“OK, Boomer.” This sarcastic phrase recently blazed across the popular culture and then vanished just as quickly. It captured the annoyance and disrespect that some younger people feel towards members of the “Baby Boomer” generation – that massive cohort of people born between 1946 and 1964. We really are a problem – and have been since we were young children.
The top executive coach isn’t for hire. That’s because it’s not who you think. According to the Wall Street Journal (Sunday, Nov 16-17, p B2), it’s Queen Elizabeth. In her 67 years on the throne, she has met weekly with 14 prime ministers. These meetings are absolutely confidential. The queen is not allowed to comment publicly on matters of state, but that does not prevent her from offering her views in private. According to her own reflections and a few comments from prime ministers, she focuses more on asking questions and providing a safe space for these leaders to talk about the challenges they are facing. She has massive knowledge of both world history and current events, which enables her to provide a perspective both deep and broad.
Almost everyone can recognize micromanaging boss characteristics from a mile away — and most of us have worked for one. This is the boss who delegates work to you and then re-does everything you do, or has you revise it over and over again, usually to meet some unclear standard. Micromanagers have a terrible reputation in the business world. But why? What’s so awful about caring about the details and making sure they are right?
There are indeed some fields of work in which micromanagement is essential. For example, I want my brain surgeon to be a micromanager — a perfectionist who is obsessed with every detail of his or her own work and that of the team. But in most fields, micromanagement is a huge problem, for the following reasons:
Want to accelerate your career? Start by building a mentor-mentee relationship. Find a good mentor – someone who has knowledge and experience to help you grow, who is willing to spend time with you and give you honest feedback, and who is invested in you and your success. Often, but not always, mentors are leaders in your own workplace.
A mentor is not the same as a coach. Coaches are professional helpers who usually work with a variety of leaders across different companies and industries. We often use psychological assessment tools to help our clients understand themselves, and we charge for our services. Mentors offer their support and expertise for free.
Executive coaching trends may change, but as in psychology, change happens slowly. Back in 1957 Carl Rogers wrote a brilliant article on the necessary and sufficient conditions for therapeutic change. He proposed that three elements were necessary for a helping relationship to produce positive changes:
- Unconditional positive regard
If you ever took a Psychology 101 course, you’ve probably heard about these conditions before. In the 62 years since Rogers’ article was published, a lot of research has been done on his proposition. I wrote a review of that research in the mid-70’s and concluded then that the data suggested that these conditions were necessary but not sufficient for creating change —other factors are also required. Still, many psychologists today, including myself, remain convinced that Rogers’ conditions are essential for driving change.
It is rare that my clients come to me for advice on how to take care of a messy office. My executive clients do often ask me how to foster innovation and creativity on their teams, however, so I’m constantly on the lookout for new approaches.
“Samantha” was a highly experienced, intelligent, and savvy team leader I happened to work with years ago. She had a deep understanding of the organization, and a sparkly personality that was fun at social gatherings. Sounds good, right? But, yikes, she was one of the worst bosses I ever worked for, and my introduction to the bad female boss.
She played favorites: She clearly liked working with men more than with women. She undermined the women who worked for her. She gave us meaningless tasks. She was extremely defensive. Criticize her once and you were on her bad list forever.
Nobody likes to believe they are prejudiced, even if a bias test tells them they are. Many people deny that they hold racist or sexist attitudes, or that they discriminate against certain groups of people. But both anecdotal and scientific evidence suggests that a great many of us do, in fact, hold negative stereotypes of groups who are different from us.
So how can we find out how prejudiced people are, if we often aren’t aware of our own biases?
When I was in business school in the early 2000s, there was no question of how to measure business success — and little if any talk of social impact. The most powerful idea I learned in my first year was that the sole purpose of a corporation is to make money for the shareholders.
You have to understand that for me, with my background as a left-leaning clinical psychologist, this proposition was shocking. But I recognized that it was fundamental to how most businesses and business leaders operated.
So today, I’m flabbergasted. On August 19, the elite group of U.S. CEOs that form the Business Roundtable announced that big corporations should no longer focus exclusively on maximizing profits for their shareholders. Jamie Dimon, the chair of the Business Roundtable and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, presented a statement that business leaders should focus on delivering value to all their stakeholders — to customers, employees, suppliers, and local communities, as well as shareholders.
When you lock into a state of Flow and happiness, you probably don’t know it. Usually, it happens when you’re so totally absorbed in a task that you lose track of time. Your attention is so focused that you don’t notice you’re hungry or your neck is crinked or someone is trying to talk to you. And when you finally come up for air you may feel a little disoriented, as if you’ve been somewhere far away.
I’ve been experiencing this a lot lately as I work on my first book, but the sensation was first described and labeled as “Flow” by prominent psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the 1970s. It has become an influential concept in psychology, business, sports, and the arts, sometimes labeled as being “in the zone” or “in the groove.” Flow is an intensely pleasurable state, characterized by clear goals, powerful concentration, immediate and accurate feedback, and an ideal balance between your level of skill and the demands of the task.
The Flow state is a compelling concept because so many of us have experienced it. But as a psychological construct it has two problems. First, how can you measure it? And second, is it actually connected to creativity and productivity?
The statistics on driving change initiatives in organizations are pretty dismal. Nearly 70% of employees cannot describe their company’s strategy, even when there’s a poster on the wall. About the same number feel they’re not good at driving strategy. So it’s no surprise that strategic change initiatives fall short of the hoped-for impact at the same rate — 70%.
These statistics were shared in a recent webinar on “Fast and Collaborative Change Management: Embracing Digital Tools,” presented by the Fulcrum Network. Participants learned about the kinds of structural changes most companies are facing these days: monologue to dialogue, analog to digital, individual to group-based, and gut intelligence to data-driven, among many others.
“Solo CEO” — what a great label! Several months ago, I was invited to speak at the SoloCEO Summit, a conference created by my colleague, Terra Winston. The one-day event was designed for “solopreneurs,” people who had established and were operating a business by themselves. The goal was to provide opportunities for small business people to learn from experts, build community, and create an action plan to move forward.
Terra put together a great team of presenters with a wide range of skills: marketing, coaching, law, operations, and many other aspects of business leadership. The event was striking in its diversity, both among the presenters and the attendees — people leading all sorts of businesses; men and women; old and young; racially diverse. The energy in the room was powerful.
A panel of global IT leaders recently debated how technology will change the future of work at the Cornerstone Conference of the International Women’s Forum in Barcelona. What wasn’t up for debate? Whether it will.