I worked hard over the holidays and was pleased with what I
accomplished. What was the key to my productivity? Almost no meetings.
Now it’s January, and my schedule is full of meetings once
again. Don’t get me wrong – many of the meetings I attend are very valuable. But
like everyone else, all too often I find myself trapped in a meeting that’s a
waste of my time.
I know, I know – New Year’s resolutions are supposedly a
waste of time. Each year we start out with great intentions, but by February
they’re usually forgotten. And yet, each year I think about the changes I would
like to make in my life and I start again on my self-improvement journey.
Of course, this new year is especially momentous because it is also a start of a new decade. (Once again, I know – the new decade doesn’t technically start until January 2021. But I don’t care – it feels new when that third digit flips over.) A friend recently sent me a post from Steve McClatchy’s email campaign about making new decade resolutions.
It’s true – great minds think alike! As many of you know, I’ve been working on the concept of “curating your life,” the idea that instead of thinking about balance as if we’re circus acrobats, we need to think about our lives as if we’re museum curators. What’s my exhibit about? What goes in and what gets excluded? Is it time to update my exhibit? My book on this topic, cleverly titled Curating Your Life, will be coming out in April 2020.
So I was fascinated to read a recent post by James Clear, “The Four Burners Theory: The Downside of Work-Life Balance.” His theory proposes that your life is a stove with four burners: family, friends, health, and work. So far so good – most of us would agree with that. But here’s the kicker – the theory also says that to be outstanding you have to turn off one burner, and to become really great you have to turn off two.
In my over 15 years as a leadership coach and consultant, concern about “winning the war for talent” has been a constant. Except in the depths of the 2008-2009 recession, business leaders have been concerned about how to identify, attract, and retain top talent.
Now at the beginning of a new decade, when employment figures are at a high, high-potential employees have plenty of options to choose from. The war for talent is a hot topic once again.
“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.