Archive for March, 2012

Breaking Stereotypes

         We all fight against stereotypes and yet we all apply stereotypes, even subconsciously.  Through my training with FranklinCovey, I’ve come to learn a few things about how our brains work.  For example, the emotional and reactive area of our brain is buried deep near the brain stem and the more analytical and cognitive section of our brain is in the frontal lobe.  While not truly understanding how everything works, I will make the assumption that it is the emotional and reactive part of our brain that drives stereotypes.  I can imagine back in the Neanderthal days it was literally a matter of life and death to be able to size up an opponent quickly and either fight or flee.   Now we apply cultural or societal stereotypes like “she’s tall, she must play basketball” or “he is dressed really well, he must be wealthy” or how about “he’s Latino, I’ll have to watch him closer” or “she’s old, she won’t be technically savvy.” 

         How do those stereotypes make us feel?  Think about the stereotypes that are applied to you.  In a way they box you into certain expectations, either high or low.  If it is assumed that your performance will be low, how does that affect your actual performance?  Do you drive to break that stereotype or do you feel more inclined to give up or do the minimum because that is all that is expected?  I know that I can go both ways on this question.  Sometimes I am spurred on by the assumption that I am not able to accomplish a goal and work hard just to show that I can. Other times, I give in to the stereotype because I lack motivation to do otherwise.  

        The real question is why do I have to prove anything to anyone else in the first place?  Stereotypes are expectations or assumptions placed on us by others.  I know I don’t stereotype myself but I have to work hard not to stereotype others.  It is easy to guess that a big burly man with tattoos and leather is a biker guy who is tough and mean.  When I work to look past the exterior and really listen to people and their story of life, you find that big burly tough guy is a wonderful guy taking care of his elderly mother.  To find out who that underlying person truly is however takes work, time and trust;  the qualities of a good leader and a good friend. 

Lori Buresh          

CEO, The Professional Development Team

 

 

 

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Leadership – What is it?

                When we think about leaders and leadership I know I have a hard time defining it, but I know it when I see it.  Leaders and leadership to me is portrayed through someone who inspires me and motivates me, either through their words or actions.  Leaders are usually associated with accomplishments or heroic efforts, which lends well to being inspirational or motivational for others.  That is how I perceive leaders but is that the definition?  I did what all good computer geeks do when we want to know something..  I googled ‘leadership’.  The definition from Dictionary.com was rather funny!

lead·er·ship    [lee-der-ship] noun

1. the position or function of a leader,  a person who guides or directs a group: He managed to maintain his leadership of the party despite heavy opposition. Synonyms: administration, management, directorship, control, governorship, stewardship, hegemony.

2. ability to lead: As early as sixth grade she displayed remarkable leadership potential. Synonyms: authoritativeness, influence, command, effectiveness; sway, clout.

3. an act or instance of leading; guidance; direction: They prospered under his strong leadership.

4. the leaders  of a group: The union leadership agreed to arbitrate.

                I think this definition is vague and clinical.  What is leadership?    Why does this question seem so hard? Maybe there is no real answer because it is up to each individual.  I might inspire one person but annoy another.  The true test of a leader is to find those key things to identify with a broad range of people and inspire each one on their level.  This does not mean a leader has to change who they are or what they stand for when they meet a new person (HINT HINT POLITICIANS) but if they are true to their beliefs and honest about who they are, leaders have a much better opportunity to gain the trust of others.

 

 

Lori Buresh          

CEO, The Professional Development Team

 

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Information Technology – Backbone or Speed Bump for Business Success?

                We at The Professional Development Team believe information technology is the backbone of business however it comes down to how technology is viewed (and therefore supported) within an organization.  For companies that have a foundation older than about thirty years, it is possible information technology was NOT at the forefront of the business.  The inclusion and incorporation of technology must then be assimilation between existing processes and new education. The divergence between the backbone and the speed bump comes during this integration and eventual support of the technology.  Technology becomes a speed bump when there are large gaps between the business need and the technology capability or purpose.

                Think of it this way, a person buys a car today and is happy.  In ten or fifteen years, does this person have the same car?  If yes, did they maintain it along the way – change the oil, tires etc.? Did they change cars? Information technology is the same way for business – companies need to have IT to succeed much like people (usually) need cars.  However just ‘having’ IT is only the beginning for the technology to truly be an asset to the organization.  First, IT must be aligned with the business need.  What does the organization want to accomplish?  What are the specifics regarding the desired output or knowledge?  That is the first and biggest key to IT success.  Then, technology must at a minimum be maintained but should be upgraded and enhanced along the way.   Once business leaders recognize the need for technology and integrate IT into the forefront of their decision-making (instead of an afterthought) then technology, much like a well-tuned car,  will do wonders for the company.

 

Lori Buresh          

CEO, The Professional Development Team

 

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The PDT believes in Trust!

Have you ever thought about how you behave or talk around someone you don’t trust?  You are more guarded and aware of what you say or do.  In fact, you may even decline to say things or do things because of that lack of a trust relationship.  Let’s put that in context of work – how much do you hold back if you are unsure of your position within the company?  I know my level of effort is decent but not stellar if I feel my work is not valued or if the work is with a team or leader I don’t trust.  There is a direct relationship between employee engagement in their company or their work and the trust employees feel at work.

Think of a time when you were truly inspired or interested in a project.  It doesn’t have to be work-related.  How much did you care about that work? How much effort did you put forth?  What was the quality of the work you did?  In the environments where we are energized and totally committed to the task, Stephen Covey says we ‘volunteer’ our best efforts.  I think he’s right!  I know that my best efforts are always put forth when I feel appreciated and that my contribution makes a difference.  How can we maximize that level of commitment to all of our tasks?  Not everything in life is fun.  Leadership is how the gap is bridged.

Leaders have to work with their teams and build up the trust relationships all the time so when the not-so-fun stuff comes along, the team knows that it’s a group effort and the work is still value-added.  Building trust takes time so leaders have to work on it every day so down the road they have the credibility to take on projects that might be tough.  This long-term trust helps the team to raise their level of engagement and level of performance so every project gets their best efforts.

 

Lori Buresh          

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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