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Can’t Can Do Everything!

If you’ve followed me for a while now, you know how influential my mother has been in my life.  Today, I’d like to share a quote my Mom used when I was growing up and questioning my ability to do something.  That pearl of wisdom is: “Can’t CAN DO Everything!”  It’s pretty clear what these few words mean and certainly an affirmation and a call to action for me and universally applicable to anyone who hears them.

Talk to any manager, supervisor, motivator and ask them what their pet peeve is and you’ll most likely hear:  ‘People who say they can’t. There’s no such thing as can’t.’ I’m sure many people agree with this upbeat attitude while others, quite frankly,  may feel alienated by it.

I know that human beings are far too rich and complex to be labeled in terms of can and can’t. If managers are to have any hope of motivating their team, they need to figure out where people are coming from. They need to find out why they feel they can’t and convince them that they can.

Why do people feel they can’t?                             

There are many powerful reasons for it including:

  • A discouraging family environment. Parents, family and friends may have made people feel that they can’t, whether intentional or otherwise.
  • Illness or disabilities. People with disabilities are often made to feel that they can’t. People may also suffer from chronic depression, which saps confidence.
  • Disappointments and setbacks. If people often encounter obstacles to success despite their best efforts, they may not have the heart to try again.

As a manager, you may have little impatience for excuses. And that’s as it should be. Figuring out why people can’t doesn’t mean condoning bad behavior. But if you’re an employer, you literally can’t afford not to figure out why people can’t. Firing people is a lot of hassle, with unfair dismissals you then face the expense of possible litigation and eventually of recruiting and training someone new.

Instead, you can try a few simple tactics for turning can’t into can.

  • Find out why people feel they can’t. If people know that you understand where they’re coming from and that you have compassion for them, they’ll open up and it will be easier for you to help them.
  • Show them that they can. Share with them what you think their strengths are. Nobody is immune to a bit of flattery and it gives people confidence.
  • Give them strategies to move forward. If they’re having difficulty completing tasks, give them the resources they need, whether that’s mentoring, help from another staff member or literature to read up on.

It may seem like a lot of hassle, but if you take the time to turn can’t into can, you’ll build an amazing team and an amazing business.

Good Luck!



The Age-Old Battle of the Sexes:
Who Makes a Better Manager?

When both men and women are surveyed today, the successful managerial stereotype remains to be what we have been conditioned to describe as masculine – self-confident, dominating, competitive, decisive, aggressive and independent.

What surprises me is that while not all female managers any longer “sextype” the successful manager as male, most business men and business women do not identify the successful manager as using traditionally feminine traits and styles – consultative, conciliatory, partnership-oriented and collaborative - even though everyone agrees these are positive styles.  Is it possible to meld the traits together to describe the consummate leader?  I vote yes!

Cultural Conditioning
Results in Gender Stereotyping
for Women in Management

I subscribe to the generalization that typically business women use positions of authority to create a supportive, nurturing environment. On the other hand, most of the time men use positions of authority to create a hierarchal environment in which they issue orders and expect obedience.

As little girls, most of us grew up to be obedient, to be a good friend, to keep diaries that expressed our deepest feelings, to take care of our dolls, and to help Mom, often with younger siblings. We saw little boys our nemisis and teasers - sometimes to the point of tears. When we complained to mom or dad, we were told “Just ignore him. He’ll grow out of it some day”.  But did they?

As little boys, many men grew up building forts and forming secret clubs for the exclusive benefit of themselves and their friends. This conditioning led them to see themselves in militaristic terms, part of a “good old boys network”, and they saw little girls as sissies, unable to compete and certainly not belonging in their well fortified “boys only” world. When their parents shrugged off their sometimes harmful antics with “oh well, boys will be boys”, they were given a green light to carry their behavior styles forward into adulthood. Yet, while all this was going on, the girls were getting much better grades in school and becoming fast learners! So much for men’s skills being superior to women’s!


Communication Style Differences
Between Men and Women in Management

Communications is one of the two issues cited most often when business women are asked what they find most difficult to deal with at work. The other is finding balance between work and family.

Women and men who work together often get tied up in communication knots, especially over issues that involve power and managing their teams. That’s because the sexes have distinct ways of communicating. They request action and advice differently, their responses and timing are different, and they have different styles for expressing work-related demands and needs. And it’s all the result of that early social conditioning I discussed previously.

Office Politics and Power

Office politics is ultimately all about having power. And, there’s no standard definition of power. Who has political clout and power is determined first by the corporate culture which reflects the values of the CEO and second by the individuals in the organization and their desire to have that power.

Consider this: with a management position comes a certain aura of power. But men and women define and exercise it differently. It’s not hard to see prejudice toward female leadership styles and how they can restrict business women’s access to top leadership positions. The bias shows up when women are perceived as possessing less leadership ability than equivalent men or when the same leadership behavior is evaluated less favorably in a woman than a man.

Understanding that social conditioning created these style differences is a huge step to overcoming both communication and style gender gaps. The style differences were built in long ago and do not necessarily represent conscious choices being made today!

The Huge Mistake for Women to Avoid

Remember the scene in the movie “Titanic” when Rose asks Jack: “Teach me to act like a man. Talk like a man. Walk like a man. And spit like a man”?

The absolute worst thing business women can do is try and “act like men”! All that would do is make the men you work with feel even more uncomfortable watching you behave in what, to them, is a totally unnatural way.

My advice is to be yourself, rely on your talents and adapt your communication style to your audience.  I don’t mean you should compromise your position or your message.  Just adapt your message to be clear and concise and stay true to your SELF and your business reputation will grow and flourish.


8 Attributes of a Great Leader

Knowing the difference between thoughtful business leadership and the kind that seems to happen by accident is critical — not only in your ability to grow and develop as a leader, but to establish a pattern of success that’s deliberate, not by chance..

All too few are truly “born leaders” so here, then, are eight attributes that separate genuine leadership from leadership that’s more happenstance:

Real Leadership means leading yourself!

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Passing out orders is as easy as passing out business cards. A wise leader, however, knows how to lead herself — not merely to provide a genuine example to others, but to become a working element of the business. It’s important that leaders have the ability to focus and motivate themselves as they motivate others.

Don’t Rule Like a Queen!

Assuming you already have a talented work force in place, I urge you to be careful not to set up a throne for yourself. Often leaders inadvertently establish a system of guidance that’s unnecessarily restrictive. Guide employees, but don’t implement more rules than are absolutely necessary. It’s important to influence the people with whom you work, but please don’t lead/rule your business as a hierarchy.

Be open to new ways of doing things.

Don’t you hate it when you hear, “We’ve always done it that way and it works so don’t rock the boat and change it?” Many flourishing businesses are prone to repeat anything that proves successful.  It’s hard to argue against that, but some leaders will put far too much stock in sticking with what always works. On the other hand, thoughtful leadership acknowledges success but also recognizes there are always ways to do things better.

Be Inclusive and remember that white males are fast becoming a minority.

Statistics show that white males now make up only a small fraction of the workplace population. Couple that with growing global economy, and it becomes obvious that blending a variety of cultures and backgrounds in a work environment is an essential leadership skill. A thoughtless leader will try to just cope with this as best as she can. A company that weaves an appreciation of diversity into its cultural will make itself unbeatable.

Establish a genuine sense of commitment.

I must admit this is a personal sore point with me. I’ve seen too many company slogans and catch phrases that sound good, but there’s nothing behind them.  They are no deeper than the paper they’re written on. A genuine leader will see taglines etc. as words and little else and establish how to quantify excellence, design a plan to achieve it and set a reasonable timetable for its completion.

Finish the job.

Finish what you start!  A thoughtless leader who never genuinely finishes anything loses the confidence of clients and customers. That lack of follow-through isn’t going to be lost on your employees, either. Instead, set goals and establish measures to actually finish what you start. The ability to complete things is critical. Nothing’s useful unless you actually complete it.

Show genuine appreciation to everyone!

Who doesn’t like a pat on the back or words of praise?  Certainly these empathetic skills are important elements of effective leadership. But good performance from those you lead deserves  a more substantive response. Leaders with an eye to the future hand out praise and put some muscle behind it with real rewards: promotions, raises, bonuses and other tangible tokens of appreciation. That motivates your people, not only to apply themselves with enthusiasm, but to stick around your company longer than they might otherwise.

Remember leadership skills come from learning, too.

Far too many business executives believe leadership skills stem from some sort of innate ability. Sure, great ideas and leadership traits can come to any of us, but being a bona fide leader also means study. Read books on effective leadership, attend seminars and pick the brains of colleagues to see what works for them. It can be a long education, but one with rewards that multiply with the more knowledge you gain.

Do you have any attributes you’d like to add?  Please feel free to submit your comment(s).



Equality in the Workplace for Women

As of late, there has been quite a bit written about equality in the workplace for women. First an absolutely scathing article, “Equality, Suffrage and a Fetish for Money” was posted on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blog about how ridiculous women are being in wanting equality. Yes, that’s right — on the blog of the organization that supports small businesses.

Then, a post on Harvard Business Review called, “How Sex Hurts the Workplace, Especially Women”.  An article that explores Mark’s Hurd’s (Hewlett Packard CEO)  recent scandal as a casualty to high-achieving female executives because now men will look at the situation and think, “Poor guy was fired for dining alone with a junior woman. No one is even alleging a sexual relationship. How crazy is that?!

I have owned businesses. In fact, I have employed mostly women. I have children, one of which is a girl. And since I was always treated fairly in my jobs and want the same for my daughter, I’ve always had a hard time understanding how men and women aren’t treated equally on the job.

But it’s out there and a recent New York Times article shows there is 23 percent wage gap between men and women for the same, exact job –Twenty-three percent! You know why? Because and I quote:

“Many more women take time off from work.” Many more women work part time at some point in their careers. Many more women can’t get to work early or stay late.”

That’s total baloney!  The women I know who have children and work outside the home actually work as hard or harder than their male counterparts. Our society has created a certain guilt associated with needing to be home with the kids so they go above and beyond to prove how serious they are about their careers.

Being treated equally on the job, which I have always strived to do with my team daily is priority one as far as I’m concerned.  Pay, raises, bonuses, and incentives which are in line with their goals and how they help the business grow, is overly important to me…it’s that fairness gene I inherited from my mother.

I realize not everyone owns a business. Not everyone has control of how high they can make it on the corporate ladder without being mentored by a male executive. Not everyone has a female executive; in fact only 15 of the Fortune 500 have female executives, to support them and their growth.

I think there is only one thing we can do.   Change the way we behave, as individuals, at work. And, men, it is your responsibility to show professionalism, equality for all and responsibility if you take on a leadership role and have female junior workers working for you.

What do you think?


An Effective (and Underused) Way to Reassure and Motivate Employees

Have you ever taken a yoga class?  If so, most likely you have experienced the instructor moving around the classroom adjusting the students and making sure their poses are correct.  Sure this “touch” is an important element of the instruction, but it has a deeper benefit than just achieving the correct pose.

And that is that it feels good to be touched!

 When the instructor places her hands lightly on your shoulders to deepen a twist, for example, or presses softly on the lower back to help you fold over, not only does it help  you relax more, but it helps you to feel more comfortable, secure, and supported.   This oftentimes results in helping you take a risk and go even further in the stretch.

It turns out this isn’t just a yoga thing.

In a classic experiment from the 1950s and 1960’s baby monkeys were separated from their mothers 6 to 12 hours after birth. They were placed in a cage with a choice of surrogate mothers — one made of wire, another made of terry cloth. The babies always clung to the terry cloth “mother,” even when it was the wire “mother” who provided the food. It turns out that even the semblance of touch is a stronger attractor than food.

Even though you can argue that adult human beings are more sophisticated and independent than monkeys, further research proves that this is a universal finding. Professor Jonathan Levav at Columbia University and Jennifer Argo at University of Alberta conducted a series of experiments to explore how a brief light touch can affect a person’s decision making and risk taking.

In one experiment, as a woman showed subjects to their seats in the lab, she lightly and briefly touched some of them on the back of their shoulder. Then researchers asked the subjects whether they would prefer a certain amount of money or whether they’d prefer to gamble for the chance to win more money, receiving nothing if they lost. The people who were touched were 50 percent more likely to take the gamble. 50 percent!

And it’s not just any touch. A handshake doesn’t achieve the same result. A handshake isn’t comforting and seems fairly common and really just a polite gesture.  But, a touch on the shoulder or back is much more.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, a sympathetic touch from a doctor gives people the feeling that the visit lasted twice as long, compared with estimates from people who were untouched. And students who received a supportive touch on the back or arm from a teacher were nearly twice as likely to volunteer in class as those who did not. Also, it turns out, that basketball teams whose players touch each other more tend to win more games.

The data is clear: the comfort of a supportive touch helps people feel understood and leads to more courageous performance.

In my small businesses, I have felt very comfortable using a simple pat on the back or quick touch on the arm to show support or approval.  But I understand in a larger company you may be concerned about what HR would say.

Here’s the thing: touch is an incredibly powerful communication tool and it’s powerful enough to communicate your subtle intentions. In other words, touch is just as clear as words. And because it’s used sparingly, can have much greater impact.  Which means you have to be careful — and self aware — when you use it. Your intentions need to be clear and above reproach.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: don’t linger. The research shows that a fleeting touch is all it takes to support and reassure. Any longer than a few seconds could feel creepy and misinterpreted.

So I’m not suggesting you lovingly caress a co-workers face, but a comforting pat on the back or soft and brief touch on the shoulder can really be worth their weight in gold. Those small, heartfelt acts could make our workplaces more humane — and more productive.  And we need that, especially in the midst of a recession that’s dragging on and affecting morale at companies around the world.

As always, I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences on this topic.




Men Vs. Women Managers — If you could choose who would it be?

Anyone out there still believe there’s no difference in the way men and women managers behave in business? I’m sure all of us have had both good and bad experiences with men and women supervisors and I realize that there are many exceptions to the rule, but there is indisputable science behind the whole Mars vs. Venus ways of communicating and dealing with others – particularly in business. 


So, when it comes to corporate America which sex is better at building a company? 

The right answer is both!  In general, women tend to connect better to people and to multitask with ease while most agree that men tend to be better at a single-minded focus and top-down leaders.


Other studies show that although male brains are about 10 percent larger than female brains, women have more nerve cells or nerve fibers that link the hemispheres. So women tend to be faster at transferring data between the left (computational and verbal) and the right (intuitive and visual) brain. Men usually are stronger on left-brain skills.  The result: Men really don’t often need to ask for directions. Women, besides being multitaskers, are more intuitive — that is, they’re swift at interpreting nonverbal, contextual cues.



.Thumbs up: 65%

Clearly, each sex does certain things better than the other. With that in mind, here are recognized masculine vs. feminine traits in three key areas of managing a business. Of course, no one is 100 percent male or female in style. But the more you can adopt the strengths of the opposite sex, the more likely your business will benefit.  Bottom line incorporating the best of both worlds will yield the overall highest levels of success.


The areas where differences are most pronounced are:


1. Leadership and team-building

 “Men tend to use transactional styles of leadership, whereby they exchange rewards for results and lead through power and control,” reports Kimberly Eddleston, professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Northeastern University in Boston. “Women are more relationship-focused than men,” she says. “Thus, they tend to use more democratic and participative leadership styles.”

If a manager dials it down, he can gain deeper trust, greater initiative and, perhaps most important, a climate that facilitates thinking outside the box. That’s because men’s command-and-control method usually causes employees to worry more about making mistakes than about growing as a business.

On the other hand, women need to be careful not to spend too much time on relationship matters at the expense of business issues. All too often, women who rely on relationships to motivate are uncomfortable about imposing exacting performance standards. 



2. Goals and risk-taking

Women tend to value security to a greater degree than men do. They tend to be more risk-averse and often wait for ‘permission’ before they venture into unknown territory. Women are conditioned to wait to receive, rather than to go out and take it.


By contrast, men view business as a competition. Success flows from big hits, and money is the primary yardstick.  As a result, men prepare for bigger risks. Men tend to sprint toward an imaginary finish line that they hope will net them a big reward.  Most often they focus on ‘winning’ and cashing out.


Obviously, playing it safe can work both for and against a business owner, but women’s tendency to avoid risk means they often lack the capital that could bring their business to scale. Wisely, men usually craft exit strategies early on and then embrace the risks to get there.

Leveraging those traits to buffer each other could yield the best of both worlds.



3.  Communication and seeking outside advice

Women business owners are skilled at building relationships that are caring and based on really listening and responding. Women are better listeners while men typically prefer to provide answers rather than ask questions. As a result, men often offer solutions without fully grasping the problem or understanding exactly what prospects and customers want.


On the flip side, Women are more reluctant to invest in consultants and outside help for their businesses than men are while conversely men tend to see the value of investing in coaching, consulting and administrative help more readily.


Clearly, women need to banish their inner superwoman. They really can’t do it all. They need to realize that you can make more money by investing in professional expertise that your business is lacking, whether it’s marketing, financial strategy or information technology. Men likely would benefit from occasionally leaning back. They ought to enter meetings prepared to ask questions and learn.


Ultimately, “Men in business can learn from women that critical to the bottom line is how people are treated and that care is a power word and power action,” says psychotherapist Birute Regine, author of “Iron Butterflies: Women Transforming Themselves and the World.” “Women in business can learn from men that dreaming big is good, but everything doesn’t have to be perfect to move forward with your dream.”


I’d love to hear from you and how you feel on this topic and from personal experiences how you rate male vs. female managers!  If you could choose…who would you select?