August 15th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Summer Fridays!

iStock_000007154239XSmallHappy Summer Friday from The Glass Hammer Team!

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Enjoy your weekend!

August 14th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Offices without Borders: The Nine Ways to Overcome Team Language Barriers

Senior business man discussing project on laptop with staffBy Cathie Ericson

Offices without borders: The Nine Ways to Overcome Team Language Barriers
Today’s professionals are accustomed to working with multi-national teams in our pervasively global workspace. While most quickly learn to navigate logistical issues, which might include teams’ diverse geographic locations and time zones, there is an element to global teams that is even trickier – forming functional teams when people speak different languages.

The impact of diverse languages on team outcomes should not be overlooked– language can form a barrier that makes it challenging to create trust and work cohesively. Today’s manager needs to know how to navigate this situation for the benefit of team success – and the company’s bottom line.

What are the barriers?
A study conducted by German researchers and reported in the Jan. 2014 issue of the Journal of International Business Studies revealed some disconcerting realties about multi-national teams. Based on 90 interviews with team members, leaders and senior managers in three automotive companies located in Germany, the authors made two important discoveries:
• Multi-national team members’ cognitive and emotional reactions to language barriers influence their perceived trustworthiness and intention to trust, which in turn affect trust formation.
• Surface-level language diversity may create perceptions of deep-level diversity.

Another study covered in Harvard Business School’s article, “Language Wars Divide Global Companies”, explored language and its connection to power dynamics on global teams. “It’s volcanic, waiting for something to ignite it, and then it explodes—and this is what we see in these global teams,” says Tsedal Neeley, an associate professor in the Organizational Behavior unit at Harvard Business School, who conducted the study Language as a Lightning Rod: Power Contests, Emotion Regulation, and Subgroup Dynamics in Global Teams.

Us vs. Them: Getting to “we”
Are we really on the same side? That’s the underlying query that most teams have, establishing territory even though they are ultimately presumably working toward the same company goal. When language presents a barrier, it can be easy to fear the worst – that others on the team are talking about you; or are less qualified; or somehow not contributing equally.

Here are nine ways that multi-national teams can help vault the language barrier to work more effectively.

Set ground rules. Meetings run smoother when you have created an expectation of what language will be spoken. Often that ends up being English as the most widely known global language. Discuss how and when side conversations should take place. “They are certainly entitled to speak their language. It’s just sometimes infuriating because they’ll just break into it in mid-meeting…,” one American explained during the Harvard Business School study. Having an expectation upfront for keeping language neutral can avoid that conflict.

Set up meetings for success. Once you’ve set guidelines for the language that will be used, remind team members to speak slowly and clearly so that everyone can understand. Making language more formal can help as well, to ensure that people avoid using slang or colloquial terms that others might not understand. Remember that often the language barrier is not just actual language, but what you mean. In a lighthearted example, Americans can get confused when they order chips at a British restaurant and get fries!

Write it out. Written tools can help aid the work – make sure that an agenda is created prior to a meeting and that someone distributes complete notes after. Using formal grammar in the agenda and notes can help promote understanding among team members who have learned “proper” language.

Don’t create rivalries. Whoever is most adept at the language chosen should be particularly deferent to everyone else. Think about what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot. (Aha! There’s an example of what not to say!)

Hold video meetings. Another study published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine found that most successful groups assembled regularly for in-person meetings, or video conferences if that’s the next best option. They found these gatherings were essential for building trust and establishing a shared vision for the project, and certainly that would be even more important for a multi-national team.

Let everyone take the lead. Just because you have chosen one language as the dominant one doesn’t mean that non-native speakers are automatically cut off from leading the team. Allow them to take control when appropriate, just as you would if they spoke the same language.

Foster respect and interest in each other’s cultures. Is one of your teams celebrating a holiday of historical or cultural significance? Take the time to wish them a happy celebration and take care to avoid scheduling calls or deadlines that fall on that day. Think how an American team would feel if a crucial deadline was scheduled for Independence Day, for example. Acknowledging their special customs can help foster a spirit of team camaraderie.

Ask for feedback. How’s it going? Find out! By encouraging teams to speak out if they feel confused or slighted, you can eliminate the rivalry and “insider discussions” that can threaten to topple a team dynamic.

Expect some roadblocks. And finally, don’t be discouraged if things don’t immediately run smoothly. Every team has its own dynamic challenges and throwing a language barrier in only serves to amplify them. But by working together for the common good of the organization, teams can realize that they can and must overcome the language issue.

Today’s workplace is becoming exponentially more global. The teams that learn to recognize the language barriers inherent in multi-national teams and deploy techniques to overcome them are the ones that will win on the global stage.

August 13th, 2014 | 6:00 am

The Imaginary Precipice

iStock_000013882253XSmallGuest Contribution By Deborrah Himsel

Are women leaders being pushed and pulled toward an organizational glass cliff, toward jobs that no man in his right mind would take but women grab out of naiveté or desperation?

Former University Of Exeter researchers, Michele Ryan and Alex Haslam, coined this term to explain their findings that organizations facing a dire crisis or turn around situation were more likely to select a potentially expendable woman than a man to try and fix things. They also suggested that in many cases, this sacrificial female would be pushed aside for a male if things went south or when things stabilized.

In the wake of General Motors’ problems with their faulty ignition switches and CEO Mary Barra’s well-publicized attempts to deal with these problems (including testifying at Congressional hearings), this glass cliff term has caught on once again. It has raised the question of whether women leaders such as Barra are being set-up as scapegoats or placed in no win situations by male leaders.

Let’s examine two hypotheses currently circulating that attempt to verify the existence of a glass cliff.

First, some researchers such as Susan Brockmuller and Nyla Branscobe in a 2010 article have theorized that women are more likely than men to say yes to taking on a crisis leadership position because they lack the powerful network that can inform them about the underlying problems with the position or within the organization. For instance, no one told Mary Barra that the faulty ignition switch crisis would erupt on the next CEO’s watch.

I find this hypothesis unlikely. Even though women may have different networking skills than men, their networks are no less strong than those of men and my experience has been that they pay more attention to the buzz that builds on them, especially if they want to get underneath what may be getting in the way of their advancement. Perhaps more to the point, women leaders often relish the challenge of crisis or turnaround situations—they don’t naively venture out onto the glass cliff but go willingly. When Andrea Jung took over Avon in 1999, she did so with her eyes open, accepting the CEO role from a man amid a tumbling stock price, take over rumors and low employee morale. Ms. Jung, at 40 years of age, certainly did not say to herself, “I don’t have any CEO experience, and I lack the network necessary to clue me in to what’s really going on here.” Instead, she grabbed the opportunity and ran with it, recognizing it was a great opportunity to prove herself.

The second glass cliff hypothesis that Ryan, Haslam, Mulcahy, Linehan and others have postulated is: Boards or decision makers want a candidate to clean up a mess who has more stereotypically female skills such as inclusion, empathy or engagement. I don’t buy this hypothesis either, though certainly on occasion women CEOs are hired because the previous male leader was arrogant and exclusionary and the company seeks a more empathetic and inspirational replacement for morale purposes.

Keep reading »

August 12th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Play to Your Advantage: A Finance Background Will Help You Attain a Board Seat

iStock_000005966600XSmallBy Kayla Turo

We have long discussed the advantages of incorporating more women into board level executive positions, which includes professed benefits such as increased productivity, independence, and creativity, as well as a decline in the debilitating habits of “groupthink” and stereotyping found among ill-diversified boards.

The recent reportWomen in finance: A springboard to corporate board positions?” published by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), states that women with qualifications or a background in finance are more likely to attain executive board positions than those who come from other industries.

The ACCA conducted extensive interviews with three groups: eight female FTSE 100 directors, seven executive search consultants (ESCs), and five FTSE 100 chairmen to gain a better understanding of how finance plays a role in the appointment of new executive directors and what that means for women today.

Finance: The Universal Corporate Language
The report found that all three groups felt it was the credibility that accompanies financial knowledge that was an indispensable perk of having a background in finance. Having the “language” of finance eliminates some of the alienation that occurs for women on a male-dominated board and makes her more identifiable to these men.

The ACCA report indicates, a background in finance is generally viewed as a more masculine qualification, and therefore in the thinking of this report women having experience in finance may work as a “corporate translator” to bridge the gender gap in the boardroom. They purport that the ability to speak the language of finance garners approval from peers on a board

When striving for a board position, it is also helpful to know strategic players who can advocate for you and recommend you for the role. According to the ACCA report, “Networking, in particular being known as well as knowing those who are already in board roles, is essential. If individual women are not known to a chairman or fall under the radar of an executive search firm then it is highly unlikely these women will be considered for board roles.”

While all three groups acknowledge the benefits of having a background in finance in regards to credibility, the ACCA still found some difficulty in pinpointing what type of financial experience is most beneficial.

Following the interviews with these key stakeholders of a corporation the researchers found a “lack of clarity” in the definition of financial qualifications and background. However, certain statistics and comments gathered throughout the interviews demonstrate some of the common fields of finance that have worked for current female directors.

Keep reading »

August 11th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Connie Maccarone, Senior Vice President of Insurance Operations, Western & Southern Financial Group

rsz_maccarone-connie-2012By Irene Solaz

The opportunity to learn and grow through different positions is what Connie Maccarone liked best about Western & Southern Financial Group. The company, as she recalls, “offered career opportunities, industry-recognized training and long-term growth for me that other jobs did not.”

She started in an entry-level programming position, dedicated 29 years to Information Technology, and was promoted to senior vice president of Insurance Operations more than ten years ago.

Experience in Western & Southern
Maccarone understands how important it is to learn from others and accept advice. “I, like many women, needed to seek more constructive feedback. I developed technical and management skills more quickly when I welcomed constructive criticism,” she says.

She proudly recalls the successful projects and service provided to Western & Southern’s distribution channels, producers and clients, which would not have been possible without the help of “people with outstanding capabilities and dedication.” She is happy to have had the chance to learn from them.

One of the company’s many goals is to help families see how important life insurance and retirement planning are, especially for the middle class, “since many of those families would not be in a position to sustain their life style without the benefits realized from the proper amount of life insurance, savings and retirement planning,” she says.

Western & Southern has acquired other insurance companies, and is currently “working on strategic back-office and IT initiatives to unify and modernize functional processing across the various companies. This will provide more scalable processing and better enable additional mergers and acquisitions,” she adds.

Women in Insurance
“I recommend that women stop focusing on the fact that they are women.” Maccarone believes that the best companies don’t take gender into consideration. They “care about developing people who will help the company and its associates succeed.” She recalls, “many of my best coaches and mentors were men who cared about people. By seizing assignments, training, education and the work ethic that make the company successful, you will be successful.”

A hunger for knowledge in the field you choose and passion for the tasks you accomplish are two requirements for being successful. She suggests that women “understand and truly love the position [they] have at each step in their career,” and advises them against “losing sight of how it fits into the company’s success. Nail the job you have and help others see how their efforts fit into the whole picture.”

Keep reading »

August 8th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Summer Fridays!

iStock_000007154239XSmallHappy Summer Friday from The Glass Hammer Team!

You can catch up on this week’s content here:

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Enjoy your weekend!

August 7th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Choosing Leaders for the Wrong Reasons

Senior business man discussing project on laptop with staffBy Nicholas Pummer

One of the most important decisions that any organization makes is who to name manager. However, according to a recent report by Gallup, companies are alarmingly bad at identifying managerial talent. According to the results published in the Gallup Business Journal, companies select the wrong candidate a staggering 82% of the time. Very few individuals – just 10% says Gallup’s research – possess the natural skill set necessary to become effective managers.

As if companies did not already face a difficult task in identifying the precious few with the potential to lead, the conventional selection process could be systematically overlooking female candidates based on preconceived notions about what a manager “should” look like.

A long line of research in management has identified gender role stereotyping as a major barrier for women. The association between gender role stereotypes and perceptions about requisite management characteristics could be a decisive factor in limiting the number of women in management positions.

Good managers are hard to find
The Gallup report identifies five principle characteristics that great managers display, including the following:
1. They are assertive;
2. They are motivational;
3. They create a culture of accountability;
4. They are skilled at building relationships;
5. They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

The authors note that while many individuals display some of the above characteristics, only one in ten employees have all of the characteristics necessary to give them the potential to be great leaders within the organization. The stakes are high for companies, as great managers, says Gallup’s report, lead to a higher level of employee engagement, which ultimately results in a more successful organization.

The question remains why companies have so much trouble identifying the right candidates. Part of the problem, according to researchers, is the conventional selection process where little science is applied. Candidates are typically evaluated using a heuristic approach that considers factors such as tenure and success in a non-managerial role.

When considering candidates with similar profiles, a decision can ultimately depend on whether the candidate “looks the part.” This subjective criterion could cause more women that have the requisite skills to be overlooked.

Think manager, think male
It is well-documented that women often face an uphill battle when trying to climb the ranks within their organization. A large body of academic research confirms that one of the biggest barriers to the advancement of women in business is psychological – specifically the perception that the characteristics of a successful manager are more commonly found in men than in women.

Keep reading »

August 6th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Four Ways to Balance Motherhood with a Career in the C-Suite

iStock_000014255993XSmallGuest Contribution By Neela Seenandan

The debate on working mothers is usually framed in “you can’t have it all” terms and often pits working mothers against their stay-at-home counterparts. Typically, the discussion focuses on middle-class mothers in mid-level jobs. But what about balancing motherhood and work in the C-suite? Are the issues appreciably different for mothers who are top executives? Can executive moms find the right balance?

Tellingly, male CEOs are rarely asked how they manage to find the right balance between work and fatherhood. Even in 2014, women are assumed to be the primary caregiver for children, and mothers who take on demanding, high-level executive roles are often scrutinized and found wanting as either parents, leaders or both, as the controversy surrounding Marissa Mayer’s hiring at Yahoo demonstrated.

But the fact that the terms and framing of the debate are often unfair doesn’t mean there aren’t real challenges involved in striking the right balance between the role of mother and CEO. Here are a few methods women executives have used to successfully handle both roles.

1. Define your priorities – and recognize that they will change. As a top executive, you’re ultimately responsible for all aspects of company operations, and you understand the commitment it takes to successfully manage your enterprise. To handle another all-consuming role – parenthood – simultaneously means you have to set priorities and make compromises. This is true for any parent, male or female. It’s also important to acknowledge that your priorities will change over time. Parenthood is a life-changing event, and as children grow, the demands of motherhood evolve.

2. Develop a strong, dedicated team. Some CEOs find it tough to delegate important tasks, which makes it extremely difficult to achieve work-life balance. “Difficult” can quickly become “impossible” when you’re attempting to balance two extraordinarily demanding roles, chief executive and mother, without delegating key tasks. To pull it off successfully, you’ll need to surround yourself with a team you can trust to handle critical negotiations and client relationships. Give your top people a chance to shine, and mentor them to hone their leadership skills. When you have a trusted team in place, you’ll have more options when you need to prioritize your time.

Keep reading »

August 5th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Four Steps to Understanding Your Own & Others Motivations

Group DisscussionBy Gabrielle Rapke Hoffman

An employee leaves shortly after receiving a raise. A team exceeds an ambitious stretch goal. A top achiever’s performance slides for no apparent reason. Sometimes managers are surprised by these outcomes, which may be due to a mismatch between a manager’s beliefs about employee motivation and what actually motivates a particular employee. Complicating matters, what motivates one employee may not motivate another. Understanding how managers believe employees are motivated and how employees are actually motivated may lead to positive organizational outcomes.

Recently, researchers at the University of San Diego published a study in the Journal of Business Administration Research that developed and validated a psychological test to assess which motivational theories a manager believes in called the motivation beliefs inventory (MBI). The researchers explain that managers tend to hold erroneous beliefs about what motivates employees, overemphasizing certain factors, such as job security and compensation, and underemphasizing others, such as meaningful work and growth.

Using the MBI, managers’ beliefs can be assessed along four key motivation theories that have emerged since the early twentieth century: reinforcement theory (RT), expectancy-valence theory (EVT), achievement motivation theory (AMT), and self-determination theory (SDT).

Theories of Motivation
Reinforcement theory is based on using positive and negative reinforcements to incentivize employees to behave in a desired manner. In expectancy-valence theory, motivation can be determined by first examining the emotional desirability, attractiveness, and anticipated satisfaction of a particular outcome. A manager must then assess the likelihood of a particular course of action, such as assigning a particular project to an employee to bring about a desired result at a given time in the future.

Achievement motivation theory (AMT) purports that meeting three separate psychological needs motivate an individual: achievement, affiliation, and power. It is comprised of:

(1) socialized needs for achievement, affiliation, and power;
(2) striving to achieve something novel or record-breaking;
(3) challenge level of a goal;
(4) competing to win.

Finally, self-determination theory (SDT) posits, “individuals are naturally inclined to engage in and increase competence within their environments.” SDT suggests that the most important factor in motivating individuals is to create a positive environment that allows autonomy. In contrast to Reinforcement Theory, employees under SDT will be most successful and satisfied with their work in situations that are free of incentives and punishments.

The Three M’s
Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School discusses similar origins to motivation as the motivation beliefs inventory. She believes that mastery, membership, and meaning are the three “M”s that motivate employees. Kanter’s view intersects most with achievement motivation theory, both on mastery (achievement) and membership (affiliation). When discussing mastery, she advocates enabling people to develop deep skills and shape their future through stretch goals. In fact, behavioral economist Dan Ariely asserts that the more difficult the challenge the prouder a person feels of their achievement. This also aligns with achievement motivation theory in that the importance of the achievement is further magnified for the most challenging goals.

Kanter’s second “M,” membership, also aligns with the affiliation component of achievement motivation theory. The traditional view of affiliation focuses on pleasing others and gaining their approval. However, Kanter’s view of this sense of belonging is different. She believes that honoring individuality within the work community provides deeper connections than what she calls “superficial conformity.”

For Kanter’s third component she focuses on meaning rather than power, as in achievement motivation theory. However, these two concepts have more in common than initially meets the eye. Employees find their work meaningful when they understand the larger purpose of their daily tasks. As a manager, explaining the positive impact that an employee’s work has on the world is important. While in some industries and functions this may be more challenging than in others, an adaptation of this would be to show the positive impact that the employee’s function has on the organization itself.

Keep reading »

August 4th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Dixie Johnson, Partner, King & Spalding

By Michelle Hendelman

“When I was growing up, I aspired to be a 5th grade school teacher,” said Dixie Johnson, Partner, King & Spalding, “and when I was twenty-one years old, I realized this career goal.” Johnson loved teaching and was very fulfilled by this career path, but when she stopped to consider the longevity of a career in education, she determined that this might not be the direction she wanted to take her career. This is when her professional life took an unexpected turn and propelled her toward a career in law.

“Every job is a stepping stone the builds your portfolio in the future,” Johnson said. “Be open to changing directions.”

Career Path in Law
In order to keep her teaching certification, Johnson was required to complete a graduate degree. “I decided to get my MBA at night while I was teaching during the day,” said Johnson. It was here that she was advised to attend law school at the urging of her Business Law professor who read her first exam and saw something special in Johnson. “This is one of those lessons in life,” explained Johnson.

“If people are paying attention and care enough to vocalize their observations, it can change somebody’s life, which is exactly what this professor did for me.”

Although Johnson was not entirely convinced that she wanted to become a lawyer, she ultimately listened to the advice of her professor, took a leave of absence from teaching, and applied to the local law school in Albuquerque, NM. Since Johnson always had an affinity for math, she had an early interest in tax law, but when the tax code changed twice while she was in law school, she reconsidered this area and began to look more closely at securities law instead. “It is a heavily regulated field where lawyers are necessary, and I found it very intriguing,” Johnson explained. “As it turned out, my professor was right. I loved law school and quickly realized that it was a very good fit for me,” said Johnson. By the end of her third year, Johnson was headed to Washington, D.C. to practice law. “I came as a first year associate and stayed for twenty-seven years,” Johnson recalled. She joined Fried Frank in 1986 in the corporate department working on corporate transactions and enforcement work.

“It took me about three years to determine which field I wanted to devote my legal career to, but I found that helping people prepare to present their case to the government was something that I enjoyed very much,” said Johnson.

In January 2014, Johnson moved to King & Spalding, where she is a partner. Despite never having worked for the government, Johnson is proud of the fact that she has built a strong reputation and emerged as a leader in securities law.

Trends in Securities Law
According to Johnson, the impact of the Jobs Act is something she is very interested in and will be following closely in the future.

“Companies are experiencing streamlined access to capital raising, and some of the pausing moments in the process are not there anymore,” explained Johnson. “The federal securities laws are not always straightforward and going on your instinct without consulting with counsel, you can’t adequately anticipate what the laws require.”

It has been fascinating to practice securities law during such a dynamic time in the financial services industry, said Johnson, who often represents large corporations. “As a financial institution, it is difficult to be under such a large amount of scrutiny, but with that said, banks have a huge responsibility,” said Johnson.

Keep reading »