Early in my corporate career in global companies, I got some massive doses of “company politics” and learned how important they were to my career. I learned that if certain people weren’t willing to go to bat for me, my climb up to the next level (or anywhere, really) would be severely hampered. Working for smaller startups wasn’t terribly different, and there were fewer people to politic with, so in some ways learning how to play the game was even more important.
I’ll admit that many times I found myself thinking, “if people would just stop playing all the games and let me do my job I’d be successful!” It was frustrating.
But as my career progressed and I learned more about leadership and how organizations really worked, I came to appreciate “politics” in a different way.
Organizations are social creatures, made up of social ties between people. When people get together, they can make amazing things happen. That’s how companies and organizations succeed; that’s where their power comes from. So how can you lead a social unit successfully if you can’t be influential within the social culture?
You can’t. So if you want to lead and make things happen, you need to learn to “play” within the culture you hope to lead and effect. It’s part of how you gain credibility to be effective. Continue reading
Open Letter to Corporate Leadership:
I want to dispel a myth that still circulates in our economy when people try to explain why the percentage of women on the management track plummets from 53% of the entry-level workforce to 20% or less in leadership. The myth goes something like this: “Women get to childbearing age about the time they’d be ready for promotion, and a lot of them leave to start families.”
Wrong. The truth is that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 58% of women in the U.S. are working in the civilian workforce (only 6% fewer than working men.) Importantly the percentage of working mothers is 65%, which is 2% above the number of working men. Continue reading
This guest post from Laurie Erdman reminds us that even though we are often encouraged to play small and create a work environment where I staffs can play small too, this helps nobody. It takes courage to play big. Where can you play bigger than you do today? ~Dana
Much is written about why fast growing companies perform so well in a down economy. There are many factors including attitude toward risk, communicating vision, resilience, and embracing innovation.
One overlooked factor is the company’s attitude toward employee wellbeing. More specifically, we rarely hear that fast growing companies (those defying the economic outlook) are committed to creating an energized work environment that fosters resilience, vision and innovation.
One of the ways these companies do this is by creating a place where employees can play big. Are you and your team playing big? Continue reading
What is the glass ceiling these days?
The traditional view is that the glass ceiling is the white male’s comfy, old boy culture at the top that is threatened by the entrance of women into their private enclaves. In these secret nooks and crannies of corporate culture, it’s thought, leadership culture is one of alpha-dogmanship, cutthroat competition and kingmaking where women simply don’t fit.
There is certainly truth to the idea that white men rule the top ranks of most powerful organizations in our world. Studies continue to find that cultural barriers shunt women off the corporate ladder midway to the top, men run the government and gender bias is real.
The prevailing belief I hear most often about how to address this phenomenon – reflecting the assumption that the glass ceiling is just a product of recalcitrant men – is that if women could just shatter past the glass ceiling in greater numbers, we would automagically fix the problem by fixing the culture. However, I’m not so sure it’s this simple. Recent research shows that in at least one traditional organization this did not happen, and there’s no end of anecdotal insight about how some senior women who’ve “made it” do not help their more junior female colleagues. Continue reading
Edward Snowden’s revelations of what the National Security Agency (NSA) knows about us have gotten us talking about the role of secrecy in a free society. This is an important conversation, despite the fact that Snowden and the press seem to have shifted from principle-driven to ego-driven tactics, and taken the media discussion on this matter with him. So even though the important debate on secrecy vs. transparency is fading from the headlines, we can look to this discussion for leadership lessons. In particular we can look at how our businesses use information to gain, or lose, market advantage and where our greatest vulnerabilities may lie.
Secrecy has its place in business and it’s appropriate that certain decisions get made behind closed doors and that some of them stay there. This is especially true regarding information assets like Intellectual Property, competitively driven product improvements and market-driven rollout calendars (think Apple). However, there is other sensitive information to manage as well and it’s in this gray area that too many leadership cultures take the secrecy thing to the wrong extreme and they pay for it in eroded stakeholder trust and engagement. Continue reading
The same week Yahoo! rescinded teleworking policies for its employees, Best Buy did the same. Many pointed to the fact that Yahoo!’s working mom CEO got flack when Best Buy’s working dad CEO didn’t as unfair for gender inequity reasons. While I suspect that unfortunately Marissa Mayer was a better criticism target because she’s a woman/mom, I also think Yahoo! was a better target than Best Buy for pure branding reasons. Yahoo! builds exactly the kind of products designed to help work-at-home employees. On its face, then, Yahoo!’s rejection of such practices for its own employees looks like a brand misalignment. I mentioned this in a previous article and it generated a Twitter conversation that I thought deserved more than 140 characters. Continue reading
This is true for women and men alike, but women have a special challenge. Quite often women don’t feel like we fit into the predominantly male leadership culture by virtue of the behaviors, attitudes and values that are fundamental to who we are. So quite often we end up “faking it” without even knowing it. The problem is that this catches up with us one way or another. Either we alienate people we work with, we alienate ourselves – or both. Don’t be “that gal,” the one that fakes it and fails.
Gary Hamel is awesome. I remember doing strategic planning in the 90’s and reading Hamel’s guru stuff. Here he is 20 years later still blowing our minds and giving us new change management insights to play with.
In a recent leadership development workshop I ran, one woman bravely spoke her truth about the reality of the toxic corporate culture they all worked in. It was dysfunctional. Managers were petty and their pettiness was only overshadowed by the pettiness of the leaders above them. All these great ideas we were generating in the training – all this great energy – how could they keep it alive when everyone went back to their regularly scheduled work life the next day?
Sometimes we have to accept the reality that innovation can’t always be planned, but when we find a pattern to help us increase the likelihood of spontaneity – why not try to learn it and bake it into the corporate culture?
In their new book “Great by Choice,” Jim Collins and Morten Hansen have identified some of these patterns. One I loved was “Zoom In Zoom Out” that describes how executives at innovative companies “Zoom Out” to take a strategic view of the situation before “Zooming In” to take action when the ground shifts under their feet. But they don’t just get all zoomy for the fun of it; they look for a specific data point when they Zoom Out, which is how much time do we have not to act before our risk profile changes? This designated time parameter then becomes the de facto boundary of our tactical response, allowing more strategic actions if more time is available and less if it’s not.