Motivation

What Really Encourages (and Discourages) Learning

Are you leading in a way that encourages or discourages learning? How open are you (really) to learning?

Mindset by Carol DweckI went to an offsite meeting for WOMEN Unlimited recently and was given a book that was absolutely the right book at the right time for me.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. is not a new release so I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before. It is truly transformational.  And it’s based on research, which I find refreshing. There are a lot of books out there based on upon little more than anecdotes and sound bites but Professor Dweck’s is based on decades of research. Her conclusions provide such clarity, you’ll say “So that’s why…”

In short, her research shows that we develop a mindset that falls somewhere on a continuum from “growth” to “fixed” and the impact that has on our willingness to grow and achieve over the long term is incredible. As a leader, what impact do you think the willingness of your team members to grow has on your organization? On their careers? On you?

I highly recommend this book if you are interested in how you can get out of your own way, and others, and reignite that spark of learning required to achieve long-term success.

To get a taste of what’s in Professor Dweck’s book, here’s a presentation she gave at Stanford: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isHM1rEd3GE

Enjoy!

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More on the topic of introverts in business

I’ve posted before about introverts, particularly when it comes to networking, and have even recommended the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. But I had never watched her TED talk. I’m facilitating a session this week on Networking for Introverts, so have been thinking about it a lot again, and just watched her talk.

Today, instead of a how-to blog post, I just want to share this link to Susan Cain’s TED talk, for your consumption. Yes, I know it’s the lazy way out of a post. But I also think it’s a great reminder that we all have value, no matter our personality type. And, it discusses the important distinction between being introverted and being shy.

Understanding these distinctions, learning to value what is at my core, and also learning new skills and behaviors which enable me to be effective at (and enjoy!) interacting with many, many people are the reason I grew from a child who was afraid to raise her hand in class to a woman who speaks in public for a living.

We all have gifts to offer. Let’s not forget that about each other, or about ourselves.

You’re leading but does anyone want to follow?

An HR manager I know and respect shared an article with me recently and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. When I read 10 Ways Companies Drive Away Talent from Liz Ryan on Forbes.com I nearly yelled Yes, yes, yes! aloud.  It is truly a must-read article, so the link is included. She is so right about all the things companies do that not only fail to attract, but actively repel top talent, which frankly is really… well, sad. And frustrating.

How is it that the people who are supposed to know the most about attracting, motivating and retaining talent are doing such a poor to mediocre job on average? There are many reasons we’ve ended up going down this rabbit hole but the more important question is: as a leader, what obligation do you have to do something about it?

If you’ve accepted a leadership position in your company, you’ve agreed to be a steward of the success and well-being of that company. You’ve accepted the responsibility of speaking up when something’s not working.

  • Do you have chronically open positions which you have trouble finding the right candidates for, even though you know plenty of people with that skill set exist in the market?
  • Are you able to fill the positions as advertised, but can’t keep anyone in them long enough to get really good?
  • Do the best producers or employees with the best relationship with your clients leave at a higher rate than you’d like?

These are indicators that something is not working.  Often, that something has to do with treating human beings like non-human beings. When it comes to customers, we spend a lot of time figuring out how to capture their emotions and make it easy for them to buy from us (1-click anyone?) over and over and over again. Why do we think employees are any different?  The economic realities of the past few years have lulled us into a false sense of security, but as the tide turns, many companies will be caught flat-footed.

So, here’s what you can do: question how your talent is being attracted, rewarded, developed and treated overall, by you personally and by your company. Don’t accept “it’s just our policy” or “that’s just the process” for an answer. Find out why. There is a reason. Processes and policies are created with good intention. Most often it’s risk avoidance; sometimes it’s because that’s how “everyone” does it. But, did anybody weigh that against the cost of not being able to fill positions, of having poor producers stay and top producers leave, of having employees who once developed top quality products or loyal customer relationships give up and accept mediocre because they can’t fight the system anymore?  A bad system will foil a good worker every time. This isn’t news. Check out Deming’s Red Bead Experiment if you’ve never heard of it before.

If you want to be a leader good people will want to follow, look at their experience of finding you, joining you and staying with you, and work to make the experience one they would choose over and over and over again.

Words to live by in 2014

In my last post, I encouraged you to think about what would make 2014 great for you. I’ve been doing the same.

I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions; however, each year I identify an overall theme or idea I want to live by.  For the past few years it’s been: to be uncomfortable as much as possible. In other words, to constantly say “yes” to new things, to push myself, to make possibilities become realities. Because the more uncomfortable you are, the more you grow.

A year of adventures

Thank you Hawaiian Fire Surf School

And, it’s worked quite well. I’ve gotten my own business running on all cylinders, developed some wonderful clients, taught at my former college, become a public speaker of sorts, started a new networking group, traveled to several new places, learned to surf (barely), learned to play the piano (sort of), kayaked and went paddleboarding for the first time, started a creativity blog with some friends, made some goofy videos with said friends and a lot of other cool or (at least fun) stuff. It’s been great and I wouldn’t trade the last few years for the world.

But this year, I’m feeling the need to slow down, not just for the sake of slowing down, but to focus on creating quality. The things I’m doing, I want to do better. Each project or commitment, I want to look at more closely and ask, how can I do it better?

Make it Sparkle are my 2014 words to live by.  What are yours?

Envision an amazing 2014

These past few years, I’ve had quite a few “aha” moments. Those moments when I realized my dreams were coming true: from launching my own consulting practice, to teaching in the Master’s program from which I graduated, and now working with WOMEN Unlimited ten years after completing that wonderful program. In each case, it felt like serendipity, but the truth is, I had envisioned each of them and had taken steps along my path leading me toward them.

What about your path? What is ahead for you? And specifically, where will you be in 2014? The power of vision + action is incredible. So, take a few moments to ask yourself these questions:

What would make 2014 a truly amazing year for you? 

Take some time to think deeply about it. No one else can, or should, define this for you. Be open and honest with yourself. Admit those things that you are scared to wish for.

What are you doing to make that vision a reality?

What are you really doing? Not just thinking. While there are things you can’t control, they tend to work in your favor if you attend to those things you can control.

Who can help you?

We cannot be successful in a vacuum.  The good news is successful people tend to enjoy helping others become successful too. Who is doing what you’d like to do? How can you learn from them or get support from them?

Taking these last couple weeks of the year to rejoice, renew and reflect on your present and the path ahead can launch your success in the new year.

All the best in 2014!

What is a goal without a dream?

At this time of year, we are usually bombarded with well-meaning advice on how to improve our lives.  Usually this advice is along the line of sticking to our resolutions, making very tangible goals that can be measured and so on.  This kind of practical activity has its place in creating a better future for ourselves and I wholly endorse it. There’s just one drawback, and it’s a big one: often these goals are build upon foundations of “shoulds”.  Not what we want, but what society or our friends or our family tell us we ought to want.  And when we build our goals on foundations of shoulds, we have a mighty hard time sticking to them.  Our plans look like oceans before us and we have no wind in our sails.  We find ourselves in the same place the next year, declaring the same resolutions all over again.

Today, let me humbly suggest that you forget tangible goals just for a little while.  Instead: dream.  What does your gut say you would love, love, to do or achieve?  Maybe this year.  Maybe next year.  Maybe twenty years down the road.

Finish these sentences:

  • I’ve always wanted to: ______________________________________.
  • I wish I could:_____________________________________________.
  • Someday, what I’d really love to do is: __________________________.
  • The person whose job I really covet is: __________________________.

If your stomach doesn’t clench, you aren’t digging deep enough or thinking big enough.  Keep going until you hit that spot.  What I’m talking about here is in the context of work, but this can really apply to any area of your life.

Many of the big dreams I’ve had for myself professionally have come true in the past year or two.  And, although there are certainly small steps which I’ve taken along the way, without recognizing and honoring my dreams, I would never have taken these steps.  I would have stayed on another path.

Soon enough, you can create a solid plan with timelines and milestones and checkmarks.  But for now, dream.

Before you get on LinkedIn…

If you are completely new to LinkedIn, we must start at the beginning.  No, not with registering and creating a profile.  That is step two and three.   Creating an effective online presence starts before you actually get online. 

“Ohhh!  I just want to get started!”  I can hear you muttering at your screen.

I understand, but trust me when I say it will be well worth your while. 

First, when you create your profile, you will want to have certain information at your fingertips: past employers, titles, dates and education details at the very least.   If you have a resume, then you should have this information in one convenient place.  If you don’t, then pull the information together to have at your fingertips.  This is the easy part. 

Now for the harder part.  You need to understand that while your LinkedIn profile is informational, it is also a marketing piece.  And, like any good marketing piece, it must have a specific message about a well defined product with a specific target audience.   You are the product, of course.  To write compellingly about your product, you need to define a few things:

  • How would you want others to describe you professionally?  I don’t mean “he’s so nice” or “she’s a great gal”, but “she’s a great corporate finance gal with tons of M&A experience” or “he’s a real estate guy with amazing market knowledge”  (If you don’t think they would describe you that way now – you have some things to work on, but that is another post.)
  • What are you best at in your job?  What do you do better than others in your same role?
  • What achievements or experience are you most proud of?
  • What are the skills and competencies you most enjoy using?
  • Is there anything unique about your background that gives you an “edge” in the market?  

The skills and knowledge and competencies you identify here are those you will be using as you create your profile.  You are beginning to define your brand.  Doing this helps you really focus your content on that which is most relevant and helps distinguish you from your competition.  Without it, people often end up with the overexhaustive and boring “autobiography” of their professional life, or the completely generic, and therefore useless, list of job duties. 

If you’re going to do it right, do the “internal” work described here first.  The next step is registering and I’ll cover that in the next post.

Resolution check-in

So, how are you doing with your 2011 career resolutions?  Me?  Um, well…

Okay, I’m probably being a little hard on myself because I haven’t written much over the past couple weeks.  On the other hand, I’ve made progress on scheduling my time more efficiently.  Which is good, because I’ve been busy.  So keeping balance has been hard.  But I’ve been doing pretty well on connecting with people.  That brings us to two thumbs up and two thumbs down by my count. 

Now that I put it down in black and white, I feel a little better because I realize this is probably very reasonable.  We do not make steady, even progress every day, every week.  Growth and progress are made of fits and starts.  Taking a breath, and then moving forward again is the key.  Persistence = patience plus action.    And persistence is the key to success.   We’re a little over a month into the year.  If your efforts have been uneven, or perhaps trailed off altogether, now is the time to stop, take a breath, and then start again.

You care = I care

Wow!   I just looked at my site stats and my readership was up in December.  It’s great positive reinforcement – makes me excited to write more.  Don’t you find that you are more motivated to do more when you know people around you are interested in your work, care about it, even rely on it?  What a difference it makes — knowing someone is paying attention.  

My ‘revelation’ is nothing new, of course.   There have been studies over the years showing that the mere presence of an observer affects the way we work, typically by making us more productive.  This is commonly called the Hawthorne effect, so named based on studies of worker productivity in the 1920’s at a factory called Hawthorne Works.  They were actually studying the effect of different types of lighting, but ended up finding that even without changing the variable (light), workers were more productive simply because they were being observed. 

Why?  I think it is because we are inherently social creatures, and when we believe someone cares, it makes us care more.  Think about this in your worklife.  Want more out of your team?  Pay attention to them!  Now, I’m sure there is an upper limit on this.  I don’t know of any studies on how too much attention dampens productivity but I’m sure they exist.  We’ve all heard the term “micromanager” and it doesn’t have a good connotation.  As long as you don’t take it too far, “show up” for your team, and show them you care.  It’ll be good for both of you.