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Business Articles

Timely and relevant business advice and news curated by the Chamber. Offering essential information, we will help you succeed and stay current.

August 17, 2017

Article of the Week

Three Strategies for Making Meetings Really Work for You

Jill Schiefelbein,

A lot of people cringe when they see “Let’s set up a meeting” in an email or instant message. I understand. Many organizations have meetings just for the sake of having meetings, where people feel forced to come up with something to talk about. These meetings, without a clear purpose or goal, are why they get a bad rep.

But meetings are an essential part of business. And learning to run them effectively and efficiently can help you be a better manager and leader. Here are some strategies for making your meetings work for you.

Dual-purpose meetings

Your meetings should always have a dual purpose -- the purpose for the meeting itself and the purpose in the broader organizational context. Let’s examine both a bit further.

Make sure your meetings have a clear purpose. This seems obvious, but it needs to go beyond “We need to catch up” or “It’s been awhile since we’ve met.” You need to be specific. Even if it’s just that you want to get to know an employee better and learn how he’s faring in his new role, a simple “Let’s chat” isn’t enough. Instead, communicate your intent and purpose.

Hi, Jim. We haven’t had much time to chat since you started work­ing here, and I’d like to talk about how the position is working out for you and how you see your role within the company.

That’s going to set a clear intention and will help communicate the meeting’s purpose for both parties involved.

But when it comes to meetings having a dual purpose, it’s not just the purpose of the meeting itself but also the purpose the meeting has in the overall picture of the organization that’s important. Studies show that one key factor in employee retention is that employees need to feel connected to a greater “why,” in their work. If you tie your mission/vision/values/purpose (MVVP) into your meetings, it will remind people of the purpose of their work.

It may seem superfluous, but you have a key chance to reinforce the MVVP of your business in an easy, natural way. Here’s a simple format:

We’re having a meeting to discuss X, which helps us Y.

Here, X is the meeting purpose and Y is the organizational purpose.

Know the rules of engagement

People need to know what the expectations are in any meeting. And you need to establish them prior to the meeting and repeat them at the beginning of the meeting to get everyone on the same page. Before the meeting, make sure your invitation contains these pieces of information:

  • (Dual) purpose
  • Goal and/or the desired outcome
  • Time/date/location (logistics)
  • What to prepare. This is huge, and a lot of managers assume people will know this. Don’t assume!
  • What to bring. If you want something physically brought to the meeting, be sure you state it explicitly.

Providing an invitation and establishing expectations are also strategies you should use for sales meetings or any communication situation where you need to produce a result or drive action. This ensures that all parties involved get what they need out of the interaction.

Let’s say you set up a meeting with a potential client, and you really don’t understand what they’re hoping to gain from it. How are you going to make sure you meet their needs? Well, you have to ask: “What do you expect me to bring to the table today?” “What do you hope to learn from our meeting today?” “What information would you like me to provide?”

Don’t assume. We all know what that can do.


Establishing clear expectations by using agendas helps avoid ambiguity and distraction in meetings. Note that the agenda is different from the invitation, though some of the elements will be present in both.

Here’s a simple format for meeting agendas that follows a common organizational pattern in introductions of public speeches and presentations -- the three tells:

  1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
  2. Tell them.
  3. Tell them what you told them.

In the case of agendas, though, this takes a slightly different form.

1. What the meeting is going to do (Tell them what you’re going to tell them). Give an overview of the purpose and the expectations for the meeting and how to contribute and participate, as well as the goal and desired outcome.

2. The bulk of the meeting and discussion (Tell them). Create your main agenda points. These are the things you need to accomplish, learn, or contribute to the meeting to meet the goal and desired outcome. State the facts and information needed to process the idea or make a decision right at the beginning so there are no lingering unanswered questions.

3. Summarize the necessary actions and timelines (Tell them what you told them). At the end of a meeting, it’s imperative to check for mutual understanding, so all parties know the takeaway objectives, directives and courses of action. This also creates more accountability and responsibility.


This is where you summarize the outcomes of the meeting and clearly state follow-up actions, responsibilities and timelines that accompany those actions. Have people take responsibility for their individual tasks and state clear deadlines. If you skip this step, your meeting will have been in vain, and you’ll have wasted a lot of time and energy.


August 10, 2017

Article of the Week

7 Rules Naturally Clear Leaders Follow When Making Decisions

Ann Latham,

If you make decisions by consensus, you waste a lot of time. But if you make decisions without sufficient involvement, you won't gain the cooperation and commitment you need for subsequent steps and successful implementation. How do naturally clear leaders thread this needle? They consciously, or intuitively, follow these seven rules:

1. Process matters

If people trust and embrace the decision process, they are more likely to trust and embrace the decision.What makes a decision process trustworthy?

  • Those who will be affected by the decision know what is being decided.
  • They understand how the decision will be made and are confident the right people will be tapped at the right time.
  • They know how to participate.
  • They believe those making the decision are informed and working in the best interests of the organization.
  • They know how to influence the process if it seems to be going awry (e.g., suffering from uninformed decision makers)

2. Process doesn’t just happen — someone needs to own it

The natural inclination of most people is to dive into content without first establishing a process. Someone needs to get ahead of the game and explicitly establish and communicate distinct outcomes, steps ,and roles that honor the characteristics of a trustworthy decision process.

3. There are only two reasons to include others in any decision

You should only involve people in a decision if you need their smarts or their commitment. While people often fall in both categories, those who only belong to the first group are experts who can help you make a smarter decision. You tap their smarts, not their emotions. The second group consists of people whose behavior is essential for supporting the decision. They absolutely must understand what, why, and how their support can make a difference. You must tap their smarts as well as their emotions.

4. Time is of the essence 

The time spent on any decision must be in proportion to the potential impact of the decision. Don't convince yourself that everyone will be affected by every decision.That's a lazy abdication of responsibility. It wastes too much of everyone’s time and all your employees know it.

Furthermore, time is often a luxury you don't have. Windows of opportunity often open and close too fast to allow for inclusive decisions, no matter how consequential. In these cases, you will need to rely on good explanations and your reputation as a champion of transparent and trustworthy process.

5. Different people may be needed for different steps of the process

The reason for establishing clearly defined steps is two-fold and mostly unrecognized, or at least under appreciated:

• Too often, decisions are expected to emerge from a jumbled series of conversations where participants are rarely actually talking about the same thing at the same time. A disciplined process honors the natural, logical, and sequential steps in any decision (SOAR: Statement, Objectives, Alternatives, Risks). By making these distinctions and proceeding one step at a time, you focus the collective brainpower and never fail to achieve discernible progress.

• Once you think in terms of these four steps, you realize that roles vary depending on the step. For example, an executive may need to approve the objectives with input from implementers, but may then be ready to walk away and trust the rest of the decision to others. The people in the trenches may be best positioned to generate alternatives. Those most affected and accountable for results may be best positioned to select the most promising alternative. And experts may be the best choice for identifying risks. Establishing process steps before diving in is the only way you will successfully involve the right people at the right time.

6. Representation must be explicit

You can't always include everyone who is affected in a decision. The numbers may be too great, the time too short, or the importance unworthy of that investment. The answer is representation. A clear, fair, and transparent process is a prerequisite for allowing one group to represent the interests of others. Both steps and roles must be explicit. People tend to speak only for themselves. If you want someone to work on behalf of others, you must explicitly and repeatedly make that clear to both parties.

7. Authority must be transparent

There are few feelings worse than investing your physical and emotional energy in making a decision only to have your conclusion overruled. All decision participants need to know who is making the final decision. Are they providing input, feedback, making the decision themselves, or helping to drive a group to consensus? Is the ultimate approver an individual, a boss, a small group, or a large group? There is no right answer. There isn’t even a preferred answer. But the answer is important. The answer depends on the time available, need for expertise, importance of the decision, number of people affected, and potential repercussions. Regardless of the approach, clarity is critical. Be honest and crystal clear.

As people become accustomed to fair, transparent process, especially once the entire organization has a culture of clarity, you'll find more and more people are content to leave decisions to others and trust they will be called upon as needed. Productivity and empowerment increase with clarity. Use these tips to develop fair and transparent decision making processes.

August 3, 2017

Article of the Week

Handling Employee Arrests

Rose Miller, president of Pinnacle HR, LLC and Times Union Columnist

What do you do when your employee is arrested?

Your company has a system that alerts management whenever a company driver has an infraction on a registered license. One report says that a sales representative was just charged with a DWI.

Or your manager calls to tell you that a staff member hasn't shown up for work. Another employee in the department says she heard the absent employee was arrested over the weekend for possession of illegal drugs. The employee continues to be absent that week.

One day, police show up at the workplace with a warrant for an employee's arrest which includes seizing any mail the employee has received. They handcuff the employee and carry her away along with the company wastepaper basket.

What should the company do in these situations? Is it the employer's responsibility to find out what happened? The most common question is, can we fire an employee who has been arrested? Can we fire a convicted and jailed employee for job abandonment?

If an employee is incarcerated, management should consult their workplace policies and then ask the following questions:

First, is the illegal activity related to any of their job functions?

With an arrest such as DWI, does it impact their ability to perform their job?

Has the employee been convicted?

Is the employee absent because they are attending a rehabilitation program?

If the employee calls to explain an arrest, we recommend the company representative use a nonjudgmental tone and discuss the situation that has just occurred. It's important to stay focused on the company's policies on tardiness, absences, and leaves of absence.

They should listen to the employee and understand the employee's explanation.

Depending on the crime, it may be wise to wait until a conviction to avoid legal trouble. Senior management must be notified and they can address any reputation concerns. It's probably a good idea to remind employees of the company's social media policies.

HR is best suited for employee relations to avoid the potential risks and liabilities of not adhering to reasonable accommodations.

The ADA and FMLA protect certain employees dealing with substance abuse problems. The organization should be prepared to allow the employee to return to work once any documentation received supports the need for such accommodation.

In the case of the DWI employee, his essential job duty was driving to customer meetings. The company needs to consistently enforce policies that require a valid driving license and the company's right to perform reasonable suspicion testing for substance abuse.

Although alcoholism is a disability under the ADA, don't just assume the employee has an established diagnosis. There are many steps to take before providing accommodation. Under ADA, employers can require the employee to meet the same standards of performance and behavior as other employees, with or without reasonable accommodation.

In the second case, we made sure the client had a good policy on job abandonment or "no call, no show." Even then, the employer should be prudent in terminating employment. The employer should make good faith efforts to contact the employee, to ascertain whether the employee is incapacitated or if extenuating circumstances exist that justify the employee's absence without notice.

Generally, this type of policy establishes the call-in procedures, outlines the employee's responsibilities, and states the time limits for no call/no show absences. If the employee doesn't notify the employer by the deadline, the termination process may begin.

If your organization has none of these policies, any past practice in this regard should be considered to ensure that equal treatment is given to all employees. When seeking information about the absence, the company representative needs to focus on the work missed and not the jail time. The point of the conversation is to find out when the employee will be able to return to work.

When an employee is arrested, having and following tardiness and absenteeism policies will save the day. Employers should document all unexcused absences and follow their own internal procedures every time. It also can't hurt to train managers so they don't take any actions without management's knowledge.

Administering absenteeism policies fairly and consistently is an effective way to decrease liability with employee arrests. Employers also need to be prepared for the possibility of being embroiled in a crime. In one case, the employee have used the company's technology to store and transmit child pornography. Authorities may need to seize more than the company's wastepaper basket.

If management feels the company or other employees will become involved, the company will need to consult legal counsel right away.

Rose Miller is president of Pinnacle Human Resources LLC. Contact her at

July 27, 2017

Article of the Week

New York Paid Family Leave Law Updates


Starting January 1, 2018, New York employers will be required to provide paid family leave benefits to eligible employees as part of the state's disability insurance program. The Chamber's health care administrator, Bouchey & Clarke Benefits, Inc., has provided an informational overview with important dates and how this will impact employers.

July 20, 2017

Article of the Week

These Are The Job Skills Of The Future That Robots Can’t Master

Stephanie Vozza,

We may live in a digital world, but "soft skills" like communication, problem solving, collaboration, and empathy are becoming more valued than technology, says Paul Roehrig, chief strategy officer for Cognizant Digital Business, a business and technology service provider.

“People skills are more and more important in an era where we have powerful and pervasive technology,” he says. “It sounds counterintuitive, but to beat the bot, you need to be more human.”

When evaluating their hiring plans for 2017, 62% of employers rate "soft skills" as very important, according to CareerBuilder. But a recent survey by the Wall Street Journal found that 89% of executives are having a difficult time finding people with these qualities.

Some blame technology and the emphasis on STEM for the demise of things like communication, but Roehrig, coauthor of What To Do When Machines Do Everything: How to Get Ahead in a World of AI, Algorithms, Bots, and Big Data, believes those skills haven’t diminished; they’re simply needed in larger quantities now. “As machines do more routinized and lower-value-add work, more people are needed to work in context of what automation and AI cannot do,” he says.

If you haven’t upped your emphasis on "soft skills", maybe it’s time to rethink your workplace strategy. Teaching employees "soft skills" boosts productivity and retention by 12%, delivering a 256% return on investment, according to a study from the University of Michigan. Here are four changes to make in your organization that will help employees develop the skills you need to succeed:


While classes are helpful, the best way to teach "soft skills" is by making them part of your work environment, says Linda Sharkey, author of Future-Proof Workplace: Six Strategies to Accelerate Talent Development, Reshape Your Culture, and Proceed with Purpose. “Build the behaviors you want into your culture,” she says. “If part of your culture is collaboration, people will learn it, because that’s the expected behavior they see in others.”

For example, custom software creator Menlo Innovations pairs people to work on a project, then rotates them for the next project. “Moving people around helps people adapt and interact better with others, and it gets them out of their comfort zones,” she says.


Reinforce your values with the people you promote to leadership, insisting on behaviors such as curiosity and relationship building from managers, says Sharkey. “Leaders must act as coaches and developers of their folks so they are, in fact, building collaborative relationships along with those who work with them,” she says.

Make an effort to celebrate and acknowledge human-centric behaviors, says Roehrig. “Use performance reviews as a time to check in,” he says. “Acknowledge behavior you value, such as creativity, curiosity, or analytical thinking.”


Hiring people with other perspectives and backgrounds helps employees build empathy. Matthew Gonnering, CEO of the digital asset management firm Widen, takes a different approach by hiring people with developmental disabilities, such as Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy.

“Empathy increases self-awareness, because the clarity we see in another person’s perspective is often a blind spot in our own worldview,” he says. “In essence, empathy is the "soft skill" that gives our hard skills purpose. We can code a new product, but for whom? And why? Practicing empathy reminds us to ask those questions.”

Widen’s employees with disabilities not only complete their daily tasks; they create value that goes beyond occupational responsibilities, says Gonnering. “Most notably, they initiate conversations about topics they are passionate about, spread a contagious positive attitude, and demonstrate an appreciation for details,” he says.

For example, Andrew (who is in charge of the company’s indoor plants and popcorn service) often shares his experiences as a Special Olympics coach and player. “He is a fountain of knowledge on horticulture, and before you know it, you’re buying dragon sculptures from his art portfolio,” says Gonnering. “These interactions unlock our highest potential by teaching us to think empathetically, hold our attitudes to a higher standard, and find the lightness in situations that would normally cause stress.”


If a new employee is lacking in a certain "soft skills", pair him or her with a mentor who possesses those skills, suggests Tim Elmore, president of the leadership training and development organization Growing Leaders.

“Mentoring gives younger professionals the opportunity to talk candidly and learn from someone older and more experienced, in a relaxed environment,” he says. “Start small, and with a commonly neglected 'soft skill'.”

For example, making a positive first impression is easy, but creating a lasting impression is much more difficult, says Elmore. “This is a matter of social intelligence—a 'soft skill' business leaders often report is missing in their young team members,” he says. “They’ve succeeded in landing the job, but once they settle into it, they fail to uphold that same level of professionalism and maturity by gossiping about colleagues, showing and displaying their general lack of job etiquette.”

Select a group of influential workplace veterans who can meet with your young professionals on a weekly basis, Elmore suggests. “Discuss one topic each week, igniting conversation on social intelligence,” he says. “Some potential ideas are social cognition, self-presentation, and influence.”

Then let mentees become mentors. “Mentoring becomes a methodical part of your onboarding process, and young employees feel like a valued and needed member of the team,” says Elmore.

"Soft skills" are more important than you think, says Sharkey. “If you allow people to treat others with disrespect, then your culture becomes highly toxic,” she says. “Today, companies put value statements on the wall, but do they live them? If the bottom line is really profit—doing anything to make that profit—you will ultimately lose customers, talent, and your reputation in the marketplace.”


July 13, 2017

Article of the Week

Corporate Social Responsibility: What Your Small Business Needs to Know

Bridget Pollack,

Ever wish your small business could do more for the community? Maybe you volunteer as a group or have a favorite cause, but you want to take that work a step further.

A corporate social responsibility (CSR) program could be what your company needs to work toward a community mission alongside your business mission. These programs are increasingly becoming a staple of business transparency efforts; many big companies like Patagonia, Warby Parker, and Ben & Jerry’s have corporate responsibility programs for causes that align with their business missions.

SCORE’s latest infographic highlights the power of CSR programs in building strong businesses with vision.

CSR beyond boosting sales

Corporate responsibility can do a lot to attract customers. Fifty-five percent of consumers said they are willing to pay more for products from socially responsible companies.

Meanwhile, a CSR program can help drive employee recruitment. Seventy-nine percent of millennials — the largest generational group in the nation — said they consider corporate responsibility when deciding where to work. And 83 percent of millennials said they would be more loyal to a company with a CSR program, according to a recent employee engagement study by Cone Communications.

How to Get Started

A variety of business structures support CSR programs, from nonprofits, benefit corporations and cooperatives to traditional C corps.

CSR programs can support a variety of causes ranging from education, environmental efforts, economic development, youth services, disaster relief, or arts and culture. Almost two-thirds of mid-sized companies focus their CSR programs within their home state, and most work with between one and five nonprofits to focus their local initiatives. 

To prepare to launch your own CSR program, do the following:

  • Choose a direction: A CSR program may focus on people, the environment or both. Choose a cause that your founders or staff are passionate about — one that also aligns somehow with your business mission.

For example, if your small business is a manufacturing facility, you may choose to strive to reduce environmental waste. Run a restaurant? You may choose to source your ingredients from local or sustainable sources. A retail shop may choose to focus on working with vendors who provide safe job opportunities for assemblers.

The choice is yours! Start with one cause at a time as you discover the challenges and benefits of focusing on a particular issue.

  • Communicate with your team: Staff feedback will be crucial for the success of your CSR program. Employees who work with vendors or spend time with clients in the community may be best in tune with how your company can make improvements to its systems, both for the benefit of your business and the benefit of your chosen cause. Solicit feedback regularly and invite employees to share their thoughts and ideas.
  • Communicate with your customers: Since customers want to do business with companies who have strong social programs, make plans to share your progress. You may not choose to release a regular CSR report in your first few months or dedicate a page of your website to your efforts immediately while you’re testing options.

Instead, share your CSR wins on social media, in your email newsletter, or with clients face to face. Sharing your progress with your customers and in networking circles may provide opportunities to do even more for your chosen cause!

July 6, 2017

Article of the Week

The Most Undervalued Leadership Traits Of Women

Glenn Llopis,

It’s impossible to respect, value and admire great leadership if you can’t identify what makes a leader great.  Because of this, the identity crisis I have written about that exists in today’s workplace is something that women leaders in particular have been facing  for much too long. While the tide is changing and more women are being elevated into leadership roles, there is still much work to do. As of July 2013, there were only 19 female elected presidents and prime ministers in power around the globe.  In the business world, women currently hold only 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions and the same percentage of Fortune 1000 CEO positions. As women continue their upward trajectory in the business world, they have yet to be fully appreciated for the unique qualities and abilities they bring to the workplace.

It can be difficult for a man to understand how women think, act and innovate unless  he has been closely influenced by  the women in his life.   I’ve learned that women may process things differently and  in their own terms. Fortunately for me, I’ve been influenced by great women who made me appreciate their approach towards leadership. I’ve grown to understand their decision-making processes, the dynamics and subtleties of their personality and style, and other special character qualities that women possess.

The best women leaders I know have circular vision that enables them to be well-rounded people.  For example, they have their finger on the pulse of the culture and can talk to you about the latest pop-culture news – but then easily switch gears to give you their perspective on what is taking place on Wall Street.  Women leaders seeking a chance to be significant see the world through a lens of opportunity; they are especially in search of those opportunities previously unseen (perhaps this is why the women I know enjoy a good treasure hunt).   My experiences have taught me that great women make it a point to teach men about women.

I’ve seen women run the show for years both at home and in the workplace, which has enabled me to recognize behavior patterns and see the value behind their way of doing things.  These women are master multi-taskers and highly collaborative (though not afraid to get territorial to protect their domain).  They enjoy their own space to test themselves and find their own rhythm.  These women leaders are like scientists: many of them want to make new discoveries or solve for problems where others have failed.   The women leaders I’ve been around don’t stop pursuing until the job gets done. This is why I believe they are good collaborative leaders – not afraid of trial and error as long as they continue to build the resource infrastructure around them that gets them closer towards accomplishing their goals.   As one of my women mentors told me, “Without enough of the right resources around me, I will not risk the outcome. I know the resources I need to get the job done right. I’d rather be patient than foolish.”

The women leaders I know invest in themselves and become knowledge seekers. They are not afraid to ask questions when given a safe platform to express themselves. For example, during my keynote and conference appearances – more often than not – it is the women who ask me the most questions and they are also more inspired to adopt new ideas and ideals.  Though extremely curious, it’s often balanced with a bit of skepticism    – after all, they don’t want to be fooled or taken advantage of.   My experiences have taught me that women leaders need to trust a person before they will endorse what they have to say.   Many just want to know that there is legitimacy behind the opportunity.

As I’ve learned from my women bosses and mentors, they want things to be authentic yet practical. These women leaders enjoy a good challenge – and seek to find meaning and purpose from each circumstance they face and opportunity they are given.  They like to see and understand the connectivity of thoughts and how they work or why they don’t.   They want all the facts and figures before making important decisions.

Competitiveness amongst themselves may really be about looking for validation -- an identity that matters and a voice that is heard.  Successful women leaders don’t rely on favors; they earn respect   and truly believe they can influence their own advancement by serving others.  Consummate team players, they also seek to prove their value and self-worth by exceeding performance expectations..  Looking for respect more than recognition, the most successful women leaders don’t seek to become the star of the show -- but they enable others to create a great show.  In other words,   being in the spotlight is not what drives them – but rather it’s the ability to influence positive outcomes with maximum impact.

One thing is certain: these women leaders understand survival, renewal and reinvention. They have grit and are not afraid to fight for what they believe in or an opportunity to achieve something of significance. They believe in what they stand for, but that doesn’t mean they won’t put their ideas and ideals to the test.  For them, doing more with less is simply a matter of knowing how to strategically activate those around them.

While women leaders have their productivity secrets, it’s not secret where they come from:  the leadership traits that women leaders naturally possess and – based on my personal and professional experiences  – are the most undervalued.

1.  Opportunity-driven

When confronted with a challenge, the women I know look for the opportunity within. They see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.  They push the boundaries and, when faced with adverse circumstances, they learn all they can from it.  Optimism is their mindset because they see opportunity in everything.

Estée Lauder, the child of Hungarian immigrant parents, was quite the opportunist in the cosmetics industry. During the postwar consumer boom, women wanted to start sampling cosmetic products before buying them. Lauder noticed and responded to this shifting dynamic by pioneering two marketing techniques that are commonly used today: the free gift and the gift-with-purchase. It's exactly this type of inventiveness that other women use to pursue the opportunities in front of them.

2.  Strategic

Women see what often times others don’t see.  As one of my women mentors told me, “A woman’s lens of skepticism oftentimes forces them to see well beyond the most obvious details before them.  They enjoy stretching their perspective to broaden their observations.  Many women are not hesitant to peel the onion in order to get to the root of the matter.”

At times they “play the part” to test the intentions of others and to assure that they are solidly grounded and reliable. Successful women leaders know how to play the game when they have to – and can anticipate the unexpected.    They know what cards to play and keenly calculate the timing of each move they make.

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn a woman leader made the word “organic” a business term.   I learned that women who enjoy the ebbs and flows of business activity also know that the best things are accomplished when they are done naturally – and unforced.  When things are happening organically, this means that they are functioning within a natural rhythm and speed – that is safer and risk adverse.

This is not to say that women are uncomfortable with risk – in fact,  they will often tackle risk head-on in order to get to the root cause of  a problem and to solve for it (they value time and money).  Women leaders who don’t allow their egos to stand in the way of good business are in the mindset of getting things done for the betterment of a healthier whole.

3.  Passionate

While women in general were historically viewed and stereotyped as emotional leaders by men, I believe they are just passionate explorers in pursuit of excellence.   When women leaders are not satisfied with the status quo, they will want to make things better.  These women leaders get things done and avoid procrastination. As another one of my women mentors said, “They enjoy order and stability and a genuine sense of control. Many women have learned not to depend upon others for their advancement and thus have a tendency to be too independent.  A woman’s independent nature is her way of finding her focus and dialing up her pursuits.”

When these women leaders are locked into what they are searching for – move out of the way.  Their passionate pursuits allow them to become potent pioneers of new possibilities.  No wonder minority women represent the largest growing segment of entrepreneurs. According to a report by the Center for Women’s Business Research, U.S. Hispanic and African American women entrepreneurs  grew at rates of 133.3% and 191.4% respectively from 1997 to 2007.

4.  Entrepreneurial

Entrepreneurship is just a way of life for many women.   They can be extremely resourceful, connect the dots of opportunity and become expert in developing the relationships they need to get the job done.   Many women leaders also see through an entrepreneurial lens to best enable the opportunities before them.    They know that to create and sustain momentum requires 100% focus on the objective   – and so they don’t enjoy being disrupted by unnecessary noise and distractions.

As one of my former women bosses told me, “Women can play into the politics of the workplace, and do so if it means adding value to the momentum they are attempting to create.”

Many women leaders find excitement and motivation by being extremely creative and resourceful when completing tasks and other duties and responsibilities –. They avoid falling too far behind on projects – knowing that if they do it will disrupt their focus and momentum.   That is why I learned never to disrupt a woman’s focus and concentration if I can avoid it.

My former female boss continued by saying, “This is why women like control.  Not necessarily to be in charge, but to not lose the rhythm or compromise the momentum they need to accomplish their goals.”

5.  Purposeful and Meaningful

I have found that many women leaders enjoy inspiring others to achieve. They know what it’s like to be the underdog and work hard not to disappoint themselves and others.  Women leaders in particular often have high standards and their attention to detail makes it difficult for others to cut corners or abuse any special privileges.

Women leaders with a nurturing nature are good listeners and excellent networkers/connecters. They enjoy creating ecosystems and support a collaborative leadership style that melds the thinking and ideas of others; this is what multiplies the size of an opportunity and/or its speed in execution in order to create a larger sphere of influence and overall impact.  Women who don't have to be right all the time make good consensus builders and will more likely enjoy participating in a team environment.

6.  Traditions and Family

Whether at home or at work, women are often the glue that keeps things together and that is why they represent great leadership for America’s future.  When they sense growing tensions that can lead to potential problems or inefficiencies, the most successful women leaders enjoy taking charge before circumstances force their hand.   Women are usually the ones to secure the foundational roots of the family and to protect family and cultural traditions from wavering. They provide the leadership within the home and in the workplace to assure that legacies remain strong by being fed with the right nutrients and ingredients.

The most successful women leaders are big believers in team building and the enforcement of mission, goals and values to assure that everyone is on the same page with like intentions.  This secures a sense of continuity making it easier for everyone to have each other’s backs.  No wonder women are assuming more management and leadership roles in family owned businesses.

To the great women in my personal and professional life, thank you for the opportunity to be inspired and mentored by your leadership (you know who you are).  I’ve read many things about women in the workplace and their lack of advancement into senior executive roles and in the boardroom.  Rarely have I read something from a man who has been inspired and influenced by the wisdom of a woman’s leadership.  Hopefully this perspective helps awaken more of us to the opportunity of learning about leadership from the women in our lives, whether in the home or at work.


June 29, 2017

Article of the Week

How "Wonder Woman" Is Inspiring Business Leaders Worldwide

It’s the movie that has the entire country talking. The latest DC Comics-based film, Wonder Woman, blasted into theaters, inspiring a new generation of future leaders. But that inspiration isn’t limited to children and teens. In fact, entrepreneurs and business leaders have found plenty to learn from the female superhero.

No matter where you are in your career, you can benefit from the lessons scattered throughout Wonder Woman. Since 1941, the mythological superhero's search for justice has served as a role model through comic books, TV series and movies. Here are three ways today’s business leaders are getting inspiration from the blockbuster. Beware, spoilers lie ahead.

Beating the odds.

The Greek mythology built into Wonder Woman gives every retelling an additional layer of intrigue. Long before she donned her headband and cuffs, Diana Prince was a warrior in training, born to battle. But her mother, Queen Hippolyta, forbade Diana to train, even though she knew that her daughter was fully capable of accomplishing great things.

Does that stop Diana? Not at all. Instead of giving into her mother’s demands, she simply begins training in secret, working with her aunt, Antiope, herself a fierce warrior (and played in an inspired bit of casting by Robin Wright of House of Cards). When Diana’s mother eventually learns about her daughter’s hard work, she instructs Antiope to make Diana the fiercest of all Amazon warriors.

Watching Diana pour her heart into learning what she needs to do to dominate any battle is inspiring. Entrepreneurs can relate to her training in private, only taking that work public once she’s fully ready. Many small businesses are built in the dark by leaders who keep their products or services top secret until they’re ready to introduce them to a wide audience. They’re usually not hiding it because they’re rebelling, but rather they’re trying to avoid a competitor from swiping their idea and beating them to market.

But perhaps the biggest inspiration comes from the relentless discipline Diana puts into her training. Resilience and hustle are almost always listed among the top traits of successful entrepreneurs. Diana never let up in her training, eventually putting in so much effort she was better than her trainers. A leader’s own journey to bringing a business to market should be a months (or even years)-long version of the Wonder Woman training scenes, ending with the triumphant moment when that new business is introduced to the world.

Knowing when to pivot.

Ares, the god of war, was struck down by his father long before Diana’s birth. However, Diana heard the stories all her life. When she finds herself in the middle of a war, she’s sure Ares is responsible. Believing she must kill Ares to end the war, she puts her full focus on achieving that goal, ignoring Steve Trevor’s determination to complete his mission to end the war in other, down-to-earth ways.

Diana finally achieves her goal of killing the person she is sure is Ares but that doesn’t bring the war to the rapid end she expected. She realizes that what she’s always known about her birth and parentage was incomplete. That changes everything. It doesn’t stop her from fighting, but she must rethink her original strategy and change her mission, on the fly.

In a similar manner, entrepreneurs often discover their original plan won’t work. They may find, through feedback or other “lean startup” methods, that their concept has already been patented or the market has shifted and there’s no longer a demand for what they’re developing. When that happens, they have two major choices. They can either give up completely or take their concept in a new direction.

Although there are many ways a business can pivot, the hard work its leaders put in during the months and years prior to that pivot aren’t wasted. In fact, some of the most well known companies in the world today experienced a pivot at some point, including Starbucks and Twitter. All the relationships the leaders build and the lessons they learn as they’re growing their company will apply as they discover they must move in a new direction. Just as Diana’s training gave her the experience she needed to be Wonder Woman in the midst of a battle, an entrepreneur’s hard work can pay off no matter when or why they have to suddenly take their product or service somewhere unexpected.

Inspiration is a leadership skill.

Wonder Woman is a born leader, taking on larger-than-life villains without fear. At one point, she almost single handedly pushes back German soldiers occupying World War I trenches that hadn't moved in years. 

Women in business face entrenched obstacles every day. They must defy the odds to beat the competition, even when society holds them to a higher standard, often based solely on their gender. Business leaders don’t have the benefit of superpowers to help them achieve their goals, however. Instead they must rely on their intellect, persistence and creativity.

But women aren’t the only ones who can learn from Wonder Woman’s leadership attributes. Diana’s flexibility as things changed around her is an excellent lesson for leaders in business today. Even if a business doesn’t face a pivot along the way, a leader will likely find his or her business goals shift and evolve over time. Being able to tackle changing challenges over the months and years is essential to survival in competitive marketplaces.

Perhaps one of the biggest lessons leaders can learn from Wonder Woman is the compassion she shows for the village of Veld. Chris Pine, the actor who played Steve Trevor in the film, commented on the importance of showing Wonder Woman’s compassion over the course of the movie, and viewers can see that in the way the character of Steve is inspired. Similarly, leaders with teams can see how compassionate behavior can impress employees, who will then feel motivated to demonstrate that same level of compassion in the work they do.

Wonder Woman will continue to inspire moviegoers for the foreseeable future, thanks to upcoming sequels and whatever roles she'll play alongside Batman, Aquaman and the rest of the Justice League. As business leaders take in each film, they can better themselves by paying close attention to the many leadership lessons the superhero will learn as she battles evil. Whether you’re coming up with an innovative invention or just trying to win new clients, channeling Wonder Woman’s many inspiring leadership qualities can help you or your business reach new heights.

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