Celebrating (Painful) Learning

In a previous post I talked about using the Marshmallow Challenge to provide insight into cultures that support risk taking.  Taking the stigma out of making mistakes is one way to encourage creativity.

Taking this to the next level are FUN nights (note that curse words figure prominently into the article).  This is where entrepreneurs are encouraged to share their failures with others.  The thought is that the process makes people more relatable than if they only share your successes.  The promoters feel this leads to better networking among the members.

Organizations could adopt this approach as well, but it would take a bit of a balancing act.  Most companies want their executives to be approachable, but also want them seen as competent.  Employees want to avoid being branded as “the person who had the bad experience.”

The key is to not just share stories of failure.  Rather, talk about growth. When executives reveal experiences about what they learned from mistakes, others can see that risk taking, and the inevitable missteps that come with it, are part of the process of becoming successful.

From a selection perspective, there are traits you can look for in hiring potential leaders who are pre-disposed to this kind of learning.  One is openness to experience.  The other is self-confidence.  Validating these types of measures will help you hire people who are willing to confront their mistakes and share their lessons with others.

Addressing the Last Mile of Discrimination

Many organizations have taken steps (valid tests, removing pictures and names from resumes, blind auditions, etc.) to erase discriminatory practices in hiring.  While by no means perfect, these actions have reduced bias in many places.  A much lauded effort was done in orchestras.  They switched to auditions where the players were behind a screen (and walked across carpet so that shoes would not be a gender giveaway).  This led to a much greater number of women being hired by major orchestras.

Where many organizations now struggle is in pay equity.  It is not secret that equally qualified women make less money than men.  To help correct this, several states and cities have made it illegal for prospective employers to ask about salary history, which historically would be skewed against women.

Of course, what to pay someone has a myriad of factors involved (supply/demand, internal pay equity, recruitment strategy, etc.).  But, organizations with specialized talent face an even trickier task when explaining pay differences between men and women.  Like the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO).

The BSO conducts blind auditions, etc, but make job offers and negotiate salaries face-to-face.  This process has led the lead flautist to sue them because the lead oboe player (who is male) makes about $70k per year more than she does.  See this for a fascinating insider’s view of the suit and how these top-flight orchestra musicians get paid. What it comes down to is that the plaintiff says, “I do essentially the same work as him and I’ve been featured in the orchestra more, so there is no reason that I should be paid less than him.”  The orchestra responds, “That may or may not be true, but lead oboists are harder to find and retain compared to flutists, therefore we have to pay him more to retain his services.”

I would think that more pay equity laws will be enacted in the near term.  Organizations would be wise to review whether they have pay equity, and if they do not, make corrections where it exists.  Or provide a pretty good explanation for where it does exist.  Similarly, providing specific pay-for-skill and/or pay-for-scarcity explanations will go a long way towards pay equity.  And may prevent a sad song from being played on the way out of the courthouse.

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