You can always quit tomorrow

My mother used to say: “You can always quit tomorrow. Just try to get through the day.” The point was to never quit when you’re in the throes of feeling terrible, and you should take a bit of time to get some perspective. **

They were of the era when people thought that, at the end of the day, hard work wins out. And so I grew up on that idea. If you’re going to do something, do it well. If you’re going to plant tomatoes in the garden, my parents would make sure they looked good. They just never did anything halfway.

The broader learning curve has been exciting, but while you’re in it, it’s also kind of annoying. It felt like a slog. At what point will I actually grow into this job, because I have the title? At what point will I actually be making decisions like someone who is the C.E.O. of the company? I would say it took a solid year before I felt good about it.

So are you a person of integrity who makes the environment a really nice space?

**I learned this on last year’s 4 day bike ride!

^^Soledad O’Brien

Can one take this advice intravenously?

  • “Having many different teams in many different countries taught me to build trust fast. That starts by giving, and demonstrating that you are there for them, not for you. Something as simple as bringing coffee, tea, or treats demonstrates you’ve thought of them first.
  • If I come in and ask an employee, ‘What time did you get in today?’ I could send many different messages. Instead I would say, ‘I’m working on making sure the schedule is meeting the needs of the business. Can you tell me what time you typically come in, and if that gives you enough time to set up?’ It removes most opportunity for negative misinterpretation and allows the energy to stay positively focused on work and the topic at hand.”
  • View people, a situation, and the world for what they can become: individuals tend to rise up toward the expectation
  • On more than one occasion I’ve had to share, ‘Don’t confuse my kindness for stupidity or naiveté.
  • “When I see a confused, pensive, or frustrated look, I ask questions like these:

    1. I would love to know your thoughts.

    2. I can tell something’s on your mind. I value your thinking–what’s up?

    3. It doesn’t look like you’re loving this idea. What are you thinking?

    It’s better to call it out and get past it than let someone’s questions or lack of alignment become a distraction.”

  • I told them I needed help. I was very clear in these discussions that I was asking for their input, which was a ‘voice’ in the discussion and not a ‘vote.’ While they didn’t all love that point, they appreciated the clarity. I benefited, because I now had the collective thinking of the community. They benefited by being a part of the thinking and process. We all benefited by creating a culture of inclusion and participative decision making.”
  • I called a quick break, took him aside, and just directly said, ‘You look like you are freezing, have to pee, or have somewhere else to be, but I could be reading that wrong. What’s up?’
  • She insists it’s simple to make people feel valued. “Say ‘I like that’ or ‘Tell me more about that’ or ‘Great idea’ when you hear good stuff. I recommend giving high-fives, hugs, positive notes; whatever is appropriate for your environment. Humans are social animals and respond to love. Few things increase inputs and communication more than people realizing that what they share matters.”

^^12 Communication Habits Made This Former Hooters Hostess a Billion-Dollar-Brand President at 32

 

 

Yet another post on women in tech

“They have no one to point to that looks like them, where they can say, ‘I can do that, too,’ ” she says.

It’s ironic, given that computer science was founded largely by women. In the mid-1800s, Ada Lovelace, the only legitimate child of Lord Byron, did much of the work behind Charles Babbage’s proposed “analytical engine,” writing what’s now hailed as the world’s first computer program. A century later, Grace Hopper, after serving as an architect of the watershed Mark I, invented the “compiler”—a basic infrastructural program—and coined the term debugging after finding a moth in a machine.

^^Vogue: How Pinterest Engineer Tracy Chou is Breaking the Silicon Ceiling

Back in the mid-1980s, women represented 30-40 per cent of all university students in computing science courses in the UK and US. A similar proportion of women worked in this nascent industry, too. But, as the sector has grown, the female proportion has plunged: today barely one-tenth of all US students studying computer science are women, and, as Susan Wojcicki, chief executive of YouTube, recently lamented in a blog post: “Fewer than 1 per cent of high school girls express interest in majoring in computer science.”

^^FT: Tinder highlights tech world’s frat-pack culture

Diversity: the elephant and the mouse

Imagine a room, containing an elephant and a mouse.

“The elephant knows almost nothing about the mouse, while the mouse survives by knowing everything about the other. Herein lies the dynamic between the dominant and nondominant groups in the workplace. Nondominant groups develop certain skill sets, including vigilance, attentiveness, and adaptability. In business, for example, Microsoft is an elephant and Mozilla is a mouse.”

As an American woman living in the Netherlands, I’ve found the “mouse concept” to be a perfect model. The dominant group has advantages built into the system. They can make jokes that everyone will get. They can speak fully fluidly in their native tongue to each other. They know the polite moments to interject and when to let things slide. They share more hobbies, common experiences, and family dynamics. This brings together analysts and board members, etc.

“The institution had all sorts of rules and behavior and people who had networks. How do you figure out who these people are and what their tasks and rules of behavior are? Who talks to whom? Who are they? You have to figure all that out. You have to develop the skill to watch. Which is not what people recruit leaders for. They don’t say this person is a good watcher…I had to watch them as much as they watched me. They had the knowledge. I had to figure it out.”

By the way, the smaller the room, the more the mouse has to take care. Scarce resources heighten competition. Watching is not enough. You must also predict.

For me to thrive in an environment where everything has changed and the social rules are different, I have to learn fast. Vigilance, attentiveness, and adaptability. See, if you’re a mouse, you can’t succeed by pretending to be an elephant. If you’re a woman, you cannot become a man (well, perhaps you can, but work with me). Blacks cannot becomes whites, etc.

Sure, you have the choice to flip industries / continents / etc. The mouse could decide to leave the elephant’s room for the butterfly tank. But what if you are actually so passionate about your field that you don’t want to quit? It’s easy being a finance guy — do finance guys ever think about how much passion a girl must have in order to go against her “programming” (pink doll sets and being told we aren’t good at math)?

This concept goes far beyond education. Education helps of course, but being a “good watcher” will teach you things that they’d never dare to put in textbooks.

‘A white man with a PhD may know little about a black man’s life,’ says megachurch Bishop T. D. Jakes. ‘But a black man with a GED knows almost everything about how white men live.’

But there is a positive spin:

Imagine that the elephant occasionally likes to play poker with the mouse. How well do you think the elephant reads the mouse? Not well, I can assure you.

And lastly, an explanation for the famed “women’s intuition.” Once again we find that intuition is not a trait: rather, experience (pattern recognition) and observational abilities could be the explanation.

I have always been intrigued by where the concept of women’s intuition comes from, and whether there is evidence to support this notion. President Robinson noted that women are often more likely to observe, have better listening skills, include others not normally included, have more emotional intelligence, be less hierarchical, and develop more intuitive observations. However, she also told me that she felt that while traditionally these were considered female traits, she believes they are traits acquired by most groups or individuals who have been out of power historically.

^^The Loudest Duck: Moving Beyond Diversity while Embracing Differences to Achieve Success at Work

above: video from Google on conquring the unconscious conscious

“Last year, Google said it was moving away from the crazy brainteasers it used to ask people in job interviews in favor of structured, behavioral queries like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.”
At the time, the company’s SVP of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, said this line of questioning provided more information about a candidate’s abilities than bizarre hypotheticals like, “How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?”

But a new video the company published yesterday reveals another reason Google has shifted to a standardized set of questions: It helps prevent hiring managers’ implicit biases about gender and race from influencing their decisions.”

^^Why Google Asks Everyone Applying For A Job The Same Exact Questions

“There is an old belief that women perform differently than men on musical instruments—not different and equal, mind you; rather, different and not quite as strong. If you believe someone plays less powerfully and you are watching him or her play, you might think to yourself, ‘I hear that sound less forcefully.’ Symphony orchestras around the world use blind auditions so that musicians are behind screens in order to prevent this belief from influencing a tryout.”

^^The Loudest Duck: Moving Beyond Diversity while Embracing Differences to Achieve Success at Work

Great leaders have four traits

“Great leaders have four traits, which I summarize as the following:

  1. A “True North” that serves as an internal compass of values
  2. The willingness to challenge authority
  3. The practical skills to communicate to others
  4. The ability to travel outside their own worldview

Nondominant groups must expend an immense amount of time and effort proving themselves before we are willing to give them the label of leader.”

^^The Loudest Duck: Moving Beyond Diversity while Embracing Differences to Achieve Success at Work (several excerpts put together)

The Noah’s Ark theory of diversity is sinking fast

Introducing “the Noah’s ark theory of diversity. If you bring two of every kind aboard an organization then you’ve solved the problem.”

But why doesn’t this work? Why, after adding to the ark, would there not be a groundswell of equality?

“To start, it is important to be aware that in all social and work settings there are dominant and nondominant groups. By dominant, I am referring to a person or entity historically in power or overrepresented in highly prized positions. This is a group, or person, who feels entitled to assume this role or feels they obtained the position in a fair way. They may also receive subtle advantages without being conscious of them…

Subtle advantages include:

  • a feeling of camaraderie with those in prized positions in the organization.
  • similar hobbies, conversation styles, and lifestyle situations.
  • access to after work social events that provide a chance to build a relationship without the pressures of work.
  • more simple expectations of behavior (i.e. not being perceived as bossy) etc.

This easily gets confused with dirty jokes or cursing. In fact that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Those are signs of comfortable relationships among peers, a healthy thing. But when men apologize to women for swearing, they send the opposite message: I should not be comfortable around you (the woman) because you need to be treated with delicacy — you are too weak to handle the rough truth. How are you supposed to build a relationship with that elephant in the room?

Likewise, just because a workplace is free of dirty jokes and cursing, doesn’t mean that everything else is fair. However dominant group members have a hard time understanding what “everything else” includes. Never having been “the odd one out,” dominant group members don’t understand how feeling different can affect life at work.

“Because things are going well for them and they are treated fairly, they are often overwhelmingly convinced that their organization is a meritocracy.”

Yet simple transparency and exposure is not an effective solution. A shocking statistic:

“A review of 830 mid- to large-sized companies around the United States found that typical diversity training exercises were followed by a 7.5 percent drop in the number of women in management. The number of female African American managers fell by 10 percent, while the number of male African Americans dropped by 12 percent.”

Why? “We hire for difference and then we fire because they aren’t the same.” The author could also have replaced fire with lose.

^^quoted text from The Loudest Duck: Moving Beyond Diversity while Embracing Differences to Achieve Success at Work, non quoted text is my paraphrase

I’m happy with my status at work — for the record — but I’d love to explain these concepts to our teams. An old school mentality is trapping us in our status quo. By (rightfully) not tolerating sexual harassment, we take false comfort in out ability to handle diversity. But in reality, we could do much better.

The new face of great work

“The perfect modern creative is a woman.
Because we have enough men, and men like it the way it is right now. She will seek change.
And her finest qualities will be frustration and discontent.

The perfect creative presumes that the people around her are talented and want to contribute. This girl gets that none of us are as smart as all of us. She won’t believe that her own insight, emotional intelligence and passion are enough to make greatness happen and will draw excellent minds to her.

But although she will create her best work through collaboration, she will understand the violent, urgent need to disappear on her own, the pressure all hers, at the critical moment to crack the brief.

And she won’t allow history, pay grade, job title or age to stop the candid conversations that will ultimately make the work special. She will never be 100 percent sure, and she’ll be OK with that, because she’ll have the energy to convince others to take the risks that great work demands.

She won’t just set the agenda on the work, but give the agency a true north.
And she will maintain and create the rarest entity in our game — trust.”

^^Why the Perfect Modern Creative Is Fierce, Fearless and Female (edited)

The female presence

Men not only trade more often than women but do so from a false faith in their own financial judgment. Single men traded less sensibly than married men, and married men traded less sensibly than single women: the less the female presence, the less rational the approach to trading in the markets.

^^Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

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