Values mini-manifesto

Hi Readers,

I received some excellent feedback from a few people who received my draft consulting values “manifesto” so this is actually a revised version of the draft. Thank you to all who commented on the Core Values write-up I posted on Friday. I am refining that as I go to hone in on those particular areas of practice where I can add the most value.

Let journalism thrive!

Consulting Values mini-manifesto

  1. Diversity drives innovation. Period. We have been shown this again and again in the research. There are countless examples of this in business, design, education, customer service, engineering, etc. See the book The Medici Effect if you want to learn more about this principle. Diversity can broadly include gender, age, culture, discipline, expertise, interests, skills, strengths, orientation, and many other dimensions. Your team is enhanced by how inclusive you can be about bringing full engagement of your diverse players.
  2. Women are leaders. This is true in families, communities, business, nonprofits, government and all sectors. One problem is that we have widely associated leadership with a lot of “masculine” qualities. We do not always see the value of collaboration, influencing, building genuine connections and flexibility in thinking. I believe that women already have most of these skills already, and they are skills that can be coached and developed. We have undervalued the skills of half our workforce in encouraging women “act like men” in their leadership styles. Instead we must develop confidence and assurance in our own voices and our own ways of getting work done. Leadership is going to look different than the models we have seen. And that is a GOOD thing! We need that now, more than ever. 
  3. Teams are made of individuals with far more talent than we typically use or optimize in their current work roles. While that is a challenge, we can build in better ways to tap that talent, help design workplaces and teams that fully utilize our strengths while maximizing the overall productivity of the team. There is an art to doing this, and there are mindsets which allow us to fully utilize talents. When we think someone is too “junior” to have an impact, we miss the freshness in perspective that person can bring to the work. When we think that we or someone else is too “senior” to have something to learn, we sell ourselves short. This principle is based on the “growth mindset” pioneered by Carol Dweck. It is also based on years and years of research I have done in my own workplaces, witnessing growth of so many people, when given the right conditions and encouragement. I aim to help you maximize the wealth you already have, which already exists within your team.

This is intended to describe the values I bring to my consulting work. Of course I am adding more detail to the consulting “program” and practices I intend to offer. I have time to work that out before I actually will start marketing my time and effort in these areas. But it helps me to write and focus in the places where I feel most passionate and committed. I think the above areas describe that well for now.

Cheers & have a great week! As always, I am happy to receive your comments and feedback.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Entitlement vs Service

I am reflecting on the lessons I have learned during my time decade plus of working in the medical device industry for a very large company.

One of the observations is the way I respond to leaders who approach their work with entitlement versus those who aim to serve. The former set were wrapped up in a sense of “we are the winners” and they set up their organizations to demonstrate that. The latter approached from a more humble place of openness and willingness to learn.

Carol Dweck makes a powerful case for leaders and organizations who embrace a “growth mindset” versus a fixed mindset in her book Mindset: the new psychology of success. In summary, the person who believes they can grow and develop over time and with practice will far surpass the person who believes they are born with a fixed intelligence or talent. Children who are told they are smart, rather than the ones praised for their ability to work hard and persist, are actually at a disadvantage in the long-term.

I can relate to this principle and how it created a bit of an identity crisis when I first went to college. I had put in some hard work, but my belief was that I was “naturally smart” and this was how I identified myself. But going to a place like Swarthmore, where I was nowhere near the “smartest” and had not yet developed the academic work ethic I would need to succeed, I struggled, especially in my first year.

I called my parents one weekend to tell them that the college may have made a mistake in admitting me. I was not sure I could handle the work. But my mother reassured me – she knew I could do it if I worked hard. College was about challenging ourselves at a higher level. Thank goodness my professors agreed, and when I admitted to other students and to the professor that I was struggling, I realized I was not alone. I would have support in learning and growing if I was open to it.

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The parallels in leadership intrigue me as I consider the effectiveness of those who believe they are the “smartest” in the room versus those who are open to learning from front-line employees. I respond best to those leaders who are open to feedback, who ask to hear my ideas. I want to contribute to their cause, because they see it as “our cause.” I want to figure out creative ways to help because I feel their belief in me. I want to learn and understand new things, because I know I will gain greater skills along the way.

When I consider my own responsiveness to feedback, I aim to improve my ability to take in criticism that can improve my performance in the long run. Though it can be hard to hear, when delivered and received in a spirit of mutual respect and investment in growth, it is a gift.

This applies to individual contributors also, not just managers. Those who are willing to learn from their mistakes are more willing to take risks rather than try to keep a perfect image as someone who never fails. If the environment is conducive to it, the growth-minded person will be unafraid to challenge the status quo. They will have courage to communicate what may be “blind spots” to leadership.

The research also shows how the growth mindset can be taught and coached, and is not something we are simply bestowed or lacking. This is fundamentally the philosophy I have embraced. I have seen so much evidence of this in my own work with colleagues over the years. To me there is nothing more rewarding than watching someone succeed at a “stretch” goal and knowing that maybe just a year or two before, they may have doubted their ability to achieve it.

Where do you want to grow? How strong is your belief that you will get there with practice and determination? What if difficulty just means “not yet”? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Curtain call

Today I will tell my team about my career decision news. My director scheduled a mandatory conference call so I could tell them in my own words what I intend to do, and that I will leave the company in early August.

It is interesting that my subconscious was working on this task as I slept last night. I had a “naked dream” last night. I was the only one without clothing, but somehow I did not feel at all self-conscious. I am choosing to interpret this to mean that, though I am making a somewhat vulnerable choice and I am totally exposing my goals, dreams and plans before they are fully baked, I am ready.

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In reflecting this morning in my journal about the message I hope to deliver, I started realizing that it boils down to this: I want to reinforce the idea that they are a “small and mighty” team. But I also want to model courageous change. Instead of leaving them feeling abandoned, I want them to realize how strong they are and how resilient. While I worried plenty about who would “protect them” if I left, I now know everything will be fine.

Sometimes our fears of being who we are get in the way of taking our next steps for development. Speaking personally, I know how vulnerable it is to admit a dream to someone else, knowing they may not understand. They may tell us: you’re crazy! They may induce doubt that are dreams are worth pursuing, or fear that we may fail.

But being who we are, and exposing that truth about what we desire is fundamental to our longing as human beings. I think Glennon Melton Doyle said this in a conversation to Liz Gilbert during a podcast. Her desire was to be known for herself, for the truth of who she is.

My dream this morning helped me realize that I am the one who needs to accept myself as I am. Whether others do or not is really irrelevant. But at the same time, it is being my best, brave, true self that may help them do the same.

May you feel free to be who you are and live your dreams and desires.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wanted: women’s voices

I had a blast on the 4th of July holiday catching up on my personal development “input sources” and reading more materials that fascinate me.

I began the day giving a ride to downtown Minneapolis for my hubby and his friend, who were running the Red, White & Boom 5k. They rocked it, despite hot and soupy weather. After that, while hubby was taking a well-deserved nap, I used time to listen to the Gallup “Called to Coach” podcast and a few others.

It was interesting to hear more in depth about the Gallup Strengths profiles. I have done many exercises with my team using this tool, to figure out how we can merge our strengths together to be a more effective team. My own brand of strengths includes Intellection, Input, Relator, Developer and Empathy. Those terms may seem a little strange if you are not familiar with their tool, but I highly recommend the assessment if you have not yet taken it.

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Photo credit link – Metal female voices fest XI – 2013

The downside of this particular listen-fest was the fact that I noticed that ALL the voices I heard on the podcast were men. ALL of them. 100% of them… I mean, after listening to the 5 themes and interviews, I would have thought at least ONE of them would feature a woman. Maybe just 20%. I realize there are less women in positions of leadership than there are men. Even the U.S. Congress has roughly 20% women in its ranks.

I realize it was content from 2014-2015. Perhaps their more recent content is more balanced, and I should give them the benefit of the doubt? Is it THAT hard to make an effort to find a few women to speak on their show? I find myself disappointed but at the same time more committed to working on helping to increase the voices of women in leadership.

I respect many of the mentors I have had that are men throughout my career and my life. But I crave more women’s voices and wisdom to be included in resources for personal development. What happens when you ignore half of your potential demographics? They may disengage and tune out.

Biases and stereotypes can get in the way of people making good decisions. When I am making important choices, I want a team of people with different life experiences to weigh in, since my customers are diverse as well. I have seen how creativity is generated from diverse teams committed to a common vision.

Maybe it starts with me… I should consider that. Wisdom comes from many cultures, genders and experiences. Today I am giving thanks to WordPress for allowing more of us to have a platform, to my husband and to Chris Guillebeau for encouraging me to start writing.

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

On the eve of big things

I have started writing at different times of the day, to reflect the “rhythm” of my week as it ebbs and flows. I am trying to purge out the stuff that just needs to leave my head, and also make sense of changes in my consciousness I know that consistency is important, and that daily creative spark helps me to get energy for the rest of my day.

I am procrastinating on my coaching homework and deciding to put it off a bit more, so I am writing my blog instead.

Uh, why *am* I avoiding my coaching homework? I will use this space to examine the reasons. One of the assignments is to rewrite my career dream in a 1-year and a 5-year formats. But what is getting in the way of this is that I interviewed for a job at my current company last week that really excites me.

It is hard to write my 1-year dream in a way that is independent of my excitement for that role. I guess that’s okay. A year seems ultra-long when I consider my current role. But it seems like it could go by in a flash if I am doing something with full engagement and attention. But can I bring full engagement to it? Would I give up my blog for it? No, for sure not.

It is a fairly high profile role (Senior Program Manager) with visibility to the top executives and the CEO, but I think I could make some impact there. We could actually re-invent the way clinical data are used in health care. Whew! That could be amazing, right?

Of course, I still have a lot of unanswered questions, so I emailed them to the hiring manager as a follow up. I’m not sure if they will make me an offer, but I suspect I am their top candidate, given what HR has shared with me about their search.

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Another BIG part of me was fantasizing about quitting this corporate thing in August and figure out how to make it on my own, doing consulting and writing, and perhaps coaching. I wanted to take a break from this “treadmill” to get some time and space to really pursue my writing goals in earnest.

The money thing crops up. By August, I am aiming to have 6 months of living expenses saved up for any kind of foolish job-quitting my soul beckons me to do. My hubby would prefer we use that money toward a down payment on a house, or maybe some land on the north shore of Lake Superior. That appeals to me too.

If I stay, I will have to work a lot harder this summer and fall. New jobs takes investment, focus and attention. I am not afraid to work hard. In talking with a good friend of mine yesterday about the job, she observed that she has not seen me so excited or energized about an opportunity in a while.

My massage therapist said the same thing, and she had a quote for me that popped into her head when I told her about my response to the interview: “Great things are done when man and mountain meet.”  William Blake.

My friend asked me “what would hold you back from taking the job” and my response was: having to wear grown-up clothes and go to the office every day. What this means is that my introvert self would have less alone-time during the standard work day. I have gotten spoiled working from home (when I am not traveling) a couple of days a week.

But other than that? Maybe the fear that my current role has provided a comfort level (3 years in this manager role, 11 years in the department), and I know I will be living in the “discomfort zone” for a while. But that may be the growth edge that I seek.

When things are too calm in my life, I tend to make trouble. But maybe this is the kind of trouble that I need to invite in, because “wildly improbable goals” have a strangely motivating effect on me. 

Focus vs exploring options

I am preparing for a session with my coach this morning and slept in an hour more than usual. Sometimes when my body needs it, I just allow it to rest. After last week’s travel, and disrupted sleep schedule, it has been lovely to have 4 nights in a row of 8-10 hours of sleep.

But of course, my writing time is a little cut short for the morning, so I sit, brainstorming what I most care to say. I went back and read a bunch of previous posts, scanning the “data” for trends, themes. Then I considered my worries about the upcoming coaching session. I turned in my homework only 5 minutes before the deadline this time, not a half day in advance like last time.

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I wondered about all the resistance, and the fact that committing dreams or goals to paper makes me feel some pressure about it. I asked my husband last night about what he wanted to be when he grew up (at age 5-6) and he wanted to be a farmer like his grandfather. But then his family moved, and the farming industry changed. I reflected on my own memories of being asked that question.

I typically had a long list of all the things I wanted to do someday. But I remember being disappointed with someone who laughed at me kindly and told me I could not do ALL of those things. I would have to pick one, maybe two. What?!? I was sad that I would have to choose and I wanted to keep all doors open.

Back in the day, in our parents era, that was the norm: to choose one main career goal and to stick to that choice for 30+ years. Pension plans were built on that principle. To move around too much was flaky, seen as irresponsible and perhaps self-indulgent.

I had an active imagination and knew that everyone in my family were teachers, and that I also considered that a possibility, but did not want to limit myself. Fortunately the world has changed, and people seldom have just one career. The possibilities now seem limitless, but that does not mean we can have all our choices all at once.

Now that I am getting older, I recognize the value of making a career choice for one particular period of time (say, a decade) and fully embracing that choice, allowing ourselves to go deep into that field of endeavor, really to learn it well. Any area where we practice extensively and develop a body of knowledge is a place we can make a contribution.

But then there comes a time when some of us (and maybe this is my a.d.d. talking, or just my curiosity about other fields and the roads not taken) long for a transition to something new. I had hoped to get into the “Entrepreneurs in Residence” program at my company but found out yesterday that I will not advance to the interview round. I was a bit disappointed, but strangely felt relieved as well.

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Working for a very large corporation for nearly 11 years, this era is coming to a close for me. I long for more freedom and less bureaucracy than this setting can deliver. I long for more innovation and less forms to fill out in order to get work accomplished. But that specific direction has yet to solidify for me.

Perhaps it has been a long time since I worked toward a particular dream or goal. I did dream of becoming a manager, and I achieved that dream. I dreamed of travel and work where I would get to do that much more often, and I achieved that dream as well. So in a sense, I have accomplished some of the goals that I had for myself, definitely not along the path I had expected.

I believe in staying open to opportunities, and saying yes to experiences where I might grow and learn. But now that I have achieved a certain level of success, I return to the question of where I want to focus. I long to figure out what contributions I most want to make, where I can provide the most value in the world.

This is a road we all travel, I realize. Perhaps making those choices and sticking to those decisions has been more challenging for me, or maybe I am operating on an old belief system that needs upgrading. In any case, I would love to hear from others that have made big career changes in their lives. What were your fears? How did you discover what you truly wanted? Were there ever times when you doubted your new direction?

Bias in human evolution

project implicitA friend of mine recently posted a very personal story of his pain at the discovery of his own implicit bias despite having married a woman of color. The Implicit Bias Test is something you can take if you want to explore bias in yourself. I was touched by his admission but it made me realize that people still have a lot of unnecessary guilt about bias. I wanted to write about it because I realize so many probably suffer shame on this front.

Dr. Heidi Grant, a psychologist who presented to our Women’s Leadership annual conference last August, explained to us that bias is human. It is a part of our brains that is wired for us to be able to make decisions quickly and have shortcuts to protect our safety. So to feel guilty about it not necessary. Neuroscience has showed that there is a biological basis for bias.

So the idea that we can somehow get rid of bias is not practical. What we need to do is develop awareness of the biases that we have, so we can take action making decisions more fairly. One method that worked for orchestras, that traditionally hired men due to implicit bias, was to put up a screen so that the performer could not be seen during the audition. This played a role in getting many more women into competitive orchestras.

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As a manager, one way to reduce bias is in hiring from a pool of candidates, and have only one candidate of a diverse origin, and say three other candidates you are interviewing, you are very unlikely to hire the diverse candidate. If you have just one other person of that minority (be in gender, race, etc) the likelihood that you will give everyone a fair shot increases substantially. Another way to reduce bias is to have a structured list of questions, and to ask the same questions to all candidates.

A number of studies have shown us how diversity drives innovation. And innovation is what drives economic growth. From a perspective of someone who has lost their job due to increased automation, that may not provide much comfort. Indeed, part of our problem is that our “free market” rewards the innovators much more than workers. That unfortunately leads to further polarization of resources, and exacerbates the distance between “haves” and have-nots” in our country.

While there is a systemic good arising from a more diverse society, recognized at many levels of corporate and government leadership (though not by the U.S. President, unfortunately), there are challenges as well. In order to address these challenges, we are required to evolve our own consciousness, as humans, to be able to fully use all the talents and capabilities we have. This is no easy task.

I often worry if the behavior in this country will degrade substantially while we have rhetoric that devalues whole categories or nations of people. We have seen some evidence that this may be true. But it also forces us to have some honest discussions about our future, and about what kind of society we want to build. I am reminded that a majority of the country does not agree with the President, and is working for positive change.

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I am reminded that those of us who have privilege in this very digital economy need to pay attention to the people who have been left out since the 1980’s when the gap in the middle class began to widen substantially. We have many examples in history when this has led to disaster. This has led to scapegoating and devaluation of human life at many points in human history.

This awareness and consciousness of bias and privilege must be at the forefront of our thinking about solutions to this “great divide.” We can no longer ignore the suffering of so many people, and build ourselves into little cul-de-sacs of isolated individuals and families. Our well-being depends on a social fabric which must hold us together.

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We must talk with people with whom we do not agree, learn from them, strive to understand their perspectives. I believe this is the only way to repair the rifts that have grown in our political life. We cannot afford to remain in our little echo chambers, in dialogue only with people with whom we agree.

I am beginning to look for those opportunities to engage with people that may hold different opinions from mine. Not just online, but in person and face to face. They are not easy to find, but I am fairly certain our survival as a species on this earth depends on realizing we are in this together.