What I Learned About Diversity by Clowning Around

You would not expect a middle-age, middle-class, executive to be a clown. It doesn’t seem like an “executive” or “middle” thing to do. Yet I have relished the experience several times in community parades. For one evening a year, I have the opportunity to be someone else and interact with my community in a completely different way. As a Human Resource Executive, my passion has been to hire and develop a diverse workforce. I’ve redesigned recruitment and promotion strategies to attract a more diverse candidate pool and won Business Diversity Awards from The Urban League of Wichita and the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). Yet I have the stigma of being a professional white woman. I have read the studies that professional white women tend to hold their purses tighter or move them to the other side of their bodies when a minority man approaches. I am ashamed to admit that I have modeled this behavior. So I tried an experiment, instead of moving my purse, I look teenage boys or gentlemen in the eye, smile, and say “hi”. Not everyone responds, some look away and pretend not to hear me; however many smile and say “hi” back. My experience has been positive or neutral; it is never negative. So with this perspective, I transform into a clown. Our parade audience includes all races, genders, ages, disabilities, socio-economic status, and experience. We “high-5” the kids in the crowd and people smile, wave and laugh. A 4 year old girl holds her arms out and announces “I want a hug!” I knelt down to her level and held...

Throw Pillows Saved My Marriage

One of the ladies I worked with was celebrating her 5th anniversary in her 8th marriage. After her 7th marriage ended, she went to a counselor who suggested she could get her change needs met by purchasing new throw pillows and keeping her husband. She is definitely a change agent! Are you a high change person? Do you get an adrenalin rush when you announce a change at work or see “new and improved” on a product and you have to put it in your shopping cart? Many people thrive in a fast-paced, high change environment and constantly look for new and better ways of performing their job. They believe that if you’re not changing, you will get left behind. These individuals frequently haven’t finished implementing the last change before they begin working on the next new idea. They tend to be creative problem solvers and help organizations become what they “could be” rather than stay as they are. Many people thrive in an environment with established processes, which create efficiencies and get proven results. They implement change when it makes sense to them and they see the benefit. These people are dependable, consistent, and get reliable results. If they don’t see the benefits of the change, they will be late adapters. They will sit back and wait for others to try the new way of doing things and see what results they get before they decide to implement the new process. Both styles add value, however in very different ways. The challenge occurs when they need to work together and rely on each other for success. The change agents...

Daring to Delegate

You are usually promoted to a manager because you have outstanding technical skills and delivered accurate results in a timely manner. One of the most challenging management skills to learn is delegation. Why would you give away the job duties you excel at? Typical agreements for not delegating include efficiency and concern for others: Efficiency –  it will take 30-45 minutes to explain the job  I will have to answer questions during the project  Then proof the work, explain the mistakes, double check to ensure the mistakes are corrected  I could do the work in less than half the time it takes to delegate  Tough to remember the trade-off between short term inefficiency and long-term efficiency by delegating the work and getting it off your desk. Concern for Others –  Your team has so much on their plate already, you don’t want to overly stress them  You would rather work late yourself than inconvenience your team.  You can complete it in less time, so doing the work is less inconvenient for you I agree your arguments are logical and rational. Now let’s focus on you. As a manager, you have assumed new responsibilities for getting work done through others, developing your team to perform at their best, managing projects to meet deadlines and ensure your team delivers a quality product. Here is your reality check – you had a full time job and now you have been given another one. If you don’t delegate, you will have 2 jobs, so it is a necessary skill in order for you to lead...

Lead Forward

My website launches today at www.shoemakerpartnerships.com.  Another milestone during a time of excitement, challenges and growth. Launching my business has brought the reward of partnering with leaders to achieve their personal and professional goals.  It is impossible to describe celebrating someone else’s success and encouraging them to take some time to revel in their joy.  While knowing that your partnership and support helped them achieve their goals.  The word Partnership is in my company’s name.  It describes my philosophy, vision and values to partner with others so they feel treated with dignity and respect as they travel on their journey to achieve their goals and potential. The home page on my website has the words “Lead Forward” and my logo includes an arrow.  One of my favorite leadership quotes comes from Africa.  “If you are leading, and no one is following you. Then you are taking a walk.”  As leaders we are challenged daily to behave in ways that others chose to follow; to create a vision that propels our company forward, motivates our team to join in the growth, and strive to share our success with our communities.  Our leadership style should reflect our values, our behavior should be consistent with who we want to tell the world we are. As you lead your company, department, or team forward into the future, I’d encourage you to reflect on how you define yourself as a leader.  What do your behaviors say about you?  The words we use are only 7% of our communication.  The other 93% of our communication comes from our tone of voice and facial expressions.  What...

Is It A Snake?

By the light of my flashlight, I crept up the 8 foot platform’s vertical steps to my tent on the first night of my Kenyan Safari.   The platform was designed to keep animals from visiting us in the night.  As my flashlight swept inside the tent, it rested upon a large round lump under the covers of my bed.  It looked like a snake had coiled under my covers and was enjoying a night of slumber. My heart raced as I stared at the lump.  Snakes are at the top of things that truly scare me.   I considered my options. Option A:  I could get our tour guide to rescue me and live with his teasing and a blemish on my reputation. Option B:  I could attempt to deal with it on my own first and then get the tour guide to help me, hopefully preserving my dignity. Option C:  I could do nothing and see if I could sleep on the floor of another tent. With my heart racing and panic setting in, I chose Option B.  I had no plan other than to pull the covers back and face my fear.  I hoped instincts would take over after that!  As panic mounted and my heart pounded harder, I counted to 3 and threw back the covers, 1 . . . 2. . . 3! I collapsed in laughter and relief as I stared at the hot water bottle that had been placed in the sheets to warm my bedding. How often in business do we look at change with fear of the unknown?  How often do we...

Get Results from your Training Investment!

When you invest in training, do you wonder if your employees just had a fun day and will return to their same routine once they come back to work?  Most companies make a significant investment in training their workforce, only to be disappointed by the results. Here are some tips you can use to get results from your training dollars! Discover what your employees are learning.  Once you understand the new behaviors they have learned, you can recognize when they are practicing these skills at work and reward their new behavior.  If you haven’t attended the training personally, ask to see the agenda or review the training materials with the employee when they return to the office. Ask the employee what they plan to implement from the training they attended and how you can support them.  Listen to their ideas for implementing the new skills or behaviors they learned at training and offer suggestions that have worked well for you. Catch them doing things Right!  When you see the new behaviors, praise them!  Even if it isn’t perfect, praise the attempt and offer suggestions to enhance the implementation of their new skills.  What gets rewarded, gets repeated.  What gets ignored, gets forgotten. Practice the new behaviors yourself!  If your employee is trying to show more appreciation to dependable, long-term employees; make sure you show appreciation to your employees too.  Be a great role model for the behavior you want to see on your team. Be consistent.  Follow up every 2 weeks until the new behavior becomes a habit, which usually takes 90 days.  Then follow up monthly to reinforce...

Appreciation

As we prepare to celebrate the holidays, we are drawn to reflect on the people we appreciate. How often do we take them for granted? The employees who show up daily and do a great job for us; which makes our lives so much easier. The sales people who go out of their way to assist us in finding the perfect gift, an outfit that fits, or serve us a warm meal. They still smile at us, even when our tone of voice is weary and stressed. The person who holds the door for you, instead of letting it close in your face. The neighbor who picks up your garbage can when it blows over and never draws attention to their help. The hair stylist who compliments you when you are feeling your worst. The stranger who catches your eye on the sidewalk and smiles. During the recession, 2 Brothers Lawn Care started their business after both were laid off. They hung a flyer on my door, so I gave them a chance. They were always punctual, would call to reschedule if the weather didn’t cooperate, and left a well groomed yard. I was thrilled! Their first Christmas, they left a $25 gift card to a local butcher in the mailbox with a Thank You note. I sent them a note in return and complimented them on all the ways I appreciated them. One of the brothers called that Sunday and said I was the only customer who sent them a thank you note. We talked for a half hour about their new business, how their first year had...