I am deep into a book called: No Fears, No Excuses: What You Need To Do To Have a Great Career by Larry Smith. In this book, he asserts that: “the grown-up world is where talent goes to die.” Reading this statement jolted me gratefully inside – as this is something I have come to realize in my own career journey and in the scope of coaching my clients in business.
You may be thinking that this statement is: “harsh” or “an unfair generalization”. Perhaps, you’re right, but I will wager that you are not necessarily wrong, but rather predictable. I say you are predictable rather than wrong, because you belong to a subset of thousands – if not millions of people who believe in a precept of work that is fast becoming a dinosaur. This precept of work includes: Choosing a degree field (preferably something that will allow you to support yourself upon graduation), studying hard even if you hate your field of study, finding an internship where you give your gifts away for free, only to search for whatever job the economy will loan to you. This my friends is the age old definition of success and job security. The unfortunate outcome of all of this is: The lot of unhappy people and wasted talent living and participating in a society that appears to being conversely impacted by a perceived lack of skilled workers.
While what I just outlined is not indicative of everyone’s career; it is the reality of the majority. Very rarely do I meet someone who says: I love my job and it is allowing me to utilize my full range of talents. In my head, I know of a handful of people in both my personal and professional circles who truly love the work they do. I know that “love” makes people uncomfortable, so let me define what “love” means in this context:
The handful that “love” their work are:
1)Doing work that aligns with their natural talents, interests and passions.
2)Fulfilled by the work, interactions and daily dynamics of the job.
3)Reinforced by having their basic needs for compensation, benefits, flexibility, long-term growth, challenge and continued learning met in return for their efforts.
Most people are not “in love” let alone fulfilled in the way I just described above. Every week, I observe the sentiments about work as we inch towards Friday. Most people, appear to be happiest from Thursday through Saturday. Sunday is a reminder that work starts in 24 hours on Monday – which brings on the inevitable social shares and/or griping about the drudgery that is returning to work. Put plainly, people are miserable and feel stuck.
Coming back to the title of this article which is: Is the “grown-up” world where talent goes to die? Is it true? I think it is. We start children off conditioning them to conform to the world rather than disrupt it. This conditioning often forces them to ignore their interests, innate skills and passions in favor of the road most traveled, lucrative and accepted. In doing this, we ship them off to university to study what seems like the best option for them. Sometimes it works out and other times a pivot emerges to the dissatisfaction of the parents, because of course we are supposed to have our entire life figured out at 22 – how reasonable!
Should we be lucky enough to get a job after graduation, more advice comes our way. The advice is: “Work hard, keep your head down, follow the rules and you will be promoted and successful in no time.” In “no time” is the operative word, because in this current economy promotions seem to be rather elusive and hard or good work is no longer a silver bullet for success on the job. By the time, people look up – they have a home, 2 cars, some kids, a dog, bills and a job that is a terrible fit for their skills and lifestyle; but the bills have to be paid, so onward with more drudgery.
For every person that works a job there is a dream and creativity deferred in the journey towards personal and professional success. We have all been conditioned to believe that holding a job whether it is a passion or not is a badge of honor – your right of passage into adulthood. More money, more bills, and more material effects are just a few of the things that define your adulthood in our current society. The problem with this rat race of superficial success is that it is superficial. Success is subjective and therefore much more to having longevity in your career than the degrees, certifications and clocked years of service.
Agreeing or disagreeing with this statement of talent dying in the grown-up or corporate world doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take a moment to realize what you want your life and contributions to stand for and taking stock of where you are so you can ensure that the two align. Here’s a hint: In the coming decades, success will not be defined by your retirement package, the money in your bank account or the amount of hours you worked – it will be about how you made an impact (however small) in your part of the world.
I spoke about success and what is means to be an adult in the modern world on my Periscope show: Ask Czarina Live. You can watch it below.
There are all of these articles about communication and engagement. I have contributed my thoughts in some of them. They are all useful in some regard if you want to get to the bottom of your engagement and communication issues. Except, we would have to include the one nuisance variable that most leaders and companies won’t cop to and that is: The cloak of silence.
We are working and living in the age of knowledge. We have more data points than we can use and have more information at our finger tips than previous generations. If given a chance, most leaders will cite wanting to understand their employees better. They want to understand things like motivations, propensity to leave, career aspirations etc.
What makes this problematic is leaders and companies want to know these things, but are often times not willing to ingest and digest the answers. Often times, when the answer they receive is unfavorable for them or the company – they react. The reaction is negative and usually sets such a tone that any further or future communication like it will be non-existent, censored and/or stifled.
Around the time of the 9/11 attacks here in NY the MTA came out with this whole campaign that said: ” If you see something, say something.” Many businesses latched onto this saying and started using it as a way to appear as though employees should feel free to share the things they are noticing and should feel safe to do so without fearing retaliation. There are some good eggs that truly stand by having an open, honest and communicative culture.
Others still, prefer a cloak of silence. They prefer for employees to be seen and not heard. These are companies that like when people speak up to praise the organization and its leaders. Companies that prefer a cloak of silence literally squash and black list anyone who dreams of raising a concern or anything deemed unfavorable for the company.
Let us examine through this example:
I worked for a company in a previous life that loved to hold town halls. If you know anything about town halls you know that they are meant to be open forums where people can come to have their ideas and concerns heard by those in power. The goal is that healthy debate and conversation is brought to the table by the constituents and those in power so that amicable solutions can be implemented.
When we had town halls, they spent weeks communicating the importance of our participation. It was even shared that no question was “dumb” or “irrelevant”. Yet, the first town hall I attended at this company was quieter than a church during Sermon. The CHRO spent an hour speaking about projects, opportunities, our organizational scorecard and then asked for questions. One of my co-workers raised her hand and if looks could kill she would have been dead. She continued to ask her question about adding additional members to our team, because of the excessive workload. Her question was answered abruptly and dismissed.
After the town hall, some of my more tenured co-workers spoke among themselves about how this employee who spoke up never learns her lesson. As in, she should have remained quiet instead, because clearly her question was not welcomed.
Every subsequent meeting and town hall was marred by a cloak of silence. We all knew that it wasn’t worth our time to ask questions or raise issues in these meetings despite what leadership was saying. They didn’t really want to know. It was all about faking their way to engagement and open communication – except they were doing a really poor job at it.
If you have noticed the same in your company here are some tips for building trust and getting your employees to communicate with you again:
1) Don’t ask questions, if you don’t want the answers. What people experience in their jobs day-to-day is very real. Don’t ask them to lie to you so your feelings aren’t hurt. Your employees have a right to not work in fear and you deserve to hear the truth so you can improve.
2) If delivery of certain messages are your concern, set a few ground rules for your town halls and meetings. Let’s be honest, sometimes intention doesn’t meet delivery at the finish line when it comes to communication. Having a few ground rules for meetings and town halls will help to set the tone. Be sure that your employees know you will abide by them as well.
3) When they speak, you listen and then take action. What is the point of having all of these data points, if you are going to simply hoard them – only to do nothing with it. When your employees speak up it’s an act of bravery on their part. The way they know that you have heard them is by acknowledging what was said and taking action.
Communicating doesn’t have to be difficult. Once you get over your own fears and needs to control what and how your employees say something – it will be a smoother ride for both parties.
Many years ago, my parents enrolled me in a camp near my childhood home. The children that attended the camp were mostly black with a sprinkling of Latinos. Besides the usual water gun fights, outdoor sports and movies – I learned something that summer. It was the goal of the camp organizers that every one of us campers learned the black national anthem. If you are African-American and you grew up in the states, you have probably heard or know by heart the black national anthem: Lift Every Voice. The camp counselors said it was important that we knew it because we come from greatness and should be proud of who we are.
All I knew back then was it was a beautiful song and it made me proud of my heritage. What I didn’t know is this song I hold dear is really a poem by James Weldon Johnson that was set to music by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson in 1899. I, also learned that the very first performance was on Lincoln’s Birthday in 1900 sung by 500 children who attended the segregated Stanton School where James Weldon Johnson was Principal.
I found myself thinking of this song recently – as I took stock of the massacres of black men and cops that have marred almost every shred of optimism and hope I have for the people of the U.S. at the moment. It got me to thinking that while it is the official black national anthem; it is a song that every citizen of this country needs to hear and embrace.
The lyrics of the anthem goes as follows (note: this is the short version):
Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.
I won’t rehash what has gone on in this country in past two weeks, because I am not yet in an emotional place where it would be received well. Instead, I will draw everyone’s attention to the importance of speaking up when things have gone terribly wrong in the world. For as vocal as we have all become about everything from why the baristas at Starbucks can’t get your name right to the terrible service you’ve received at a restaurant – we are incredibly quiet and inconsistent on standing up for one another when injustice is plaguing one of our fellow citizens.
We raise hell if we sit on the tarmac for longer than five minutes during a flight takeoff. In some cases we take to airing our dirty, frivolous laundry out in hopes that onlookers will take pity and support us in our narcissistic moments of needing to be right in the court of “Facebook Friends” ( I really witnessed this recently). Insert hashtags, creative graphics and filters for an extra show of support for some of the world’s tragedies and you have in me a woman who is thoroughly fed up with the phenomenon of “social media activism”.
What is “Social Media Activism”?
It is when you meander from tragedy to tragedy (which often conveniently excludes tragic events that affect people of color) online with no real purpose. You will throw up a Facebook filter in support of a recent tragedy, because everyone else in your timeline did – yet you say nothing of value about the subject. It is creating a hashtag in outrage of a world event or tragedy, but the movement lives and dies on social media and never gets traction in real life. Moreover, it is when you lurk looking for opportunities online to force your political agenda, views and/or hatred for others, but you stand for nothing in real life.
None of this helps anyone if you don’t say something or even better do something when tragedy faces us as a society. I was asked in a recent interview if I worry about tackling controversial topics and whether or not it will impact business. I replied with a smile and said the following: “I am at a point in my business where I am happy to work with businesses with whom I have synergy. I don’t say anything that isn’t rooted in fact, so if they aren’t pleased with my approach they can always hire the next gal.”
While I have no desire to live in the pits of controversy day in and day out, I know that I have a following and influence. I also know that having influence puts you in a unique space to educate people and raise awareness. To be in that unique space, you need to have the courage to speak up for those who cannot or who would be otherwise ignored.
There are plenty other instances when we can laugh at absurd videos, marvel at babies and kittens and have fun while being social beings. 2016 is calling us to be more than the latest viral video or business tip we are discussing for the thousandth time. Speak up, add value, educate, collaborate with a social organization to raise awareness. Do something, but do not be silent.
Some more perspective…
I have two Caucasian friends who have been in communication with me since the killing ensued in early July and if I’m honest every killing of a black person prior to as well. Their words were kind, loving and supportive. When I say “lift every voice”, say something or do something, it doesn’t have to be a huge endeavor. It can be a simple text, email or phone call to show support or merely to listen and better understand why many of us are fed up. Just don’t be silent.
My way of doing something is to educate and speak out. I will be doing just that when I return to my Periscope.tv show Ask Czarina Live this Thursday night. I will be hosting “The Black Out” Show. It will be a show to educate and to have a civil conversation about what’s going on in this country. If you are up at 11pm EST and want to join in follow the instructions in my promo graphic. Let’s be better than what I see playing out online, in real life and in the news.
A few month’s ago, I was searching for articles on female entrepreneurship. I needed statistics and facts around this topic. I was beyond pleasantly surprised to find this Entrepreneur article called: The fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in America. This article not only summarized the state of entrepreneurship for females, but it highlighted a statistic- even I was not aware of. The statistic was: The number of African-American owned businesses grew 322% since 1997. So, while entrepreneurship by females in general grew 74% from 1997 to 2015, black women blew that statistic away.
Image of Biddy Mason Courtesy of Wikipedia
I believe there are many reasons for this rapid increase in female entrepreneurs and even more so for black women taking this leap.
In this episode I will share the following:
What I believe is contributing to the rise in females becoming entrepreneurs in general.
What factors may be contributing to the rise of the businesses owned by African-American Women?
What does this mean for the future of work?
Great statistics, but is there room for improvement?
If Entrepreneur can put this topic on blast, so can I. We are going to explore all sides of female entrepreneurship this week.
To get your palate wet for this week’s discussion, check out these articles for more insights:
I’m calling out all mompreneurs, womeneurs, solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, boss ladies, and even aspiring female entrepreneurs to join me on Thursday at 11pm EST/10pm CST/8pm PST for “Ask Czarina Live”.
Good News! I promised you that I would be posting the replays of “Ask Czarina Live” to “The Aristocracy of HR” You Tube Channel for those of you not ready to take the Periscope plunge. Fortunately, I have been enlightened that an app named Katch.me exists. Katch.me saves all of my Periscope episodes so I can share and download my episodes. If you’re on Katch, you can check out “Ask Czarina” replays there. Otherwise, I am happy to announce that my replay from last week is up on “The Aristocracy of HR” You Tube Channel.
As usual it will be fun, fresh, and insightful. I look forward to seeing you there.
Want more? Click here to watch the latest “Ask Czarina” episode. Subscribe to “The Aristocracy of HR” You Tube Channel to be notified when new episodes are published.
Good Morning HR Aristocrats! Are you mourning the end of the summer like I am? We are on the heels of fall and I have lots of new content across all of my channels to share. This week, I decided to take a bit of a break here, but wanted you to know about new content I have elsewhere. If you’re looking for some good reads and wondering where the “CzarinaofHR” is- you can find me in these places:
Synopsis: The post is about knowing when it is time to delegate work or outsource some of it- so you can be a more effective entrepreneur. I regularly contribute at Womeneur. Please check them out for some great content from some of the top women professionals and entrepreneurs.
Synopsis: Did you know that women-owned business has grown 74% since 1997? Women are taking entrepreneurship by storm and I find it not only fascinating; but an enduring trend. Just Haves.com is a lifestyle blog founded by Justine Santaniello, Lifestyle and Trend Expert. Look for more from me on her blog this fall and check out her blog for more great content. Also, join Justine on Wednesday night at 8pm for her #JustHaves Twitter Chat. Great topics, Lots of fun.
Synopsis: Where there is a union, there is often a culture of mediocrity. When you have employees with a sense of entitlement and management that is too fearful to ensure that union members play by the same rules as their non-union counterparts- it can be disastrous. If you’ve worked in a union environment and want a fresh perspective- take a peek.
Synopsis: I will be featuring my business this evening on “Black Biz Scope”. What is #blackbizscope? It is a community that promotes and supports black-owned businesses. They do this by allowing black business owners to present their businesses during 5-10 minute slots on Periscope. To be introduced to some great businesses and owners, tune in every Friday from 10-11am EST and 6:00-7:45pm EST. I will be on tonight at 7:45 EST to present my business: Talent Think Innovations, LLC. If you are on Periscope, follow me at: @CzarinaofHR.
To round out my list of endeavors this week, I have a new Ask Czarina up on “The Aristocracy of HR” You Tube. Have you subscribed yet? If not, subscribe now to get regular updates on future “Ask Czarina” shows. You can find my latest here.
Summer is over…practically, but there’s lots to be excited about as we slip into colder weather. Thanks for reading and supporting me. I appreciate every eye that graces this page.
Here is one of my favorite summer songs and I quote it in my latest “Ask Czarina”. Have a great weekend!