Lessons from Clarence B. Jones

November 22nd, 2016 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Change Leadership, Leadership No Comments »

jsl_cbj

Have you ever struggled with the politics involved in creating change?

In the picture above is Clarence B. Jones, attorney, strategic advisor, and speechwriter for Dr. Martin Luther King. Among his many achievements and contributions, he assisted King with his iconic speech, I Have a Dream.

Kirk and I met Dr. Jones on November 6, when he gave a talk at Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. His subject was Waging Peace in a Violent World.

I suppose I expected an idealist’s inspiring sermon, but of course, Dr. Jones is an attorney, strategist, and former Wall Street executive. His perspective involves painful but important realities about large scale, transformative change, realities that we may want to ignore, but that we ignore at our peril.

Here are three of his key points, along with some thoughts about applying them to changes you wish to make.

There are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent interests.

clarencejoneswithmlkIt’s natural to believe that someone more powerful than you is your enemy. When he first began advising MLK, Dr. Jones viewed white men as the enemy. Friends and enemies, however, are not guaranteed for life.

Your friend may be your enemy tomorrow. Your enemy may be your friend tomorrow.

Your interests, however, are unchanging. You must be clear on your interests.

What are your interests?

You will not prevail unless the powerful majority sees that what you want is also in their interests.

It’s not enough to be right in principal or right on moral grounds. Change will happen when they see that their interests will also be served.

How do your ideas serve the powerful majority’s interests, not just your own team’s interests? Who stands to lose face, lose power, or lose money if your ideas are implemented? What can you offer? How can you align your idea with their interests?

For example, after working with a client and his direct reports over several weeks, I concluded that one of his VP’s was never going to get in alignment with the business strategy. He was also never going to believe that he should report to my client, because he thought he should be the GM himself.

The VP was very close to the COO and had been for the past decade. This is a classic political powder keg, a powerful and non-aligned leadership team member who has the ear of the boss’s boss and refuses to get on board with the rest of the team.

The client agreed with my perspective. It echoed his own.

So what did he do? How did he handle this constant threat to his success?

My client could have chosen to follow accepted processes to try to obliterate the guy and get his BU aligned. Had he followed proper nine-box talent matrix methodology, for example, he would have marked the guy as high potential but low performing because of his poor teamwork.

He didn’t. Instead, he searched for a way to get the VP’s interests aligned with his own, by finding a better-fit opportunity for him elsewhere – heading a newly-formed BU — instead of fighting a protracted political war that put the BU at risk.

You might be thinking, “But that’s not fair! The VP was rewarded for bad behavior!” You’re right. Sometimes the best outcome involves someone getting what they want, even though they don’t deserve it.

You must identify the strongest ally from the powerful majority and make him or her a leader in your cause.

Martin Luther King and his closest advisors came to the conclusion that only a powerful white man from the South would have the credibility with the white majority (over 85% of the population at that time) to push their movement forward. He was right. Civil rights were not enacted into law until Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Imagine what it must have been like for them to realize that as the leaders of their own movement, they would never “be enough” to drive forward the transformative change they envisioned. What must it have been like to see that their ally was someone who had voted against every civil rights bill from 1937 to 1956, and who held racist beliefs even as he drove forward the Civil Rights Act?

Who are your prospective strong allies?

Sometimes your prospective strongest ally is a person you like and respect. That makes for a great day, week, month and year at work, doesn’t it?

Sometimes, however, the prospective strongest ally is a person you don’t like or don’t respect. In these situations, let your purpose and the relative importance of your goals and commitments drive your decisions. You may decide to hold your nose and form the alliance for the greater good after all.

Dr. Jones had a goal that to him was worth the alliances he made, however difficult those relationships proved to be.

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Who is the Most Powerful Person in the Room? The Lightning-Fast Way to Figure It Out

May 17th, 2016 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Communication No Comments »

Business people laughing

This may be the shortest article I’ve ever shared with you.

The fastest way to figure out who’s in power is…

Are you ready for this?

It’s humor. Noticing the dynamics around humor is a failsafe way to figure out the power structure of almost any group of people, any time, anywhere.

First Observation: Who makes jokes?

I’m not talking about “A chicken, an eagle, and a turkey walk into a bar…”

I’m talking about little comments that are intended to be funny, such as:

“Ah, really? Don at Manchester Supply wants to meet with us. Did he wake up from his pricing coma?”

“Hmm. You’re saying Anita missed the deadline. And remind me, who is Anita’s boss?” (Said to Anita’s boss in a gentle, leading manner, with eyebrows playfully raised.)

Second Observation: Whose jokes always get a chuckle, even if they’re not funny?

Not everyone is funny, and not every joke is funny. However, if others react affirmatively to the joke, regardless of how funny it really is, you can bet this person wields power, regardless of his or her title.

You’ll really notice this dynamic if the comment is so far off the mark that it’s downright awkward. How are people reacting if the joke is not funny, badly delivered, or offensive in some way? If you tune in to the reactions in the room, you may feel the tension rise to a level that just doesn’t happen when a powerless person fails in his or her attempt at humor.

Why is the tension exponentially higher if a powerful person’s humor is off the mark? Because everyone in the room is now stuck between the utter dishonesty of laughing and the risks associated with embarrassing a more powerful person by not laughing.

Third Observation: Who gets to dismiss comments as not funny or even offensive?

The more powerful a person is, the more control they have over the humor expressed by others.

Imagine a general manager in a meeting with his or her extended staff. Imagine someone making a snarky comment about a vendor, unaware that the general manager has mended relations with the vendor and now thinks highly of them again.

The GM doesn’t laugh.

The person who shared the snarky humor about the vendor isn’t going to share it again, ever. The humor has been squelched.

The same applies to more serious situations in which humor is inappropriate or even offensive. The reaction of the most powerful person determines what happens next. For this reason, I often encourage clients to reflect very carefully on how they respond to humor. It’s a surprisingly powerful moment of truth for their teams.

By looking for these three simple clues about humor, you will know within minutes, in any meeting, who wields power.

What clues do you look for to understand the power dynamics in a room? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

 

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How to Keep Employees from Jumping Ship

September 17th, 2015 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Change Leadership, Hyper Growth No Comments »

QuitorStayHigh attrition is frustrating, expensive, risky – and 100% curable.

In a recent conversation with one of the panelists for the upcoming MBTI Users Conference, I was reminded of the situation we had faced, the intensity of it, and how dramatically things changed in just a year. It’s a great example of how you don’t have to live with undesirable attrition just because the job market is ferociously competitive.

The client was a new law firm that had exploded onto the scene after stunning their peers with an asbestos litigation settlement that eclipsed those achieved by the largest firms with the most famous lawyers in the country. Almost overnight, the firm quintupled in size, and would go on to double again over the next 18 months. Amidst constant recruiting and hiring for new positions, the managing attorneys and small HR team found themselves constantly seeking replacements for the staff who kept quitting.

Unlike most other types of law, asbestos litigation requires a very large staff with a high level of interdependency. The typical law firm is essentially a cluster of mini-firms, with each attorney having his or her own staff who mostly work with each other instead of across the organization. You can, I’m sure, already see the challenge shaping up: young partners and even younger managing attorneys, with no exposure to – let alone experience in — leading matrixed organizations, suddenly found themselves trying to manage a complex start-up in midst of hyper-growth.

It was the worst of all worlds. Staff attrition was approaching 50% a year. Attorneys with asbestos experience often left in under a year, leaving behind only those with little experience. The partners and attorneys essentially never left the office, which had boxes and boxes of files piled up in every workspace and out into the passageways between the cubes.

Meanwhile, the dot-com boom provided hundreds of nearby companies that offered better salaries and the promise of stock options to any attorney or staff person who could fog a mirror, so the firm was losing lots of people to a different industry.

It was a vicious cycle.

So, what did it take to turn it around and cut unwanted attrition to the low single digits?

1. Shore up the basics.

The first order of business was to find out how the fundamentals compared to the competition. By fundamentals I mean the non-sexy stuff that you don’t read about in engaging Harvard Business Review leadership articles: salary, bonus, benefits, and perks.

Smaller organizations don’t generally have access to reliable comps, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get a reasonable estimate through exit interviews and tapping their networks. Sure, exiting employees will probably exaggerate their new compensation a bit (or a lot), but by using good old common sense, you can get a reasonable ballpark.

In the case of this particular firm, they figured out the approximate mid-point for each job and in most cases this meant giving the employee a raise. This set off a nice morale boost.

They also recognized that their vacation policy was too skimpy, so they bumped it up.

I can’t emphasize enough that if you are in a service business today, you have to keep pace on all of these fundamentals, even if you’re worried about how to pay for it. You don’t have to pay the most, but you have to stay competitive.

2. Develop the dickens out of your managers.

If you remember only one thing, make it this: employees don’t leave companies. They leave bosses. 

This reality makes it much simpler to focus your attention when both time and money are tight. Develop your managers, and leave it to them to develop their people.

For this firm, I conducted a needs assessment. The assessment was thorough but relatively brief. The dynamics of a smaller organization should not take long for a reasonably competent management consultant to interpret and assess. If your firm is small, run away from anyone who says it will take weeks.

Based on the assessment, I worked with the founding partner and the HR team to design and implement leadership development for all of the managing attorneys and functional staff managers. We focused on three areas: understanding the partners’ vision and what it means in terms of your day-to-day choices, how to lead as a team, and what competent leaders do.

Because this was a highly specialized law firm, we collaborated to create this leadership competency model rather than use a commercially available model.

3. Embed feedback everywhere.

We designed feedback into everything in the firm that we could possibly utilize for this purpose. Feedback given, considered, and acted upon ultimately creates a self-improving system.

It extended from a 360-degree feedback process for the partners and managing attorneys to 1:1 coaching and feedback for the partners, to ensuring that thoughtful feedback was a critical part of the HR director’s role.

As the firm was so new, we were able to design a simple performance review process that gave staff their first opportunity to hear well-articulated, more objective feedback and to focus their individual development. Were I working with them on this today, I would simplify it even more, and focus on real-time feedback on an ongoing basis. This willingness to give and receive feedback in real time has proven a game-changer for many of my clients.

4. Restructure and reorganize if it helps the workflow.

One of the things I most enjoyed about working with this firm was that they had no preconceived notions about professional management and leadership. They hadn’t been exposed to anything. So without overthinking it, the partners would restructure and reorganize either because they saw a better way, or because one or more managers came to them with the idea.

By tinkering with and sometimes overhauling the workflow, they were able to drive out a great deal of the inefficiency and errors that employees had found discouraging. As the employees experienced this improvement, they stuck around.

5. Build the culture by acting on your values.

Culture is shaped by behavior and behavior is shaped by values. Employees need to know what you stand for. Interestingly, in part because they had not had exposure to the types of discussions and development that managers in big companies receive, they were in some ways even more clear, and they acted quite decisively.

For example, when an employee behaved in a way that felt harassing and hostile to another employee, the HR director interviewed both parties and others who had been present, and brought the data to the partner. He fired the employee immediately, without notice and without severance pay.

I’m not suggesting that such decisiveness is always the best call (at times, it wasn’t), but his actions made it utterly clear what his values were, and those who agreed with his values decided they wanted to stick around and give him a chance to grow as a manager and a leader.

What have you found to be most essential to keep valued employees from jumping ship? Do you agree, or vehemently disagree with my advice? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line at jennifer@selbygroup.com.

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Three Unconventional Ways to Get Your Direct Reports to Stop Bickering and Start Working Together Again

June 24th, 2015 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Business No Comments »

BickeringCoworkers“Jennifer, I’m so fed up with these two guys! I have told them – again and again — they have to stop going to the mat on every little thing.

I gave them your articles on how to give feedback to a coworker and how to engage in active listening, and coached them through both processes.

I sent them to our in-house negotiations training.

Today, I even lost my temper and raised my voice, which was so unprofessional of me, but I was exasperated.

I’m at the end of my rope with them. What’s left for me to try?”

Can you relate?

We’ve all had direct reports who rubbed each other the wrong way.

This is most common after a reorganization or realignment of resources. People you would never have hired to work together wind up working together, and they do it poorly.

Most of the time, it’s enough to simply coach your direct reports in active listening, feedback, and negotiation skills (and reward their progress, of course) to get them working together productively once again.

And then there are the problem children….

O.k., I admit it’s politically incorrect, but more than a few leaders have opened our consultation with, “My problem children are bickering again.” And that’s just what it feels like: you’re a parent of two siblings who don’t get along, and it’s in your face all day every day.

One challenge in today’s job market is that you can hardly threaten to fire them if they don’t work together to your standard. While it’s certainly a viable last resort, the cost and time to find replacements and the disruption to the function make this an undesirable solution.

Enter the Creative Alternatives

I’ve seen three rather creative alternatives work in this situation. The first one you will expect from me. The second and third, well, maybe not.

  1. Reframe it as a clash of styles that blocks productivity and hurts results. Explain in no uncertain terms the consequences to the business, and be specific. Then utilize an MBTI expert to explore their clashing styles with them and find a path forward in which they (perhaps begrudgingly) come to respect one another’s differing styles.
  2. Book a conference room for the whole day and tell them they must not leave until they have figured out the reasons their working relationship is so ineffective, a solution they can both live with, and an execution plan to implement their solution. Be unbending on this requirement, but flexible on the method to get there. It might not be like anything you would have come up with. Drop in from time to time to show you’re serious about this, to coach them over any hurdles, and to make sure they don’t stop talking about their problem and start talking about work or the business in general.
  3. Split them up. While it doesn’t develop their interpersonal and teamwork skills in the least, assigning one of them to a different function that has few or no interdependencies is one way to keep their poor working relationship from further damaging the business. Be clear that they both need to keep dramatically improving their skills, though. In today’s fast-changing business environments, teams form and change frequently, and everyone must be able to quickly figure out how to work well with a wide variety of people.

I hope these three ideas spark many more in your mind. There are as many ways to effectively deal with this challenge as there are people who seemingly just can’t get along.

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Three Keys to Hiring the Right Cultural Fit

March 2nd, 2015 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Communication, Cultural Fit, Interviewing No Comments »

businesspeopleshakinghandsHas this ever happened to you? You had a strong team in a great company with a culture you loved. You interviewed diligently to fill an open position, and were fortunate enough to snag someone who was very successful, very talented, and very skilled.

Awesome! You thought you had the right fit, but within months, this individual quit – or perhaps you had to let him or her go – because he or she turned out to be a poor fit with the culture.

You thought you did everything right in posting, reviewing resumes, interviewing, being meticulous, asking great questions, and involving all of the team members. There’s no doubt you hired someone who could have been successful, since he or she had already demonstrated it elsewhere. However, their style didn’t work in your culture – and it gave you a headache just thinking about how much time and money was wasted trying so hard to fit that square peg into a round hole. Ouch.

First of all, don’t feel too bad about this mistake – most managers make at least one hiring decision that turns out to be a misfit. In fact, cultural fit is the area in which I see the greatest number of costly mistakes, because I am asked to provide executive coaching for a struggling new leader who, in fact, would have performed beautifully in a different culture.

Here are the three most common mistakes in interviewing for cultural fit.

Mistake #1: Asking direct questions about culture.

When it comes to assessing cultural fit, don’t use direct questions about culture, such as “Tell me what kind of work culture motivates you” or “Do you like the culture where you work?” Direct questions about culture don’t help you gain insights into the candidate’s fit.

In a typical year, I talk with people in 30 – 40 companies, and because they often talk about their cultures, I see firsthand that almost everyone describes their company’s culture in identical terms, such as “fast-paced.” When it comes to interviewing, this renders the use of words to describe culture meaningless.

Mistake #2: Asking about results they’ve achieved, without listening for cultural clues in their answers.

This is where many interviewers inadvertently shoot themselves in the foot. They perceive questions about results as being (somewhat logically) only about results, so they only listen for results.

I made this mistake myself, and paid the price. Early in my management career, I asked a candidate about the results she had achieved in her current role. I listened carefully and was impressed with what she had accomplished. She was quite a talent.

What I failed to do was listen closely to clues about how she achieved the goals, which turned out to be largely working on her own. She was very independent in nature, and she proved to be a terrible fit with the warm, collaborative culture that was the hallmark of my employer at the time.

People hated coming to her with their questions, which was a real problem since answering their questions was 30% of her job.

But I owned at least half of the responsibility for her failure, because I failed to match the way the candidate worked with styles the culture would embrace, or at least tolerate.

This brings us to Mistake #3…

Mistake #3: Not including a culture interviewer.

Let’s continue with the same example. Six of us interviewed the candidate, but none of us specifically owned the responsibility for a deep dive on cultural fit. Even so, two of the interviewers expressed reservations about “something I can’t put my finger on – she seems a little distant somehow – I’m trying to be open to someone who’s been successful with a different style than I’m used to, but… I’m probably being too close-minded here…”

Had at least one of us been assigned the job of being laser-focused on cultural fit, he or she would have been much more confident and certain about the importance of these concerns, and would have been asking the right questions and listening closely to the answers.

So what are the right questions to ask, and what should you listen for in the answers?

Surprisingly, you may already be asking the right questions, and you may not need to add any others. Isn’t that great?

If you’re already asking for specific stories about how they accomplished results, you’re on the right track.You’ll get much better insights into cultural fit if you ask them to walk you through how they accomplished their results, in the form of a SOAR story:

  1. Situation: What situation did you face?
  2. Obstacles: What obstacles were in your way?
  3. Actions: What actions did you take to solve the problem or achieve the goal?
  4. Results: What results did you get?

As you can see, the results are only 25% of the question, and in the other 75%, you have many opportunities to gain insights into cultural fit.

For example, if your rate of growth is particularly fast compared with other companies in your industry, you probably have a culture that values fast, independent decision-making because there are hundreds or thousands of decisions to be made every day and not enough people to make them. That’s the nature of a company in a very rapid growth stage, such as in the first two years after an IPO.

As we’ve seen, while you can ask the candidate to talk about his or her experience in rapid-growth situations, you’ll probably get a beautiful, convincing answer, but it will be useless.

If you were in the fast-growth situation above, you would listen for evidence that their actions included a lot of fast, independent decisions, and that they used time-consuming collaboration only for complex decisions that required a great deal of buy-in from multiple stakeholders.

If their answer to the question still leaves you uncertain, but the candidate is a good fit in other ways, ask them to think about a time when they had to move very quickly and decisively, and to tell you about it in great detail. Listen for clues about how they handled the situation. Would that approach work in your culture?

Compare notes with the other interviewers, and make sure you give equal voice to the culture-fit interviewer, and you’ll get the right fit.

Enjoy your interviewing, and let me know how it goes in the comments below.

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Want a Beer?

August 14th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Business, Communication No Comments »

palealeTwo weekends ago, Kirk gamely agreed to go shopping with me. While he doesn’t exactly live for the excitement of waiting for me while I’m in a dressing room, he’s a good sport. We headed up to the Fourth Street shopping area in Berkeley.

The first store we entered, Margaret O’Leary, had a few items I simply had to try on. While in the dressing room, I overheard, “Want a beer?” When I exited the dressing room a few minutes later, there was my very, very, very happy husband, sitting in a comfy leather armchair, drinking a bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. He looked at me and declared, “I LOVE shopping!”

Later in the week, he started asking, “Hey, Babe, want to go shopping this weekend? Maybe back up to Margaret O’Leary?”

Now, at this point you may be wondering what this has to do with you, so let me tell you where I’m going with this.

Generally speaking, when a wife pops in to a clothing store to try on a few things, it gets boring for her husband. The odds increase that she will either just skip the store altogether or not spend as much time and money there, especially if she really likes her husband. After all, she doesn’t want the guy to suffer too much.

By spending a tiny amount of money to give this man a beer and provide a man-cave-worthy armchair in which to drink it, Margaret O’Leary is developing a devoted customer relationship with him. Now Margaret O’Leary is the one store he really wants to visit with his wife.

It also becomes the first place he thinks of when her birthday or another gift-giving occasion rolls around.

By thinking about the person who influences the buyer with as much consideration as the buyer herself, Margaret O’Leary eliminated a barrier to buying, in this case the tedious boredom of the spouse, which she brilliantly converted into a darn good time.

So here’s my question: what’s your free beer?

What’s the no-brainer that’s looking you right in the face, that none of your competitors have thought of, to build a relationship with the influencer? What’s the inexpensive, simple, thoughtful thing that your buyer’s influencer would really like? How fast can you provide it?

What’s your free beer? Let me know in the comments below.

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The Wolf Pack

July 10th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Communication 4 Comments »

wolvesI recently caught up with a client who has very successfully created and implemented large-scale, transformative change in three very different companies. He used a simile so spot-on that I’d like to share it with you. While it might seem a little cold at first, try to be open to the idea. It’s practical and useful.

A team is like a pack of wolves.

It’s very hard to break away from the pack. Only the strongest members can break away and assert themselves with new behaviors, in setting or following a new direction. To introduce change, you must identify the 2 – 3 strongest wolves and begin with them.

When the strongest wolves begin to change their behavior and strike out in a new direction, at first the others will turn against them, and try to bring them back to the established pack norms. If the strong wolves persist and have a few early successes, the remaining members of the pack will, for the most part, begin to follow them. Those who still don’t want to change will move on.

When entering a new organization, this client observes his team very closely and sizes up which of the managers are strong enough to break from the pack. If he doesn’t have a critical mass of strong wolves, he hires 2 – 3 people who have the strength to break away from the pack and set a new direction. He brings in the strongest wolves he can find, because he knows that lots of managers can manage a function, but few are strong enough to lead transformative change.

He and I have found the same pattern at all levels – if you have only one wolf strong enough to break from the pack, it’s not enough. Eventually, he or she will tire of trying to get peers to change their perspectives, of being on the receiving end of jealousy from teammates not quite confident or strong enough to transform, and of being the lone person taking a chance on a big change. Worst of all, the strongest wolves are independent. They’ll leave, and you’ll have to start all over again.

That’s one of the reasons it’s important to size up how strong each individual wolf is, and also ask, “How strong is the pull of this pack?” If you want to create transformative change, and you don’t have critical mass, go find it quickly. Without a few strong wolves, the best process, tools, influence, and communication just won’t be enough. The pull of the pack will win.

How can you spot your strongest wolves? In my experience, there’s rarely a direct correlation between performance and strength. Surprised? There are often several truly outstanding performers who always get results, but who stay solidly in the middle of pack when it comes to transformative change. Performance isn’t where you should look to size up the strength of a wolf.

There is, however, a connection between potential and strength. Nearly all of the strong wolves have potential to step up one or two levels in the breadth of their responsibilities. There are several factors, a mix of traits and experiences, that contribute to their potential.

First and foremost, they form their own opinions and naturally influence the opinions of others. They are often widely read and well informed on everything from their industry or profession to world politics and cultural trends.

They are not necessarily alphas in the way that we think of a wolf pack having an alpha at the top. Some are, but many are neither leader nor follower in any pure sense. They form their own opinions and choose what to lead and whom to follow based on these opinions. Likewise, their choices aren’t driven by a desire to compete and win against the rest of the pack. They really do want everyone to transform and have a shared win.

Regardless of whether they have any training or education on strategic thinking, they instinctively look at the big picture and make connections between day-to-day activities and long-term goals. With them, executive coaching is less about building a strategic mindset and more about simply improving what’s already there by adding discipline, structure, tools, and processes.

I nearly always find that they have done something quite unusual compared to their peers, and this experience has shaped a willingness to take chances and a much higher tolerance for personal risk. A cursory look at some of the strong wolves I’ve worked with turns up the following:

One strong wolf owned and operated a restaurant in Argentina and continued to co-own it and stay involved in major financial decisions after moving to the US, where he held a fulltime job transforming an organization born through an uneasy acquisition. If you’ve ever seen the statistics for restaurant failures, you know the risk involved in opening one. It made a difficult integration look like a walk in the park.

Another strong wolf built hospitals in Afghanistan through a non-profit organization he had co-founded with his wife, both before and after his stint introducing large-scale change for a mid-sized corporation.

A third strong wolf left home as a teenager, lived in his car, twice went broke and came back from it, and taught part-time in public colleges throughout most of his executive career as a way of giving back to the education system that pulled him out of poverty.

As you can imagine, the strongest wolves are often more difficult for the typical employee to relate to, or even to understand. They are simultaneously immersed in the organization and somewhat distant from it.

When you’re working on their professional development, it’s not uncommon to have to remind them to reach out to their peers more frequently. Excellent situational awareness is key to their success, and sometimes it needs to be developed because they don’t always understand that they are different and need to be sensitive to the emotions and motivations of others.

It’s also not uncommon to have to earn their respect (which isn’t easy), before they will give serious attention to your ideas for their development.

It’s worth it, though. You can never, ever, ever lead transformative, large-scale change alone. You simply can’t. You need your whole team, and that starts with the strongest wolves.

What are your thoughts about this wolf pack simile? Am I on target or do you howl in protest? Let me know in the comments below.

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How to Handle an Ineffective Boss

May 22nd, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Communication No Comments »

bigthumbSpeaking of publishing on the new platform, I am stoked to report that one of my articles went viral and then was featured on a newsfeed on the LinkedIn site. Over 37,000 members have viewed it and over 2100 members have shared it.

Did I strike a nerve with How to Handle an Ineffective Boss, or was it just the picture that did it? Haven’t we all worked for this guy at some point in our careers? I suspect that in my first supervisory role, I was the guy in the picture. Yikes.

At the moment, I post 1 – 2 articles per week. To read the articles, please visit https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/JenniferSelbyLong. To receive a polite email ping each time a new article is posted, just click on the Follow button in the upper right hand corner.

And please rest assured that the more in-depth monthly articles in this very eZine will never go on LinkedIn before they appear here. You will always get a sneak peak before anyone else, and more often than not, you’ll get a level of depth that I don’t post on the site.

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Why Your LinkedIn Network is No Good

May 8th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Communication No Comments »

manbitinghandsIf you’re underwhelmed, even feeling a little anxious, by the quality and quantity of your network on LinkedIn, today’s article is for you. Even if your network is already decent, I guarantee that by following these tips, you’ll kick it into high gear. Ready? Here we go….

Stop Being So Conservative About Inviting People to Connect

I am simply floored when I talk with leaders who are aggressive in going after business, but wimpy in building their networks. Your network is not only for people with whom you worked for years and your three best friends. You have to make your own judgment call about this, but I find that most professionals are much too shy and cautious about reaching out to connect with others.

Granted, I may be more open than you want to be. I’ve invited people with whom I’ve volunteered, even briefly. I’ve invited people I met through Impact Hub Oakland, where I occasionally work, just because I found our conversations to be so fascinating that I didn’t want to lose touch. I’ve invited people who worked at the same mid-sized business unit I was in 20 years ago, even though our paths had mostly crossed at company events and during training programs we participated in together.

I’ve never regretted it. Although some of these people are not very active on LinkedIn, those who are active post interesting and useful articles and updates, my learning is enriched by their contributions, and I have an amazing group of people to ask for advice on everything from a global marketing strategy to how to get democracy into totalitarian countries. Not that I plan to do that any time soon, but I’m happy to know I’m connected to someone who’s one of the best in the world at that very task, just in case.

Sometimes I’m asked, “Yeah, but what if somebody asks you to provide an introduction to someone else in your network, but you don’t know that person well?” That’s simple. I gently say no. I’m not going to miss out on enriching my knowledge and staying in touch with interesting, helpful businesspeople just because I will sometimes have to let someone down.

Stop Sending Generic Invitations That You Don’t Write Yourself

Take the time to write a short personal note to refresh the person’s memory about where you met, how you know each other, or your mutual friends and colleagues. It’s often the difference between Accept and Ignore. For example, when contacting someone you recognize from way-back-when, try writing “I don’t know if you remember me from XYZ company. I worked for Joe Schmoe on ABC team….”

Because I’ve done so much work in groups, I will sometimes come across a person I recognize, but honestly can’t remember which of the many group activities that connected us. In that case, I just admit it, and nearly everyone accepts.

Every now and then, you’ll hit the Invite button and then realize you didn’t add a note. That’s o.k. Just don’t make a habit of it.

Set a Slightly Broader Standard for Invitations You’ll Accept From Others

I generally don’t accept invitations from people I don’t recognize, with whom I’ve never worked, who haven’t written a personal note, or with whom I have no shared groups or connections. Everyone else gets seriously considered. I may not accept them all, but I do accept many.

You need to be honest with yourself about your comfort level on this and then stretch yourself beyond that comfort zone – at least a little a bit. For example, for a long time I didn’t accept any invitations from people I didn’t know, but now I sometimes accept an invitation if the person has a particularly interesting profile, or has commented on my posts more than once. In the first case, I can learn a lot, and in the second case, the person has been building a relationship with me on line and doesn’t seem like a complete stranger anymore.

Share Content

Offer up value to your network by sharing content, and while you’re at it, comment on content others share.

I don’t keep a regular schedule for sharing content. I just always keep an eye out for content my network might find interesting or helpful, and when I come across it, I share it. Sometimes I add my own comments and sometimes I don’t. You don’t have to make this a big deal at all. It doesn’t have to be burdensome. Just read stuff and share the stuff you like.

Now that I’ve really gotten into this, I track the number of views, likes, and comments for everything I post and I can tell you what my network loves, and what doesn’t interest them much at all. By knowing this, I now skip posting things that just don’t float their boats. I figured this out by posting lots of stuff that interested me, over a long period of time, so please don’t overthink it. Just do it!

For those who are curious, my network loves it when I post a link to an article on my own blog, but not to other blogs. They also love it when I share a cartoon or very simple graph that they can scan in a heartbeat.

They have no interest in some of the articles I find most important and interesting, such as an economist’s analysis of the structural problems in the labor market. I nearly fell off the sofa laughing when I saw how badly every complex, serious, systems-level article did when I posted it. Truly, for my network, those articles are dogs with fleas. I am a true nerd, I guess, even wonkier than my network. And I confess, I might still post the occasional wonky article for all 19 of you who read them, whoever you are.

Turbo-Charger: Upgrade Your Account

Let me say first of all, no, I am not being paid to write this!

When I went from a free account to the most basic of the paid accounts, I found that I could more easily find and reach out to quite a few terrific people I’d known from companies and projects several years back. We had lost touch in the “pre-LinkedIn” era. It’s been great getting back in touch with them.

I couldn’t begin to advise as to which account is right for you. Luckily, that’s what LinkedIn’s marketing team is for. To see your options, click on Upgrade in the upper right hand corner of your home page.

Super-Mega-Turbo-Charger: Write and Post Your Own Content on the Platform

Since I started posting my own writing directly to the platform, I have been tickled pink by the people who reach out to connect with me. They’re interesting people who are in challenging leadership roles all over the globe, and in a wide variety of industries. Engaging with them broadens my perspective in a way that my mostly American network alone can’t do.

Take a look on your home page, and if you see a little pencil icon next to your update balloon, you can publish now. Not all members have it at this point, and it’s going to take a while to roll it out. I applied for early admission by submitting two samples of my best work on this form: http://specialedition.linkedin.com/publishing/. Do this, and the screening team will review your best work. If they like it (and come on, you know they’ll love it), soon you’ll see a balloon pop up on your home page inviting you to publish on LinkedIn.

The publishing tool is crazy-easy to use. When you publish, also be sure to include a picture with each article. It would be a shame to put all that effort into writing your article only to find that few people read it. People open articles with pictures.

Also be sure you have the rights to use the image. I purchase pix from shutterstock.com to be on the safe side.

Your LinkedIn network can be an incredible source of knowledge, perspective, relationships, and opportunities to both help and be helped. Spend a little time this month implementing at least one of these strategies and you’ll be on your way to building a network that expands your world and blows your mind.

Is your LinkedIn network no good? What are your thoughts about expanding and improving your network on LinkedIn? Let me know in the comments.

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Extraverts and Introverts: You CAN Work Together Without Going Nuts

March 24th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Psychological Type No Comments »

It’s an age-old annoyance – that co-worker whose style is irritating. You know it shouldn’t bug you, but it does.

welcomeThere are plenty of sources of irritation. This week, let’s look at one of the most frequent, a fundamental difference between people – where they get their energy.

We all essentially fall into one of two camps, and I bet you can identify which one you are in without the help of a therapist or a sophisticated assessment: extraverts get most of their energy from the outer world of people, while introverts get it from the inner world.

doorbellI once heard a fantastic analogy for this very fundamental difference. It’s so good, I’m passing it on to you. Imagine that you have 20 coins in your pocket at the beginning of the day. Each coin equals one unit of energy. For the extravert, every interaction with another person adds one more coin in the pocket. That’s great for me. I’m an extravert.

But for the introvert, well, he or she has to give up a coin for each interaction. An interaction between an introvert and an extravert is like an ATM machine of energy. It goes out of the introvert and in to the extravert, never to return.

How does this play out at work? This difference can lead to huge leaping conclusions about a co-worker’s intentions. I recently saw this dynamic with one of my client groups.

The extraverts called meetings, but rarely sent an objective or agenda or preparatory materials in advance. The introverts showed up (if they absolutely had to) already feeling shanghaied because they had no opportunity to think about the topic in private.

Repeated requests for materials in advance fell on deaf ears, because the extraverts rarely sat by themselves and read materials in advance of a meeting, so they saw no real value in it.

In the meetings, the extraverts wanted to make decisions and commitments, because they unconsciously trusted what was decided in a group environment more than a private one.

Now the introverts were really feeling fed up. From their perspective, the decision was rushed, and it would be unethical to make an important commitment without taking some private time to reflect on it and critique it. So the day after the meeting, they would start meeting one-on-one with key decision-makers to delay or change the decision that the extraverts had thought was final in the meeting.

End result: the extraverts thought the introverts were political slime and the introverts thought the extraverts were the same.

Here’s how to bridge the divide in meetings:

  1. Whether you’re an extravert or an introvert, send an agenda and materials for preparation in advance. Not an hour in advance – at least a day!
  2. All other things being equal, if you want a sounding board for your ideas before a meeting, ask an extravert, who’s more likely to accommodate your request.
  3. Allow for some interruptions rather than having a firm “no interruptions allowed” rule because extraverts tend to interrupt when they are interested in what someone is saying, and the more excited the extravert gets, the more likely he or she is to interrupt.
  4. Likewise, don’t hesitate to politely but firmly cut off someone who’s talking too long or combining too many points at once.
  5. Don’t go around the room trying to get everyone to participate equally. Introverts will speak up if they feel no one is saying what needs to be said.
  6. In the first meeting on a brand new topic, don’t push for a decision. Ask if people are ready to make a decision or prefer a little time to reflect. If they want the time, give them the time. If you try to deny this, your decision will be undone by introverts doing their ethical duty days after the meeting.
  7. Maintain a little flexibility around process. We think our trusted way of doing things is the best, but really it’s just one of several approaches that will get us to the destination on time.

Always remember this: Introverts think to talk. Extraverts talk to think. Plan accordingly and you may even find you like each other.

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