Management is an art. It's not a science of exactly do this specific thing. It's an art where you're applying a lot of different techniques using different tools and learning as we go. It is a work in progress, I think for all of us.
In this episode
Curiosity is a management quality.
Good managers are curious about their teams goals, what they are trying to achieve, and they do not make assumptions.
In episode #155, Karen outlines the difference between gatekeepers and door openers and underscores the importance of guiding rather than directing.
Karen Catlin is a leadership coach and an acclaimed author and speaker on inclusive workplaces. Her client roster includes Airbnb, DoorDash, Google, Intel, Intuit, LinkedIn, and many others.
Tune in to hear all about Karen’s leadership journey and the lessons learned along the way!
Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.
Constructive feedback is an art
What is glue work?
Saviour mentality within organizations
Gatekeepers versus door openers
Guiding people without bias
Be curious, not furious
Shaping an inclusive culture
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Read Better Allies by Karen Catlin
- Subscribe to 5 Ally Actions newsletter
- Connect with Karen on LinkedIn
- Subscribe to the Supermanagers TLDR newsletter
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 00:14
Karen, welcome to the show.
Karen Catlin 02:39
Aydin, it’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 02:43
Yeah, very excited to do this. I know you’ve had a pretty expensive leadership career working in tech leadership companies like Macromedia and Adobe. I remember using the first versions of you know, everything from you know, flash, but also things like Dreamweaver and fireworks. And like those were like I was very much into those tools and was very, very sad when things like fireworks disappeared, and so on so forth. Were you involved in building any of those products? Yeah,
Karen Catlin 03:11
I was the first program manager on Dreamweaver. Oh, wow. So yes, I was part of that. And I had been at Macromedia before then doing a bunch of different roles. So working kind of across the product line. And when Adobe acquired Macromedia, I joined Adobe. So I was there for 18 years. So I’ve pretty much worked on I would say, every product over those 18 years in some capacity.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 03:37
Yeah, that’s awesome. And so you must know Tom Hale? Oh, yeah. A good friend of mine. Yes. Oh, excellent. Yeah, he worked at I don’t know if you knew this. But I used to work at Survey Monkey. And he spent some time at Survey Monkey. And so we had some overlap there. But yeah, so lots of stuff for us to talk about today. You know, you’re a coach, you spend a lot of time coaching female leaders, focusing on teaching people to be better allies and work with all sorts of companies, all the names. We’re all familiar with Airbnb, Google, Intel, so on and so forth. So let’s start from the very beginning that when you were at wherever you started your first leadership prayer, whenever you first start managing, or leading teams, do you remember some of the early mistakes that you used to make?
Karen Catlin 04:20
Oh, do I remember the mistakes? Oh, yes. They’re still like cringe worthy in my memory banks. There were a lot of mistakes. I worked at a small research group that for whatever reason, I moved into the leadership roles management roles, like within a couple of years of starting my career. So I was in my early 20s When I started managing people. And while I had a great role model in my manager, I still made a lot of mistakes. Okay, it’s embarrassing to admit but let’s think about this. One big area of mistakes that I made, I’m sure was around giving constructive feedback. Really, like I cringe when I think about some of the conversations and I still I remember some of them too. When I reflect on giving people constructive feedback, how I used to do it, I think the real problem with a situation was, I didn’t know how to delegate. So if I didn’t really know how to delegate work in a good way, in a productive way, in a way, it’s like, here’s my expectations. Here’s what the deliverable looks like, here’s what success looks like. If I couldn’t do that, then of course, I can’t give someone constructive feedback on the project, I tried to delegate to them, because they can’t read my mind. They don’t know what my expectations are, if I don’t express them. So I really think I mean, constructive feedback is a huge topic, doing it. Well, it’s an art. But I think one of the underlying problems I faced was, I couldn’t delegate correctly or properly or effectively, maybe that’s the word I’m looking for. And as a result, I couldn’t give people feedback on the stuff I had been delegating. So over time, I did get better at that. But looking back, that was a big challenge
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 05:56
isn’t super interesting. So just so I have it correctly, is it that if you don’t delegate something well, and it’s not super clear, you’re going to have to give a lot more constructive feedback, but maybe the problem isn’t that they’re not doing right, but that you haven’t delegated it correctly? Is that how to think about it? Are you saying something different,
Karen Catlin 06:16
I’m saying it’s just hard to give the feedback, if you’re giving feedback based on some way that they did something that doesn’t meeting your expectations. But you’ve never set those expectations. Let me give them a very tangible example, if you have children, at some point, when they’re young, you might say, go clean your room, like go tidy up your room, something like that, right. And to the child, that may mean going upstairs, and like sweeping everything into the closet, and just getting it out of sight, right, and that might be tidying the room. But as a parent, maybe your expectations are the dirty clothes, you’re gonna go in the hamper, the clean clothes, you’re gonna get put away in the closet, and the toys are going to be put in the toy box, right? If you don’t tell them all of that, and then you ended up giving constructive feedback, like you didn’t do a good job, you should have done it this way, or something like that, like, Well, you never said that to them. You never told them what success was gonna look like you guys just gave him a vague delegation of a task. And they did it their way. But if that wasn’t your way, then who are you to be giving feedback to them?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 07:18
I love that that clarifies it a lot. And just play devil’s advocate. Is there a world where you can just maybe hope because people like this exists too, right? That it almost seems like they surpass expectations. And, you know, maybe you did expect that they would, you know, put all the like toys and everything in the closet, because that’s what you did when you were a child, but they come back and then they do the hampers. And like the clean clothes, and they tidy things up, and they wash the windows and they do all these extra things, too. And sometimes that happens too. So like, is there? I mean,
Karen Catlin 07:54
yeah, let’s hear from that. That scenario. Yeah. Awesome, of course. And Aydin isn’t that the case, when that happens the first time that happens to you, as a manager, you all of a sudden realize, ah, this is why I delegate because someone might do it a different way than I did, it would do it myself. And that is better. I mean, you want to get to that sweet spot where people are surpassing your expectations or doing things in a different way. Instead of using the broom, they’re using the vacuum to get the same results, or as you said, they’re actually taking it a step further and washing those windows. And that was never something that you would have expected. So absolutely. You want to be giving people guidance, but then let’s be delighted when they also exceed those expectations.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 08:41
Yeah. Is there a world where you can set expectations? It would be nice to have your expectation surpassed?
Karen Catlin 08:48
Yeah, why not? Why not? Why not say exactly that? Here’s the bare minimum, here’s what we need to get done. But if you can think of some additional things to please our customers to improve quality to get what the reliability numbers up. Let me know about that.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 09:04
Yeah. So now this is very exciting, because you’re kind of outlining some of the expectations, but you’re also leaving the door to be surprised to the upside. And, you know, hopefully, if that surprise to the upside happens, there’s some sort of positive reinforcement, and you see more of that going forward.
Karen Catlin 09:24
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, isn’t that like, just nirvana? That’s just amazing. It
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 09:30
sounds a little too perfect.
Karen Catlin 09:33
Let’s help it happen. So I know it does.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 09:35
Yeah, no, but this is super interesting. And I love that we went into this discussion, because I can see that, you know, someone bringing this might be in a world of, they might get stuck in the rabbit hole of well, you know, my feedback isn’t getting across, or maybe I’m not doing a good job of giving the feedback. But it’s really interesting to just point to the fact that here’s a problem and you could solve this symptom, or you could take a step back and see like what the holistic solution is, you know, I think something related here that I’ve thought about is similar to setting expectations. Sometimes if you don’t do the right job, but hiring, you know, the right person for the role. Like, you might be in a situation where you end up, you know, having to give a lot more feedback, or maybe not showing the level of trust that you should. But, you know, the root cause could be that you just didn’t do the right job at hiring the right person. And so that’s why this stuff is very complicated.
Karen Catlin 10:35
Absolutely. And management is an art. It’s not a science of exactly do this, this, this. It’s an art where you’re applying a lot of different techniques using different tools, and learning as we go. Right. I mean, it’s, it is a work in progress, I think for all of us.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 10:51
Yeah. And so there’s a lot of stuff that we can talk about today. Why don’t we start with the idea of glue work. And so maybe you can define for us what glue work is, and what the things are that you see surrounding that type of work.
Karen Catlin 11:08
Yeah. So very quickly, the background to how I even know what glue work is, and then I’ll define it. But the background is after I left Tech, I started a coaching business to help and coach women who work in tech help grow leadership skills. And I love doing that I still am a leadership coach today. But I quickly learned that while women can benefit from coaching anyone can, what they really needed to be more successful was that their companies would be come more inclusive, that they would be set up more like meritocracy is where everyone can get ahead on their merits the impact they’re having the work they’re doing. Because unfortunately, many of my clients were working in companies where the closer you got to the top, frankly, the mailer and paler it got. And with all due respect to anyone who’s listening, who’s male, and are pale, I’m white, myself, it’s just like, that’s what demographics were revealing. So I started trying to understand a little bit more about, well, I’m gonna coach my clients. But I also want to figure out how we can make their workplaces more inclusive. And that led me down a wonderful path to exploring ally ship and how we can all be better allies. And I’ve written a couple books on this topic. And a key part of ally ship or one of the pillars of ally ship, is to understand the experience of people who aren’t like you, what is their experience in the workplace. And for women, and especially women of color, part of that experience is being expected to do more glue work, then there are peers, and what is glue work? Glue work is this work that has to get done for the health of an organization or a team, any kind of working group, it has to get done, but it’s no one’s job. So what are some examples of glue work, if there is no program manager or project manager for a team, and you’re having a weekly project meeting, somebody’s got to take the notes and track the action items and set up the follow up meeting. Oh, and by the way, ping all the people who didn’t show up on time to the meeting. These are all examples of glue work that, again, needs to get done for the health of the organization, but aren’t anyone’s job. And there’s research showing that this stuff is it goes to it people are voluntold or expected to do this work mostly are women and women of color. Now, what happens when women and women of color are doing all of this work in support of the health of the organization. First of all, it’s busy work, they’re busy doing that, instead of maybe something else that is going to have more impact that they’re going to be measured on and their annual reviews, and so forth. So they’re busy, they get burned out. They’re also seen at a lower level than some of their peers, because they’re in service of everybody else’s success. And of course, if they’re busy, and I’m meeting, taking notes, tracking action items, doing all that kind of work, they’re kind of a step behind the conversation that’s happening in that meeting, and maybe not able to make those really important points chime in at key points, because they’re a step behind. So it’s really a bad thing. And I raise it in my work on my books and newsletter and speaking on better allies, so that people are more aware of it. And that allies not just white men, but anyone spots this glue work and make sure that it’s getting disrupted and not just going to the same people who are always so kind and saying, Sure I can take the notes again this time or whatever it might be.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 14:38
Yeah. And so is that the way that you would think about addressing this within organizations is just make sure that it’s distributed.
Karen Catlin 14:46
Distributed is a perfect way to start is be aware of it and then make sure that everyone’s taking a turn, noticing that you’ve got a monthly virtual happy hour for your team and you want to have some fun team building event. We’ll make sure that everybody has taken a turn coming up with that fun team building event. And it’s not just the one person who tends to have a lot of good ideas having to do that, because that takes time out of their schedule leading up to that fun, virtual happy hour, right, where they’re working on that versus something more important. So make sure it’s scared. Now, Aydin, I have to tell you a cautionary tale about setting up kind of distributed schedule of sorts and rotations. Few years ago, I was doing a consulting project for a large semiconductor company in Silicon Valley, I won’t name names, but I was attending a meeting of their women in tech steering committee. So they had an employee group, there was a group of leaders on that, who were kind of figuring out what to do for women in tech across the semiconductor company. And they had a monthly meeting, to talk about initiatives, programs, all of those types of things. And they had already set up this rotation program for their housework. And so the meeting I was at, the organizer opened her laptop. And she looked through the list, she said, let me see whose turn it is to take the minutes and do the timekeeping for our agenda today. And she looked through the list, and she said, Okay, Brian, it’s your turn. Now, Brian was the one male ally on the steering committee for the women in tech initiative. And then Brian said, you know, I’m not that good at taking notes, I think someone else should do it. And he, I couldn’t believe he was saying that, because I’m aware of this research that women do it more than men and so forth. And fortunately, in the moment, I mean, I was a consultant, I could get away with anything. But I kind of just said to Brian, it’s like, Hey, Brian, practice makes perfect. And this is the perfect place to practice. Because I didn’t want him to not do his fair share of this work that had been planned to be distributed, and expect one of his women peers to take it on. So definitely a best practice for any kind of office housework with these, like monthly meetings or ongoing needs is set up a rotation. But the best practice is also hold people accountable to taking their turn.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 17:08
Yeah, that’s, I think, a good way to phrase it. I guess one of the questions around this is, say, for something like the monthly happy hour, or virtual event, or something of that nature, and say that you do have a person who does have really good ideas, and really actually does want to do the work? Should you stop them from doing the work? Because the other alternative is, I mean, I want to say that, but also say that if this person is always recognized, and everybody talks about them, and like they’re a key person in the company, and everybody kind of recognizes that, and gives them the shout outs, and they want to do it, and yes, it is extra work, but it is appreciated. And they’re seen as someone who really helps the culture of the company, is that bad? Should you take it away from them?
Karen Catlin 17:56
No, it’s not that, however, should you coach them as their manager, and say, Hey, I see you volunteering for a lot of these things. Let’s have a conversation about your career, let’s make sure that you aren’t holding yourself back by taking on all of this glue work. So I would have that conversation. And I would also look to make sure that there are ways to reward that person, not just hey, thanks. Once again, you’re amazing at doing this team building thing, but figure out how to thank them and connect what they’re doing to further leadership kind of qualities, recognize them in an annual review, or in the company, you know, all staff meeting or something in terms of, let’s say one of your leadership qualities and things that you look for in senior leadership is that you’re good at retaining employees, you have a good track record at retaining employees, because you create an environment where people feel like they’re having fun and working hard. I’m making this up, of course, but I’m just saying let’s just say that as a value, something that you measure more senior leadership on, connect the dots between the work that that person is doing and that volunteer effort to that higher leadership quality so that they get the recognition in their annual performance review that they are already acting at that level, like a senior leader. That’s one way to do that. Of course, there are other ways to reward people to to make sure that this isn’t just the grunt work unappreciated, but it is appreciated, you know, bonus pay, maybe there is some very highly coveted training program that people get to apply for and get entrance to. Maybe it is there’s lunch with some senior C suite person every so often and they get an invitation to that lunch. If it’s in person. Maybe there’s a employee parking spot Employee of the Month parking spot or something like that, but look for how you can reward someone for doing this glue work, which is so important. Yeah, it is so unappreciated.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 19:59
Hey there Just a quick pause on today’s episode to let you know that we’d really appreciate you helping us spread the word about the Supermanagers podcast. If you’re enjoying what you’re hearing so far, dial into your podcast app of choice, whether that’s on Apple, or Android, or Spotify. And just leave us a quick review. Now back to the interview. I’ve spent, you know, most of my life in startups, and inevitably, most startups, most companies, I would say a lot of forward thinking companies always have some sort of a value around ownership and taking initiative. And that’s something that’s really encouraged. And so, you know, I think when people show initiative on things that no one’s job, but then yet they do it. And so we’re talking right now about some things that may be looked at in an administrative way. But there’s other things too, there’s many things in a company, that’s nobody else’s job. And I think like, what I like about what you’re saying is that it’s not that something is good or bad. It’s just when people contribute, and they help move the company forward. Like, they should be recognized. And they’re doing a very important job. Like, they’re keeping the team organized, they’re keeping the company moving forward, they’re keeping, and these are super valuable, valuable things. And it’s hard to find people who are that bought in that want to do those sorts of things. So if you have them in any way, shape, or form, it should be you know, recognize it. And you should encourage other people to do it, too, because it does show a level of ownership that I think should be encouraged.
Karen Catlin 21:32
Love that. Yeah. 100% to what you just said, definitely, yeah.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 21:36
So can we talk also about the concept of a savior? What is a savior within the context of an organization?
Karen Catlin 21:46
Yeah, and within the context of the work I do on ally ship, a Savior, I mean, let’s think of that knight in shining armor, writing it on the white steed to save the damsel in distress. That’s the Savior. And I think, unfortunately, that a lot of people when they are thinking about, yes, I want to help people who are underrepresented in my field, maybe that’s because of gender or race, sexual orientation, identity, their abilities, disability status, and so forth. I want to help them be successful. And so I’m going to do this. And that’s a great starting point, great mindset that you’re going to do something to write some inequity to address some inequity. But if you also are thinking in the back of your head, I’m going to rescue them from their own situation, I am such a great person, like the white knight in shining armor, I am so amazing, I am going to like go in here and do good stuff. You can’t make it about yourself that sort of a savior mentality. And you can’t think that you’re just there to rescue someone because they’re not capable. Because there are a lot of people are highly capable of taking care taking charge of things doing work. But they just aren’t set up for success because their workplace culture is not inclusive enough. It’s not expecting them to be successful is excluding them from certain opportunities, and so forth. So let’s break this down. I like really making things I might talk at the high level. But then let’s make this more practical and pragmatic with an example. Let’s say, you notice that someone didn’t speak in a meeting. And you may think if you have the Savior hat on, you may think, Well, I’m going to advocate them by talking to the meeting organizer to let them know that they didn’t talk open up space for them in the meeting. And the next time we have the stand up that they really need to call on everybody. You know, we might say something like that, we’re doing a good job. We’re saving this person from having that situation again, in the future where they aren’t able to speak up. Well, here’s the thing, you don’t know all the details, you don’t know like maybe they already gave feedback in a document a shared document ahead of that meeting, right? You may not know that, they might just not have had anything to say. You may not know what was going on in their lives that day. You may not know if they want you to even do anything for them. So it’s better to actually pause if you feel like I’m gonna go help someone, save them rescue someone, pause and check in with that person and make sure they actually need some help. This whole thing is connected. That Savior thing is connected to a collection of biases that are called benevolent, benevolent, sexism benevolent, ageism, benevolent ableism, and so forth. benevolent sexism. I’ll explore that one a little bit benevolent sexism is when a man thinks that they know what’s best for a woman on their staff. Again, I’ll share a story. This really happened to me I had a man working for me. And he had a new headcount that he was able to fill and I was asking him, what’s the responsibilities you’re going to have with this new headcount that you just got And he was outlining some really good job responsibilities. And I was thinking, My gosh, this would be a great promotion for Sue, who’s the top performer on his team already. So as he finished talking about the responsibilities, I asked him, I said, Yeah, it sounds like this would be a good opportunity and a promotion for Sue. Are you thinking about talking to her about taking this on? And he said, and this is the benevolent sexism, he said, Oh, no, she has small children at home, she wouldn’t want all the travel that comes with this job. He made a decision for her or was trying to, without checking in on her, he was rescuing her and saving her from a situation where she was going to have too much travel and not be home enough with her young children. So I fortunately had the presence of mind to say to him, you know, that’s not your decision to make if you think she’s got the skills, go talk to her, see if she wants to have this job with all this travel. And Aydin, he did, he went and talked to her. And she said, Yes, I am ready for this. And whatever her situation was at home, she did not have to worry about the travel, she had enough support and so forth. She could travel, she made it work. And so by the way, she was awesome at this job, I should have to add that. So that’s benevolent sexism, where we’re making decisions for someone else, we’re acting to save them and so forth. So please stay away from that, if you feel yourself just even being drawn there a little bit. And I do periodically, in the work I do today, on ally ship, I feel like I can do things, hold back a little bit, check in with that person that you are thinking about helping and making sure they need the help.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 26:42
And so I can get like the full color here. So for this particular, basically checking in if you’re a savior and making sure that the person actually, you know, requires support in that particular situation. Does it also apply in the reverse as well? So, for example, like maybe you think they need help, and you check with them? And then they don’t? So that’s the situation that we talked about. But is there a situation where you think that they might not need help? But they actually do? So? Does it apply in both contexts? That makes sense? Well, of
Karen Catlin 27:20
course, we always had thinking about different people I’ve worked with over the years, who didn’t seem like they ever needed help on things. They didn’t want help, and so forth. I feel like it’s a different topic. I feel that’s a different topic. That’s a whole nother issue of helping people understand where they need to be more open to constructive feedback, where they need to learn a new skill, that’s giving someone feedback, as opposed to rescuing them.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 27:49
Got it. And so the just in terms of like, the emotions that goes through someone’s head, so basically, it’s that it’s good that you want to be helpful. But sometimes if you’re helpful in the wrong way, or you’re making assumptions for someone, it can actually cause pain and be worse off. So you’re looking to help them be a savior, but what you’re actually doing is maybe causing this sort of problem,
Karen Catlin 28:14
right, you’re impacting their career, their career growth, or a very short term situation, you potentially are causing some harm there. Yeah, yeah, that
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 28:23
definitely clarifies it. And yeah, very interesting story, and definitely drives the point home as well. So another topic that I did want to chat with you about is door openers and gatekeepers. So what are the differences between people who open doors and people who are gatekeepers?
Karen Catlin 28:45
Yeah, let’s start with gatekeepers. So gatekeepers, are like the sky I mentioned before who had this new headcount, he was gatekeeping, he was keeping someone away from this opportunity, he would not have phrased it that way. He was doing the best thing for her. But that’s really what was happening. He was setting up something that prevented her from pursuing that. It also may show up gatekeeping, in terms of advising someone who doesn’t quite look the part to take a different career path, perhaps that is, let’s just say a black engineer who approaches you for a job and you’re like, Have you considered working in this department instead? Because they don’t look the part to you. And I’m making some assumptions. I don’t mean to say that you be saying this aid, but just like, you know, they don’t look the part for whatever it is. Or maybe it’s an older employee who you’re like, oh, I don’t know if they’re going to be innovative anymore. Work the long hours. Have you considered something over here instead? So that’s another kind of gatekeeping is encouraging people into a certain direction, that because you think that they don’t look the part that the thing that they want to pursue. I hear a lot about this in terms of from women who as they are studying and making decisions about what they are going to study in college, university, grad school and so forth. But advisors telling them go this path, it’s going to be a little bit easier for you. That’s gatekeeping. By contrast, door openers are doing the opposite. They are always encouraging, they are looking for those opportunities. They are connecting dots for people. So that, Oh, you want to work in data science, and you’re not data scientists yet, here are some ways that we can get you more aware of what the opportunities are, here are some career pathways for you. They are opening those doors that sometimes people might not even know exist, or did it did know, but they are connecting those dots and helping people along,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 30:42
is there a way to be because sometimes, it’s also possible that if you’re an advisor, and you know a lot about a person, that you may actually think that they may be better suited in, you know, to study this topic versus this other topic or something like that. So, is there a way to, like be able to help without necessarily saying no, you can’t do this? That’s not for you, you should do that. Like, is there like a balanced way of doing this?
Karen Catlin 31:11
Yeah. And I would say the balanced way, such a good question, the balanced way is to make sure that what you are talking to them about is not rooted in bias, which you and here’s the advice for so much of what comes out of our mouth, in terms of guidance, feedback, and so forth. If we are giving it to someone of a certain demographic, with just use gender, if we’re giving that guidance or feedback to a woman, we in our head, flip it in our head and say, would we say the same thing to a man? If we’re saying something to a black person? Would we say the same thing to a white person? If we’re saying something to a graduate of a boot camp? Would we say the same thing to you know, someone who has a degree from a university? Let’s flip our feedback to test it? And if the answer is, yeah, I would anyone who wants to do this, I would suggest this pathway or something, it doesn’t matter what gender race, so forth. If that’s really true, then that’s great guidance. But I want to encourage people to check what they are thinking about guiding someone towards just to make sure it’s not rooted in some biased interpretation, assumptions about that person. And that identity. That makes sense.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 32:29
Yeah, I think like, that’s a very good way to look at it always. And a good way to check to make sure that, again, sometimes it’s unconscious bias, right? Doesn’t mean it’s intentional. But to flip it in that way, I think is a very healthy way to look at it. One question, which is maybe related, it’s not necessarily same realm, but not necessarily related to bias in the same way, but say that you have someone who is, say, more senior in their career, and they decide to, you know, go back and take on a much more junior role. So in a situation like that, like, if you have, you know, maybe assumptions about well, that’s not, you know, like, do you really want to do that, and is that a good move? Is that, like, I’m trying to think about situations where, you know, maybe you don’t want to limit them. But at the same time, you can kind of maybe advise them or make sure that this is really something that they want to do.
Karen Catlin 33:32
I mean, this is a great management quality is to be curious about the people who work for us understand what their career goals are, understand enough about their personal life that they’re willing to share about what they you know, what’s going on, and help them navigate. What’s going to be right moving forward. I feel like that question that you just posed is like, that’s just being a good manager and being curious about what they are trying to achieve, and not making assumptions again, about what you think is best for them. Because maybe that’s the right path for them at this point. And whatever is going on.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 34:07
Yeah, and I definitely see this as like a key learning in our discussions, which is a lot of the, you know, maybe the bias, or some of the things that happen in the workplace are about assumptions that we make. And I like your point about just being more curious longer, versus assuming you know, what’s right for any particular person on the team. And yeah, just coming from that lends I feel like you’ll build a better team, build more trust and get people to be on the right seat in the bus more often.
Karen Catlin 34:39
I love that. I love that. I’m gonna build on what you just said to in that I’ve learned this wonderful phrase which I have just embodied. The phrases be curious, not furious. Now you didn’t mention in your scenario that you’re getting furious but we’ve all been there where with someone like resigns from our came to go do something else. And I don’t know about you. But I used to get a little furious like, shoot, like, just get them trained up, they’re incredibly valuable. They’re leaving, what am I going to do? Like you kind of go down a path. But if we pause and set that kind of the Furious or the frustration side, we can start being curious and understanding a little bit more. I don’t do this. I’ve tried to do it a lot more than I used to. But I’m thinking about one time I did have a star employee resign, because he wanted to move from his current role to do product management and what he hadn’t been doing product management. And The Furious, the frustration, just started to build. And instead, I just talked to him like to get more curious about why. And as a result, I was able to have him not resign right away. Because I told him, let’s try to find that role that you’re looking for, at our current company. And I became his sponsor looking for another role at the company. So he didn’t walk out the door with all the knowledge he had from our company, he stayed there. But he moved into a different role, where he was just thinking, I need to quit start doing a job search. So that notion of being curious, not furious is so good as a leadership quality. And frankly, it is so good whenever we get feedback from someone, because frankly, I don’t know about you. But when I get feedback myself, let constructive kind of feedback. My defensive side sort of starts coming out. And again, I tried to put it aside and just be curious about a little bit more I got more to learn. I need to understand this more. Tell me more about what’s going on kind of thing. So curious, not furious is something that has been a new kind of slogan that I have embraced. And I think it’s really powerful.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 36:41
Yeah, I love it. I think it’s a lot of management. I think it applies to parenting and deprives human relationships across the board. So I love the phrase, definitely one that lends itself to being remembered. So great, great phrase. So Ken, we’ve talked about a bunch of different topics, I did want to just quickly give a shout out to your books, your most recent book is better allies, it came out in 2021. And I assume that you know, for the readers like if you want to dive deeper into some of the topics that we’ve talked about today, you know, the book is really a great source for that they can find it on your website, better. allies.com has a link to the book. Are there any other topics like to get people who else should read that book? Or who would you distribute it to?
Karen Catlin 37:30
Absolutely everyone, everyone, I want everyone to read that book. And the reason is, is that I think that I hope that everyone listening feels that part of being a manager is setting up your team for success. It’s hiring the right people, and creating an environment where everyone can do their best work and thrive. And a key part of all of that is to make sure that you have an environment that is inclusive, that is welcoming of people from all different backgrounds and walks of life and educations and so forth and experiences, is welcoming all those people into this wonderful fabric so that they can be innovative together, do good work, and that they want to stay there and keep doing that good work. A key way of getting that done is through these everyday acts of ally ship. And that’s what I write about in better allies. So it’s not just a job for leaders and managers. It’s a job for people in every little corner of an organization, so to speak, individual contributors in those hallway conversations, those stand up meetings, those everyday settings where things are happening. I want everybody to think about how they can be better allies and create more inclusive instances so that the whole culture, therefore becomes more inclusive. So that’s why I want everyone to read it. I’ll also mention Aydin, I know some people like reading a nonfiction book is the last thing that they want to do. And that’s fine. I also have a weekly newsletter, which is free goes out to over 35,000 people and I call it five ally actions. And it’s like simple things that you could be doing every day, during the course of everything else you’re doing to be more inclusive. So I I kind of think about this as like a new habit to form. And I’m there every Friday with a few more little ideas to sprinkle in and see how you can add those to how you are showing up as an individual contributor, manager, senior leader.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 39:24
Yeah, I love it. And of course, we will link to both of those things in the show notes so everyone can find them. And so we’ve talked about a lot today. I mean, we started with learning how if you don’t delegate properly, giving constructive feedback might be difficult afterwards, staying curious and not furious. And of course, some cool definitions like how to think about glue work within your organization, what it looks like, what you might do, and of course, being the savior, and how that can actually misfire at times, if not done Correct. slowly and with the right sort of guardrails around it. So lots of very interesting discussion. And the question that we always like to end on is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any final tips, tricks or words of wisdom that you would leave them with
Karen Catlin 40:16
be a better ally? I’ll just leave it at that.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 40:20
That’s great advice, and of course, a great place to end it. Karen. Thanks so much for doing this.
Karen Catlin 40:24
Pleasure was all mine.