Tag Archives: leaders

Three steps for saying “no” without making it personal

“Sorry, I’d help you if I could, but I’m tied up doing this other thing for someone else.” It’s a common way to beg off new requests, but it may have the unintended consequence of slighting the asker. There’s no doubt you have legitimate reasons for not being available. But there’s still the risk that you’ll make your boss or coworker feel like a low priority when you pass the buck in the process of telling them “no” or “not right now.”

Here’s how to decline an impromptu request without making it personal, bruising egos, or hinting that someone or something just isn’t that important.

Step 1: Stop and listen

When someone asks, “Do you have a minute?” at work, don’t rush past or just keep your head down. Stop, look them directly in the eye, and focus on the conversation. The tendency is to say, “Sorry, I’m in the middle of something” or (staring at the computer screen), “Think it can wait?” But a true test of leadership–at every level of the workforce–is to make time for others even when it isn’t convenient.

So when someone has the courage to reach out to you and ask for a moment of your time, take it as an opportunity to influence and inspire. Give them the time of day–and your full attention.

Step 2: Don’t start with an excuse or play favorites

Whatever you do, resist the urge to let them know you’re working on a project for someone else, even if it happens to be true. Say a customer calls you with a request. Often the first thought that comes to mind is, “I’m super busy with another task, so I can’t get to yours for a while.” Keep that thought to yourself.

Same goes if your boss pops into your office and asks, “Do you have a minute? I’d like to discuss a new project with you.” You might feel overwhelmed with work at that moment, but you’re likely to create resentment if you reply, “Listen, I’m deep into this other project and really have to be out of here by 5:00 today.”

Playing favorites is no better than giving excuses. It’s totally understandable why you’d want to prioritize requests from senior leaders over those of your peers or more junior colleagues. But handling requests for your time based strictly on others’ ranks isn’t a smart idea, either. For example, a manager running from one meeting to another might reply to a subordinate who’s asked for a moment of her time with, “I’ve got a meeting with our VP” or, “Catch me later, I’m heading out to a customer meeting.” What she’s really saying is, “There are more important people than you.”

Team leaders need to show respect not only to the people above them but to those they manage. If a team member sticks his head into your office and asks, “Do you have a minute?” and you’re running to the CEO’s office, say, “Yes, give me an hour and I’ll be back in my office” or, “How about tomorrow morning?”

Step 3: Indicate that you’re supportive (or at least intrigued)

This isn’t the same thing as committing to help, right now or even ever. It’s just a matter of indicating that you’re open to offering support, including if you have to say “no” to this particular request in this particular instance. Your first response should be, “I’d be pleased to help you” or even just, “Tell me more.”

If you’re pressed for time, you might say, “This sounds exciting. Can we meet tomorrow to go over the details?” Show that you’re there to help but need a little more information to decide exactly how. You might realize after sitting down to discuss things later that you’re not the best person to handle the problem. In that case, just make a referral: “I know the perfect person to help with this.”

Then again, you may learn more about the request and decide that you do want to help. Should that happen, you need to be as good as your word–no matter whether it was a longstanding commitment or something you agreed to help with off the cuff. Even if another important task crops up, don’t renege on the promise you’ve already made or swap one commitment for another.

These three steps can help you decline unexpected requests for your time and attention without hurting feelings or communicating the wrong thing. But no matter how haywire things might get around the office every now and then, the key is to make everybody feel like No. 1 in your book, not No. 2–even if you can’t lend a hand this time.

design employment • Re: Employment ads that want it all..

It’s true that being solely responsible for all these things is tricky. Just from a time management point of view.
Especially if you have to deal with several leaders within the company.

But a certain proficiency in the different areas is definitely important and I also don’t think it is strange that an employer would ask for skills besides sketching and CAD.
In my role, I do assume the responsibility for the ID of a product itself but I also do have to frequently deal with graphic design tasks (make presentations, place artwork on products) or create models.
I don’t have to be an expert in these things but I should have a good understanding.

Personally I think it’s great to be involved in all the different creative fields that make up a product experience. As ID, I am probably the person who knows the vision and story of the product most intimately so being part of the whole process to help carry through a cohesive story is definitely important to me.

I don’t think I would be interested in a job where I was told to only sketch all day and not would be part of the other creative parts.

Natural Disasters and Environmental Events

This post was collaboratively written by Liz Barry, Greg Bloom, Willow Brugh, and Tamara Shapiro. It was translated by Mariel García (thank you). Español debajo. Every year, communities are affected by “extreme environmental events.” These might include hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, or floods. There are, of course, official response agencies with mandates to rescue, feed, heal, and rebuild; however, the true first responders are always people who live in the affected regions — neighbors and community leaders. […]

Melania Trump unironically announces cyberbullying campaign

Melania Trump isn’t standing down from her anti-cyberbullying platform. On Monday, the White House announced the first lady’s new initiative, “Be Best,” which focuses on three issues: online bullying, well-being (“promoting values such as healthy living, encouragement, kindness, and respect”), and opioid abuse.

These are all worthy causes, and no one can argue with the importance of, for example, supporting families and children affected by the country’s opioid crisis. But the first lady’s decision to follow through on her promise to address cyberbullying leaves many perplexed, if not infuriated, by the irony of it all. Does she not know that charity begins at home?

Throughout his theatrical Twitter history, President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked, belittled, or poked fun at perceived political enemies, celebrities, even Kim Jong-un. He called Meryl Streep “overrated,” Rosie O’Donnell a “total loser,” and Oprah “very insecure.”

Some of this feels lost on Melania, who seemingly ignores the behavior in her own house, or the Mar-a-Lago wing, or wherever the president tweets from. When the first lady spoke out against bullying at a U.N. luncheon this past fall, the Twitterverse reacted in complete confusion. Was Melania trolling the American public? people wondered. Still, she has moved forward, officially implementing this cause into her new program, which one might easily presume is her way of sticking it to the administration.

During a White House tech summit in March, the first lady addressed the controversy, telling the tech leaders present, “I’m well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing this topic.” She added, “I have been criticized for my commitment to tackling this issue, and I know that will continue. But it will not stop me from doing what I know is right.”

The initiative promises to help American children speak with “respect and kindness,” despite the fact that their own president seldomly does so when defending his reputation–or ego.

In the initiative introduction, Melania writes:

Technology is constantly evolving. So are the risks associated with it. You can reduce these risks by talking to your kids about how they communicate–online and off–and encouraging them to think critically and act in a way they can be proud of.

Details from the initiative are shared via a “new” digital booklet titled, “Talking with Kids about Being Online.” It’s billed as a collaboration between Melania Trump and the Federal Trade Commission, except it’s nearly identical to an FTC booklet produced in 2014.

The guide defines cyberbullying as “mean-spirited comments” and offers suggestions on how to handle such offenses. “Don’t react to the bully,” it reads. “If your child is targeted by a cyberbully, keep a cool head.”

Let’s hope Melania slips one of these booklets under Trump’s separate bedroom door.

design employment • [Portfolio Included] When Looking For An Internship…

Hi everyone,

I am currently in my Junior year studying ID. In school, we are asked to incorporate the entire design cycle and while I appreciate the holistic approach, I yearn to invest more in research, strategy, and design thinking.

My passion for research is rooted in gaining a deep understanding of users; from culture and experience to psychology and needs. Subsequently, I’ve studied the leaders in this field (IDEO, RKS’ P/A, etc.)

Ultimately, I am open to any ID related internship, so I decided to treat my portfolio as a sneak-peak, emphasizing the breadth of skills I’ve learned in college. Some of the most consistent feedback I’ve received is if more info is needed, I can present the interviewer with a process book that thoroughly explains the thought behind each project.


- Do you have suggestions on how I can maintain a condensed portfolio while emphasizing research/process?
- The forum is full of information for students, however, is there anything specific you can recommend regarding my portfolio and career interest?


Fired FBI director James Comey reveals how Apple and Google’s encryption efforts “drove me crazy”

In his explosive new book, A Higher Loyalty, fired FBI director James Comey denounces President Trump as “untethered to the truth” and likens him to a “mob boss,” but he also touches on other topics during his decades-long career in law enforcement—including his strong objection to the tech industry’s encryption efforts.

When Apple and Google announced in 2014 that they would be moving their mobile devices to default encryption, by emphasizing that making them immune to judicial orders was good for society, “it drove me crazy,” he writes. He goes on to lament the lack of “true listening” between tech and law enforcement, saying that “the leaders of the tech companies don’t see the darkness the FBI sees,” such as terrorism and organized crime. 

I found it appalling that the tech types couldn’t see this. I would frequently joke with the FBI “Going Dark” team assigned to seek solutions, ‘Of course the Silicon Valley types don’t see the darkness—they live where it’s sunny all the time and everybody is rich and smart.’

But Comey understood it was an unbelievably difficult issue and that public safety had to be balanced with privacy concerns. Towards the end of the Obama era, the administration developed a technical plan to show it was possible to build secure mobile devices and still allow access to law enforcement in certain cases. During one Situation Room discussion on the issue, Obama acknowledged, “You know, this is really hard.” Comey’s first reaction was “No kidding” but he also appreciated the former president’s humility.

President Trump’s views on the issue remain unclear. During the FBI/Apple’s standoff over the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, Trump denounced the company and called for a boycott. But while other top Cabinet officials, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have been outspoken about the need to “overcome encryption,” the president hasn’t said much on the subject.

Volunteers are backbone of community resilience after disaster

The most critical relief efforts after disasters like a hurricane or earthquake involve getting food, water, and power to those in need. But an equally devastating problem can make or break a community’s resilience.

That “silent killer” is a lack of cohesiveness, as represented by the number and diversity of its voluntary organizations and their willingness to cooperate, researchers say.

“The real impact of disasters is cushioned by those,” says Hayagreeva “Huggy” Rao, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. “The better the infrastructure, the better the recovery. A disaster is a shock. Think of those organizations as shock absorbers.”

Rao and colleagues wanted to better understand why some communities are resilient in the face of disasters and why others are less able to recover. They concluded that a community’s resilience hinges on two critical factors:

  1. How the disaster is framed by the community and its leaders, including whether it’s perceived as an unavoidable accident or as the fault of some person or group of people.
  2. How cooperative the community is in dealing with challenges.

Beware of people!

They arrived at those conclusions by studying an outbreak of the highly contagious Spanish flu in Norway in 1918 and 1919, choosing that epidemic in part because Norwegian doctors were required to report cases of the disease.

That created a rich vein of data about how the contagion spread in crowded areas and coastal towns, along ship and rail routes, as well as in minority communities.

The circumstances of the outbreak framed the story in a way that made people suspicious of one another. According to one woman at the time, “everyone was afraid of everyone else,” which made it hard for the community to work together to recover.

The researchers then compared that response to the spring frosts that occasionally created havoc among Norway’s many farming families. Those communities had a more unified sense of purpose, as measured by risk-sharing cooperatives such as mutual insurance organizations, savings banks, and retail food production and distribution. That kind of social and economic cooperation is a good measure of a community’s ability to “engage in civic action, which in turn depends on trust and social integration.”

In the flu outbreak, Rao says, “the Norwegian government was saying, ‘Stay indoors! Don’t congregate and hang out! Those are things that could help prevent spread of disease!’ Think about that. The message was ‘Beware of people!’”

Such framing often has a double impact: “One is what the government says explicitly [by urging people to avoid each other to prevent spreading the disease], but it also triggers conversation and leads to rumor and speculation.” By creating an “us vs. them” mentality, officials ultimately hinder community cooperation.

Recent history supports that conclusion. The suffering caused by the hantavirus outbreak in 1993 in the Four Corners area of the American Southwest, for example, was exacerbated by those who called it the “Navajo flu” (due to the fact that the outbreak affected many in the area’s Native American populations).

“Medical practitioners began calling the Centers for Disease Control, asking if it was OK for Navajos to go into restaurants and so forth,” Rao says.

Deep roots of cooperation

The most resilient communities appear to be those with a wide variety of deeply rooted cooperative organizations, often made up of such volunteers as doctors, educators, and religious leaders.

“Those build resilience into the social system,” Rao says. “When people build organizations and those organizations are diverse, the community has the capacity to solve long-term problems.”

Puerto Rico’s resilience is being tested during rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Maria in September 2017, Rao says.

To support young Syrian refugees, measure resilience

“There was justified complaint about the speed of response, but what we’ve yet to know is who exactly are the casualties? What’s happening to the organizational muscle in the community? Are churches folding up? Are people leaving there for Miami or Houston? You can inject resources, but if the organizational infrastructure is destroyed, it’s a bigger problem, because then communities can’t help themselves.”

Rao cites the work of public policy professor Robert Putnam of Harvard University, whose 2000 book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community compares social diversity and cooperation to the lubricant WD-40.

“First, you need glue to bind a community together,” says Rao. “But you also need WD-40 to reduce friction.” Generally, says Rao, the US today “needs more WD-40.”

Heinrich R. Greve, who earned a PhD from Stanford and now teaches at the INSEAD business school in Singapore is coauthor of the paper, which appears in the Academy of Management Journal.

Source: Stanford University

The post Volunteers are backbone of community resilience after disaster appeared first on Futurity.


What U.S. Mayors Think About The Future Of Their Cities–And The Country

Many mayors no longer feel like they can count on or trust state and federal officials to act in the best interest of their residents. At least two-thirds of city leaders feel like those authorities’ decisions disempower them. That’s pushing more localized innovation efforts, with roughly half of all mayors seeking civic-change ideas from residents and other mayors.

These findings come from the 2018 American Mayors Survey, which surveyed 156 mayors from 42 U.S. states. Unlike in years past, the data includes responses from the leaders of smaller cities (between 30,000 and 100,000 people) to show how metros all over America are progressing. Overall, the majority of large metros have dedicated in-house innovation teams, while smaller metros are beginning to see the value as well. About one-third of those spots have followed suit.

The values of most city leaders are generally run opposite to recent federal actions. For instance, while President Donald Trump has backed away from the Paris Climate Agreement, 80% of mayors feel it is their civic duty to address climate change.

At the same time, nearly half of all mayors cite financing as a major barrier to making headway on that issue. And the percentage of those with “significant experience” in the area is relatively low: below 40% for developing sustainable transportation options to make cities more pedestrian, bike, and bus friendly; and below 25% for figuring out how to run on more renewable energy. The knowledge about how to encourage low-carbon building projects and electric vehicle adoption is even lower.

[Photo: Gordon Mak/Unsplash]

Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the $200 million American Cities Initiative in June 2017 to help city leaders develop new programs and policies that solve universal societal problems like affordable housing, poor public health, a lack of well-paying jobs, and even crime and climate change. The goal is to prototype radical interventions in one place, then share what’s working with others.

For instance, Bloomberg has launched an initiative called the Mayor’s Challenge, one of its long-running international programs that asks leaders to dream big about how to solve a major civic crises, with the promise of funding and coaching to try out the best concepts. The winning city will receive $5 million, with another $1 million given to four other top finishers. More than 300 cities applied, and 35 have been given $100,000 develop their initial ideas. About one-third of these revolve around climate change.

The top issues mayors hear their residents complaining about are generally consistent with city size. In metros with a population of 500,000 or more, it’s affordable housing, crime, and traffic. In medium-sized places–those between 100,000 and 500,000 people–that’s inverted slightly, with traffic the No. 1 concern. And in smaller communities, traffic and affordable housing rank high, with drug abuse also a major concern.

But only half of city leaders are coming up with programs that use what citizens are complaining about to provide helpful data. Boston is among several places bucking that trend, with a public scoreboard that tracks, among other things, when citizen-reported problems like pothole and graffiti get reported, and the average response time to fix.

When asked to anticipate the most probable national problem in 10 years, the highest-ranking answers were political dysfunction, followed by infrastructure and inequality (which tied), and rising national debt. It’s a bleak outlook, but gives the theory of generating local, sharable, and data-driven solutions more credence.

The Emotionally Intelligent Way To Cold-Email People (If You Must)

I get about 10 cold emails a day. Most are from PR firms who know I’m a Fast Company contributor and want me to write about their clients. If the first line fails to draw me in, I hit delete; if I like the sound of it, I’ll read on. Same goes for cold phone calls from organizations pitching financial advice or seeking money for a charity: That opening statement is everything.

How do you create an opening–whether for an email or a phone call–that makes the person at the other end want to hear more? The answer is simple: flip your focus from yourself (or whatever it is you’re offering or asking for) to the person you’re reaching out to.

The fact is that nobody particularly likes to field cold emails or cold calls. But with a more emotionally intelligent opening, you can at least get them to listen. Here’s how.

Related: Do These 5 Emotionally Intelligent Things Within 5 Minutes Of Meeting Someone

Never Dive Right In

It’s understandable that you want to get to the point–and explain why you’re writing or calling. But an opening line focused on your own agenda is likely a turnoff to the other person.

“The past six months has changed the way we talk about and understand gender equality in the workplace,” one recent PR pitch began. Okay, I thought, but why are you sharing this with me? Another publicity email opened with, “As we all know, millennials have grown up surrounded by technology, iPhones practically glued to their hands.” If “we all know” it already, what’s new here? Plus, I’m not a millennial, so why are you contacting me? (My editor, who is a millennial, isn’t too keen on millennial trend pieces, by the way.)

Some writers open with surprising facts about their subject, hoping the reader will care. One recent email began: “$46 billion a year is spent on leadership training, but a recent Gallup survey showed that 82% of employees find their leaders ‘uninspiring.'” Another began with a whopping 58-word sentence about the app the writer wanted me to profile (not something I do), but I’d had enough of that topic by the time I’d reached the end of the line.

The point here isn’t to complain about the bad practices of the PR industry. It’s that introductions to people you don’t know should never launch right into something abstract, newsy, or conceptual. Think about it: If you were at a networking event, would you begin a conversation with a content-rich disquisition on your area of expertise? Not if you wanted to engage your listener! The same wisdom applies to cold emails and phone calls.

Related: Mentorship And The Art Of The Cold Email

Begin With Your Audience

Instead, open with a focus on your reader or listener. Make it personal, so they’ll feel you’re really are talking to them–rather than delivering a generic pitch. These are five emotionally intelligent ways to do that in your very first line:

1. Mention a mutual interest. You might begin your email, “Good morning, Frank. I’m writing to you because I know you’re interested in the way leaders communicate, and that’s a focus that my client’s company shares.”

2. Refer to a shared contact. Our working lives are built on relationships, so if there’s a network connection you share, point that out to the stranger you’re reaching out to–you’ll seem a little less unfamiliar. Suppose you’re the head of a consulting business, and you are calling a potential CEO client. You might begin: “Good morning, Barbara. I’m calling because Ashanti Masterton told me you have an ambitious speaking agenda, and she thought you’d be interested in how my firm might support you.” These mutual ties will often get your foot in the door.

Related: Six Ways To Write Emails That Don’t Make People Silently Resent You

3. Show you know something about them. My antennae would go up if I got a letter that began: “I know your work as a columnist for Fast Company, and I’m fascinated by your writing on emotional intelligence in the workplace.” Likewise, if you’re extending a speaking invitation, you might begin, “I heard your recent talk on team building, and I can’t think of a better message for my team. Would you join us for our annual retreat, and share that same message?”

4. Convey respect or appreciation for what they’ve accomplished. Suppose you’ve decided you want to be mentored by a senior coworker who doesn’t know you. Your first step might be to send an email that opens with, “I’ve admired you from a distance for your ability to break through the ‘glass ceiling’ in our industry, and I’d love to grab coffee to hear a little more about your career experiences.”

5. Say what’s in it for them. Maybe you’re job searching and want to talk with the head of HR about opportunities. Cold pitching about job opportunities is always a crapshoot (it may work better for informational interviews), but you stand the best chance with an opening like, “I know your firm hires some of the best talent around, and I wonder if you’d be interested in the strong communications experience I’d bring.” I tried this approach early in my career when I cold-called the HR chief for a large telecom company; it landed me a job.

The way you open will determine how things conclude. So always start by referring directly to your listener or reader–their needs, interests, and priorities. Yes, that may mean getting to your point a moment or two later, but it’s the only way you’ll be granted the opportunity to do so in the first place.

Facebook vastly downplayed scope of data leak involving info on more than 50 million users

Late last night, Facebook released a statement announcing that it was suspending data analytics firm Cambridge Analytics, sternly describing how the firm had improperly obtained personal data from 270,000 people who had downloaded a personality prediction app. The implication was that the social network was being proactive, taking action against a bad player. “We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information,” vowed Facebook VP and deputy general counsel Paul Grewal.  “We will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens.”

What Facebook didn’t reveal was the true extent of the data leak—which the New York Times and The Guardian disclosed in stories they published just hours after the company’s announcement. The real story was much worse. In total, more than 50 million Facebook profiles were harvested by Cambridge Analytica to build a system to target U.S. voters with political ads, a whistleblower told the papers. Even more stunning, though the firm told Facebook that it had deleted all the data, it turns out that Cambridge Analytics “still possesses most or all of the trove.”

For the firm’s leaders, including board member and later Trump adviser Steve Bannon, it was all about doing battle against their political enemies. “Rules don’t matter for them. For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair,” CA founder Christopher Wylie told the Times. “They want to fight a culture war in America,” he added. “Cambridge Analytica was supposed to be the arsenal of weapons to fight that culture war.”

The firm, which assisted the Trump campaign with targeting voters and received a $15 million investment from conservative donor Robert Mercer, is now in the headlights of congressional investigators and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose team demanded and received in December internal documents about its work on the campaign.

Read the stories at The Times and The Guardian.