You Can't Get Ahead Without This ONE Skill

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If you scan the past blog posts on Latina Cubicle Confidential you'll know that there is a lot I've written about creating a career map, developing your executive presence, work life blend strategies (not balance), resilience and managing your boss.  These are, among others, fundamental to your success, Mujeres.  Underneath all that however is a skill that cuts across many dimensions of your work life and how you leverage the career tactics covered here.   

What is that one skill? ---its your critical thinking strategies.  

What is this?  It's how you go about making decisions.  It's how you size up the opportunities or the challenges ahead of you.  And, it's about how you determine facts from opinions or yes, total fiction.  

Companies spend a lot money working through their business strategies using consulting firms that provide many models of how to position a product or service for market growth.  They also spend a lot of money on how to analyze their internal business processes for optimum efficiency.  For your career, critical thinking skills influence the strategy you will use to be competitive and successful as CEO of YOU, Inc.  Here just one example.  When you are presented with the opportunity to take a special project on the job--without a promotion or more pay---its pretty normal to ask yourself, why would I take on that kind of an assignment if it means more work for no increase in pay?  Mira no mas.  This kind of situation for many of us can trigger a sense of being taken advantage of by our employer.  It is a normal reaction in our community.  Many Latinos experience bias and so we are constantly on guard about being exploited.   

But critical thinking skills would require that you look at this situation through a different lens.   Is this assignment an opportunity or a liability?  Maybe my boss is looking to help me grow into a leadership role.  Maybe this assignment will help me learn a skill that I can add to my LinkedIn profile and position me for more success. Maybe this project can lead to something better for my career.

So what's your approach?  First, get the facts.  Do other people at your work place get positioned for success through these assignments?  Ask people you admire if they were asked to do this kind of work, too. Ask your boss, how do you see this as part of my career development?  What would you like this to do for my role here?  Take your emotions out of this and get beyond the assumptions you are drawing from the situation with as much data as possible from as many angles as you can.   

Next, make sure you look at the consequence of doing the project and the consequence of not doing the project.  This is all about assessing opportunity costs to you personally and professionally. What is an "opportunity cost"?  It's the cost of actually doing this work--materials, time and otherwise--and the cost of NOT being able to take on any other opportunities while your time is devoted to the project.  Its also the cost to your professional life if you are seen by your boss as unwilling to take a risk or take on the effort as part of the normal expectations placed on you or your team. 

There is only so much time each day to get through your work and life responsibilities. Assessing opportunity costs is a critical step in your decision making about any new venture. Taking on the project is going to require a commitment to do and to be completely professional--living up to your commitments--you cannot say yes to the project and then blow it off. Eso no se hace!  And, during the project you may not be able to participate in another efforts--volunteering for a nonprofit, start a home project, or start a class.  While all of those are important the question is can those be started at any time?  Will they still be there after the project is done? Is there something I will actually lose? Is there more to be gained by doing this? 

Critical thinking skills ultimately help you make the most out of the opportunities that come your way. Here is a list of the skills involved and the here is a website by a physician turned blogger who devotes a lot of pages to different decision making strategies and the influences that can make for bad decisions in life.  Let me know how you are living your VIDA con ganas!!! Andale! Maria

The Latina Manifesto

We Latinas are reclaiming our identity, transforming our lives, and defining who we are in a world that misunderstands and misrepresents the depths of our strength and the range of our character.

Listen.                                                                                                                         Watch.                                                                                                                       Respect.

Latinas are light brown, dark brown, black and yes, white—every color of life.          

Latinas have brown, blue and hazel eyes—windows to beautiful souls that see the world clearly.                                                                                                    

Latinas have straight, curly and wavy hair—strands of every hue. We speak English, Spanish, Spanglish and Catalan with accents that speak the rhythm of life.                

Hear us.                                                                                                                      

We have taken care of your children while raising our own. And, we are teachers, pediatricians, nurses, and surgeons. 

Cherish us.                                                                                                                  

We have cleaned your houses while taking care of our own homes.  And, we are architects, engineers, carpenters, and real estate developers.                

See us.                                                                                                                        

We have prepared your meals as we serve our own families.And, we are chefs, restaurant owners, and farmers.                                                    

Embrace us.  

We have made your clothes or your shoes as we dress our children.  And, we are fashionistas, designers, tailors, and beauticians.  

Notice us.                                                                                                                    

We have taken care of your elders while we grieve for our families far away. And, we are your police officers, firefighters, soldiers, and members of the national guard.                                                                                                                

Honor us.                                                                                                                  

We have worked behind the scenes while our own stories went untold.  And, we are reporters, journalists, broadcasters, actors and directors.                        

Watch us.

The words we claim to describe us are brave, persistent, dedicated, bold and beautiful.   The documents we can show you are diplomas, degrees, patents, and trademarks.    

No border will contain us or define us.                                                                         No one can hold us back.      

Our numbers throughout the world cannot be ignored.   We are learning, we are organizing, and we are raising our voices.  

Our futures will shape the world.                                                                                 Listen.                                                                                                                       Watch.                                                                                                                       Respect.

How Will You Define 2017?

Happy 2017!  There is something magical about putting up a new calendar at your desk, in the kitchen or starting a new journal.  By now some of you have set some goals for the year ahead.  Social media is all a buzz about making and keeping resolutions: Reading the best selling self-help book, joining a master mind group, creating healthy habits or just adopting the routines followed by other successful people.  It can be overwhelming to see the flurry of Facebook posts, Tweets,  Instagram quotes and news stories on what to do to make 2017 your best year ever. 

In the past I've written about why making New Year's Resolutions can be counter productive. Instead, my contribution is to offer two themes to define 2017:  Compassion and Intention.

Changing habits is hard work for all of us!  Don't beat yourself about the resolutions you have to change.  No one makes goals and keeps them 100% of the time.  Life brings us unexpected challenges or new opportunities and our priorities must adapt.  Things we thought would work to help us stay motivated, stop working. It would be as big of a mistake to keep doing something with ample evidence your strategy is not working as it is to not try something--just about anything-- to achieve your goals.  Sometimes we need a break, a fresh start.   I stopped writing columns on a regular basis for over a year during the challenge of seeing my father lose a battle with cancer and then watching as my mother wage her own just six months later.  My work load increased unexpectedly with a more demanding set of projects.  Some habits make it easier to cope with the hardships and challenges.  Others need to be suspended until there is room to breath, get our focus again.  The one habit I maintained in the midst of these last two remarkable years is leveraging my own personal board of advisors---checking in with the people who inspire me and provide me with honest feedback on whether I'm making progress or getting stagnant. Those conversations, emails, or phone calls allow me to look back and say 2016 went well.  

Compassion is also a vital part of sustaining effective relationships with others--especially those who test our patience or push our buttons. Amid the challenges that divide a family, a work team, a community or a nation, true compassion opens the door for understanding and respect for differences.  It's the foundation that let's us work together, solve problems, and remain allies to empower each other. 

"What is Your Intention Today?" This is a sticker I made that sits at the bottom of my computer screen.  It stops me from having a day of just mind numbing emails, phone calls, and meetings that get me nowhere closer to my goals or deadlines. 

As you look forward this year, take a 360 inventory of your own current journey in life---health, spirit, work, family, finances, and community--and create a vision of where you see yourself next New Years' eve.  Set some intentions around the changes or new habits that move you forward to your own vision of success.  Poco a poco se anda lejos.  Anticipate that you will need to make course corrections so that you are not surprised or disappointed.  Borrow from those around you who share their success habits but recognize what works for one person can be a disaster for others.  At the end of the week, ask what worked, what helped? You will be amazed how far you can go when you  live your LatinaVIDA with intention! --Maria Hernandez, PhD.   P.S.  If you are looking for resources and suggestions for defining your 2017, please visit the LatinaVIDA Evernote Notebook for ideas, tools, and inspiration.  

Too Latina for the C-Suite?

A new publication by the Center for Talent Innovation confirms what many of us who work in the field of diversity and inclusion have sensed for a long time.  Being Latina or Latino in corporate America comes at a steep price.  The higher up you go, the harder it is to be your authentic self. 

According to CTI’s  report, 43% of Latinas and 33% of Latinos say they must compromise their authenticity to follow their company’s standards for executive presence.  So what does that mean?  Pronounce your name as if it was meant to be spoken in English.   Change your name to be less ethnic.  Don’t talk about your childhood and where you grew up.  Don’t speak about your heritage.  Minimize your values regarding family, community or collaboration---in order to be seen as competitive, assertive, or focused.   At the very extreme, I’ve seen Latinos actually collude with those who speak poorly about immigrants or denigrate Mexico or Latin America economies in general.

This report comes at a crucial time for the nation's major employers. Acceptance of a new generation of Latinos entering the workforce must be a priority for any company seeking a competitive advantage.  Latinos are now approaching 18% of the population.  By 2060, Latinos will comprise one third of the US.  Each year 800,000 Latinos turn 18 and we will continue to be an increasing share of the nation’s workforce.  By 2025--- just 9 years away---we will be 20% of the US workforce.  It’s a national tragedy that just 3% of all executives across all sectors are Latina and among the Fortune 500, there are less than 40 Latinas serving as Board members. 

Many companies are focused on reducing the consequences of unconscious bias and developing inclusive leadership skills. This is half the battle. While that takes place, Latinas and Latinos who are now in leadership roles need a unifying message around the remarkable benefits we bring to the workplace.  For some of us, this effort may require reducing the impact of the biases we grew up hearing about ourselves.  For others it is about being bold. Yes, we actually do bring values and work ethics that define the entrepreneurial spirit that many companies want in order to be innovative.  Yes, we value family time and celebrate life—the work life blend that we know makes workers healthy and productive.  Yes, Latinos use “we” more often than “I” when we talk about achievements—a mindset that is fundamental to team work. 

Let’s stop minimizing who we are for the sake of “fitting in”.  Let’s stand together to recognize that the many cultures we have throughout the Americas bring this nation something valuable for every C-suite, every board room.

The “Do-NOT-Do” List for 2016

Happy 2016! Feliz Año Nuevo!

Are you making any resolutions this year? You know the rules, right? Make them real. Write them down. Go public with your commitment. Reward progress. As always, I wish you a year of 360 degrees of success — mind, body, spirit — to bring you 360 rewards — love, health, prosperity, career success, and communidad!

One of the strangest assignments you’ll hear in my career coaching is to keep a Do NOT Do List. Yes, a list of things you will NOT do. It is a list that’s equally hard to make, and keep. Here’s just a few examples to consider for your own list:

Do not doubt the power of your thoughts and intentions. If you haven’t figured out that you are what you think” — let’s get this right in 2015. When you focus on what you cannot do or what you don’t have, then you are losing the big pix on life and career. One of the biggest shifts that took place in leadership science this decade is the focus on strengths management. Focusing on your best YOU is paramount to success. Equally important is to make positive intentions. Keep seeing yourself succeeding at your goals. This tends to be a universal truth of successful people: they never stop believing they will fulfill their dreams. Take a minute before you begin your workday to envision what success will look like.

Do not participate in drama. I’ve said before that it is tough to avoid office politics. You must take note of your boss’ favorite employee or customer and their worst nemesis. But the stuff that can undermine Latinas in particular is getting caught up in creating more drama. I once had a conversation with a reporter for a major news magazine who flat out stated — “the blogger world of Latinas is fiercely divided, be careful what you say”. Sadly, there is a lot of needless division in our community. We’d all be a lot further along if we gave people the benefit of the doubt that they actually mean well. And when it is clear they don’t or just have issues that overwhelm your patience — let go of the desire to demonize them and simply limit their role in your life. Don’t get caught up in trying to correct, fix, or otherwise manage that person or make it your objective to tell others about their issues. It isn’t the easiest thing to do but the more you get caught up in chismes or actively discrediting others, the more likely you will burn bridges you may need later. Life is way too short to be taken up with managing all the drama.

Do not sabotage yourself. When your career depends on a specific presentation, decision, meeting or report—do you postpone preparing for it? Do you go it alone? Do you avoid getting feedback? That’s a wonderful way to sabotage your success. Everyone can get caught up avoiding something unpleasant or denying we need help. But if tend to finish up after a big event by saying “I should have…” you may be sabotaging your success. It’s a vicious cycle to avoid: Create an opportunity, undermine your chances of succeeding and then beat yourself up.

So, why do we do this? There is such a thing as a fear of success — getting that promotion means you’ll need to perform at a new level or need to learn new skills. Take a moment to work through the fear and realize you can ask for help.

Tell me about your Do NOT Do List and join me live at the next LatinaVIDA™ “Rise to the Top”

The Worst Advice is to Take Advice Not Meant for You

Mujeres there is a lot of advice for the taking these days!

It isn’t just coming from your friends and family — or me! The internet has given birth to an endless number of places to get advice. Since publishing on Facebook, Blogger and LinkedIn has become so easy to do — anyone can dole out their own words of wisdom. It’s one of the best and worst features of surfing the web.

We all seek out ideas and information to help with anything from buying the latest fashion trends to buying a car. And, of course our own culture places a high value on sage advice for the young and old. Jóvenes y viejos, todos necesitamos consejos. (Young and old, we all need advice)

But what advice is right for you on the big issues for your life — career, health, family? How do you weed through it all?

My bias is to look carefully for advice that comes from a reputable source and that there is some research linked to the advice. The other filter to apply when you read advice is to ask whether it applies to your specific circumstance.

Is it for your stage of career? Is it for your industry? Is it a fit for your personal style?

One of my favorite examples of the challenges of taking career advice not meant for you was started by a book with the clever title, Never Check Your Email First Thing in the Morning by Julie Morgenstern. Her suggestion has been repeated in a wide range of other lists with equally compelling titles: The Top 10 Things Productive People Do, The Top 10 Ways Happy People Start Their Day.

In working with young people–and even not so young who are part of virtual global teams– this mantra of not checking email early in the day is seriously problematic.

If you are on a global team it may be helpful to recognize that your 6 am is someone’s 9 am or 2pm and you may just have something in your inbox that became urgent 3 or 6 hours ago while you were sleeping.

If you are a senior executive or you have the luxury of having administrative support, you may not need to check your email because chances are someone else checks your email for you. I understand the intent of Morgenstern’s original work and even Morgenstern admonishes that everyone needs to create their owntime map to manage what works for them.

My advice: check your email early enough to be on top of what’s happening for your team and your customers. Make the best decision on what needs a response now or later in the day — your decision to answer an email at 5:30 am rests on the value you bring to your team or meeting your customer’s expectations.

There are no hard or fast rules that meet every situation.

Your career and the demands of your work-life are only known to you. Unless you are working directly with a mentor or coach that knows your unique circumstances, take time to assess what advice truly is right for you. Anything that gives you an absolute rule to follow may be more about drawing attention than truly advice meant for everyone reading.

Tell me about the best advice you’ve had and join me live at the next Rise to the Top!