inc. providing an overview of corporate counsel survey results and advice for law firms desiring to compete favorably in what was called a “predators’ paradise” in the marketplace for services. In my opinion, the advice is relevant beyond the legal arena to any professional service or actually any business with which needs a strong client focus. So I offer this brief recap of salient points to my readers. (For more details, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.) It is important information for members of any generation aspiring to attract and retain clients in the “new normal” economy.
High client satisfaction rates are crucial to defending against predator competition.
The more fronts (practice or service areas) on which you can penetrate and serve the client, the more likely you are to keep the business.
You must be strongly aligned with clients” marketplace objectives, thinking like them. Situation specific approaches garner higher fees.
Start with identifying marketplace needs and work backwards to determine and develop what you will offer, with flexibility. The aim is to provide individual clients with semi-customized services and delivery, that is, customizing for each from processes and templates in place.
Rapid change in external factors means processes and approaches may have to change every 18 months. Firms that are static in their mindsets and offerings will only get commodity work, which pays on the lower end.
Focus is critical. Have 5 or fewer strategic objectives in a 12-month period.
Actively and specifically respond and anticipate clients’ changing needs and priorities.
What clients said was most difficult to find is “commitment to help them” rather than focus on the service provider’s needs.
The second most important goal for clients is to have providers who give the best value for the dollar. So they are looking for more value for less cost.
BTI’S ADVICE ON HOW TO THRIVE IN A PREDATORS’ PARADISE.
MAKING THE MOST OF UPSIDE-DOWN REPORTING RELATIONSHIPS - Part 2
In the previous post I provided guidelines for the more senior in age team member who is assigned to work for a younger supervisor. Sometimes this happens after a long career, possibly including leadership positions. The demographics of the current and future workplace are resulting in some unconventional structures. The younger manager, though ostensibly in charge, may feel as awkward as the older colleague. Even if not feeling insecure in the role, there are things the younger manager can do to foster a harmonious and productive relationship.
Here’s some advice to promote trust and cooperation.
Keep in mind the purpose of your work. What are the common goals for team members?
Show respect for experience. (Some day you will be the experienced, older person.)
Ask for advice, even if you think you know what the best approach is. Invite input and listen.
Build allies among the older generations on your team for advice and support.
Surmount “just a kid” perceptions through your performance and involving others. Use your collaborative skills and don’t make a show of coveting praise and credit.
Get your older team members what they need to do their jobs well – resources, approvals, etc. (That will help them make you look good.)
Give seasoned team members freedom, but establish boundaries and communications requirements upfront.
Identify what motivates each individual and what type of recognition is meaningful to each.
Give appropriate credit to others and arrange for their recognition.
A solid and harmonious relationship with older colleagues will pay off in spades for building your career, access to their (often high-powered) networks, and organizational success. Demographics indicate that this is the wave of the future.
MAKING THE MOST OF UPSIDE-DOWN REPORTING RELATIONSHIPS
One workplace reporting relationship that used to be fairly rare is older workers reporting to younger managers. This is a growing phenomenon and will become more prevalent until the younger Boomers stop working in any form. As Boomers transition from leader and top expert roles to new roles that allow the next generations to move up the ladder, we will see what traditionally have been unconventional structures.
Though some people deal with it well, in many cases at best it is awkward, at least at first. At worst, it has led to a lawsuit. But serious tensions and confrontations can be avoided.
Both the younger and the older parties to the relationship can feel uncomfortable. A new young manager may feel insecure and even intimidated. An older team member can be unsure of how to react as well. Having worked extensively with all the generations, I will offer some tips in a 2-part blog post.
In this first piece, here are some guidelines for the older subordinate.
Establish common goals. Focus on the purpose of your work.
Be open to new ideas and methods. Don’t obsess on differences in how you were taught, what always has served you as the best method, or whether the manager has preconceived notions about how you think and operate.
Be generous about giving advice – when asked. Create a non-threatening environment so you will be asked. Don’t be pedantic about advice and unsolicited opinions.
Seek out younger co-workers, and learn from them in a mentoring partnership.
Find opportunities to disprove myths and perceptions of older workers.
Be appreciative of how your young manager gives you support and provides tools to allow you to achieve top results.
Be clear about preferred communication styles and media and about appropriate boundaries.
Identify the younger manager’s motivations.
Be appreciative of recognition you are given, and reciprocate.
These tips will help start the relationship off on an even keel and minimize expending of negative emotional energy.
Next up: what the younger manager can do to build a collaborative and non-threatening environment.