Archive for the ‘Work’ tag
We live in a world where young, ambitious women will now contend with a new, and sadly pressured life question – are you “leaning in”?
While Sheryl Sandberg, the second in command at Facebook and author of recent bestseller Lean In, and her ambitious following of female professionals have a nuanced understanding of the concept, in common speak, the words “lean in” convey something too simple, intense, and aggressive.
“We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in,” writes Sandberg in the book.
Sandberg, who is trying to launch a social movement to empower women, is admirable and certainly has wisdom to offer. However, the intensity and pressure conjured by her phrase is not the right message we should be sending to female youth. In fact, remember old high school basketball coaches barking at us to lean in? Sandberg’s message is reminiscent. “Lean in ladies! Be aggressive. Run faster. The quarter is almost over. No taking a rest now!”
Yet, unlike basketball games, careers are not broken into quarters. They are more of an evolving marathon filled with twists and turns. The opposite of a sprint. And while muscling forward may help one win a basketball game, it’s not clear that more energy, effort, and aggressiveness is what will get women into the boardroom.
What we’ve realized in debating the message of “lean in” while looking at the careers of people like Sandberg and Mayer, is that something big is lost in the colloquial phrase that Sandberg is championing. We must redefine the phrase to convey a vision that is as big in spirit and excitement as it is in raw ambition.
As Sandberg herself states, success depends on a fair bit of luck. Both Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Sandberg had the good fortune to jump on the Google train in the early days. And Sandberg’s COO role at Facebook has catapulted her into tech godliness that was largely unpredictable.
Yes, smart negotiation, ambition, and sponsors were important. But, what distinguishes Sandberg, and what we’ve learned from our own careers is that success is also about creating, recognizing, and seizing opportunities. It’s about putting oneself in a position that maximizes luck.
Let’s look at Sandberg. She had the confidence to jump between jobs with the government, the World Bank, and tech companies, following a varied and non-linear path. Mayer grabbed the CEO opportunity at Yahoo despite being pregnant, and knowing that she’d be following a long series of executive failures.
In our own careers, it’s been the opportunities that came from new connections made in school or at a conference, or from invitations to write, speak, or create, that pushed us forward.
And at Kaltura, we look at examples like Becky, one of our key project managers, who, after being told that she didn’t have enough technical experience or background, decided to take a leap, jump into a technical job and learn engineering basics on the side in order to make a career transition.
Or Charly, who, with no degree or any technical background whatsoever, led customer support at one of our competitors and later joined Kaltura as a key account manager. Yes, these women fought hard to get ahead, but what really sets them apart is that they identified a passion, took risks, and seized new opportunities.
What we see in these examples are ambitious women that “leaned in” to advance their careers and families simultaneously. The message of “lean in” should not be to push harder, as Sandberg argues, “put your foot on the gas pedal and keep it there.”
The key, rather, is to be mindful, intentional and clear-eyed about possibilities that emerge in life and work. It is about not being guided by fear, but rather knowing your passions, being bold, and taking risks. And for women who are nearer to the top, leaning in is about being conscious of setting precedent and shaping institutions in ways that will also create paths for younger women.
So, to women (or men) who feel compelled and inspired by Sandberg but also scared about the implied added pressure to constantly push higher and farther – take a breath. There is a way to lean in and achieve success with levity and spirit. Lean in to life. Opportunities will emerge.
The key is to be confident and aware enough to see them.
Dr. Michal Tsur is a serial tech entrepreneur, having co-founded online security firm Cyota and open-source video platform Kaltura, where she is currently president. Leah Belsky is a fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School, where she contributes on online collaboration and technology policy, and is currently SVP Operations at Kaltura.
Dan Ariely’s TED talk on what makes us feel good about work highlights several points that are often raised in conversation with other pros and practitioners, especially in the last couple of years.
- most of us thrive by making constant progress and feeling a sense of purpose
- when we put effort into something, we like to see it realized, or at a minimum share it with others
- ignoring people’s performance is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of their eyes
Watch the video to learn which experiments Ariely used to answer: What motivates us to work? This is good information for making connections — unless we do the work to build those bridges, we don’t value them as much.
Now think about the online chit/chat and the casualness of it all. How much is a lack of commitment and care in nurturing relationships affecting your ability to make true connections?
I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Ariely at SxSW a few years back. His insights on why revenge is so important to us provided much needed perspective in my work in social networks.
[hat tip Dan Pink]
Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a
speaking engagement click here.
Acute or chronic sleep deprivation resulting in increased feelings of fatigue is one of the leading causes of workplace incidents and related injuries. More incidents and performance failures, such as automobile accidents, occur in the mid-afternoon hours known as the “post-lunch dip.” The post-lunch dip typically occurs from 2-4 p.m., or about 16-18 hours after an individual’s bedtime from the previous night.
A new study from the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute shows that exposure to certain wavelengths and levels of light has the potential to increase alertness during the post-lunch dip. The research was a collaboration between Mariana Figueiro, LRC Light and Health Program director and associate professor at Rensselaer, and LRC doctoral student Levent Sahin. Results of the study titled “Alerting effects of short-wavelength (blue) and long-wavelength (red) lights in the afternoon,” were recently published in Physiology & Behavior journal.
The collaboration between Figueiro and Sahin lays the groundwork for the possible use of tailored light exposures as a non-pharmacological intervention to increase alertness during the daytime. Figueiro has previously conducted studies that show that light has the potential to increase alertness at night. Exposure to more than 2500 lux of white light at night increases performance, elevates core body temperature, and increases heart rate.
In most studies to date, the alerting effects of light have been linked to its ability to suppress melatonin. However, results from another study led by Figueiro demonstrate that acute melatonin suppression is not needed for light to affect alertness during the nighttime. They showed that both short-wavelength (blue) and long-wavelength (red) lights increased measures of alertness but only short-wavelength light suppressed melatonin. Melatonin levels are typically lower during the daytime, and higher at night.
Figueiro and Sahin hypothesized that if light can impact alertness via pathways other than melatonin suppression, then certain wavelengths and levels of light might also increase alertness during the middle of the afternoon, close to the post-lunch dip hours.
The team found that, compared to remaining in darkness, exposure to red light in the middle of the afternoon significantly reduces power in the alpha, alpha theta, and theta ranges. Because high power in these frequency ranges has been associated with sleepiness, these results suggest that red light positively affects measures of alertness not only at night, but also during the day. Red light also seemed to be a more potent stimulus for modulating brain activities associated with daytime alertness than blue light, although they did not find any significant differences in measures of alertness after exposure to red and blue lights. This suggests that blue light, especially higher levels of blue light, could still increase alertness in the afternoon. It appears that melatonin suppression is not needed for light to have an impact on objective measures of alertness.
“Our study suggests that photoreceptors other than the intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells respond to light for the arousal system,” said Figueiro. “Future research should look into the spectral sensitivity of alertness and how it changes over the course of 24 hours.”
Sahin, who has more than 10 years of experience in railway engineering, was interested in this study from a transportation safety perspective, and what the results could mean to the transportation industry. “Safety is a prerequisite and one of the most important quality indicators in the transportation industry,” said Sahin. “Our recent findings provided the scientifically valid underpinnings in approaching fatigue related safety problems in 24 hour transportation operations.”
From the present results, it is not possible to determine the underlying mechanisms contributing to light-induced changes in alertness because the optical radiation incident on the retina has multiple effects on brain activity through parallel neural pathways. According to Figueiro, that is an area that she would like to explore in future research.
We will see prescient business leaders seeking to help workers fight the post-lunch dip by proving rooms with the appropriate levels of blue or red light.
Loving what you do. Loving the work that you do.
Fully recognizing that there is a vast majority of the population that isn’t all too thrilled about the work that they do, I count myself as somewhat lucky when it comes to my vocation of choice. In short, I love what I do. When individuals struggle with their work or can’t seem to make things click, I often wonder what paths they could have explored or what they could be doing outside of the misery of their work to enhance their lives and personal development. I owe a good chunk of my happiness to having met Dan Ariely, the famed behavioral economist and author of the bestselling business books, Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality and The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. Many people don’t know this, but Dan was kind enough to introduce me to his literary agent (who then became my literary agent). Beyond my personal affection for the man, he gives some of the most fascinating presentations on our behavior and the decisions we make in our lives. He recently spoke at a TEDx event (TEDxRiodelaPlata) on the topic of work and what makes us feel good about the work that we do. As always, Dan’s research and insights may surprise and (hopefully) inspire you.
Watch Dan Ariely talk about work and how money doesn’t rule all…
Having been somebody on both sides of the startup and blogger equation, I know how hard it is for new companies, products and ideas to get visbility and break through the noise, grabbing the attention and sustained interest of early adopters, influencers and users. Today on +GDL (Google Developers Live, the program I run at +Google), I sat down with colleague +Don Dodge to share some of my own experiences and talk about this very thing.
In the discussion, about 20 minutes, I talk about working with +Edwin Khodabakchian of +feedly, +Iain Dodsworth of TweetDeck and more, as some examples of sharp people who engaged with me in the many thousands of posts that have found home on +louisgray.com. This event is one in a series we’re calling Root Access, targeting startups and developers on Google Developers Live. Find many more events, publishing every workday at https://developers.google.com/live.
Editor’s Note: Part 8 in an irregular series of stories from my 13 years in Silicon Valley. Part 7 talked about the leveraging your assets to get your way. This time, a real example of knowing when you’re undervalued, and how to get what you deserve.
Not every Silicon Valley company has a smooth trajectory, and neither does the average career. Startups fail and career paths stall. You can run into bosses that don’t get you, miss promotions, or find yourself excelling as a rare star at a company that simply isn’t going anywhere. Fairy tale stories are often just that – fairy tales. In the real world, you need to be executing on what you’ve been asked, but constantly assessing your place, if you are rightly fit, or on a path to what you want to achieve.
Being a long-time employee for most of the last decade at a startup that went through many funding rounds and saw a practical carousel door in the VPs and CEO office, it probably comes as no surprise that I accrued a solid amount of company history and irreplaceable knowledge, but had to continuously reprove myself to new people who had just joined. Sometimes, the convincing was easy, through consistent work, but other times, it seemed nearly impossible, as if we were two people speaking a completely different language.
If explaining one’s work product or role in a shifting company was hard, it was equally challenging to assess if an employee was compensated appropriately relative to their peers, if promotions had regularly taken place, and if one’s stock options were valuable or worthless, depending when they came into the company, what round of funding we were aiming for at the time, or how well they had negotiated coming in the door.
After one recapitalization round, which had essentially wiped out our existing shareholders and started over, I found myself in a meeting with our VP of Marketing, talking about my job performance and how the company planned to reissue options to employees so we weren’t completely underwater, having watched our existing stock reverse split to hell. As he tried to put me at ease that I was being taken care of, he reached forward, past his computer monitor, to a stack of white envelopes, the top of which had my name on it.
Inside the envelope, presumably, was the latest stock option grant – a new gift of shares in the company, which, once again, would maybe be worth something if we went public or were purchased, but were just as likely to expire worthless, as all the others had. As he lifted my envelope up and tried to give it to me, I interrupted and said, in a rare point of clarity, that I didn’t want it, and no matter what it said, it wasn’t what I deserved.
This startled him a bit, and I explained that I was familiar with how stock options were allocated, with the CEO and board of directors taking their share after the VCs had their stake, followed by the senior management team, the VPs, the Directors, and eventually, the working stiffs like me. I knew that my previous humility and hard work had set me up to get screwed, again, because I hadn’t fought harder for a bigger title and all the rewards that came with it, from salary to stock.
Following on, I addressed the issue directly, saying I’d never been one to fight for promotions and titles, that I just wanted to do a good job, but that I had seen the only way one could get promoted or get a raise at the company was to solicit an offer from a competitor, only to rescind it later. I looked my boss straight in the eye, and coldly said, “Let’s skip that step.”
The move was a gutsy one, but one I felt I had every right taking, having committed untold hours and several years of my career already into the company, without being promoted, and getting the stock options others with higher job titles were no doubt getting. My boss and I spoke further, and he heard me loud and clear. The envelope went back on his desk, and we wrapped the meeting, my heart beating quickly, but my mind feeling steady. As I headed back to my desk, he did exactly what I had hoped he would, taking a two door trip down to the VP of HR’s office to discuss the situation.
A few weeks went by, but shortly afterward, I was invited back into his office, this time with a plan that included a new envelope, with new numbers on it. In addition to the new stock options offer, I was given a promotion, and a plan to work my way into a second promotion the following year, that would see a commensurate salary increase and stock option bump. As time went on, true to his word, and due to my own efforts, of course, that too took place – as the company, with my VP, recognized the value I had brought for years, and continued to bring, and helped me take on more responsibility and finally be compensated the way I thought I should.
As I wrote in July about leveraging one’s assets to get one’s way, the risk I took was one where I was arguing from a position of strength. I was confident that I was delivering good work that I could be proud of, which could be measured. I had seen other great colleagues get stuck in their careers, and have to get alternative offers from competitors before seeing a career bump with our firm. I knew nobody wanted that headache, and that I could get other jobs if my brazen act went sideways. But it didn’t. I knew the sealed envelope didn’t have what I wanted, and I knew I was in the position to call them on it.
There are times to be humble, to keep your head down and do your work. There are sometimes economic realities at companies and industries which might prevent you from getting what you think you deserve. But if there’s a mismatch between what you’re delivering, and you see an opportunity, assess where you are and take the opportunity to make it right. Good people and good companies never want to see the strong talent go out the door, and happy employees usually end up working even harder and being more loyal. I’m glad I finally found a VP who got it and was willing to listen. And that’s a real Valley story.
Posting that you’re “Hustlin’” doesn’t provide you with a higher paycheck.
“Hustlin’” doesn’t make your product better, or your sales pitch any more strong. It probably doesn’t have a lot of impact on the macroeconomic climate, and shouldn’t sway consumers to your company instead of that from the competition. Similarly, there are no certificates given for the most harried-looking people, who can often be seen running around stressed from meeting to double booked meeting, and saying they can’t possibly be aware of your last update, let alone the outside world, because they are snowed in under a mountain of e-mail.
What I’ve seen from my near 15 years working in Silicon Valley is that, often in concert with our “burn the midnight oil” philosophy, people aggressively try to prove their value through how busy they appear. Yet for every salesperson or product marketing manager who can’t get back to you, there are anonymous genius coders who still manage to surf Reddit and take casual lunch breaks without the company falling apart.
Being excessively “busy” is not to be celebrated. Instead, it could be displaying that you are overmatched in your role. Work is not supposed to be a life of leisure, but if you really do have thousands of unread items in your email box (I’ve seen people with almost 100,000 and usually have zero myself), or can’t find a hole in your calendar to “catch up”, there’s probably something wrong with your time management.
Meanwhile, the simple fact that you took an effort isn’t something you can cash. After one too many failed demand generation campaigns or trade shows that didn’t pan out, I remember my boss, the VP of Marketing, saying “Don’t confuse effort with results.” Just because I, and my team, had worked hard didn’t mean the numbers were there to justify what we had done.
Admittedly, it’s especially easy in Marketing to do activity for activity’s sake. How many weekly status meetings have I endured, hearing people run through their list of completed tasks that may not have pushed the ball forward, but instead kept them occupied the previous week? How many client meetings and vendor calls and messaging workshops were less than impactful? After a while, it’s as if there are three different groups in the room – those who realize the activity is just to say something happened, those still talking, and the last people who haven’t gone yet, waiting to fluff up their own reports to outdo the last guy.
The secret comes in determining the right measurements and data that shed light on where you can make impact. Carving away the bits that are trivial, and hitting the Archive button instead of reply, can be transformative for you and your goals.
That’s not to say a strong work ethic isn’t valued. I’ve never been very good at taking vacations and often joke that if you are a salaried employee, there are no days off, as you’re paid the same any hour of the day, year round, not just Monday to Friday. But being good at what you do is made even stronger when you’re efficient at it, and accomplish all you need to. That means not feeling the need to tell the world you’re “Hustlin’”, not having to declare email bankruptcy, or looking like you’re in the midst of drowning when deadlines approach.
Being busy doesn’t make you incredible. Being incredible can make you busy. Some of the best people in technology know when to turn off all the distractions so they don’t crush everything in their path. Even Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, famously leaves work at 5:30 every evening, and maintains successful life balance. The thought is, “if she can do it, why can’t you?”, but the underlying issue is one of prioritization, filtering and execution when much is expected.
Just because you put in the hours, hustled a little bit and did what was expected, doesn’t always mean the results will be there. You have to know what your goals are, and watch your results constantly to tie activity to impact. So the next time you read that someone is “Hustlin’” or run into a colleague who can’t wait to tell you how busy and overloaded they are, just wonder why that is, and how you can avoid it.
“To center is to relax the tight fist of clinging. Into the open hand falls freedom.” [Thomas Crum, Journey to Center]
Is it Twitter? You enjoy it and you’re good with it, yet it may be too easy to whittle away time – and it saps away creativity that you could invest in another project.
Is it turning off the Internet altogether? Something about being bored causes us to be more productive. Doing one thing at a time makes us more
focused on the task at hand so we get it done faster. Distractions
indulge the procrastinator in us.
Is it trying to be all things to all people for your brand? Instead, being more focused on the personality it already has and
potentially aspire to the one it can achieve. Remember that in
perceptual maps you can move only in one direction.
Is it cutting out what is not essential to your
paragraph? In considering this piece, I thought about quoting from Al
Ries’ 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. It didn’t quite fit, so out it came. (And ironically, it’s back again.)
When it comes to your business, your brand, your projects, your relationships, or your Friday schedule, what would you give up to get back?
Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a
speaking engagement click here.
The lazy social networker opens a Twitter account, throws up a few inspirational tweets and a bunch of RTs, and expects the world to roll out a red carpet and hand over an Oscar for Best Performance. This year.
The lazy social networker buys into the notion that more hashtags will mean more followers, which will mean a bigger reputation, which will somehow lead to more fame and riches. Quickly.
The lazy social networker follows all the advice about writing blogs with Top 10 lists and newsjacking topics, contributing to the tsunami of noise without producing any valuable signal.
The lazy social networker then gives up when it doesn’t “work.” Little effort did not produce the anticipated big return.
Be prepared to spread a lot of useful seed, in the form of thoughtful content. Be prepared to water that effort with purposeful and caring relationship-cultivation. Be prepared to rinse and repeat for the long haul, and experience the outflow of a lot of effort with, perhaps, a good bit less return than you ever anticipated.
In other words, be prepared to work. Just like every other worthy endeavor. There may be a lot of effort with little return – for a season.
That’s how agriculture works. That’s how business works. That’s how life works.
The lazy social networker will fade off. As for you, be in it for the long haul. You’re building relationships and adding value, not grasping at some cheap short-term applause.
You’re growing an orchard, not inflating a balloon. The fruit comes in abundance — over time.
This morning, I arrived to a darkened office. That’s not surprising, because it was 7 AM and I was the first person to arrive.
As I turned on the lights and walked into our then–empty office, I realized that I’m a lucky guy.
Why? Because 16 years after having co-founded Thornley Fallis, I still love my job.
Yes, there are challenges. There are disappointments. There is stress. But I know that I can rise to these challenges and be the master of my destiny. That’s invigorating.
And I love what I do. I love watching the changing patterns of communication and the evolving relationships we have with the institutions around us. I love learning from what I observe and changing the way that I apply my own skills for myself and for my clients.
I chose to be the first person in the office this morning because I wanted to get to work to tackle the day’s challenges, to stretch myself, to learn and to do something that I find meaningful.
So it’s 7 AM in a darkened office, and I feel I’m a lucky guy.