Best Beach Reading List for Women in Leadership

woman-reading-at-beach

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2018 was to read more. For good reasons. It’s a fact: People who read books live longer. And truthfully, as I have said before, leadership development is a demanding field–one that requires staying abreast of new perspectives and learning from authors beyond our own particular industries.

Now that summer is here; I’m happy to say that I am enjoying my resolution and am eager to share some new book titles with you. So, as you throw your bathing suit and sunblock into that beach or pool carryall, consider adding one of the books I’ve suggested below, whether it’s to help uplevel your leadership abilities over the summer or to offset that summer blockbuster page-turner you just tucked in your bag.

1. Dream Teams by Shane Snow

Let’s start with this one: Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart by Shane Snow. Managing high-performance teams is a topic near and dear to my heart, one that I speak about in keynotes across the country. “Award-winning entrepreneur and journalist Shane Snow reveals the counterintuitive reasons why so many partnerships and groups break down–and why some break through.” Snow does an excellent job of walking the reader through the elements that cause a team to be high-performing instead of just a group of people who work together.

I appreciated Snow’s storytelling, which made the book an enjoyable read, and his insights based on history, business, neuroscience, and psychology. It’s a fabulous book, and I believe you’ll enjoy it.

2. Applied Empathy by Michael Ventura

Next up is Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership by Michael Ventura. In this Business Insider Best Book, Ventura describes the power of empathy, and how that quality may be what your company needs to connect, innovate, and grow. Ventura is an entrepreneur and the CEO of the award-winning strategy and design firm Sub Rosa. He has worked with brands like Google, Warby Parker, Nike, and General Electric, and organizations including the United Nations and the Obama administration.

In a world where we face the reality of digitalization and our increasing reliance on technology like artificial intelligence and augmented reality, the need for soft skills like empathy is vital. Bear in mind that the people who program this technology upon which we depend come to the work with their biases–and those can easily be incorporated in the development and coding processes. One of the key skills for those of us in leadership is and will continue to be, emotional competence; the ability to empathize with, motivate, and engage our teams.

Applied Empathy provides the reader with a framework for building diverse teams that can be successful in our new global marketplace.

3. Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam

Let’s change it up a bit with this next recommendation. Most of us run from one day to the next, frantically juggling the daily demands of our personal lives and our work lives. One of the things I hear from my female coaching clients is that they are doing it all, all the time, for everyone. They tell me they don’t have time for themselves. They don’t have time to work out, time to relax, or time to recharge.

Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam describes seven principles that time-free people have adopted. “Time-free?” you exclaim. Who would describe themselves as time-free in today’s hectic world? It turns out, plenty of people do because they embrace the seven almost counterintuitive principles outlined in Vanderkam’s book. Her book includes descriptions of “mindset shifts to help you feel calm on the busiest days and tools to help you get more done without feeling overwhelmed.”

This book is packed with helpful information and examples of how people using these principles are learning to apply new thinking to formerly chaotic schedules and lives. I found several invaluable pointers in the book that I plan to use in my own life, and I suspect you may as well. Give it a read. I recommend it highly.

4. Presence by Amy Cuddy

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy is a book I often recommend to my coaching clients. Cuddy, who gave the second most popular TED Talk ever, writes about the differences between authentic and inauthentic behavior, and between social power and personal power.

At this point, your instinctive response may be like this one: “I don’t read self-help books,” writes Laura McNeal in a Goodreads review. “Metaphorically I’m a 17-year-old hearing that it would be better to start my homework on Saturday instead of Sunday night at eight. My inner voice screams, ‘I KNOOOOOOOOW.’ ” If so, read on: “I was in deep danger of switching from the Bold Self initiative to my default setting, which is Holden Caulfield at the end of his madman weekend in New York. And yet I kept reading, and it got to a point where I was curled up on the sofa with a highlighter in my hand….” McNeal gave the book four out of five stars in her review.

Cuddy describes the differences between powerless poses and powerful poses and recommends adopting confident power poses and body language until the reader can become her authentic best self.” As a social psychologist, Cuddy bases her work on her research and is considered a leader among ” ‘next generation’ authors and academics who are pioneering evidence-based approaches,” according to a review by Bridgette Beyers.

Try this one and then let me know how you enjoyed it, and whether you found it as helpful and inspiring as I have.

5. Thrive by Arianna Huffington

Finally, I give you Thrive, by Arianna Huffington. Thrive is Huffington’s account of how she manages the challenges of her career and raising her two daughters. It is an intensely personal book, one that begins by describing her “a-ha! moments” after her physical collapse upon falling and injuring herself due to exhaustion. Huffington points out the reality too many people discover the hard way: The dogged pursuit of money and power leads to stress and burnout and a lessening in the quality of our lives and our careers. Thrive provides the groundwork and a blueprint for revolutionizing the way we think, work, and live. I thought it was a fantastic book and I believe you will too.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

Selecting Leadership Trainers

Leadership Trainers

In April I wrote an article for Training Industry discussing the importance of L&D programming to ensure you have the best and the brightest talent in-house. As we learned from LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report, the most critical skills employees need to learn are leadership abilities—and, according to the research, training in soft skills is currently the most crucial area for talent development today.

You can develop your programming in-house, or you can outsource it. The decision on whether or not to outsource may depend on your organization’s resources. However, finding the best facilitators for your program is essential, and finding the right leadership trainers can be a daunting task.

However, I can help. In my more than 20 years of experience training, teaching and facilitating for some of the top companies in the world, I’ve selected leadership trainers for large-scale projects, and have learned some valuable lessons.  Click here to read my article on Training Industry with valuable guiding principles for choosing the best of the best.

Photo: rawpixel on Unsplash.

The Role of AI in Learning and Development

Role-of-AI-in-learning-and-development

We have entered the Age of Artificial Intelligence. And, while many of us have heard how AI will impact market segments like manufacturing or R&D, I find myself wondering: What about other areas of business–like L&D? How will AI affect learning and development?

As James Paine points out, “It wasn’t so long ago that artificial intelligence was reserved to the realm of science fiction according to the public.”  AI grew exponentially in 2017 and is projected to be even bigger in 2018.

So, what will we need to know to make the best use of AI in Learning and Development?

It’s a bit challenging. Most of us are not yet even consciously aware of the AI we’re already using. From online shopping’s search and recommendation functions to voice-to-text in mobile usage, or AI-powered personal assistants like Alexa or Siri, our personal and work lives are already impacted by these new technologies.

Leading research and advisory company, Gartner, projects that AI bots will power 85 percent of customer service interactions by 2020 and will drive up to $33 trillion of annual economic growth.

What role will AI play in Learning and Development?

Given the fast pace of technological and societal changes, L&D has to stay abreast of the latest approaches and methodologies as they develop their learning strategies. Gone are the days of one size fits all. AI will provide insights based on the enormous amount of data it has collected and analyzed, which will facilitate the creation of customized learning programs–faster than before.

Access to these insights and data will allow us to develop a better understanding of learner behaviors and to predict needs by recommending and positioning content based on past behavior, according to Doug Harward, and Ken Taylor, in their article for Training Industry.

Adaptive learning that is personalized to the individual is a powerful way to engage today’s workforce, but Harward and Taylor point out that the challenge facing L&D is to be able to make sense of the data and to leverage those insights to drive business value.

As with AI in all its applications across diverse industries, there will be many positives, negatives, and…unknowns,” says Massimo Canonico, head of solutions engineering for Docebo. He sees a potential for reduction in the time spent in program development. But Canonico raises some concerns: Legacy L&D teams may feel they are relinquishing vital aspects of their jobs to automation, while the reality is that AI is an algorithm, not a magic wand, and will not be able to fix everything. “It will not fix garbage content,” he writes.

What do we need to consider in developing, using and promoting the use of AI products?

Today learning is about ‘flow’ not “instruction,” and helping bring learning to people throughout their digital experience,” says Josh Bersin. He believes it’s imperative that L&D focus on “experience design,” “design thinking,” the development of “employee journey maps,” and much more experimental, data-driven, solutions in the flow of work.

Bersin believes the job of L&D and HR is to understand what employee’s jobs are, learn about the latest tools and techniques to drive learning and performance, and then apply them to work in a modern, relevant, and cost-effective way. “We’ve been doing this for decades, and now we just have to learn to do it again – albeit with a vastly new set of technologies and experiences,” he states.

Practical considerations for the evaluation and assessment of AI solutions will include those which have been developed as mobile-first, designed for use on mobile devices, so content is displayed for easy mobile consumption.

One of the most important considerations in choosing an AI solution will be the level of analytics the solution can deliver. “If we are going to succeed when it comes to personalized learning, we have to understand how we learn, and when we learn most effectively,” says Rob May, in a post for Training Journal. However, he cautions, leaders in L&D and HR must remember that technology should never replace human interaction.

May’s comment resonates with me. I taught in a German program for five years, one that selected the best Ph.D. candidates from the country’s top schools in AI and robotics. The students traveled from company to company around Germany to attend courses, and my class on Intercultural Communication got the best scores on evaluations.

While the students were absolute wizards on the technological front, I was teaching them soft skills: Like how to sell their ideas at conferences, position their products or projects internationally, and develop partnerships abroad. The inclusion of the human touch made the course both popular and useful.

How is bias eliminated in AI?

One of the fascinating and challenging issues related to AI in L&D relates to bias. How can we eliminate bias in the development of these tools? AI can be taught to provide the best interpretation of the data sets, the right course for an individual or the perfect candidate for an open position. But it needs to be programmed to do so. And the human beings that create the AI solutions come to their work complete with conscious and unconscious biases.

So, it becomes increasingly clear that the developers of the AI and machine learning solutions must come from a diverse pool, and that the data used to train the algorithms in the tools is free of bias. “Even though AI learns–and maybe because it learns–it can never be considered ‘set it and forget it’ technology. To remain both accurate and relevant, it has to be continually trained to account for changes in the market, your company’s needs, and the data itself,” state the authors of How AI Can End BiasYvonne Baur, Brenda Reid, Steve Hunt, and Fawn Fitter.

The benefits of AI are many, and the concerns valid. In the final analysis, however, we will need to remember to deal with AI solutions in the same way we build learning and development programs: Identify the problem we’re trying to solve or topic on which we are training, and then find the best technological solution to help facilitate the end result.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.com

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

The One Skill You Need to Be an Authentic Leader

Authentic Leader

We need authentic leaders today–more than ever before. Leaders who inspire trust, and confidence, and loyalty. And you can be that person–but there’s one skill you need, above all others, to be an authentic leader. You must be able to listen.

The time for authentic leadership is now. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, the public’s confidence in the traditional structures of American leadership is now fully undermined and has been replaced with a strong sense of fear, uncertainty, and disillusionment.

Leaders who inspire trust will help pull us out of this slump by demonstrating self-awareness, honesty, and courage; by building honest relationships based on their real values. And, by listening. To themselves, and to the people with whom they work and socialize.

Authentic leaders aren’t afraid to express themselves honestly, to ask the difficult questions and take action based on what they hear.

Here’s an example of an authentic leader who has impressed me greatly. On my recent trip to Brazil, I met Cristina Palmaka, the President of SAP Brazil, one of the most important global subsidiaries of the company. Cristina is a highly experienced professional in the IT segment in Brazil with a strong focus on innovation. I found her wonderful because she shared her fears, likes, dislikes, and own leadership path with the group in a very open and honest way. She is highly influential because of this authenticity.

“Being authentic as a leader is hard work and takes years of experience in leadership roles. No one can be authentic without fail; everyone behaves inauthentically at times, saying and doing things they will come to regret,” writes Bill George, author of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. “The key is to have the self-awareness to recognize these times and listen to close colleagues who point them out.”

Self-awareness and listening are closely linked. To be self-aware, you must listen to yourself first and understand how your experiences, values, beliefs, gender, education, and social status can impact what you hear, and how you take action. Armed with that insider knowledge, you can listen, free of assumptions and judgments, to the people you lead, and make strategic decisions based on what you have learned from your discussions.

Another authentic leader I’ve had the privilege of working with is Kevin Delaney, VP of Learning and Development for LinkedIn. Kevin is an HR leader with 20 years of experience in Fortune companies, start-ups, and high-growth technology companies. Kevin is very open about his personal life – his good and bad experiences, his hobbies, and his kids. I have been struck by his careful listening and honest and constructive feedback when he spoke to groups or shared his opinion in meetings.

Authentic leaders demonstrate other essential qualities, like looking at the whole person for the qualities they can bring to a team, or motivating and challenging a team to perform at high standards. Or admitting to mistakes, honestly and openly–and then moving on.

One such leader is Ralf Drewsmy co-author. Ralf is the current Chairman of the Board / CEO at Greif Velox Maschinenfabrik. Ralf gives and takes direct feedback well and is known for his uncompromising integrity, and his ability to positively influence not only his direct team but an entire organization.

In today’s world, we really need authentic leaders like Cristina, Kevin, and Ralf. And we need you. If you find yourself drawn to leadership, know that the world needs your perspective, your talents, and your ability to listen to the people around you.

Don’t be afraid to go for it. Don’t feel like you can’t admit when you don’t know something. Authentic leaders are all about asking questions, listening to the answers, and leveraging the strengths of those with whom they work.

As Bill George says, “… it really gets down to the lives you touch every day in your life …and people you don’t even know sometimes whom you’ve impacted by who you are, what you stand for, by being true to what you believe.” So learn to listen. To yourself and to the people you lead or hope one day to lead.

And, if you’d like help developing your leadership skills? Orhelp building and sustaining your high-performing team? Contact me.

A version of this post published on Inc.com

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5 Ways to Become a Leader–Fast…And Get People to Follow You

Ways to Become a Leader

Have you ever imagined yourself becoming a leader? Think about it. You’d be great. But if what’s holding you back is not knowing where to start or how to chart your path to leadership, I can help you.

Leadership is vital, and good leaders can be hard to find. A new global survey, published on February 1, 2018, revealed that only 14 percent of CEOs believe they have the leadership talent they need to execute their strategy. According to the Global Leadership Forecast 2018, what’s keeping C-level executives up at night is the need to develop “next gen” leaders and failure to attract and retain top talent, which presents an opportunity for anyone who has ever dreamed about assuming a leadership position in their organization.

Here are five ways to become a leader-;fast. Each of these recommendations is an essential element of building your path to a leadership position.

1. Develop a Global Mindset. Companies like Ernst & Young and McKinsey have polled and found that leaders today are lacking in global awareness and knowledge, otherwise called “global mindset.” The research states that these skills are crucial to the success of a business.

The Globe Project first put its stamp on this term when the extensive research was done in 2010 on what, how and why a leader can be successful in an international context. Today, no leader works in just one place or with only one culture. If you have employees, you work with people from all over the world, and in different geographic locations. Whether your team is local or global, you need to become savvy at working across diversity.

The Globe Project produced an assessment called The Global Mindset Inventory to “test” a leader’s ability to work across cultures and countries. The categories evaluated include:

  • Intellectual Capital: The hard knowledge and skills in social, governmental, and legal aspects of a particular environment
  • Psychological Capital: The interest and desire to work across ambiguity and willingness to explore the unknown
  • Social Capital: The experience and “soft” skills in diplomacy and intercultural communication

2. Become a Thought Leader. The trend is for internal leaders to create thought leadership around a particular topic. Sheryl Sandberg became known for women in the workplace, Jack Welch is known for management, Richard Branson is the expert entrepreneur, and Elon Musk’s brand is innovation. If you want job security, more visibility, a better brand, leadership notoriety, and more meaning at work, you should consider initiating a topic or theme that you can become known for, establish a legacy around, or be the expert in.

3. Create and State “Mantras.” I’m not sure if it’s truly politically correct to use the term “mantras” as I think it has religious meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism. However, it’s meaning is crucial: “Phrases that are repeated again and again.”

Have you ever noticed how top leaders have catchphrases they say regularly? It might only be for a quarter or a year, it can vary, but they use them to establish ideas and make them memorable. Repeated use of words gets others to use them, and then eventually, according to social psychology, people start to believe those words and act on them.

If you want to make an impact on your manager, company culture, your team, or even externally, you’ll want to craft such mantras or catchphrases for yourself. Make sure they align with your values, principles, and actions for them to be authentic.

4. Be a Great People Manager. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, the truth is, only about 45 percent of those who become managers actually receive management training. The trend is that those who are really good at their job, or experts in a product or process, get promoted to management. And those promotions don’t necessarily mean they can manage individuals or teams well.

Learning how to balance individual contributor work with management responsibilities is essential. Being able to give critical feedback, teach employees a particular skill, or help them figure out their career path takes practice.

Seeking out management courses both internally and externally will help you speed up that learning curve of not only ensuring productivity and engagement from your team but assist in charting your leadership trajectory.

5. Enlist a Coach or Mentor.  Everyone needs help. Why should you go at it alone? Seek out a professional or find someone who will agree to mentor you. You can ask them anything you want to – how to navigate the organization, who to network with, how to solve a conflict, where to discover new interests, how to plan your career path, etc. Both coaches and mentors can give external and internal perspectives, depending on who you choose and what you need.

Becoming a leader takes work. Becoming a good leader and positioning yourself as a candidate for leadership in your organization requires focus, passion, and dedication. And, if you employ those things as well as the five essential steps I have listed above, you will attract the attention of the people who promote leaders in your organization-;and become a leader yourself.

Do you have questions or need more information about how to chart your path to leadership? Contact me.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Lamson is the CEO of Lamson Consulting, Founder of the highly popular leadership program for women, Advancement Strategies for Women, and creator of award-winning management programs for SpaceX, LinkedIn, and SAP. As an author, consultant, and speaker, Melissa accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by growing leaders, bridging cultures, and empowering teams.  More About Melissa Lamson

3 Simple Skills Every Spectacular Leader Masters

three simple skills leadership

Even though being a leader today is complicatedthere are just three simple skills you need to master. Leadership today is complex, in part because our teams are global and virtual. Our hierarchies are flatter. Our environments are more collaborative.

And, there are so many different models of leadership to consider. Should you be compassionate? Should you be a serving leader? What’s the difference between the two?

It can be overwhelming to think about all the different ways one can lead and how to pick the best fit.

But there are three simple skills that all spectacular leaders demonstrate and you can too.

Be observant.

All fantastic leaders are able to assess the different ways their employees work and thrive. They look at their teams’ personalities, cultural backgrounds, even gender, to identify what approach will be most effective in engaging, motivating and bringing out the best in an employee.

For example, in the case of differing cultural backgrounds, if a team member is from Mexico or Japan where there’s commonly a distinct hierarchy, then a leader should know that he or she might need to ask this person if they need support or have issues. This is because in these cultures it’s often seen as disrespectful to bring up problems to a superior.

Alternatively, if a person is from a country like the U.S. or France, they’re most likely used to working in a flatter organizational structure and are accustomed to having autonomy in their work.

Create a feedback loop.

Leaders often cite giving feedback, especially the negative kind, as one of the toughest parts of their jobs. They don’t want to make their teams feel uncomfortable, hurt feelings, or impair relationships.

The way around this is to create a culture of feedback where the team views the practice as a positive for both the individual and the organization rather than something to be feared. Give both constructive and positive commentary on a regular basis.

But keep two things in mind–first, make sure you’re clear in your intention. Tell the recipient the purpose of your comments, whether it is to grow, improve their image, or protect them. Second, don’t talk about hearsay or feelings. Stick to observable facts.

Be an empowering coach.

Be a coach who empowers the team to better themselves. Ask questions, listen, and help your staff re-frame their answers so they can come up with solutions.

I like the GROW (Goals, Reality, Options, and Will) coaching model because it helps someone refine their goal, define their current situation, discover the different options of what to try, and then commit to a particular action. The coachee owns the answers and therefore is more engaged and committed to the outcome.

This strategy works especially well in flatter hierarchies and collaborative environments. The best coaching is used to empower and serve team members. It allows them to find answers themselves that might even be better than what you would have directed them to do.

While these three simple skills are seemingly basic, there are many different approaches and methods along with various workshops and programs.

But what it comes down to is the ability to be observant, listen, and have those effective and critical conversations in feedback and coaching. If you master these three simple skills, you’ll have a strong connection with your team and see them be more productive and successful. And, if you need working with your team, or developing your own leadership skills, contact me.

 A version of this post was first published on Inc.
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