3 Life Lessons from Wonder Woman Gal Gadot

When the original Wonder Woman came out in 1975, there weren’t a lot well-recognized female superheroes in the world.

Flash-forward to today, and we can see them everywhere, on screen and off. I encounter wonder women in my life every day–my mother, best friend, colleagues, and with whom I leaders I work. For example, a colleague Tania Katan, co-created a female empowerment campaign#ItWasNeverADress, for software company Axosoft.

And, as it turns out, Gal Gadot, who plays the new Wonder Woman, is one in real life, too.

Here are three lessons professional women can glean from the actress:

1. It’s not about work-life balance; it is about management.

Gal shot the blockbuster in LA, while her family lives in Israel. She knew she couldn’t balance the time between work and family. After all, she cannot be in two places at once.

So, she did the next best thing–she mastered international conference calls, international travel, jet lag, and time zones. She shuttled herself back and forth to audition for the movie, meet about it, and then film it so that she could continue her career while being a mommy and wife.

2. Don’t wait for the baby.

I am asked by women all the time if they should put off starting a family so that it doesn’t stall their professional momentum. They try to time their pregnancies around their careers. But, Gal did it a different way. She went for both at the same time.

She was pregnant while filming the Wonder Woman movie and they green screened out her baby bump. She didn’t try to arrange her life or hold herself back; she knew she wanted to have a family and she went for it.

And, being Wonder Woman doesn’t mean being able to do it all by yourself. It means being part of a team. Gal has a husband that supports her in her goals and plays a substantial role at home. Ask for help, and take it if offered.

3. Leverage all your skills.

Who would have thought that being in the military would help an acting career?

Gal served for two years in the Israeli army, and her knowledge of weapons and physical strength helped her land her a part in Fast and Furious, and then in Wonder Woman where she does most of her own stunts.

Gal used her unique skill set and made it work for her.

So, look at all your past experiences or all the challenges you tackle in your life–even in your personal life–and use that to your advantage.

I can’t write an article about Wonder Women without a shout-out to the first, Lynda Carter. As a young girl, I looked up to her in the role and always liked her calm, yet commanding presence.

Lynda, if you’re reading this, you’ll always be my number one.

 

A version of this post was first published on Inc. 

Photo Credit: Kho/123RF

15 Qualities of the Perfect Employee

In today’s global business environment, hiring (and keeping) the perfect employee is one of the most challenging jobs a manager has. Often leaders focus on the skill sets needed to get a job done right and overlook necessary skills and personality traits critical to being a valued and productive team member. The consequences of a bad hire can be steep–personality clashes, project failures, and even firings.

While every employee has a unique mix of skills and personality traits, the perfect employee, or candidate will possess certain essential characteristics that every hiring manager should look for.

Candidates with these 15 qualities should definitely make your shortlist. Look for people who are:

1. Agile.

Employees should be flexible, nimble, and quick. They should be able to react and respond to changing needs and customer desires and to the moving parts in our global business world.

2. Friendly and open.

Employees need to be approachable, kind, and compassionate. They should be able to speak in a way that makes others feel they are cared about. Stephen Covey writes that highly effective people are those who care about others before themselves.

3. Internationally aware.

An Ernst and Young report says that one of the most important qualities employers are looking for today is a global mindset. This means being aware of and sensitive to other cultures, customs, events, and perspectives.

4. Energetic.

Sometimes projects require an employee to work late or extra early–particularly when collaborating across time zones. Dream employees have the stamina to do this. They eat right, exercise, and take care of themselves so that they can conserve and protect their energy and have more of it.

5. Adaptable.

Perfect employees can adjust to different cultures, personalities, and ways of doing things. For example, when collaborating with an introverted employee, they have the emotional intelligence to know that this person needs quiet time to think before speaking.

6. Able to make small talk.

This is especially important when working with other cultures. Dream employees know how to talk about safe topics like the weather, current events, or sports when engaging with those from other parts of the world. It’s a bonus if they can have these exchanges in the other person’s language.

7. Assertive.

Strong employees know how to mediate conflict. They know how to take the initiative, ask for what they need, and assert opinions and suggestions so that they are visible and productive. This is especially important when working on remote teams.

8. Curious.

The best employees want to know about different ways of doing things. They wonder how others are doing something; what other organizations are working on, and how teammates are doing in their lives or jobs–particularly when the teammates live elsewhere in the world. Being curious is an essential trait for gaining knowledge and showing people that you’re interested in them.

9. Flexible.

When working with different cultures and across time zones, the ability to flex one’s schedule, switch up systems, and abandon processes that may not be working is critical to success. Dream employees aren’t afraid of change. They’re open to learning new skills, software, and technology to keep pace with the rate of change today.

10. Time zone-aware.

Virtual, dispersed, or remote teams are becoming the norm. This means people need to accommodate different time zones. The general rule is that meetings should be uncomfortable for everyone sometimes. So don’t schedule a standing meeting that makes a team member always have to stay up late or wake up too early.

11. Direct.

Some cultures communicate in very indirect ways, so perfect team members know how to speak directly but without ruffling feathers. They know how to be clear in what they’re saying and what their expectations are while maintaining harmony within the relationship.

12. Eager and have a can-do attitude.

The best employees are ready to jump in with sleeves rolled up. They aren’t naysayers. They believe they can do anything even if it requires abandoning old ways of doing things. They see only solutions, not problems.

13. Diplomatic.

The right employees know how to mediate differing opinions or suggestions. They’re able to talk with people so that they do a lot of listening and have a lot of empathy and consideration of other perspectives. They ensure people are being heard.

14. Neat and take care of their appearance.

Perfect employees are aware of their appearance, hygiene, and the customs of different cultures. They know how to let different environments dictate their dress so that they aren’t over- or underdressed and everyone feels comfortable.

15. Competitive.

Competition can be a positive thing when employees are competitive with outside organizations. They want to outpace other businesses and are thinking about the organizations as a whole. Competition is negative only when employees are just out for themselves. The right employees also know that men and women approach competition differently, and how to walk that line.

So, as you’re building your ideal team, look for the perfect employee who has the skill sets the job requires. But remember to probe for candidates who also display one or all of the qualities I have described. In those people, you will find the perfect employees for the open positions in your organization.

Do you need help building a strong and capable team? Contact me.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo Credit: Stock Snap/Pixabay

 

Do These 3 Things and Transform Your Virtual Workforce

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The shape of organizations worldwide is changing. The virtual workforce is almost more common than not these days. In fact, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, published in 2017, “…from 2012 to 2016, the number of employees working remotely rose by four percentage points, from 39 percent to 43 percent, and employees working remotely spent more time doing so.”

There are plenty of reasons for this rapid growth–extended market opportunity; increased efficiency, productivity, innovation, and synergy; access to a broader pool of talent; better effort, performance gains, and job satisfaction; and more cost savings.

But for all the positives, certain negatives come with not sharing a physical space with your team and colleagues. “When it comes to virtual teams, if you’re out of sight, you’re also out of mind. While more and more people are working remotely, our recent study suggests that unless we take extra measures to build trust and connection with colleagues, we pay dearly for doing so,” write Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, in an article for the Harvard Business Review.

The truth is, no one has truly figured out how to lead a dispersed team smoothly, but we’re getting closer. Leaders are discovering innovative ways to rally and connect remote teams no matter how far away they are from each other.

Here are three actions successful leaders are taking to manage the virtual workforce efficiently–no matter how far-flung.

1. Create context.

Context is the foundation from which we derive meaning from what other people say. In the past, members of a team would see each other every day, know what was going on in each other’s personal and professional lives, and be aware of each other’s thoughts on happenings large and small. In today’s virtual workforce environment–not so much. Often, team members are mostly strangers to one another and may feel disconnected from the overall team or company vision.

So leaders need to help individuals and teams in the virtual workforce see the reason why they need to care about the project and their part in it. They need to be sure to voice the overall vision and share the company, team, and individual goals. They need to be explicit about why the team is working together and how it aligns with business goals.

Leaders need to pinpoint how each team member will collaborate and what’s in it for each region, area, or individual. If the leader doesn’t know, they need to hold a conversation and ask their team members why this project is important to them. What benefit do they see to themselves and others? And, then they need to ensure needs and desires are being met.

2. Cultivate community.

People work harder when they feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Thus, an effective virtual team leader works to create a team community and identity. This can be done with physical objects, like T-shirts or pictures. And it doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. I had a colleague in San Francisco who had a dressed up banana for the team mascot. People loved it!

Or it can be done with more creative concepts, such as developing a project slogan or name. For instance, if your project is dealing with the government or is particularly sensitive, you could call it “Project House of Cards.” Or people could be given nicknames based on their roles or strengths.

It’s also essential for leaders to create expectations around communication. What’s going to be your primary mode of talking with one another–chat, Slack, phone, or email? Will you always use video for conference calls? Do you have contact hours to accommodate team members who work in different time zones? Is the team expected to meet face-to-face once a quarter?

Leaders also should provide guidelines to support the team’s well-being. For example, don’t schedule meetings in the middle of the night for those who live halfway around the world. Or don’t ping a teammate with an urgent request on the weekend. This is very important for fostering a culture of respect, as well as one that supports a balance between work and life.

3. Celebrate successes.

Unfortunately, in a lot of organizations, you only hear from others when there’s bad news or criticism. But this type of culture is a death knell to morale and productivity. An effective way to lead virtual teams is to ensure all successes are celebrated. You can even devise a systematic approach to honor them with a weekly award or special meeting.

In addition to creating an environment where successes are shared, effective leaders also make clear how to advocate for these wins. They promote their team members to others within the organization and help their teams learn how to promote themselves.

The positives of leading virtual teams far outweigh the negatives–and by taking these three actions, you and your team will experience far fewer bumps along the road. And, if you need help with your team? Contact me.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Image: “Working at Home,” Michael CoghlanCC 2.0

 

Top 3 Reasons Why Your Team is Underperforming

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One of the things that keeps a manager up at night is wondering why the team is underperforming. The well-known secret to success is a high-performing team–one with members whose talents and skills complement each others’, challenge one another, and collaborate to achieve a common goal. But creating and sustaining a high-performing team isn’t easy.

In my work with clients like LinkedIn and SAP, I’ve discovered the three components absolutely necessary for developing this essential unit–no matter where the organization is, its size or function.

If your team lacks these three things, you’ll be hard-pressed to achieve the results you want.

1. Open communication.

Communication is vital to any relationship, and a cohesive team is, really, a network of close relationships. Research from MIT shows that 40 percent of creative teams’ productivity is directly explained by the amount of communication they have with others.

So, regular open and honest communication at all levels is a must. Give frequent and specific updates to all members, so no one is left out of the loop.

You must educate your team members on what other parts of the unit are doing and are responsible for to ensure their work is supporting other functions. Make everyone feel included, and the floor should be open for anyone to contribute to discussions at any point. Boundaries and territories don’t exist in successful teams.

Also, address any conflict immediately. An exercise one of my clients uses with her partners includes a “conflict circle” held at the beginning of every team meeting so the team can discuss issues before they bubble up into crises.

2. Shared goals.

All high-performing teams know what they’re working for. Goals are outlined and clearly defined ahead of time. Questions high-performance teams answer before pursuing a project include–what are the objectives? How do they align with the organization’s mission or strategy? And, what is the team’s vision?

One study by Accenture found that high performing teams that are aligned with business strategy will achieve superior results in key business performance drivers.

3. Defined roles.

One of the reasons why there is such low engagement in the workforce (just 32 percent in American according to Gallup) is because people don’t feel like their jobs or roles have a purpose. Defining how one’s part is integral to achieving the shared goals negates this.

So, along with defining the goals, you must work with the team to define everyone’s function. People feel pride and ownership when they have real responsibility.

When outlining professional roles, it’s also important to understand personality types. By this, I mean, everyone brings a different perspective to the table. It’s important to honor and respect these different viewpoints and to use them to the team’s benefit.

Does someone always see the silver lining? Is someone typically a worst case scenario person? Does someone like to talk through solutions while another needs quiet time to digest and problem-solve?

Understand these personality traits and be sure to allow these team members to share their perspectives in their preferred way so you can get a clear picture of what may be happening on the project–and within the team.

Leading a team can have its challenges, but, if you have these three things, you’ll be able to head off issues quickly and continue on your path to success–and real results. And, if you need help with your team? Contact me.

 

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo: David Nichols, CC 2.0