decision-making

Someone taught her to flinch.

Last summer I adopted a rescue dog. Her name is WiFi (pronounced WeeFee...the French way) and she is the love of my life.

To say she’s spoiled is to make a joke of the word “understatement.” Whatever I can figure out that might make her happy, I’m on it. She gives me unconditional love and I do my best to do the same.

But someone taught her to flinch. And I can’t do anything about that.

WiFi was just two years old when we met. Sadly, the folks that were fostering her had no background information about her. She was just there. In a cage with her brother (who, I’m happy to say, was adopted the same day). Laying quietly. Waiting.

When I took her for a stroll around the pet store sponsoring the adoptions, she walked slowly and low to the ground. She seemed to need to catch her breath every so often, as if walking around was something she didn’t get a lot of chances to do.

She also threw up, pooped and turned over so I could rub her belly. How could I not fall in love?

It didn’t take long after moving in with me for her coat to get shiny, her eyes to get bright and for me to find out that her normal “walk” is a prance. She also still loves to have her belly rubbed.

But sometimes she flinches when I reach out to pet her. And I can’t do anything about that.

Something happened during those two years that preceded her time with me that taught her that sometimes, just sometimes - and you never know when - a hand that provides support and love is also a hand that hits.

And that got me thinking about employees and the reasons they react the way they do - and executives and managers can’t figure out why...especially when those executives and managers have made a point of treating their people well.

Too many organizations are designed to make their employees flinch. To distrust. To expect the worst...or the best only in bread crumbs.

As a result, too many employees are taught not to speak honestly or put new ideas forward or participate and collaborate. Sometime in their past, they did. And they were taught to flinch.

No matter how much you know about the people working for and with you, you’ll never know what happened before. Even if they tell you. Because no matter how clear the words, the outcomes - emotional, psychological and, sometimes, spiritual - can never be fully expressed to or understood by others.

All you can do is watch and do your best to identify those times that your employees ‘flinch.’

You may ask the question, “why?” - but you shouldn’t count on getting a clear answer. They may not be able or willing to give that to you.

You, however, can track those times that you’re getting a response that, to you, makes no sense. As you identify those trends, you can adjust to ensure that they are able to contribute the most they have to offer. Because they want to. Because they like being there. Because they feel valued and valuable.

For all the years that WiFi and I will be together, I’ll watch for those flinches - always with the hope that, someday, they’ll go away.

What I know is that, through all those years to come, I’ll do everything I can to make that happen.

Don't Leave Before You Leave.

The first time I heard Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the 2013 blockbuster book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, it was in her 2010 TED Talk, "Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders."

In that presentation, she talked about a concept I'd never been exposed to before. At least not as a concept that could be analyzed as a regularly appearing trend in women's business behaviors.

She referred to it as "leaving before you leave" and her advice was "Don't."

In her talk, she gave a number of reasons and examples for the behavior but what it came down to - at least in the talk - was that women, in effect, gave up where men would continue to stand their ground and fight their side.

In the book, that changed. It became about young women - involved in intimate relationships or not - never fully engaging in their jobs because they were planning on leaving because of marriage, babies, life.

While I agree with her argument in both cases, I want to address and support her originating thoughts on the topic. Because women really do leave before they leave.

They give up or give in. They get angry or passive-aggressive. They stop participating. They have an attitude.

Don't. Don't do that.

If there's something wrong, try to get it fixed. If it means taking your issue up beyond your boss, take it. If it means speaking up and standing up for your ideas in meetings - and not letting the men interrupt or, worse, take credit for your idea - then speak up and stand up for yourself.

If the problem is such that it is insurmountable and all your efforts have failed, look for another job. That may be leaving - but it's leaving on your terms. You're not a victim. You're a decider.

And the company you used to work for is screwed. Why? Because you're not there anymore.

Which means that other women who see what you do will take your lead. In fact, since you'll probably get a job at a higher level in some other company, they may well be contacting you to ask if you've got a place for them.

In the book, Sheryl talks, literally and figuratively, about "taking a seat at the table." Do that. Make yourself and your value known to the organization. That's part of the stand up and speak up actions you're taking.

Then, if they insist on continuing to do what they're doing that is anathema to you, they'll feel even worse when you leave...because they never thought you'd go and now they know - even more than before - just what they've lost.

So, in short: I agree with Sheryl. Don't leave before you leave. But when you do, do it on your terms. No one else's.

Know Your Biases.

There's a number you're going to see me use time and time again. It's 97% - and that 97% always refers to what's predictable in an organization. You may not like it (or you may) - but you can count on it being 97% predictable that it will occur.

(I'll explain why in a separate post.)

Which brings us to leader and executive biases - and, most importantly, how they impact the enterprise...no matter the size, scope, industry, sector or geographic location.

And that includes the importance of knowing your own biases so that you can see how they play into the 97% for your organization that you create as a leader - but we'll get to that later.

Let me explain.

Throughout my advisory career, one of the things I've always been able to count on is that if I know the function or area of specialization that my CEO client comes from, I'll be better able to predict the kind of decisions he or she will make.

If the CEO comes out of Finance, the decisions are primarily based on financial thinking with other aspects coming second or third...or not at all. If the CEO came out of Operations, the thinking would be operations- and execution-based with the same decision-making priorities at play. Marketing the same. Technology, too

Know the background, know the bias.

Here's a very timely example: Facebook and the privacy issues it now faces.

Mark Zuckerberg is a technology genius. He's also a strategic genius seeing where the industry is and could be going and understanding how it could be commoditized more, faster and better than almost anyone else. (Remember, he's the one who said that his goal is for Facebook to be "a utility.")

What he's not good at is being a human - or at least not a human who understands the importance of others' needs. Like privacy.

Keep in mind, Facebook started on the Harvard campus as a platform specifically designed to allow men to 'rate' the attractiveness, et al, of women. It then spread to other campuses.

[TIP: Whenever possible, you want to find out originating stories - whether for a business or the people you're dealing with. Those stories always help explain what's within the 97%...which helps you make better, safer decisions and plans.]

What it didn't include was the ability for women being 'rated' to opt in nor to manage the 'profiles' that men doing the rating were creating for them.

Move forward to the larger platform and, initially, there were as good as no privacy settings - with those that did exist both difficult to find and convoluted in the extreme. And while that's improved (somewhat), for the most part, the privacy of the people who are on Facebook has been commoditized. That's the cost of being a user. The platform isn't free. You pay with your privacy.

In contrast, Zuckerberg, himself, is one of the most private people in the Silicon Valley. He carefully controls the information about him that gets out to the press - and even the CNBC commentators who fawn over his business acumen refer to his Facebook posts as "gratuitous."

His bias is and always has been toward his own privacy. Not others'.

As a result, the 'design flaws' in Facebook's algorithms are far exceeded by the policy flaws and information access options for their customers (the advertisers - not the users) that have led to what we now know is election-tampering by bad actors around the world.

It was going to happen. It was just a matter of when.

That's because the bias toward a lack of user privacy was always in play. Because that was always Zuckerberg's bias...and the organization followed suit. As they always do.

And that's why it's so important not only to know the biases of those with whom you're working but also (and in many ways more important) to know and understand your own biases.

The more you do, the more and better you'll understand your current decision-making process. As you gain that understanding, the more and better you'll be able to surround yourself with really smart people who have alternative views to yours that you'll be able and willing to hear and consider.

The more you do that, the more and faster you'll succeed.