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Be a great leader in difficult times and expand your influence

In times of social, political or economic uncertainty, everyone looks for a great leader. If you stand up, you will not only lead your people but expand your influence in the process. Here’s how.

There’s an enormous amount of discord, improvisation and overall uncertainty in America and the world right now. So what do you do if you are in charge of an organization or a group of people who are increasingly nervous? It’s not easy or simple to be a great leader in times like this. After all, you have to protect your employees and your stakeholders’ interest and those two things can often be at odds. Yet this need not interfere with the role you can play as a great leader who inspires confidence and trust.

Case in point, in the face of the current negative narrative being built around immigrants and women, you have an opportunity to become a beacon of stability and stand out as a great leader. You have a chance to inspire unity at a time when many of your employees  dread getting out of bed in the morning. If they feel their workplace embraces their uniqueness, respects differences, and encourages an ongoing dialog about difficult topics, they will feel safe.  As a result, not only will you retain your best talent, but you will also attract employees and customers who value a company that stands for true diversity and inclusion.

If you want to be considered a great leader, you can't hide in difficult times. You must take a stand.

If you want to be considered a great leader, you can’t hide in difficult times. You must take a stand.

Learn more on leadership from Sergio Kaufman of Accenture

How do you show you are a great leader?

There was never a better time to double down on your diversity and inclusion efforts. To make sure they don’t stay as mere rhetoric but that they are real, palpable initiatives, procedures, mindsets, etc. Here are a few ways to do it.

1Get sponsorship for your D&I initiatives from the very top. Be consistent. Get your C-suite team behind any initiatives wholeheartedly.

2Establish clear D&I goals and tie them to executive compensation. When you tie in performance and compensation, you create a shortcut for getting people behind initiatives they may have considered “nice haves.” Suddenly, these become business priorities.

3Measure your initiatives, scale up and expand those that work well. We all know the saying, “That which gets measured gets done.” So find the right way to measure the success of your initiatives so you can quickly build on them.

4Offer opportunities of exposure to women and minorities. If you’re promoting the virtues of more inclusion at the top, you must offer your diverse talent opportunities for visibility. Again, consistency is the name of the game. If you offer people training and development programs and then fall short of bringing them along for the ride, you’re not putting your money where your mouth is.

5Highlight publicly the work your women & minorities do. Public praise goes a long way to attracting visibility to people who might otherwise go unnoticed.

Great leaders like Richard Branson understand that his role is to impact people's lives.

Great leaders like Richard Branson understand that his role is to impact people’s lives.

Expand your leadership reach

A great leader exercises leadership both inside and outside of their organizations. So flaunt your leadership by sending strong inclusion messages to your current and potential clients on traditional and social media.

1Create marketing campaigns directed to women and minorities. They must underscore respectful, empowering, positive, optimistic messages regarding people with different backgrounds, religions and points of view.

2Clearly condemn messages that stereotype different groups and messages that promote fear  of the other, or hatred.

3Support the work of other organizations. Align yourself with organizations like the Red Shoe Movement that promote issues of equality in a positive way.

By taking these very simple steps you will be standing out as a great leader. One who stands on the right side of history.

 

 

 

How to give constructive feedback to a colleague effectively

As a Human Resources Executive, people frequently ask me: How can I give constructive feedback to a colleague without hurting them? Today I share with you how to do it successfully.

There’s no doubt that our current networks of multidisciplinary and diverse teams enrich our work and promote innovative solutions. The constant interaction with others to reach common goals, however, has its own challenges. One of them is evidenced when we know a colleague could benefit from some constructive feedback about a behavior that affects their work, and we don’t know the best way to deliver it.

One of the Red Shoe Movement’s 7 Principles is anchored around the value of feedback. It encourages us to give honest feedback to other women in our network avoiding hurtful or unnecessary criticism. And the core RSM methodology (the RSM Circles,) is partly based on ongoing feedback among colleagues.

Giving constructive feedback is a cornerstone of the 7 Principles of the RSM

Giving constructive feedback is a cornerstone of the 7 Principles of the RSM

In fact, due to our social nature, humans tend to look for external validation and are motivated by what others have to say. There is plenty of research around this. One survey conducted this year by the international leadership consulting firm Zenger/Folkman found out that 65% of the people surveyed would like to receive more feedback, and 57% said they preferred to get feedback about what they need to improve rather than what they do well.

To give effective feedback is one of the most generous gifts one can offer a colleague. To give feedback in a constructive way, however, you must keep in mind certain rules. The secret for feedback to be delivered effectively can be found in the answer to these three questions.

Three questions help you provide constructive feedback effectively

Three questions help you provide constructive feedback effectively

1Is my colleague open to receiving feedback?

The first thing to consider when thinking about giving feedback to a peer is whether they are emotionally open to receiving it, particularly if your feedback is about something that they need to improve or change in the future. Despite a positive intent to help, your feedback might be touching on a sensitive topic. It is worth noting that often at work we get to know only one aspect of the other person’s reality. We are usually unaware of other areas of their personal history, past experiences, beliefs, and limitations. That’s why it’s important, s to ask if the other person is open to feedback. Here’s how you could frame the question,, “Louise, I have some observations related to the presentation you gave on Monday. Would you be interested in discussing them?”

2Do I have specific and objective information to give constructive feedback?

If our colleague is willing to receive feedback, it is important to offer it properly. For that to happen you must have thorough information about the situation you wish to address in order to frame it correctly. The more objective and specific the information you have, the better. Try to avoid vague observations that will not allow the other person to know what they need to change moving forward. For example, avoid a comment such as, “Louise, I think your behavior is unprofessional in team meetings”. This type of feedback is not only too generic but also it focuses on personality, which will make the other person more defensive and less likely to hear what you have to say. The correct way to give constructive feedback would be: “Louise, I noticed that in team meetings you tend to speak over other people which is not well received and affects the mood of the meeting.”

3Is my feedback constructive and will it help my colleague improve?

The third Red Shoe Movement Principle talks about the spirit in which feedback should be offered. “Provide honest feedback to the women in your network and avoid hurtful comments or unnecessary criticism.” Emotions play an important role in giving and receiving feedback. My advice is to keep them under control, especially if you are giving feedback around a behavior that has frustrated you in the past. When it comes to non-verbal communication, it is better to sit side by side (to level the playing field,) speak in a direct and pleasant tone of voice and be aware of the other person‘s reactions to your words. If you notice that your feedback is not being well received, invite your colleague to express their own point of view rather than imposing yours. For example, you could say something like: “Louise, I can see that you have a different view of the situation. Would you like to share your point of view?”

Learn how to frame your feedback and you will not only help a colleague but also strengthen the relationship.

Learn how to frame your feedback and you will not only help a colleague but also strengthen the relationship.

Giving feedback to a colleague who is a peer requires certain level of maturity and sensitivity to avoid hurting anybody’s feelings or negatively impacting the working relationship. You should not refrain from offering honest feedback, however, since doing so could deny your colleague of a valuable learning lesson and an opportunity to adjust professional competencies that could contribute to their future growth. Genuine, timely feedback that is delivered properly can not only work magic for the professional development of your colleague but also strengthen your working relationship. After all, taking the time to give constructive feedback to your peers is a concrete demonstration of your interest in their career success.

 

3 Networking Strategies Shy Professionals Can’t Miss

No matter how you slice it, your career health depends on your relationships. Here are three powerful networking strategies that work even if you’re shy!

A lot has been written about developing your network. But if our monthly Step Up Plus coaching sessions are any indication, this continues to be an activity most of us could learn a bit more about.

One of the most effective networking strategies: find ways to support the people in your network!

One of the most effective networking strategies: find ways to support the people in your network!

Steal these Networking strategies

I’ll keep it short, sweet and to the point. Let’s look at three particularly effective networking strategies you can start implementing right away.

1Be the organizer

No doubt, this is one of my favorite networking strategies. Nothing beats the opportunities to expand your network like being the organizer of anything. Think about it. Just for starters: The organizer manages the agenda, the guest list, and the communications. Three great touch points for networking. So whenever in doubt, organize. Conferences, webinars, workshops, after-hours, small get-togethers where you can introduce people to people, anything of value. And if you are shy or introverted, partner with a colleague who’s more outgoing or extroverted. You can divide the activities and conquer.

The day of the event, it’s always easier to network alongside another person who knows you well. You can take turns to introduce each other and to highlight the other person’s virtues. In this case, not only would you have your co-conspirator with you, but also people will approach you, as you will be their hostess. This makes it easier to meet people. It saves you from having to approach them yourself.

Among the best networking strategies you can practice is to be on the organization side of things.

Among the best networking strategies you can practice is to be on the organization side of things.

2Make yourself useful

Whenever I’m invited to a party or to an event where I don’t know many people I find my way to the kitchen or any other “behind the scenes” area to offer my help. When I’m more engaged with the organizers of the party or event I feel less anxious about not knowing anyone there. It’s easy to make friends when you’re helping out. The secret is to do it tactfully so your host feels grateful for the extra pair of hands rather than annoyed that you’re overstepping. For this networking strategy to really work, you can’t just make a general offer such as: “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” Because most people will respond with: “Thanks, but we have everything under control.”

My approach is to identify the people who are actually busy preparing, guiding guests to the coatroom, setting up any event materials, and clearly say: “Give me something to do.” Or, “tell me what I can do to help.”

Being on the helping side of things has many advantages:

  • Exposure: It’s easier for others to notice and remember you.
  • People get to know you as you’re working alongside them.
  • Playing a role takes away from standing awkwardly waiting to “meet” people.
  • It gives you an excuse to talk to strangers: “Are you looking for the coatroom? Let me show you were it is. By the way I’m so and so, nice to meet you.”

Here’s the caveat: Don’t become “the help” in the way in which often the help is invisible. Use this role as a chance to meet others reducing the stress that you may feel in these situations.

A great example of this took place in Argentina a few months ago. We invited Nathalie Stevens, the founder of La Fundación de los Colores (an NGO that trains women in vulnerable neighborhoods to do professional make-up,) to join us at an event we were doing at Universidad Austral. Rather than coming on her own, Nathalie asked if she could bring three of her women to do our team’s makeup. They had a chance to become acquainted with the Red Shoe Movement team, we introduced them to journalists and key contacts, and they interacted with others at the event from a completely different place than they would have, had they just attended as participants.

We invited la Fundación de Los Colores to one of our events. Instead of just attending they asked if they could do our makeup. Making yourself useful is a great networking strategy.

We invited la Fundación de Los Colores in Argentina to one of our events. Instead of just attending they asked if they could do our makeup. Making yourself useful is a great networking strategy. https://www.facebook.com/lafundaciondeloscolores/

3Amplify others’ agendas

Not your traditional networking strategy, but one that proves infallible and that you can carry out regardless of how shy you are. You do have to be active in social media, though.

This is how it works:

  • Identify the people you’d like to actively network with.
  • Start interacting with them via social media by amplifying their messages, and commenting and sharing their posts. Be careful not to cross the line and become a stalker. 🙂
  • If you have a chance to help them, do. Whether it is by introducing them to someone useful, bringing them as panelists to one of your company’s events, etc.

It doesn’t really take much to be noticed by someone who you’re helping them. As long as you remain professional, it won’t be long before you can establish a connection that can easily be moved into the real world. If that’s what you want.

Here’s the caveat for this networking strategy to work: Even though you’re approaching someone via social media, it doesn’t mean you can skip the natural steps you’d take to build an in-person relationship. Build trust before you expect anything else. And always be the first one to offer help.

Sharing via social media a presenter's slides supports their agenda by amplifying their work. It's hard not to get noticed when you're helping someone.

Sharing via social media a presenter’s slides supports their agenda by amplifying their work. It’s hard not to get noticed when you’re helping someone.

Now go out and practice these networking strategies in real life. I’ll be waiting to hear how you do. And if you have some amazing tips, please share them here!

 

Climbing the ladder: What women don’t know

Why aren’t more women climbing the ladder at corporations and organizations of all kinds? It’s the million-dollar question. If you really want to change the status quo, read on!

We’ve been debating this question for a long time. Mostly because it’s unfathomable that so little change has happened in decades. Are women not climbing the ladder because of a personal decision or because of organizational biases?

Climbing the ladder: Three responsible categories, not two!

Let’s look first at two, broad categories that most commonly take the blame for making it hard for women climbing the ladder.

Organizational responsibility 

There is an array of factors that deliberately or inadvertently impact the number of women at the top in a negative way. These include barriers such as unwritten rules, policies, expectations, and perceptions of what constitutes leadership potential, executive presence, etc.

For instance:

  • Often, women are not offered advice or training on business, financial and strategy which is key to reach the highest levels of an organization.

    Often, women are not offered advice or training on business, financial and strategy which is key to reach the highest levels of an organization.

    Expectations that in order to reach the C-suite you must be available 24/7. Or work late every night to entertain clients.

  • Expectations that women are still mostly responsible for family matters.
  • Perceptions of men being more competent or having more executive presence.
  • Regular skepticism, push back and challenges of women’s ideas and competences.
  • Fill-in positions through recommendations of current executives in office. (These tend to be white men and have a network with a similar make-up.)
  • Value face-time in the office for promotions(penalizing people who are mobile.)

Personal responsibility

This group of factors includes your own behaviors and decisions that impact your career trajectory.

For example:

  • How assertive you are in your communication and leadership style.
  • How strong your network of sponsors is.
  • How hard and often you negotiate for yourself along your career.
  • How visible you and your accomplishments are to key people.
  • How comfortable you are taking risks.
  • How important other pursuits outside of your career are for you.

Now, in trying to figure out which of these two categories is more responsible for women not climbing the ladder, we keep pointing fingers with little visible results.

The truth is that here’s a third category that connects Organizational and Personal. One that we haven’t paid as much attention as it deserves. One that can really make the difference.

Joined Responsibility

Climbing the ladder requires women to leverage all their assets and know as much about the business of their organization as possible.

Climbing the ladder requires women to leverage all their assets and know as much about the business of their organization as possible.

This category is the space where both individual women and organizations share responsibility for more women not climbing the ladder. Due to the way in which organizations have traditionally perceived and promoted men and women, and social norms affecting both genders, some advice and training fell through the cracks. Companies didn’t offer it. Women didn’t ask for it.

This advice refers to the expectation that a person must have certain abilities in order to reach C-level. Advice that hasn’t been verbalized as often to women as to men. And women haven’t asked about it either. Here are the areas that may be holding you back at any level:

  • How focused you are in business outcomes. (Both the outcomes of your own role and on how they impact the overall outcomes of the business.)
  • How closely you align your role in the organization with the business strategy. (Can you answer why the company is paying your salary? Hint: Think of the “why” you do what you do.  Not the “what” it is you do.)
  • How much financial acumen you have. (Do you know how to affect the company’s bottom line within your own role? At any level, it’s important to understand how what you do affects the financials of the overall company.)
Check out Susan Colantuono’s brilliant book on this topic!

Mastering these three aspects will make it easier for women climbing the ladder to get to the very top. If you are a manager, supervisor or an executive, you may need to start sharing this type of advice with your subordinates. Offer them coaching and training programs to fill-in any gaps in knowledge. If you are an individual contributor, this is your call to action. Don’t let one more day go by without seeking help in this area. Here is a great, very inexpensive Business Foundations online course, taught by Wharton Business School.

It's important to understand how your role supports the overall business strategy.

It’s important to understand how your role supports the overall business strategy.

As women, we already have many of the advantageous characteristics that make for a successful 21st Century executive. Make sure you don’t overlook the business, financial, and strategic abilities that are taken for granted at higher levels. You may not have thought about them much along the way and they may be the one thing that’s holding you back.

 

 

 

 

 

I find my passion in the most unexpected places

The story of a woman surgeon, woodworker & sailor

“I’m an orthopedic surgeon. I like building furniture and sailing. All fields usually dominated by men. I find my passion has never been limited by my gender. I’ve never looked at anything through that lens, until I noticed that others did.”

Dr. Margareta Berg was born in Gothenburg, Sweden where she also went to the University Medical School and obtained her MD in orthopedic surgery and a PhD degree. She has dedicated her life to her passions, which frequently found her in a male-dominated field. Her latest project is her biggest challenge yet and it could save many lives. This could be the story that changes your view on what you can do!

Dr. Margareta Berg, Swedish orthopedic surgeon who works part of her time in Laponia, an area of Sweden close to the Arctic Circle.

Dr. Margareta Berg, Swedish orthopedic surgeon who works part of her time in Laponia, an area of Sweden close to the Arctic Circle.

Read more about how to find your passion here.

When we first met, you told me, “An equal opportunity household helped me find my passion.” Could you expand?

When I grew up there was no difference between male and female chores at home. I still don’t know if this was a conscious choice made by my parents, or just a sign of their true nature. My elder brother liked cooking and baking at a very early age, and as a 7-year old I thrived in my father’s simple woodworking studio. One of my favorite hobbies was to carve wood with a very sharp knife, most often holding the piece against my stomach and directing the knife towards my own abdomen. Nobody would have guessed that these early exercises helped me find my passion for orthopedic surgery.

"I find my passion in many things: making furniture is one of them," Dr. Margareta Berg

“I find my passion in many things: making furniture is one of them,” Dr. Margareta Berg

In elementary school in the 1960s we had to choose between sewing or woodworking. As I had sewn my own slacks since I was ten and I liked carpentry, I chose woodworking. I was the only girl out of a thousand students in the class. Of course I was bullied for this choice, even by some woodworking teachers. But I didn’t care, and continued to find my passion in unusual places. I don’t know where this stubborness and strong-will came from. Maybe it was a combination of genes inhereted from my ancestors. I come from powerful men in the iron and steel production and I’m distantly related to the prominent Wallenberg family with ties in most industrial groups in Sweden.

When you were 14 years old you wanted to be a psychiatrist and as you graduated high school with top grades you were able to enter Med school right away. Then, after your “surgery semester” (or rotation) you changed your mind. How did you find your passion for orthopedics?

When the surgery-semester started, students were placed as medical candidates at different surgical wards. It started with three weeks in orthopedic surgery in August 1979. The very first day, not knowing how to scrub or how to behave in an operating room, our supervisor pointed at a friend and me and said, “Our first case is a hip replacement and you will be my first and second assistants.” We were both thrown into the OR and did as we were told. Now, remember that back in 1979 a hip replacement was a much longer procedure and not the kind of “assembly line” we know today. During those few weeks we assisted in all kinds of orthopedic surgery, even in children.

"I find my passion in orthopedic surgery after my rotation in orthopedics. I entered Med school to be a psychiatrist." Dr. Margareta Berg, founder of Surgicon Foundation

“I find my passion in orthopedic surgery after my rotation in orthopedics. I entered Med school to be a psychiatrist.” Dr. Margareta Berg, founder of Surgicon Foundation

After my three weeks rotation in orthopedics I did find my passion. So I changed my mind. I wouldn’t be a psychiatrist but an orthopedic surgeon.

Did you realize you were entering a male dominated field?

There was not a second of hesitation or any thoughts whatsoever about this profession being a “male” or “female” occupation. I just wanted to do something I liked, instead of spending my lifetime in a specialty with better working hours but for which I had no passion.

Dr. Margareta Berg, Founder Surgicon Foundation

Dr. Margareta Berg

The first time I realized that just being a female resident in orthopedic surgery was a provocation, was at age 30. It felt like I was being interviewed nearly every day at work when people asked me:

“How do you feel about being a woman in orthopedic surgery?” To which I’d usually answer:

“Well, how should I know? I don’t know how it feels to be a man in orthopedic surgery.”

So from the very beginning I entered the field completely free of any preconceptions. I just did my job, as everybody else. It took me several years to understand that it was something special to be a woman in this profession. The gender question was thrown at me after I had already been in this field for a while. Why couldn’t I be left in my innocent, equal world? The truth is that if I had known this reality from the start, it would certainly have given me second thoughts about this specialty.

Laughter is always a great way to navigate an awkward situation.

Laughter is always a great way to navigate an awkward situation.

You might enjoy reading “Women mentors: A group of surgeons like no other

Were you treated differently because you were a woman?

I was bullied, almost every day. But this just helped me develop a very useful method to defend myself: A very rapid, sharp and efficient sense of humor. I did not want to raise my voice for fear of being seen as a bitch, and I did not want to cry (as I never do) showing a useless weakness. When things got awkward, making everyone burst out in laughter was the best way to handle the situation.

This film director is another powerful woman in a male-dominated field. Don't miss her story!

You worked hard and yet you found time to continue to find your passions elsewhere. Tell us about that.

I spent days and nights at work, just to learn, doing a lot more hours than expected. I would usually go home at 7 or 8 PM, had a rest, and then returned to work until midnight.

"I find my passion in sailing. The silence helps me rest and unwind," Dr. Margareta Berg, founder Surgicon Foundation

“I find my passion in sailing. The silence helps me rest and unwind,” Dr. Margareta Berg, founder Surgicon Foundation

But I also needed to unwind. So, faithful to my habits, I did this wholeheartedly. During Med School I had saved all my student loans for eleven semesters by working on weekends to support myself. In 1980 I made a large withdrawal and bought a 26 ft sailing boat. (I had been sailing with my family since I was a child.) It took a week of being all alone on the boat to get back to normal sleep and to feel well rested. As the boat had no engine I developed the technique of entering and leaving harbors and desert creeks by sail during ten years. To some people, this was a strange thing for a single woman do to. And I find my passion for woodwork is still alive today in my furniture-making.

You shared with me that through your career one of your ongoing concerns had been the standarization of practical surgical training. How did that become your latest project and passion?

Well, trying to continue to find my passion in surgery led me to something I had been observing for years.

By 2010 I had spent 30 years in orthopedics. I had observed the lack of structure in surgical training and also I had experienced the differences in quality of surgical training and the potentially harmful consequences of this differences. So I decided that we needed to do something about it. I contacted key colleagues in my own network of surgeons across the world and organized a two-day brainstorming meeting in September 2010 in Howth, Ireland. Along with a group of leaders in surgery we decided to create the Surgicon Project.

What exactly is the Surgicon project and why is does it matter so much to you?

Surgicon is a worldwide network of leaders in surgery with a common interest in Surgical Training and Equalized International Certificates of Surgical Skills. There is a high incidence of surgical errors that are a direct result of the lack of a structured surgical training. In general, across the world, a surgical resident is placed with an attending surgeon who functions as a mentor for 4 or 5 years. After that period he/she becomes a “specialist.” Yet there is a lack of standardized curriculum during this learning period and different attending surgeons teach different things to their residents. Consequently, many preventable mistakes take place and even lives are needlessly lost.

The Surgicon Foundation is a worldwide network of leaders in surgery with a common interest in Surgical Training and Equalized International Certificates of Surgical Skills.

The Surgicon Foundation is a worldwide network of leaders in surgery with a common interest in Surgical Training and Equalized International Certificates of Surgical Skills.

A 2008 Swedish retrospective study of medical records showed 105,000 injuries caused by hospital care in one year of which nearly 50% were related to surgery. Of the total number there were 3,000 deaths, all in a population of 9 million inhabitants. Each injury resulted in a prolonged hospitalization of an average of 6 days.

Surgicon held two congresses in 2011 and 2013. The delegates called them “The Davos for Surgeons” due to the high concentration of world surgical leaders in the same geographical spot for several days. In 2012 the non-profit Surgicon Foundation was created with the goal of creating the needed curriculum to standardize surgical training and drastically reduce preventable mistakes and deaths. In 2013 Surgicon was invited to collaborate with the World Health Organization.

What do you need to move this passion forward?

Everytime I find my passion, I invest all my efforts, time, energy and money into it. This is no different. I’ve spent the last five years working overtime just to organize these two major medical congresses and I’m now involved in fundraising to create the curriculum. We are looking for corporations, non-profit organizations, and governments interested in taking this project to the next level. It will highly benefit patients and their families around the world. And it will help drastically reduce medical costs.

You can connect with Dr. Margareta Berg via:

Twitter: @SurgiconProject

Email: congress@surgicon.org

Website: www.surgicon.org