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If You Liked “Lean In,” This is a Must-Read

May 7th, 2018 // Tom Doescher // 0 Comments
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Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while, you know I have recommended Lean In — and I still do. I thought the author, Sheryl Sandberg, was very transparent about being a woman executive, and she offered some great tips.

That being said, I would also highly recommend reading The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know, by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. It reminded me of a Daniel Pink book, filled with references to substantial research from many sources. If I were to attempt to summarize the main topic, it would be that there’s a difference in perceived confidence between men and women. If you’re a business leader, man or woman, this is a must-read.

As I’ve already mentioned, the book is rich in objective research. In addition, the authors have interviewed successful women executives and they weave their own stories into the book, too. To whet your appetite, I’ll offer some of my favorite takeaways/quotes:

  1. We see it everywhere: Bright women with ideas to contribute who don’t raise their hands in meetings.
  2. Yes, there is evidence that confidence is more important than ability when it comes to getting ahead.
  3. In studies with business school students, men initiate salary negotiations four times as often as women.
  4. Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.
  5. Confidence is life’s enabler — professionally, intellectually, athletically, socially, and even amorously.
  6. So is confidence encoded in our genes? Yes — at least in part.
  7. It’s the effect of nurture on nature that really matters and makes us who we are.
  8. There’s a direct link between playing sports in high school and earning a higher salary later in life.
  9. When a man walks into a room, he’s assumed to be competent until he proves otherwise. For women, it’s the other way around.
  10. Women are judged more harshly at work and in life on their physical appearance than men.
  11. An unhelpful habit most women have is overthinking.
  12. Of all the warped things women do to themselves to undermine their confidence, the pursuit of perfection is the most crippling.
  13. Confidence comes from stepping out of your comfort zone and working toward goals that come from your own values and needs — goals that aren’t determined by society.
  14. Nothing builds confidence like taking action, especially when the action involves risk and failure.

This book is based on extensive research, and I believe it offers some very practical advice.

p.s. Here’s a closing idea for those of you who are dads with daughters. I have a friend who read the book with his 20-something daughter and had a discussion after each chapter. What a special gift — for both of them!

What’s Limiting Healthy Communication in Many Businesses?

January 22nd, 2018 // Tom Doescher //
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Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Once again, I’m out of my area of professional expertise, but I would suggest the answer to the title question is “passive-aggressive behavior.” My partner, Barbara, will write more on this subject later, but I wanted to at least introduce it.

Based on reading 8 Keys to Eliminating Passive-Aggressiveness, by Andrea Brandt, and my own experience and observations over the decades, I believe most of us could do better.

Here are my takeaways from Brandt’s book:

  1. Unlike extrovert/introvert, passive-aggressive is a learned behavior developed during our formative years. Brandt would say that if one parent is dominant and the other is subservient, children will almost inevitably develop some passive-aggressive tendencies.
  2. Unrealistic standards can cause a child, who becomes an adult, to develop passive-aggressive tendencies.
  3. Brandt would say that we don’t express our feelings because we leap to the conclusion that any difference of opinion will lead to a  quarrel, which in turn will threaten our relationships.
  4. She would also say that if you don’t ask for what you need, the odds of getting it are greatly reduced.
  5. The best thing we can do for our children is to raise them in an environment where it’s safe to express our feelings and speak the truth to each other.
  6. People with passive-aggressive behavior will say “yes” when they really mean “no.”
  7. According to Brandt, conflict — even if it’s occasionally uncomfortable — can help create good, enriching relationships. (Editorial comment: this is very counterintuitive.)
  8. Don’t assume the other person knows what you’re thinking and feeling.

Hopefully this list whets your appetite for reading Brandt’s book. It’s not an easy read, but I believe that for any leader or senior executive, it’s worth the effort.

Two closing comments:

  1. Since it’s a behavior learned as a child, many of us may not realize we have passive-aggressive leanings. I would encourage you to ask your mentor, supervisor, coach, spouse or someone who really cares for you what they think.
  2. In reading the book and self-diagnosing myself, I don’t believe I’m passive-aggressive. However, as I reflect on my interactions, I would say that, at times,  I’ve behaved in a passive-aggressive manner. This has generally resulted in confusion, miscommunication and bad results.

In my amateur opinion, dealing with this subject could be a game-changer for your team. I strongly encourage you to read this book in order to better understand the impact this very common situation may be having on your company.

Buckingham’s 8 Questions

December 11th, 2017 // Tom Doescher //
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Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Those of you who personally know me or have been reading my blogs are aware that I have highly recommended using the 12 questions found in the book  First, Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham. This summer, I heard Buckingham speak, and discovered he has pared his 12 questions down to eight (fewer is always better).

During his presentation, he explained that some of the original 12 questions were focused on the company, while others pertained to the team member. He went on to say that the best employers encourage their team leaders to really understand their team members’ point of view.  In reviewing and reorganizing his original 12 questions, Buckingham classified half of the questions (four) as company-focused; the other half address the individual team member. Then, he paired up the questions and categorized them: Purpose, Excellence, Support, and Future.

View the Buckingham 8 Questions Chart.

As with the 12 questions, I would highly encourage leaders/supervisors to use the Buckingham 8 Questions as a tool for career planning sessions (annual reviews) and/or as a gut check to make sure you’re thinking about questions from your team members’ point of view.

I Didn’t Think Linda Could Do It, But She Fooled Me

November 27th, 2017 // Tom Doescher //
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Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Years ago I was meeting with a longtime client who was also a business owner. He informed me that one of his key executives was planning to leave and asked if I thought her assistant, Linda, could handle the job. Without thinking much about it, I said, “I don’t think so,” to which he said, “I agree.” Some time went by and, based on a number of factors, he decided to give Linda a chance.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about the executive who was leaving. I believe most people would have given her relatively high marks, because her department functioned well. She had a very strong personality and, in retrospect, she probably was overly controlling without causing any obvious issues.

You’re probably ahead of me at this point. It turned out Linda was very successful, and I believe my client and I both would agree she outperformed her predecessor.

So, what’s the point? After that experience, whenever a similar situation arose I would attempt to determine whether the No. 2 individual was being held back and hiding their real skills and talents, just to get along with their boss.

How many Lindas get passed by? Do you have any Lindas in your organization that you may be overlooking or underutilizing?

As you know, leaders are hard to come by. Do you have a true leader who’s hidden in your midst?

Man’s Search for Meaning

October 16th, 2017 // Tom Doescher //
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Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

No, “Man’s Search for Meaning” isn’t the title of a current New York Times bestseller; it’s something that was originally published in 1946 in German. I’m guessing some of you have read it, maybe for a college psych class. I finally read the timeless book, which was written by Viktor Frankl, and I admit it was a hard read — but it was well worth the time and effort, for many reasons. Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist born in 1905, was a Auschwitz concentration camp survivor.

In the beginning of the book, Frankl states that he didn’t intend for this to be another history book about the concentration camps, although he does provide some chilling personal stories. Instead, he wanted to share his professional conclusion that man’s primary motivation in life is to find “meaning.” He quotes Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher, as concluding “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” He also quotes a Johns Hopkins University survey, where students were asked what they considered “very important” to them. Seventy-eight percent responded, “Finding a purpose and meaning to life.” (Although it may sound like I’m quoting Daniel Pink, Marcus Buckingham, Jim Collins, or Patrick Lencione, I really am talking about a holocaust survivor.)

Owners and senior executives, I’m asking you to think about what Frankl is saying. Then, realize he had no idea that, more than 50 years later, millennials would come along. I’ve commented on the topics of purpose, your why, and your mission several times, including in my January 11, 2016, blog. You probably started your business with a passion for something. What is it? Do your team members know, and are they as excited as you? You may say what you do is pretty plain vanilla, but I don’t accept that. In my October 14, 2013, blog, I commented on how Frank Moran created an accounting firm using the metaphor of the Mayo Clinic for businesses and to this day, it still inspires hundreds of professionals.

When I tour manufacturing facilities I always ask a few operators where the part they’re making goes. To my shock, most don’t know. To them, it’s just a metal or plastic fastener.

Owners, please figure out a way to inspire your team members. They could easily work somewhere else and probably make similar money. You have an opportunity to appeal to their need for meaning in life. Don’t miss it. It won’t cost much, but it could make your company an even better place to work.

p.s. Actually, I’ll make you an offer. Contact me and, at no charge, I’ll help you communicate your “meaning” to your team.

 

 

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Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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