The good news is I’ve never been fired. That bad news is I’ve been downsized twice. Those were two of the worst days of my life. And it happens to nearly everyone at some time in his or her career.
As with most calamities, what matters most is how you respond. Psychologists talk a lot about resilience, the ability to bounce back after a defeat. In the days and weeks following your termination, you can take steps that will deepen and prolong your misery or you can move forward in a way that will rebuild your self-esteem and accelerate your progress to the next phase of your career.
Anyone who’s ever struggled to navigate office politics knows the importance of OI, even if they didn’t know what to call it. OI, or Organizational Intelligence, is the ability to think and act strategically to get things done in an organization. Alongside Cognitive Intelligence, or IQ, and Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, OI allows great leaders to see their ideas through to fruition.
Women in business contend with subtle — and not so subtle — gender bias every day. As we work together to confront and change those attitudes, we also recognize that’s a long-term journey. In fact, those of us who have been around for a few decades are often astounded by the battles still being fought in 2016. In the meantime, real women have to navigate real challenges on a daily basis.
To get some advice for women trying to fight their way forward in the workplace, we talked to Andie Kramer, prominent Chicago lawyer and co-author of Breaking through Bias: Communication Techniques for Women to Succeed at Work, which she wrote with her husband and former law partner, Al Harris.
Say you’re writing an article about effective business networking when a character pops up on your screen. He tells you that on LinkedIn, there are a number of experts on networking who might have useful ideas for you and offers to connect you to them. How will you react? Delight that a new resource is available to help you tap into the latest expertise? Or get irritated about this intrusion into your writing flow?
If you want to stay right on the cutting edge of new technology, try teaching. I learn constantly from my MBA students at Chicago Booth. This quarter, I’m mentoring a team as it explores the impact the cloud will have on business and society. It’s not a subject I likely would have studied without them, but teaching this course gives me invaluable insight into a technology that’s transforming the business world.
There’s no substitute for real workplace experience, which is why I’m pleased to be teaching in the Management Lab at Chicago Booth this quarter. It’s a great class, an intense deep-dive into the world of consulting for MBA students — and a few lucky students whose work relates to the project. This time around we have a psychological anthropologist and a physicist. The objective of the course is two-fold: to deliver a great product for the client and to facilitate the students’ learning about how to work in a team and manage a client relationship.
Ah, what to wear to work? Earlier in my career, it was easier. When I worked in the campus library, jeans and a sweater were fine. When I was a waitress, I had a uniform. When I graduated and moved into the workforce, I cut my long hair and dressed very professionally so I would look older and more authoritative. When I started as a consultant, the rule was “wear a suit every day.” Simple.
But now — who knows? Dress codes are relaxed or non-existent, and the decision about what to wear is more complicated. I suggest three basic guidelines:
My favorite fictional performance coach, Wendy Rhoades (or as some viewers spell it, Rhodes), was back at it on this week’s episode of Billions. I’ve written before about how accurate her portrayal of performance coaching is. Despite all of the drama in Billions’ fictionalized world of hedge funds and government prosecutors, the character of Wendy Rhoades, played by Maggie Siff, plays an integral role in keeping the hedge fund at the center of the story successful. Her situation — married to the U.S. attorney dedicated to taking her firm down — may be pure fiction, but the techniques she uses to correct and motivate the firm’s traders are rooted in the real world of executive development.
My father-in-law, Sam Golden, passed away on March 8 at the venerable age of 89. He served for many years in the office of legal counsel of the University of Chicago, was an avid and talented amateur cellist, and advocated passionately for the rights of the developmentally disabled. This morning the family rose up from “sitting shiva,” the traditional Jewish practice of gathering at home for seven days, surrounding by friends and family, to remember and mourn. As we move back towards our normal routines, I have been thinking about what we need to do to carry forward the goodness that Sam brought into the world. His values can be summarized in four actions, which I think serve as a guide for all of us: make music, live each day passionately and fully, love your family, and work for social justice. May his memory be for a blessing.
His passing had me thinking about how we can be our best selves in the workplace, where we spend so much of our time.
It would be easier, sometimes, if we could get people to behave a little more like machines. Not like that exasperating copier sitting in the corner with kick marks around its base, but like a logical, straightforward computer. If this, then that, a series of inputs with consistent outputs. Instead, we’re, well, human. And we don’t always behave according to plan. Managers who can embrace that uncertainty and respond to their employees’ needs will have a great deal more success than those that treat their people like computers — pushing the same button and expecting consistent results.
Meetings seem to be the latest demon in the world of business. We hate them, they waste our time and they should be eliminated. I know what people are complaining about. When I worked for a large consulting firm, we had monthly day-long meetings with all the consultants in our office. They were awful — boring, annoying and unproductive. I admit it — I once called in sick because I just couldn’t face spending the day in that meeting. At that time, we consultants were billing our time at about $500 per hour. Ten consultants, eight hours — each meeting cost the company $40,000 in lost billing time.
If you’ve ever spent the better part of a day playing defense against your colleagues instead of getting actual work done, you know how much happier the workplace could be if we all acted like decent human beings. Rex Huppke, workplace columnist for the Chicago Tribune, recently asked “Why is it so difficult for workplaces to achieve widespread kindness and the efficiency that would logically follow?”
“Evolution is life’s imperative. Choose change or die.” This was the theme of a talk by Cecily Sommers, author of Think Like a Futurist, at the annual conference of the Society of Consulting Psychology. Her other motto? “Get your head out of your past.” Or as one of my clients used to say, “If it ain’t broke, break it.” As business leaders, we are living in exciting, scary times. And if we don’t learn to adapt to them, well, we might as well start packing up our desk now.