"Managers think tactics. Executives think logistics, planning and strategy. Leaders think staff selection, retention and team development."
By: Evelyn Dilsaver, Retired President & CEO, Charles Schwab Investment Management
This means you learn to express your opinion in a constructive manner…not as a whiner, but in a way that offers solutions. For women, this is critical because in many situations, you will find yourself the only woman in the room. Be the “Voice of Reason” – and you will break the stereotypes (i.e. when others come up with the idea you just had.) Pick your battles…if you find that you are always the agitator then you need to look at your work environment. Some issues you will need to let go of and have others fight the battle.
First, find others who share your point of view and let them take credit for the idea. That way, you aren’t always the one out in front; and when it’s successful, most normal people recognize your role in both getting it done, and supporting them. It builds tremendous loyalty and accomplishes a great deal.
Then, build a great team. Delegate. Ask questions. I know you’ve heard this before, but it’s too easy for us to say, “Oh, I’ll just do it, it will be faster”. Or “It won’t get done my way, so I’ll just do it”. And you find yourself putting in 14 – 15 hour days, feeling you are carrying the whole load and that no one is helping. So, how do you build a team? Find people who have skills you don’t have, are smarter than you and let them do what they do best. Give them the tools they need, the recognition and rewards. Don’t make it hard for them to do their jobs. This is also hard, because you have to have self-confidence to hire people smarter than you.
But, do you know what this is doing for you? It leaves you room to work on the next level of capability you need to advance to the next level. It allows you to think about the future and plan for it, so that you are prepared for what is coming up in a year or two, rather than reacting to the moment. If you have great people, it allows you to be promoted, as executives like to know that there is a successor, allowing for a smooth transition as you move on. I know I’ve been in conversations where we couldn’t promote an individual, because there was no one to take his place.
I know, you’ve delegated before and something happened on your watch that was not good. So, you reverted back to doing it yourself. Yes, this does happen. Here are a few things you could do that will help prevent big mistakes from happening before you have a chance to correct course:
A. Communicate with your team: if they are clear on the goal and you have frequent meetings (once a week, every other week) to check in, then it’s easier to catch (a problem).
B. Ask questions: What is your goal? How do you hope to accomplish it? What do you think the risks are and what do you plan to do to mitigate them?
For today’s worker, in the service environment, where your assets walk out the door every night, this is the best method for leading them. Today’s worker is highly educated and smart and doesn’t necessarily want to be managed. You are not telling individuals what to do, but encouraging them to think and enabling yourself to understand how they approach a problem or goal. This also enables you to provide input along the way. And don’t overreact if something does go wrong—business is all about managing risk… and risk is the operative word. Real leaders seem to get their kicks out of seeing their own people succeed and their own organization succeed, rather than have their personal ambition take precedence. So to be a leader, be visible, be available and be a good listener. BACK TO TOP
This is connected to “finding your voice” and being the voice of reason. Have you ever been in a meeting and felt the group wasn’t talking about the “big” issue that was on everyone’s mind, but dancing around it? That’s called the pink elephant in the room…everyone knows it, but no one’s talking. Find a way to talk about the pink elephant – in a constructive way that encourages finding solutions.
Also, learn how to provide feedback to your employees that respects their dignity. Whether it’s a tough performance review or you have to fire someone, learn to have those conversations that address their behavior, not their personality or morals (good person, bad person). BACK TO TOP
You become blind to your own talents and skills. I moved around the company, because I wanted to learn new skills. It was tough, because I was compared to others who had been in that functional role for many years. I’d want to kick myself as I saw others advance before me…but I’d have to remind myself that this was a path I chose, and I was learning new skills that would help me reach my eventual goal. You see, I wanted to be a general manager. I needed to obtain a broader set of skills. So, I moved around the company getting sales, product development, and strategy skills, and the softer skills of listening, building relationships and getting things done through influence without direct authority. What I discovered is that I may not know the specific technical aspects of a new role, but I bring a very different perspective that opens up new questions, new ideas for doing the same thing. When I was coming back from US Trust and interviewing for a job (again) at Schwab, I interviewed for head of product development for the mutual fund business. I remember my interview—because I told the executive in charge that I met two of his four requirements. I didn’t know the mutual fund business. I wasn’t a classically trained product development person, but I knew everyone at Schwab, and therefore, knew how to get things done. I was a great builder of teams, and I could create a vision of where we needed to be and get everyone pulling the boat in the same direction. He liked that and hired me. Even though my predecessor was someone who knew everything about mutual funds, she didn’t have the other skills. With my team, we were able to grow the assets from $137 billion to $210 billion by the time I retired – 4 short years. BACK TO TOP
This is another aspect of an earlier point about “Accomplishing a lot if you don’t care who gets credit”. As you network and build relationships in your organization, ask your peers and your team, “How can I help you succeed?” Then listen and act. Be the person who brings others together and makes the connections – you connect people and ideas. You get power by giving it away. This generosity of connection should apply not only to work but to your community. Volunteer, mentor others – believe me, you will get more back and it will enrich your spirit. When the kids were young, I coached girls’ volleyball and the boys were the ball chasers and as they got older, they helped me coach. They learned to give back to their community and spent time with me from a different perspective than just “mom”. When I returned from NY and US Trust, I became involved with a non-profit, Women’s Initiative, which is a one-stop shop to help lower income women with training, financing and the support they need to start their own business, so they can become economically independent. I served as Chair of the Board for three years and recently stepped down. The wonderful women I’ve met through that work has opened new doors for me. As I’ve retired, my network of colleagues and friends have opened their own networks to me so that I have many options to choose from as I think about what I want to do. BACK TO TOP
As women, we try to take on everything. Well, we are the ones that give birth to children, and for many, we take care of the home, work full-time, try to fit in an exercise class, try to make time for friends and family…and feel guilty the whole time. We have a tendency to separate our bodies from our heads and keep on going, refusing to say no. Finally, our bodies break down and we end up in bed with the worst flu going around. My point is, take care of yourself. Take time for that exercise class, with no guilt. If you don’t take care of yourself, who will? We will live until we are 90, or certainly outlive the men…so don’t be in a rush to do it all….you can have it all, just not all at the same time! BACK TO TOP
By this I mean that we have the capacity to design workplaces that are healthy and profitable. Many of the women businesses we start with Women’s Initiative are “green businesses” and they hire at higher than minimum wage—at over $14/hour—because they know from their own experience that minimum wage is not a livable wage. And these businesses are profitable. Respect the balance you and your employees need – we are in for the long-term, not the short term. We can build profitable organizations where people respect each other, support each other for the common goal, have a healthy dialogue about business issues, and have fun. BACK TO TOP