Friday, June 20, 2008

102.1 - who's listening?

Every morning on the way to work I listen to the Dean Blundell radio show on 102.1 the edge. It is a male dominated morning show that prides itself on being raunchy, disgusting and chauvinistic. It’s mostly harmless and it can be quite funny. Today, they introduced a new female intern onto the show and in their usual banter of inappropriate questions they ran down a list of similarly inappropriate tasks that would be included in their duties, most of which included breaking wind in each other’s offices. This was all well and good until I found out that the intern is a 22 year old girl. As a female listener, I take all of their nonsense with a grain of salt, but something inside of me wonders what will happen when you throw a young girl into the mix. What role will she play? Would she be relentlessly harassed because she was good-looking, young and new to the workplace or is she there to be “one of the boys”? Clearly sensationalism sells listenership. And, freedom of speech.... yes, I get it. Hey, I’m listening! But what accountability does 102.1 have to upholding fair, non-discriminatory workplace and broadcasting practices (and frankly common sense) as it relates to gender. And, through the popularization of misogyny with their dominantly male audience, does this not just serve to build the back room alpha boy banter?

So, I challenge the folks at 102.1 to take our Walk the Talk employee survey launching July 7th at . Or, send us a note and tell us where you stand on this.

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The Alpha female-- don't look to the Alpha male!

We were recently at a friend’s home for a dinner party and shortly after arriving, their Scottie dog ‘Jacques’ came right over to me and sat at my feet. My girlfriend (the dog’s owner) looked over at me and said, my dog always knows who the Alpha female is in the room.
I laughed and took it as a compliment. Strong, independent, decisive, a leader--- these would be the qualities of an Alpha male, wouldn’t they? Then naturally, I would be all of those things in a female body. Funny in this context but how does this apply in everyday life? Or, in the boardroom?

In male business communities, Alpha males congregate and celebrate their common strengths and superstar characteristics. They join the YPO, they play golf together, they have each others’ back. As an Alpha female there is no such community. While we have many women’s associations and clubs, women are still very uncomfortable sharing their success. And why is this? 1) we were not socialized to self promote and 2) when we do, it usually isn’t genuinely received and celebrated by our female peers. So where do Alpha women toot their horns? When a strong, powerful, trailblazing woman like Hilary Clinton—the quintessential Alpha female --is still scrutinized based on what she is wearing and characterized as too aggressive, the double standard remains clear.

When you hear Alpha female, who do you think of and does it conjure up a positive impression?

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Monday, June 09, 2008

The Results-Only Work Environment: Do Whatever You Want, Whenever You Want ?

I've joked with friends a lot lately about how strange it is that we moved through a school system that trained us to be increasingly independent, given increasingly more freedom to manage ourselves and our learning, only to finish university and find this independence ripped away. Entering the grown-up, 'professional' world, suddenly you're no longer trusted to manage your work or your own time, instead relegated to function in a way you haven't had to since elementary school - your success dependent on conditioning yourself to show up on time, adhere to rules and obey authority figures, rather than producing work worth doing. And you don't even get nap time like the last time this was your reality.

The idea that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want might sound silly at first, even childish (thanks no doubt in part to memories of the "Do what you feel" festival depicted on the Simpsons back in the day when I was in elementary school). But in truth, it's been shown to not only make work suck much less from the employee perspective, but also produce far less sucky work that leads to better results for employers (hence, the name).

Since we are conditioned to follow an industrial model of quantitative rather than qualitative value, you of course need some proof. Two human resources professionals, published a book last week on Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, as part of the quest to provide just that. They first made their ROWE, or results-only work environment, philosophy a reality for the 3,000 employees at Best Buy's corporate headquarters. The shift was so successful that it made the cover of Business Week in 2006.

In a ROWE, the person who attempts to climb their way to the top via contact reports, status reports, time-sheets, and otherwise creating the appearance of working by managing time instead of results, will find themselves falling off the rungs. It isn't about putting in hours but rather, turning out great work.

Successful people in this paradigm will be creative, receptive to changing environments, assumptions and problems, rather than simply doing what they are told. It doesn't make any sense for managers and employers to fear letting people do whatever they want, because really, how many people do you think truly don't want to do anything? There is no better way to build your personal brand than to be focused on the results of what you do, rather than where and at what time you do it. At the end of your career, would you rather say, "I worked this many", or "I accomplished so much"?

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Nina DiSesa, a pragmatic approach to managing up!

After all of the negative talk about the cement ceiling and our lack of progress in penetrating the senior executive ranks in North America I found it particularly refreshing to speak with Nina DiSesa, Chairman of McCann Erickson New York about her rise to the top and how she made it happen.

While some women find her choice of words for the title of her recently launched book Seducing the Boys Club, offensive, I find it refreshing. Although this is a very serious topic, we tend to take ourselves very seriously and Nina reminds us about the whole package--- wit, charm, personality, smarts, confidence, talent-- all of it. It takes all of it to make it to the top. Period.

You've got to be great not only at what you but how you do it. Nina's take is that we have been looking at this all wrong-- because clearly it hasn't been working for us at the pace we would have hoped. So, rather than following 'the rules' that people are putting in front of us, let's figure out some other way to skin the cat! This can-do determination and creative approach might be just what we need to move the needle in the next decade.

Read the article and listen to the interview (25 minutes duration). I am sure you will find it as refreshing as I did.

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