Thursday, March 17, 2016

Working Out the Changing Nature of Our Work

Did you see Sally Krawcheck’s post this week about career transitions and the changing nature of work? Yes, that Sally Krawcheck, once one of the highest-ranking women on Wall Street who left Citigroup during the global financial crisis because she clashed with management about doing more to protect clients who’d been burned by investments that Citi sold them. Krawcheck is now the CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women, to be launched later this year.

We’re not here to plug Ellevest, whose goal is to
close our country’s “gender investing gap.” We’re here to call attention to career agility for employees, business owners and independent contractors alike. Krawcheck’s argues that successful careers will increasingly be built not by climbing the ladder at one organization, but by finding interesting work at many different organizations and building one’s skill base and contacts through strategically-planned lateral moves. Keep this in mind if you or a close colleague or client is considering a career “pivot.”

Most businesses are changing, pivoting and being disrupted at lightning speed. Krawcheck points to “the forces of technology and globalization are fundamentally altering any number of industries; that means what worked for decades won’t be a given any longer, she said. Whether you’re in media, financial services, technology or any other line of work,
Krawcheck argues that we have less job security than ever before, but more career flexibility and business startup opportunities thanks to cloud-based computing instead of buying servers, shared workspaces instead of multi-year leases, video-conferencing instead of business travel, crowdfunding instead of venture capital money or bank loans and freelancers instead of full-time hires. We couldn’t agree more.

Krawcheck offers five keys for success in the new world of work and we’ll weigh in on each below:

1. Successful leaders will ditch corner offices as well as a strong, decisive management style. Instead, the will encourage
open-mindedness, intellectual flexibility and an interest in understanding others’ perspectives. Our take: All good attributes, but without strong decisive leadership—and having an ultimate decision-maker willing to make tough calls, you are vulnerable to analysis paralysis and institutional inertia that plagues so many academic and not for profit organizations filled with smart, talented people. Also, whether you’re at the helm of a Fortune 500 company or the ground floor of a startup, company leaders need to close the doors to the office from time to time in order to think things through and have private conversations (see #4 below).

Embrace a certain intellectual discomfort and a willingness to fail. This one can be tough because Krawcheck argues that females tend to take a failure harder than men do, personalizing it. We agree you have to embrace discomfort and be willing to fail in order to get better—we don’t think women take failure harder than men. Failure’s hard for everyone. We all fail. It’s all about how quickly you can bounce back. Let’s not confuse willingness to talk about failure with feeling the sting of failure, Sally.

3. Get comfortable being criticized. Krawcheck says this is another tough one for women because “so many of us were socialized to prioritize relationships.” We don’t agree. You can’t learn or get better if you don’t receive constructive feedback from your clients, peers, bosses and subordinates, regardless of what your gender is—or theirs.

4. Give yourself the time to really think things through. Amen to that! We agree with Krawcheck that It’s more easily said than done in our hyper-connected 24/7 world. But you’ve got to do it. One thing that works well for us….turn off your email and text messaging SEVERAL TIMES EACH DAY. Unless you work in a hospital, air traffic control tower,  emergency dispatch center or missile control room, for how many things in our work lives really demand an immediate, ASAP, instantaneous response?


Finally, Krawcheck advocates “playing in traffic.” That means going out and engaging with people, getting a feel for a new industry or position. Don’t wait for a headhunter’s call or a colleague to pick up the phone—be proactive, she added. Or, as ancient Roman philosopher, Seneca the Younger famously observed: “Good luck happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Keep plugging away. Listen to your self and make your own breaks!


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