My first year as a mom, a single mother by choice, a mom with a decade more under my belt then most new moms and a working mom with a new job after maternity leave ended. That’s a lot of new titles, new balancing and a new voice, a protective mama-bearness, a patience and efficiency and a deep appreciation for all the moms who have come before me. An even deeper appreciation for those who made it look simple but were probably paddling like mad underneath the surface.
What does that mean to me? It means we need to share more about our struggles, our imperfections, our shortcuts or life hacks. We need to stretch out of our comfort zone of saying “I’m fine” and say, “I’ve been there, what do you need”, “let me help” and sometimes, we need to utter the words most of us often dread saying out loud, “I need help.”
What does that look like:
At work, that looks like choosing an employer whose values align with your own. Personally, that meant choosing an employer who made it clear that people were their priority, especially before they were employees and before they were company advocates. Cheer Partners’ culture is that people come first with holistic lives that need tending to – parent or not. This company empowers employees to share when they need extra support or a PJ Day (day off with minimal notice) because there are days that you can’t bring your whole self to work, and that needs to be OK. As a new leader, I’ve told my team – you don’t have to tell me what is going on, but you need to tell me that something is going on, so I can support you. And as an employee, I am appreciative that my company is open and supportive of our whole lives.
At home, that means finding my support system and to me that doesn’t look like “the village” that parenting articles talk about. In fact, I bet many women feel like a failure for not having acquired a “mom tribe” – on top of everything else. That doesn’t mean I am not surrounded by loving family and friends, but it does mean that they have their own lives, schedules and priorities. If I ask, they are there. I think it’s important to find support in other ways, such as: backup childcare for the backup childcare or as I call it, my roster of sitters, and a handyman, who knows that an hour of his skills, can save me hours in frustration. Sometimes, it giving up control to someone else, but if I prioritize what’s important to me and give up a little control, I gain tenfold in peace of mind.
Instead of saying, “I’m fine,” I actually share my frustrating days and when I receive unsolicited advice, I pause to say, “I really just want to vent, could you just listen.” It also means my remembering that the words “that sucks”, “ugh so sorry” are often more appreciated then “have you tried” or “what I did was” or least remembering to ask first – “do you want to hear what I tried?”
In conclusion, in honor of my second Mother’s Day (my son was born a week before the holiday last year), I want to thank all of those who paved the way with your grace, humor, realism, authenticity and love. It has made this journey easier to know we all go through the same thing … whether we admit it or not.
How many times over the course of your career with various managers and leaders have you thought to yourself…“I’ll never do that.” You probably thought this in frustration for many reasons. Perhaps you weren’t given the information you needed to move a project forward or provided the feedback you needed to advance your career or perhaps your manager chronically cancelled meetings with you, as if it wasn’t important to them. On the flip side, you may have had some great experiences with manager’s that made you feel as though your contributions mattered, your voice was heard, and you were a valued member of their team.
Yet, you still grew in your career, and may be at the point of leading a person or a team now. As you dive into the new responsibilities of a new role, you also need to consider the significant task of being a manager of people. Although this type of role can impact people’s careers, few companies lay out their expectations for their people managers or share resources on how to do this effectively.
Therefore, it is up to you to thoughtfully and intentionally set out to be a good people manager. And, you need to do the work to determine what type of people manager you want to be before you step into the new role. That’s right, homework! Why? Because, the first impression you make as a new people manager will be fundamental to the tone you set for your team’s working relationship with you and with each other. You may evolve and grow over time with your team, but your introduction – as with any relationship – will have a big impact.
Catalog your Experiences… Think back to all of the managers and leaders that you have had and consider your retrospective opinion of their role in your professional development, confidence, and industry knowledge.
Set your Intentions… think critically about what type of manager you want to be and then write it down.
• I want to be a leader who…
• I want my team to see me as…
• When people talk about my team, I want to them say…
Day 1: Introduce Yourself… Even if you are not new to a department or company, people want to know their boss. Most employees want to know what’s in it for them? They know they have to build a relationship with you, but they want to know how to do that fast, well and in a way that will positively impact their work life. Before you walk in to your first day, you need to thoughtfully consider how you will answer the following questions in your first meeting with your team:
• Your leadership style
• Your vision and priorities for the team
• Your working style
• How you are going to support their professional development
Even if you can’t answer all of these in the moment, especially your vision and priorities, start to build trust with your team by letting them know the steps you are going to take to identify these and when you plan on getting back to them with this information. If you are going to want their input, let them know, so they can plan their responses.
Week 1: Actively Listen… Part of these introductory conversations are not just about you, but understanding that they want you to know them too. Ask questions that will help you understand them better and show your interest in who they are. You may also want to consider learning about their background and years of experience in the industry and previous manager relationships, which will help you see each employee as a holistic person and help you determine how you are going to manage the moving forward. Some questions you may want to ask:
• Tell me about yourself
• What do you see as your role here?
• What was your biggest accomplishment in the last year?
• What obstacles do you see that you or the team encounter in trying to reach our goals?
• What professional skills or experiences do you have that few people know about?
• What are your aspirational goals for your role this year?
• What do you do to enhance your career learning and development – both internally and externally?
• What can I do to support you?
Assess the Current Culture: You may have heard from your leadership or predecessor about the team culture, but I would caution you to assess it on your own and through conversations with your team members before you put your own stamp on it.
Unique Situations: Every team and organization is different, therefore you need consider other factors such as how large, layered, what different types of workers and how geographically spread-out your team is – all of these will impact how you introduce yourself throughout the first thirty days.
Sustaining the Momentum: You have laid out publicly who you are, what your leadership style is and how you want your team to work together to reach their business objectives and aspirational goals. Now you will need to create a plan on how you are going to engage your employees throughout the year and what balance of in-person, digital and written communications you will share, at what cadence, what educational curriculum you want to set forth to support them in their professional development and how you want your management to lead with their teams and how you are going to show appreciation for them every day through their obstacles and their successes. Finally, always remember while you should guide and help your team to hone and perfect their skill set, it’s equally and often more important to catch them when they do something right and reinforce the things they should keep doing.
Cheer Partners is proud to join over 100 companies in the Paradigm for Parity Movement, which is committed to achieving a new norm in corporate leadership: one in which women and men have equal power, status, and opportunity by 2030. Our 5 Point Action Plan includes: Minimizing Unconscious Bias, Increase the Number of Women in Senior Operating Roles, Measure and Communicate Progress, Base Career Progress on Business Results and Performance, Mentor and Sponsor Women Consistently. The topic of gender parity is near and dear to our heart, and will be sharing consistent content on this topic all year long.
A Small Gesture with a Big Impact
It seems acceptable and almost more congenial to be in a bad mood these days. In fact, there is an entire line of stationary items that proudly states, “I Am Very Busy.” Why would anyone want to be in a bad mood purposefully? An entire blog post could probably be written on why people see being busy versus productive as a positive thing. But for now, let’s focus on why a positive, agreeable attitude is probably a better way to get ahead in your career than a negative one.
In my previous blog post, I describe a time when I was complimented for having a positive attitude, which helped me stand out in a sea of a thousand faces. As happy as I was to receive that compliment, it seems almost wrong. Why should I be noticed for not being a negative person?
There is a lot of talk about personal branding. What you wear, how you present yourself and what you post on social media are all mentioned as top things to consider in building your personal brand. But it is rarely mentioned that your attitude is the key thing people will remember about you.
Here are some questions to consider in your self-reflection of the attitude you present to others:
• Do you go out of your way to get to know your colleagues, ask about their professional work personal lives (where appropriate)?
• Do you generally smile when you talk or find an opportunity to laugh with colleagues?
• Do you start meetings as “all business” or try to bring a little levity and personality to your job?
• When someone asks how your day is going, do you generally answer positively or just tell them about the grievance you have that day?
• Do you have a positive response for “how was your weekend” or “what plans do you have for the holidays” or do you share your personal issues with your colleagues?
• If someone doesn’t agree with you in a business meeting, how is your response to them in the meeting? How do you handle it following the meeting, do you try to get others “on your side”?
• Are you able to receive feedback without getting defensive or angry?
• Do you volunteer for side projects or to help a colleague out who looks stressed?
• Do you have a consistency to how you speak to others, even and especially when, there are leaders in the room?
Every industry gets smaller the longer you are in it. People are going to remember your kindness and your smile or your negativity and your scowl. Your reputation can have either. But in the end, the former is going to benefit your career in the long-run and—in the short-run—make each day a little bit easier.
This article was originally posted 2/19/19 on our partner Dynamic Signal’s blog
Recently, an acquaintance asked Carrie Goldstein what she did for a living. Goldstein explained how she counsels corporate leaders on creating a work culture that improves the employee experience.
“As I explained it to him, his first reaction was: ‘Oh, making people feel good that they have a job?’” recalled Goldstein, Managing Director and Team Leader at the Cheer Partners agency.
She’s heard it all before, of course. Still, it amazes Goldstein that so many people fail to make the direct correlation between happy, motivated employees and positive business outcomes.
Carrie Goldstein“There’s a general perception that this is about patting people on the head and saying, ‘Good job!’” she said. “But here’s the reality: We spend more time on the job that we do with our families. A true employee engagement program can change somebody’s day, and by extension, their entire life. They’re happier and more satisfied. They’re more connected to where they spend the bulk of their week, and that helps the business.”
Before joining Cheer Partners, Goldstein was on the Pfizer communications team, where she oversaw a portfolio of 350 brands. We spoke to Goldstein to learn more about why she believes culture isn’t “soft,” how it can drive increased profits and the role of effective employee communications on creating a great workplace.
How did you come to appreciate why this is so important?
“I had always been in brand marketing communications. Then I had a leader at Pfizer who said, ‘I really want you to see another side of the business and work in internal communications. I had my doubts at first, to be honest. Well, I fell in love with it. You really come to appreciate how when you can change somebody’s day, it can have a ripple effect on their professional development, building and reaching for new goals, and feeling as though they are making an impact. That, in turn, can impact their attitude toward life in general.”
Do companies think they’re paying attention to employee engagement when actually they’re not?
“Absolutely, but the need to engage employees differently is growing. How you do it is shifting. The idea that internal communication is about telling people that they should be happy to work here is a mentality from 20 years ago. Cheer Partners exists to give companies a logical, thoughtful strategy about creating cultural attributes and then constantly infusing them into the day of employees in an authentic way. When you do it right, your best advocate will be your employee. In other words, who is really going to defend your company at Thanksgiving dinner? Your employee will do that if you honor and educate them.”
What does it mean to create an organizational culture?
“There’s the famous story about JFK once asking a janitor at NASA what he did and the man responding: ‘I’m helping put a man on the moon.’ Culture is about having everyone at a company feel that they’re playing an important role in something bigger than themselves. Employees need to realize that culture is about as much them as it the CEO. Culture is embedded in the attitudes and behaviors that are part of the way you conduct business every day. Companies should hire with cultural attributes in mind. When they’re onboarding employees, they should be emphasizing culture and business equally. You want employees to be left with a great impression about the work they do and the company that they represent.
Do you mean like a mission statement?
“Culture is not something you frame on the lobby wall. The mission and vision are important. What’s more important is the company’s purpose statement. But you just can’t say at a company town hall: ‘Our culture is being innovative,’ and then do nothing about it all year long. Whatever you want your culture to be, it needs to saturate everything you do in an authentic way. So, did you launch an innovation center? Did every leader, from the CFO to the CMO, talk about innovation from their perspective – and break down barriers that inhibit innovation? You can’t demand culture. You don’t just declare you have a culture. You have to work to make people feel like their part of creating it and living it every day.”
What are some of the assessments that can help companies identify areas of improvement?
“The most important thing is identifying the gaps in perception between what employees and the leadership believe the culture is. This means conducting a leadership-only focus group to determine what executives believe their culture is and how embedded it is into the day-to-day of employees. We also find out what everyone aspires to be one year from now. Depending on the company’s specific needs, we also assess the employees’ perceptions of the company culture. We will conduct focus groups to dig deeper into specific communication issues such as generational gaps or remote workers. We ask about the types of employee content, the cadence of communications, and the channels being used. Then we compare those responses to the previous six months of internal communications. We’re able to identify where communications may be broken and build a plan to bridge the gaps.”
Why did you join Cheer Partners?
“I love that our team has the opportunity to change people’s day. When you are not engaged at work and feel like what you do isn’t important, it negatively impacts your whole life. Your self-worth shouldn’t be your paycheck or your title. You should feel good about your work and your contributions. Companies that think about how to help employees are seeing the bigger picture. Those are the ones that will win in the end.
So, companies are seeing the value of this?
“Yes, corporate leaders are beginning to understand the significant shift in focusing on the internal customer – your employee. They see there’s value in helping people feel more connected to their work and their peers. They’re emphasizing to employees that they care about them as people and that they’re not just numbers. These are the companies that are increasing employee productivity, loyalty, retention, and advocacy. You can just see a world of difference at the companies that are mastering this.”
Benefits of Employee Engagement
Organizations with higher employee engagement see 24 percent greater retention, 21 percent higher profitability, and 17 percent more productivity, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report in 2017
Productivity improves by 20 to 25 percent in organizations with connected employees, according to McKinsey