In person business event for networking

4 Truths About Virtual Networking

My favorite definition of an extrovert is “a person for whom heaven is a roomful of strangers.” For an extrovert, such a room is an opportunity to meet and engage with new people, learn interesting things, share observations or humor, and potentially make useful connections. We look forward to and draw energy from these occasions. For us extroverts, the pandemic has been a frustrating and lonely time.

Fortunately for us, the world is beginning to open up. I’m going out to meet today with a group of high-powered women. We’ll listen to an expert speaker, eat lunch together, and enjoy each other’s company. I will most likely sit at a table where I know no one. I can’t wait!

Of course, I’m well aware that not everyone shares my enthusiasm. I have plenty of friends, colleagues, and clients for whom networking is a nightmare. But love it or hate it, for the last two-plus years all of us have had to learn how to work virtually and how to network virtually. We’re still doing plenty of it. Here are some of the lessons I have gleaned from the wonderful world of virtual networking:

Remote work culture won’t match the office experience, and that’s OK

For smaller tech companies, attracting and retaining top talent has always been a challenge. They can’t match the salaries the big tech firms offer, so the smart ones compete by offering a terrific employee experience.

Table XI, a fast-growth digital consulting firm, had a remarkable work culture — with the office at the very center. Their space was cool and inclusive. The atmosphere was both focused and fun. They had a terrific chef who made wonderful, family-style lunches every day. Everyone liked spending time there — employees, clients, and friends.

Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, people haven’t been going into the office much lately. In fact, many companies, including Table XI, no longer have permanent office space. While some tech companies are pushing for a return to the office, at Table XI, all employees now work from home or in coworking spaces. 

So, CEO Mark Rickmeier was faced with a challenge: how to recreate that special culture without an office? 

How to retain top talent, beyond just offering a raise

Recent research from McKinsey gives us new insight into how to retain top talent. The article lays out two top reasons why people stay in their jobs. First, they feel valued by their organizations and their managers

Of course, one way to show that an employee is valuable is to give him/her a raise. But sometimes a raise just feels transactional, or worse, manipulative. Is my boss just trying to buy my loyalty? If I can get a raise now, why didn’t they give me one earlier?

Two women seated facing eachother intense conversation

How to give feedback to peers at work without offering insult

A peer of mine, “Bruce,” was up for promotion. As part of his assessment, I was asked to provide 360° feedback for him, contributing to the confidential feedback alongside his boss, peers, and subordinates.

I liked and respected Bruce, and for the most part my feedback was very positive. But in the comments section I wrote:

“Bruce often gives me critical feedback or advice which I have not requested. I’m sure his intention is good, but it feels somewhat demeaning. He is my peer, not my boss. If I want feedback I will ask him for it. I think this behavior may undermine his effectiveness as a colleague and a leader.”

keyboard on fire

Why a mean email is the wrong way for leaders to give negative feedback

A long time ago I had to work with a very frustrating administrative assistant. I was a relatively new consultant and as far as she was concerned, it was way below her dignity for her to provide support to the likes of me. One day she said to me, “I am corporate and you are small business.” She was an expert at playing passive-aggressive games, like preparing documents for me at the very last minute before I had to go into a meeting. 

Frankly, she drove me crazy. I used to lie awake nights trying to figure out how to deal with her. I mean, for goodness sake, I’m a psychologist! And I’m generally regarded as pretty easy to work for. Surely I could fix this problem.

Man on walking steps confidently wearing a fashionable suit

How to build self-confidence at work in 5 steps

Reading an article about how to build self-confidence at work recently, I stopped on the first piece of advice: “Believe in yourself.” If you believe in yourself, you don’t need to be reading an article about self-confidence. You’re already there.

After decades of working with clients who lack self-confidence, both as a therapist and later as a coach, I have learned there are five actual steps people can take to become more self-confident. 

Why it’s a bad idea to bring your whole self to work

“If you’re looking for a firm with a strong team connection where you can be your whole self … ”
“We welcome all, and seek talented individuals who can bring their whole self to work … ”
“We appreciate different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives — encouraging everyone to bring their authentic selves to work.”
“We cultivate a community of playful personalities that thrive in a fast-paced environment where our employees can be their most authentic selves.”

These quotes are from recent job postings at well-known companies. They reflect a powerful trend in current thinking about the kind of environment that talented employees are seeking. They also imply that this kind of environment will bring out the best in their people.

This wording may be useful from a marketing perspective. But let me tell you, as guidance for getting ahead and moving into a leadership role, it’s dead wrong.

Brown sailing boat on the sea during sunset

Why we’re listening to sea shanties and living like sailors

Singing sea shanties is a thing right now. And while it may seem as hard to predict and understand as any other pop culture trend, it’s not a surprise to me that we’d find comfort in classic and modern versions of the 19th century sailors’ songs. 

No, we’re not performing physical labor together like the original singers. But from what my husband, Dan Golden, has told me about old-time sailing, there are a number of parallels with the way many of us are living now.

man trying to scale a rock climbing wall

Fearless 2021 predictions from Chicago’s business leaders

We have all learned this past year that trying to predict the future is a highly risky endeavor. But that doesn’t stop us from trying.

Every January, the Executives’ Club of Chicago invites a panel of experts to help business leaders and investors navigate the coming year by predicting the major economic trends. Last January, for the most part, they didn’t do so great. But they were at it again recently.

Man on phone illustrating Zoom fatigue

The trick to managing Zoom fatigue without miscommunication

When I was first introduced to Zoom by my fellow executive coach, Jim Kelly, a few years ago, the concept of Zoom fatigue would have seemed laughable. At the time, I was just amazed at how well it enabled Jim and me to stay connected as professional colleagues and friends. I felt like part of an exclusive club — no one else I knew was using videoconferencing very much, let alone Zoom.

five people in office wear talking

How to evolve and optimize internal talent management

How do employees find out about opportunities in your company? Not just full-time jobs, but also opportunities to participate in projects, find a mentor, engage in networking, or learn something new?  How do leaders learn about employees’ skills, aspirations, and passions?

In most companies, the answer is – it’s difficult. Often, employees have access only to the opportunities their managers know about and are willing to share with them. And equally often, leaders have many demands on their time with few opportunities to really get to know their people.