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WHAT’S THE BEST REASON FOR FLEXIBILITY?

If you’d like more flexibility for all generations in work arrangements and the criteria for how work is evaluated, raise your hand.  OK – I see you out there.

A recent national survey of 1,000 employers by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Families and Work Institute found that while progress is being made in flexibility, facetime still counts for a lot in internal dynamics and perceptions of productivity.

The study found that organizations offer flexibility arrangements motivated by a variety of reasons:

  • 35% for employee retention
  • 14% for recruitment
  • 12% to increase productivity
  • 11% because “it’s the right thing to do”
  • 10% to support worker morale and job satisfaction.

In your opinion, what’s the best reason?

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.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot            www.pdcounsel.com

ACROSS GENERATIONS, LEADERS LACK INTERACTION SKILLS AND BEHAVIORS

A recent DDI study, Driving Workplace Performance through High-Quality Conversations, found both front-line and senior leaders lack fundamental interaction skills and behaviors required to be effective leaders. The study report concludes that what’s missing “is the ability to facilitate effective conversations, something that should be mastered by every business leader as part of a core set of interaction skills in order to build relationships and get work done.” This is at least as true of senior leaders as those with less experience according to the study.

The need to learn the skill of conversation is a challenge to the fast-paced, just get it done, data-driven world we are living in. Even some technology thought leaders are sounding the alarm. We have been champions of cross-generational conversation as necessary for business productivity and profitability since it is essential for knowledge transfer, attracting and retaining both clients and employees and enabling work teams to achieve high performance.

 Organizations need to recognize that the skill of conversation is not typically part of business education, and they must require or provide training, especially as all generations increasingly communicate electronically and often neglect context.

 Please comment and share information on any organizations you know are providing this training in-house. If you would like to learn about Cross-Generational Conversation Day, contact us (pwhaserot@pdcounsel.com).

 Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

COUNTERPOINT: “ HOW A YOUNG BOSS SURVIVES ABUSIVE SENIOR EMPLOYEES”

A few months ago, Next Avenue (published by PBS) asked me to write an article ( “How to Survive a Young, Abusive Boss:) on what to do if you are working for an abusive younger boss. After he read the article, I received the following email from a Millennial/Gen Y boss, and I want to share his experience at the opposite end. His story is below, directly quoted from his email.

Hi Phyllis,

 What an amazing article I just had to stop and read it even though I am slammed with work. Your article somehow represent my case but the opposite.

I am a young professional employee for a Spanish media company by the name of Newspan Media Corp. www.newspan.com. I have been working with them since I was 16, now 28. I have held many positions with the company moving up. I was promoted to a Vice President position last August and since then I faced many difficulties with the senior employees. What I have noticed is time stopped at the company back in 2004-2005 when internet stormed the media. There has been no new ideas, no new innovations and company was on the edge of bankruptcy. When I was appointed to be the VP I wanted to make all the changes necessary to catch up with the social media and transform the company to digital. I think we are a little late but it is never too late to get up and start prospering again.

By implementing changes I forgot that most of the employees have been with the company since the 80-90s and not knowledgeable with the new programs. I did not want to let go of employees and hire new blood because honestly senior employees taught me a lot through the years I have been working for this company and were family to me. I began offering them classes to learn the MAC and other software but I found it hard for them to take me seriously and attend the classes at promptly time.

I called on a meeting and informed them that Newspan Media is my full responsibility and my vision to take this company to a different level is possible. I laid out to them my goals for the end of the year. As of April this year things have not been moving as fast as I scheduled and the headache of them not taking me seriously continued.

I had to come to a conclusion and hire new graduates that are well knowledgeable of the these days media. I could not afford to keep paying those huge salaries to the old employees. I did an evaluation of the company, I interviewed every single employee and questioned their daily activity. After a long week of headaches. I had to fire 13 senior employees that could not accept the fact that I am their manager. I gave them the chance to better themselves and take the company to a different level but they could not accept the fact that Ziad the maintenance kid is our boss now.

After the action was taken, now everyone at the office obeys all the orders I give them. I have hired 22 new graduates that are doing an amazing job. The company is moving forward and our 3rd quarter is looking amazing. I just wish if they worked with me instead of working against me. They made my life so stressful for a while and now they don’t have jobs.

I hope you write an article based on above and name it “ How a Young Boss Survives Abusive Senior Employees” I hope you enjoy my story as much as I enjoyed yours.

Ziad Taha  

TOO MUCH REALITY? HOW IS THIS HELPFUL?

I admit to avoiding most reality TV shows. (Once in a while my entrepreneurial spirit lures me to “Shark Tank.”) And don’t get me started on how increasingly so much of life is portrayed on the level of a high school popularity contest. But last week a new reality show hit new depths of destructive behavior - “Does Someone Have to Go?” (Thursdays on Fox).

Seemingly part docuseries and part game show format It takes place at various actual small companies where the bosses transfer authority to the workers – who might like that power for a short while. However it soon turns both ugly and heart-rending since the object is to call out their colleagues for pay cuts, demotions and terminations – to lose their jobs for real!

The first episode takes place in a family-owned business where several of the 70 employees are related to the founder, including her husband (the chief executive) her mother (the accountant), her brother and 2 cousins. After reading the NY Times TV review (by Jon Caramanica), I was strangely curious to watch the first episode, and now I’m done with it. The tensions and arguments build along with creeping fear for everyone. Pettiness, misinformation, personal feelings, tensions around age and race – it’s all there dragged out in the open by the bosses remotely broadcast instructions on video to the group called repeatedly to the conference room.

While the seemingly sadistic bosses and TV executives say that no one was forced to participate, a significant number of employees at various levels did, whether from ego, narcissism or fear of declining. While I am not going to watch the conclusion of the first company’s experience, it is pretty clear the outcome will not be happily ever after. As the Times reviewer put it, they “run the risk of conflict, humiliation, and possibly, unemployment…to say nothing of whatever long-term internal damage is done to the company for choosing to unearth all its buried tensions in such a public arena.”

How does one justify this – at any time and particularly when jobs are hard to come by? Can you imagine this sort of exercise achieving an increase in engagement, productivity and morale? Please comment and share your thoughts.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

THOUGHTS FROM "WALL STREET'S HONEST MAN" (so dubbed by Forbes)

Yesterday I attended an interview style talk with JAY  S. FISHMAN, Chairman and CEO of The Travelers Companies, Inc., at Baruch College's annual program named for prominent alum Burton Kosoff and set up by his wife, Phyllis. Fishman was notably straightforward, authentic, down-to-earth - and interesting. Here are some nuggets  for all four of the generations attending and beyond.

  • “No one plans to go into insurance. I just wanted to pay the rent on my apartment.”
  • “Life is always two ways.”
  • “Sandy Weill (one of his mentors and bosses) was unbelievable about asking everyone ‘What do you think?’ He understood collaboration.”
  • About experience: You need touch points and instincts to have the capacity to be accountable in an organization. This is separate from intellectual capacity. (slightly paraphrased)
  • “As a leader, be careful what you ask people to do. They will try ther best to do that. You might not like how they do it.” (i.e., what they do to accomplish what you ask them to do)
  • Fishman worries about our being a generation of “here and now,” wanting the newest thing all the time. Not saving.
  • People need to be involved and engaged, not just contributing to charitable giving.
  • In response to the question: What is the best mentoring role we can play? “Honest feedback is a gem.”

 

EXCUSES TO AVOID SUCCESSION PLANNING

It’s not a secret that the majority of organizations are not doing succession planning and certainly not doing it below the highest levels though they give a lot of lip service as to how important it is. Many of those that do some sort of succession planning hold the process and the chosen successors close to the vest.

Why do organizations closely guard their succession plans? Several surveys cited in an article on Human Resources Executive Online indicate that the reasons are often based on internal forces as much as external ones.

So the reasoning behind the lack of succession planning is complicated. An article from HRE Online discusses a variety of rationales, including lack of transparency. These exist in companies of all sizes and at all levels, not just the C-Suite. The “secrecy” may be attributed to:

  • Business competition and not wanting external competitors to know their plans.
  • There may not be an actual succession plan.
  • They fear those not on the list of candidates may become disengaged and disgruntled.
  • Fear that another division in the company may poach the designated successor for its team.
  • Circumstances may change affecting strategy and who is best to implement it.
  • Top leaders may want to retain the flexibility to change the list of candidates.

Organizations grapple with not only whether or not to make the process transparent, but also if they should let the high potential candidates know they are being considered. The risk of telling them is they may get to feel entitled and others may feel disenfranchised and that they are not getting development attention. Whether or not the candidates are told of their status, the criteria for choosing successors should be specific, performance-based and widely communicated throughout the organization.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot     www.pdcounsel.com

 

BETTING ON THE UNKNOWN. HOPING POTENTIAL ACHIEVES GREATNESS?

Good news for the younger generation? Does this explain high salaries large firms pay to inexperienced law school grads?

As reported by the Wall Street Journal (7.25.12) a study by Stanford and Harvard scholars that consisted of 8 experiments with people in a wide variety of settings found they get more excited about individuals with promise and potential than they do about those with an actual proven performance record. Further, people are more willing to hire and pay more for the individuals with high potential.

The researchers could only speculate as to why this is so, but the findings were consistent.

Is uncertainty more appealing, the gamble that the high potential individual will achieve greatness? What do you think?

 

NEXT GENERATION LEADERSHIP - NAME THE STARS?

Should firms tell people they are “high potentials”? Most don’t. 

A recent report (October 2011) from Towers Watson found just 68% of 316 surveyed North American companies identify their high potential employees, but only 26% actually tell them they have been so designated.

Wouldn't letting them know be apt to inspire and motivate potentially star performers? The biggest fear is that labeling “high potentials” will alienate people who are not. Or it might create expectations the company cannot ultimately fulfill.

What do you think: to tell or not to tell? Please share your thoughts and comnents.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot     www.pdcounsel.com 

 

DO MERITOCRACY POLICIES WORK?

Sloan School of Management at MIT researchers found in The Paradox of Meritocracy in Organizations study that using a policy of meritocracy might do the opposite of expected results and result in management bias and disparate treatment for women and minorities.

Conventional wisdom suggests that if people perform better than others, they should be rewarded better. Instead, when study participants in what they believed was a meritocracy based company evaluated employees, they gave men an average of $50 more in bonuses than women in a study experiment. Further, women participants were as likely as men to discriminate against women according to the research reported in Human Resources Executive magazine (9/2/11). There was no evidence of bias when meritocracy was not mentioned. The study was co-authored by Emilio J. Castilla, an MIT/Sloan associate professor and Stephen Benard, an assistant professor at Indiana University. Castilla says the unequal treatment that he found in meritocracies could extend to minorities as well.

Despite the results of his survey, Castilla says that businesses should continue meritocracy -- after all, when it's implemented correctly, it's effective. "Although our findings identify the potential side effects of certain meritocratic conditions," he says, "businesses shouldn't abandon efforts to promote workplace fairness and equality [based on merit]."

How can managers avoid being too subjective in their evaluation decisions? Will using hard numbers solve the problem? Will hard numbers present the complete picture of factors that need to be evaluated? In addition to training for managers, giving a voice to employees being evaluated should help to bridge the gap and lead to better results. Please share your thoughts.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com   

 

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