To suggest that we are living in deep turmoil could be my understatement of the day. Much of today’s turmoil involves ongoing collisions with change and for many, Harvey Weinstein’s conviction represents a turning point. But, a turning point for what?
Advancing technology is part of it. The democratization of technology is even bigger. Growing transparency is forcing changes in how we behave, do business, and treat others. Change is accelerating at such a rapid clip that new mindsets are in order for how we define work, careers, and personal value.
One of those seismic shifts in front of America is in women taking the lead in achieving full equality in our culture, especially with their income and financial parity at home.
Why is this so important?
On a cultural and political level, it is time to remove unneeded turmoil from our culture. From my perspective, half of America’s workers characterize themselves as underemployed. This is a direct reflection of a country that does not take a leadership position in keeping its workers competitive. As per equal pay for equal work, big business is learning that equal pay is good business. But, at its very core is the need for women to throw off any outlook, belief, or fallback on the victim card. In moving forward, nothing less than transmutation is in order. That can begin by ending the story of being victimized.
In my 20s, I was at a human potential event with about 500 people locked in a room at the LA Convention Center. A middle-aged woman kept raising her hand and it became progressively more clear she had something important to share. When the leader recognized her, she stood up, began crying, and revealed a shocking history of sexual abuse by her father. Finally, the facilitator interrupted her and asked, “How long have you been telling this story?”
A shock wave rolled over the crowd. But, he kept asking her until she replied, “30 years.” His voice raised another pitch, “What do you get out of telling this story?” This went back and forth until she literally screamed, “I get to be better than him.”
Why do I have any license to bring this up? I’m at the early stages of onset baby-boomer-ism and I’ve had long experience with successfully stepping into similar turf.
As a gay man, I stepped out of the closet at work, to my family, and in the community when I was 27 years old. Strategically, I always made sure that I was bringing in more profit than any of my colleagues. It was hard work. But, I got to drive better cars and be myself.
In the 80s, much of the LGBTQ community was its own worst enemy. This is what can happen when fathers impress on little boys that becoming a serial killer was preferable to becoming a fairy. But, in the workplace, revenue almost always won out. As time went on, I noticed that most straight men and women didn’t care about my gender preference. What mattered was bringing success to the team, kindness, competitiveness, integrity, and a deep a law-abiding sense of humor. Many of the gay men and women that I knew were far more homophobic than the straight people around me. For any group that has been pushed to the sidelines by turf, it is only natural to blame others for our discomfort.
However, for all of us, the time comes where we can tell the story of our repression over and over and over. Or, we choose to outcompete, out strategize and move ahead of our competition. But, if we choose to complain, to blame, or especially to be righteous, we miss the point. Right now, there is a big opening for women to forge ahead and balance the scales. Right now, the world’s most successful women have become the role models of choice. Being right has always been one of the world’s most hollow of victories. Besides, righteousness is exhausting in the workplace. Hey you, in the Prius, you’re blocking the fast lane. I know you are right at the speed limit and you are right in keeping the law. So, I will downshift, blast past you and in just a few minutes forget it ever happened.
In this new landscape, women are being given the opportunity to outcompete men. But, entitlement and righteousness will destroy the opportunity. Get the right horsepower, understand the rules of the road, learn to fly with skill and get the most successful women that you know to help you.
Why is this such an opportune time?
For the first time in history, technology is offering us freedom from mind-numbing task work. The acceleration of change can be overwhelming but wise mentors can show us how to make use of change. For those of us who are unwilling to learn how to change, the competition will work or zoom around us. For example, as we move from one era to the next, baby boomer powerhouses are deep in the last gasps of protecting an economy based on petroleum, military spending, smoke and mirrors, and a “do whatever it takes” outlook on retaining turf and power.
To further the point, we are in a moment where all bets are off. Women have a new road in front of them. But, borrowing from my experience, here are a few suggestions for a new mindset:
Replace Entitlement with Results
No matter the history behind it, when a true businessperson hears entitlement, he or she will forget about that individual’s value to mission, vision, and purpose.
Righteousness is Exhausting
Often, right is right. But, for those of us who are creating value, building positive cultures, and exceeding expectations, righteousness is exhausting. It is exhausting to walk on top of eggshells, tiresome to have someone point out what is wrong with us. The righteous do not inherit the earth, they are too busy irritating people.
Give Up the Victim
Not long ago, Jane Fonda was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. There was a moment where Colbert was talking about how “You still got it.” At that moment, Fonda turned into a vamp, got up, walked over to him, sat on his lap, and well into her late 70s, reduced him to a puddle of discomfort. “You still got it” is victim language and Fonda blew it out of the water.
Replace Activity with Value
76% of human resource professionals are women. The challenges facing this profession are just as daunting as others. Technology and cheap outsourcing are removing task-work from this profession every single day. The challenges here are reflective of any type of work that has been treated as an expense rather than a revenue stream.
When a CEO asks a human resource professional for updates, the majority will offer up a checklist of complete projects and tasks. Many of them will have worked until late into the night taking care of every single thing that needed to be done.
A modern human capital professional will point out how all of the positions in Atlanta were filled by trying a new strategy. In addition to saving a lot of overstressed talent, the project saved the company $1.2million in recruitment costs. Another example is the cumbersome open enrollment process that ate away at manhours? It has been replaced by a wonderful new app that not only makes open enrollment a snap, it also provides instant feedback for a wide range of healthcare, insurance, eligibility issues.
Do Whatever You Can to Tie Your Work to Profit Instead of Expenses
A few years ago, I was helping a high-flying company reorganize its talent strategy. There was an individual that people described as the “IT” guy. But, I looked at his work and he was generating the most spectacularly beautiful advertising. He later described that he almost threw up when I asked a question after shaking his hand,
“Tell me, are you considered a profit maker or are you overhead?”
In a relatively short period of time, we protected one of the company’s larger assets by reframing his role from one that generated expense to one that generated revenue.
Women have a long history of working in areas that are considered “overhead.” There is almost always an enormous price to pay for landing in the category. People are expected to work harder, get less in return, stay late, and if there is a downturn, forfeit a raise. The profit makers, however, are always treated better.
Even if you are in an area that rigidly continues to be reported as an expense, always tie your work to profitmaking.
This isn’t a woman problem, it is a business issue.
Make Sure You Have Everything Required in the New Workplace
In the years ahead, adopting these behaviors will increase everyone’s probability of success:
- Active learners own the future of work. They do not become obsolete.
- Don’t complain about technology, embrace it and outcompete everyone in using it.
- Never ever put down young people.
- Praise everyone who deserves it.
- Build support systems that all but guarantee your success.
This is where I choose to end. Years ago, a rather famous CEO asked what I wanted to accomplish with Inspired Work. I told him I wanted to build the world’s most successful career and talent development company.
He tossed our brochure to me and said, “It is a mistake to fixate on success.”
I smiled as politely as possible and said, “So great Swami, what are you suggesting?”
He summarized the whole game.
“In this life, there are never guarantees for success. So, rather than fixating on success, wouldn’t it be more honest to fixate on increasing the probability of success?”
To all of my readers who are women, there is an opening to gain more ground. Stop looking for the men to stop you. Go for it, pedal to the metal, with your hair on fire, and with a mentor who has walked down that road before you.
I don’t go to single friends for advice on my marriage.
Don’t go to victims for insight on how to succeed.
Find a woman who has already left the competition in the dust.