do nice girls finish last?

Lean InI am making my way through Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, and chapter three made me stop and think a bit. The chapter is called “Success and Likeability”, and Sandberg starts out with a Harvard Business School case study based on the experience of an entrepreneur named Heidi Roizen. Sandberg writes:

The case described how Roizen became a successful venture capitalist by using her “outgoing personality… and vast personal and professional network [that] included many of the most powerful business leaders in the technology sector”. [The professors] assigned half of the students to read Heidi’s story and gave the other half the same story with just one difference – they changed the name “Heidi” to “Howard”.

[The Professors] then polled the students about their impressions of Heidi or Howard. The students rated Heidi and Howard as equally competent… their accomplishments were completely identical. Yet while students respected both Heidi and Howard, Howard came across as a more appealing colleague. Heidi, on the other hand, was seen as selfish and not “the type of person you would want to hire or work for.” The same data with a single difference – gender – created vastly different impressions.¹ (emphasis mine)

Sandberg argues that the case study further proves research that,”When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.”² Sandberg explains that from early on, girls learn that intelligence and success are not the path to popularity. In addition, socially acceptable behavior allows men to claim credit for achievements and assertively negotiate for higher salary, whereas a woman is perceived as arrogant and self-serving if she does the same. Women are expected to help without reward, and care and advocate for others.

The ultimate goal is to eventually eliminate different attitudes and treatment based on stereotypes, but until then Sandberg offers a few suggestions for women. I’ve re-written them in my own words here:

1. Pay the price – Women need to accept that there will be unfair biases and criticism. Sandberg suggests that we allow ourselves to feel and work through the emotions generated by the criticism, but then move on and do our job.

2. Play to your strengths – Some of the common “nice” characteristics ascribed to women – caring, communication, community – greatly improve teamwork. As women smile and appreciate others – while focusing on the task – productivity increases.

3. Position yourself communally – Women will have more success in negotiations when they use “we” vocabulary as context for their requests. Petitions couched in common interests and concern for the common good are more readily accepted from women than those that appear self-centered or self-promoting.

4. Purpose to become comfortable with power – It will take concentrated effort to change mindsets and perspectives based on years of habit and feedback, but as women work to become more comfortable with their power, they will also lean in with greater confidence.

Have you ever struggled with the “nice” girl dilemma? What do you think of Sheryl Sandberg’s tips for overcoming that stereotype?

For my men readers… what do you think? Are women held to a different standard than men?

______________________

¹ Sandberg, Sheryl. Lean In. Chapter 3, para. 2-3. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

² Ibid. Chapter 3, para. 4.

a leader’s power

ID-10089906I stumbled on a post this morning by James Lawther on the Great Leadership blog. The post reviews the Avianca flight 52 from Bogotá to New York that crash-landed on January 25, 1990 outside of New York, killing 73 of the 158 passengers.

Inadequate communication between the flight crew and the tower controllers regarding the urgency of the situation contributed to the tragedy. Lawther claims the communication breakdown was the result of a challenge that is heavy on my heart and common in my experience – high power distance.

High power distance is a phenomenon that we deal with less often in the United States, but it is a big challenge in the cultures of places like Latin America, Asia, or the Middle East. High power distance means that there is an unseen but very real chasm between the leader/boss/director and the team or those who work for the leader. Although the leader is often treated in a superficially friendly and respectful way, they are viewed as  untouchable, unapproachable, un-confrontable authority figures who have the power to make unilateral decisions and carry the ultimate responsibility for their subordinates.

In high power distance cultures, it is difficult to have healthy team relationships, since team members are hesitant to speak honestly and directly with the leader. In some cases, the leader perpetuates the problem by leading in an insulated, controlling, and overbearing manner. In other situations, team members reluctantly agree to plans or avoid discussing problems in a group setting, but then resort to passive-aggressive behaviors or blame-shifting against the leader when failures occur. Personal responsibility and accountability for actions are also weak, since the tendency is to blame the leader for lack of results.

This leadership phenomenon can cause all kinds of challenges and frustrations, but Lawther’s post demonstrates that high power distance can be dangerous – even to the point of physical death. I never experienced that extreme effect, but as a leader in a high power distance culture, I did encounter other consequences: loss of peer friendships, demand for paternalistic care, lack of complete information for decision-making, and gossip and mutiny behind my back.

Since my leadership style is naturally more collaborative and team dependent, I tried to encourage complete and honest communication from my team, repeating frequently my desire and availability to hear their opinions, ideas, concerns, and feedback. I had an open-office policy and often interacted informally with the staff. I had no big office and no receptionist/secretary barrier. With some teammates, I was successful; with others, I never was able to bridge the gap.

This post has once again piqued my sense of urgency regarding the challenge. I hope to learn some principles for breaking down the barriers to effective leadership in high power distance cultures. Maybe you can help…

Have you experienced the high power distance chasm? How do you deal with it? Do you have any ideas about how to close the distance?

breaking down barriers

file0001312170283In addition to the external barriers erected by society,
women are hindered by barriers that exist within ourselves.
Sheryl Sandberg¹

I received a copy of Sandberg’s book, “Lean In“, from a dear friend. I have only started reading it, but I have found connection, empathy, authenticity, grace, and challenge in the first chapters. Sandberg proposes a hypothesis which many of us already know is truth… as women, we are often our own worst enemy.

Sandberg explains that women often deeply internalize the negative messages we receive during our life – and quickly undervalue the positive messages that we earn.

I believe that women are essential to making important world changes in society through our relationships, families, and jobs today. To do that, we need support, advocacy, and partnership with the men in our lives, but we also need to believe in ourselves to step confidently into the places that we are created and gifted to fill. 

How can we do that? I’ve started a list here from some of Sandberg’s comments and some of my own experiences:

Gain self-awareness.

Personality profiles, StrengthsFinder, Reflected Best Self Exercise, work preferences, gift tests, feedback from mentors/friends/others… all help to discover and affirm unique value and contribution. The more I learn about myself, the easier it is to choose where to invest my time and my talents with confidence.

Don’t give unnecessary power to gender stereotypes.

“Strong”, “assertive”, “outspoken”, “intelligent” – these words often negatively describe a woman leader, but compliment a man. Words like “sensitive”, “passionate”, “caring”, “transparent” can also be used to disregard a woman’s position, but be considered uncommon and valuable assets for men. The key principle to remember is – no matter what I do or what I am like, I will never please everyone. I need to be comfortable in my own skin.

Get past the fear.

Women sometimes feel afraid… afraid of not knowing enough, afraid of saying something stupid, afraid of failing, afraid of being labeled as a fraud². Fears like these could easily paralyze and cause a step back from opportunities, but so often they are irrational and never actually occur. I am learning to speak up or act with courage in spite of my fears. I am learning that I am needed and because of that, I must “keep my hand up… and sit at the table”³. 

Say a simple “Thank You” for compliments and awards.

Sandberg explains that it is often our insecurity that causes us to scoff, brush off, and negate the achievements and accolades that we receive. I sometimes fail to accept a compliment without explaining or excusing it away with a, “It was nothing”, “I had lots of help”, or “I guess I had them fooled.” I am grateful for those in my life who (first) express their sincere appreciation for my efforts and (second) confront me if I undervalue my contribution. 

How have you been your own worst enemy? What would you add to this list?

¹Sandberg, Sheryl. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2013. p. 8.
²Ibid. p. 28-29.
³Ibid. p.38

live by your convictions

Margaret Thatcher 13 October 1925 – 8 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher
13 October 1925 – 8 April 2013

The former UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, died last week. She was the only woman to have held that prestigious and powerful position in the UK, and she earned the title, “Iron Lady” because of her strong leadership style.

The life summaries and tributes to her make it clear that she was not a “Mr. Nice Guy” kind of leader, instead she often alienated people into “love her or hate her” opposing factions. No matter what opinion I may have on Mrs. Thatcher’s political career, I can learn leadership lessons from her life.

In some of my early leadership experiences, I was very self-conscious, with a profound desire for people to like me and to agree with my decisions. I believed passionately in our vision and mission and wanted others to enthusiastically join with me to achieve our goals. I often took criticism very personally, and I felt that rejection was against me and my character, instead of against the idea or process. Mrs. Thatcher clearly understood that does not work for leaders: 

“If you just set out to be liked,
you would be prepared to compromise
on anything at any time
and you would achieve nothing.”

I have learned – the hard way – that I will never please everyone with my decisions or plans. People are very different in their preferences and perspectives, and often have completely opposite, conflicting ideas about how to move a project forward.I need to listen carefully to the differing opinions and weigh out their value, but then I must make the decision I believe in. My leadership goal cannot be to please people, but rather to lead by convictions.

“I am not a consensus politician.
I’m a conviction politician.”

Margaret Thatcher

At the end of the day, I may only be able to say that given the knowledge, experience, and guidance that I had at the time, I made the best decision I could. No matter the outcome of the decision, when I am swayed to do something I do not truly believe is right, I am often haunted by regret. Whenever I choose to lead by conviction, I have peace in the end.

Do you struggle with wanting to please others? What helps you live by conviction?

_____________

A few other places to read about Margaret Thatcher…

http://www.margaretthatcher.org/essential/biography.asp
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/people/margaret_thatcher
http://www.leadershipnow.com/leadingblog/2013/04/former_british_prime_minister.html 

working women of the Bible

One of the things I like best about Twitter is the new people who I have met in the tweeting process. There are some “crazies” out there as in all of life, but I have also been privileged to interact with leadership experts, soul sisters, and wise life-practitioners.

Susan DiMickele happens to be an incredible combination of all three. Susan and I have never met face-to-face, but we hope to someday. Susan tweets at: @SusanDiMickele and blogs at: www.susandimickele.com. Susan has been a trial lawyer for nearly 18 years and a mother for 12 years. She describes herself as “an author who writes about the working mom’s struggle to live out an authentic faith in a complex and fast-paced world“. Susan has written a new book that will go on sale this week! (pre-sale available now)

I had the exciting opportunity to pre-read Working Women of the Bible and provide a review of the book. This is basically what I wrote…

workingwomenofthebible book

Working Women of the Bible is a unique, refreshing, and encouraging book about women and work. Many believe in error that the Bible mandates all women to work only at home, barefoot and pregnant, with their main role being to serve the men in their life. Susan DiMickele demonstrates that God offers an incredible variety of work options for women of faith. . . and He has provided women mentors from many different situations to guide us. Bible stories, personal experiences, and individual reflection questions combine to create a motivating and challenging resource. The mentors you meet in this book will inspire and empower you… and your work!”

In the book’s introduction, Susan writes: As much as I try to juggle it all—home, work, marriage, kids—I often wish, “Could somebody just please show me how it’s supposed to be done?” and  Too often, we forget that the women of the Bible worked. And they worked hard. They made mistakes, and they didn’t give in. In many ways, their stories are our stories.

I really enjoyed Susan’s fresh perspective and practical applications. She helped me let go of the “superwoman” phantom and find hope in second chances. If this sounds good to you, visit your favorite book seller this week and pick up a copy of Working Women of the Bible for yourself and/or a friend. You won’t regret it!

Have you ever studied the working women of the Bible? Who is your mentor?

___________

susan dimickeleSusan is also the author of Chasing Superwoman: A Working Mom’s Adventures in Life and Faith (David C. Cook, 2010). She has authored articles in both secular and faith-based publications, including, ”War of the Worlds,” a recent article in Home Life Magazine (February 2011) that candidly discusses the need for common ground between stay-at home mothers and mothers who work outside the home. While Susan strives to be at the top of her profession, her greatest desire is to use her God-given gifts to be the woman He created.

a promise is a promise

IWD logo 2013

A Promise is a Promise: Time for Action to End Violence Against Women

This is the theme for the March 8th, 2013, International Women’s Day activities around the world.

Although great progress has been made through the years since the 1900’s beginning of this celebration, there is still so much to be done. In some places, equitable opportunities exist for women in education, employment, access to resources and benefits, but shamefully, in other parts of our globe, women are still treated like property, abuse and violence are common, and options are excessively restricted. This needs to change.

“There is one universal truth,
applicable to all countries, cultures and communities:
violence against women is never acceptable,
never excusable, never tolerable.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Here are some websites that you can visit to begin to learn more about the history of the day, the issues facing women presently, and how you can get involved to support and encourage the women in your life… as well as value and protect all women around our world.

YOU can make a difference. Think globally and act locally…

http://www.internationalwomensday.com/

http://www.un.org/en/events/womensday/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/international-womens-day

What will you do to help end violence against women?

what women add to a team

Business TeamDo you remember that awkward elementary school experience – two scrawny kids choosing the players for their team? There was always a tension between picking a friend because you liked them and picking a “star” because you wanted to win.

Whether it was a debate team or a football team, you needed a variety of players to cover offense and defense. Your choices didn’t always work out as planned. The thick glasses didn’t always guarantee intelligence any more than extra height ensured skill under the basket, but certain general characteristics proved to increase your chances for victory.

I firmly believe that men and women live and work best together in partnership, and I have experienced many times that the best teams are often diverse, not only in gender, but also in age, personality, strengths, and cultural background.

Earlier, I wrote about some of the challenges facing diversity, specifically gender diversity on leadership teams. I mentioned that more information can often facilitate positive change. Here are some ways that women’s participation makes teams healthier and stronger. I have also listed some articles below that support these three points. 

Men and women are like two feet—
they need each other to get ahead.
Helen E. Fisher

Women add integrity.

In my experience, the women on my teams consistently committed to maintaining a high standard of fiscal, legal, and labor integrity. When women participated on the teams, we implemented accountability systems, complied with necessary policies and laws, and quickly investigated decisions that appeared questionable. Financial partners, funding, and the organizational reputation for integrity increased as a result. When women participate on a team, there is great potential to build a strong ethical, moral, and integral foundation. 

Women strengthen collaboration.

On mixed teams, the team members rarely worked alone in siloed responsibilities. Instead, the women facilitated true teamwork by ensuring regular communication and interaction, systematic sharing of ideas, and fostering a healthy feedback culture. They promoted honest personal and productivity evaluations. The women were approachable, quick to ask clarifying questions, reciprocally helpful, and loyally supportive of team decisions. Mixed gender teams often led to better ideas, better decisions, and greater productivity and growth.

Women foster personal development.

The women I worked with prioritized personal and team development, often establishing strong mentoring relationships and coaching. They actively demonstrated concern for team member’s growth and well-being. The women readily participated in 360 evaluations, team building activities, and conflict resolution. They were good listeners, discerning, and keenly aware when alignment was missing. They were often very successful at recruiting, training and empowering their future replacements. Women leaders contribute to the effectiveness of a team’s leadership pipeline. 

I believe that great leadership ultimately depends on character, and that calling, competency and chemistry are also important for successful teamwork. Diverse teams do not ensure automatic success, but in our complex and constantly changing society, I am certain that they are one of our wisest recruiting strategies.

How have you seen women add to your teams?

McKinsey & Company. (2008). Female leadership, a competitive edge for the future. Paris, France.
Zenger, Jack and Folkman, Joseph. “Are women better leaders than men?” blogs.HBR.org. March 15 2012. Web. Jan. 26 2013.

why is diversity so hard?

studying togetherWhy is it so hard?

I often asked this question regarding my children when they couldn’t seem to get along. I have asked it about financial integrity, about exercise discipline, and about conflict resolution. These good goals seem to immediately attract excuses, emotional responses, and resistance as soon as we mention them.

Today, however, I ask it about men and women working together with mutual respect, equal opportunity, and sincere appreciation of the varied passions and strengths that both bring to the table.

Why is diversity so hard?

Why haven’t we been able to eliminate the disrespectful jokes and comments? Why don’t we apply the abundant literature that states how important it is to have gender diversity on teams and in leadership in order to increase the health and productivity of our organizations? Why do we continue to make excuses for antiquated policies and “old school” leaders that we know need to change? Why aren’t we willing to have honest and open discussions about moving beyond stereotypical criticisms and moving toward understanding, equity, flexibility, and progress?

I have actually been blessed to work in many situations and on many teams where men and women contributed and collaborated well together as unique individuals, valuing and appreciating variety in gender – as well as culture, age, experience, and expertise. Sadly, I have also worked in settings where people chose sides in constant battles for respect and opportunity.

I don’t believe there is any legitimate reason for such disparity and division between men and women. My faith tells me the root cause is our selfish sin…. thinking more highly of ourselves than we think of others, which leads to lack of respect, competition, insecurity and defensiveness. Maybe that is why this struggle is so entrenched and why it is so hard to defeat.

Although I get weary of the conflicts and I don’t have answers to all the questions, I think this challenge is worth fighting for – just like sibling love, balanced budgets, a strong body, and healthy relationships. Excuses, emotions, and resistance yield to information, open communication, and accountability for positive change. Offenses can transform into advocacy. I’d like to see grand-scale improvement, but many days I accept being content with small steps of progress. I start with changes in my life, and then I move to being an example for others. Maybe it will always be hard… but it can get better.

One day our descendants will think
it incredible that we paid so much attention to things
like the amount of melanin in our skin
or the shape of our eyes or our gender
instead of the unique identities of each of us
as complex human beings.
-Franklin Thomas

What do you do with hard situations? How do you bring about change?

maturitas cafe – best of 2012

I would love to enjoy a steaming cup of black coffee with you at a comfy, warm cafe. We could talk about so many things – work, family, teams, marriage, life! We might laugh or cry or philosophize, and share advice or struggles or funny stories. We might disagree about a topic or empathize completely. No matter what, I know we would end our visit grateful for the time together.

Until we have that opportunity, I am grateful for the chance to connect this way. THANK YOU for reading and leaving your “likes” and your comments. You have challenged me and encouraged me this year. You have led me to new blogs, new ideas, new friends. I appreciate you very much and look forward to learning more together in 2013!

In case you are new to this blog or might have missed a post, here are some of the top (most read) posts of 2012. Feel free to look around at the archives too. Remember every post is available in English and Spanish…

eng top 5top five English posts:

today’s modern woman – pick any two

cleaning house, cooking meals and a greater cause

are you dangerous?

communication styles

tips for long lasting friendship and marriage

sp top 5top five Spanish posts:

la motivación y el ánimo

lo que aprendo de una venta de garage 

¿hay mágia en los equipos?

¿tienes la actitud de gratitud?

limpiar la casa, cocinar y una gran causa

You might also enjoy reading a little about me and why I started this blog:

coffee as a way of life      why a blog?

 Thanks for joining this journey! 

Please let me know… what was your favorite post this past year?

leadership is hard

hard leadershipI been discouraged about leadership lately. Every time I think about it; I think of the word – hard. Leadership for me has been hard: hard work, hard on my health and relationships, hard on my emotions.

Leadership is hard when I start…

The inevitable learning curve – so many unknowns, so much new: people, partner inter-relationships, systems, policies, standards, expectations, schedules. Insecurity. Comparison. Uncertainty. So many questions: Can I do this? Will others respect me? Can we accomplish the mission? Where to start? What are the first steps? Where can we find some quick wins?

Leadership is hard in the process…

Constant crisis. Problems. Challenges. Never enough leaders, resources, or funding. Bad attitudes, resistance to change, gossip and back-biting, team conflict, long hours, extra meetings. I struggle with setting boundaries, discerning my – and others’ – responsibility, balancing my heart and my head in decisions.

Leadership is hard when it’s over…

It is hard to watch others take over – with new ideas, other ways of doing things, different values. It is hard to watch prior co-workers struggle with the change, feel less valued in the new systems, lose their positions and their jobs. I have no authority or influence, but I still have concern and care. I observe from a distance – powerless, frustrated, trying to trust and believe the best, knowing I need to move on.

Days like today, I don’t want anything to do with leadership.

… and then I remember… leadership was also hard for the Greatest Leader of all time.

He had difficult, humble beginnings. He didn’t have my confidence issues, but He did have to prioritize His work. He experienced all kinds of conflict in the culture, society, and with His co-laborers. He dealt with others’ immaturity, character issues, and lack of integrity. He got tired; His leadership finally got Him killed. And then He had to leave the job to others who didn’t appear ready. They didn’t continue to do things like He did.

… but that was all part of the plan.

Yes, leadership is hard. The trick is to expect the hard parts, rather than trying to escape what is difficult. The key is to face into the challenges and grow up to handle them. Hard isn’t necessarily bad.

And remember, when we lead, we are in good company.

What do you do when leadership is hard?