Most professors find the insight that leads to new books in pools of data, focus groups, or controlled studies. Adam Grant, the young Wharton professor who made waves with his 2013 book, Give and Take, got the idea for his latest volume in the real world. In a recent interview, Grant told me that several years ago, he passed on an opportunity to invest in Warby Parker, the wildly successful online glasses retailer. Why? He didn’t recognize the potential and originality of the company’s founders and their business model. “I study behavior for a living, and I was still wildly wrong,” Grant said. “What can we learn from that?” To read more, click here.
If you haven’t read the book Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time, by Stanford business school professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, you are missing out. Pfeffer lambasts the leadership development industry — including business schools, human resource departments, authors, and leadership programs and coaches — for being clueless about the harsh political realities of the workplace, and for promoting behaviors that are aspirational rather than practical. To read more, click here.
A while back, while shopping for clothes, I almost purchased T-shirts that were (most likely) made by slaves. The only thing that stopped me was remembering this video, which popped up while I was scrolling through my social media newsfeed. The video shifted my self-centered perspective, and I realized that what constitutes a good deal for me is, most likely, a bad deal for someone else. To read more, click here.
The time I spend lounging around a swimming pool is rarely productive (I’m no Michael Phelps). Pools make sense to me when I am exhausted and lazy, wishing to do something but not much of anything. In my mind, pool time is simply an aquatic version of a nap.
Not so for Stephanie Pollaro, who discovered her life’s purpose while lounging by her backyard pool in 2003. Flipping through a fashion magazine, the 23-year-old spotted an article about human trafficking. For the first time she realized that, all over the world, young girls are sold by their families or lured away under false pretenses only to find themselves trapped in slavery. To read more, click here.
Most of us agree that the concept of work-life balance is a myth —and that it only reinforces the zero-sum thinking that work is work and life is life. The delayed gratification inherent in the learn-earn-return model of career stages doesn’t resonate with our innate desire to live each day to the fullest. To read more, click here.
If you haven’t studied conscious capitalism, you should. Doing so helped me answer a question—actually, the question—that ran through my mind for years while working as a leader in a large corporation: Does it pay off in the long term to focus almost exclusively on improving financial performance, all too often to the detriment of employees, vendors, and customers? My intuition told me that this was no way to run a business. And it turns out that my gut was right. To read more, click here.
When I grow up, I want to be Vicki Escarra.
Escarra is the CEO of Chicago-based nonprofit Opportunity International, an organization dedicated to eradicating poverty by providing microloans. From my perspective, she’s a rock star not only for what she does but also for how she got there. As she recently told me, Escarra lives by Howard G. Buffett’s philosophy that “each of us has about 40 chances to accomplish our goals in life.” To read more, click here.
Let me set the scene: This friend called me for advice about transitioning to a startup. She started the conversation by telling me why she’s leaving her current employer. After years on the fast track, always pegged as a high potential, she was sidelined—not because of her performance, but because of her pregnancy. To read more, click here.
Last week, a friend of mine quit her job without having another one lined up. (And she’s not independently wealthy; like most of us, she needs to work.) On the surface, her actions appear impetuous. But a deeper look reveals careful planning. For the past 18 months, Julia (not her real name) has been working two jobs: a day job and a “side hustle.” To read more, click here
We’ve all faced the same question during the course of our careers, sometimes more than once: Should I stay or should I go? But after asking ourselves this question, too many of us end up making nonsensical decisions. Last week, I had a conversation with an executive who was seriously considering a lateral move to a small, family-owned company. When I asked him why, his only justification was that he’s fed up with his company’s toxic environment.
But running away is not a strategy that builds careers. When making job decisions, the best approach to leaving is actually doing everything you can to stay. To read more, click here.
Working on your own, calling the shots, deciding what to do, when and for whom: often, the most effective way highly skilled professionals can get their jobs to work for them is to work for themselves. As I’ve already shown, the entrepreneurially minded may decide to “lean out” and start a company they want to work within. But others—particularly those facing the dual demands of challenging careers and parenting—may not have the time or resources to start their own firms. Instead, they can lean out in their own way, by setting up shop as sole practitioners. To read more, click here.
Earlier this month, I traveled to Nepal as a volunteer with K.I. Nepal, a humanitarian NGO dedicated to ending human trafficking in that country. Upon receiving an invitation to facilitate this workshop, my first response was a relatively emphatic “no.” After all, I reasoned, I don’t speak the language or understand the culture, I don’t have much experience working with NGOs, I don’t know much about human trafficking, and I harbor no desire to climb Everest. I thought there must be someone else more qualified and more motivated, all the while wondering why anybody would voluntarily trade their holidays for workdays in one of the poorest countries in the world, 8,000 miles from home. To read more, click here.
He’s the guy next door. He’s a generous, gregarious, and hard-working dad with two kids. But because he made his living selling drugs, he’ll be in a federal prison for the next 20 years—an absentee player in his former life.
We’ve all heard this kind of anecdote before; it’s the same story with different names: Jeffrey Skilling, Bernard Madoff, Nick Leeson. Each tale is shocking in scope and scale. Each one continues to amaze, leaving those of us living honest, simple lives shaking our heads and asking, “How could they be so stupid?” To read more, click here.
If you’re tempted to ask your boss, “Am I your guy?” don’t bother.
My guess is that you probably already know his answer.
Rather than asking your boss a question that will raise, rather than squelch concerns, it’s much more productive to ask yourself: “What would my successor do?” After all, if you think you may be replaced, you might as well replace yourself (with your new-and-improved self) and get your boss thinking about how you are the answer to his prayers rather than the cause of his problems. To read more click here.
Ever found yourself in the workplace doghouse?
We are selfish creatures. At our best, we reach out to others in their time of need, sometimes at great personal cost to ourselves. At our worst, we spend our time and money on wants, not needs, oblivious to our good fortune relative to others.
Recently, my daughter asked me what I want from Santa.
Looking into her sweet brown eyes, I didn't have the heart to tell her that what I want -- need -- Santa can't give me.
During these difficult times, I need a lot more "we" and a lot less "me."