Author Archives: karencatlin

About karencatlin

I'm an advocate for women in the tech industry. I coach, mentor, speak, and run workshops. Co-author of "Present! A Techie's Guide to Public Speaking."

Don’t Try This At Home

Father and son shouting at each other through megaphoneHave you heard of Holacracy? It’s a business structure that’s pretty much the opposite of corporate America. Instead of having a top-down, hierarchical management structure, with managers who oversee teams of people, Holacracy distributes decision-making across self-organizing teams who do the right thing for the business.

I’ve been thinking about Holacracy for a few years now, ever since I visited Medium in San Francisco and heard their leaders talk about it. As someone who has spent decades working in the traditional business setting, I must admit that I don’t understand the details of how strategy is determined in a holacracy, predictable business results are achieved, or how people are hired, fired, etc. Yet, I appreciate its innovative approach. The top-down structure is far from perfect.

Since I’m always thinking about leadership through the lens of parenting (and vice versa), I’ve wondered what would Holacracy look like when applied to parenting. Could a family survive, or even thrive, by holding everyone accountable to form teams to get chores done? To take care of upholding family values? To create a healthy, nurturing environment for all?

Well, my question has been answered. Check out Everyone’s the Boss, a TIME article by Kristin van Ogtrop who writes about trying Holacracy with her family. The result? Chaos—and hilarity.

My advice? Don’t try this leadership technique at home.

© 2015 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.
Photo credit: BigStock.com

My Collection Grows

Graphic of quote bubbles

My collection of parenting quotes that apply to leadership is growing! Here are some recent additions.

Parenting quotes …edited for leadership
“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.” -Hodding Carter, Jr. “There are two lasting bequests we can give our employees. One is roots. The other is wings.”
“Children thrive when parents set before them increasingly difficult, but always meetable challenges.” – Anonymous Teams thrive when leaders set before them increasingly difficult, but always meetable challenges.”
“If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.” – Haim Ginott “If you want your employees to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.”
Parents who are afraid to put their foot down usually have children who step on their toes.” -Chinese Proverb Leaders who are afraid to put their foot down usually have employees who step on their toes.”

I’m on a mission to collect more quotes like these. Parenting quotes that apply to leadership. Leadership quotes that apply to parenting. Do you have one to add?

–Karen

Image courtesy of smarnad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
© 2014 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

Whose Gifts Are Going Unnoticed?

I’ve had many requests to write about bullying on my blog about the intersection of leadership and parenting. It’s a complicated, important topic. Previously, I wrote about how advice from a teenage bullying expert could be applied to the workplace. Now, I’m exploring one teacher’s brilliant strategy to stop bullying and how to apply it to leadership. Get this: her strategy could even help the tech industry and its caboodle of diversity problems.

Ever since the Columbine massacre, there is a teacher who sets aside time each week to look for the kids who are being bullied and are afraid to speak up. And she finds them. Here’s how:

School girl looking at her paper with hands holding her head“Every Friday afternoon, she asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student who they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.

And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, she takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her, and studies them. She looks for patterns.

Who is not getting requested by anyone else?
Who can’t think of anyone to request?
Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?
Who had a million friends last week and none this week?

You see, this teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” This teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down—right away—who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.”

Excerpt from Reader’s Digest June 2014


You know those peer-nominated “employee of the month” awards? They sound a lot like this teacher’s request for “exceptional classroom citizens.”

Yet, I wonder how many managers review the submissions for their awards programs through the lens of bullying. Does anyone look for the employees whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers? Or pay attention to how many minorities are being nominated?

I know I never did. I used to run such an award for my department of over a hundred people. I loved reading the submissions and getting to know my employees better. But, not once did I think about the people who were not being nominated any why this might be the case.

Was there bullying going on in my department? I hope not. Could I have looked for patterns in the submissions to get ahead of any bullying? Or to build more engagement with employees who felt excluded from the department? I wish I had.

Most importantly, I’m asking myself if I could have used this teacher’s approach to help combat diversity issues. The software company I worked for at the time was not unlike the rest of the tech industry: the percentage of women shrank as you moved up through the org chart. If a woman were to go unnoticed in an employee of the month program, would she go unnoticed in other ways as well? Perhaps for a choice assignment that could lead to a promotion? Or an invitation to an event filled with influential people?

To all the leaders out there, I encourage you to use this teacher’s brilliant approach to get ahead of any workplace discrimination that might be going on in your organization. Look for the employees whose gifts are going unnoticed. Then do the right thing.

–Karen

Thanks to Elaine Finnell (@elainefinnell) for recommending the Reader’s Digest article.

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
© 2014 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

Piercing Through

I’ve had many requests to write about bullying on my blog about the intersection of leadership and parenting. It’s a difficult, complicated topic. In today’s post, I explore applying advice for handling teen bullies to the workplace.

Pic of big bully painted as a yellow sign on asphalt road.
Most of us first saw it in our childhood, on a playground. Maybe we spoke up for the person being bullied, maybe we didn’t. Either way, we didn’t like it.

At times, maybe we were the bully. We made fun of another kid to gain something that seemed important at the time: laughs, high-fives, or a seat at the table with the cool kids.

At its essence, bullying is using power or strength to make someone feel worthless. It comes from a position of privilege. And it doesn’t matter what the privilege is: taller, funnier, wealthier, or the right gender or race. With this privilege, the bully has power.

Perhaps you’ve also seen bullying in your professional life.

Workplace bullying can take many forms. A colleague who takes credit for another’s work. A steamroller who hijacks meetings to further an agenda. A boss who yells at subordinates. A founder who removes a co-founder’s status. A team leader who decides against listing one of the inventors on the patent application. An online stalker who makes someone fearful. The idiots who delete the open source contributions from people they don’t like.

Rosalind Wiseman is an internationally recognized expert on children, teens, parenting, and bullying. Her advice for parents and teachers? When you hear or see bullying, “pierce through it” by speaking up. Say things like, “Don’t use <derogatory adjective> in my classroom” or in my home. Kids need to see adults putting their foot down to put-downs.

As leaders, can we pierce through workplace bullying by speaking up? By pulling someone aside and saying things like, “Don’t talk over other people in my meetings” or “Don’t yell when you’re working in my building.”

Speaking up may not be the only solution, but it’s got to help.

What do you think?

–Karen

© 2014 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

(Photo credit: BigStock.com)

 

The Best Quotes for Leadership AND Parenting

Graphic of quote bubbles

I love collecting leadership quotes that apply to parenting, and parenting quotes that apply to leadership. Here are some of my favorites, both in their original form and after I edited them ever so slightly.

Leadership quotes …edited for parenting
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch “Before you are a parent, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a parent, success is all about growing others.”
“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” – Richard Branson “Train children well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”
“As a leader, you have to have the ability to assimilate new information and understand that there might be a different view.” – Madeleine Albright “As a parent, you have to have the ability to assimilate new information and understand that there might be a different view.”
“Treat employees like they make a difference and they will.” – Jim Goodnight “Treat children like they make a difference and they will.”
Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.” – Tom Peters Household management is about arranging and telling. Parenting is about nurturing and enhancing.”
Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” – John C. Maxwell Parenting is not about bragging rights. It is about one life influencing another.”
“If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” – Dolly Parton “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent parent.”
“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” —Rosalynn Carter “A parent takes children where they want to go. A great parent takes children where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”
“A ruler should be slow to punish and swift to reward.” —Ovid “A parent should be slow to punish and swift to reward.”
Parenting quotes …edited for leadership
Don’t yell at your kids. Lean in real close and whisper, it’s much scarier. – unknown Don’t yell at your employees. Lean in real close and whisper, it’s much more effective.
“Perfect parenting does not exist, and it is the imperfections that lead to resilient children.” – Rev. Dr. Katharine Schori “Perfect leadership does not exist, and it is the imperfections that lead to resilient employees.”
“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.” – Jane D. Hull “At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to an employee’s success is the positive involvement of leaders.”
“The child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering.” – Benjamin Spock “The team supplies the power but the leaders have to do the steering.”
“What a child doesn’t receive, he can seldom later give.” – P.D. James “What an employee doesn’t receive, he can seldom later give.”

And I sometimes find a quote that combines them both:

“I am endlessly fascinated that playing football is considered a training ground for leadership, but raising children isn’t.” —Dee Dee Myers

Do you have a favorite leadership quote that works for parenting? A parenting quote that works for leadership? Please share it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

–Karen

Image courtesy of smarnad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
© 2014 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

The six-word phrase that matters most

Picture of boys playing soccerDid you know there is a parenting phrase that brings student athletes happiness, confidence, and a sense of fulfillment? It’s just six words: “I love to watch you play.”

Years ago, I first came across a variation of this phrase in the program for a local Nutcracker performance. My friends’ daughter was playing Clara, and they placed an ad in the program saying, “We love to watch you dance. Love, Mom and Dad.” It made an impression on me. It was so simple, supportive, and beautiful.

I like to think that I’ve used it many times since then to encourage and praise my kids, but I’m not so sure I remembered to. However, it was top of mind when my husband and I sat down to write a letter of love and affirmation for our daughter, to be given to her at a high school retreat. Our daughter is a talented writer, and in our note to her, we said: “We love to read what you write.”

Coincidentally, a few days after the retreat, I came across Daniel Coyle’s article in the Huffington Post: Five Ways to Nurture Talent (Without Being a Psycho Parent). In the article, he shares informal research done by collegiate coaching experts about ways parents had made a positive or negative impact on their children’s development. One of the “aha’s” from their interviews is what Daniel Coyle says may be “the wisest parenting tip I’ve ever read.”

The kids reported there was one phrase spoken by parents that brought them happiness. One simple sentence that made them feel joyful, confident, and fulfilled. Just six words. I love to watch you play.

Given how important the phrase is to student athletes, and the impression it made on me when I first saw it, I started wondering how it could be adapted by leaders to make their teams feel confident, happy, and engaged with their work.  For example,

I like to watch you lead meetings.
I like to read your reports.
I like to watch you give presentations.
I like to see you help customers.

What do you think of this phrase, as a parent or as a leader? Have you used it yourself? Thinking of opportunities to use it more in the future? Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts. After all, I like to read your comments.

–Karen

© 2014 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

(Photo credit: BigStock.com)

A mantra for leadership

Picture of Anne-Marie Slaughter at her TED talk

Watching Anne-Marie Slaughter’s TEDGlobal 2013 talk Can we all “have it all”?, I was impressed with her mantra on leading people with families:

As a leader and as a manager, I have always acted on the mantra, if family comes first, work does not come second — life comes together. If you work for me, and you have a family issue, I expect you to attend to it, and I am confident, and my confidence has always been borne out, that the work will get done, and done better. Workers who have a reason to get home to care for their children or their family members are more focused, more efficient, more results-focused. And breadwinners who are also caregivers have a much wider range of experiences and contacts. Think about a lawyer who spends part of his time at school events for his kids talking to other parents. He’s much more likely to bring in new clients for his firm than a lawyer who never leaves his office. And caregiving itself develops patience — a lot of patience — and empathy, creativity, resilience, adaptability. Those are all attributes that are ever more important in a high-speed, horizontal, networked global economy.

Thank you, Dr. Slaughter, for sharing your mantra. I like it.

I bet many of you have experienced the benefits of having parents in the workplace. The business brought in from parenting connections? The efficiency applied to the job? The patience, empathy, or resilience demonstrated when the going got tough? Please share your story in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you.

–Karen

© 2014 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.