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Posts Tagged ‘promotion’

MY MUMMIE AND ME 2016

Conventional wisdom tells us that children learn from the good example of their parents.  But something went haywire when my mother misbehaved in the office of the Prime Minister.  She defied the leadership of the Jamaica Civil Service Association by raising a topic that was not on the agenda in a meeting with the Prime Minister.  In less than 10 minutes, my mother secured an important policy change that gave women in management positions in the public service the same benefits as their male colleagues.

It was 1976, the first year of the United Nations’ Decade for Women.  The Government of Jamaica was committed to implementing gender equity policies.  Ironically, only male public service managers with over 10 years’ service could benefit from the payment of 50% of family vacation travel costs.  There was no justification for this discriminatory benefit.

The male-dominated executive of the association struck down every attempt my mother made to have the assisted vacation benefit extended to women.  These men also refused to have the elimination of gender-based discrimination listed among the Jamaica Civil Service Association’s priorities for change.  When the courtesy call visit to the Prime Minister was being planned, my mother was told that it was not the proper forum in which to raise “these controversial topics.”

Not one to burn bras or launch a public campaign against men, my mother chose to use her position of leadership to influence and create change by ‘properly’ misbehaving.  This meant taking the risk of crossing the line of political correctness in the highest office of political power. 

Three things I learned

  1. Don’t ask for forgiveness

Political correctness is the biggest hurdle to progress.  Being disruptive doesn’t always have to take the form of raucous demonstrations in the streets. My mother’s way of fighting for the cause was to secure a seat at the table, by getting elected and getting involved.   Going off-topic in the board room is a very valid and powerful tactic to militate for change.  My mother chose to break the rules of protocol.  She made no apology for doing so.  I learned from her, to never ask permission or apologize for doing the right thing.

  1. Know who holds the power

There is strength in numbers, that’s why enlisting the support of influencers is important.  However, in order to win, you always need to know who holds the power to make change happen.

The Executive Committee’s mandate was to make representations to leaders in government on behalf of public service employees.  My mother was not discouraged by the unwillingness of the male-dominated executive to advocate for gender equality.  She knew that it was the political directorate that held the power to make changes in policy.  Her ultimate goal was to get the Prime Minister’s attention and incite him to take action.

  1. What’s in it for them matters too

My mother presented the issue of employee benefits as a blind spot in the government’s policy of gender equality that could no longer be overlooked.  The Prime Minister understood from her intervention that changing the rules was the right thing to do, particularly at a time when the issue of women’s rights was high on the public agenda.  Removing gender-based discrimination in the public service would reinforce his commitment to women’s rights and earn for his government, greater credibility both locally and internationally.

The BIG picture

All of this happened over 40 years ago.  Although assisted payment of vacation travel is no longer a benefit in the public service, my mother’s commitment to the cause of gender equality continues to be part of her legacy.  She didn’t just take personal pride in fulfilling her professional ambition or sit on her hard-earned status of being among the first women in public service management.  She saw the big picture and decided to fight for a better and just world, so that many other women and men would have equal access to opportunities to achieve their ambitions and enjoy the benefits of their service.

The most valuable lesson I learned from my mother is that women should never be reticent about pursuing their ambitions or shy away from dissenting voices.  Aspiring to positions of leadership is one of the best ways to fight for a cause and create meaningful change.   Effective leadership requires the courage to take risks, even if it means you may have to ‘properly’ misbehave.   The outcome may surprise you.

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com 

@Camille21162

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Dharma

Throughout his life, my father was a teacher, even though he didn’t spend all his years in the classroom.  High school and university students, business people, social workers and children in foster care all benefited in one way or another from his knowledge of physics, mathematics, human resources and guidance counselling.  In the last ten years of his life, even when dementia robbed him of most of his cognitive abilities, he was teaching his family, friends and caregivers, about the value of human life and the importance of living in the present moment.  I am convinced that teaching was my father’s dharma.

In his book, The Great Work of Your Life, Stephen Cope explores the meaning of dharma – each person’s unique calling and life’s purpose.

Knowing your dharma makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning, eager to get to work, which, when done well, makes you sleep comfortably at night.

Just like my father, we can all live up to our dharma in different ways and through various stages of our career and life.

Cope’s book got me thinking about my own dharma – as a leader, I help people and organizations to be better and do better.  The book also made me reflect on the ways in which leaders can help or hinder people to fulfill their dharma.

People do their best when their work is valued and they feel personally fulfilled doing it.  Leaders are challenged to ensure that they have the right people in the right positions doing the right work.  That’s why I believe that hiring, promoting and retaining talented employees are critical points at which leaders can help or hinder their employees find and fulfill their dharma.

  • Hiring – Motivation is the qualification

Early in my career, one of my colleagues was hired to provide marketing support to the sales team.  As it turned out, she found it difficult to work with sales people.  She did her best work when she was sorting out administrative issues and working on client service protocols.  Frustrated with her working relationships, she confided that helping sales people close sales was not her ‘thing.’ She was motivated by the deep-seated belief that outstanding customer experience determines long-term business success.  By listening to her deep-seated convictions and motivations, we both agreed that serving customers exceptionally well was her dharma.

I haven’t forgotten that conversation.  Whenever I am hiring, I always ask questions to find out the candidate’s personal convictions and motivations. In this way, it is possible to validate the alignment of their values and work ethic with those of the organization.

  • Promotion – Expanded responsibilities should not be a reward for past success

The Peter Principle states that some managers rise to the level of their incompetence and stop being promoted. This happens when the promotion is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on their ability to fulfill the requirements of the role to which they are being promoted.   There are many ways in which leaders can help to prepare their people for promotion and professional advancement – additional training, job rotations that expand employees’ skill set, encouraging innovative thinking and action, to name a few.

Not all high-performing employees want to be promoted.

This possibly explains why some top sales people, when promoted to people leadership and management positions, ask to return to a sales role.  They will tell you that selling is what excites them – not managing people and writing reports.

Nothing is wrong with not wanting to be promoted, provided that the employee continues to be engaged, is productive and contributes to the mission of the organization.

  • Retention – There can be a downside to investing in talent retention

In their zeal to retain talent, employers can be blinded by the brilliance of a technically proficient employee, but who is not suited for leadership roles in the organization. For example, an employee may function best as an internal consultant, not as a people manager.  What usually happens is that competent employees feel pressured by the organization’s leadership to stay within the organization by climbing the corporate ladder.  On the other hand, the organization’s leadership feels that providing an upward career path is the best way to retain exceptionally talented employees.

I recently spoke with a former colleague who made the decision to step off the corporate ladder in one organization where she could have had progressively more high-profile positions.  The stress, corporate politics and added responsibilities were not supporting her deep need to fulfill her dharma.  As a professional writer, she does her best work when she is creating compelling communications material.   She found employment at another organization where she feels that the opportunity to do her best work, not the money or status, is what counts.  Her courageous choice to make this change is benefiting her as well as the organization where she now works.  She is happy and feeling valued.  The organization is happy to have found and retained her talent.  A win-win situation!

Holistic people management

Every leader wants to have the right people work with them to ensure that the organization’s goals are met.  Hiring, promoting and retaining talent is challenging, but can be best achieved when leaders take a holistic view of people management.

Understanding the motivations and aspirations of potential and current employees should be an on-going process.

Encouraging employees to be purpose-driven in their efforts and allowing them to define and work towards their aspirations will enable them to fulfill their dharma.  When this happens, the organization, and its employees benefit from the alignment of a shared mission and vision of success.

What is YOUR dharma?

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

@Camille21162

 

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