Archive for category Diversity

Diverse Wine…Random Sunday Morning Musings

unexpected_napa_winesHow important is “career” to you?

My daughter commented once that I define myself by my career.  That surprised me.  I grew up in a man’s world, had no concept of “career” and have always been primarily impassioned by my family and closest friends, followed by music and writing.  My number one concern every day was the well-being of my daughters.  As a divorced mom, I juggled a lot of roles. This is not to say that my daughter’s dad was absent in their lives.  But in our day-to-day routines, I was both mother and father, the disciplinarian one minute and the comforter for the same child the next.  Work was something I did  – well, because I had to work to pay bills.   In fact, I often think I didn’t choose my career.  My career chose me.

I never really saw myself as a manager.  My role model for work was more like my dad – a laborer who did the best he could every day in the beam yards of Bethlehem Steel.  My work ethic, my curiosity, my yearning to solve and explain the incomprehensible to others – these are the things that drove me.  My appointment to a leadership position was not expected.  I had mentors (unknown to me at the time) who recognized my capabilities, helped me to groom my skills and who then sponsored me to management.  I am eternally grateful to those men.  (And – yes, they were men.)

And I have loved what I do every day at work as a manager – because I enjoy engaging with a team; I love hearing their viewpoints, listening to their ideas, learning what they know that I don’t know and piecing together disparate and new concepts into solutions.  I love the collaboration.   And because I care about my team, about my clients, I worked long hours while my daughters were growing up; I was available 24×7 if needed, and I have had the (unexpectedly) best work experience – one I could never have imagined as a young girl growing up the daughter of an immigrant mother and 1st generation father.

And, so, in some ways, yes my career did come to define me.  The difference is this:  I don’t define myself by my career.  I am more than what anyone sees when they see me thru their lens.  I can’t be put into a box all nicely, neatly categorized and fitting tidily into one file folder – either by my children, my friends, my colleagues, or my managers.  And there’s the conundrum.  When my children look at me, they evaluate me by the actions and words they see in their isolated interactions with me.  They don’t understand what shaped those words and actions – where my values came from  – how I grew up or what motivates me.

The problem is no different in the workplace – except that in the workplace we have a responsibility to understand and accept these nuances between each other.  How difficult is that when we don’t have the same kinds of experiences or the ability to know what someone else went through on their journey to today?

When I look around at leaders who came before me, they are mostly – not all – white males that had different parents, different experiences, different education, different opportunities than I did.  They have different home life experiences today than I have today.  And their paths to success are paths I could not follow.  (Pack up my family and move to a foreign country?  Not in my realm of possibilities while raising two daughters.) And I think that’s where women and other minorities may have trouble crashing through the glass ceiling.

What I bring to the workplace is unique.  And I think it’s incumbent upon me to help leaders understand – in somewhat the way I would help my children understand – what makes me different and why my differences make me stronger.

Let’s talk.  You talk.  I’ll listen.  I’ll talk.  You listen.

Don’t judge me by what you expect.  And I promise the same to you.

We have come so far in this country in the spirit of diversity.  But it really is time to confront the final frontier — that is, not just an acceptance of, but an appreciation for diversity of thought, character, leadership styles and work styles.  There’s more than one way to create a fine bottle of wine.  And there’s more than one path to leadership.  Make a change.  Let it start with us.

To my daughters:  Hey, for all the things I have done in life, you are the best whine (er, that is, WINE) I have created.

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What Does Diversity Mean to You?

In Dr. Janice Presser’s blog that I posted yesterday, she said “I think we’re looking at the wrong kind of diversity.”

She is right.

Diversity is more than meeting quotas. Diversity is more than gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. And diversity does not mean that you have to agree with the other person’s point of view, speak their language, or accept their lifestyle. It does mean that we have to be open to seeing the possibilities in every person we encounter. It does mean that we need to make room in the workplace for people who have differet values than ourselves. It does mean we have to realize that not everyone we work with had the same parenting, education, background or experiences that we have had. It does mean that we should embrace the fact that women are, indeed, very often different from men – just as my colleagues from India are very different from my colleagues who were born and raised in the United States. And it does mean that we have to embrace the fact that the differences between each of us are vital to a successful organization.

That means we have to work harder within these differences instead of attempting to press everyone into one common cookie-cutter mold.

I and many others (including The Washington Post) wrote about Max Schireson, the chief executive of database company MongoDB, who stepped down to a less demanding position in the company in order to have more time for his family. In The Washington Post’s column On Leadership, Jena McGregor writes: “Perhaps the best part of the blog post is Schireson’s public recognition of the double standards and differing expectations that male and female executives face. He acknowledges that while the press often asks female CEOs (GM’s Mary Barra, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi) how they do it all, no one’s ever asked him a similar question.”

The fact remains that we have different expectations for men and for women in the workplace. This extends to the hours we work to the leadership positions we hold, to how we speak, and how we manage a team. Personally, I have received feedback (through third parties) regarding my communications style – both what I say and how I say it. The reality is that while part of my communication style is deeply embedded in who I am, I learned my my work communication style at the foot of male managers. And so, after several years of receiving the same feedback, I finally said to my manager, “Please give me specific examples. The next time you hear me say something wrong, pull me aside immediately after and help me – tell me what I did wrong – because I think I say the same things you would have said.” That made a lightbulb go on for my manager and for me.

I realized that sometimes I judge the delivery of messages too. And really, as leaders we need to be looking beneath the delivery of the message to the nugget of value in what is being said. Communication is a two way street: Speaker and Receiver. Both parties put their own “spin” on the message being delivered. Both parties bring different backgrounds, parenting, experiences and knoweldge to a conversation. In a diverse workforce, we strive to hear it all.

And so, I encourage us, as individuals and as leaders, to listen more than speak, to attempt to understand the differences and why they exist, to ask questions for clarity and to make no assumptions about how the message was delivered or even about what was said. Hold back your immediate, innate reactions. Look deeper for insight and allow yourself time to process the diversity of thought.

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Not a Born Leader? So What!

I would like to introduce you to a colleague and friend of mine. Dr. Janice Presser is the architect of Teamability® – a technology which directly measures the way a person ‘connects’ to the needs of the team: not just to other people, but to the team itself as a living entity. I met Janice at an American SAP Users Group event where I had the good fortune to share dinner with her.  What she had to say about how the most successful teams are built and how leaders thrive in our post-industrial, social media connected, global workforce was intriguing and really hit home for me. I hope you enjoy her thoughts as much as I do. The following blog was published previously on Dr. Janice Pressor’s WordPress Blog. I am privileged to share it with you here.


Not a Born Leader? So What!

By Dr. Janice Presser on February 20, 2014

I was not born a leader.

When I was born (and this was a very long time ago), there were serious defects in my leadership blueprint. First, I had two X chromosomes at a time when one Y was needed in order to be a leader. Actually, nobody knew what a chromosome was back then, so 42 Extra Long was the preferred measure, and I didn’t reach my full 5’2” until I was 25.

Although I had no choice in the matter, I also ended up with two loving parents, neither of whom was an entrepreneur or executive. It would seem hopeless.

Now, in 2013, diversity is desirable. My dear friends in executive search tell me that they are under the gun to produce diversity slates for the high level positions they are engaged to fill. A diversity slate, one told me with his typically charming sense of irony, is one that includes at least one woman and one non-white.

When pressed to explain, he went on to say that this configuration positioned the first runner up to be the feel-good candidate while there actually would be no danger of hiring a person other than someone who looked like the rest of the executive team.

I think we’re looking at the wrong kind of diversity.

What if, instead, we looked at people from the viewpoint of the organization? What if, instead, the organization (as a living thing itself) were to provide the want-list, instead of the typical laundry list of job specs written by HR? What if we actually treated organization’s needs with respect and consideration?

This would truly represent a revolutionary change in the way we look at leadership and organizational dynamics.

It turns out that organizations – small, medium, large, and Fortune list huge – all have similar fundamental needs. The people who fill those needs best are the ones who feel, deep inside, a connection to the specific organizational need they are serving. This is what gives a person the sense that they are making meaningful contributions, more so than anything else they could be doing.

People may do various kinds of work similar in focus and thoughtfulness, but they experience different kinds of work in different ways; each aligned with the specific need of the organization that they are filling. This has especially important relevance to leadership.

There are those who are drawn to create big visions, as an entirely new product, or service, or level of awareness. They start an organization as a way to draw other people in to make it happen. In the language of Teamability, they are Founders.

There are those who bond to the vision of the Founder and lead the strategic process of putting it on the road to realization. In the language of Teamability, they are Vision Movers.

There are those who take the drive and activity of the Vision Mover and shape and form it into a more elegant, efficient framework. This transforms the team as well as the project. In the language of Teamability, they are Vision Formers.

There are those who adapt big-picture strategies into action. They are the heroes of their teams as they lead them into the fray. In the language of Teamability, they are Action Movers.

And there are those who make sure that every detail is in place, been accomplished well, and that the project is not closed until everything is done. They are extraordinary project managers, no matter what the project. In the language of Teamability, they are Action Formers.

All are leaders. All are essential. If you want to lead, and you feel comfortable in leading, one of these Roles probably resonates with you.

But there are five more needs that organizations have, and without them the organization is incomplete and structurally flawed. If you fill one or the other Roles, you may not be automatically seen as a leader. However, that does not mean you can’t lead. It may very well be that your organization needs you for a special kind of leading that only you can do.

We’re all in this together, and all people were born to serve. Whether your leadership is recognized or not is less important than your desire to contribute. It is really a matter of finding the right niche.

Here are some tactics you can try along your way to becoming a leader:

  • Start, or take a leadership position in, an organization that does something good for people. (I was involved in several parenting nonprofits and learned the good, the bad, the ugly, and the ‘well worth the trouble.’)
  • People often make snap judgments based on how you look, and they’re often wrong. But, the more you tune into how they see you, the more you can influence their ideas about you. Ask a friend for feedback. (I will be eternally grateful to my BFF Margot for getting me to stop dressing like a mom, even at business meetings.)
  • I have to give credit for this one to serial entrepreneur and investor, Vincent Schiavone. He told me his secret in two words: Get Famous! (I have been working on it ever since. Blogging is a good start!)
  • Ask yourself why you want to lead. If your answer is to make more money, there are probably easier ways. If your answer is to change the world (or some part of it) start figuring out how you’re going to do that and, more important, who you’ll need to team with in order to get there.
  • Finally: don’t give up. Remember that times change and you will change with them. What is impossible at 30 can be possible at 40, probable at 50, and inevitable at 60. (Just remember as you get older to stay young in your mind, your heart, and your body.)

Leadership is, after all, quite simple… and has nothing to do with being ‘born with it’. All you have to do is be the person other people want to follow!

 

For more of Dr. Janice Presser’s thoughts read @Dr Janice, Thoughts and Tweets on Leadership, Teamwork and Teamability and visit The Gabriel Institute online. 

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“Why I am leaving the best job I ever had”

The best job I have ever had — that is, the one in which I have felt most rewarded — was in being a mom. But I want my life to be insightful and impactful and intellectually stimulating outside of my home. The difficulty has always been finding balance between the two “M” words – Mom and Manager.

The expectation that a corporate work week is routinely more than 40 hours is challenging for any parent. Yet, I willingly give those hours because I feel passion and a sense of commitment to my colleagues and to the successful completion of work that enables a better workforce via technology.

I am not leaving the best job I ever had. But for MongoDB CEO Max Schireson, stepping down to do LESS and allow someone else to step up to do more was crucial. There is no shame in this – and I am personally applauding his choice — and his integrity and passion for life and family.

The question for each of us is how we will make personal balance work for each of us. And the realization we must all achieve is that the question is not just for women.

It is my hope that Max Schireson’s choice will not only inspire more dad’s to chose worklife balance, but more, that it will make it increasingly acceptable for women to be able to shift temporarily into a lower gear in order to achieve Mom-Manager happiness. Can we all “lean in” to that idea?

Max Schireson's blog

Earlier this summer, Matt Lauer asked Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, whether she could balance the demands of being a mom and being a CEO. The Atlantic asked similar questions of PepsiCo’s female CEO Indra Nooyi. As a male CEO, I have been asked what kind of car I drive and what type of music I like, but never how I balance the demands of being both a dad and a CEO.

While the press haven’t asked me, it is a question that I often ask myself. Here is my situation:

* I have 3 wonderful kids at home, aged 14, 12 and 9, and I love spending time with them: skiing, cooking, playing backgammon, swimming, watching movies or Warriors or Giants games, talking, whatever.
* I am on pace to fly 300,000 miles this year, all the normal CEO travel plus commuting between Palo Alto and New York…

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Shapes and Sizes

I was not a born leader. Well – not in the typical sense. I was not raised by parents who led me to aspire to being the President or even a manager. I wasn’t even strongly encouraged to go to college (although I wasn’t discouraged either). I was raised by parents who provided enough guidance to make good choices, and then let me try and fail and try again. When I entered the workplace, I entered as a secretary. (These days, we call these bright and invaluable experts “administrative assistants.”) When I received my college degree, I did it at night, while working full-time and while raising my daughters. I did not have aspirations to be a manager. I aspired, rather, to do interesting and intellectually stimulating work. I thrived on relationships I built in the business community and in learning about their thoughts, ideas and experiences.

Over the years, however, I found that my natural curiosity seemed to inspire others to dig deep, to find the right answers, to stop and question their own thinking or the way in which things were always done. And, ultimately, I was asked to lead.

I am enormously proud of all I accomplished. But – trust me – I didn’t set out with a personal roadmap. And perhaps because of that I am more aware of the possibilities that exist when individuals and organizations refuse to allow perceptions, sterotypes or expectations guide choices.

Forbes recently conducted an interview with Angela Yochem, CIO at BDP International. The title of the article is “Former Musician Turned Board Level CIO, BDP International’s Angela Yochem’s Unconventional Path To The Top Of IT”. The headline is attention grabbing. Why? Because we remain fascinated and surprised, when a declared right-brained person excels in a left-brained world.

The fact is that diversity of thought is essential to business success. Diversity of thought will not arise from hearing the same voices repeatedly.

Leaders — those who can guide others thru transformational change — come in all shapes and sizes.

“The collection of capabilities that a CIO must bring into that role is so much broader than it used to be” Angela Yochem says and continues “If you’re a technology leader, you’re the one proposing transformational technology opportunities.”

Transformational technology. Transformational implies an innovative and creative culture. I’ll have a second helping of that, please! And please serve it with a surprise side dish of mixed milieu.

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Blissfully Unaware

In 1999 I had just been thru a divorce, was forced to move from part-time to full-time work, moved into a new home and was raising my daughters, ages six and nine, most of the time on my own. Did I mention I also started an entirely new job? . . . In Information Technology (IT)? . . . On a special project to implement SAP Software? If you have ever worked in IT on the implementation of new software, then you know how much effort, attention to detail and long, unexpected hours it can take.

I, on the other hand, had no idea. I was blissfully unaware.

My job on the IT project team was to translate the business I knew well (employee benefits) into something that would work in the new system (which I didn’t know at all). I sped through an introduction to SAP class; traveled to Boston for a week of intensive training on SAP benefits and then was placed in an office with a consultant to begin to build the system. In just three short months, I was told, I would present what we developed to management. (Even now I am laughing my head off at the prospect that was placed before me.)

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Was I scared? No. Terrified might be the better word.

The thing about the project is that no one else really knew what they were doing either. It was a great workplace leveler. All at once, all of us had exactly the same knowledge and experience: We didn’t know what we didn’t know. We were forced to rely on each other and our own wits to solve issues. We had to question everything. Gone were the days when we knew our jobs and knew (rather instinctively) what to do. Gone were the days of sitting in our own cublicles busily creating and solving issues independently. We needed each other.

I learned more in 1 year than I had in the past five years.

Mostly I learned that the workplace benefits the most when each of its contributors work together like connecting gears on a well-oiled machine. And when our employer benefits, we all benefit.

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Keeping It Real

Icy streams of water slide from my hand down my raised arm and sizzle to my bare thigh as I take a long swallow from my sweat-coated glass of iced tea. AAHHHH…refreshed. A breeze runs it’s long steamy fingers through my should-length bob. I inhale the scent of crisp, salty ocean air, mixed with coconut scented sunblock and I curl my toes into the cool depths of the sand.

I wish I were at the beach. But I’m not.

I am actually sitting in my Pennsylvania home, inside my study surrounded by sea shells and ocean themed art. A ceiling fan rustles my hair. So – aren’t you wondering about the sand?

I really do have sand in my study — a recent gift from my 24-year-old daughter — who brings her inner child to her job as a Fresh Foods Manager at Wawa every day and makes sure that I keep the same spirit alive myself. Chelea has been found singing in the deli, handing out Cowtails candy to a coworker who made her day or playing practical jokes on others.

photo sand2.

Your inner child is shorthand for your “authentic self”. The thing is, Chelsea gets up every day and brings her whole self to work. Her whole self prepares the food, makes the sandwiches, maintains the inventory, cares about her Wawa team, wants to be proud of the work she does, and wants to have fun while she’s doing it. Is there anything better than enjoying what you’re doing for 40+ hours a week?

Dress for success. First impressions count. Define your own personal “brand”. But the most important thing you can do for those with whom you work – and for whom you work – is to be authentic.

Keep it real. Stick your toes in the sand every once in a while.

sand

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Doing more than showing up

When I get ready for work in the morning – or even Sunday night before my work week starts – I do a little bit of mental preparation about the day ahead. What’s on my calendar? Who will need what from me? Should I research or read anything before a particular meeting?

The point is to show up prepared — prepared to contribute your best to whatever activity in which you will engage.

As I know from my daughter (http://www.blondeshavemorerun.com/) – but certainly not from my own experience – runners prepare fastidiously for every event – often for months in advance. Runners don’t just show up.

Recently, a Frontier Airlines pilot (GMA 7/9/2014) did way more than anyone expected in terms of showing up. He bought pizza.

In a rare demonstration of passion and commitment to one’s job, Captain Gerhard Brandner took his own initiative to call Dominos and order pizza for the 160 passengers and crew onboard a flight that was already two hours delayed and had been sitting on the runway for over an hour.

The little things are sometimes the big things. And in all things, the people you work with and for are the most important.

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Leader of the “Band” *

He was man of average build with calloused and greased-stained hands and a weathered face.  I feared his anger with a respect that needed no explanation.  When he smiled, his eyes smiled first.  He was a self-taught carpenter and electrician and car mechanic and small appliance repairman and construction foreman and a steel laborer – simultaneously.  He was bilingual, conversing easily in German  and English.  He didn’t go to college.  He didn’t graduate high school.  But he taught me everything I know about life and how to live it.   On Father’s Day, here are five tips from Dad.
LifeLessons

#1 – Good enough is not good enough.  Dad was a perfectionist of sorts who frequently complained about lackluster workmanship done by others.  He built our house.  And when it was done there was not one single thing that was left to finish – no unfinished floors, or half painted windows or pieces of trim were left to be done later.

#2 – You catch more bees with honey.  Dad frequently reminded us that it served no purpose to be rude in return to someone we thought didn’t like us or who was rude to us.  During one summer college break my brother, Steve, held a job at a nursing home where he swabbed floors and cleaned toilets.  This was the 1970s; and my brother’s hair, just brushing his shirt collar, was considered long and “hippy-like” at the time.  One of the other custodians was frequently snide with Steve.  Steve would complain at home that this man was making his life miserable.  Dad would say, “nevermind – you just keep being nice to him.”  Steve listened.  By the end of the summer, Steve’s custodian colleage was a firm supporter and friend. 

#3 – It’s okay to stand up for what you believe in – even if it causes disruption.  My older brother Jim  marched in a peace demonstration during college.  A newspaper photographer caught Jim in his lens and Jim’s photograph, protesting the Vietnam war, was front and center in our local newspaper.  This was the 1970s, remember.  The neighbors were all abuzz quickly jumping to criticism about my brother.  I think it’s fair to say that Mom and Dad were somewhat embarrassed.  There may have been some words about my brother’s behavior protesting our government – although I do not recall the exact context.  What I do know is that when Dad died in 1993 we found that newspaper photograph safely hidden in my father’s important papers drawer.  All along, he was secretly smiling at my brother’s will to be heard.

#4 – Nothing, No One is Disposable.  At my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, my brother Jim gave a toast that summed up their marriage like this:  Mom and Dad threw NOTHING away.  Dad would repair anything, would save pieces of broken electrical cords for re-use and had a garage stuffed with left over wood, nails, screws and car parts – enough to build or rebuild nearly anything.  We never ran out and bought something new.  He fixed it.  This, as my brother noted, was a good metaphor for marriage.  Through unexpected births and steel layoffs and strikes, through raising five children and putting them through college, Dad never gave up.  And today I cringe at the items I dispose – thinking that Dad would try to fix them.

#5 – What makes us different makes life and work special.  My dad worked in the melting pot of the Bethlehem Steel beam yard.  His coworkers were from every country, every region of Pennsylvania, every ethnic background.  He spoke of them in stories and jokes that were filled with respect and fondness for each of them.  He saw the differences – including his own – as interesting, sometimes amusing and, in general, something that made the workday worthwhile.  As a child, I don’t recall ever hearing a racial slur at home.  Later, when my brothers would bring home their college friends — whom other parents of the time might regard as pot-smoking, too-free-spirited hippies — Dad and Mom would sit in the kitchen and talk with them.  And although they both heard things they never thought they would hear in their house (about sex and birth control and how these young people intended to live), they never flinched, they never made anyone feel unwelcome.  In fact, they taught me – the impressionable younger sister — to be accepting of all.

 

Ignatius Joseph Hoffman.  He was born in the U.S. in 1919, grew up thru the Depression, made his own way teaching himself to design and build and create and labor, and became my Dad.  Thanks Dad, for the best lessons in life.

 

*Dan Fogelberg wrote the song “Leader of the Band” for his father.  In 2003 he said of the song, “If I would have been able to write only one song in my life, it would have been this one.” 

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Leaning In to Get Published in Technology

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“How Design Thinking is Making ERP Software Better” is featured on Page 78 in the May issue of CIO REVIEW. After proudly posting this picture on Facebook, one tech friend (@MicoYuk) tweeted in response “YES!! I LUV to see women on top of their IT game. Congrats to @SherryanneMeyer for bng featd in @CIOReview p 78 #WIT http://www.cioreview.com/magazines/may14/SAP2014/ …” I realized – remarkably – that the publication was a bigger deal than my byline. I went back into the magazine to check the conributors. I counted males and females. I was one of only 3 women who contributed to that issue of the magazine.

I want to be clear: I do not think the lack of female contributors is because the editors overlooked female candidates. I think it’s because women who are willing to put themselves out there are harder to find. I have a sense that when women draw attention to themselves it is not well received, and that therefore, women avoid opportunities that may shine too bright a light on them. Being vocal as a female is a fine art requiring delicate and adept balance to avoid inciting resentment among one’s peers. (I don’t know that I have mastered that art yet.)

Mico’s tweet to me made me sit up and take notice to how many of us are not leaning in to speak our minds on the broader technology platform. Nearly everything I’ve been taught has come from textbooks authored by men. Nearly every speaker I have had the pleasure to hear at a technology event has been male. And I checked who I follow on Twitter, and – GUESS WHAT!? – of the individuals I follow (not organizations), the majority are men.

Why is it that women don’t step out, say more, get quoted, write, speak, or publish more? Is it too risky to “Lean In” to put your thoughts in writing? Are we too busy being wife, mother, friend and tech genius all at once?

My Point of View: We need to be heard for the generations of young men and women who follow.

Your thoughts?

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