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But Only If You Have A Brain…

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

First, a disclaimer: this post is in no way a recommendation for the University of Phoenix. In fact, I have long been against for profit education, especially UP, which is not only the largest, but one of the worst.

That said, I’d like to strip the logos from the new ad running on national TV and make it required watching for every boss in every business, whether large or small.

Pay particular attention to the last spoken line.

Do you have a brain?

Video credit: University of Phoenix

If the Shoe Fits: KG, Women and the AA-ISP Conference

Friday, February 26th, 2016

Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

kg_charles-harrisYesterday I shared my experiences and the enormous value I found at the AA-ISP conference.

AA-ISP is an international association dedicated exclusively to advancing the profession of Inside Sales. The association engages in research studies, organizational benchmarking and leadership round tables to better understand and analyze the trends, challenges, and key components of the growth and development of the Inside Sales industry.

One of the most interesting occurrences at the AA-ISP conference was an encounter I had in the Exhibitor’s Area.

I was walking along and checking out the different booths during a coffee break and came up on a booth with two middle-aged (like me) women who started to tell me of the advantages of hiring women.

How ridiculous, I thought. Why are they wasting my time with this? Isn’t it obvious that women who have reached a certain level in an organization are generally significantly better at what they do than men in the same position. Why?

Because we live in a chauvinist society that systematically discriminates against women (and minorities), and so to reach the same perk they have to display a level of competence that is clearly stronger than other candidate’s to get the same position. On top of that, they are often underpaid for the same level of work.

My two fellow middle agers were Lori Richardson and Deb Calvert, two female sales pros who lead their own businesses and are working to provide more women with opportunities within sales and sales leadership. Not only were they women, but also wonderful people.

Lori Richardson moderated a panel discussion on “The ROI for More Women in Sales”. On the panel were:

  • Marilyn Nagel, Co-founder & Chief Mission Officer, NQuotient
  • Jeanette Nyden, Negotiator, Sound Partnership Strategies Inc.
  • Bridget Gleason, VP Corporate Sales, SumoLogic
  • Leslie Gay, Director of World Wide Programs at Hewlett Packard Enterprise

It was a tremendous panel on the efficacy and benefits of hiring women. This came across based on the comments, but also on the charisma and competence that exuded from these women – I was thoroughly impressed.

My only selfish concern is that by them leveling the playing field it removes one of the few strategic advantages I have as an underfunded startup CEO — our team is almost 50% women and we are a mostly engineering driven software company.

I’m joking, of course, but it is astounding to me that people don’t hire the best, regardless of who they are.

Lori ascribed this to the fact that people hire people who are like themselves, but if gender and race are more determinative than competence and attitude, this says a lot about the superficial nature of most hiring managers. And it explains why most organizations are so average.

I hope that these women are successful and I have resolved to continue what I’ve always done – evaluate people on deeper criteria than the superficial ones of race and gender. I want to work with the best; this is the only way to be truly successful.

And I hope you will, too.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mImage credit: HikingArtist

Ducks in a Row: How Deep is Your Bias?

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

Research has proved that there are humans are chock full of inherent biases, looks, gender, height, etc.

Now it turns out that we humans even have a bias regarding fruits and vegetables.

Yup, we want our fruits and veggies to be pretty.

Before you scoff, think back to the last time you went produce shopping. How willing were you to buy something lumpy, bumpy or funny-looking?

Every year some six billion pounds of United States perfectly good fruits and vegetables go largely unharvested or unsold, for aesthetic reasons. These outcasts are being called “Ugly Produce” or “imperfect produce” by the media – or produce that is deformed, wonky, crooked, or long-necked.

Bias is probably one of the most inclusive human reactions.

Think about the general reaction to a hairless cat or dog.

Research has even shown that unattractive babies aren’t held and cuddled as often as attractive ones.

No question that bias runs deep.

But just like the wasted food is the wasted talent.

But some very smart folks who don’t like waste are creating successful companies selling ugly produce and reducing wasted food, too.

So if you’re having problems filling your positions, take a cue from them and drop the bias in favor of finding talent, filling openings and raking in revenue.

You’ll be glad you did.

Golden Oldies: Entrepreneurs: A Lesson From IDEO

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over nearly a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Seniors are already a giant market and growing every day, but the solutions are being done most often by twenty/thirty/forty-somethings who have no real idea what seniors face. Don’t believe me? Try this. Lightly smear your glasses (or sunglasses) with Vaseline and wear them for a few hours. You’ll end up with a much better understanding of the world in which your parents/grandparents see. Or you can do as Ideo did. Read other Golden Oldies here.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jm3/519148031How would you respond to the following?

  • Would you hire a woman?
  • Would you hire an old woman?
  • A really old woman?
  • Could such a woman contribute significantly to a project?
  • What could she teach your hot, young engineers?

While most founders would answer ‘no’ or ‘nothing’, IDEO thinks differently.

The company recently hired Barbara Beskind and both she and IDEO consider her 90 years a major advantage.

She applied after seeing an interview with IDEO founder David Kelley, who talked about the importance of a truly diverse design team and hires accordingly.

The aging Boomer market has companies salivating and hundreds are developing products for them.

The problem, of course, is that younger designers have no idea what difficulties older people face; not the obvious ones, but those that are more subtle.

Beskind does.

For example, IDEO is working with a Japanese company on glasses to replace bifocals. With a simple hand gesture, the glasses will turn from the farsighted prescription to the nearsighted one. Initially, the designers wanted to put small changeable batteries in the new glasses. Beskind pointed out to them that old fingers are not that nimble.

It really caused the design team to reflect.” They realized they could design the glasses in a way that avoided the battery problem.

It’s the little things that make or break products and the knowledge of the little things comes mostly from having been there/done that.

That kind of insight is priceless.

Now how would you answer those questions?

Image credit: jm3 on Flickr

Katherine Johnson: As Good As, But No Better

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

Assuming you follow the tech news in one way or another you know that 2015 hasn’t been a kind year to women in tech.

Although it didn’t start this year, trolling, bullying, trashing, violence and death threats have become almost everyday occurrences.

As with most haters, they manage to ignore or deny the positive, such as Ada Lovelace, a Countess who wrote the first-ever computer algorithm and dreamed up the idea of artificial intelligence.

So in the spirit of positivity and hope for improvement in 2016, I thought I would share the story of Katherine Johnson, who calculated the trajectory of Alan Shepherd’s 1961 trip into space, which was America’s first, as published by NASA, where she worked for many years.

I wonder how many techies could do something similar today without using a computer or other current tech.

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/news/researchernews/rn_kjohnson.htmlShe Was a Computer When Computers Wore Skirts

08.26.08
By: Jim Hodges 

Katherine Johnson was 90 on Tuesday, an apt date because it also was National Equality Day.

Not that she ever thought she wasn’t equal.

“I didn’t have time for that,” said Johnson in her Hampton home. “My dad taught us ‘you are as good as anybody in this town, but you’re no better.’ I don’t have a feeling of inferiority. Never had. I’m as good as anybody, but no better.”

But probably a lot smarter. She was a “computer” at Langley Research Center “when the computer wore a skirt,” said Johnson. More important, she was living out her life’s goal, though, when it became her goal, she wasn’t sure what it involved.

Johnson was born in White Sulfur Springs, W.Va., where school for African-Americans stopped at eighth grade. Her father, Joshua, was a farmer who drove his family 120 miles to Institute, W. Va., where education continued through high school and then at West Virginia State College. He would get wife Joylette a job as a domestic and leave the family there to be educated while he went back to White Sulfur Springs to make a living.

Katherine skipped though grades to graduate from high school at 14, from college at 18, and her skills at mathematics drew the attention of a young professor, W.W. Schiefflin Claytor.

“He said, ‘You’d make a good research mathematician and I’m going to see that you’re prepared,’ ” she recalled.

“I said, ‘Where will I get a job?’

“And he said, ‘That will be your problem.’

“And I said, ‘What do they do?’

“And he said, ‘You’ll find out.’

“In the back of my mind, I wanted to be a research mathematician.”

It didn’t involve teaching, though she did it for a while, starting at $65 a month. While on vacation from a $100-a-month teaching job in 1952, she was in Newport News. “I heard that Langley was looking for black women computers,” she said.

She was put into a pool, from which she emerged within two weeks to join engineers who, five years later, would become involved in something new called the “Space Task Force.”

That was 1958, when the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
She did the math.

“We wrote our own textbook, because there was no other text about space,” she says. “We just started from what we knew. We had to go back to geometry and figure all of this stuff out. Inasmuch as I was in at the beginning, I was one of those lucky people.”

That luck came in large part because she was no stranger to geometry. It was only natural that she calculate the trajectory of Alan Shepherd’s 1961 trip into space, America’s first.

“The early trajectory was a parabola, and it was easy to predict where it would be at any point,” Johnson says. “Early on, when they said they wanted the capsule to come down at a certain place, they were trying to compute when it should start. I said, ‘Let me do it.

You tell me when you want it and where you want it to land, and I’ll do it backwards and tell you when to take off.’ That was my forte.”

More flights became more complicated, with more variables involving place and rotation of Earth and the moon for orbiting. By the time John Glenn was to go up to orbit the Earth, NASA had gone to computers.

“You could do much more, much faster on computer,” Johnson says. “But when they went to computers, they called over and said, ‘tell her to check and see if the computer trajectory they had calculated was correct.’ So I checked it and it was correct.”

So the “computer” began using a computer. And in 1969, while at a sorority meeting in the Pocono Mountains, she gathered with others around a small television set to see Neil Armstrong land on the moon and take the first step by a human there. There was some marveling, but not much.

“It all seemed routine to people by then,” Johnson said.

But there was an extremely nervous “computer.”

“I had done the calculations and knew they were correct,” said Johnson. “But just like driving (to Hampton in traffic) from Williamsburg this morning, anything could happen. I didn’t want anything to happen and it didn’t.”

Her work at Langley spanned from 1953 to 1986. She is still involved in math, tutoring youngsters, and she remembers where NASA’s space program was, even as she watches where it is now on television.

“I found what I was looking for at Langley,” she says. “This was what a research mathematician did. I went to work every day for 33 years happy. Never did I get up and say I don’t want to go to work.”

Johnson also spends time talking with children, making sure that they know of the opportunities that can be had through mathematics and science. She laughs when she talks of being interviewed long distance by a fourth-grade class in Florida.

“Each of them had their questions, and one asked, ‘are you still living?'” Johnson says. “They see your picture in a textbook and think you’re supposed to be dead.”

Far from it. Instead, she’s celebrating yet another birthday on Women’s Equality Day, without admitting that there was a time when she didn’t feel equal.

Her father wouldn’t allow it.

Image credit: NASA

Michael Moritz Used the Oldest Excuse

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/techcrunch/9713175008/

I thought a lot about what I wanted to say today, but realized I’d already said it more than once.

And I didn’t feel like spending my energy on a rant that would most likely just be preaching to the choir and, if not, wouldn’t change anyone’s mind.

So this will be short, direct and honest and I’ll let you fill in the blanks.

 First up, a comment from Michael Moritz, the chairman of Sequoia Capital and one of the most successful investors in Silicon Valley history, on why there are no women VCs at Sequoia.

“We look very hard. What we’re not prepared to do is to lower our standards. But if there are fabulously bright, driven women who are really interested in technology, very hungry to succeed, and can meet our performance standards, we’d hire them all day and night.”

Lots of backlash on social media, so all I’ll add is what a crock.

Hard to believe that anybody with half a brain or awareness would say something so stupid — not to mention that it’s a blatant lie.

The “not prepared to lower our standards” has been the reason to exclude women, people of color, Jews and whomever else is out-of-favor at the time.

Makes you wonder why a guy who makes his money looking at the future can’t at least come up with a modern reason for the bias.

Flickr image credit: TechCrunch

Gender Equity is Moving Backwards

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pinkmoose/532853944/

Following up on yesterday’s post about women and inequality, Adam Grant linked to a previous post about his own unwitting blindness.

In that post were some stats that should make everyone, including those who think things are improving, wake up to reality and understand just how far we are from anything actually changing.

Today, U.S. corporate boards have more men named John, Robert, William, or James than women in total. Recent coverage by Claire Cain Miller has brought more chilling data to light: in math, when graded anonymously, girls outperform boys, but when teachers know their names, boys do better. [emphasis mine] And when students rate their favorite professors, they describe men as “geniuses” and women as “nice.” This is sad and unacceptable. We may be in the 21st century, but we’re still a very long way from gender parity.

In study after study, on everything from candidate resumes to professor’s evaluations to student preference, where the only difference in identical credentials is the sex, as disclosed by the name, young and old, male and female, rated the women inferior to the men.

Look at the above statement (in bold), what chance is there that anything will change when kids are already subject to the same attitudes?

Women are overtly and covertly denigrated and sisterhood is a farce.

It’s been said change would come as older generations aged out and bosses were replaced by younger ones who grew up in a more diverse, tolerant and inclusive world.

I started hearing that 50 years ago and am still waiting.

In fact, we are moving backwards; the world was far more woman-friendly in the 80s and 90s, than it is now.

So don’t hold your breath; there is a quantum difference between political correctness and authenticity.

Flickr image credit: Anthony Easton

Ducks in a Row: Seeing Ourselves Clearly

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/anemoneprojectors/5620251974

A few weeks ago Wharton professor Adam Grant wrote Dear Men: Wake Up and Smell the Inequality focusing on why men can’t seem to wrap their heads around gender inequality.

In corporate America, 88% of men think women have at least as many opportunities to advance as men.

This is the finding of a major new study—almost 30,000 employees across 118 companies—by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company.

Just 12% of men felt that women had fewer opportunities to advance in their organizations.

Today, KG Charles-Harris sent a link to an article by Marshall Goldsmith about suck-ups, with an underlying focus on how easily we see traits in others, but not in ourselves. (I call it ‘but me’)

Almost all of the leaders I have met say that they would never encourage such a thing in their organizations. I have no doubt that they are sincere. Most of us are easily irritated–if not disgusted–by derriere kissers. Which raises a question: If leaders say they discourage sucking up, why does it happen so often? Here’s a straightforward answer: Without meaning to, we all tend to create an environment where people learn to reward others with accolades that aren’t really warranted. We can see this very clearly in other people. We just can’t see it in ourselves.

And that brings us to MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™).

MAP, in case you’ve forgotten, is what underlies and drives all our thoughts and actions.

While not seeing things in ourselves may be fundamental to our MAP, that doesn’t mean we can’t change it.

To do so is a choice, yours and no one else’s.

Choice is the most valuable thing that any of us have and it’s the most painful to lose.

Remember Dumbledore? He summed it up perfectly.

“It is our choices that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, p 333)

Flickr image credit: Peter O’Connor

How NOT to Run a Company

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/techcrunch/7257857044/

What do you do when your stock price has plunged 25% in five months and a substantial number of your executive team leave?

What’s your spin when a number of those leaving were hand-picked by you?

If you are Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer you publicly proclaim that they weren’t good enough to do what needed to be done.

“Recently, there has been external interest and speculation in a few shifts amidst our management team. The design and changes in Yahoo’s leadership team are the result of careful planning to achieve the necessary skills, passion, and the ability to execute growth in our business.’

The people who weren’t good for Mayer were scooped up by the likes of Facebook, Square, Helix and STX Entertainment — not exactly companies known for hiring passionless castoffs.

The exodus isn’t all that surprising, considering Mayer’s management style and need for control and the fact that in the three years she’s been at Yahoo there has not only been no turnaround, but everything is worse.

Of course, these days CEO all provide reasons for whatever is happening, but only rarely admit to being one of them.

As I said last January, this is what happens when people buy into their own wunderkind status.

But the truly sad thing is the ammunition she has provided to the anti-women-leaders crowd who will use her to prove that, in fact, woman don’t belong in the corner office.

Flickr image credit: Tech Crunch

If the Shoe Fits: a Lesson from Stewart Butterfield and Slack

Friday, September 11th, 2015

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mBeing a woman in tech can be a serious drawback in 2015; far more so than in the 1980s and 90s — Tinder even dumped a woman founder on the basis that the company wouldn’t be taken seriously by investors. Sadly, they may have been right.

Leave it to Slack, valued at $2.8 billion, to do things differently.

According to its diversity report released on Wednesday, 45% of all Slack managers are female, with 41% of the entire workforce having a woman as their manager. “This means that 41% of our people report to a woman who helps set their priorities, measure their performance, mentor them in their work, and who make recommendations that will impact their compensation and career growth.”  In non-engineering positions, 51% of the workforce turned out to be female. Out of the roughly 250 employees worldwide, 39% are reported to be female.

Slack is considered the fastest growing software company in history and they certainly lead  the tech pack In gender diversity.

And while their racial diversity stats are as dismal as the rest of tech they are far more actively working on changing that, too.

Here are the company’s four hiring guidelines,

  1. Examining all decisions regarding hiring/recruiting, promotion, compensation, employee recognition and management structure to ensure that we are not inadvertently advantaging one group over another.

  2. Working with expert advisors and employees to build fair and inclusive processes for employee retention, such as effective management education, company-wide unconscious bias training, ally skills coaching, and compensation review.

  3. Helping to address the pipeline issue with financial contributions to organizations whose mission is to educate and equip underrepresented groups with relevant technical skills (like Hack the Hood and Grace Hopper), as well as supporting a variety of internship programs to broaden access to opportunity (like CODE2040). 

  4. Attempting to be conscious and deliberate in our decision-making and the principles and values by which we operate. Changing our industry starts by building a workplace that is welcoming to all so that a generation of role models, examples and mentors is created.

Slack is practicing what recent studies have proven; hiring women pays.

Give that some thought the next time your unconscious bias kicks in leading you to reject a candidate because she is a she.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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