Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In US, 40% of Managers are Women - And Pay Has Increased!

In a report released Tuesday by the US Government Accountability Office, not much change has occurred in the number of female managers, their pay or their key characteristics in the period between 2000 and 2007, the years of the study.

The average pay increased by 2 cents: “When looking at all industry sectors together and adjusting for these factors, we estimated that female managers earned 81 cents for every dollar earned by male managers in 2007, compared to 79 cents in 2000. The estimated adjusted pay difference varied by industry sector, with female managers' earnings ranging from 78 cents to 87 cents for every dollar earned by male managers in 2007, depending on the industry sector.”

The number of managers with bachelor’s degrees or higher has increased for both males and females – from 53% to 56% for men and from 45% to 51% for women. 59% of female managers are married, compared to 74% of male managers. 63% of women managers have children compared to 57% of male managers. The percentage of female managers increased from 39% to 40%, and the number of female non-managers remained the same at 49%.

Generally, women were under-represented in upper management. However in several industries, they were proportionate or even over-represented: construction, public administration, transportation and utilities. The widest under-representation was in education and the retail trade where the majority of non-management workers were women, and most managers were men.

This study didn’t address the reasons for the gaps. I know there are many. From my own experience and the experiences of some of my clients I know that one reason for the pay gap is that women are less confident about negotiating for higher pay when first getting hired.

As a personal example, in applying for a management position, I accepted the first offer because it was higher than what I had set in my mind. Of course I would accept! However, later during a company-wide equity review, my salary was bumped up considerably to reflect the pay of other managers in my grade. I was both happy and depressed at the same time. I had missed out on higher pay for two years simply because I had not asked for it from the beginning. When I accepted a severance package from this same company a few years later, I was told “As a manager at your level you should have received stock options. We are going to give you the cash equivalent of the stock options you should have received.” Thank God this was an extremely fair and generous company. Most companies would not do either of those things. But it taught me a lesson. ALWAYS negotiate; never accept the first salary offer.

The reasons behind women’s promotion challenges are varied. Studies have indicated that women have a higher need for connection, authenticity, and balance. They are often held to a higher standard. Agentic behaviors (“typically masculine” leadership behaviors such as ‘command and control’) are often reinforced in traditional leadership cultures and that type of behavior is not expected from women.

Truly, the above paragraph could apply to many men as well. They may be overlooked for leadership roles because they do not lean toward agentic behaviors but work in that type of organizational culture. The male executives I coach appreciate a work environment that has more connection and balance, and where people can work according to their values and behave authentically. They know, as women need to understand, when it is sometimes appropriate to use agentic behaviors and when it isn’t.

I believe that the American work environment is slowly evolving to embrace the leadership of men and women who do understand the value of connection, authenticity and balance. When these humane and balanced leadership styles are more common, we will see more women in leadership positions.

We’ve come a long way – at least in hair styles!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lack of Management Communication is the #1 Reason For Quitting

In a recently published study from Regus, over 15,000 business managers were interviewed to find out which issues would drive them to quit their job. Interestingly, 40% of them admitted that they were considering quitting their jobs after the summer vacation. Although ‘considering' is different than actually taking the courageous step to do so, it is revealing that nearly half the respondents would like to find a new position.

Less surprising are the top five reasons they state would drive them to quit their jobs:

1. Lack of communication and involvement by top management 40%
2. Lack of promotion despite good work results 37%
3. Overwork 34%
4. Lack of company vision 31%
5. Lack of belief in colleagues’ competence 28%

Although the respondents of this survey were primarily senior managers, study after study reveals that the top reason anyone leaves their job is their relationship with their manager.

Reiterating your vision, communicating your appreciation, sharing plans, and involving your employees are key to keeping good people. Here are a few tips on what works when communicating:

• Keep communication simple and heartfelt, not complex and bureaucratic.
• Repeat important messages such as vision, goals and valued behavior often.
• Do your homework before communicating in order to understand what people are feeling, to get the whole picture, and to be able to answer questions well.
• Begin your communication by speaking to where people are: usually they are thinking of themselves and how things impact them. Then bring them with you to think of the team, the company, the vision.
• Acknowledge feelings. This will allow people to feel understood. Once they feel you understand them, they will listen to you.
• Ask questions and listen.

Particularly when changes are going on – and when aren’t they? – frequent communication is essential to gain employee engagement. An “open door” policy is great, as long as you walk the talk and leave your office to communicate often with your employees.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

5 Marketing Rules For Long-Distance Influencing

I was listening to a leadership CD in my car and the speaker said the sole difference in whether one is a leader or not is whether one can influence others. It makes sense to me. As we know, leaders are found at all levels, at all ages, in all places. There are leaders of gangs, of friends, of families, of organizations, of all sorts of groups and teams. What makes someone a leader is whether others allow them to influence them.

Granted, other factors are considered before one decides (consciously or not) whether to allow someone to influence them. Do they know what they are talking about? Can I trust them? Do they have a decent track record? Do they impress me enough – in whatever ways I deem important –so that I will accept their influence?

Today with more and more people working remotely and in virtual teams, learning how to positively influence others that one has never met face-to-face is even more challenging. Yet every day we receive direct mail, email, and other advertisements that attempt – often successfully - to influence us to take advantage of whatever offers they are hawking.

We can learn some lessons from the advertising world when attempting to influence long distance:

1. Repetition. Every marketer knows that repetition is necessary in order to make a sale. In 1885, a London marketer named Thomas Smith wrote some advice that started out “1. The first time a man looks at an advertisement he does not see it.” It goes all the way to “20. The twentieth time he sees the ad, he buys what it is offering.” Frequent communication of the same message is essential. For example, say you need help from another department in another city in order to get information for a client. Let them know something like “excellent customer service means on-time delivery of vital statistics” every time you speak or email with them. Even add it to your email signature. And to take this a step further, frequent communication in general is essential, in order to build a relationship. Which leads us to:

2. Build a relationship. The best marketers build a relationship with their customers. They find something in common – their love of their product ideally, but sometimes it’s a concern for a philanthropic cause, or the community they are in, or an event. We build a relationship with someone the same way – by finding something we have in common, by truly being interested in the other person, and by getting to know them beyond our surface transactions. Take the time to get to know someone over the phone, Skype, and through email. Do you both have teenagers? Both love football? Build on commonalities by sharing stories, tips, and resources. This helps with the next lesson:

3. Understand your customer. Understand what they want and need, and speak to that. Marketers know that fear and wanting to be part of a desired group are both big sellers. With fear, you are selling the idea that “you don’t want to have bad breath/excess weight/(insert undesirable quality here)”. With selling the desire to be a part of a certain group you sell the idea that “if you buy this you will be beautiful/part of the in crowd/smart/sexy/(insert desired state here)”. Know what is important to your ‘customer.’ Do they want to be part of a winning and successful team? Do they want to be promoted, recognized? Do they want to avoid looking dumb/failing? How can you present your idea to appeal to what they want, or as an antidote to what they want to avoid? “Getting me those statistics on the 5th of each month will be so impressive to my customer – I’m going to let your boss know you do that and how helpful it is.”

4. Make what you're selling accessible. It can't be too hard to do or get. It’s not too expensive. It’s not too complicated or too boring. It’s even fun to use or do. It’s easy to ‘buy’ and easy to use. “Here’s a template that you could use if it makes your work easier.”

5. Finally, engage them. Use the Law of Reciprocity to encourage them to buy into your idea by giving them something first. (E.g., the template, the compliment to their boss.) Intrigue them with your ideas by involving them in fine-tuning them. (“What other information could we give this client to really ‘wow’ them?”) Involve them in a group event where everyone is experiencing the idea. (“I’m inviting you to meet the customer at the Client User Forum next month.”) Tell them stories to help them visualize and emotionalize your idea. Get them excited and enthusiastic about your idea and watch it take off. Studies have shown that all decisions are emotional decisions, yet are justified with logic. Give your ‘customer’ both – positive emotions tied to your idea, and logic to back it up.

Influence is at the core of leading. And you don’t need a title to lead, or to influence successfully. You don’t even need to be in the same room to influence. But the best leaders wield their influence with integrity.
Be a human being.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Personal Customer Service Standards Build Your Reputation

When I worked in corporate America, my own personal obsession was customer service. “Customer service should be in everyone’s job description,” I would tell my employees at about every chance I got. “We all have customers, even if we don’t work in Customer Service.” One of my own standards was to get back to people within 24 hours, even if we didn’t have an answer for them, just to let them know we got their message and were working on it.

Although I wish it were so, not everyone shares my philosophy. Lately I have been experiencing a wide range of “personal customer service” behavior, or what could also be called simple professional courtesy.

My more senior clients are unfailingly professional. They always answer my emails, although some take much longer than others to do so. They give me a heads-up, usually several days ahead, if they have a conflict with an appointment. They come to coaching sessions prepared, knowing what they want to talk about.

Recently I have taken on more “high-potential” clients. These clients often miss coaching appointments without notice. They rarely respond to my emails. They don’t return my phone calls. They come unprepared to the coaching sessions.

Some may question that with this behavior, are they really “high-potential” employees? Actually, for this organization, they are. They went through a stringent selection process to be accepted into the leadership program. One participant has already been promoted into a leadership position. Yet another, however, was turned down for a promotion due to consistent tardiness.

What’s puzzling to me is the organization that sponsors this leadership development program is known for it’s excellent customer service. When I am there, employees always smile and are consistently polite, helpful, and treat me like I’m important. Why then, are so many of the high potentials not exhibiting the basics of customer service like returning a phone call?

These “high-pos” range in age from early twenties to mid-forties. So although the majority are younger than my senior clients, some are similar in age. I don’t think age or generation makes any difference.

I believe that lacking common courtesy shows a lack of professionalism that should be a red flag for senior managers when considering who to promote. Certainly, other factors will carry more weight: a track record of results, people skills, intelligence and potential. However, common courtesies are part of people skills and not engaging in them indicates a lack of respect for others. Essentially, this is a case of not meeting expectations at a basic level – especially when you consider the importance of customer service to the culture and business model of this organization.

I was sharing my observations with a community college teacher, and was told similar stories. “I’ve decided not to give any more recommendations. I’m tired of not even getting a ‘thank you’ for writing them,” he told me. “Why would I recommend someone who can’t be bothered to say thank you?”

When we have our own personal “customer service standards” that we adhere to, these repeated small gestures help create our own personal brand that affects our reputation and our success. When an entire team upholds service standards, it directly affects the culture and the business.

I encourage you to make customer service part of everyone’s job description. Gather your employees to determine exactly what behaviors define customer service for your team. Then keep your folks accountable to it, and appreciate it when you see it. Your workplace will be more pleasant, your team will get a great reputation, and I guarantee you will generate repeat business as people will enjoy interacting with you and your colleagues.