Friday, February 21, 2014

8 reasons to join us for the February 25 kickoff to the Emerging Women Leaders Webinar series

Jo Miller, CEO, Women's Leadership Coaching, Inc.
Will you join us for the Tuesday, February 25 kickoff to our 2014 Emerging Women Leaders Webinar Series?

Here are 8 reasons to register now for the year-long, six-part series:

 • Reason #1: Learn new skills for handling office politics in a positive, effective way.

 • Reason #2: Hear seasoned women leaders share their secrets for leading and advancing.

 • Reason #3: Build an influential network that supports your career goals.

 • Reason #4: Stand out and add value to your company by being entrepreneurial.

 • Reason #5: Skillfully resolve tricky management situations.

 • Reason #6: Keep yourself and others motivated and engaged at work.

 • Reason #7: Energize your workplace women’s initiative.

 • Reason #8: Get instant access to more than 35 past webinars on career advancement and leadership.

 • Bonus reason! Low-cost leadership training for your women’s network.

Don’t miss the kickoff webinar, Win at the Game of Office Politics on February 25.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Do you know where the bodies are buried?

By Jo Miller

According to idiom decoder, a person who knows where the bodies are buried is "Someone who by virtue of holding a position of trust with an organization for a long period of time has come to know many of the secrets that others in more powerful positions would rather be kept secret. An implication is that the person knowing these secrets will use that knowledge to secure something of value for him- or herself." Frank Underwood's staff on House of Cards come immediately to mind.

But it's not usually that sinister. You have probably heard the phrase used to refer to colleagues who have access to practical business information that while useful, isn't always readily available.

In her article How to Unlock the Hidden Secrets of Your Office, Jennifer Winter, writing for The Muse, describes a certain type of individual who has gained access to hidden information, resources and opportunities. As a result, they "... always seem to have dibs on all the great projects, front row seats in the important meetings, and opportunities to advance into positions that no one else even knew existed."

The problem is, most people don't stay in jobs long enough and most organizations change too frequently to allow for accumulating this type of deep history and relationships. It's hard to know who to go to to get access to that insider information. One thing is certain: accessing this information can help you be more effective in your role while negotiating your way toward the next role. Every organization has these individuals, and if you are not one yourself, it is useful to know them. Here are Jennifer's recommendations for how to do that.

Do you know where the bodies are buried? Perhaps not, but it is likely that you know someone who knows someone who does.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Are You On Fire… Or Burned Out? What Top Leaders Do to Stay Motivated and Engaged at Work

Image courtesy of fotographic1980 /

By Jo Miller, CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching, Inc.

It happens to all of us at some point: a slight dip in our motivation, a troubling ripple that makes us question how eager we are to do our jobs, let alone excel in them. And yet, when we look around, there is always someone on fire for their job. Someone who never seems to question, or doubt, either their performance – or their dedication.

So how do they do it? How do some leaders stay motivated and engaged at work while others fizzle and burnout before ever reaching their full potential? To find out, I surveyed ten female leaders from the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry, asking them both “what motivates you at work” and “what demotivates you”.

While I had expected to hear some varying answers, I was truly stunned by the response.

Motivating People With… Other People

In answer to “What motivates you?”…

• 9 out of the 10 mentioned a particularly common theme, all of which had something to do with those they work with. The answers I got included “moving forward as a team”, “achieving as a team”, “helping my team”, “watching my team achieve success”, and “helping people achieve their best.”

This was big news. Before asking this question, I had assumed that the traditional motivators of promotion, increased responsibility, expanding skill sets, professional challenges and even monetary gain might have some weight. But the overwhelming responses indicated that people were the real motivating factor for nine out of ten leaders polled.

Now, let’s examine how those same leaders could occasionally feel less than motivated… and why:

Demotivating People With… Other People

In answer to “What demotivates you?” … not a single person mentioned being demotivated by the demands of their job, tasks, to-do lists or business conditions. Mirroring what motivated them, for this particular group of executives, it was ALL to do with people:

• Poor communication;
• Micro-managing;
• Naysayers;
• Office politics;
• Nit picking;
• Complaining;
• Negativity;
• Lack of understanding and appreciation;
• Lack of consideration for other team members;
• Making demands without taking time to listen…

Again, this trend was a revelation, and one that led me to a greater understanding of the role we play, as individuals, both as team members and team leaders.

Parting Words

Here’s what I learned from this simple survey:

If you’re looking for ways to stay motivated and engaged when you come to work every day, look no further than to those around you, and know that your actions have a direct impact on the motivation of those you work with.

Jo Miller is CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching, Inc. and a leading authority on women’s leadership. 

Connect with Jo 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Emerging Leader Spotlight: Lindy Kao, Magento

This month we are pleased to feature emerging leader Lindy Kao, Senior Engineering Manager with Magento (owned by eBay, Inc.) out of California. Lindy believes that to go far you must be an authentic and honest person; thanks for “taking the lead” Lindy!
Question: What is the most important thing you have learned that has been critical to your career success?

Keeping a positive attitude has been especially significant during tough times to hold people together. I have also learned to be adaptable and flexible when business priorities change. And great execution is key to producing results!

Question: What key steps did you take to get to the role you are in today?

Lindy: By working hard, producing results and sharing the positive outcomes with my colleagues and managers.

Also, I enjoy meeting and connecting with people, and I am not afraid to seek advice from those who inspire me.

Question: What is your leadership style?

Lindy: I trust in the people I work with. By having trust, we collaborate well to achieve shared goals. I also maintain the “Keep It Human” behavior to build stronger relationships.

Question: What tools or resources have you used that have been crucial to your success?

Lindy: I love technology and ecommerce, so I follow some websites and Twitter to keep myself up-to-date with latest information. 

For inspiration, I love to read books; one of my recent favorite books is “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, it really struck a chord with me.

I also enjoy watching inspiring TED speeches and attend leadership workshops.

Question: What steps are you currently taking to improve yourself, professionally?

Lindy: I am cognizant of how I connect with other people while creating a strategic network. Being self-aware is key as I strive towards improving my leadership brand and visibility within the company.
Question: What is the next step you plan to take in your career to develop your leadership skills?

Lindy: I have begun the process to enroll into an emerging leadership program at the company and plan to volunteer as a mentor for others. 

Also, I meet weekly with a great interpersonal communications teacher (Joseph M. Madda of Sherman Oaks, CA) to improve my communication skills.

Question: What professional accomplishment or result have you achieved in the past year that you are proud of?

Lindy: Recently, I helped my team beyond the scope of my job responsibilities and was pleased to have played a part in the end result, which was featured in a TechCrunch article. As an added bonus, I was highlighted in our company’s newsletter as a contributor to the project.

Question: What are some top tips you can recommend to other women who want to be recognized as a high potential emerging leader?

Lindy: It is in your hands to develop your career. You must identify your values and then use them to produce results that align with your company’s needs. Never shy away from sharing achievements. Also start networking and build contacts with those who can help you advance.

Jo:  Lindy, this is so true and aligns perfectly with our February theme of office politics and learning about the power of the dynamics in your organization. Thank you for sharing your story!

This Month Learn New Skills for Navigating Office Politics

By Jo Miller

What if you really, really don’t like dealing with office politics? Would it help to know that you’re not alone?

Dealing with office politics can be difficult and frustrating. In LinkedIn’s 2013 survey of 954 professional women, 23% reported that their biggest work frustration was office politics.

But you can’t afford to ignore it, because politically savvy people do better in their careers:

by the Center for Creative Leadership showed that those who are politically savvy have better career prospects, better career trajectories, and are seen as more promotable.

Thats why we are devoting the month of February to helping you develop the skill of positivepolitical savvy. Because as one of my twitter buddies, Karen Clark put it, You can't opt out — you have to learn to navigate.

Read more about how to build positive skills for navigating office politics effectively:
And join me, live on February 25 for the 2014 kick-off to our Emerging Women Leaders Webinar Series: Win at the Game of Office Politics.

Monday, February 10, 2014

See No Evil: Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore Office Politics

By Jo Miller

Office politics. Cliques. Hierarchies. Alignments. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t do business without ‘em. But what if you really, really, really don’t like dealing with office politics?

Would it help to know that you’re not alone? Good, because you’re not; far from it:

Office politics is difficult and painful

Researchers Marian N. Ruderman and Patricia J. Ohlott recently discovered that many female managers feel that engaging in political behavior is difficult and painful. Some even viewed it as “evil”.

Evil may be a rather strong word, but my experience has been that most women find it hard to see how navigating office politics can be anything other than a negative experience. Not only is it unpleasant, but office politics can be a hard task to master.

According to a pre-workshop survey of 100 aspiring women leaders in hi-tech who attended my workshop in 2013, only 2% “strongly agreed” that they knew how to navigate office politics in a positive, effective way. But that’s all about to change:

Politically savvy people do better in their careers

So we’ve established that if you don’t exactly jump out of bed every morning, excited to go to work and play the game of office politics, you aren’t alone. But at the same time, you can’t afford to ignore it.

Research by the Center for Creative Leadership showed that those who are politically savvy have better career prospects, better career trajectories, and are seen as more promotable. They are also less likely to succumb to career- limiting derailment.

An author and expert in careers, Erin Burt notes, “Avoiding (office) politics altogether can be deadly for your career. Every workplace has an intricate system of power, and you can — and should — work it ethically to your best advantage.”

Any way you slice it, office politics are here to stay. But the good news is that there’s a simple way to master it:

You can learn to be positively politically savvy

So what can be done to make office politics more palatable and easier to navigate? The answer: build the skill of being positively politically savvy.

The authors of Political Skill at Work (Davies-Black, 2010), the result of over two decades of research into organizational politics, claim that political skill is not necessarily manipulative. “…properly applied,” they say, “it makes good things happen, both for those who use it and for the organizations in which they work.” They identified four competencies of the positively savvy:

1. Social astuteness;
2. Interpersonal influence;
3. Networking ability;
4. Sincerity.

In other words, build your influencing and networking skills, and do it with sincerity – and positivity – to succeed. While you’re doing that, pay attention to the social dynamics that surround you at work, and you’ll build positive skills for navigating office politics, and as a bonus – become more promotable.

And that’s not evil at all, is it?!

Additional Resources:

• Ruderman, M.N. and Ohlott, P.J. (2002). Standing at the Crossroads: Next Steps for High-Achieving Women. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
• Women and Political Savvy By Jean Brittain Leslie
and William A. Gentry, Ph.D. Center for Creative Leadership. October 2012.
• Political Skill at Work: Impact on Work Effectiveness by Gerald R. Ferris, Sherry L. Davidson, Pamela L. Perrewt.


Want to learn more about how to navigate and win at office politics? Join me live on February 25, 2014 for Win at the Game of Office Politics, the inaugural webinar of the 2014 Emerging Women Leaders Webinar Series.

Already a member?
Log-in here.
Not a member? Register now.

Connect with Jo:

Ask An Executive: Winning at the Game of Office Politics—A Q&A Session with Nina Simosko of Nike

By Jo Miller

Office politics is a game many find difficult to win, but play we must if we want to succeed in business. One person who knows how to handle office politics – in a positive way – is Nina Simosko.

In her position at Nike, Inc., Nina is responsible for leading the creation and execution of Nike Technology strategy and operations world-wide. In addition, Nina currently serves on the Advisory Boards of Taulia, Inc., Appcelerator Inc. and K2 Partnering Solutions.

I asked Nina if she would be willing to be interviewed about the topic of office politics. “I love this topic!” she exclaimed, accepting the invitation with great enthusiasm, adding: “I cannot believe you had trouble getting anyone to jump in on this.”

And love it she does! After the webinar wrapped, many participants still had questions; so Nina, in true rock-star style, blogged answers to all of them!

Since we are unofficially appointing February 2014 as “Office Politics Month we are revisiting a few of the important questions/answers that Nina responded to, below:

QUESTION: Do you feel you MUST engage in office politics in order to be considered successful? Jane, WA

NINA: Politics are a reality and one must not ignore them or do so at their own peril. I am not a fan of politics, but I have learned that ignoring them can have negative consequences. So, I do believe that we all must understand the nature of the politics within our respective companies and participate to the extent necessary.

QUESTION: It seems inauthentic to go around trying to build relationships just for the sake of furthering my career. How do you find time and organically meet with influencers? Christine, TX

NINA: One of the very best ways to connect with people is to offer to assist them in some way. Especially in these challenging economic times, there is no shortage of people who feel overwhelmed and could use some assistance. If you are able to authentically connect with and assist folks with things of importance to them, then they will want to repay the favor and will be available to you when needed. Surely, if it is perceived that you are only reaching out to help yourself, this will not achieve the best outcome. Your efforts to connect with others must be authentic.

QUESTION: Can you comment on our ability to change the game of office politics rather than adapting? Kelly, WA

NINA: Changing the game is very difficult, if not impossible. However, that said, it may be worth trying in some circumstances. In my own career, I have had to learn the rules of the game in each of the companies that I worked for. However, I was able to create an environment more of my choosing within my team which downplays politics and fosters more open communications.

QUESTION: What advice do you have for taking risks and navigating regarding office politics in the current environment of lay-offs? Michelle, WA

I think that risk taking is an important factor in ones success or failure. Calculated risks that are well thought out and appropriately discussed with management are the right types of risks to take and when done properly have the support or acknowledgement of superiors. For me, in these difficult times where we are all being forced to do more with less, those that are unwilling to take appropriate risks are not being as creative or innovative as they could be. It is such creativity and innovation which will ultimately help us pull ourselves out of this economic turmoil and I strongly encourage those in my teams to think in these ways....but to be smart about it!

QUESTION: Nina, what are some of therules of the game that you have encountered? Shelley, TX and Kay, CA

NINA: I have encountered issues of being the only woman in the room, being younger than many of my colleagues, etc. but I have always kept my focus on delivering value and results. I believe, based on my experience, that outcomes matter the most. If you can deliver what is needed, gender, age and other things are less important.

QUESTION: At what point do you determine that the politics are not in line with your values and that the organization is not the right one for you? Janet, CA

NINA: This is a subjective decision as each of our values are personal. However, I would not recommend anyone stay in a position where they believe that they would be encouraged or forced to compromise their values or morals. Of course, these economic times may demand that we do all that we must to keep our job and income, but at some point, we all get pushed too far. Fortunately, I have not had such situations occur in my career.

JO: In my experience, women tend to stay longer than they should in a culture that is not a match, or in positions where a manager is putting a lid on their career development. Building relationships and getting to know people better can do a lot to build appreciation of diverse of values and perspectives, so give that a genuine effort for at least a few months.

Thanks, Nina, for answering these questions so thoroughly.


Want to learn more about how to navigate and win at office politics? Join me live on February 25, 2014 for Win at the Game of Office Politics, the inaugural webinar of the 2014 Emerging Women Leaders Webinar Series.

Already a member? Log-in here.
Not a member? Register now.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

New to the Job? Three Steps to Help You Hit the Ground Running

"Image courtesy of wiangya/"

By Jo Miller

“Don’t spend your first month mastering the tasks listed on your job description. Instead, by taking time to build relationships, listen and get the lay of the land, you will gain confidence and momentum rapidly in your new role.”

It’s never easy to start a new job, assignment or project, particularly when you’re eager to make a good impression and prove your worth from day one.

I recently spoke with a C-level leader from the retail industry about the importance of quickly getting “the lay of the land” when coming into a new position. “The first step that I take when taking on a new assignment or a new project is what I call ‘surveying the landscape,’” she said. “I study my surroundings and I try to understand the people and processes that drive value in that particular area.”

With that in mind, here are three simple steps to take to quickly survey the landscape when you start a new position (and insulate yourself against office politics as you transition into the role):

1. Prepare to Become the Go-to Person.

Start your new role by making a list of key stakeholders in your department/team. Before you set out to meet those key people, develop a 30-second “commercial” – or elevator pitch – that concisely explains your role, your responsibilities and how you can be of help. Share three concise bullet points that describe your role: your name, your new job title and what you are responsible for.

Encourage the person to go directly to you whenever he or she needs to by sharing three more concise bullet points that describe the reasons why this person should seek you out, such as former experience in such matters, willingness to grow and current availability.

Share your 30-second commercial at every opportunity as a way of educating others about your new role, the value that you add and why they should come to you. Speak it with confidence. By consistently introducing yourself in this way you can shape how others perceive you in your new role and set yourself up as a credible authority and go-to expert.

2. Find an Influential Friend
Next, scope out the local talent and try to find someone who is well regarded – and well-connected – in your new group and find some time to talk. The person may be your new manager or someone who appears to have some influence in the team. Let her know you appreciate how knowledgeable and well connected she is and that you would appreciate some advice as you begin your new role.

Review the organizational chart with them and ask:

• Who should I get to know?
• Who else do I need to introduce myself to?
• What questions should I ask them?

From these answers, create a checklist of names and create a plan to connect with each person in your first month on the job.

3. Embark on a Listening Tour.
Finally, take a “listening tour” by connecting with every individual on your key stakeholders list. The purpose is not just to introduce yourself, but to have a purposeful and educational discussion with each one of them during your first month in the job.

In each conversation, discuss ways you can help each other. Also listen for additional information that will help you uncover the people and processes that really drive value. In particular, gather intelligence on these categories:

• Informational powerhouses. These are individuals who keep a finger on the pulse of what is going on in the organization, the industry and the broader business environment. By tapping their knowledge of historical data and emerging trends, you will soon find yourself empowered to make better business decisions more quickly.

• Influencers. Listen for the key people of influence – those who have an enhanced ability to lead change and make things happen. They are not necessarily found in high-level or high-profile positions; pay attention to who holds influence regardless of their job title.

• Coalitions. Look for groups of people who have formed groups that work together effectively and freely share information, resources and opportunities. Ask yourself, “What do they have in common? What is the social glue that binds this group together?” This will give you insight into working more effectively with those groups and individuals.

As you begin to quickly categorize such individuals, you will better know who to align yourself with – and how.

Parting Words
Don’t spend your first month mastering the tasks listed on your job description. Instead, by taking time to build relationships, listen and get the lay of the land, you will gain confidence and momentum rapidly in your new role.

Jo Miller is CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching, Inc. and a leading authority on women’s leadership.  

Connect with Jo: