BLG Leadership Insights

Louisiana Women Leaders Business Conference

Louisiana Center for women in goverment bacharach

Professor Samuel Bacharach will be speaking at The Louisiana Women Leaders Business Conference this week. Go here for registration details.

The Louisiana Women Leaders Business Conference provides women with valuable information pertaining to issues affecting their economic well-being. This year our conference will be in conjunction with our Hall of Fame and will be a morning session with the well known Cornell University professor and author, Samuel Bacharach, empowering women with insight into organizational political competence.


Creativity Features Ideas

Icy (Unpaid) Internships

Back in my youth, I was a precocious and ambitious achiever who parsed the NY Times and political blogs with the enthusiasm of a child scrutinizing the back of a Fruit Loops cereal box. Maybe it was genetics, maybe it was circumstance but probably it was my poor athletic skills and the futility of a career in ping-pong that motivated my interest in politics.

Fortunately, I fell into Cornell’s School of Industrial & Labor Relations (ILR) like an icicle falls into an Ithaca gorge after it outgrows its elevated perch. I was absorbed by a Career Services department that trumpeted “Resumaniacs Resume Critiques” and “Mock Interview Madness” before it even knew my name. They say ILR is a fiercely pre-professional labor school and while I didn’t sleep with my CV under my pillow while waiting for a Recruiter Fairy to deliver me a job, I was indoctrinated into this occupation-obsessed bubble.

So during summer 2009 I did what any spoiled, ambitious achiever would; I capitalized on the generous support of my family and plunged into the icy waters of unpaid internships. Armed with an inflated resume and naïveté, I pounced on job postings and began selling myself to political organizations in Washington D.C.

With the lascivious constituent outreach that has come to define dodgy politicos, I won’t make too many explicit metaphors linking my internships to prostitution. The metaphor doesn’t hold anyway because I was selling my services for free, far below escort market value.

Ultimately, I settled into the swanky offices of the Student Association for Voter Empowerment (SAVE) housed in an abandoned nook of the World Wildlife Fund headquarters. For purposes of brevity and loyalty to the (now defunct) SAVE organization, let me explain just one section of my internship.

SAVE, a non-profit advocacy group, frequently lobbied legislators to support Gen Y economic health. By the end of the summer, I was leading hill action meetings where I would present gloomy data about youth employment and fiscal security. One of my main talking points was an impassioned critique of one of our country’s greatest acts of economic exploitation: the unpaid internship.

The irony dripped down my shoulders alongside the sweat from a swampy D.C. summer and anxiety-inducing Capitol Hill meetings.  I was an ambitious icicle swimming in a pre-professional gorge but suddenly I was melting. The system demanded proactive prostitution complete with cover letter and ironed collar but it reeked of inequity and exploitation. I reeked of privilege as I padded my resume with internships and my stomach with Pinkberry all on my parents’ dime. It was not good.

Now I sit in a job that is partly facilitated by my unpaid internships. I somehow prevented myself from melting long enough to send a polished resume and cover letter to the Governor of Illinois. I ironed the shirt and I spit out my mock interview honed answers. My brother’s an actor but it runs in our blood; I got the job.

So now I’m in a position of (slight) power and it’s time to sound the alarm from within. Unpaid internships and the terrifying thrills of “Mock Interview Madness” are not available to everyone. The new data shows the rich and poor sprinting in opposite directions. New icicles keep forming and falling into pre-professional waters. Meanwhile the unlucky icicles shatter onto neglected ground. It’s a self-propagating system that needs to be put to bed and the antidote must come from inside.

Oh and to finish my D.C. summer 2010 story, I figured if I was already sweating profusely in Capital City I might as well make a buck. I applied to be the McGruff the Crime Dog® mascot for the National Museum of Crime and Punishment. It was great and at least they gave me ice packs.

Editor’s note: While the Institute for Workplace Studies & Smithers Institute has interns, these interns are compensated with credit through ILR’s Credit Internship Program

Features Political Competence

Leadership in an Academic Setting

The challenges of 21st century higher education are unprecedented.  In the wake of the recent economic crisis, universities have had to cut programs, eliminate entire academic departments, trim organizational layers, centralize administrative functions, and  move seriously toward distance learning as a core pedagogical technology. In this arena where hard decisions are being made on a daily basis, senior administrators and faculty members need to develop the necessary skills to get things done.

In this context, the core model of what the university is about is sometimes challenged. While it’s easy to maintain that the core values are identifiable and consensual and easy to make a gesture toward excellence in teaching, research, and outreach, the specific priorities that underline each of these are constantly debated.

Now that we’ve moved into a zero-sum age and that hard decisions have to be made, hidden agendas come to the surface. Turf becomes a battleground and a bit of justified paranoia spills into the air. As higher education redefines itself, units within academic settings, universities, colleges, etc. find themselves taking defensive positions.

As we struggle toward cost-reduction, elimination of overlap, and survival in the competitive environment—tensions between the two key components, i.e. administration and faculty, have become more intense than ever before. As leaders put together strategic plans focusing on the future, they face new and complex challenges in implementing those plans. While the writing is on the wall and change is inevitable, the leadership challenge is to know how to move ahead without throwing out the baby with the bath water.

In this context, at all levels of higher education, leadership must show two competencies. First academic leaders need the political competence to make sure they’ve mobilized support for their agenda. Next, they need the managerial competence to make sure that they can go the distance. These competencies are comprised of specific skills that are essential to moving higher education forward.

Leadership training in higher education, as it has been for a long time in the private sector, is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.

This past year my colleagues and I at Bacharach Leadership Group were given an opportunity by Mary Opperman, Cornell University’s head of Human Resources, to develop Cornell’s high-potentials.

The challenge was clear. How do you take a group of individuals who know their system well and are familiar with the business of higher education and train them in leadership by incorporating their experiences and giving them a systemic appreciation of strategic, tactical, and operational skills to move agendas ahead.

Over a seven-month period, we met nine times as and we focused on a integrated set of skills including the skills for mobilization, the skills for negotiations, the skills for sustaining momentum, and the skills for coaching. The class also took a battery of online courses provided eCornell. The training aimed at assisting Cornell’s high-potentials to become truly entrepreneurial leaders within the university.

In many ways, the higher education setting is more complex than the private sector. In an academic setting, the contingencies are numerous, the constituents varied, the agendas open and hidden, the politics complex, and the management and structure is often unclear, making it a difficult maze for both administrative and academic leaders.

The program we developed for Cornell wasn’t a typical leadership program. It wasn’t based on charisma. It wasn’t based on broad notions of transformational and transactional leadership. It was based on the reality that it’s difficult to get something done in loose organizations like academic institutions. And indeed, if something is to get done, we need leaders that are both capable of getting people on their side and keeping them on their side.

Leadership Videos

What is the Internet Hiding From You? (video)

If you are at all curious about the invisible flow of on-line information you need to see and hear this TED talk by Eli Pariser. It will make you take a second look at the Internet and your place within the new world it is shaping.

Oh and I should also note that I stumbled across this video in my Facebook feed today. Trust me, after you watch the video this seemingly minor bit of information will become much more than just a personal aside.


BLG Leadership Insights Ideas Leadership On the Edge Managerial Competence Proactive Leaders

Building Motivation: Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Reward

Motivation has to do with how you help others answer the question, “Why should I do it?” On the surface this “why-should-I-do-it?” mentality smacks of the cheapest form of Machiavellianism and seems to be a model of calculated opportunism. However, all social relationships are inevitably sustained by the answer to the “why-should-I-do-it” question. Implied in this question is the notion that we have some degree of volition—some choice.  You can choose to continue a relationship or leave it.  You can choose to continue working on a project, or drop it.  You can choose to go to the beach or stay home.  A managerially competent leader who is successful in motivating others can get others to stop asking, “Why should I do it?” and get them focused on what needs to be done.

When you motivate others, you instill in them the feelings, the rationalities, and the drives that can energize them toward specific goals. Leaders who can motivate give people the sense that they’re in the right place at the right time for the right reason.  A successful motivating leader is able to get people to stop wondering why they are doing something and is able to get them to focus on what needs to be done.

The academic literature on motivation suggests that motivation is cultivated on two fundamental mechanisms: extrinsic and intrinsic reward.  Motivation built on extrinsic rewards is generally thought of as the pursuit of material resources and financial rewards. It implies a rational calculation:  “If I do this, the consequence is that I will receive something of value in return”; or, “If I complete this project on time, there will be a bonus in it for me.” Extrinsic rewards generally consistent of material resources and incentives and are described in terms of pay and benefits. When you sustain momentum using extrinsic motivation, you’re implying a formal tit-for-tat exchange: You put in so much effort and you get so much in return.

Motivation based on intrinsic rewards recognizes that part of the payoff is derived from the activity itself and that there is something satisfying about the process you’re engaged in.  Intrinsic rewards include a sense of self-esteem, a sense of collective, a sense of prestige, and a sense of involvement.  Unlike extrinsic rewards, intrinsic rewards tend to be less quantifiable.  With intrinsic rewards “feelings” count more than “commodity.”  When you sustain momentum on the basis of intrinsic motivation, you can’t reduce everything to a formal tit-for-tat exchange.  You have to appeal to people’s emotions and give them a sense of purpose.

While it is well and good to build motivation using extrinsic rewards during a growth period, how do you build motivation when things get tough? How do you motivate when there is no bonus or when you’re downsizing? What you need is commitment based on intrinsic rewards.  Only with intrinsic rewards can you hope your project will go the distance.