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Thursday, April 6, 2006
Dr. Karen Otazo's comments on "The Mommy Wars," as posted on the ProfNet Wire.
Originally posted 4:34 AM PST, April 6, 2006, updated at 4:43 AM PST, April 6, 2006

The Mommy Wars
The number of mothers with infants working full-time, part-time or seeking employment has declined steadily since 1998, with even women with graduate or professional degrees turning away from the workforce. We invite experts on women's issues, careers, and the workplace to be included in a round-up that explores the causes of this trend and its implications for business.
Why are these women turning away from the workforce, and what can and should employers be doing to keep them?
 Dr. Karen Otazo's comment:
 "The key to keeping working moms in the workplace will depend on the time commitments and take- home pay of the job. There are, however, some themes that make a difference. We saw in the aftermath to Katrina how important it was for moms to get home to their kids when there is danger. Why not have the kids be near or at their work so they can get to them if needed? Also, daycare at work is a big way to keep moms working -- barring that a subsidized nanny agency would help.
Accessible health care at or near the workplace, subsidized, healthy dinners available as takeout at work and paternity leave of at least six weeks for dual-career couples can also help."

See More about Dr. Karen Otazo at -Executive Coaching

While reading the online New York Times I was struck by the article “Desperate Coaches’ Wives” by Lee Jenkins (March 23, 2006 New York Times).  The article about college coaches’ wives resonated for me with what happens to the spouses of leaders in any organization.  The writer notes that “No fan is more invested than a coach's wife.”  He goes on to describe the role the coach’s wife plays in putting new players at ease during the recruitment process.  The spouses of leaders in other organizations play the same role, often with a chat over dinner.  Many senior executives want their partners to be involved in recruiting so their organization will have the look and feel of a family that cares about its employees.  Dinner parties and gatherings at holidays play the same role for college basketball teams as they do for top teams in other organizations.  Even the spouse’s contribution of discreet support and letting team members know the positive things said about them can be the same. Leaders’ spouses and partners fill the role of a supporting player for the leader down to their choices of attire for the cameras.They are part of the leadership package.
One of my clients had an illustrative experience.  Sitting in a committee room in Washington DC, he was waiting to be interrogated by senators from both sides of the isle.  The TV cameras were everywhere.  His wife was in the audience watching him the way Justice Alito’s was during his confirmation hearings.  Having been prepped, however, she was prepared to support her husband.  She was wearing a conservative blue pantsuit to show solidarity with her husband, who wore a blue suit.  Her face showed concern and caring.  She never forgot that when a leader is on camera or in the public eye, his or her spouse or partner will be too.  She and her husband were both well prepared and ready to show their best in front of unforgiving cameras.
They knew that cameras magnify flaws and facial expressions and give you no place to hide.
In my next book, The Truth About Being a Leader, there will be a chapter devoted to the role of spouses and partners.  They are an important part of a leadership role.Don’t forget that your spouse or partner can be a key player in your organizational life.  Make sure he or she understands the part and is ready for it.  You never know when you’ll both be on camera!

See More Executive Coaching Resources for Today's Leaders at

Thursday, March 23, 2006
Ask Dr. Karen Question of the Week
Originally posted 7:23 AM PST, March 23, 2006, updated at 4:30 AM PST, April 6, 2006
Dear Dr. Karen,
You mentioned that there are times when you need to create a consulting job to enhance your career. I have not worked since 7/05 and was nationally downsized in our network management department at a large health care company. I will be teaching online health care courses next month, and was looking at consulting. Can you tell me how to create a consulting business and how to get started. I think that this would be a lucrative business for me while I am in the learning process and looking at innovation tools and skills for the future.
Mary C. USA
Dear Mary,
There are many good books and probably some great websites to become a consultant.   Your job now is to do four things: 1) Write down everything you’re good at doing- a skill-based approach 2) Google these to find out what’s out there in consulting ; append terms such as “consultant”, “coach”, and “advisor” to your subject area to find out even more.  As an example, if you want to consult in the health care industry do searches on “health care consultant”, “health care coach”, “health care advisor”, and other terms which you think may be applicable to your industry.  3) Ask people you know if they know anyone who does consulting in these areas. It’s easier to do consulting where someone else has already paved the way. Asking other consultants what they’re doing helps you to get a vision of what consulting can look like. And consultants often recommend other consultants who have complementary skills or have more availability! 4) Raise your profile in your area by writing an article about what you can do well in a trade publication.  For you, that could be one that’s health related.
Start with people you know when you don’t charge. Go to charging individuals small amounts.  Companies can pay more than private parties but usually want to see you’ve had some experience in what you’re offering.
So, for instance, someone who likes to sort through papers and arrange offices so they work well started a company called “Get it sorted.”  She goes into home and work offices and helps professionals, executives and assistants go through piles of papers and their paper flow to decide what to keep and where and what to discard. And, best of all, you learn how to do this on a regular basis after the first painful winnowing!
See more about Dr. Karen at - Executive Coaching

Monday, March 13, 2006
Recognizing Whom to Trust Keeps You From Getting Burned
4:20 PM PST, March 13, 2006

 Excerpted from “The Truth about Managing Your Career and Nothing but the Truth.” By Dr. Karen Otazo
When you start a new job, as with any new relationship, there is a period of trust building. Your colleagues need to develop trust in you, as you do in them, if your working relationships are to be effective. This reciprocity is essential in the workplace; however efficient you are personally, you will not be able to do your job in isolation. If you can’t trust your colleagues to be there for you, you could end up big trouble.
There is no formula for generating trust. Trust is above all a feeling, something that gradually evolves through shared experiences. However, it can be helpful, in building effective working relationships, to carefully consider what kind of trust you need in whom. You require a very different kind of trust, for example, in a clerk or assistant to that needed in a colleague with whom you are working on a controversial new idea.
There are four major types of trust to think about as you work with others:
Get-it-done trust involves knowing that others will meet commitments on time and within budget, and alert you of any potential delay. It is particularly vital with assistants, or with anyone to whom you delegate tasks. You test it by making small requests and noting how and when people get them done. Then you’ll know whom you can trust when a crucial project with an inflexible deadline comes along. You can nurture a climate of get-it-done trust by making it clear that people should come to you with any concerns about meeting deadlines as soon as they have them.
Expertise trust is about believing in someone’s special knowledge or ability, and vital with any experts with whom you work. You must be certain that their advice is sound and their knowledge current. For example, when hiring a consultant to advise on a Hong Kong joint venture, you should check that his or her experience post-dates the colony’s handover to China, or it will be of limited use. You need to know that experts will give you the real scoop and the whole scoop whenever you ask or, ideally, even before. You test expertise trust by double-checking with others the information you are given until you feel fully confident in someone.
Political savvy trust comes from knowing that your colleagues understand workplace norms, and how to play the organizational game. It is bound up with confidentiality and discretion, and is important in any colleague with whom you work strategically. Being great at getting things done, or being experts in their field, is no guarantee that colleagues deserve political savvy trust. Your brainstorming colleague with great off-the-wall ideas may not realize the importance of keeping these low profile until you have warmed up your boss, and may let something slip that halts your plans. Political savvy trust gradually builds with time, as you observe the way in which colleagues behave in others’ company.
Structural trust is needed whenever you work with someone from elsewhere in your company. Ideally, it comes from knowing that the other person is able to put the organization’s interests before his or her own, and give credit to other departments rather taking total ownership. Given that resources are usually stretched, and that different departmental interests often don’t coincide, developing total structural trust is tricky. However, you can generate a good working trust by establishing clear frameworks in advance, rather than taking blind leaps of faith. If you have to split a commission with someone in another team, for example, you should agree on the percentage split before you team up to approach a customer.
Every occasion for dealing with others, however low-key, is a chance to test their trustworthiness. If someone breaks your trust once, you should certainly be wary of asking for his or her support with anything important in the future. There’s not much time and space in organizational life for second chances.
See more about Karen at - Executive Coaching

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When should you leave a job?
Originally posted 7:51 AM PST, March 13, 2006, updated at 5:27 PM PST, March 13, 2006

Think of your job as a pain vs. gain equation.  If the pain is bad enough you have to ease it or make it go away. 

The most common  cause is your boss. The number one reason people, worldwide, leave a job is the boss.  So what can you do?
  • Learn to live with this boss by learning how they like to think and communicate.  Is he or she buttoned down, wanting everything just right?  And you’re a go- with- the- flow and loose kind of person? Make those lists, check them twice, and respond in an ordered way at every meeting and give him or her a written agenda.  Whatever you try, after a few tries ask for feedback.  Believe it or not, this is a great opportunity to learn. Sometimes the feedback is the puzzled look you get.  Sometimes it’s a subtle change in behavior.
  • Whether you think that anything has changed for the better, or not, thank him or her for his or her guidance.
  • Let the Human Resources know that this may not be the job for you but that you’d like to do something else in the company which you like and admire.  Stay neutral about the situation and don’t complain.   It’s just not working out to our “mutual satisfaction.”
  • Let your network know that you are looking for a new challenge without badmouthing your current boss.  You really don’t want to burn any bridges.  You just want to leave.  The higher the level of the job the longer it takes to find a new one.  For entry-level it can a few weeks.  For senior-level it can take six months or more. 
  • It’s easier to get a job if you have a job.  If you feel you can’t stay where you are then find part-time work or create consulting work until you get the next job.  It’s vital to be doing something constructive when you go for that job interview.

Best -

Dr. Karen Otazo -
1 of 1 reader who voted liked this post

Wednesday, March 8, 2006
Kiss the Ring: Hierarchy Matters
Originally posted 12:30 PM PST, March 8, 2006, updated at 7:26 PM PST, March 12, 2006

Excerpted from The Truth About Managing Your Career…And Nothing But The Truth.

Note to my readers:  Some of my readers and reviewers have initially thought this chapter was about “brown nosing” in organizations.  Actually, it’s not about that or about being a sycophant. It’s about acknowledging the badge of office (the ring) and showing your respect for the office – whether it’s a president, a king, a pope or your boss.  I hope you enjoy this excerpt and find it thought provoking and engaging.

Someone once asked a Washington insider how to deal with important people whom you can’t stand. His reply? “You put on your respectful face and you don’t blink.” This strategy is known in business circles as “kissing the ring.” Its origins lie in a much earlier era, when royalty and clerics wore rings of office denoting their status. Bowing your head as you kissed their rings was how you showed respect for their office, while not necessarily feeling that sentiment towards the characters themselves. 
Why go to the trouble to show deference to someone you don’t personally like or respect? In the cut and thrust world of business, as in the political sphere, it’s all about survival. Or, to look at it more positively, enlightened self-interest. Like it or not, the business world is structured by a strong sense of hierarchy. Why else would we be so fixated on gaining promotions and better titles? Those high up can have a significant impact upon your reputation and career: positive if they like you and see you playing by the rules, negative if they feel slighted by you in some way. Showing them the appropriate respect helps keep your career path obstacle free. 
“Kissing the ring” might mean responding in a neutral to positive way when someone important says something off base in a meeting. Or staying positive with your boss when he or she doesn’t understand what you’re trying to do or say. However irritated or amazed you feel, keep your facial expression kind and free of negativity, a kind of poker face. It’s worth practicing this in front of the mirror so that it’s ready to put on when you need it. 
“Kissing the ring” doesn’t mean being sycophantic though. It’s just about treading carefully around egos. There’s nothing wrong with telling a senior person that you think there might be a better way of doing things, but just make sure that you think strategically and don’t react there and then, especially if there are others present. If you are genuinely concerned about something you might want to bring it up in private in a neutral way but not make a big deal out of it. You do this by talking about it in a low-key way, tactfully introducing your point by saying, “By the way, what do you think of…” or, “Is there is a case to be made for this other point of view?” 
Are there “don’t kiss the ring” moments too? You bet. As soon as anything looks the slightest bit immoral or illegal you need to stop and think. Don’t jump to conclusions, but once you’ve confirmed that something improper is up, do everything you can to extricate yourself from the situation before you get into trouble. If, for example, your company requires that the highest level person at a dinner should pick up the expenses then you might hesitate before paying for something so that your boss doesn’t have to put it on his or her expense report. While illegality is something that you should always report, without exception. There are ex-employees of Enron or Health South, currently in jail, who probably wish they had spoken up, or even left their jobs, rather than keeping mum. 
“Kissing the ring” is one of a repertoire of respectful behaviors that will serve you in good stead with high ranking people. At some point in your career you will have to suck in your gut and show deference to a senior person whom you can’t stand. Be prepared for it.

Best -

Dr. Karen Otazo -

1 of 1 reader who voted liked this post


After a business career spanning twenty years at ARCO Oil and Gas Company (now part of BP), Ashland Oil, famous for Valvoline, and wonderful experiences in high school and college teaching, I settled into a joyous experience as a free-lance global consultant specializing in executive coaching and assessment. Most recently I spent ten years living in Hong Kong, London and The Hague working with diverse companies and their executives.

With two degrees in Linguistics and a PhD in Human Resources Development I do enjoy research and study. To meet the needs of real people I make my writing and my work simple and accessible.

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