Join me for a tweetchat on STEM

Join me tomorrow, Thursday, November 6th at 12:00 PM ET for a tweetchat on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) and how we as leaders and professionals can increase participation. Joining the tweetchat is easy, see the directions below!

How to join a tweetchat:

  • The easiest way to view and contribute to the tweetchat is by going to: http://tweetchat.com/room/LetsTalkSTEM (You can also tweet directly from Twitter or a tweet dashboard using the hashtag #LetsTalkSTEM, but it is not as easy to see the conversation)
  • Login with your Twitter information to start tweeting (you must have a Twitter account to participate)
  • The hashtag #LetsTalkSTEM will automatically be included with your tweet so you do not need to retype it
  • We will use the Q1/A1 format, which means when a question is asked it will be denoted as Q1, Q2, etc. where the number indicates which question it is (Q1 = Question 1). Similarly when you want to provide an answer to that question you start your tweet with A1, A2 where the number indicates which question you are answering, so A2 means you are answering question 2, not that it is your second answer.

My most recent blog posts related to STEM:

Why women aren’t in STEM careers and what we can do about it

Why some countries have more women in STEM

Join me tomorrow for a tweetchat on shared leadership

Tomorrow I will be hosting a tweetchat on the topic of shared leadership. To participate, you will need a Twitter account. Use the hashtag #sharedleadchat or go to this site to add your thoughts and questions:  ow.ly/wvER3

 

  • Date: Thursday, May 8th
  • Time:12:00 – 1:00 PM ET
  • Where: ow.ly/wvER3

Not familiar with tweetchats? Here’s a helpful article on how to participate.

 

Insights from the Personal Branding Tweetchat

Is personal branding something that happens to you or something that you control? Is it inherent to you or something that can be changed? My recent tweetchat on personal branding gave me pause to really think about these questions and discuss them with others. Here are a few insights from that conversation.

What is it your personal brand?

When we think about “branding” ourselves, we tend to think about external things – blogging, tweeting, our résumés. But really those are just tools we use to perpetuate our personal brand; think of them as symptoms, not the illness itself. Personal brand is much more… personal. It is your core being, your operation style, how you execute and present yourself. It is, as Meghan Biro says, about “find[ing] your true self and run[ning] with it” or as others in the tweetchat described, your passion, your niche, your unique value. However, the important piece here is that you must truly understand your personal brand, what you actually perpetuate, not just what you hope to – which brings me to the next point:

Does personal branding happen to you or by you?

You own your personal brand, but branding, on the other hand, is a different story. Organizational Change Management Consultant, Sophie Shuklin, wrote in the tweetchat, “Another way to look at this is how others describe you and what they think you bring to the table.” Brand is what you bring to the table, branding is what others believe you bring to the table – what they think of you long after you’ve left the table. Branding happens with or without you. Go now and Google yourself. You’ll find a brand being developed that you may have had little or no hand in. However, that’s not to say you can’t influence your branding, but the first step is to know who you are: strengths, weaknesses, good days, bad days, and all. If there is something you don’t like about your branding, you can work to improve that, perhaps with social media or more directly, by changing your approach with others. But, what if you want to change a branding that’s been perpetuated over your entire career?

Can you change your branding mid-career?

Change takes work. Don’t expect to wake up one day and say, “I’m an expert in something new” and for everyone to agree. Authenticity is bred through consistency; trust is fostered through performance. Moral is, the silent response to you will be, “Prove it.” The key to changing your branding is to leverage your experience, knowledge, and your personal brand. Remember, just because you want to do something new and have people view you differently, doesn’t mean you have to change your core being, your true brand.  Instead, find ways to leverage that into something new. Take steps, not leaps. To get from point A to point C, go through point B, and sooner or later you will have developed that authenticity and trust that will drive new branding.

In the ongoing conversation about personal branding, it is important to remember the difference between brand and branding. Brand is who you are, how you portray yourself, while branding is how others perceive you.  It is important to understand both, who you are and who others think you are. With that insight, you can own and reshape your branding into exactly what you want it to be.

Insights from the Change Management Tweetchat

A few weeks ago I hosted a tweetchat on managing organizational change. Many of the insights from the conversation aligned with the findings from Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. I want to discuss two of those points in particular: What is change and how do you get buy in?

What is change?

Our first mistake as leaders is to assume that change means one thing. Take a relatively simple change as an example: “We will no longer have coffee in the office.” To one employee this means an hour in the morning with a grumpy, decaffeinated manager. To another employee this means a changed commute to factor in getting coffee before coming to the office. And to yet another employee this means that the organization clearly no longer cares about its employees if it can’t even provide coffee. These are three very different interpretations of this simple change, and that is exactly the point.

Change is not what you are doing; it is the perception of what you are doing. Change is personal. It is individualized, not one specific thing, and thus you have to recognize and respond to various personal perceptions in order to make change work. Luckily though, different perceptions don’t always require different responses. In our example, the first two employees could both be appeased by providing purchasable coffee, for instance. However, failure to recognize the perspective of the third employee could lead to bigger problems. Therefore, the way you communicate and the actions you take cannot be one size fits all.

How do you identify those perceptions? Simply put: Ask and observe.

How do you get buy-in?

As Organizational Change Consultant, Gregg Gullickson, said,People don’t resist change; they resist being changed. Engagement is key.” A classic example: Parents pushing their child down a certain career path – Becoming a doctor may seem like the best option, so the parents may pay for the education, set up an internship, and insist that their child takes the MCATS, but if the child has his heart set on becoming a musician, the chance that he will willingly become a doctor is limited. And even if he does, it is more likely that the change won’t stick or he will resent his parents.

People have to be engaged in the change; they have to own the change for change to work. But how do you do that? As Rob Tucker wrote in his blog, “Ownership is not an intellectual state, it is a feeling.” Leaders need to help their employees feel:

  • They can manage the change – Give your employees a slice, not the whole pie and work your way up to the goal. This is what the Heath brothers referred to as “shrinking the change.”
  • They are empowered – Remove roadblocks, provide resources, and let your employees decide the best way to reach the goal.
  • They are responsible for the outcome and the outcome has meaning – What they do or don’t do has an impact on the whole team. If they feel that the team is counting on them they are more likely to be committed to creating success and when they are successful, their efforts are recognized – not only to for their own benefit, but as a model for everyone else.

Managing change is one of the most difficult things a leader will do in their career, especially when the change isn’t as simple as coffee, which most often it’s not. Often changes can be unwanted, multi-faceted, or even confusing. However, a rapidly changing environment has become the norm and getting employees on board is essential. Often the first step is an open, honest conversation – “How do we get this done?”

Insights from the Employee Engagement Tweetchat

I recently hosted a tweetchat on employee engagement (to which I invited our employees to join) and had a great conversation about the factors effecting motivation, inspiration, satisfaction, and thus engagement. Below are a few of the key themes that emerged.

Employee satisfaction is a product of fulfillment and actualization

As Daniel Pink said, it’s surprising what motivates us. Studies identified three factors influencing performance: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. It turns out; this same theme came up in our tweetchat. Satisfaction comes from feeling your work has purpose, a purpose that is meaningful to you, not necessarily to anyone else. Understanding the strengths, weaknesses, and interests of your employees then becomes critical. You can’t contribute to their fulfillment and actualization without understanding what drives them.

Recognition means more than you think

The great thing about recognition is that it doesn’t have to be complicated or costly to be effective. It doesn’t have to be monetary. It doesn’t have to be an award. It doesn’t even have to be a thank you. Not that these things aren’t valuable as well. “Recognition can be as simple as asking employees their opinion in working groups,” wrote Senior Managing Consultant, Michael Anton. So while recognition is an important component of developing an individual’s personal esteem, it really encompasses much more than you think.

If engagement is an issue, look at your leadership first

A question leaders should ask themselves is, “Am I creating or enabling barriers to engagement?” Perhaps you are wondering what that really means. As leaders we can create barriers or, at least, enable them by:

  • Not communicating long term and short term goals and how employees fit into those
  • Being closed off, not having an ear to employees needs (or what I call, “Living the open door policy”)
  • Perpetuating a culture that’s not oriented around employees
  • Developing an organizational vision that doesn’t align with employee values

What you do or don’t do as a leader has an impact on employee satisfaction. You should be the first source of motivation and inspiration for your people. If you want engaged employees, who are happy to come to work and excited to take on new projects, then you have to put them first. Your daily mantra needs to include, “how does this impact my employees,” “what will be expected of them,” and “what’s in it for them.”

If you’re not using collaborative tools, now’s the time to start

Collaborative tools are not the answer to employee engagement, but they are great way to add to the employee experience. There is a cultural shift that needs to be responded to, a move from one-sided communication to multi-directional collaboration. “Go where employees engage naturally and communicate with them directly,” wrote Workforce Transformation Consultant, Brittany Thompson. But not only do collaborative tools allow you to have these meaningful conversations with your employees all over the world, they also provide you the opportunity to identify experts and reposition them, which brings us back to helping your employees fulfill their purpose.

 

There is not a single formula for employee engagement. Adding a pool table and a nap room to your office won’t magically transform your workforce. Ultimately though, it’s not about the things, it’s about the people and how you treat them. As author and speaker, Shep Hyken, said during the tweetchat, “My Employee Golden Rule: Treat people you work with the way you want your customers treated, maybe even better.” And as far as employee satisfaction goes, I’d say that’s a great place to start.

Insights from the “Facing Challenges” Tweetchat

Last week I hosted my final tweetchat of 2012 on the topic of facing challenges in the workplace. I started the discussion with a question: “What is the number one challenge you face in the workplace?” Three key challenges emerged, and along with them, many ideas for overcoming them.

The 9 to 5, or 6, or 7, or…

The combination of mobile technology with increased work pressures and expectations has contributed to more people working more hours. While we appreciate increased flexibility, the additional workload can be daunting and at times even paralyzing.  However, there are strategies we can implement to manage our workloads, improve overall performance, and even make time for the little people (AKA your children). Managing your workload is really about managing your time, for example, setting appropriate boundaries for work and personal time or what I called in a previous post, managing “work/life imbalance.” Those in the tweetchat also had good ideas for time management. Strategy Consultant, Alan Howze, had recently been experimenting with “Living Your Calendar,” which takes your traditional to do list to the next level by helping to prioritize and set aside time for specific tasks, instead of focusing solely on urgent tasks while pushing aside important ones (a critical distinction).  The tweeters at Online Business Degree suggested breaking down projects and setting time limits on individual tasks. Moral is, if your workload is burning you out, and you find you don’t have time to do the things you love or really need to do, then take a good, hard look at your calendar, chances are it could be better organized.

Fear of Failure

“What will my boss think or say or even worse, do?” Often employees are afraid to speak up or take action, because they are concerned about the recourse. But as David Williams wrote in his recent article, “Employees who are afraid of something or someone in the organization will naturally close up to protect themselves, and can no longer perform at their full capacity.” Plain and simple, fear is a performance and innovation killer. However, leaders can play a significant role in reducing employee fears. As leaders, we should advocate for and truly live an “open door” policy. Give your employees the opportunity to get to know you and what you stand for. Walk the halls and introduce yourself to people you don’t know. As employees get to know their leaders, they become less afraid of them and more willing to contribute new ideas. As for the individual, consultant, Brianna Lux, had a whole different suggestion: Improv. Yes, I mean the “stage, mic, random acts of comedy” improv, and it turns out, Forbes agrees.

Employee Dissatisfaction

One of the greatest challenges an organization can face is employee dissatisfaction. Low morale contributes to equally low performance. I thought it would be better to ask the group what would improve employee satisfaction rather than propose ideas myself: “Provide a clear career path and encourage employees to engage mentors who can assist with their development,” wrote Adam Jelic, Workforce Transformation Lead. “Find what motivates your teams!” interjected Senior Managing Consultant, Bill Kirst.  While Alison Nickerson suggested, “Let people feel they can contribute and be a part of something.” Three very different ideas that prove there are many ways to overcome employee dissatisfaction – and for more ideas start by asking your employees.

For a conversation about challenges, and trust me, it wasn’t difficult for participants to name a few, it had a distinctly hopeful feeling. I think this gets at the question of why even have a conversation about something seemingly unpleasant? Hiding challenges will almost never make them go away, but acknowledging them and then collaboratively addressing them will not only eliminate the problem, but build camaraderie too.