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Let’s Stop Thinking about Ladders.

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Category: Professional Development

Margaretta Noonan, Founder of noonanWorks, has global experience with Fortune 500 companies and a record of identifying issues in complex organizations and implementing effective solutions.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Margaretta was Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer for Hudson Global. Before Hudson, Margaretta was Senior Vice President, Global Human Resources at the parent company of Monster.com.  Her retail career included time as the Vice President, HR for Kohl’s and for Lord & Taylor.

I’ve been interviewing Millennial women – the women just entering the workforce or in their first jobs out of school – about their expectations and experiences of the workplace.  Much like their male counterparts – and the Gen Xers before them – they want to know what a potential employer can do to help them further their careers.  But these women are often also open to thinking about their careers in a non-linear way.

I was introduced to a non-linear career model many years ago by one of my earliest mentors. He, in turn, had learned it from his mentor, Kiyo Morimoto, a Japanese-American who saw his family and friends spend time in an internment camp in Idaho while he fought with the US Army in Italy during World War II — that experience taught him to accept the various twists and turns that life takes and to find the beauty and learning in all things.

Using Kiyo’s metaphor, rather than looking at career progression as a ladder where one rung is higher than the other, it may be wise to think of our careers – in fact, our whole lives – as flowers where each petal is a valuable thing in itself. This is the approach that many Millennial women are taking today.

In the ladder model of career development, if you’re not going up, you’re not progressing. In the flower model, everything you add to your learning, to your experience, to yourself is a worthwhile thing.  As companies reduce hierarchies and expand the breadth of jobs, being able to find fulfillment by adding petals rather than climbing rungs will be an important skill in living a satisfying life.

My colleague Jon Glesinger, the founder of gleXnet, refers to this model as a “portfolio life.” In a portfolio, each aspect is important: job changes, friendships, family, personal growth, fitness. The weight of or emphasis on these different aspects will change over time but they all add to a full “portfolio life”.

So who’s responsible for career development? An employer owes it to employees to create an environment that fosters development and to provide the tools that enable new skills or deeper knowledge. But the burden is on the individual employee to take advantage of these tools and to be realistic about the fact that organizational pyramids get skinny at the top…there’s only one job for the CEO and only one person can have it at a time.

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Can you hear me now?

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Category: Professional Development

Margaretta Noonan, Founder of noonanWorks, has global experience with Fortune 500 companies and a record of identifying issues in complex organizations and implementing effective solutions.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Margaretta was Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer for Hudson Global. Before Hudson, Margaretta was Senior Vice President, Global Human Resources at the parent company of Monster.com.  Her retail career included time as the Vice President, HR for Kohl’s and for Lord & Taylor.

I’ve recently finished a very tough negotiation between two people I do business with.  What began as an amicable, collegial relationship between them quickly turned sour. Once the relationship started heading in a negative direction, it spiraled down faster and further than I would have imagined possible.

My role was to try to work out a financial solution to allow the two of them to dissolve their business relationship. But when I spoke to them privately, their concerns were personal. Each felt they had been misunderstood and were offended by the other person’s disrespect. They asked me questions like, “how could he say that to me?”, “I can’t believe he said that!”, “he’s questioning my integrity”, and “I never promised that!”

I became a sounding board and a compass.  When one of them would call to vent about how angry he was, I’d remind him to focus on the benefits of resolving the conflict. When the other would listen to a proposed solution and then talk about how hurt he was, I pointed out the destination.  By going back and forth between them, I filtered out the complaints and the anger and the hurt and kept returning to the facts and the desired outcome.  I allowed each of them to talk, to blow off steam, to speak candidly and feel heard – and then returned to the goal.

This negotiation reminded me that often we just want to know someone is listening.  We want our perspective taken into consideration. We need to hear that our side of the story is valid and important. In cases like this, a third party mediator can provide a “safe space” to rant and rave and vent and then remind each person of the ultimate goal.

But what if there is no third party? If you’re one of the parties in the conflict, you need to become the mediator in your own head.  Take a deep breath and try to appreciate not just the content, but also the context of the other party’s words.  If you feel frustrated, misjudged or abused, the chances are the other person is feeling the same way. Take the time to listen – not respond, but listen – to what they’re saying.  Keep reminding yourself that your goal is resolution. You’ll get there much faster if your partner in conflict knows that “you can hear them now.” Often, that simple acknowledgement reduces tension and brings both of you back to focusing on solutions.

“Can you hear me now?” is a fundamental appeal from all of us.

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Defining Leadership.

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Category: Leadership

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Leadership is an immensely broad topic that has been studied and written about from innumerable angles, but we always know good leadership when we see it. Mr. Gray of Everett Smith Group suggests we stop and reflect on what makes that person a good leader. What particular qualities make them effective and can we implement and maybe even improve upon what that person is doing?

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