Don’t Overlook Your Female Leaders
No responsible manager overlooks a female candidate for overtly sexist reasons. In a well-run company, you’re unlikely to find a manager who confesses to passing over a qualified candidate for a promotion simply because the candidate identifies as female. These kinds of unabashed sexist decisions and actions are holdovers from another era, and even if motivations are rooted in subtle sexist assumptions, most managerial training programs, and HR directives are designed to root out ingrained forms of bias that can undermine the workforce and harm the company. But despite surface-level societal changes, these forms of bias can be stubborn, and women are still not promoted at a rate that reflects their contributions to the workforce.
So in order to advance your own success and that of your organization, shine a light into your own deeply held, unexamined beliefs the next time you’re called upon to make a promotion decision. Keep these thoughts in mind.
If not, why not?
If you’re not inclined to promote a female candidate, ask yourself hard questions, and don’t seek escape in easy answers. Your first thought may be something like “Well, she just doesn’t have the numbers,” or “She doesn’t strike me as a leader.” Double check these numbers, and if you’re wrong, have the courage to admit it and change course. If she doesn’t strike you as a leader, ask yourself why not. Maybe you aren’t actually watching her or taking her actions and decisions at face value. Assume your decisions are motivated by ingrained bias and see if your perspective shifts.
“Her voice is too high.”
Write down your criticisms. Generate a list of statements that you assume preclude your candidate from a leadership role. Then go down the list and cross off every metric or assessment that you wouldn’t or haven’t applied to your male candidates. Chances are, her mistakes are similar to — not greater than — those of her male counterparts. And her voice, mannerisms, clothing, gestures, or shoe style are holding far more influence over your decision than they should.
Factor in every detail.
Recognize that fairness doesn’t come naturally to most of us; our fairest assessments of others are still influenced by unrecognized racial, gender, and other biases that we can’t root out of ourselves via a simple act of will. If you recognize a natural deficit within yourself (we all have them), and recalibrate to compensate for it, where does that leave you? And where does it leave your female candidate? You aren’t doing her a favor by making this internal adjustment; she’s earned the right to a fair and honest evaluation. And you owe it to your company to appropriately leverage her talents and leadership skills. If you overlook or disregard them, she’s likely to redirect her energies and search for opportunity elsewhere.
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Not Giving Feedback to Female Employees Can Hurt Their Careers
According to a joint study by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org, members of both genders ask for workplace feedback at equal rates, but managers are 20 percent less likely to provide “difficult” feedback to women than to men.
There may be several possible reasons behind a decision to withhold feedback from female employees, from a fear of seeming gender-biased to concerns about being disliked by the employee; Managers cited both reasons as concerns and some also reported a fear of seeming too harsh.
But as it happens, withholding criticism and withholding constructive feedback aren’t the same, and they don’t lead to similar results. Women who don’t receive honest feedback and coaching from their managers often report being left out and left behind and may miss out on opportunities for growth.
What does this mean for managers who — consciously or unconsciously — provide limited corrective or insightful comments to their female employees? If you feel you may fall into this category (regardless of your gender), keep these thoughts in mind.
Criticism isn’t coaching
Simply nitpicking female employees, criticizing them unfairly, or holding them to higher standards than their male peers won’t do the trick. Misogyny and bias often appear in the form of unwarranted criticism, so piling on more negativity won’t win the day. Instead, after an employee mistake or a performance that could use a few improvements, think about your words. Ask yourself three questions before you speak them: Will my words help her improve? Am I hesitating to share feedback because I fear her reaction? Is my criticism justified and fair? If you answer yes to all three, gather your courage and speak your mind.
If you hesitate to provide feedback because you believe your employee might have an emotional meltdown or run crying for the ladies’ room, stop and think. Is this imaginary scenario realistic? Or is it just the product of your own gender-related assumptions? Since it’s probably the second, take this opportunity to correct some faulty wiring and cultural biases within yourself, not your employee. Recognize that despite your assumptions, she probably won’t react this way at all, then deliver your feedback with dignity and confidence.
If you genuinely fear that your criticisms will be poorly received, be honest and open with your employee about this fact. You can simply say “I hesitate to give you negative feedback because I want you to like me, but some things are more important than being liked.” You can also say: “I’m afraid of hurting your feelings, but I believe my feedback can support your growth.”
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Employees First, Customers Second – Why You Need to Do This
In a perfect world, CEOs and managers could wave a magic wand and easily keep both employees and customers happy. Give the members of both categories exactly what they need to feel appreciated, and voila! Turnover stays low, sales stay high, and the company thrives. As far as possible, this is the goal that most managers strive to achieve; in fact, if you occupy a leadership role, you may notice that most of your late nights and early mornings are absorbed in the process of pleasing, educating, training, satisfying or motivating one group or the other.
But what happens when the needs of these groups conflict? What should you do when taking care of one group means taking something away from the other? If you need to put a customer on ice to support an employee, should you do it? Yes, you should. Here’s why.
Your employees interact with your customers more than you do.
Employees are your brand ambassadors and hands-on agents, and though you may hold more power and make higher-level decisions, your employees speak and interact with your customers directly and daily. If you take care of your teams, your teams will absorb that positive energy and redirect it. If they feel appreciated and respected, they’ll give others the same consideration.
When a conflict arises, think a few moves ahead.
If a customer argues with an employee, your first instincts should involve protecting and educating your employee, not throwing them under the bus to salvage a single sale. You have two relationships at stake when such conflicts occur, and in almost every case, one is more important and offers more long-term value to the company than the other. Let the customer go. Listen to both side of the story, but stand up for your employee and you’ll receive a loyalty boost that can’t be bought. Use the encounter as a teaching moment.
The customer isn’t always right.
This is an outdated old saying, and if you apply it literally, you can put your employees in an impossible position. Sometimes the customer is wrong, and sometimes the employee must say no, walk away, hang up the phone, or abandon the sale in order to succeed. Train your employees properly, and then step back and give them the freedom to exercise their own judgment when they can’t meet a customer’s needs.
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Keep in mind that a loyal, experienced employee can be worth more than gold. Don’t tarnish or tax this valuable relationship for a fleeting customer interaction that may or may not yield long-term value. For more on how to keep your employees onboard, thriving and engaged, turn to the top recruiters in Scottsdale and contact the ACCENT Hiring Group today!
The Real Way to Delegate Decisions and Empower Your Team
There’s an old saying that goes, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” But there’s another, more accurate old saying that goes, “If you want to become an effective leader and truly help your team succeed, delegate.” As often as possible, include teams in decision making, execution, and the completion of meaningful work. If you have knowledge, share it. If you have a plan, bring others on board. Instead of powering through on your own, turn your growth and success into a true team effort. Here’s how.
Harness the power of consulting.
Encourage your teams to bring you questions, not problems. Don’t let them simply dump problems in your lap and leave them for you to solve. Allow the problem—whatever it may be—to stay in the employee’s purview, but make yourself available when the employee needs information and guidance. Take responsibility for the suggestions and insights you provide, and if they don’t pan out, share in both the cleanup and the learning process. But when they do pan out, make sure the employee played a fundamental role in the victory.
Provide the tools.
If the employee needs information that can be drawn directly from the company’s institutional knowledge, records, or resources, provide these tools and point the way. If your employee needs insights that are rooted in your own personal experience or training, share what you have. Just try to stop short of providing ready-made answers and clear-cut step-by-step instructions. The less hand-holding you do now, the less you’ll do in the future as your employee gains knowledge and independence.
Set a goal.
When a newer or younger employee comes to you with an issue, you’ll start small. Over time, you’ll provide fewer supports as he or she begins to rely on her own experience and the lessons of her own mistakes. As your delegation skills improve and strengthen, your employee’s skills will improve and strengthen as well. So how will you know when you’ve reached a goal or truly helped an employee grow? Keep an eye out for the day in which your employee knows what you’ll say before you have a chance to say it. When your employee can predict your answers, then place them into a context of personal knowledge and experience, you’ll know that you’ve done your job. You’ll also know that you can trust your teams to handle the crises and issues that arise when you aren’t there.
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Five Ways to Become the Great Boss Everyone Wants
You’ve seen great bosses in action. You’ve known a few of them personally. You may have even had a few, or at least one, who stands out in your mind as a competent leader and motivational coach. So what can you do to find a place on someone else’s list of all-time great bosses? How can you make a name for yourself as a great boss everyone wishes they worked for? The long answer is far from simple and involves patience, experience, and trial and error. But over the short term, here are a few moves that can help you take steps toward your goal.
Look for any reason to celebrate. Great leaders share our joy and encourage us to savor positive moments and achievements. When we look back through the mists of time to the best bosses we’ve ever had, we often remember them smiling, giving out high fives, and making the most of large and small victories. Get excited about both performance (great employees doing great things) and growth (mediocre employees getting stronger). Get excited about team victories and individual victories. Get excited about permanent wins and temporary wins. In fact, get excited about everything. Love your work and let it show.
You justify your position as “boss” by claiming knowledge or influence others don’t have. This means you can be expected to withstand punches others can’t, and your responsibility and influence extend further than those of your employees. So when something goes wrong, step up and take the hit. If you truly have authority, the mistakes of your team ARE technically your fault. In the meantime, those who are weaker than you should be protected from fallout and backlash.
Do the right thing, always, even when nobody is watching and there’s no chance you could be caught. Make an unrelenting habit of always doing the right thing, and when you’re standing at a fork in the road, choose the ethical and responsible path…always. If you do this as a general matter, of course you’ll be trusted to do it in the future. Reputation and character are built on a foundation of small decisions that accumulate over the course of months and years.
Make Decisions but Get Input
Don’t make decisions on your own. Gather data from multiple sources and all available factors and evidence. And after you’ve reviewed the data and considered the evidence, pause before moving forward. You’re not trying to win the award for “correct decision maker;” you want the award for “great boss” and “person who interacts successfully with others.” Being a good boss is a social state, not a solitary one. In order to win trust, praise, support, and respect, you need to work well with others. And that means soliciting input before making high stakes decisions that affect other people.
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Are You Embracing an Agile Management Style?
There’s no one right way to manage a team or function as a successful leader. The “right” management style is always the one that 1) aligns with your personality, 2) aligns with the needs and personalities of your team members, and 3) gets the job done, ideally without compromising enthusiasm, commitment, engagement, and morale.
But even though an effective management style is situation-specific and highly personal, there are a few traits that, when applied, can elevate any managerial approach to the next level. One of these traits is agility. No matter your approach—hands-on, hands-off, micro, macro, carrot, or stick—embracing agility can help you get where you need to go. Keep these tips in mind.
Maintain short-term goals.
Long-term goals are great. But most industries move quickly, and if your fixed point on the horizon is the only point guiding your day-to-day efforts, it’s time to establish a closer and more immediate destination. Your employees should always be reaching for a milestone or end-point that’s just beyond their grasp, not one that lies five years in the future. Try taking long term goals and breaking them down into smaller and smaller sub goals until the next victory lies within the bounds of a week or even a single day. Short term goals are more manageable, but they’re also more fluid. If they don’t serve their purpose, they can be quickly changed.
Evaluation should be constant and low key.
Don’t wait until the end of each calendar year and an awkward, formal meeting to tell your employees how they’re doing. All year long, maintain a constant stream of low-pressure feedback, and don’t wait until December to express negative feelings about a mistake made in June. Year-end evaluations should be nothing more than a formality in which you tell your employees what they already know.
If you assess a new employee and decide, based on what you see, to adopt a cheerful, laid-back coaching style, that’s fine. But if another style feels more appropriate as you get to know the employee better, change course. If your team usually benefits from strong oversight, that’s fine. But if they outgrow the training wheels eventually, take those wheels off. If a once-successful approach suddenly stops working, don’t cling to that approach. Let it go and try something new.
Hold conversations, not just meetings.
Keep the dialogue open between yourself and your direct reports, and make sure the flow of communication is driven by you; don’t wait to be approached. Circulate each day among your teams, say hello, ask them how their doing, ask them what they need, and by all means, make yourself available when they come to you to ask questions or share ideas.
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Become a Better Manager Part 4: Find a Balance in Your Whole Life
You’re a manager now, and you’re either an effective manager, a struggling manager, or a new manager with no track record behind you. As a leader, your chosen moves are either working or they aren’t. But how are you succeeding as a person? Are you getting the things you need to make you whole? Do you feel in control of your actions and decisions? Do you feel fulfilled by your work? At any given moment, do you feel healthy, well-rested, and fully present, or do you feel like you’re barely holding on? Here are a few ways to improve your success as a leader by planting your feet on stable ground and taking care of yourself first.
What do you need?
If you’re having trouble understanding what your employees need or why they’re upset, stop and ask yourself a few questions before you proceed: Are YOU upset? Are you distracted by something? Have you eaten recently? Are you bringing issues into the conversation that should be part of another conversation altogether? Get whatever you need before you move forward—anything from missing information to a reduction of the noise in the room.
Separate life from work.
At the end of the day, your job is just a job. When you leave the office and return to the things that really matter, try to put the day behind you. Try not to contact your employees after hours, and don’t allow them to reach out to you unless they’re facing a real emergency. Respect the separation between your work and home life, and give your employees the same consideration.
Keep the bar high.
If you expect your employees to come in on time, make sure you come in early. If you expect them to work a full day, stay late. If you expect a certain level of diligence and commitment from them, set the bar a notch higher for yourself. Make sure they see you working just a bit harder than they do, and strive to set an example.
Seek to understand first.
You may become frustrated if your employees don’t understand you or don’t behave according to your expectations. But before you push them, turn the focus on yourself. Seek to listen and understand before you insist on being understood. Protect your employees from upper management, from difficult clients, and most important of all, from your own imperfect assumptions and intentions. Earn their trust before you expect them to hand it over.
Become a Better Manager Part 3: Provide Clear Direction
As a manager, it’s your job to make sure your teams are moving forward at the right speed and in the right direction. If they’re wandering, confused, or headed over a cliff, it’s not because they misunderstood your instructions; it’s because you didn’t communicate those instructions clearly. Once you’re established in a leadership role, all communication mistakes from that point forward are yours alone; if you mess up, it’s your fault. If your teams mess up, it’s your fault. So what steps can you take to make sure this doesn’t happen?
First, set an example.
Before you try to shape your teams and bring them in line, police your own behavior, performance, and listening skills. Are you in control of your priorities? Are you in control of your emotions? Do you maintain balance between your work and personal life? Can you switch gears and bounce back from setbacks quickly? In other words, at any given moment during the day, do you know exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it? If you don’t, they probably don’t either.
When you ask for something, think first.
Instead of impulsively ordering your teams around or sending them on a mission after your latest whim or fleeting need, pause. Recognize that when you tell someone what to do in a professional setting, you’re exercising a sacred trust. Can your teams trust you to deploy them only in ways that serve the best interest of the company and its stakeholders? Before you send someone out for coffee or place someone as the head of a newly created department, make sure your reasoning is sound and your long-term goals make sense.
Don’t push and pull at the same time.
Never encourage your teams to take a risk and then punish them when the risk doesn’t pan out. Never ask them to do something and then yell at them for doing it. Walk the walk, talk the talk, and don’t forget exactly what you requested and how, when, and under what circumstances you delivered the request.
If you don’t explain how or why, expect them to fill in the gaps.
If you ask for something to be done, but don’t explain how to do it, you can expect your employee to adopt whatever methods she sees fit. If you don’t like her chosen methods, blame yourself. The same applies to larger goals. If you give an order but don’t explain why your employee may build a road to a different town than the one you had in mind. The more information you share, the more likely you are to get what you want.
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Become a Better Manager Part 2: Overcoming Fear of Failure
We’ve all heard plenty of buzz about the unexpected upside to “failing.” Failure and setbacks can teach us valuable lessons and help us better understand the systems we occupy. When we mess up or make a wrong move, the results can shine a light into some of the dark corners around us, telling us more about how our industries work, about the people around us, and about ourselves and our own abilities and limitations. “Failing” can show us that we’re better prepared for challenges then we thought. It can also teach us that our preparation is a long way from adequate; the first time you head out on a snowy hike without gloves will probably be the last. Failing illuminates the weak points in our plans and the holes in our parachutes, and once we see them, we can fix them and move on with strength and confidence.
But there’s a gap between knowing this fact and incorporating it into our everyday lives as managers. New managers may be especially likely to struggle with this concept; as an inexperienced first-time leader, you may understand the virtues of failure, in theory. But when the path forks in front of you and you can choose to take a risk or play it safe, most new managers would rather play it safe. If you fall into this category, here are a few reasons to step back and let your teams charge over a cliff now and then.
You can’t hover forever.
If you feel the urge to micromanage and hover over your teams, preventing any form of failure or embarrassment, step back. You’re neglecting your own tasks when you do this, which means you aren’t allowing yourself to expand your own strength and growth. As long as you’re doing their work for them, your teams aren’t learning and neither are you.
This isn’t the ER.
If actual lives are at stake, that’s one thing. But most of us don’t work in the emergency room, and if our teams take a tumble, the consequences may educate more than they harm. Embrace the education; the minor resulting harm can be considered the cost of tuition.
Hard lessons last longer.
A minor scolding or correction from you might sting momentarily, but an actual lost client, failed project or damaged relationship will leave a lasting impression that can help guide decisions far in the future.
Fear of failure means fear of risk.
Nobody enjoys failing — especially not while it’s happening. But if we fear failure too much, we start avoiding any risk or action that could potentially steer us toward it. And that’s just not healthy. Risk should be celebrated and faced with courage, even if it leads your teams down a potentially bumpy road.