Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Women in Leadership Programs

The Stanford Executive Education Program recently announced their new
Women Leaders program. Of course, Stanford is well know for its
Executive Leadership Program, so why might there be a need for a special
program to train women leaders?

Take a look at their two web sites and tell me if you detect any significant differences between the two offerings:

Executive Program:
www.gsb.stanford.edu/exed/lead/index.html

Women's Program:
www.gsb.stanford.edu/exed/epwl/index.html

Notice the tone of the women’s program:

how “women struggle” especially with “common career roadblocks” that need to be “transformed” (as if by magic) into “breakthrough opportunities” (happily ever after).

The areas of emphasis are: negotiation, team effectiveness, power and relationships, social networks and influence, and communication.

Doesn’t this remind us of all the “helping” and “serving” and “supporting” that we
expect of women? All the nice things that nice girls should learn how to do in their nice corporate settings?

Notice the tone of the executive education program:

“Participants put effective, collaborative methods of leadership to work in their organizations and leverage the leadership potential of all members of their teams.”

“Participants focus on developing their own leadership skills and personal influence, as well as explore strategies for building a team of strong individuals who will support each other, deal with tough problems in an efficient manner, and take accountability for results.”

Doesn’t this remind us of “leadership” “efficiency” “accountability” and “influence”? All the real things that executives do to take organizations forward through leadership.

I do support programs that help women to “stop replaying the Mommy and Me tapes” of yore. Yet, I am finding that many “women in leadership” programs look so very much like an academic Oprah Winfrey show.

My recommendation to a candidate for women in leadership is to take the Executive
Program and learn how to work among real leaders.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Judgment: The "Stuff" of Leadership

Anyone can lead provided they’ve got “the stuff” of which leadership is made. In Noel M. Tichy’s earlier book about GE’s Jack Welsh (Control Your Own Destiny or Someone Else Will, written in 2007 with Stratford Sherman), the critical success factor was management’s ability to “liberate workers” so they could manage themselves in a highly fluid and networked world driven by self-interest, balancing “freedom with some control.” In the New Welsh Way at GE, “players adjust to new situations almost every moment and think for themselves while looking out for the team as a whole.”

Now, in Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls, also written in 2007 by Tichy with USC’s Leadership Guru, Warren Bennis, we learn more “stuff.”

Tichy-Bennis found three “domains” where judgment will either make or break leaders. Not surprisingly, these domains are “people, strategy, and crisis.” Leaders must have character, courage and clear ethical standards in order to succeed.

Yada yada yada. There really is no way to verify these exist, measure these, or even be sure someone included them in one decision or another. The authors cite leadership experiences from Boeing, General Electric, Proctor & Gamble, Royal Dutch Shell to prove their points. Sometimes, it is too easy to just take the largest companies on the globe and attribute to their CEO awesome credentials for guiding their behemoth industrial yacht through choppy economic seas. Was it really the CEO or was it that incredible unsung middle manager who kept the company away from the risks of Bangladesh outsourcing? Who knows today, really?

The book's later contribution actually is more meaningful. “Judgment [is] built upon deep knowledge” in four areas:

1. self-knowledge: awareness of one’s personal values, goals and aspirations.

2. social network knowledge: ability to understand the personalities, skills, and judgment track records of those on your team.

3. organizational knowledge: an understanding of how people in the organization and in personal networks will respond, adapt, and execute

4. contextual knowledge: ability to understand the relationship and interactions with stakeholders (including customers, suppliers, government, investors, competitors, or interest groups who may impact the outcome of a judgment).

These kinds of judgment are “built upon life experiences.” Now, that is "stuff" that makes sense.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Entitlement or Competition?

Two articles, different perspectives: “No Sense of Entitlement for Women: Thirty-five years after Title IX, the number of females coaching college teams continues to decline” and “A Pipeline Runs Through North Carolina,” both written by Ken Fowler, special to the LA Times, Sports section, December 2, 2007, pp. D1 and D13.

Two articles in the same Sports Section of the newspaper: the one about HIM, Coach Anson Dorrance of North Carolina’s women’s soccer team describes HIM as EMPOWERING, CHALLENGING. The article about HER, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, describes HER as an example of INEQUITY, DOUBTS, MISPERCEPTIONS.

Both written by Ken Flower, formerly sports editor of the Notre Dame campus newspaper, The Observer. It’s time, Gentlemen, to stop writing the whimp articles about women and start writing about their accomplishments; the facts, not the failures; about their achievements and the success, not the mind games you and the other writers insist on perpetuating like little girls’ Mommy Tapes.

Fact: Coach Pat Summitt is The Winningest Coach in the History of NCAA Basketball -- either male or female teams. She is the 2007 recipient of the John R. Wooden Award's "Legends of Coaching" honor, the first women's basketball coach to be so recognized. In over three decades at the University of Tennessee, Coach Summitt has won 947 games and an unprecedented seven national titles, including the 2007 NCAA crown. Her teams have played in an incredible 26 consecutive NCAA Sweet 16s, have won 26 Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament titles and have compiled an unmatched all-time record of 947-180 (.840). All of Coach Summitt's Lady Vol players since 1976 have completed their eligibility at Tennessee and played in at least one Final Four, and all have graduated. She is a role model by every possible measure.

Fact: “the old boys club” is irrelevant. If women want to play sports and coach sports, they will have to compete in a world where there are a lot of boys and men. Who do you think created the competitive games and sports markets in which women aspire to participate? If women are so good at creating sports venues, why don’t they divert some of the $120 trillion they spend annually in expenditures on personal discretionary consumption to support sports for women? Men at Nike, at universities, at sports companies around the world are making it possible for women to compete in spite of the fact that many women still stand on the sidelines and simply cry, “Let me play!”

Fact: “men DO go the extra mile” to help women be actively recruited for head coaching spots as the numbers of teams increased – particularly in soccer. (Your chart under Numbers Crunch would never pass as a viable sports stat: show the change in the actual number of teams and coaches, not just the percentages!) When less-than-adequately trained and skilled women soccer coaches failed to perform, they were mustered out. Just as the ill-prepared women who tried to get entitlements in business, in the military, in college and in law schools also washed out, initially. Just as ill-prepared minorities washed out. When competent women compete, competent women lead. Get the training, get the skills, get the education to be quality coaches, women; and then you will make it to the top.

Fact: “the lack of women coaches for men’s team” is not a measure of the progress or failure of men’s teams, but rather another measure of how women need to get more training and more skills development, in order to compete. Leadership of sports teams is not a quota system. UCLA hired a black football coach who failed to deliver the desired results. When UCLA fires him, it will not be because he is black, but because he failed to perform. The same applies to women coaches.

Fact: “a difficult work-life balance” demonstrates that women or men who cannot figure out how to have a personal life and a work life probably cannot succeed in either venues. And who today believes that women have a monopoly on how to handle personal and family life events? Who does NOT have a difficult work life today: all the technology and “time savings” hype that marketers have tamped down our throats have not given us one more minute to work with in this life. Balance is standing still and not falling down as life buffets about you. Sports and competition is all about challenge, perseverance, risk-management, and above all movement – performance.
Maybe if more women exercised their minds and their bodies, they would do a better job of exercising those same resources on behalf of their personal and professional lives.

Fact: women who allow “society to expect them to assume more responsibility for the home front” deserve to live their lives by society’s expectations, not their own. Women who perpetuate that belief probably have a substantial economic stream of income and benefits coming to them based on their ability to keep weak women “in their place” and dependent on their distorted advice and research. Women’s magazines are in the business of selling stuff to women, not showing women better roles models. Women’s organizations are in the business of fostering dependencies among weak women, not showing women how to stand on their own feet and become independent decision-makers.

I’d like to see a little less writing about women in sports as if they were aberrations, sickos, and dependent whiners. I’d like to read a lot more about how women are achieving incredible sports results today, based on their skills, their talent, and their perseverance -– just like Coach Summitt.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

It's About Time!

Congratulations to Andrea Jung, chairman and chief executive officer of Avon Products, who was named to the Apple® corporate board January 7, 2008. Those of us who have been in the technology industry for a few years have been waiting a long time for Apple® to name a woman corporate director to join the esteemed company of: Messrs. Anderson, Campbell, Drexler, Gore, Jobs and York and Dr. Levinson.

The last woman who served as an Apple® director was also the company's first woman director from 1994-1996:

Katherine M. Hudson had been the President and Chief Executive Officer of W. H. Brady Co., a manufacturer of coated products and industrial identification products, since January 1994. Before that, she was Vice President and General Manager, Professional Printing & Publishing Imaging, of Eastman Kodak Company. She was named to CIO Magazine's CIO Hall of Fame in 1997 for her 1989 Kodak outsourcing pact -- the largest of its kind to that date.

Read all about it in CIO Magazine

Tall heels to fill, indeed, Ms. Jung, but certainly you are up to the challenge.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Spin Sisters

“The Happiness Myth” headline caught my eye in the column by Steve Salerno (The Wall Street Journal: December 20, 2007). Even more interesting than his book (SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless, Crown Books: 2005) was his mention of the book by Myrna Blyth (Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness and Liberalism to the Women of America, St. Martins Press: 2004).

Ms. Blyth is the former editor in chief of Ladies’ Home Journal and currently a columnist for the National Review Online (“Blyth Spirit”). Spin Sisters is her “tell all” book about how the female media market does exactly what Gloria Steinem said they do: “Most women's magazines simply try to mold women into bigger and better consumers.”

Natch, I had to read Ms. Blyth’s book. The Los Angeles Library told me the book had not been checked out since they received it in 2005. But, boy, did the book ever hit home.

From the inside jacket:

“Spin Sisters: They tell you what to think, they tell you how you feel – and they tell you constantly, on television and in magazine, that today’s women, who have more opportunities than women have ever had before, are frazzled, frumpy, fearful victims of lives too tough for them to handle. They are the women at the top of the media heap, the Girls’ Club of the female media elite, who lunch, party, and weekend together, support the same left-of-center causes, and think alike -– especially when it comes to social issues and politics.”

It does not surprise me that the traditional media did not write many book reviews of Spin Sisters. Some might say that it’s surprising the thing was published at all. But, I am very glad it was.

One early review in nymag.com by Betsy Carter (“Twisted Seven Sisters”, March 15, 2003) tried to dismiss Ms. Blyth’s treatment of the Girl’s Club: “At their worst, women’s magazines can be like bad boyfriends. They’ll tear you down, then spend pages trying to build you back up. But in doing so, they’ll give you all the service and the information you need.”

Wow, so women think it is worthwhile to spend 8 bucks a month to be abused by the magazine equivalent of a bad boyfriend? That thinking may be part of the problem right there.

Ms. Blythe provides details from the lives of the female editors-in-chief at the top “seven holy sister” women’s magazines who play a game of music-chairs, rotating themselves and rewriting the same guilt trip articles for a total of 40 to 50 million female readers:

1. Ladies’ Home Journal – Meredith Corporation
2. Redbook – the magazine for young mamas – Hearst Corporation
3. Good Housekeeping – Hearst Corporation
4. McCall’s - the oldest magazine for women – renamed Rosie in 2001, then closed in 2002
5. Family Circle – Meredith Corporation
6. Woman’s Day - Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S.
7. Better Homes and Gardens®, the flagship publication of the Meredith Corporation

The very same top three publishing powerhouses also produce the next tier:
Cosmopolitan and Cosmo Girl, Glamour, Marie Claire, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair, More Magazine and Real Simple (not to mention the Brides, Babies and Teen mags).

Let us not forget the two Really Really Biggies: Oprah and Martha:

From the O website:

Oprah, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Make the Connection, Oprah's Book Club, Use Your Life, Live Your Best Life, Oprah's Favorite Things, Wildest Dreams with Oprah, Oprah Boutique, Oprah's Angel Network and Angel Network are registered trademarks of Harpo, Inc. Harpo is a registered trademark of Harpo Productions, Inc. Oprah & Friends, America's Doctor, Expert Minutes, the "Oprah" signature and the "O" design are trademarks of Harpo, Inc. O Ambassadors and the corresponding "O" design are trademarks of Oprah's Angel Network. Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls is a trademark of The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation. O, The Oprah Magazine and O at Home are registered trademarks of Harpo Print, LLC.

From Martha’s website:

Magazines: Martha Stewart Living, Everyday Food, Blueprint, Weddings, Body+Soul
Television & Video: The Martha Stewart Show, Everyday Food, Martha Stewart on Demand
Radio: Martha Stewart Living Radio
Shop: Martha Stewart Collection Only at Macy’s, Martha Stewart Colors, Martha Stewart Crafts, Martha Stewart Everyday at Kmart, Martha Stewart Floor Designs with FLOR, Martha Stewart Furniture, Martha Stewart KB Homes, Martha Stewart Kodak Gallery, Martha Stewart Lighting, Martha Stewart Rugs, Martha Stewart for Shutterfly

It’s not so much a cabal as a pattern of dictatorial consumer-dominated socialization, encouraging lemming-like behavior among women.

A number of “movements” or “cultural phenomena” are reflected in these publications: Happiness, Entitlement, Empowerment, Self-Help Gurus and other America psychobabble.

“Liberalism” carries the heavy burden of blame of course, since only Democratic women subscribe to all this media hype, right? Republican women would never be caught reading any of these magazines or tuning into O or M channels, of course. Yeah, right. And you also believe that men subscribe to Playboy for its in-depth intellectual articles, don’t you?

Spin Sisters provides insight into the conundrum that: (1) women today have opportunities that are significantly better than ever before, yet (2) women today whine louder and complain more than ever before about their status. Why? I’m really not convinced that anyone (media) is making women do anything. I’m wondering if we might be observing a phenomenon that matches the economic reality of a rising marginal propensity to consume.

The marginal propensity to consume (MPC) refers to the increase in personal consumer spending (consumption) that occurs when a person’s disposable or discretionary income (income after taxes and transfers) gets increased. Normally, the MPC is a ratio between 0 and 1. But, if someone increases their propensity to borrow money as a way of financing expenditures higher than their income, MPC can rise above 1.0 which is exactly what we have witnessed in our credit card economy. Today, the average consumer has something like a $9,900 outstanding credit card balance per card.

As opportunities increase for women, their expectations about opportunities also increase. When those expectations are not satisfied, even if their actual opportunities have been satisfied, women express dissatisfaction with their actual opportunities. Enough is not quite enough.

It’s easy to blame “Liberals” because they have the most conspicuous tendency to expect governmental action to resolve the disconnect between real and expected opportunities. “Conservatives” might turn to “eat, pray and love” instead.

But the bottom line in all of this is that women's magazines are fish-wrap for advertising: the only reason these magazines exist is as a delivery vehicle for articles that try to persuade women to consume more, to persuade women that the “need” more, and to pander to women’s fears that they “don’t have” what they “need”.

And, en masse, women buy it.