Avoiding Pitfalls Requires Taking a Look Up: Leaders Pay Attention

There is power in paying attention. And a power is released in someone who knows he or she is being paid attention to.  ~Nancy Ortberg

I had a conversation with a woman last week that has stuck in my mind. She told me to use a specific email address when contacting her because she checks that email about every six minutes. That’s right, every six minutes. I can attest to her accuracy because I sat next to her during her organization’s staff retreat. Her smartphone never left her hands and she did check it about every six minutes and was responding to emails. Now, in her defense, she recently spent a number of years working for Bill Gates and had clearly assumed the habits that were required, or really demanded, of the job. She had to be “on” 24/7. But old habits are clearly hard to break. Did it feel like she was paying attention? No. Maybe she really could multi-task but you certainly didn’t feel as if you were being paid attention to.

I recently did a little experiment of my own to see how intently someone was focused on their phone as opposed to paying attention to the environment around them. I was walking my dog on a Saturday morning. We had stopped along the sidewalk so my dog could explore all the many things to smell in the grass. I saw a young woman walking towards us, about half a block away. She was extremely engrossed in whatever she was emailing or texting and coming straight at me. No one else was around. I decided to just stay right where I was on the edge of the sidewalk, not say anything, and see if she would lift her head to notice I was standing directly in her path. Nope, she didn’t, and slammed right into me. Did I receive an apology or an “excuse me”?  No.  Instead I got a glare of frustration that I was in her way and she continued on.

So what’s this got to do with leadership? 

Go Where the Business Is: Steps to Help Prepare for a Small Business Interview

Small businesses are economic engines for communities, 
and offer great opportunities for job seekers. So why 
aren't business leaders better prepared for the small 
business workforce? 
Why are so many academics obsessed with training their students to enter the major corporation-workforce when America’s business model has shifted from large corporations to small corporations? The answer is simple: they shouldn’t be. There are approximately 2,000 major corporations with over $1 billion in sales, and conversely, there are approximately 5.5 million businesses with less than $5 million in sales. 99.5% of all American companies have less than 500 employees.
Academia should be preparing students for a career in small businesses since there is a greater chance for rapid personal growth in a small company.
I recently attended a meeting of senior leaders that were discussing how emerging college graduates should be prepared for the interview process. The focus of the discussion was how the graduate should approach the company and how the company should view the graduate—including how a graduate should behave, dress, make eye contact, and sell his or herself—and other relevant information that was, and still is, pertinent for most interviews with large companies.
From a small business owner’s point of view, I tend to look at the soul (Do they smile? Do they make eye contact?) of the person I’m interviewing, try to determine who he or she is, and, more importantly, if will he or she match our work culture. I want to make sure that new staff understand that they will be held accountable to our culture.
With my style of interview process in mind, I feel that the following should be in the knowledge repertoire of all graduates with a degree in some form of commerce:

Building Our Body of CR Knowledge

Note: This guest blog is provided by CR Magazine and the Corporate Responsibility Officers Association. The Center for Values-Driven Leadership is a member of the CROA and actively supports its initiatives. 

What makes a corporate responsibility (CR) program successful? Do an organization’s structure, staffing, budget impact success in achieving goals? What’s the effect of executive engagement in CR?

These are just a few of the questions CR Magazine and NYSE-Euronext have sought to answer over the past couple of years of research into CR practices. Thanks to strong response from the CR community, we’ve learned a few things about the state of corporate citizenship:

What Are You Looking For (in a Doctoral Program)?

Students in Benedictine University's Ph.D./D.B.A. program in Values-Driven Leadership come from a variety of backgrounds, but share a common interest in leading their organizations profitably, strategically, and ethically. Our executive students commute to campus one weekend a month and for an annual 8-day intensive, enabling them to stay fully engaged in their full-time leadership roles within their companies. Many are CEOs and other C-suite leaders.

Read about a few of the doctoral students below, then follow the link to read full bios on the remaining members of Cohort 1. Does the program sound like a fit for you? Learn more at www.cvdl.org.

Anna Amato - CEO of edtech central; Ferndale, MI
Anna Amato is the CEO and President of edtec central, an educational consulting firm that helps individuals, organizations, and communities implement transformational educational programs in the K-12 sector. Her firm also specializes in designing and implementing highly customized programs for delinquent, neglected and abused youth. Anna began her career as a teacher and later went on to lead and manage major projects in the office furniture industry before returning to education reform pursuits in 1990.

Anna is a graduate of the southeast Michigan's Leadership Detroit program, class of XXVIII. She earned her bachelors of science in education from Central Michigan University and a master's in educational leadership from Eastern Michigan University.
Read Anna's take on the failure of Enron, and lessons learned, on the CVDL blog. 

Convincing the Sustainability Skeptics in Your Company (and Beyond)

There are two types of sustainability skeptics, those who don't believe environmental concern is any concern of theirs; and those who acknowledge the importance of ecological care, but aren't certain of a corporation's role in the process.

For the latter, Erin Meezan, vice president of sustainability at Interface, has a response. Long a leader in the carpet tile industry, Interface emerged, 25 years ago, as a pioneer in sustainable manufacturing. The company has established an aggressive goal, called Mission Zero, to have a positive net impact on the environment by 2020: and they're on their way to meeting that goal.

Meezan, who is tasked with keeping Interface on-target for Mission Zero, sees convincing skeptics as one of her primary responsibilities. She finds them both within and without Interface. And she says consistency is what wins them over.

Hear her thoughts in this short video, part of our Champions of Responsible Business video series:

For more on embedding sustainability, see Moving Sustainability from Doing to Being, featuring Dr. Mona Amodeo of idgroup.

Should Your Company Care More About Your Marriage?

When Thomas (not his real name) was a young staff member at an organization that worked directly with youth, his boss had an unusual approach to staff retreats: bring your spouse. At first this seemed odd - wasn't the purpose of the staff retreat to get colleagues together for team building and strategic planning? And wouldn't Thomas' wife's presence be a distraction?

His boss saw it differently, essentially saying, "I know this job demands a lot. If the work has the support of your spouse, and if you as a couple agree on how to handle work/life balance, you'll be a better colleague."

When I heard this story from Thomas, five years ago, his boss's approach seemed exceptional. Perhaps, instead, it was an idea ahead of its time. 

A new survey, released on May 23rd by Net Impact, says next to financial security, marriage is what most workers feel they need to be happy.

Financial security, marriage, and meaningful work: ingredients of a happy workforce.
(Graphic taken from  Net Impact's executive summary of this study.)
Additionally, work/life balance is the most important element of the ideal job, said survey respondents. The survey, titled Talent Report: What Workers Want in 2012, looked at a statistically-significant sample of 1726 recent graduates, as well as employed workers from three different generations. 

Could Work Make Your Marriage Better?

This research caught my eye, because I have two areas research interest: business and marriage. As the corporate relations advisor for the Center for Values-Driven Leadership, I support executives who are working to improve employee engagement and workforce culture; and I often blog about related topics at this site. In my personal life, I research and blog about marriage at the site my husband and I started, www.weddedness.com. Suddenly, with one statistical set, my two worlds were colliding. 

Marriage, like a career, has its ups and downs. Is there anyway your company could help make your marriage a little less volatile? A little more rewarding? And, in turn, by having a happier marriage, could you also be a happier employee? This data set suggests that possibility.

So how could companies support your personal relationships in a way that is non-invasive? Here is a short list of suggestions:
  • Don't reward overwork: create a culture that does not expect employees to be "on" around the clock; enforce vacation-taking.
  • Make it easy to bring a partner on a work trip: provide time and means for family dinners, with easy options for an employee to repay the organization for the partner's expenses. Allow extra time for site-seeing or beach-lounging. 
  • Provide easy access to professional counseling: most health plans allow for counseling services, but employees may not realize this can be a rich path for improving and enhancing their relationship. Share information about local resources and your health plans' coverage. 
  • Celebrate milestones: send anniversary cards, invite partners to the Christmas party.
  • Follow the lead of Thomas' boss: consider hosting optional day-long retreats for employees and their partners, with sessions led by relationship experts.
This topic has the potential to make some people a little squeamish: we want to keep the company out of our bedrooms. But perhaps your workplace can enhance your relationships, and maybe the richness of your marriage will make you a better employee. Certainly it will make you a happier one. So should your company care more about your marriage? The answer is Yes.
Amber Johnson is the Center for Values-Driven Leadership's corporate relations and social media advisor. She is a non-profit and small business communications professional. In addition to blogging about business for the CVDL, Amber writes about marriage and other topics on her personal blog