Archive for the ‘Ask Linda’ Category

Stretch Money Goals

June 21, 2011

Stretch Money Goals, an Excerpt from Chapter Three: Money Issues, from our upcoming Ask Linda e-Book

Dear Linda,
My husband and I make plenty of money to support ourselves and our two young daughters in the style to which we’ve become accustomed. But it seems like the more we make, the more we spend, the richer our tastes. Is this normal? Any thoughts on what we could adjust?
Dear She, Congratulations to your family for both being marketable during trying economic times! You should also be commended for being self-aware enough to think about the deeper issues around money, how it addresses basic human needs, how it provides stimulation, comfort, empowerment, and many other things. Here are some thoughts on how you can work with your family to build alignment on money goals and objectives so that you can support the needs of all around money – personal, emotional, financial, spiritual.
1. As a family. come up with a minimal budget for basic needs. Depending on the ages and interests of your daughters, they may be recruited to manage some of the basic needs from clothes and food shopping to pet care. Knowing the costs of basic necessities and salary requirements will help all parties be more selective about discretionary spending and work choices.
2. There is a second level of need beyond the basic need, but one that the whole family finds important. It might be a summer vacation, private school, outside sports, etc. This is something that everyone agrees is very important, and something that you as a family should commit to.
3. This choice should also be fair for everyone in the family, so that there’s a minimal chance of resentment. Ideally, it would be an equitable, or perceived-equity investment in time and money for all parties.
4. Beyond this, there should be an open discussion about what’s important to each of you, and how important this is to everyone else. Costs and responsibilities should be allocated to each desire, and a conversation should be had about the circumstances of when the family as a whole can make this commitment.
5. Just as there is a conversation about out-go, there should be a conversation about income, and not just about income, but the career choices of the wage-earners. Depending on your personal comfort level, you could talk big-picture with the family in terms of corporate vs. entrepreneurial job choices, or to the nitty-gritty details about salary, bonuses, etc. But you and your spouse should be completely transparent and in agreement around job choices and career paths.
6. Budgeting and healthy financial choices will likely mean sacrifices at some level for all family members. Don’t feel the martyr for making a sacrifice – think of it as a choice you are making to support your family.
7. Even if you are financially able to do so, don’t choose a world where you and all your family members feel that you can have everything you want it, when you want it. You probably know families who make those choices, and it can’t bode well for their finances, or the choices their children make around money when they make their own.
8. Talk about how money can feed your long-term dream, and that of others in your family.
9. Learn from mistakes you may have made/are making around money choices.
10. Plan on a future where you will be financially free.
I hope that these thoughts will help you focus on stretching your money goals, and your thoughts around money overall.
Best of luck,

Male-Dominated Teams

June 8, 2011

Dear Linda,
I’ve been with my company for five years, and love my work. There has been a lot of transition in the office, and I am now the only female on the team, working with seven males. A couple of the new male team members are changing the team dynamic and making it less collaborative and less fun. Any thoughts on how I can help change things back to where they were when there were more women on the team?

Dear The-Only-She,
It’s hard to be the only female member of a team, particularly when there used to be more female representation. Here are some thoughts on how to better be heard in a male-dominated team.
1. Make it more about the results than about the gender. If your filter is that you are the only female on the team, they will more likely have that filter too.
2. Know the objectives of each meeting, of each task, and focus on driving results in alignment with objectives, working collaboratively with your team.
3. Build relationships with all team members, and work with them to leverage their strengths and support them in achieving personal and team objectives.
4. Be proactive and direct with your communication whether it is written or verbal or nonverbal.
5. This is especially true in times of conflict. Be strong enough to park the emotions and focus on clear communication on the issues, leaving out the drama and feelings as much as possible. It’s not that you should ignore that part, it’s that you would be more respected if you addressed these needs outside the relationship and speak to the facts in your interactions.
6. Join them in their cultural norms in interacting with each other, but also make it clear that you have a clear line, and you won’t cross it.
7. Know how they are playing politics and jockeying for position, influence, recognition, money, etc. and respond accordingly. Don’t fault them for playing these games. It’s just the way they may want to work, and better to try to fit in within your own standards than to rock the boat if it doesn’t need rocking!
8. Choose your battles. Know which ones are worth fighting and go with the flow if it’s not. As a rule of thumb, if you integrity and competence and reputation are questioned, make an unequivocal stand. But if *how* they do something is different, try to work within their system.
9. Help recruit and grow your team. Aim for good people, not just for more women!
10. Build a support network of women and men who can help you make a stand for integrity and competence within your team, and help grow your team’s successes which would benefit all.
Best of luck to you in this cause,

This letter on Male-Dominated Teams is an Excerpt from Chapter Two: Politics and Power, from our upcoming Ask Linda e-Book

Bridging Silos, an Excerpt from Chapter Five: Collaboration, from our upcoming Ask Linda e-Book

June 2, 2011

Dear Linda,
I’m a new product manager for an up an coming start-up with great promise. I like my team, the management, the work . . . it’s all good. But the squabbles between groups, the finger-pointing, the subtle undermining of efforts is starting to get to me. I’ve tried speaking directly to the offending parties and I’ve tried to mediate when I can, but could also use your advice on how to get everyone on the same page. She-who-is-feeling-silo-ed

Dear She, I do feel your pain, and must comment that this is unfortunately very common. It’s a difficult and necessary task you are taking on, but if you are able to resolve the issue, your company will be positioned for success, and your people will be much happier in the process. Below are some ideas which may be helpful to you.

1. Identify all the silos and who is in which silo. It might be obvious that there is a silo between marketing and sales for example, but dig deeper and find out any divisions within each department.
2. Interview all parties and work to understand the motivations and history of the silos. Be a good listener. Don’t judge or fix at this stage.
3. Weave together the stories and motivations to create an understanding and communicate your findings in a documented presentation and report.
4. Work with each group to understand the report and to engage everyone in bridging the silos.
5. Get commitments on action and focus on actions and measurable results.
6. Have the group identify actions which bring up barriers between groups and agree to self-monitor and discourage these actions for yourself and those around you.
7. Reward based on results, on transparent communication and on collaboration across silos.
8. Agree on measurable indicators of progress and publicly chart your progress, acknowledging people and groups for their participation.
9. Welcome new goals leveraging strengths across silos and build cross-functional teams to focus on these goals.
10. Encourage and support leadership within and across silos and encourage all to keep raising the bar.

Best of luck with your noble endeavor!

Money and Relationships

May 25, 2011

Dear Linda,
I know that the economy stinks right now, and that my husband and I have it easier than most. However, our squabbling over money is driving us both over the edge. I’m more a spender, and he’s more a saver, but it generally works out after we talk it through. But lately we have to talk through what we do about everything around money. Is this normal? Any advice?

Dear She, I sympathize with your situation. It is stressful to have money woes, and to fear that you *may* have money woes, and also disconcerting to be watched closely, especially around money. Here are some suggestions on how to work with your husband to ease things up.
1. Come to general agreement on necessary and discretionary budgets based on current salary.
2. Agree on what you could do collectively or independently to increase overall salary, but make a plan based on what you’re making now. You may also elect to make plans for what you would do with more discretionary monies, once additional monies flow in.
3. Be fair and even generous in listening to your spouse and what’s important to him. And be clear and direct about what’s important to you. Don’t put his needs first, but don’t put your own first either.
4. With money and relationships, there is always a history. When working through what you want to do now, its normal to have old upsets and feelings come up. Listen to yourself and your spouse and let the old issues come out. Current agreements should support both parties and help everyone put past issues in the past.
5. This conversation may lead you to realize that you are not living within your means, going into debt for expenses you may or may not need. If this is the case, accept it and work with it. Find a way to increase income and decrease outgo. It might take some belt tightening or even some drastic measures to correct things, but better to realize and deal with the problem than to bury it and act like nothing is wrong, until money squabbles arise.
3. Sometimes an object or possession holds charged emotions for one party or the other. This may or may not arise with the conversations and with reflections, but if it does, deal with it head-on and work together to resolve the issue.
4. If you have been with your spouse a long time, you might find that one party or the other has changed his or her perspective around money. A spender might become more of a saver going into middle years, for example. So the other party might be expecting past perspectives and behaviors and feel surprised and even betrayed by the change in outlook and behavior.
5. Share money earning or spending goal together, and build a new collaborative bond around money.
6. Celebrate successful communications and ongoing achievements, not necessarily in an expensive way, but in a meaningful way so that you feel in alignment with your spouse on money goals.
7. The big picture is that money impacts our view of ourselves, and how we see our lives. Working with the spouse to get on the same page around money is critical to your personal health, that of your spouse, and that of your relationship overall. So find a way to be fair to both parties around all money issues.

This is a difficult and ongoing issue for many relationships. I hope that the advice above helps you with yours.

This is a letter on Money and Relationships, an Excerpt from Chapter Three: Money Issues, from our upcoming Ask Linda e-Book

Embracing Diversity, an Excerpt from Chapter Eight: A Cow’s Eye View

May 18, 2011

Dear Linda,
I consider myself a fairly open-minded, receptive person, and find my comfort zone really being stretched in my new role as project manager with international teams. I keep hearing that voice in my head judging my team mates for the choices they are making (mostly out of work) and the other-voice-in-my-head saying that having a range of opinions, perspectives and outlooks is important for any team. Do you have any suggestions on how to better embrace diversity, and where to draw the line?
She who wants diversity, but not sure how much

Dear She,
It’s really great to be self-aware enough to acknowledge these conflicting viewpoints. Here are some ideas for helping you think through your stand on diversity.
1. Know your own judgments and buttons. You are human and for whatever reason, some things will bother you more than others, so accept and work with that.
2. Build relationships with all team members that extend beyond the project. Meet with them in person if possible, or over video or over the phone.
3. Choose to work with people you successfully worked with in the past.
4. Decide what doesn’t matter and what actually impacts the quality and timeliness of the work to be delivered.
5. Manage only behaviors which impact the work delivered.
6. Leverage cultural differences to help team members better deliver *and* better support others.
7. Manage time differences fairly so that everyone is equally accommodating and no one feels more or less important.
8. Notice when you experience an emotional response to a team members behavior and understand why you are responding in this way, and then why they are responding this way.
9. Know when it’s not about embracing diversity, and make stand for embracing competence. Sometimes people use their differences to distract from incompetence, so . . .
10. Keep open minded about how teams do their work, and focused on moving the needle forward.
Best of luck with this challenging task!

This letter on Embracing Diversity is an Excerpt from Chapter Eight: A Cow’s Eye View, from our upcoming Ask Linda e-Book.

Clarity of Purpose: Corporate Strategy

May 12, 2011

This is an excerpt from our upcoming Ask Linda eBook, on Corporate Strategy part of Chapter Seven: Clarity of Purpose

Dear Linda,
I’m the new product manager for a promising division of a prominent technology company in Silicon Valley. I am thriving in my new role and really enjoying the experience for the most part. However, every once in a while, there’s a conflict between what my group and product team are doing and the overall direction of the company. Its not serious, but it does make me wonder about the stability of the product team and the direction of the company. any thoughts?
She who is looking for alignment.

Dear She, congratulations on your new role, and glad that you are enjoying it. It’s good to recognize that there is a misalignment between the corporate strategy and that of your group. Here are some ideas on what you can do about it:

1. Decide why you chose this company and this product and how its objectives aligns with what you want to do, where you want the product to go.
2. Consider how what you want, what the product teams mandate is, and the overall corporate goals are in alignment – at the moment, the overall trends, and where it is heading.
3. Know your walking point – when your product or company strategy is to far from your own, when the distance between the product and company objectives are too great. Be prepared to walk under those circumstances, or just to stay the course, knowing that the situation is less than ideal and keeping a lookout for what’s next.
4. If you are invested in the company and product team, decide at what point you should approach someone about the perceived lack of alignment between the overall corporate strategy and your product team objectives.
5. Then work out the strategy for doing so – the who, how, why, when, what.
6. Your strategy should be collaborative between groups, and engage at all levels. It should have a win-for-all objective.
7. Your strategy and message will not likely be well received, so you must be tough, resilient and persistent. Most of all, you should anticipate who might not like what the message is and why.
8. You should also listen deeply and well to how others are responding and what their motivations are for this response and adjust your strategy accordingly.
9. Recruit executive sponsors and outside partners who have vested interest in this alignment.
10. Measure and communicate results and evolve plans for building alignment between your product team and corporate strategy.

Best of luck with this challenging but essential task!

Mending Fences with Alliance Partners

May 4, 2011

Dear Linda,
I have new high-profile job in strategic alliances and my charter is to build and strengthen an alliance with a former (and current) competitor in specific niche areas. We have had a relationship with this company for years, and it has not always gone well, so it has been difficult to launch new relationships and programs. Do you have any suggestions on how best to do this?
Dear She, it sounds like you have a very tough and very important job. I hope that the advice below helps you bridge the two sides.
1. Kudos to your company for hiring you and making a commitment to mend fences and collaborate with a partner who is also a competitor. This type of leadership and thinking will become more prevalent in the emerging economy. Find out who from the management team is behind it and build a relationship with him or her to ensure that you deliver what they have in mind, and understand why there is enough interest to put money and people behind it.
2. Along a similar vein, why is this important to the management team from the other side?
3. Research the history of the relationship – what went right, what didn’t go so well, what’s broken now, what commitments are outstanding, etc 4. If you can fix something that’s broken, try to do so. If you can’t, at least be transparent and talk about it and reach an agreement.
4. Bring input and suggestions from these conversations to the stakeholders at all levels on your side or better yet, both sides.
5. Either start with a clean slate or build upon progress already made and get consensus first internally and then collaboratively with your peers on the other side.
6. Make sure that all parties affected are part of the communication thread and are empowered to give feedback and suggestions and input.
7. Communicate directly and transparently to all parties, especially when there is turmoil.
8. It’s difficult to get people to get along when they are not so inclined. They may go through the motions for awhile, but unless there is mutual respect and trust, it’s nearly impossible to keep people on the same page, marching toward the same objectives. So build relationships and consider making team changes if relationships aren’t destined to gel.
9. Because it’s a difficult task and stakes are likely high, it the grounding and support you need to stay focused, to not take things personally, and keep things in perspective.
10. On the up-side, if you can do this well, you would be well-positioned to do similar and even more challenging leadership and collaboration tasks, something certain to help you rise up the corporate ladder.
Best of luck in mending those fences!

Values First

April 28, 2011

Dear Linda, I seem to be in conflict both at home and at work and wanted to get your advice on how to build better alignment with my spouse and family and with my team and management. I’m not sure they are related, but Ill bring them both up because I’m experiencing similar incidence at home and at work.
My husband and I have two children, and are having some small quarrels about vacation choices and limits and consequences around the kids and their behavior choices – nothing serious, but always these little annoying conversations. The same is true at work where I’m a product manager. there are conversations about features, timelines, deliverables, budgets, you name it! It’s so overwhelming when both and life are a handful and there’s no reprieve. Is it a coincidence? do you have any recommendations?
She Who Is Overwhelmed

Dear She, I offer my sympathies as its difficult to keep it together when its coming at you from all sides! i recommend having a priorities and values conversation with your spouse and with your peers and executive management team. Find that alignment that brought you together, the shared values that will keep you together and work together to make it easier to make choices in alignment with these priorities and values. Here are some top ten ways how you can leverage to get there.
1. Know your whole core values and how they have expressed themselves in your personal and professional life. Notice when they have caused friction in either and see if the current pattern is another example of such.
2. Have a values conversation . . .
3. We believe that how you do one thing is how you do everything, so values-based conversations at home and at work will be similar.
4. If you can find little alignment, get help and give yourself space to air out feelings which might be causing a gulf in your relationship.
5. Work together to address this gulf, or decide together to agree to disagree, or not to bother bridging the chasm, and plan accordingly.
6. You don’t have to be in full alignment on all values, or even all important values. Decide to stay together and agree to disagree where it makes sense, and be sensitive to day-to-day activities which might circle around this area of sensitivity 6. Engage all parties in the priorities and values conversations and enlist them to sign on to how they can support a joint effort to improve collaboration and results. This is the same at home and at work, but the players are different!
7. If you find that you have compromised or are compromising your values too much, make sure this is the case and find the data, the facts about how actions and decisions are making you uncomfortable and work with others at home and work to make changes to better align with your own values.
8. When making a spouse decision, or hiring decision, it’s so important to have that values discussion up front. Even if it didn’t happen during the honeymoon period, it’s not too late to open up the discussion, even if things are going well. And especially if there is a new, big project (or family addition) planned!
9. You will be happiest within a family and within a company if you share values. As a parent or leader, you also have the responsibility to teach, train, reward, educate on values-based choices and decisions. Focusing on the smaller decisions and actions will help ensure that the bigger decisions head in a similar path in alignment with values.
10. Celebrate your victories, and appreciate that its a journey and will not remain fixed, but will keep changing and evolving, hopefully for the better This is a thorny issue, and not easily addressed, but we hope that the advice above from the people we’ve worked with will help bring clarity for you.
Best of luck,

Leveraging Roles and Responsibilities to Optimize Life-Work Balance

April 21, 2011

April 21
Roles and Responsibilities, an Excerpt from Chapter One: Life-Work Balance, from our upcoming Ask Linda e-Book
Dear Linda, as a new mom and an up-and-coming product manager, I’m feeling quite overwhelmed. Of course my baby and my family are my first priority, and I want to be the perfect wife and mother. But I also have a lot of responsibilities at work, and an understanding but demanding boss. How can I do it all? She who-is-overwhelmed
Dear She, Congratulations to you and your family! I’m sure that you and your husband had many conversations about how to manage work and life prior-to-baby, but things change when it actually happens! Below is some advice I’ve culled from successful professional moms from our network.
1. Decide not to have it all, and not all at the same time.
2. Once you’ve decided that, decide which roles and responsibility you want to do, or are especially good at, and allocate the time to do those things well. Is it cooking? Is it playtime? Is it reading a book to your child before naptime?
3. List all the other things that must-be-done, but not necessarily by you. Then work with your husband and others in your network to decide who gets delegated what over what period of time.
4. Outsource the little, unimportant things. Find a way to pay for them. It’s worth it!
5. Build a network of other families with similar values and interests and support each other in your work-life balance targets.
6. Share your advice and resources with this network.
7. Welcome change, although all change can be stressful. Life would be dull without it.
8. Change your agreements on roles and responsibilities as things change for you, your husband and your child.
9. Decide to enjoy yourself, whether you’re at work or at home. Don’t get stressed over something that is not your direct responsibility at the time.
10. Celebrate your successes and enjoy the ride.
Best of luck as you being your journey. I hope that you find the advice helpful.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

April 13, 2011

April 14
Credit Where Credit is Due, an Excerpt from Chapter Two: Politics and Power, from our upcoming Ask Linda e-Book
Dear Linda,
I’m told that I’m really good at what I do, but also that I need to learn to play the game of politics better to climb the corporate ladder. I like having new ideas, and getting people to come to consensus, but it’s really hard to do so in a meeting where there are people who take the credit for my ideas at the meeting or outside the meeting. I try not to get mad at them, but it’s sucking my energy, and it makes me mad to see them rewarded for their behavior. I’m not sure if I want to sign up for more of this. I just want to be nice and to be liked and to be effective. Should I just mind my own business, do my work well, and stay out of the political foray? She-Who-Wants-Credit

Dear She, Yours is a common issue. Most of us want to be liked AND effective, and none of us want to be seen as the ‘dragon lady’! And it’s only natural to expect rewards for the work you do, and to be upset if someone takes the credit for it. Here are some tips to help you get the credit you deserve for the work you do well.
1. Decide it’s OK to take the credit for the work you’ve done, and accept that you may get more visibility and responsibility and opportunity for doing just that.
2. Be clear in your communication about what you are planning to do for each project and the results that you deliver. Ensure that the key players are informed of your progress. Don’t be afraid of blowing your own horn. Make it fact/data-based communication with measurable, quantifiable results.
3. Be clear on your role and the role of others involved in the project and who should get credit for what. Spread the credit as widely as possible, and engage as many as possible in the successes.
4. Build relationships with all members of the team, all who will be participating in meetings. Know the motivations and perspectives of others on the team, and support them in achieving their goals, and ask them to support yours.
5. If and when someone takes the credit or violates a trust inside or outside a meeting, decide to be direct with them. Know the facts and filter out the emotional impact of what happened. Then approach him/her in an unemotional way about the facts and their implications and try to come to a consensus about how to move forward. This is not easily done. But finding a common objective, and collaborating to reach those objectives will help reach consensus.
6. If there are repeated infractions and lack of trust, create boundaries for how and when and under what terms you will work together. Call them on small infractions so that it doesn’t escalate into larger ones. Stop seeing yourself as the dragon lady if you do so. And don’t do it in an emotional, reactive way, so that they are less likely to see you as the dragon lady.
7. Focus on the positives and the results and you will see that there will be increasingly more positives and results.
8. Choose who is on your team and which team you work with based on past history and successes. Many times, the team may be more of an indication of success than the project.
9. With that said, choose a project that will likely have a large impact on the company, and recruit a stellar team for that project.
10. Celebrate when you do a great job, and invite invested others to join in the celebration.
Good Luck! Keep raising the bar on what you do and how well you do it, and make sure that you get the credit for doing so!