Monday, March 30, 2009

New Blog! Please follow us over on our web site!

Hello! Here is a brief update to tell you that we are no longer using this blog, but have moved over to our brand new web site which is built on Word Press. Click here to see my new blog, or click here to grab the RSS feed!

I'd like to take this opportunity to invite you to find us on Twitter, Facebook (see our neat little badge below), and LinkedIn as well! Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of Jennifer Brown Consulting from the beginning. Hope to see you over on our web site where you can comment, send us messages, and watch as we develop tools that will allow for virtual coaching, webinars, and other exciting, innovative tools.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Official Google Blog: Transgender Remembrance Day

Official Google Blog: Transgender Remembrance Day

I have had the good fortune through my diversity work as a consultant to become an advocate and advisor for LGBT equality in the workplace, so was happy to see Google weigh in on behalf of Transgender Rememberance Day, which is 11/20.

There are incredible stories of courage, which I am privy to, by Transgender employees and leaders out there, specific to transitioning in the workplace, and equally inspiring has been company responses and support for transgender employees. To see support from HR and senior management for enabling seamless "transitions", in companies much less progressive than Google, to me highlights the business case for ensuring each and every employee is critical in the ever-hotter war for talent. Some of the major financial services institutions in the news today, for example, offer transgender health benefits, in addition to the LGBT workplace protections they already provide, like domestic partner benefits.

Lately, I get the question: "What will happen to our company's diversity initiatives while the economy is suffering and jobs are disappearing? Doesn't it become irrelevant?" I shudder at the thought of this becoming irrelevant, when every company's talent pool (especially the incoming talent) and customer base is rapidly becoming more multi-cultural than ever before. Notwithstanding the messages of the last 8 years coming from the government about diversity, our country's diversity is its key differentiator, and that will only become even more critical as a source for innovation and cultural health as we continue to outsource to the rest of the world. What will we keep here in the US, and what will be unique about our work product? Isn't it the diversity of our workforce? People are the product.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cool research on women in the workforce.

This afternoon we had a conversation with Dr. Janine Buckner, Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Psychology at Seton Hall University, and a faculty member of the Elizabeth Ann Seton Center for Women's Studies. She pointed us to some great resources that she has used when studying gender disparity in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Dr. Buckner conducted research with colleagues Susan A. Nolan and Cecilia H. Marzabadi on young women pursuing career choices in these "STEM" fields while collaboratively writing for the book Are Women Achieving Equity in Chemistry? Dissolving Disparity, Catalyzing Change (Edited by Cecilia H. Marzabadi, Valerie J. Kuck, Susan A. Nolan and Janine P. Buckner).

Check out these links below:

The Center for the Study of Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (CSWSTEM)
Women Work!
National Organization for Women
The Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University
Council on Gender Parity in Labor and Education
Institute for Women's Policy Research
Women in a Global Workforce from Dell
Great Place to Work / Research Links
OPWSEM at Rutgers University
The Tutorials for Change, a web based tutorial set written by Virginia Valian of Hunter College. Valian, a social psychologist, does work on Gender Schemas and Science Careers.

The Seton Hall Psych department web page is currently being updated, but you can find some of the faculty contact info here.

Collaborate or Die

photo via flickr user 'zoom zoom'.

Collaborating across different silos and outside the box is becoming more and more important.

One of my favorite books is by a fellow consultant, Patrick Lencioni, and it’s entitled Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars. Just the title made me want to pick it up, because I feel so much of my energy facilitating groups is spent trying to help clients identify the harmful effects of "silo’d" thinking: the cost to individuals, teams, and business generally of thinking inside the box.

This is becoming especially imperative for US business, as it is incumbent on us to innovate ourselves out of the current crisis, and that’s going to require looking “across the aisle” and joining hands more than we have traditionally done.

I see boxes everywhere, with my coaching clients, the teams I support, and executive teams who run my client companies:

  1. The individual: Boxed-in thinking about what you’re capable of, what your strengths really are, who would be interested in knowing you/networking with you, what people really think of you and what you bring to the table, etc. Often this thinking is difficult to get un-stuck from, without the help of a coach or consultant who opens you up to the world of professional possibilities that are really available to most people. Plus, the transference of confidence into someone is a really powerful motivator.

  2. The team: What does the team do now, for the organization, and how could team members re-conceive themselves, their purpose, and the way they collaborate laterally? Teams get stuck in historical performance – “this is the way we’ve always done our function” – vs. thinking of all its possible stakeholders and driving value to each. It’s critical to stay relevant. This requires understanding what each stakeholder in the organization outside of the team WANTS and needs from the team, and mixing the team’s internal values/vision with external customer wants. This is the only way to achieve and maintain alignment.

  3. The organization: Company-to-company collaboration is the way of the future. The metaphor I like to use is that of Supply Chain – whoever your suppliers are on the front end, and whoever your customers are at the back end, your company has the opportunity in our inter-connected world to reach beyond your four walls and use your influence and values to impact the practices of EVERY entity you touch. I hope we live to see in the next decade the larger corporations moving towards a model of investing in the suppliers and partners they so rely on, so that the quality of the ultimate output is better. This means seeing your business as connected, and responsible, beyond traditional definitions.

In the world of corporate diversity initiatives, collaborate or die takes on a whole new imperative. I work a lot with Affinity Groups (race, gender, age, sexual orientation-based employee groups at companies), and the days of the groups existing for community and networking purposes, and working in silo’s on their own initiatives, might be over. What will help the business case for diversity the most in corporate America is if these groups co-develop their strategies, to be interlinked, so that no leader who “doesn’t get it” can separate anyone anymore based on gender or color, because the groups can present a united front.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Assessments Get Accessible

At JBC, my consultants and I utilize a wide variety of assessments with our clients, all of which drive out different insights. Depending on what the client is interested in learning about themselves and their teams, we might recommend the HBDI, Tracom, the Thomas Kilman Conflict Instrument - there is a very long list, some of which the coach needs to be certified in, and some not. But most of the time, our interpretation is required in order that clients can understand their results.

But many good assessments are moving online, and are accessible directly by the client themselves. I just took another one, at the suggestion of a client, and enjoyed its unique take on improvement. It's called StrengthsFinder. Strengthsfinder is a shortened, online equivalent of the work Gallup has been doing in organizations forever, so it's got a lot of meat and research behind it. What's more, I discovered that I am a "WOO" - and if you want to know if you're one too, you'll have to take the assessment!

What's intriguing is its take on the ROI of building on your strengths, instead of trying to remedy your weaknesses. As an individual, I appreciated this, because it is true that we beat ourselves up about what we don't do well, instead of seeking roles, projects, and jobs that play just to our unique strengths. As an entrepreneur, of course my immediate thought is that I'll have to always hire to my weaknesses, or partner strategically to make sure I have a balanced approach to building my business. Easier said than done, but this kind of assessment at least gives you the clarity of where you'll need to complement your yin with someone else's yang.

What's also cool is that you get a development plan that's customized just for you, with suggestions of what you can do tomorrow to play to your strengths. While a coach can truly help you go deeper with findings like these, this is a great, affordable start to building professional self-awareness and making sure you are progressing towards career success with your eyes fully open to what you bring to the table.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Identifying (and Developing) Top Talent

Great post by Seth Green of Social Edge, called Identifying (and Developing) Top Talent.

Seth's site talks about social entrepreneurship, a movement or concept that I think has a lot to say to leaders in all realms, not just social justice. Specifically his question about Fortune 500 CEOs struck a chord, given my work with them:

"Is there something that the private sector can learn from the personalized nature of evaluating social entrepreneurs? Should more Fortune 500 CEOs be judged on their sincerity and passion?"

Seth asks what competencies we would use to evaluate leaders, and how we would measure success or failure with these competencies. I am a non-profit lifer turned corporate leadership consultant, and I work a lot with corporate leaders to develop an awareness of their "inner social entrepreneur". A lot of times, the traits are innate: having authenticity and integrity, being comfortable with risk and challenging the dominant paradigm, and leading with an entrepreneurial quality. These characteristics, whether innate or learned with help, I believe are necessary for the leaders of the future in these companies, especially as the companies themselves struggle to become more transparent about their business practices. It also pushes companies to become more responsible corporate citizens. They are getting on board, slowly in some cases, but the movement is afoot.

What's compelling much of the activity I describe is of course Generation Y incoming talent, and its demands on the corporate world for the same characteristics ... integrity, responsibility, an inspirational place to work, and an openness to the contributions of talent at all levels, regardless of age, tenure, or experience. My hope is that the massive numbers of young people with different values than the dominant corporate paradigm will keep demanding a different relationship with their employer, and their leaders, and that this will result in a redefinition of how leadership has been defined (top-down, father knows best, homogenous/non-multi-cultural, etc.).