Transitions: My First Week As An Entrepreneur

As my regulars know, I’ve recently left my job as a Verizon Wireless executive to pursue my entrepreneurial dream. I promise that my blog will continue to be about ways to support you.

With that said, I’ve received so many wonderful notes and lots of questions about what’s next as an entrepreneur, that I figured there were others who were curious, but not asking. I imagine my own angst can be helpful to others in the midst of such transitions. I would love to hear your stories.

Q&A On Early Transitions

Question: What’s your biggest surprise one week in?
Answer: My new boss is a handful.

Her heart’s in the right place, but she’s hard to keep up with. Her passion is contagious, but sometimes it just wears me out. I think sometimes she forgets we’re just a small team. I’ve tried to explain, but she’s got this new entrepreneurial spirit thing going. Not sure she’s listening. You see, the tricky part is, my new boss is me. I’ve become the boss I wish I had, and I’m swimming in imperfection.

I suddenly have a new realization of what it must have been like to work on my teams all these years. I’m having flashbacks to what one of my leaders said after working with me in a new gig for a few weeks. Yikes, we’ve been running so hard, my watch is spinning around on my wrist from all the weight I’ve lost.

Back then, I took it as a joke and a compliment. We were having fun and had great momentum. But maybe, this sweet Southern gentleman was also kindly trying to tell me to slow down, that I was creating a cloud dust of deliverables that were hard to keep up with.

A week in to being my own boss, I’m experiencing what my own teams have felt from me passion, impatience, extreme focus on results, and lots of work.

It’s a humbling exercise to be the visionary and the one who must execute. I’ve got more to-dos than I can possibly do.

Question: Did you leave Verizon because you hit a glass ceiling?
Answer: No.

Verizon leadership goes out of their way to develop and promote women. I have been surrounded by amazing women and men mentors and examples over the years, and continue to have these supportive people in my life. I left from the right box on the grid.

If I hit a ceiling, it can better be described as an authenticity ceiling of my own making. I have very strong leadership values which I stick to. It became more important for me to lead in the way that I felt most compelled to lead than to organize my leadership around what would best position me for the next level.

Question: Aren’t you scared?
Answer: Of course.

Entrepreneurship is highly personal. There’s no one to blame but me. Every swing and a miss, makes me sad. But the base hits are worth it. But besides all that, it came to a point that I was more frightened of the consequences of not doing what I felt most called to do.

I don’t want to leave this world contributing less than I should. I resonate with Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on innovation. It’s starting to feel that I’m supposed to be responding to things happening through me. That’s hard to ignore.

Question: What are your first steps?
Answer: Head clearing, strategic planning, website/video development, building on partnerships, and book launching.

Honestly, I need some unwinding. I’m mixing in some yoga and kickboxing with the strategic planning and other work. I am resisting the urge to do too much doing until my priorities and strategy are solid. With that said, I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of the leadership media crowd in support of my book launch.

I’m spending a lot of time in interviews, podcasts, and other media responses. That’s been a BLAST. P.S. If you’ve enjoyed the book, I would love to have you write a short review on Amazon with all the media commotion, we could use some help in the basics.

I’m also delighted to be collaborating with a highly talented group of management consultants in a group called Agamie, each of us bringing different areas of expertise. We have some exciting possibilities brewing.

Question: What’s the focus of your new company?
Answer: Helping companies achieve transformational results by building rock-solid front-line leadership teams.

The new website coming in early May will share the whole story stay tuned.

Question: Do you have other books in the works?
Answer: Yes.

Overcoming An Imperfect Boss is tapas. It will be an exciting 2 years.

Question: Will Let’s Grow Leaders stay the same interactive community?
Answer: You bet!

Only stronger. We have many new subscribers, and more people joining the conversation. Amen. If you’ve never shared a comment, join the fun. It’s much more exciting to be involved.

Imagine There Are No Talent Reviews

Sara called me excitedly: “Karin you know how you’ve been encouraging me to take a lateral move to broaden my experience the perfect job just came open. I can really imagine myself in the role. Can you put in a good word for me?”

“Imagine all the people…”
~ John Lennon

Excellent, I thought. Sara was so convinced she was ready for a promotion, but I knew she had a little more growing to do before she was ready. She was right. This job was perfect for her, and I was glad she was willing to consider a lateral move. I called HR immediately to ensure she would be considered.

“I’m sorry Karin, you don’t have Sara listed as high-potential on the performance-potential grid.” We’ve been told to reserve lateral moves for succession planning candidates.”

Huh? Just how did that make any sense? I understand using the grid to define pools for promotions, but were we really going to stop developing everyone else? Besides if a solid performer can’t be promoted, and can’t move laterally, are we really going to just let them stagnate in the same job? Surely this HR person was confused, so I took it a level higher.

The next conversation went something like this: “Well, I’m not saying we’d never consider Sara for such a move, but maybe you have her in the wrong box. I can move her to high-potential now, if you’d like and put her on the slate.” Okay, now it was getting even more stupid. Systems that need to be played are never effective.

4 Reasons Talent Review Systems Break Down

John Lennon had a point. Good systems can have dangerous side effects. Talent reviews are an important part of a healthy succession planning and development process. Here are few reasons to be careful:

  • Organizations & Priorities Change – I went back and looked though the grids I had used in my organization as an HR Director years ago. Many names from the best parts of the grid have since been promoted and having strong careers within the company. But other high performance-potential candidates have been recruited away or have left to start their own companies. Sadly some of whom we’d invested the deepest development had been caught up in mergers, downsizing, and other drama. There were also people who had been once deemed lower potential now holding significant leadership positions. They’d missed out on much of the development we offered to the others who are no longer around.
  • People Change – I’ve seen organizations get so hung up on doing succession planning down to the lowest levels of the organization, that managers get labelled as high potential or low potential very early in their careers. Labels are hard to change, even when the people do.
  • Potential Is Subjective – Every leader has their own definition of what constitutes high potential. Even with reasonable calibration politics, personality and favoritism can get in the way.
  • Feedback Gets Watered Down – The big rules in most talent reviews are what’s said in the talent review stays in the talent review. Makes sense, to a point. You want people to speak freely without fear of third hand feedback. But if leaders are saying things about a manager that they would not say to that manager, how will they ever grow? I wrote about this in more depth in: “Talent Reviews: What They’re Saying Behind Closed Doors”.

    I’m all for replacement and succession planning. Such processes support more deliberate and fair leadership selection. But don’t fall into the trap of only focusing serious developmental efforts on your shiny stars of the moment. Limiting rich development to the top 20% of your team is a waste. Imagine the power of tapping into ever human being on your team’s most powerful potential.

    PS: Now that I’m an entrepreneur, I was delighted to be featured for the first time in Entrepreneur magazine with my story, Why Sucking Up is Bad For Business.

13 Stupid Sentences That Will Derail Your Career

I wish HR would teach a course on the really stupid sentences people say at work. Oh, I’m not talking about he obvious stupidity: “you look hot in that dress” or “hey baby”. There’s training and rules for that. But there’s no code of conduct to protect against the stupid, dis-empowering words I often hear up, down and sideways.

Before writing this post, I decided to do an informal stupid sentence poll through social media. The responses fell into two big categories: Stupid sentences that deny accountability and stupid sentences that prove you are clueless. I’ll start; you add to the lists.

Stupid Sentences That Deny Accountability

  1. That’s Not My Job (#1 by a landslide) – Although we all know this, someone is still out there saying it. Stop it, it’s stupid. Instead, help all you can.
  2. That Decision’s Above My Pay Grade – The really wacky part of this one, is that I hear it most often at the higher levels of the business. Please, please don’t say this. And whatever you do, don’t say it to someone at a lower pay grade than you. They count on you to advocate for what’s right, not shrug your shoulders and roll over.
  3. I Wasn’t Aware – This one is commonly used to throw someone else under the bus. Trust me, you look like an idiot. “Let me find out more”, “I’m digging in”, and “I’m here to help” are all acceptable replacement statements.
  4. My Team really Screwed This Up – No one really says this do they? From my experience and the poll, yes. Sometimes out loud; sometimes by just being silent. Own your team’s mistakes and help them fix them and learn. There’s no better way to gain credibility up and down the chain.
  5. I Can Always Get Another Job At Twice The Pay Some Place Else – Okay, if that’s really true, and you’re disgruntled with the rest of the scene to say that out loud. Just saying. Be careful.
  6. I Just Don’t Have Enough Time To Do That – If it’s not a priority say that. If it’s important discuss what else could move.
  7. It’s Not My Fault, It’s The Other Department’s Mistake – Let’s assume that’s true. Taking the high-road would look like ________________? Who and how would that help?
  8. Stupid Sentences That Prove You’re Clueless

  9. That’s A Stupid Question – As much as I want to throw up every time someone says there are no stupid questions, the truth is leaders keep saying that because other leaders are out there making people feel stupid. Stop it.
  10. What’s Wrong With Them – If your team’s not performing, the problem starts with you, not them. Could be selection, systems, rules, leadership. Figure it out, reverse the direction of your finger-pointing.
  11. That’ll Never Work – If I had a nickel for every time my team proved me wrong or I proved someone wrong, the truth is that just because it didn’t work in the past doesn’t mean it won’t work now. Put away old biases and really listen. Consider a pilot or some other form of toe-dipping. Most importantly, be a receptive and encouraging leader.
  12. That’s The Way We’ve Always Done It – We get that. Now be a leader.
  13. The Employees Need To Realize They Are Lucky To Have Jobs In This Economy – Okay, so grateful (and without choices) that they _____________. I know you’re not saying these things, but research has shown many someones are.

Thanks to the folks at Lead Change and Twitter for weighing in.

In Other News…

bookcoverI was delighted to have been interviewed about my new book, Overcoming An Imperfect Boss on the powerful podcast: The Business of People In Leadership. Amazed at the stories he got out of me including my most embarrassing leadership moment. Click here to hear the podcast.

Want to know more about the book? Click here to download a sample chapter.

Already read it? I would love to see your review on Amazon.