Thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg and Personal Leadership

As we reach the end of one year and enter into a new one, we all feel the need to recap on what has been and look toward the future – at what will be. Perhaps we are drawn to predictions as a way of helping us make sense of what is otherwise unknowable. But I am a great believer in planning and action. It’s important for us all, as individuals and as leaders, to set forth a vision and follow that through with programs that help us all build towards that vision. At the end of 2010, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, delivered an amazing address to the TEDWomen conference. As she points out: Women are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world Women on boards and in C-level positions sits at around 15-16% Women political leaders and heads of state – about 0.5% These numbers have not moved since 2002 and are trending down While not downplaying the role of mentoring, training or other programs designed to encourage the participation of women in business, Sheryl suggests that there is no clear answer (even for herself) – but that an important aspect is to focus on our individual actions and responsibilities. What are the things that we can actually do? Sheryl suggests we take three key actions: Sit at the table – don’t underestimate your skills and capacities. You don’t make the corner office or get a promotion when you don’t sit at the table when decisions are made. Make your partner a real partner – statistics show that women continue to take...

Lessons in Loyalty

Approximately 25% of employees do not feel loyal to their current employer and 20% say they are likely to leave their current position to change jobs within a year, according to a recent CareerBuilder.com survey of HR professionals and hiring managers. Although I am not completely surprised by these figures, the percentages are nonetheless disturbing and warrant our attention. Ongoing recruitment, training and retention are costly endeavors on multiple fronts. Disengaged employees erode retention, productivity and profitability. Moreover, as with one bad apple, their attitudes tend to be infectious, spreading negativity to fellow employees, thereby further exacerbating the problem and escalating the overall damage. Far too many employees live in a state of comfortable misery and something must be done about this pervasive issue. The bottom line is that employee dissatisfaction can largely be attributed to leadership skill and effectiveness. Of course individuals play a role and must assume some level of responsibility for their own satisfaction. But the reality is that it is up to us – right or wrong – to lead effectively, intelligently and passionately and as such inspire our teams to work in kind. The top reasons listed for disloyalty in CareerBuilder.com’s survey were: “I don’t feel my employer values me” (61%); “My efforts are not recognized or appreciated” (52%); “My employer doesn’t pay enough” (51%); and “Not enough career advancement opportunities” (44%). These are all issues over which we as leaders exercise a tremendous amount of control and influence. It is critical that we manage these areas purposefully and proactively. We have to connect with our teams; our success depends on it. Michael Stallard...

Professional BusinessWomen of California

This past week, I had the good fortune to attend the 19th Annual Conference of The Professional BusinessWomen of California conference. According to the organization, “The annual conference is PBWC’s main forum for women leaders to mentor and role model, foster upward career mobility and gain instant access to a large network of other professionals.” For certain, the conference was a great networking opportunity with leaders from all professions in attendance and on the speaking platform. Some of the more notable speakers included Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State of the United States; Cokie Roberts, a political commentator for ABC News and National Public Radio; Jackie Speier, the newly-elected Congresswoman representing the 12th District of California in the U.S. House of Representatives and founder of the Professional BusinessWomen of California; Martha Beck, a life coach and columnist for O:The Oprah Magazine; and numerous other leaders from businesses in a myriad of fields. It was a thoroughly enjoyable conference and I was delighted to attend. A particular highlight for me was Martha Beck’s keynote presentation. She spoke about focusing on “doing what makes you happy” which is the core message of her recent book Steering by Starlight: Find Your Right Life No Matter What! As I am always on the go, it is great to have someone like Martha offer a moment within which to reflect about what makes one happy. Too many people get caught up in the routine of daily living and lose sight of what makes them truly fulfilled. They become desensitized to the world around them and march through life like robots carrying out their daily...

A Little Misnomer about the “Work-Life Balance”

Since the 1970s in the U.K. and the 1980s in the U.S., the phrase “work-life balance” has been used to shine a spotlight on presumably unhealthy behaviors of working men and women as it relates to the neglect of families, friends, personal time and the like in favor of work-related activities. Many studies of this issue have shown that women, in particular, are plagued by this seemingly inherent conflict, especially when children/families are involved. As someone who has been in the professional workforce for the entirety of the “work-life balance” debate, I must admit that I have never really agreed with the entire notion. In fact, I don’t even view it as a “work-life balance” but rather as a “life continuum”. As Tara Weiss of Forbes stated in her article How Extreme Is Your Job? last February, “To get ahead, a 70-hour work week is the new standard. What little spare time is left is often divvied up among relationships, kids and sleep.” However, the article went on to say that “workers were themselves to blame …”, as “64% of those surveyed said their wo rk pressures are self-inflicted … Many of the people interviewed for the study say they love their jobs and are reluctant to lessen their work load.” Quite simply, our lives consist of many things, all of which must be completed in the 24 hour per day limit. And while there are clearly times where work-related responsibilities demand more of those 24 hours in any given day, there are also times where personal matters do. As a manager, I have always adhered to a philosophy...